Matthew 10:1-42 – The Mission of the Twelve


Matthew 10:1-42


Jesus now formally summons and names the twelve disciples and sends them out in mission with authority to preach the good news of the kingdom and to heal every disease and sickness. He accompanies their  instruction with warnings about the need for endurance and the promise of reward for those who take up the cross and follow him.


In this second of the five major discourses of Jesus in Matthew, Jesus summons the twelve disciples and formally hands over to them his same authority to preach the good news of the kingdom and to heal “every” disease (10:1, 7-8), but not, tellingly, the authority to teach! That will come only at the end of the Gospel after the resurrection (28:18-20). Along with the authority come instructions for the conduct of the disciples’ mission.  The disciples are instructed to go out as wandering missionaries, relying on the hospitality of those who receive them and not lingering long with those who do not (10:9-15). Jesus warns them of the need for wisdom amid the tough realities of mission for ones who go as “sheep into the midst of wolves” (10:16). It gives encouragement to face certain persecution that the Father’s Spirit will be with them and that in their suffering they are only imitating their master (10:17-25). It comforts them with the promise of the Father’s presence and concern and with the value and hope of rewards for faithful endurance (10:26-42).

In so doing, key themes of discipleship and mission are noted. The call for the decision to acknowledge the Son of Man will bring not peace but a sword (10:34). Worthy discipleship will mean to take up the cross and discover what it means that those who lose their lives for Jesus’ sake will find it (10:37-39). Finally, disciples are given to realize that whoever welcomes them is actually welcoming the Messiah and, in turn, “the one who sent me.” The Messiah’s identity is constituted in the mission of his disciples. So it is significant that such welcoming is linked here to the theme of righteousness. Three times righteousness is specifically mentioned in connection with the disciple mission (10:41) and even a cup of water for these “little ones” in the name of a disciple merits reward (10:42). The discourse concludes once again with the characteristic formula of disciple instruction and reference to Jesus’ ongoing ministry of teaching and proclamation (11:1).