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Bible: What Does Matthew 10:1-16 Teach Us About Jesus' Apostles?

Updated on September 8, 2016

Jesus and the Twelve Apostles


The Definition of Apostle

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The Apostle Peter


The Apostle John (young)


Judas Iscariot

Do you believe that Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, is lost forever?

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A Punishment Greater Than Sodom's?

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Matthew 10:1-16: "Field Preparedness"

Not only must they pray for more workers (9: 38), but “the twelve” disciples must now start their ministries as “apostles” (vv. 1a-2a).

To enable them to accomplish this mission, Jesus grants them healing gifts and the power to cast out demons (v. 1b).

Matthew lists these men in order of prominence and/or calling, and arranges them two by two—apparently to reflect the way Jesus sends them.

The Twelve

The first two pairs are brothers by blood relation.

To their mere names, Matthew adds characteristics of distinction: Jesus’ designation for Simon (Peter, petros, stone/rock), and James’ parentage (v. 2).

[Mark, whose source is Peter, records that Jesus gave the name Boanerges (“the Sons of Thunder”) to James and John (cf. Mk. 3:17).]

Others may have been siblings, but this text does not state that possibility.

[Elsewhere, Thomas is called “the Twin” (Jn. 11:16; 20:24), indicating that he and Matthew may have been twin brothers, since their names appear together.

James and Lebbaeus may also have been brothers, or Matthew may have included this James’ parentage (Alphaeus) in order to distinguish him from the more prominent “son of Zebedee.”]

Matthew makes sure that he labels himself as “the tax collector”; he also gives a first and a last name for an apostle (Lebbaeus Thaddaeus) [v. 3].

[The NU (the Critical Text) does not include “Lebbaeus whose surname was.”

In addition, Acts 1:13 indicates that Judas, the son of James, has replaced Thaddaeus, although Judas may be another name for Thaddaeus.

Ryrie suggests that the name “Thaddaeus” might represent a corruption of Yaddai, a form of Judas (New Testament Study Bible, 71).

To which person named James does Luke refer?

Is Judas a son or brother of James?]

The second Simon (the Cananaean/the Zealot, cf. Lk.6:15)—a former revolutionary—appears with the traitor Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son (cf. John 13:26; a third Simon, though, may be the second Simon’s father.

Thus, Judas Iscariot and Simon the Zealot may have been brothers) [v. 4].

The Mission of the Twelve

Jesus commissions the twelve to engage in an itinerant preaching/healing ministry as part of their training.

This education involves going to a special people (“the lost sheep of the house ofIsrael”) [vv. 5-6], preaching a special message (“The kingdom of heaven is at hand”) [v. 7] and authenticating that message by using special miraculous gifts (healing, casting out demons) [v. 8].

The apostles will rely upon traditional near Eastern hospitality from the “worthy” in Israel to sustain them during this short missions trip (vv. 11-13a); therefore, Jesus instructs them not to carry money with them (v. 9) or extra changes of clothing (v. 10).

Those who do not accept their greeting—possibly shalom alayik (“Peace be with you”)— or their message about the kingdom Jesus will condemn more harshly than He will Sodom and Gomorrah “in the day of judgment.”

As a show of protest against that “unworthy” city or household, the apostles should “shake off the dust” from their feet (vv. 13b-15).

The Reality Check

Afterwards, the Lord issues His men both a solemn “reality check” and sage behavioral counseling in light of that dangerous reality as they prepare to leave, informing them of the spiritual battles that they will experience on their journeys.

Jesus uses the metaphors “sheep” and “wolves” when comparing the trusting manner of His unsophisticated followers to the ravenous ways of the men of this world.

[Perhaps the apostles cringed at Jesus’ description of them, yet they had to accept it as true.

His assessment forced them to face this reality about themselves—that they were simple-minded, lowborn, and insignificant nobodies in the world.]

Since they would soon encounter people who, given the opportunity, would not hesitate to kill them, they needed to be very careful (“be wise as serpents”) and very straightforward (“be harmless as doves”) in their dealings with them (v. 16).

© 2012 glynch1


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