As we begin the season of Kaitha with focus on the growth of the church, we reflect on Jesus’ selection of the twelve apostles who became its pillars. Jesus laid foundation for the church as a renewed Israel with the twelve disciples representing the Israel’s twelve tribes. Jesus shared his authority and mission with them to continue what he had achieved for the benefit of all people who would welcome them. Though Jesus went to non-Jewish areas during his public ministry, he sent the apostles only to the Jews at that initial stage of their training. He warned of the reception and rejection they might encounter in the ministry. They had to rely on God’s providence for their personal needs during that time. Those who work for the kingdom of God even now should have a similar detachment from worldly aspirations and focus on their mission. God will provide them with providential care through the good-hearted people. Let us be resolute missionaries of Jesus in our situations and support those who do full-time ministry of the Word of God.
BIBLE TEXT (MATTHEW 10:1-15)
The Mission of the Twelve
(Mt 10:1) Then he called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority over the unclean spirits to drive them out and to heal every disease and sickness. (2) These are the names of the twelve apostles: first Simon, called Peter, and his brother Andrew; (3) James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew, the publican; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; (4) Simon, the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed him. (5) Jesus sent these twelve on mission with the instruction: “Do not go into Gentile territory and do not enter a Samaritan town. (6) Go instead to the lost sheep of the people of Israel. (7) Go and proclaim the message: The kingdom of heaven is near. (8) Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons. You received this as a gift, so give it as a gift. (9) Do not carry any gold, silver or copper in your purses. (10) Do not carry a traveler’s bag, or a spare tunic, or sandals, or staff, for a worker deserves his living. (11) When you come to a town or a village, look for someone who is willing and stay with him until you leave. (12) As you enter the house, say, “Peace to this house.” (13) If the people in the house deserve it, your peace will be on them; if they do not deserve it, let your peace come back to you. (14) And if some house or town will not accept you or listen to your words, leave that house and that town, and shake the dust off your feet. (15) I assure you, it will go easier for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgement than it will for the people of that town.
Jesus was enthusiastic in proclaiming the gospel and resolving the problems of the less fortunate in the community. Through his words and actions, he shared God’s love and compassion with those who were receptive to him. Though the self-righteous opposed Jesus, the others enthusiastically listened to his words of hope and made use of his miraculous power. Jesus went around the towns and villages catering to their needs, especially teaching them in the synagogues and healing the sick and demoniacs. He felt compassion towards the people who lacked proper guidance from the God-assigned religious leaders of the time. When Jesus saw such crowds, he expressed his compassion “because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt 9:36). He told his disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest” (Mt 937-38). His next action was the dispatching of the twelve apostles to the nearby towns and villages to preach the gospel and to heal the sick as an extension of his ministry.
The Mission of the Twelve
(Mt 10:1) Then he called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority over the unclean spirits to drive them out and to heal every disease and sickness.
Then he summoned his twelve disciples
Jesus had already selected his twelve apostles (Lk 6:13). They left their properties, profession, and family to accompany him full time. Through their close collaboration with Jesus, they already knew what Jesus taught, how compassionate he was for the suffering, and how he helped them with his divine power. So far, the apostles were learners. Since the crops were plenty and the harvesters were few, the time came to broaden the mission of Jesus and to train the apostles with firsthand experience. Hence, Jesus gathered the twelve, assigned them the responsibility to preach the gospel, and gave them authority to heal the sick and cast out demons. Unlike the priests, the scribes, and the Pharisees who neglected the helpless, the apostles were ordinary people with minimum education, less reputation, and low social status. Jesus chose the weak to manifest God’s power, and to care for the ignored people through them.
