Gospel Matthew 9.35–10.8, (9-23)
“Matthew has previously introduced a block of teaching with a summary of the mighty acts Jesus performed (4.23-25, which is followed by the Sermon on the Mount). Here (9.35-38), Matthew follows the same pattern but uses the focus on Jesus’ compassion as an explanation of his subsequent summons and instructions to the disciples. They are given Jesus’ authority to cast out unclean spirits and heal, and they are sent out. (10.2 is the only place where Matthew refers to any of the disciples as ‘apostles’, that is ‘sent-out ones’.)”
Jesus regards the people of Israel as ‘sheep’ (9.36; 10.6). This is common biblical picture language for the people of God, along with the image of God as their shepherd (e.g. Psalm 23; Ezekiel 34; Psalm 100.3). Similarly, the idea of them needing, or being without, a shepherd to care for and guide them is found in various Old Testament texts (Numbers 27.17; 2 Chronicles 18.16; Ezekiel 34.6). Here and elsewhere, Matthew’s Gospel pictures Jesus as a shepherd (25.31. 26.31) who has compassion for his sheep.
Similarly, ‘harvest’ (9.37) is being used as picture language to refer to God judging and dealing with the world’s sin (cf. Jeremiah 51.33; Hosea 6.11; Revelation 14.14-20; Matthew 13). Harvest is portrayed as a time when sin will be separated from what belongs in God’s kingdom (see 13.26-30, 36-43).
Elsewhere, Matthew clearly anticipates the gospel being preached to non-Jews (28.19-20), but here Jesus sends the apostles only to the Israelites, to tell them that ‘the kingdom has come near’ (10.6-7). This claim will be supported by their doing the same wondrous deeds as Jesus. They are not to charge for their work but are to be as dependent as possible on the support of those to whom they go. Some of the instructions seem extreme – who would go on a journey without sandals or staff? Since the parallel account in Mark (6.8-9) allows both, it seems likely that the sense is for them not to take spares. In a culture where hospitality was hugely important, their situation of dependence would then provoke responses, good or bad, from those to whom they went. The extended reading (vv.9-23) indicates that some will respond negatively towards the disciples and will face consequences for this on the day of judgement (Sodom and Gomorrah were used as classic examples of generally sinful behaviour as outlined in Ezekiel 16.49-50). The teaching goes on to indicate that there will be persecution of those who spread the gospel, and family divisions will result; but the ‘sent ones’ are to know that the Spirit of their Father will speak through them.
Extracts taken from Roots with permission.
All prayers are © ROOTS for Churches Ltd (www.rootsontheweb.com) 2002-2020.