Matthewby Mike Raiter
We have just seen Jesus' loving ministry to a broken world, but the task of announcing the kingdom and calling people into it needs many more workers. Jesus looks at the suffering and bullied crowds, and announces that there is much to do and far too few to do it.
Matthew recorded five collections of Jesus' teachings. The Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7) was His first, meant primarily for the disciples. Now He teaches them in His Sermon on the Mission (Matthew 10:5-42).
Jesus first gives them travel instructions. I travel a lot, often for just a few days at a time. For short trips I just take carry-on luggage; I do not want to waste time checking in heavy bags. Jesus tells His disciples to travel light as He sends them out on a short-term mission to the neighbouring towns and villages of Galilee.
This was a limited assignment: they were to go only to Jewish areas (v. 5). The apostle Paul said that the gospel was ″first for the Jew″ (Romans 1:16). In a little while the floodgates of salvation will open for the Gentiles (see Luke 10:1-17), but here Jesus affirms that, at this stage in God's plan, His covenant people are the focus of His ministry.
These Jews have seen the miracles of Jesus and the disciples and they have the Scriptures, which promised that when the Messiah came He would do the very works that are being performed in front of them (e.g., Isaiah 35:5-6). Given all this evidence, they had no excuse for rejecting the ministry of the apostles.
Those who welcomed Jesus' emissaries received the blessings of peace and salvation. Shaking off dust was a symbolic act of a pious Jew when they left a ceremonially unclean pagan area (v. 14). Therefore, those who rejected Jesus' emissaries found themselves counted among the unclean and, on the final judgment day, outside the kingdom.
Some things are different now. We go to Jews and Gentiles. We often take many bags, for we may stay for years in a particular area proclaiming the kingdom. We will give people who do not know the Scriptures many opportunities to respond (e.g., Acts 19:8-10). Nevertheless, some things remain the same. There is still an urgent need for people to commit themselves to gospel work. We still make proclamation our first work. The gospel still promises and brings the eternal peace of God.
As you look at the world around you, what evidence is there of people being harassed and helpless (Matthew 9:36)?
What sort of workers are needed for today's harvest field? How has the Lord gifted and equipped you to serve in this work?