Reflections on Matthew 10

The text of Matthew 10
1He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil[a] spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

2These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

5These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' 8Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[b]drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. 9Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; 10take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.

11"Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. 12As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. 15I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. 16I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

17"Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. 18On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

21"Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24"A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub,[c] how much more the members of his household!

26"So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny[d]? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

32"Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.

34"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to turn
" 'a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her motherinlaw—
36a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'[e]

37"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

40"He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. 41Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward. 42And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."
David Wanstall 16/09/2008 20:45

Glennice Gordon 18/09/2008 10:49
This is from Lindsay Gordon - not Glen

David I am not sure whether or not you would want me to comment on Matthew 10. Please feel free to delete my comments if you feel they are disruptive or not appropriate.

My first thought is that Matthew 10 supports my view that the mission of Jesus was to the Jews and not to the Gentiles and provides an explanation of why Paul, who was not one of the disciples, got into trouble with James and other leaders for out-of-control preaching to the gentiles in Asia Minor . It also gives substance to why a number of reputable bible scholars, such as Bart Ehrman, refer to Paul as the first Christian heretic.

I know that there is a statement in Matthew 28, referred to as "The Great Commission" , that the church places great emphasis on which somewhat overshadows my opinion but I am not at all convinced that the word "nation" in that context refers to jews and gentiles alike or just to the nations of Jews - the lost sheep of Israel. If you look at the ministry of Peter for example, it appears that he usually addressed his message to "men of Israel" and not to gentiles.
Lindsay Gordon 18 September 2008
Lindsay Gordon 18/09/2008 13:35
Just to follow on about my comment that the word "nations" does not necessarily refer to gentiles, if you look at chapter 10 of Genesis you will see that the "Table of Nations" refers to the descendants of Noah. I am pretty sure that this is the context that Jesus used the term "nations" i.e., it does not mean everyone. It simply means, as Jesus is reported to have said in Chapter10 of Matthew, that the disciples were only to contact the dispersed nations of Jews and not gentiles. If that is the case then the "Great Commission" is totally consistent with Matthew 10 and in Matthew 28 there is no intention to alter the command in Matthew 10 by extending the mission to gentiles.

Food for thought!!

I look forward to hearing your message on Sunday
Lindsay G 18 September 2008
David Wanstall 18/09/2008 13:38
In Matthew 28 the greek word is ethne (ethnos) and refers to a nation or people (today we might say ethnic groups). In the greek old testament it is overwhelmingly used for nations other than Israel and in the new testament it is most often used in contrasting Jews and Gentiles. So the Matt 28:19 and the Matt 10:18 (trans gentiles in NIV) uses of the word should be understood to be referring to people other than Jews.

Jesus himself at another time deliberately went to the samaritans (Jn 4), and sent messengers to samaritan village (luke 9:51). The coming of Jesus was seen as a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy that included the gentiles (Matt 4:15, Luke 2:23) picking up on prophecies from Isaiah. Matthew's genealogy starts with Abraham and so picks up the promise made to abraham in Gen 12:3 that all the peoples on earth will be blessed through him.

At Pentecost the Spirit causes disciples to speak in many foreign languages (not just Hebrew or Aramaic) and later Phillip was directed by an angel of the Lord to speak to an ethiopian. God led Peter to go to a Gentiles house (Acts 10) and it was at Antioch that nameless people from Cyprus and Cyrene started to evangelise Greeks (Acts 11:19f) not Paul. Christian tradition has almost all of the 12 apostles going to countries outside Israel - Thomas to India, John ends up in Ephesus, and Peter in Rome for examples. This is all in addition to Jesus' specific commission to Paul to go to the Gentiles.

So gentile outreach is not a Pauline idea. So I think it is better to understand the limitation in Matt 10 as Jesus defining where the disciples are to go on their first training exercise as missionaries. The first few chapters of Acts records God almost having to push them out into Gentile mission.

The contentious issue in the New Testament was how Jewish did Gentile followers of Jesus need to become - did they need to be circumcised, follow food laws etc? It wasn't about the rightness of gentile mission. In a variety of letters, Paul lays out careful theological reasons for Gentile believers NOT needing to do these things to truly follow Jesus.
Lindsay Gordon 19/09/2008 09:17
Hi David. I don’t want to pick a fight with you but I suspect that your logic is non sequitur.

I am well aware that the term for “nation” appears many, many times in the Old Testament but, as I see it, it always seems to refer to an ethnic group or groups whether they be the nations of Israel, Egypt or anywhere else. Your quote of Matthew 10:18 doesn’t mention “nations” at all. It only mentions “gentiles” and your quote of Matthew 28:19 only mentions “nations” and not “gentiles”. Therefore your conclusion that the word should refer to people other than the Jews simply does not follow. You might believe it but I don’t. Jesus, as a member of the Nazarine sect, closely associated with the Essenes who studied the OT scriptures very closely, would have had no illusions about the difference in meanings between “gentile” and “nation”. They refer to two different concepts so, in my view, it should not be inferred, implied or concluded that the term “nation” in the NT means something other than it meant in the OT.

