1.  And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, he gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.

Notice that the power was His, and He gave it to them.  They did not automatically receive this power merely by being His disciples.  He had to command them and send them out with this power in order for them to work these miracles.  Moreover, He had many disciples, yet He only gave this power to these special twelve.  Just being a disciple did not gain one this power.  Yet many in our day seem to think that they can have powers like these merely because they are believers!  This was not true of the disciples, and it is not true of us today.

2.  Now the names of the twelve apostles are these:

These verses demonstrate the important difference between a disciple and an apostle.  In verse one these twelve men are called disciples.  In verse two they are called apostles.  What is the difference?  It is simple, and can be found in the basic meaning of these words.  A disciple is a learner, one who is a student of another.  When these twelve are called disciples, this is merely to say that they are students of Jesus.  An apostle, on the other hand, is one who is sent or commissioned with authority.  One can be an apostle to carry out one task, then complete it and cease to be an apostle, and then receive another task and become an apostle again.  Many people have the mistaken idea that an apostleship was an office which one held.  This is not true at all.  These men become apostles here because Jesus is sending them out to do a task.  When the task is completed and they return to Jesus they are called disciples again.  Then, after Jesus sends them out again right before He returns to heaven, they are called apostles again.  Always keep this basic idea of being sent with the authority to do a job in mind whenever you come upon the word “apostle.”

first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother;

Notice how the disciples are grouped in pairs here.  These first two pairs are brothers.  Thus it seems that, though they are to sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28,) this does not necessarily mean that they were each from a different tribe.  Of course, we might assume that these brothers were of mixed descent, sharing ancestry from two different tribes rather than one, and that would solve the difficulty.

3.  Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus;

These disciples are not as well-known as those in verse 2.  Indeed, most believers probably wouldn’t know that there was a disciple named Lebbaeus Thaddaeus.  Though these lesser-known disciples may take a more minor role in the gospel record, they will nevertheless have just as important a place in God’s future Kingdom.

4.  Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.

The word translated “Canaanite” is the Aramaic word for what the Greeks would have called “Zelotes” or “zealot.”  There was a faction called the “zealots,” but Josephus claims that this group did not arise until just before the fall of Jerusalem (Bell. Jud. 4:3,9).  This may simply refer to Simon’s well-known zeal for the law.

5.  These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying, “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans.
6.  “But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

I wonder what the sort of people who believe in “red letter versions” would say to these words of Christ?  If we are to follow Christ’s commands more than those of anyone else in the Bible, then what are we to do with these words?  Red letter versions are offensive in that they assume that the words that Christ spoke on earth are of more importance than the words He spoke through those He inspired to write other books of the Bible.  Yet this is not the case.  Christ is the Living Word, but this book that we call the Bible is the Written Word of God, and every word in it is “God-breathed.”  (II Timothy 3:16.)  To give primary importance to the words of Christ is to deny the inspiration of all Scripture.

We need to understand that times have changed since Christ was on the earth.  His ministry then was to the Jews exclusively, and not even to all Jews but only to those living in the land of Israel.  Because of this, many things that He said and commanded may not apply directly to us.  This is one of them.

7.  “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
8.  “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons.  Freely you have received, freely give.

When reading this passage, it is important to remember what I stated before, that preaching the kingdom was synonymous with preaching God’s government.  Notice that these apostles were not to tell anyone to believe in Jesus.  He had not yet been revealed as the Messiah!  All they were to do was to tell the people that God’s government was at hand.  To prove this, they were to perform miracles that would demonstrate the physical healing which will come upon all men when God’s government comes to the earth.  This is God’s health care plan.  Is there any government out there that can match it?

9.  “Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your moneybelts,
10.  “nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food.

Acting similarly to an employer in our day, Jesus here promises them that they will be well cared for as His “employees.”  Even though He will not be along with them, His power is more than able to ensure that they will have everything they need.

The word “bag” in Greek means a begging-bag.  They were not only not allowed to bring money, they were also not allowed to beg for money along the way.

It would be foolishness to attempt to follow these words today.  If one set off on a journey and didn’t take money to provide for oneself, nor extra clothes, nor a staff to aid in walking, nor even food, the journey would likely end in disaster.  Yet the Lord was watching over these men, and He could see to it that their journey went well in spite of the apparent lack of preparations.  The fact that they were not carrying these things would present to those who heard them the idea that they were sent on extremely important official business.  It was a symbolic act.  To attempt it now in our time would merely be foolishness.

11.  “Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out.

There was a customary procedure in that day for visitors to a Jewish community in a town.  News from the outside world was very precious in those days, as they had no TVs or radios or newspapers.  A visitor to a town would stay in each family’s house in turn.  That would give each family the chance to talk with him and learn of the news he had, including news that he might have of their own family or relatives in other towns.  This custom was almost an unspoken law, and the only way it could be ignored is if the visitor was on important official business.  So Christ’s command to them to forego this tradition and stay in one house only was another symbolic act to demonstrate to those to whom they were speaking the gravity and urgency of their message.

