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Matthew 10:1-4 “The Workers are Appointed & Identified”

“And calling His twelve disciples, He gave to them authority over unclean spirits in order to cast them out and to heal every sickness and every disease. Now, the names of the twelve apostles are these: First Simon, the one called Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James the one from Zebedee, and John his brother. Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector, James the one from Alphaeus and Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananaean and Judas Iscariot who also delivered Him.”

 

The coming discourse (10:5-42) is the center of Jesus’ agenda (proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom) and has many similarities to the SM. The targeted audience for both sermons consisted of Jesus’ disciples (5:1 vs. 10:5), yet this sermon does not have any wider audience listening on the fringes (7:28-29). The fast-approaching sermon is specifically geared for Jesus’ handpicked twelve disciples.


The connection between 10:1 and 9:38 is tighter than one may at first think. Much like 9:1, this verse begins with the conjunction καὶ (and), an interesting choice of words if Matthew is beginning a new and independent section. Just as 9:1 concludes the trip Jesus began in 8:23, so 10:1 continues the thought first introduced in 9:35. Where Jesus saw a need for workers (9:35-38) He now commissions (10:1-4) and sends out (10:5-42) His chosen workers. Here, the workers chosen by the Lord of the harvest are appointed and identified.

 

The Twelve Appointed (v. 1)


The connection between 10:1 and 9:38 is more logical than temporal. Certainly, this scene follows Jesus’ observations and command from 9:35-38, but it is not accurate to assume that this verse describes the same moment. What point would there be to command His disciples to plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers (9:38) if Jesus wasn’t going to give them time to do so? Make no mistake, these twelve are selected by Jesus for that very purpose, to be sent out into the harvest. Jesus will no longer be the sole worker in the field, for these twelve are about to join Him.

 

Point: Authority Over Unclean Spirits

And calling His twelve disciples, He gave to them authority over unclean spirits.


That Jesus summoned or called (προσκαλέω) the twelve to Himself is not a detail to ignore. Jesus made it clear that it would be the Lord of the harvest who sent out His workers into His harvest (9:38). It is therefore only fitting that these men are personally selected by Jesus for this mission. Likewise, this calling is consistent with the way Jesus went about gaining disciples in the first place (4:18-22). It is interesting that Jesus called to those He wanted and discouraged those who came to Him (8:18-22).


Jesus’ authority (ἐξουσία) was the main driving theme of chapters 5-7 (7:29; 8:9; 9:6, 8) and is now being given by Jesus to these twelve. The authority possessed by Jesus for His kingdom proclaiming ministry is now being given to others. This is nothing less than the distribution of labor prayed for in 9:38. The twelve disciples now find themselves as the answer to their prayers. Regarding this authority, it should be noted that the twelve disciples do not possess authority of their own but are acting with and under Jesus’ authority. The authority belongs to Him, and He extends it to these men at this time for this mission.


While this authority certainly includes the authority to preach and proclaim the kingdom (10:7), Matthew here emphasizes their given authority concerning unclean spirits (πνευμάτων ἀκαθαρτων). Matthew does not often use this designation for satanic activity (only here and 12:43) as he seems to prefer the term “demon” (δαιμόνιον – 7:22; 9:33, 34; 10:8; 11:18; 12:24, 27, 28; 17:18). Designating these spirits as “unclean” alludes to the results of their presence and dominion over individuals: uncleanliness. They defile all they touch and therefore must be expelled. Thus, the purpose of this newly given authority.

 

Purpose: To Cast Out & To Heal

In order to cast them out and to heal every sickness and every disease.


Jesus has a specific purpose in mind when He gave His authority over unclean spirits to the twelve.[1] First, this authority is given to them in order to cast out these unclean spirits. If these disciples are to proclaim the nearness of the kingdom, then the active enemy agents cannot be allowed to remain operational. They have to go.[2] Second, the authority over unclean spirits is given in order to heal every sickness and every disease.[3] This is not a statement which demands that all (or even most) sickness is caused by demonic activity, but an added detail that focuses Jesus’ given authority to these disciples. They are to go about the business of eradicating Satan’s influence and the mark of his presence in the land of Israel. The curse is being undone and reversed by Messiah and His fellow workers.