Jesus purposefully fixed the number of apostles as twelve to manifest that their ministry was for the whole Israel, which comprised twelve tribes dispersed all over the world because of the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles. As apostles, they were his ambassadors throughout the world. Just as the Father sent the Son with a mission, the Son directed his representatives sharing his authority to reach out to more places at the same time.
gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out
The people welcomed Jesus as a prophet and crowded to listen to him because of his authority to cast out demons and his divine power and good will to heal the sick. He instructed the people with authority, unlike the Scribes (Mt 7:29), and his was a message of hope and spiritual liberation. Quoting Isaiah, Jesus declared, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free” (Lk 4:18). So, the listeners were enthusiastic to hear his preaching different from the Rabbis of the time.
Jesus wanted the same experience for his apostles when they visit the towns and villages representing him. Without sharing his power and authority, their efforts would be futile. So, he shared those with them so they could perform the miracles as he did to help the people and teach what he taught. When they did such astonishing service, people realized the divine power they had, welcomed them to their villages, and listened to the Word of God.
gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out
The evangelist refers demons as unclean spirits because they were wicked souls misguiding people to turn away from God. They were unclean in contrast to God, who is Holy. The apostles could drive them out like Jesus did. Those freed from Satan’s bondage could receive Jesus and reach heaven after the earthly life. The apostles were casting our demons in Jesus’ name using the authority he had shared with them.
The demons have been influencing humans since the time of the first parents. Such impact can be through different means. In demon-controlled cases, the possessed cannot act freely because an outside force controls the person’s behavior like acting under the influence. That makes the person behave strange, hurting oneself or others. By liberating from that external influence, the person becomes free.
Jesus, who freed the demon possessed, shared that power with his disciples. In the name of Jesus, they healed the abnormal people and manifested Jesus’ power over the evil spirits. When the seventy-two disciples returned after their assignment, they shared with Jesus, “‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.’ Jesus said, ‘I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky’” (Lk 10:17-18).
The disciples continued casting out demons after the Pentecost. When Philip preached in Samaria, they paid attention to him, “For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out of many possessed people, and many paralyzed and crippled people were cured. There was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:7-8). While Paul he was in Philippi, he cast out demon from “a slave girl with an oracular spirit, who used to bring a large profit to her owners through her fortune-telling” (Acts 16:16-18).
and to cure every disease and every illness
Jesus shared his power with the apostles to cure diseases and illnesses of all types. That was to supplement their preaching of the Kingdom of God and to prove to the public that God sent them. Like Jesus, the apostles also could ease the suffering of the sick, save their souls, and gain public attention.
The apostles could practice evangelization during the public ministry of Jesus so they could learn by doing and clarify their doubts with Jesus while he was with them. According to Mark 6:7, Jesus sent them out two by two, so they could mutually support and gain confidence in an inexperienced field.
(2) These are the names of the twelve apostles: ﬁrst Simon, called Peter, and his brother Andrew
These are the names of the twelve apostles:
Out of Jesus’ disciples who admired his teachings and learned from him, he selected twelve as his full-time companions. They left everything for Jesus and his kingdom and continued Jesus’ ministry even after the ascension of Jesus into heaven. Because of their prominence in the new Kingdom Jesus established, the evangelists specified their names.
The term apostle originates from Apostolos, a Greek word meaning “person sent.” It means a person sent as one’s delegate to a distant place or country. Jesus specially selected, trained, and sent the apostles as his ambassadors to extend and continue his mission. The church later applied the term apostle to other prominent leaders of the church, like St. Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:14; Gal 1:1).
There were common features among the twelve whom Jesus picked as the apostles. They were ordinary Jews, not experts in the law, open minded, and holding secular professions to support their families. Jesus avoided scribes who were experts in the Scripture, Pharisees who were conservatives and detached from the public, and Sadducees who were predominantly priests. Jesus did not select anyone from the Sanhedrin to the college of apostles. He chose sinners like Matthew and zealots like Simon. All the twelve, except Judas Iscariot, were Galileans. All the apostles, including Matthew who was the richest among them, left everything they had to follow Jesus, and considered the Kingdom of God as their priceless treasure. They left their loved ones and formed a family with Jesus.