12.  “And when you go into a household, greet it.

That is, they were to pronounce their peace on the house, another customary gesture.

13.  “If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it.  But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.

Christ was giving these men permission to bless a household!  Great power indeed.  But he also assured them that if that house did not prove itself to be worthy of the blessing, the blessing would be withdrawn.  No one has this sort of power today.  These disciples were given great authority indeed!

14.  “And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet.
15.  “Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!

Again, this was incredible power that Christ bestowed upon these men!  They could actually determine in advance how that city would be judged in God’s future day of judgment!  Of course, this is considering a city as a whole, not necessarily every individual in that city.  Cities are mostly judged on the conduct of their rulers.  Just because a city is punished does not mean that every citizen in it is necessarily punished.

No man today has been given even close to the kind of power these men were given at this time.  We need to remember that there was more to these men than there is to any of our self-proclaimed spiritual leaders today.

16.  “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.  Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

In the first sentence, there are no articles before “sheep” and “wolves” in Greek.  This is to indicate that not ALL sheep are in the midst of wolves, just these disciples He was sending out.  In the second sentence, however, there are articles before “serpents” and “doves,” indicating that all serpents are wise and all doves are harmless.  This is an example of how difficult shades of meaning in one language can be to transfer over into another language.  Although this would be clear to a Greek speaker, it is almost impossible to convey this same shade of meaning in an English translation without explaining it in a paragraph like this.

The Lord was sending His disciples to do a very difficult work.  Thus He is instructing them in exactly how they are to behave.

17.  “But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues.

They didn’t necessarily suffer these things while they carried out this particular commission that the Lord gave them.  Rather, these things took place later in the Acts period, as we can read in that book.

18.  “And you will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.

Again, we can read of these things taking place in the book of Acts.  It seems that the Lord is not just preparing the disciples for the work they were just about to perform, but also for the future work He had in mind for them.

19.  “but when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak.  For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak;
20.  “for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father Who speaks in you.

This also was true of these men in the time period covered by the book of Acts.  It would be a great comfort to know that God would always provide you with exactly the right words to say.  It would be nice to be able to say that that is the way it is in our day.  But I cannot say this because it would not be true.  If I was ever dragged before a council to answer for my beliefs, I would have to take very great care concerning what I would say.  This verse is not talking just about confidence, but rather about direct inspiration by God.  God would give these men His very words to say in their own defense.  Their words to their accusers would not be the words of men, but the very words of God.  As such, those who rejected those words were not just rejecting them, but were also rejecting God Himself.

Yet for any to claim such inspiration today would be wrong in the extreme!  God does not give us inspiration.  Nothing I write or say is directly from God.  Neither is anything anyone else writes or says.  That includes popes and bishops and priests and ministers and pastors and theologians.  This is important to remember.  Today, we are left with the Bible only.  And let us all be satisfied with that, for God has determined that it is enough.

21.  “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.

These drastic things may have happened during the Acts period.  Yet we need to also remember that Christ predicted that these twelve men will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  (Matthew 19:28.)  This will take place during the time of God’s government on earth.  And there is predicted a time when men will rebel against that government, and those who do not love God will hate all those who stand for that government and who represent it.  Thus these words could also be applied to that future time and that still-future ministry of the disciples.

22.  “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.  But he who endures to the end will be saved.

We know that “all” didn’t hate them in the Acts period, for there were many who accepted Christ gladly and loved the apostles as His ministers.  Nor would “all” hate them in their future role in God’s Kingdom, for certainly not all will rebel.  This word “all” refers to “all” those who, through hatred, deliver their close relatives up to death.  All those who do this will also hate the disciples.  Yet those who remain faithful to the end of the rebellion when God steps in and puts an end to it will be saved.  Those who join those who hate and rebel, however, will lose the right to live under God’s government.  Notice that this is a way people will be saved or lost in that future time, not today.  No one in our dispensation can possibly be saved merely by enduring to the end!

23.  “But when they persecute you in this city, flee to another.  For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

This verse confirms what I suggested above, that the Lord here is speaking of a future event.  In order for the disciples to experience this, they will have to be raised from the dead.  And notice that this resurrection must take place before Christ’s return!  So those who teach that there is no resurrection until Christ’s second coming must indeed be mistaken.

24.  “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.
25.  “It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master.  If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!

More words which apply to His disciples.  Some of these are very good for us to remember as well, though, for we too must face opposition if we dare to speak of Christ to a world without Him.

Beelzebub was the “lord of the flies” worshipped by some polytheists in that day (II Kings 1:2 speaks of him.)  The Jews changed his name in contempt to “Beelzebel” or “lord of the dunghill.”  Eventually it came to mean the prince of false gods, Satan himself.  Thus to call the Lord this hated name was blaspheme indeed!  Yet if they called the Lord this, how much worse could the disciples expect from them?  Thus the Lord is preparing them for very stiff opposition.

26.  “Therefore do not fear them.  For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.

The Lord speaks of the upcoming Day of Judgment.  The disciples did not need to fear such men, for they knew their ultimate fate was in the hands of God, Who knows all.

