The First Commission: Matthew 10:16-42

Focus Passage: Matthew 10:16-42 (GNT)

16 “Listen! I am sending you out just like sheep to a pack of wolves. You must be as cautious as snakes and as gentle as doves. 17 Watch out, for there will be those who will arrest you and take you to court, and they will whip you in the synagogues. 18 For my sake you will be brought to trial before rulers and kings, to tell the Good News to them and to the Gentiles. 19 When they bring you to trial, do not worry about what you are going to say or how you will say it; when the time comes, you will be given what you will say. 20 For the words you will speak will not be yours; they will come from the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

21 “People will hand over their own brothers to be put to death, and fathers will do the same to their children; children will turn against their parents and have them put to death. 22 Everyone will hate you because of me. But whoever holds out to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, run away to another one. I assure you that you will not finish your work in all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24 “No pupil is greater than his teacher; no slave is greater than his master. 25 So a pupil should be satisfied to become like his teacher, and a slave like his master. If the head of the family is called Beelzebul, the members of the family will be called even worse names!

26 “So do not be afraid of people. Whatever is now covered up will be uncovered, and every secret will be made known. 27 What I am telling you in the dark you must repeat in broad daylight, and what you have heard in private you must announce from the housetops. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather be afraid of God, who can destroy both body and soul in hell. 29 For only a penny you can buy two sparrows, yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. 30 As for you, even the hairs of your head have all been counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are worth much more than many sparrows!

32 “Those who declare publicly that they belong to me, I will do the same for them before my Father in heaven. 33 But those who reject me publicly, I will reject before my Father in heaven.

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the world. No, I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 I came to set sons against their fathers, daughters against their mothers, daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law; 36 your worst enemies will be the members of your own family.

37 “Those who love their father or mother more than me are not fit to be my disciples; those who love their son or daughter more than me are not fit to be my disciples. 38 Those who do not take up their cross and follow in my steps are not fit to be my disciples. 39 Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it.

40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes God’s messenger because he is God’s messenger, will share in his reward. And whoever welcomes a good man because he is good, will share in his reward. 42 You can be sure that whoever gives even a drink of cold water to one of the least of these my followers because he is my follower, will certainly receive a reward.”

Read Matthew 10:16-42 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During the middle of Jesus’ ministry, He tells the disciples to travel around the countryside telling people about Him. In Jesus’ instructions to them, we can find some incredible warnings and concepts that can help us as followers of Jesus.

For example, at the beginning of our passage, which is part way into Jesus’ send-off remarks, He tells His disciples, “Listen! I am sending you out just like sheep to a pack of wolves. You must be as cautious as snakes and as gentle as doves. Watch out, for there will be those who will arrest you and take you to court, and they will whip you in the synagogues. For my sake you will be brought to trial before rulers and kings, to tell the Good News to them and to the Gentiles. When they bring you to trial, do not worry about what you are going to say or how you will say it; when the time comes, you will be given what you will say. For the words you will speak will not be yours; they will come from the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (v. 16-20)

What amazes me about Jesus’ words is that I would have expected them to have been given following the resurrection, and as part of the “Great Commission” that Jesus gave the disciples before He returned to heaven. Instead, these words are given relatively early in His ministry, right after He has selected the group of twelve disciples from a broader collection of followers.

This distinction makes me wonder if Jesus is speaking into the future here, or if some of these disciples were arrested and brought before the synagogues in the towns they visited, which gave hem opportunities to speak for Jesus. As relatively new followers, it may have even been intimidating to talk about Jesus because some of them likely hadn’t spent much time with Him up to that point.

However, while we don’t know if the disciples received hostility on this short term mission trip early on in Jesus’ ministry, we do know from reading about the early church in the book of Acts that following Jesus’ return to heaven, Jesus’ followers did receive hostility from multiple directions.

But what is interesting is that Jesus tells us that hostility towards us is actually an opportunity. Jesus says that “For my sake you will be brought to trial before rulers and kings…” (v. 18a)

What reason does Jesus give for us being brought to trial for Him?

Jesus doesn’t leave us wondering. He finishes the statement off with the reason: “For my sake you will be brought to trial before rulers and kings, to tell the Good News to them and to the Gentiles.” (v. 18)

When this happens, Jesus tells us to be calm and not to worry about what to say. This is because if God brings us into a situation for His purposes, He will give us the words to say to bring Him glory.

This truth is the same for Jesus’ original twelve disciples as it is for us today. If we are brought before people because of our faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit will speak through us to point those present towards God. Trials and direct challenges to our faith are sometimes the best ways for God to connect people who have a testimony with those who have turned their back on Him.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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