In your second paragraph you refer to a prophecy by Isaiah mentioning “Galilee of the Gentiles”. OK I agree with that description according to the time of Isaiah but, at the time of Jesus, Galilee had been compelled to become Jews by the Maccabeans. By the time of Jesus Galilee was a Jewish province. I think you need to read my book again.

As to the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 that “all the peoples on earth will be blessed through him”, doesn’t that include the Jews, the Muslims and everyone else? Why do the Christians think that it only applies to them and then gives them the compulsion to convert the rest of the world to their form or religion?

Your third paragraph has some merit but at that time there were Jews dispersed to many parts of Asia and Asia Minor. For example, from my reading, it is likely that one of the Jewish nations resided in Kashmir and there were dispersed Jews in such places as Ethiopia and Egypt. So, why shouldn’t the disciples go to far off places to do exactly what Jesus originally directed them to do and reach out to the dispersed Jews? From my reading outside the Bible I believe that the disciples’ outreach to the ends of the earth did not necessarily mean that it was to gentiles. Who really knows?

I simply disagree with you fourth paragraph. It is a matter of opinion. There is no suggestion of a “training period” and, in contrast to your opinion, specific mention that they were not to witness to the gentiles. In my interpretation of it the commission in Matt 28 does not contradict or change that.

The “contentious issue” in your last paragraph refers to the teachings of Paul most of which I reject. I cover this in more detail in my book. Therefore I have no further comment on that issue except to say that I disagree.

I still look forward to your sermon on Sunday. I hope that we will have an opportunity to discuss these matters in a pleasant and unbiased atmosphere at some later date.

Lindsay Gordon
David Wanstall 20/09/2008 12:11
Hi Lindsay,

I had a day off yesterday so sorry for my delayed response.

In the greek text of the new testament the same word 'ethne' is used in Matt 10:5 (do not go among the gentiles - literally nations), Matt 10:18 (as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles - literally nations) and Matt 20:19 (make disciples of all nations - could also be translated gentiles). In the Greek version of the old testment 'ethne' is used to translate the hebrew word goyim which specifically refers to non Jewish nations.

Galilee wasn't entirely Jewish at the time of Jesus there were roman towns like Tiberias that observant Jews would not enter to avoid becoming unclean. Note also the non Jewish herding of pigs on the eastern shore that charged into the lake. Herod was a local king (relative of Herod the Great of the time of Jesus birth) supported by Rome and he wasn't a proper Jew - a hasmonean I think - and that was a point of contention for Jews.

God's great project IS to bless all people including Jews, Muslims, etc. by making access to God and the presence of his Spirit available to all whatever ethnic or religious background you come from. Christianity when it is being faithful to the teaching of Jesus only announces this possibility and gives people the opportunity to respond. Any sense of force or coercion is not consistent with the teaching of Jesus. When a crowd wanted to make Jesus King by force he left them. When he was arrested, Jesus had asked them to take a sword but when one of them used it he told him 'no more of this' and healed the injured servant (Luke 22:35-8 and 49-51) - a powerful way to underline by experience that Jesus was against the use of the sword.

Jesus operated in the mode of the itinerant teachers of the Day except that he deliberately called people to follow him rather than people just attaching themselves to a teacher. He called them into a training program - follow me and I will make you fishers of men. They started out by providing their boats to him as platforms, then he sent them on missionary journeys. He even did post journey debriefing as in the sending of the 72 in Luke 10:1-20. Later as his crucifixion approached and after Peter had recognized that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah) he took them aside for further teaching about the cross. He continually taught from examples - unpacking arguments between the disciples, teaching them through his actions like washing of feet etc.

In Galatia in Gal 2:12 Peter used to eat (ie have table fellowship) with the Gentiles - ethne (same greek word as used in Matthew). When those from the circumcision group - ie those insisting on gentile followers of Jesus being circumcised, Peter withdrew from fear and Paul confronted him. Acts 15 is all about matters of circumcision (v1) etc. and in 15:14 James says "brothers listen to me, Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles (greek word - ethne) a people for himself". So all agreed that circumcision wasn't required for Gentile converts (If they were Jewish - they would already be circumcised) and sent a letter saying as much. The whole argument of Romans is about how Jews and Gentiles are in the same predicament and need to trust in Jesus. Ephesians is about God in Jesus breaking down the dividing walls between Jews and Gentiles. In eph 2:11f it says the Gentiles (ethne) who are called the uncircumcised, by those who call themselves 'the circumcision' ... have been brought near. Jesus purpose in v15 was to create a new humanity, making peace and bringing reconciliation between Jew and Gentile through the cross.
Lindsay Gordon 20/09/2008 12:39
Thanks David for going to so much trouble.
It is much clearer now.

C U tomorrow
start of topic