The Word Made Fresh
1Then Jesus called his twelve disciples together. He authorized them to cast out demons and cure diseases and every affliction. 2Their names were Simon, who was also called Peter; his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee and his brother John; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas; Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus; Thaddaeus; 4Simon the Zealot; and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
5Jesus sent them out, saying, “Don’t go anywhere near the Gentiles, nor any of the Samaritan towns. 6Instead, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7Wherever you go announce the good news that the kingdom of heaven is near. 8Cure those who are sick. Raise the dead. Heal the lepers. Cast out the demons. You have received blessings without paying for them; now go and give blessings without charging for them. 9Don’t carry any gold or silver or copper with you, 10nor luggage for your journey – not even an extra set of clothing or shoes. Don’t bother carrying a staff. After all, those who work for others should be fed. 11Whatever village or settlement you enter, find out who is there you can trust, and stay with them until you leave. 12When you enter a house, enter in peace, 13but if they are unworthy, take your peace with you. 14If anyone refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet and leave that house or that village. 15The truth is that Sodom and Gomorrah will be better off on judgment day than that town.
16“I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves, so be as sly as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17Be on your guard. They will try to hand you over to a jury and whip you in their synagogues 18and drag you before governors and kings because of me, because they are like the gentiles. 19When they arrest you, don’t worry about how to defend yourself or what to say – what you say will be given to you when that happens. 20It won’t be you speaking – it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
21“Brothers will betray each other to death, and fathers their children, and children will speak up against their parents and even have them executed. 22Everyone will hate you because of my name, but anyone of you who stays faithful to the end will be saved. 23When they begin to persecute you in a town, go to the next town. I tell you truly that you won’t have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
24“A student is not above the one who teaches. A slave is not above the master. 25It is enough for the student to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they dare to call the master of the house Beelzebul, they will slander the others in the house even more.
26“So don’t be afraid of them. Nothing is hidden that won’t be discovered, and nothing secret will be kept unknown. 27What I tell you in the dark, tell in the day. Whatever you hear whispered, shout from the rooftops. 28Don’t be afraid of those who can kill the body but not the soul; be afraid of the one who can cast both soul and body into hell. 29Two sparrows are worth only a penny, but not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. 30The hairs of your head are all counted, 31so don’t be afraid – you are more valuable than many sparrows.
32“Everyone who recognizes me before others I will recognize before my Father in heaven, 33but whoever denies me before others I will deny before my Father in heaven.
34“Don’t think for a moment that I have come to bring peace on earth. I have not come to bring peace. I have come to bring a sword. 35I have come to turn a man against his father and a daughter against her mother and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36A man’s enemies will be members of his own family.
37“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. Anyone who loves a son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38Whoever refuses to suffer with me is not worthy of me. 39Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 40Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Those who would welcome a prophet in a prophet’s name will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous man in the name of a righteous man will receive the reward of the righteous. 42No one who gives as much as a cup of cold water to a child in the name of a disciple will lose their reward.”
1-4: Matthew finally gets around to naming the 12 disciples. In the other books the list is given earlier — Mark 3:18-19, Luke 6:14-15, Acts 1:13-14, with some variation in the names.
5-15: The mission of the twelve is to go only to Jewish towns and villages. The people of Israel must be the first to hear the good news, and those who are unwilling to hear it will come to an ignominious end. Their mission is accompanied by specific instructions as to where to go, what to take, and how to react to their reception, warm or cold.
16-25: Jesus also gives them a warning about what they might encounter. His description of the kinds of troubles they might face sounds like the kinds of persecutions the early church had to face in the first centuries after his crucifixion and resurrection. The promise in verse 23 is problematic for some commentators because it appears to be a prophecy that did not come to pass. I take it simply to mean that Jesus is promising to back them up if they get into trouble. Verses 24-25 warn the disciples that, just as Jesus has at times been maligned, they can expect the same.
26-33: Jesus tries to allay their anxieties by reminding them that neither the devil nor their earthly enemies have the power to completely destroy them. Only God can do that, and God holds them to be of great value.
34-39: Jesus realizes that his message of repentance will not be received well by all, and will in fact cause conflict even within families. Still, his disciples need to understand that the message is more important than their individual lives.
40-42: Finally, he declares to them that God’s judgment of the people they encounter will be based on how well they receive Jesus’ disciples.
Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t exempt us from criticism or protect us from all harm. It does, however, guarantee that the suffering of this present life is not to be compared with the glory of the life to come. Faith requires patience and persistence.