The apostles were unaware of what kind of kingdom Jesus was preparing to establish. Because of their misunderstanding of it, they were fighting for positions. The common belief of the time was that the Messiah would establish an earthly Kingdom of God. Within three years, Jesus reformatted the mind of the apostles according to his vision of the Kingdom. They were open-minded about receiving it. All of them, except Judas Iscariot, received the Holy Spirit on the feast of Pentecost and continued the mission of Jesus. They faced persecution for promulgating the church. All of them, except John the Evangelist, ended up as martyrs.
The following are the common features of the apostles:
first, Simon called Peter
The Bible lists all the apostles in four places (Mt 10:2-4; Mk 3:16-19; Lk 6:13-16; Acts 1:13). In all these, Peter’s name is first because of his prominence among the college of the apostles. He had the privilege of hosting Jesus at his house while Jesus centered his ministry in Capernaum. Peter made the profession of faith in Jesus at Caesarea Philippi, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). Pleased with this, Jesus changed his name, saying, “you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church” (Mt 16:18). Jesus entrusted the keys of heaven to Peter (Mt 16:19). He might have been a leader among the fishermen and had natural leadership qualities. So, Jesus made him head of the college of Apostles. The New Testament records his name and activities more than on any other apostle. Though Peter denied Jesus three times during his trial, he gave Peter the opportunity to compensate it by expressing his love of Jesus three times at the post-resurrection appearance (Jn 21:15-17). In each of these, Jesus asked Peter to feed his sheep and lamb.
and his brother Andrew
Matthew lists Andrew immediately after Peter because he was the brother of Simon Peter and the first disciple to follow Jesus. Andrew was the son of Jonas and a disciple of John the Baptist. He was one among the two who heard John the Baptist introducing Jesus, saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” (Jn 1:35-37). He enthusiastically introduced Jesus to his brother Simon Peter (Jn 1:40-42). Compared to his brother Simon, Andrew was a reserved person. However, he was fervent in preaching the gospel. He was with Peter, James, and John when they had a private discussion with Jesus at the Mount of Olives on the destruction of Jerusalem (Mk 13:3).
(3) James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew, the publican; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;
James, the son of Zebedee
Matthew specifies James as the son of Zebedee to distinguish him from James, the son of Alphaeus. Jesus called him along with his brother John while they were on their boat with their father Zebedee mending their nets (Mt 4:21). He was one among the inner circle of Jesus, along with Peter and John. Because King Herod Agrippa beheaded him in Jerusalem in 42 A.D., he became the first martyr among the apostles. His is the only martyrdom of an apostle recorded in the Bible (Acts 12:1-3). He is commonly known as James the Great.
and his brother John
Since John was the younger brother of James, the evangelists give his name immediately after James. Jesus had asked Peter and John to prepare Passover for Jesus and the apostles (Lk 22:8). John was “the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus’ side” (Mk 13:23) at the Last Supper. He was the only apostle who witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus entrusted Mother Mary to John, and John to Mary (Jn 19:26-27). So, he took care of the savior’s mother until her dormition. Peter and John were the first among the apostles to visit the tomb after the resurrection of Jesus (Jn 20:3-8). Besides his gospel and epistles, John also authored the book of Revelation based on his vision of heaven while in exile on the Island of Patmos. Though John faced assassination attempts, he had a natural death at Ephesus in 100 A.D. and was the only apostle who died of natural causes.
James and John had some common characteristics. Jesus called both while fishing at the Sea of Galilee. Jesus nicknamed them as Boanerges, meaning “Sons of Thunder” (Mk 3:17) which reflects their character. While Jesus and the apostles were going through Samaria to Jerusalem, the Samaritans declined to welcome Jesus. Then James and John asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” (Lk 9:54). During the public ministry of Jesus, both were desirous of sitting at the right and left of Jesus in his kingdom (Mk 10:35-45). However, Jesus selected them, along with Peter, as his innermost circle and hence they got prominence among the list of apostles. After the Pentecost, they became zealous of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus, and they dedicated their lives for it.
Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter (Jn 1:44) and he must be a fisherman. He was formerly a disciple of John the Baptist. After John introduced Jesus to his disciples, Jesus found and called Philip to follow him (Jn 1:43). Philip immediately recognized Jesus as the Messiah. He enthusiastically introduced Jesus to Nathanael, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets” (Jn 1:45). So, from the very beginning of his discipleship, Philip was sharing the good news of Jesus’ ministry with others. Scholars assume Philip as the overseer of supplies and food for Jesus and his apostles. Before Jesus fed the 5,000 listeners by the multiplication of five loaves and two fish, it was to Philip that Jesus asked, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”
Bartholomew, known as Nathanael in John, was from Cana in Galilee (Jn 21:2). Philip introduced Jesus to Nathanael. When Jesus saw Nathanael, his response was: “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him” (Jn 1:47). Reply of Nathanael to Jesus was a profession of faith: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (Jn 1:49). Jesus promised Nathanael: “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (Jn 1:51).
The original name of Thomas, according to tradition, is Judas Thomas or Judas the Twin. He expressed his boldness to die for Jesus when the other disciples discouraged Jesus from going back to Judea to see the sick Lazarus asking, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?” (Jn 11:8). Thomas encouraged them, saying, “Let us also go to die with him” (Jn 11:16). However, Thomas did not show up at the crucifixion of Jesus. He doubted the resurrection of Jesus when the other disciples said that they had seen the Risen Lord. So, Thomas has a nickname “Doubting Thomas.” However, he expressed his fervent faith in the Lord by declaring to Jesus, “My Lord and My God” (Jn 20:28) when Jesus complied to his desire the next Sunday.
Matthew, the tax collector
Matthew, also known as Levi, was the son of Alpheus, and lived in Capernaum. Levi was the Hebrew name and Matthew his Greek name. Before following Jesus, Matthew was a tax collector. The Jews considered him as a public sinner because he collected tax for Romans who were their pagan oppressors. The Jews hated tax collectors as exploiters because they demanded unjust amount from them than was necessary to pay to the government. Hence, John the Baptist told the tax collectors, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed” (Lk 3:13). Jesus selected such a hated “criminal” and made him his apostle. When Jesus called Levi, he left his profession and enormous wealth to follow Jesus. He used his skills to write the first gospel that he envisioned for the Jews, establishing that the prophesies of the Old Testament about the Messiah were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
James, the son of Alphaeus
James, the son of Alphaeus (Lk 6:15) and Mary (Mk 15:40), was known as James the Lesser or James the Younger to distinguish him from James, the son of Zebedee, who followed Jesus before him. He wrote the Epistle of James. Some scholars uphold that he was the brother of Matthew and Judas Thaddeus, whose father was Alphaeus.
Thaddeus means “big hearted.” This nick name helped to distinguish Judas from Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus. He was also known as Judas the Zealot because of his enthusiasm to see Jesus ruling the world. At the last supper, he asked Jesus: “Master, then what happened that you would reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” (Jn 14:22). He wanted to publicize Jesus as a ruling king.
(4) Simon, the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed him.
Simon the Zealot
Simon the Cananean is also known as Simon the Zealot in Luke 6:15. Cananean did not mean that he was from the original inhabitants of Canaan or from Cana, where Jesus did his first miracle. Cananean is the Hebrew word for zealot in Greek. He must be a member of the zealot group before joining the band of Jesus. The zealots were revolutionaries battling against the Roman rule. Their revolt against Rome ended up in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Unlike Matthew who was pro-Roman, Simon was anti-Roman. Jesus selected both with opposing views in his group and made them people of true faith.
Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
Judas was from Judea near Jericho, whereas the other apostles were from Galilee. Jesus entrusted him with the little money Jesus and his disciples received for their sustenance from the well-wishers. St. John reports that “he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions” (12:6). Jesus was aware of what Judas was doing. During the public ministry, Jesus said to the Apostles: “‘Did I not choose you twelve? Yet is not one of you a devil?’ He was referring to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot; it was he who would betray him, one of the Twelve” (Jn 6:70-71). Even after walking with Jesus, listening to his discourses, and witnessing the miracles he performed for over three years, Judas could not fully commit himself to Jesus. Unfortunately, his interest shifted from Jesus to wealth.
