What does Matthew 10 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
Matthew 10 begins with a listing of Jesus' core group of hand-picked disciples. These men are often collectively referred to as the Twelve. Jesus had many followers, but this dozen was appointed to special roles. The word "apostle" is from the Greek term apolstolōn, literally referring to someone "sent out" by a master to carry a message. Jesus gives to them His own authority as His representatives to cast out demons and to heal diseases and afflictions. Eleven of these men will spend the rest of their lives preaching His message in His name to all who will hear. The other, sadly, will choose to reject Christ and suffer eternal consequences (Matthew 10:1–4).

Matthew provides a list of the twelve apostles, apparently grouped into the pairs by which Jesus will send them on their trip: Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon, and Judas Iscariot.

Jesus begins with instructions for a short-term trip, where the apostles will visit the towns and cities of Galilee preaching Jesus' message, while also healing and casting out demons in His name. The apostles are not to enter into Gentile regions or Samaritan towns and focus, instead, only on preaching to Israelites. Their message will be that the kingdom of heaven is near. They are to encourage the people to repent and prepare themselves for its arrival. To demonstrate that their message is true, they will access Jesus' power to heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons—all miracles Jesus Himself had performed (Matthew 10:5–8).

Jesus insists that the apostles not take with them extra money, clothes, or supplies for this first journey. This is not a permanent restriction—Jesus is not forever prohibiting the apostles or Christians from owning property or making plans. Rather, on this initial mission, the apostles are to radically depend on the provision of God. When they come to a new town, they must find those who are worthy in the sense that they believe the message of Jesus. The apostles will stay with these worthy people, letting the peace given by Jesus rest on that house. If nobody in a town will receive the message of Jesus, the apostles will leave, shaking the dust of the town from their feet as a sign of the judgment that will come on it (Matthew 10:9–15).

Matthew's report on Jesus' instructions then jumps forward: to a prediction of the persecution the apostles will suffer after Christ's death, resurrection, and return to heaven. They will be sheep in a land of wolves. Because they represent Jesus, they will be dragged before Jewish religious and secular courts, as well as before Gentile governors and kings. In that way, the Holy Spirit will speak through them about Jesus to every level of authority (Matthew 10:16–20).

The result of their teaching about Jesus will be division within the families of Israel. Jesus' comment about bringing a sword does not mean He intends violence. Rather, it means that His message is inherently divisive in the eyes of a non-believing world. Christ's messengers will be widely hated because they represent Jesus. They can—and will—move from one town to the next to escape persecution. In this way, they will spread the good news about Jesus to more and more places. Since Jesus has been and will be persecuted, His apostles should expect the same treatment (Matthew 10:21–25).

The apostles should not be afraid, however. They will be vindicated in the end when everything is revealed. Their job is not to obtain victory on earth. Instead, it is to broadcast far and wide what Jesus has told them in secret, no matter the consequences for themselves. The enemies of Jesus can only kill their bodies, after all. God can destroy both body and soul in hell. He cares for them as their Father, and they will not suffer or die without His knowing. Just as God notices when the smallest bird falls, He is aware when His children are hurting. Hardship is not a sign that God has abandoned a believer. Jesus will acknowledge to the Father those who acknowledge Him to the world (Matthew 10:26–33).

Because Jesus is God, He demands absolute love and loyalty of all His followers. His statement here is a claim of divinity: loving God comes before loving others in the ranking of great commandments (Matthew 22:34–40). To require love for Jesus above love for family is to suggest that He is on the same level as God. The command here is not that believers "not love" family, but that they must prioritize the will of God. Families will divide over whether Jesus is the Messiah. Those who don't love Jesus more than family are not worthy of Him. Those who do not take up their cross, dying to themselves, and follow Him are not worthy of Him. Losing one's life for the sake of Jesus results is finding true life for eternity (Matthew 10:34–39).

