“Twelve Are Sent”

Matthew 9:35 – 10:15

Matthew has been describing the ministry of Jesus which began after his baptism by John the Baptist. He then spent time in the desert being tempted by Satan. Then, on a mountain side, Jesus taught thousands who would listen what life in God’s Kingdom should look like. He had lots of followers and disciples hanging out with Him and at the beginning of today’s Scripture reading, chapter nine, verse 35, we are told  He “went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.” He did this in spite of the unfair criticism we read about last week that He received from the religious leaders. He was able to ignore the criticism because we are told He was “moved with compassion.” 

The Greek word used for this is the strongest word for pity in the Greek language. It means Jesus was moved to the deepest of His being. He saw them like sheep without a shepherd. 

Jesus had come to share the Good News with His people and all of creation and what does He experience? 

Those who were supposed to be shepherding His people were neglecting their responsibilities. This meant the entire flock was in trouble. Rather than seeing the glass as half empty Jesus sees it as an opportunity. To Him the harvest was plentiful. Unfortunately, the laborers were few. This meant the kingdom may be wasted. Jesus’ answer to the problem was prayer. There prayer was to be specific, 

“Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest:”

Notice who does the sending. Not us, but God, the Lord of the harvest. Our job is to pray for the Lord to send out laborers into His harvest. Now mind you, once you start praying for laborers, you might just realize you’re supposed to be one yourself. 

There is another Greek word here, the one for “sending out laborers” that has a stronger meaning to “send” than what may be understood. In Greek this verb has a forcible meaning of pushing them forward or thrusting them out. The same word is used for the exorcism of the devil from a possessed person. How ironic that it takes the same amount of force to drive out the devil as it does to drive a person to ministry for God. 

Chapter nine set the stage for how those in power viewed the Messiah. 

> He was accused of blasphemy

> He was accused of having low morals

> He was accused of ungodliness

> He was accused of being in cahoots with the devil

These conflicts are just the beginning. 

In chapter 10 we are given one of Jesus’ responses to these conflicts. Jesus chose twelve men and commissioned them to do what He has been doing. 

There are four different lists of the twelve in the New Testament, here, as well as in Mark, Luke and Acts. In all of these lists, Peter is always listed first and Judas is always listed last. They are arranged in such a way as to create three groups of four, each with a leader. 

  1. Group One begins with Peter and is followed by Andrew, James and John. 

  1. Philip is fifth mentioned and followed by Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew. 

  1. Then James the son of Alphaeus is ninth mentioned, followed by Thaddaeus/Judas, brother of James, Simon the Zealot and Judas. 

They were to represent the twelve tribes of Israel. They were also chosen to represent the diversity of those to whom they were sent. Jesus specifically chose His disciples from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences and yet none of them were from a life of privilege or high status. Paul put it like this in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, 

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”

Not only did Jesus call these twelve men, He also gave them power to do the same thing He had been doing. 

“He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease:”

Matthew calls this group, “disciples,” in verse one of chapter 10 and “apostles,” in verse two.  As disciples they learned from Jesus as He taught. As apostles, they were sent out. The word apostle is the word for an envoy or an ambassador. 

Jesus was called an apostle in Hebrew 3:1, 

“Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.”

Paul also used the term to describe himself and those who were called within the church to go and share the gospel. 

In verses 5 & 6 Jesus gives them orders where they can go and where they cannot go.  The Greek word Jesus used has four meanings, and each meaning is relevant in this case. 

  1. It is the regular word for a military command
  2. It is the word used of calling one’s friend to one’s help
  3. It is used of a teacher giving rules and precepts to their students
  4. It is the word which is regularly used for an imperial command

Jesus commanded them to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Reach out to the Israelites. He did not want them to go into the places where the Gentiles or Samaritans lived, yet. God’s intention was to eventually reach out to the whole world but He specifically wanted to begin with His own people, the people of Israel. It wasn’t like there wasn’t enough work to do. There were more Jews who had been abused and neglected by their spiritual shepherds than there were scribes, priests and Pharisees. Jeremiah prophesied this in Jeremiah 50:6, 

“My people have been lost sheep;

    their shepherds have led them astray

    and caused them to roam on the mountains.

They wandered over mountain and hill

    and forgot their own resting place.”



In verse 7, Matthew describes what Jesus told them to do.

“As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’”

The very message Jesus proclaimed in Matthew 4:17, 

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Jesus had multiplied His mission so more people would be touched. 

You can be sure the disciples would be sharing the details of God’s kingdom they had learned from listening to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. 

Definitely Good News. 

They were not going to the synagogues where the Jewish leaders taught. These men were going house to house where the people lived to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead and cast out demons. 

When you think about it, those people they were called to wouldn’t have been allowed in the synagogue in the first place. 

Jesus also made it clear that these apostles were to provide for themselves. Jesus has set the example of not charging for His teaching and healing and His disciples were to do the same. Jesus wanted these men to expect God to meet their needs through the inspired hospitality of others. They were to go just as they were. 

They didn’t need to pack a bag or do any prior fundraising. The mission was urgent and God knew their needs. Jesus does tell them that “a worker is worthy his food,” so they were called to work alongside those whom they were praying for and ministering to, with the founding principle of no expectation, “Freely you have received; freely give.”

Jesus also gave instructions on where to stay, “the household that was worthy.” In other words, not necessarily the most wealthy house in town. Jesus also told the disciples that the decision of whether they stay and minister was dependent upon the inhabitants, not on their sense of gratitude or attitude. Those who did receive them could expect a blessing and those that refused them could expect to be treated like a Gentile city where one “shakes off the dust from your feet.” Which could also lead to a serious danger of judgment. 

Contrary to popular belief, Jesus hasn’t stopped calling disciples. Those words are for us today. In fact, the last sentences Matthew records in his gospel are Jesus commanding all His disciples, Matthew 28:16-20,

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Those of us who claim Jesus to be our Lord and Savior are a disciple of Jesus. We have been called to share the Good News. The Kingdom of God is near. 

If we know it, then we should share it, have discussions about it, inform others about it, go home to home, where the people who are willing to listen will listen. Share our faith.

Again, not much has changed since Jesus spoke these words. Did you notice in verse 17, it reads, they worshiped Jesus, and some doubted? 

How many of us doubt we are or could be an apostle, sent out to share the gospel to whomever will listen? 

What is getting in our way? 

What is getting in your way? 

Pride? Time? 



But here is where Jesus gets it. Look at verse 20, Jesus reminds us we are not out there going it alone, He said, 

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

He’s got our back, even when we doubt. 

Where is God sending you? 



Look at your calendar for next week and consciously think about who you have already scheduled to meet, where you will be with others and 

pray to be a worker, for the harvest is great. 

Let’s pray.