Some people believe Judas was a zealot. He assumed that Jesus the Messiah would overthrow the Romans and establish his earthly kingdom. Judas eventually lost his hope in Jesus and sold his master for thirty pieces of silver to his enemies. When he realized the Jews condemned Jesus, he regretted deeply on what he had done (Mt 27:3). He might have assumed that since Jesus had escaped from previous assassination attempts, he might do the same when Judas would betray Jesus. However, Jesus’s time had arrived. Judas’ attempt to return the money to the chief priests and elders did not help to release Jesus. Even the temple authorities found it was unlawful to deposit the money in the temple treasury. So, they bought a potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. When his attempts failed, he got depressed and hanged himself (Mt 27:3-5). The Satan that controlled Judas did not allow him to turn towards his master for forgiveness. Because of Judas’ negative characteristics, the evangelists list him as the last among the apostles.
(5) Jesus sent these twelve on mission with the instruction: “Do not go into Gentile territory and do not enter a Samaritan town.”
Jesus sent these twelve on mission
After months of training with Jesus, the apostles were competent to preach and perform miracles of benevolence by themselves. Hence, Jesus sent them for practical training, so they get self-confidence to continue his mission after his departure from them. Besides the apostles, Jesus sent out 72 “others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit” (Lk 10:1). According to Mark 6:7, Jesus sent the apostles two by two as he did with the 72 disciples.
with the instruction: “Do not go into Gentile territory and do not enter a Samaritan town.”
Matthew’s gospel was for those having Jewish background. So, he highlighted how Jesus gave priority to the Jews at the initial stage of evangelization. However, after the resurrection, Jesus opened up the proclamation of the kingdom of God to all the nations (Mt 28:19).
Do not go into Gentile territory
The focus of Jesus in proclaiming the gospel was in Galilee and Judea where settlers were predominantly Jews. Galilee had Gentile settlements around it. Its pagan neighbors were Phoenicians in the west, Syrians in the north and east, and Samaritans in the south. Jesus went to these areas once in a while to be free from the Jewish crowd in Galilee and Judea so he could rest or spent time with his disciples. However, he was generous in helping the suffering people in those areas during such visits. If Jesus had given equal importance to the Gentiles at first, he could not get acceptance among the Jews who had a negative attitude towards them. The major encounters of Jesus among the Gentiles were:
Thus, Jesus never excluded the Gentiles from salvation and cure, but was beginning his ministry with the Jews and then extending to all the nations.
Do not enter a Samaritan town
The Jews hated Samaritans because of their historical hostility. The Samaritans were the occupants of the territory formerly assigned to the tribes of Ephraim and the half-tribe of Manasseh. Samaria was its capital. When the Assyrians deported and scattered in captivity, the ten tribes of Northern Israel, “The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and settled them in the cities of Samaria in place of the Israelites. They took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its cities.” (2 Kings 17:24). They intermarried the remaining Israelites in the newly occupied area. The pagans who inhabited Samaria continued the worship of their idols. So, God send lions among them that killed some people. King of Assyria sent them an Israelite priest from exile to teach them the worship of the God of the land. They learned the books of Moses and worshipped the God of Israel but continued their idolatry as well. “They were both venerating the LORD and serving their own gods” (2 Kgs 17:33). Because of this mixed race and mixed worship, the Jews considered Samaritans as “half-breeds” and hated them.
The animosity increased because of other reasons: (1) When the Jews returned from Babylonian exile and started rebuilding the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem, the Samaritans opposed it and halted it for some time (Nehemiah 6:1-14). (2) The Samaritans perpetuated their idolatrous worship by building a temple for them on Mount Gerizim. (3) Samaritans offered refuge for the outlaws of Judea (Joshua 20:6-7; 21:21). (4) The Samaritans, while accepting the Torah, rejected other Jewish scriptures and Jewish traditions. Hence, Jews hated Samaritans and avoided contact with them (John 4:9. 8:48).