All who receive Jesus' apostles will, in truth, be receiving Jesus Himself, along with the Father (Matthew 10:40–42).
Verse Context:
Matthew 10:1–4 lists the twelve apostles, Jesus' core group of hand-picked followers. These men are often collectively referred to as "the Twelve." Jesus gives them His own authority to cast out unclean spirits and to heal every disease and affliction, the same miracles Jesus Himself has been doing up to this point. The apostles include brothers Peter and Andrew, brothers James and John, along with Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, another James, Thaddaeus, Simon, and Judas Iscariot. Judas is the one who will betray Jesus after the Last Supper.
Matthew 10:5–15 contains Jesus' instructions for His twelve apostles, for their missionary trip to the towns of Galilee, in northern Israel. Their mission will be to preach His message that the kingdom of heaven is near, while also healing people and casting out demons. The apostles must not take with them extra money or clothes. Instead, they will stay with those who are worthy in each town they visit. If nobody in a town believes their message, the disciples are to shake the dust of that town from their feet. Jesus will follow these instructions with a series of warnings and encouragements.
Matthew 10:16–25 follows Jesus' instructions to His twelve apostles, giving them guidance for their impending missionary journey. Here, He begins to describe events that will follow His own resurrection and return to heaven. When that time comes, the apostles will be arrested and dragged before various courts and officials because they represent Christ and insist that He is the Son of God. The Holy Spirit will speak through them about Jesus. They will run from one town to another to avoid persecution, spreading the good news about Christ as they go. Jesus was persecuted, so they will be, as well. Much as Jesus will do during the Last Supper (John 16:25–33), He will encourage these men to stand firm in their faith.
Matthew 10:26–33 continues Jesus' encouragement, as He sends the Twelve out with His authority. He commands the apostles to proclaim far and wide what He whispers to them now. Persecution will come to them, but they must not be afraid. Their enemies can only kill their bodies. They should fear God, instead, and understand that their Father cares for them. He will see if they fall. Jesus declares that He, too, will acknowledge to His Father everyone who acknowledges Him to others. Those who deny His identity as God's Son, however, He will also deny.
Matthew 10:34–39 contains some of Jesus' most challenging words. As usual, they can be easily misinterpreted when taken out of context. Christ's arrival in the world will bring division to Israel, as even family members turn on each other over the issue of whether He is the Messiah. Jesus says those who love family more than Him are not worthy of Him. He further heightens this idea of radical loyalty by comparing it to carrying one's own cross: a metaphor for death. Those who do follow Him, though, will find the life that is true. Those who go their own way will lose their lives, no matter what they find on earth. This passage follows Jesus' instructions to the Twelve as they prepare to spread the gospel (Matthew 10:5–7).
Matthew 10:40–42 closes out Jesus' instructions to the apostles, as He sends them first to the people of Israel. He says any who receive the apostles, believing their message about Jesus, will also be receiving Him and the One who sent Him. They will share in the apostles' reward, as those who receive a prophet or righteous person share in their rewards. Those who give a cup of cold water to one of "these little ones," in this case meaning the apostles, will not lose their reward of eternity in the kingdom of heaven.
Chapter Summary:
Jesus gives His authority over disease, demons, and even death to His twelve hand-picked apostles. He gives them instructions in preparation both for a short-term trip to the towns of Galilee and their ministry after He has left the earth. First, they will preach His message of the kingdom in Israelite towns as they heal and cast out demons to demonstrate His power. Later, they will suffer great persecution as they represent Him before both Jews and Gentiles. They should not be afraid, though, and trust their Father to be with them and to reward them.
Chapter Context:
Jesus has recently expressed compassion for the people of Israel, who are spiritually lost. Matthew 10 is a record of Jesus' instructions to His twelve core apostles, as He sends them on a short-term trip to the towns of Galilee. He also includes warnings and encouragements about the persecution they will eventually experience. In chapter 11, Jesus will continue to proclaim truth to the people of Israel, leading to further conflict with local religious leaders.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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