And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
Understanding And Applying the Text
Jesus called twelve of His disciples. The number, twelve, relates to the patriarchs. Israel descended from twelve patriarchs. The church descends from twelve apostles.
He gave the apostles authority over unclean or evil spirits. Jesus gave them authority to do exactly what He was doing. This authority was not given to all His disciples. It was only given to the twelve.
Rome draws from this passage their doctrine of primacy. That is, Peter was the chief or head apostle. Jesus called Peter and Andrew first. Mentioning Peter first does not imply he possessed authority over the others. In fact, we read in Colossians 2:11 Paul corrected Peter. Even if Rome was correct the primacy of Peter does not extend to today’s Pope. They must prove that wicked and sacrilegious men are Peter’s successors.
Bartholomew means “son of Tolmai” in Aramaic. This could be another name for Nathanael. (John 1:45)
Simon the Zealot may or may not have been an actual member of the Zealots. Josephus tells us, Zealots were a political party. They were full of religious enthusiasm. They advocated armed rebellion against Rome. Simon may have had a previous association with this movement. As a result, they called him a “Zealot.” This distinguished him from Simon Peter. But some scholars claim the zealots were not organized at that time. If so, he was someone zealous for Jewish independence. In that case, the term referred to his temperament.
Jesus told the apostles not to go into Gentile areas. This is related to the focus of their mission. The focus of this mission was Israel. Jesus has responded to Gentile faith (Matthew 8:10). So He was not prohibiting preaching to Gentiles. But Israel was Jesus’ focus until His passion and resurrection (Matthew 15:24). Jesus did not forbid preaching to Gentiles during the mission. He only forbid going into Gentile areas.
The disciples were to preach, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This is the same message John the Baptist preached. (Matthew 3:2) The kingdom had not yet come. Christ had not ascended to the Father. But it was very, very close.
They were to preach, heal, and cast out demons without pay. As you can imagine the ability to heal any disease and raise the dead was and is quite valuable. Men are willing to pay any price. But Jesus forbid the disciples from taking money. That is in stark contrast to the prosperity gospel preached today. Preachers get quite wealthy from their so-called healing services.
But Christ does not forbid the disciples from being able to sustain themselves. “… for the laborer deserves his food.” (10:10b) This is a model for Christian life in general. “Give us this day our daily bread,” (Matthew 6:11)
This was a quick mission. They were not to take money with them. They were not to take a staff or extra sandals or extra coat. They were not to take anything that would slow them down. When you have stuff. You have to keep track of your stuff. And that takes time.
Christ anticipated an objection. Traveling through Judea without provisions was hard. So Christ told them they have no reason to fear. They will are worthy of food.
When they entered a city they were to inquire if there were any godly men. Were there any who were ready to receive the good news? They were to direct their efforts towards them. This mission was not to argue or persuade. It was only to proclaim.
The disciples were to move with hast. The fact they were to stay in one house indicates their hast. If they stayed any place long, it would have been necessary to change their lodging.
Jesus said to let their peace come upon the home as they entered it. The word peace refers to the mode of greeting. This was common among the Jews. The Hebrew word שלום, (shalom,) denotes peace.
If the disciples are not welcomed, their blessing will return to them. Jesus shows how important their mission is by his remark. “And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.” (v13)
If anyone did not receive them or their message they were to shake the dust off their feet as they left. This was a common Jewish practice at the time. As they left a polluted place they did not want to spread the contamination.
When Jews returned to Israel from a trip they stopped at the border and shook or wiped off the dust of it from their feet. They did not want to pollute the holy land. Those who rejected the Gospel were unholy. They were the same as heathens and idolaters. Shaking the dust off indicated the pollution of the inhabitants. They were so polluted they polluted the ground they walked on.
No crime is more offensive to God than contempt of his word. Jesus shows here a sign of judgment. A town that did not receive the disciples, did not receive Jesus. They were “pagan” and subject to judgment as Sodom and Gomorrah (Acts 13:51).
Sodom and Gomorrah were the most wicked of Old Testament cities. Rejecting the gospel is even worst than the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah. And it results in more severe punishment.