Jesus drew a contrasting picture between the Jews and Samaritans in the practice of faith in the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). The Samaritan whom the Jews hated and considered worthless because of his non-Jewish beliefs and practices became compassionate and helping neighbor for a helpless and suffering Jew. The healed leper who returned to thank Jesus (Luke 17:11-19) was another role model from the Samaritans. Jesus acknowledged his gratitude and exposed him as an example for others, including the Jews, who underestimated the Samaritans. Jesus favored Samaritans in other instances like the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42), and rebuking James and John from calling down fire from heaven to consume Samaritans when they refused to welcome Jesus because he was heading for Jerusalem (Luke 9:53-55).
However, Jesus prevented his apostles ministering the Samaritans to avoid any initial rejection from them because the apostles were Jews. Also, the Jews might resist the apostles if they return after their service to the Samaritans.
(6) Go instead to the lost sheep of the people of Israel.
Jesus had observed the pathetic situation of the Israelites after visiting their towns and villages. “At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt 9:36). God spoke through Jeremiah, “Lost sheep were my people, their shepherds misled them, leading them astray on the mountains; From mountain to hill they wandered, forgetting their fold” (Jer 50:6). Jesus, who said to the Canaanite woman, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt 15:24) wanted to help them first before spreading the mission to the non-Jews.
(7) Go and proclaim the message: The kingdom of heaven is near.
The kingdom of heaven refers primarily to the rule of the Almighty over the entire universe with no territory because everything belongs to God with no border. “The LORD has set his throne in heaven; his dominion extends over all” (Psalm 103:19). In a specific sense, Israel was the kingdom of God because God’s dominion is a spiritual ruling over the lives and hearts of those who remain faithful to Him. Jesus reconstituted it through the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, forming the church with Christ as its head. Since the inauguration of the church would take place soon, Jesus asked the apostles to proclaim the proximity of the kingdom of heaven. This kingdom is spiritual, and that is why Jesus said to Pilate: “My kingdom does not belong to this world” (John 18:36). The church is only a foretaste of the perfect kingdom of God that will happen later in its fullness when the time of redemption is over with the second coming of Christ.
God will govern his kingdom that is eternal, peaceful, free from any struggle, and is open only for the faithful children of God. “In the lifetime of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people; rather, it shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them, and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44). Thus, the Kingdom of God has various stages. God initially established it in the world at large, then among the chosen people of Israel, Jesus restored it later by establishing the church, and it will come to its perfection with the second coming of Christ.
The apostles would proclaim the message at the entrance gate and on the streets of the town or village they enter. The people there should understand the imminence of the establishment of the Messianic kingdom God had promised and reminded through the prophets in the past.
(8) Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons. You received this as a gift, so give it as a gift.
Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons.
When Jesus sent out the twelve apostles, he shared his power to do miracles of mercy while proclaiming the kingdom of God to them. Mark gives the impact of the ministry of the twelve. “So they went off and preached repentance. They drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them” (Mk 6:13). The apostles and the other disciples did miracles in the name of Jesus to help the less fortunate. That made their listeners hospitable to them, trust in their message, and excitedly wait to welcome Jesus, in whose name they did the wonders.
bring the dead back to life
The gospels do not record any raising of the dead by the apostles during the public ministry of Jesus. There was no such need at that period. So, some manuscripts exclude these words. However, after Pentecost, the apostles raised the dead. Peter raised Tabitha (Dorcas) in Joppa (Acts 9: 36-42). Paul restored the life of Eutychus, who fell from the third story of a building where Paul was preaching until midnight. (Acts 20:7-12).
You received this as a gift, so give it as a gift.