27.  “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.

This was an instruction that the disciples indeed carried out in the Acts period.  Notice the difference between this and the command He gave them in verse 1, however.  This shows again that the Lord was no longer talking about their immediate commission that He was giving them, but rather one they were to carry out in the future.

28.  “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  But rather fear Him Who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

The word “hell” here is “Gehenna.”  This Greek word literally means “Of Hinnom,” and refers to the Valley of Hinnom that was located not far from Jerusalem.  This had originally been a very lush valley, and thus had been taken into use by the idol worshippers as an ideal spot to carry out their forbidden ceremonies.  The Jews at the time Christ was speaking had given up idol worship, and thus they viewed this valley with great contempt.  To show their loathing for it, they turned it into a refuse dump, where all things defiled and unclean would be disposed of and incinerated.  As such, this disgraced valley became a symbol for God’s great place of disposal where all those who rebel against Him will be brought to perdition.

Men obviously can only kill the body, yet they cannot kill the soul.  The Lord warns in this passage however that He should be feared, for He can destroy a soul in Hell.  How can this statement be reconciled with the idea that the soul is immortal?

29.  “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin?  And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.
30.  “But the very hairs of your head are numbered.
31.  “Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

They are not to fear death, for the Lord cares even for sparrows, and how much more must He care for them?  Not only that, but the very hairs on their head are numbered.  The idea is similar to when we have some machine or model of which all the parts are numbered.  We may have hundreds of parts, but with a set of directions to tell us which numbered piece goes where, we are easily able to piece the model together.  In the same way God knows where each hair on your head goes.  Why then should we worry about being killed for Christ’s sake?  He is able to put us back together so perfectly that not a hair is out of place!

32.  “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father Who is in heaven.
33.  “But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father Who is in heaven.

This is a difficult passage.  It may either be speaking of the unsaved versus the saved and be speaking of salvation, or it may be speaking of believers who will receive their rewards from God and those who will lose their rewards.  Remember, Christ does not say what He will deny these people.  It does not necessarily have to be eternal life.

34.  “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth.  I did not come to bring peace but a sword.

There are many today who would cringe at these words.  They want very much to believe that Christ came to send peace on the earth.  How different He was, they say, than the violent, vengeful God of the Old Testament.  They seem to want to make out as if Christ were different from God in times past.  If we are to believe Christ, however, this is not true!  Christ may have been gentle and full of grace, but He also was the same God of judgment that He had always been.

35.  “For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.’
36.  “And ‘a man’s foes will be those of his own household.’

Christ quotes Micah 7:6 as proof of what He was going to do.  These things became true in the Acts period, where those who refused to believe that Christ was the Messiah became foes to those who did believe in Him, even those of their own household!  This will also be true in the future time of the tribulation, when again a great division will be made between those who are faithful to God and those who aren’t.

Christ’s quotation here is entirely from Micah 7:6.  Why the NKJV splits the quote in half as if it were two quotes from two different places is beyond me.  It is true that the word “and” does not appear in our current Hebrew texts.  Perhaps they were trying to be technical?

37.  He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.  And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.

Notice that it does not say that we should not love father, mother, son, or daughter.  Rather, we are not to love them more than Him.  Christ is to be the most important thing in our lives!

38.  “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.

We need to remember that the Greek word for “cross” merely means “stake.”  It was a name that was assigned to the instrument of torment, much the same as we speak of the “chair.”  It is not necessarily an accurate description of a cross, but it is a common nickname for it.  However, the word still basically means stake.  I believe that Christ here is giving teaching that only applied to men of his day.  In order to follow Christ, one had to leave his home and possessions.  All he had was what he could carry with him.  They would carry their possessions wrapped in a cloth tied to a stick.  This calls to mind the common picture of children who are running away in cartoons.  You know how they always picture them with a stick with a handkerchief tied to it with a few of their precious possessions tied in it.  This is what Christ was talking about here.  Following Him meant leaving all behind and taking along only what you could carry with you tied to your stake.

Many sermons act like this is a command directly to us today.  This is wrong.  This was something that only applied to the disciples and His followers during the time He was on earth.  Although we could make application to the kind of dedication one must have to truly follow Christ, it is not true today that we can only have so many possessions as we can carry with us tied to a stick.  This would be foolish.

39.  “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

The word is not “life,” but “soul.”  This promise of God is precious indeed, and can apply to us as well as it did to the disciples.  To truly find our lives, we have to give them up to God and “lose” them.  Yet even if our service to God results in our own loss of life, we know that we will find our lives again in the resurrection.  What a blessing to know that God has given us eternal life!

40.  “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him Who sent Me.

These men were Christ’s representatives.  He had given them their commission, and their authority stemmed from Him.  Thus, to receive them was the same as receiving Him!

41.  “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward.  And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.
42.  “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”

Not only does Christ promise to care for these apostles on their journeys, but He also promises them that anyone who does show favor to them will likewise receive a reward from God.  This was another favor bestowed upon His disciples that no man can claim today.