Jesus performed the miracles expecting nothing in return from the beneficiaries. He wanted the apostles to imitate him with the same spirit. They should not make their pastoral authority as a money-making business or bargain for any favors they offered. Later, when the church became formal and institutional, financial support from the faithful was required. Then the church authorities had to apply the instruction of Jesus, “the laborer deserves his payment” (Lk 10:7). Paul wrote, “Presbyters who preside well deserve double honor, especially those who toil in preaching and teaching. For the scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it is threshing,’ and, ‘A worker deserves his pay’” (1 Tim 5:17-18).
Though remuneration is essential for the support of the ministers and running of the institutions, the spirit of free offering and non-profit service should dominate the pastoral ministry. Paul said to the presbyters of the church at Ephesus, “I have never wanted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You know well that these very hands have served my needs and my companions. In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:33-35).
(9) Do not carry any gold, silver or copper in your purses. (10) Do not carry a traveler’s bag, or a spare tunic, or sandals, or staff, for a worker deserves his living.
Journey of the apostles to the nearby villages for preaching during the public ministry of Jesus was temporary. So, they did not need to carry luggage with them. Instead, they should be free for movement and detached from comforts of life. Gold, silver, and copper were the forms of money then in circulation and the apostles did not need them for their short trips. A second tunic was a luxury during those days. That was the reason for John the Baptist to teach, “Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise” (Lk 3:11). Jesus allowed whatever provisions the apostles had and forbid them from carrying surplus items. They had to depend on God’s providence through the hospitality of the people they served.
Jesus wanted his disciples to avoid worldly comforts. He warned them, “Every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:33). They should rely on the people whom they served as representatives of God. In Luke 12:22-34, Jesus gives detailed instruction on this. Using the examples of ravens (v. 24) and flowers (v. 27-28), he said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear” (v. 22). “As for you, do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not worry anymore. All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides. Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:29-32).
At the Last Supper, Jesus asked the apostles, “‘When I sent you forth without a money bag or a sack or sandals, were you in need of anything?’ ‘No, nothing,’ they replied” (Lk 22:35). Thus, God’s providential care was with them during their ministry. However, at the Last Supper, Jesus changed his policy because of the long-distance journeys and opposition from non-believers. “But now one who has a money bag should take it, and likewise a sack, and one who does not have a sword should sell his cloak and buy one” (Lk 22:36).
for a worker deserves his living.
The faithful who benefitted the service of the apostles need to provide for their necessities if they can. Whereas the apostles should not be greedy or demanding. God had such provision for the priests of the Old Testament. “The Levitical priests, the whole tribe of Levi, shall have no hereditary portion with Israel; they shall eat the fire offerings of the LORD and the portions due to him” (Deut 18:1). So also, Jesus expected enough support for the needs of his ministers in the church.
(11) When you come to a town or a village, look for someone who is willing and stay with him until you leave.
During their preaching, the apostles could find lodging in the house of hospitable people. Because of the apostles’ prophetic style of preaching and miracles of mercy, people gladly invited them to their houses. Poor people welcomed them more than the rich because the apostolic ministry was more appealing to the less fortunate in the community. Though the families that provided them accommodation and food were mostly of inferior status, the disciples had to be satisfied with such offers rather than seeking favors from the well-to-do families. It was not the convenience or comfort of the house that they should look for, but the willingness of the host to cooperate with them to continue their mission. Once they found such a family, they should not switch to a different one for more comfort, hospitality, or friendship.
(12) As you enter the house, say, “Peace to this house.”
Here the house stands for the family that lives in the house. Wishing peace to a house and all who dwell there is a Jewish form of salutation when one enters a house (1 Sam 25:6). That was also a customary practice of respect towards the family one visits. This greeting is to a family that would offer hospitality to the apostle after searching and finding a welcoming one. For example, Lydia along with her household received baptism from Paul in Thyatira. She then offered him and Timothy an invitation, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my home” (Acts 16:14-15). They accepted her invitation.
The Risen Lord used the greeting, “Pease be with you” while he appeared to the disciples (Jn 20:19). This he repeated as an assurance he was offering to his apostles as he was sending them out with a mission to the world. In John 14:27, Jesus had assured his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” (Jn 14:27). Even during severe persecution, they would experience peace of mind as he himself had during his passion and crucifixion.
(13) If the people in the house deserve it, your peace will be on them; if they do not deserve it, let your peace come back to you.
Biblical meaning of peace differs from the ordinary understanding of peace. Peace in the normal usage stands for absence of conflict or war. Nations or people make peace after a conflict. So, peace is a period of quiet or tranquility. Biblical peace means more than quietness. The Hebrew word for peace is shalom, that means completeness, soundness, and welfare with no deficiency. If an injustice occurs, people establish peace through restitution to restore a broken situation, thus creating completeness or wholeness (Ex 22:1-5).
God is the source of peace. One attribute of God is Yahweh-Shalom (Judg 6:24). According to Paul, peace is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22). Jesus is the prince of peace (Isa 9:6). He established peace in the world through his acts of restitution for the sins of humanity. By conquering the world, he brought peace to his followers. “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (Jn 16:33).
When the apostles greeted the families with peace, God offered them the peace. It would remain in them if they were worthy of it. If they were unreceptive, they would not enjoy the peace from God. One can enjoy the divine peace only by welcoming the Word of God and its messengers. Since the apostles were going to towns and villages where they meet strangers, they might encounter families that would discard them. Thus, Jesus gave them the warning to expect rejection also, as he himself had experienced from the Jewish leaders.
(14) And if some house or town will not accept you or listen to your words, leave that house and that town, and shake the dust off your feet.
It is natural that dust clings on to the feet of a pedestrian, especially on dusty roads. When the disciples walked from town to town or from house to house preaching the gospel, the same could happen. The Jews during that time had the practice of shaking the dust from their feet and clothes when they exit from a Gentile land. It expressed their disgust against the Gentiles and was a symbolic expression that they did not want to bring anything pagan to Judea.
When Jesus asked the disciples to apply this in their ministry, it had a slightly different meaning. If the townsmen would reject the Word of God, Jesus asked the disciples to shake off the dust from their feet in public in the town square to show that they did all they could for the salvation of the townsmen. The disciples were no more obliged by the fate of the land. The Jews could understand it because they had done such acts against the gentile towns.
When Paul and Barnabas preached at Antioch in Pisidia, the Jews rejected them. So, they turned to the Gentiles, who happily welcomed their exhortation. The Jews “stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their territory. So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium” (Acts 13:50-51). However, they did not take the rejection from the villagers as a personal insult because they “were filled with joy and the holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52).
(15) I assure you, it will go easier for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgement than it will for the people of that town.
The people of Sodom and Gomorrah
When Abraham and Lot separated, Sodom and Gomorrah were part of the fertile valley of Jordan (Gen 13:10). Lot selected that area to settle with his people because of its fertility. Since the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were sinful, the Lord later destroyed them (Gen 19:1-29) and that punishment was well known. Later, the Israelites also became sinful because they rejected the warnings God gave them through His prophets and even through Jesus Christ. Jesus said of Capernaum, “Will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to the netherworld. For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you” (Mt 11:23-24). Unlike Sodom and Gomorrah, God gave warning to the Israelites of the imminent punishment if they do not repent. Jesus proved himself as the Messiah through his signs and preaching. Since they rejected to repent, they deserve more punishment than the people who were destroyed at Sodom and Gomorrah in the past.
The day of judgement
The Father has entrusted the judgement of the world to his Son (Jn 5:22). This judgement will be based on one’s own choice of belief in Jesus or not. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (Jn 3:18). The final judgement is to separate the good from the evil who have been growing together (Mt 25:31-46). Though God had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of their grave sins, they, along with other wicked people, are waiting for their final judgement. The punishment and reward will have varying degrees based upon the situation in which they lived and their receptivity to the warnings they had received.