It is no accident that the same wording (every sickness and every disease – πᾶσαν νόσον καὶ πᾶσαν μαλακίαν) was used of Jesus in 9:35 and earlier in 4:23. The disciples are truly setting out to do what Jesus has already been doing. Jesus promised that they would become fishers of men (4:19) and yet they have done little but watch Jesus fish.[4] Now they get a chance to do what Jesus has been doing this whole time. They will join Him in the work of teaching, preaching, and healing.

 

The Twelve Identified (vv. 2-4)


Now, the names of the twelve apostles are these: First Simon, the one called Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James the one from Zebedee, and John his brother. Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector, James the one from Alphaeus and Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananaean and Judas Iscariot who also delivered Him.

 

Matthew is certainly fascinated by the number twelve. He specifically numbers these men repeatedly in this section (10:1, 2, 5, and 11:1). Here, he also transitions from disciples (μαθητής) to apostles (ἀπόστολος), a curious move since this is the one and only time Matthew uses the term “apostles”. Taking these observations one at a time, it seems rather obvious that the number twelve is indicative of the twelve sons of Israel and thus the twelve tribes.[5] This connection is concretely made by Jesus Himself in 19:28 and is conceivably already known to Matthew’s audience. The connection is confirmed by the fact that Jesus sends (ἀποστέλλω) them specifically and exclusively to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (vv. 5-6). Therefore, the sheep, the harvest, and now these twelve men are part of Jesus’ mission to Israel which is formed around the preaching of the nearness of the kingdom (v. 7). In a sense, the twelve form a new beginning for the nation with restoration in view.[6] Yet this restoration is not based upon genealogy and lineage alone but by one’s connection with Jesus, the son of David and son of Abraham (1:1).[7] Jesus purposefully chose twelve from the disciples whom He called to be sent out to the nation of Israel. He offers the sheep new shepherds.


By referring to these men as apostles, Matthew highlights their mission much more than their status. While a disciple is a learner, pupil, or apprentice who follows his master/teacher, observes his methods, and learns his ways, an apostle is one who goes forth as a representative of the one who sent him. An apostle (ἀπόστολος – delegate, envoy, messenger) is greater than a mere disciple in the sense that an apostle operates independently from his master. Independently, not in the sense that he is free to conduct his mission according to his own designs, but in the sense that his master is not with him. This is a trusted individual sent out to act for the master and in the master’s place. Yet, an apostle is more than a preacher (κῆρυξ – herald, one who makes public proclamation). A preacher has one job: proclaim the message given to him without alteration, reservation, and in its completion. An apostle is more akin to an ambassador in that he represents his master in all things except for the master’s actual presence. When the ambassador speaks, he speaks the words of his master. When the ambassador acts, he acts with the authority of his master.[8] Yet, it is important to note that this appointment is not to be considered an elevation or promotion of personal status. Rather, this is a commissioning for a specific task.[9] When Jesus gave the twelve His authority over the unclean spirits and commanded them to preach the gospel of the kingdom, they became His ambassadors, envoys, and apostles.


Yet, it is helpful to notice that this apostleship has limitations. Jesus did not give the twelve His unconditional authority to be used at their discretion nor did He bestow it indefinitely. This appointment has specific boundaries in focus and duration. When they complete this mission, their apostolic status expires. At the conclusion of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus gives the remaining disciples a larger mission (28:18-20). In other words, the church’s apostles will be commissioned in chapter 28 with Jesus’ authority to go make disciples of all nations. Here, in chapter 10, there is a limited mission to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

 

Matthew immediately proceeds to name the twelve. There are several other lists of the twelve disciples/apostles in the New Testament (Mk. 3:16-18; Lk. 6:13-16; Acts 1:13), a simple chart of which is presented below:

Matthew 10:2-4

Mark 3:16-18

Luke 6:13-16

Acts 1:3

Simon Peter

Simon Peter

Simon Peter

Peter

Andrew

James

Andrew

John

James

John

James

James

John

Andrew

John

Andrew

Philip

Philip

Philip

Philip

Bartholomew

Bartholomew

Bartholomew

Thomas

Thomas

Matthew

Matthew

Bartholomew

Matthew

Thomas

Thomas

Matthew

James the son of Alphaeus

James the son of Alphaeus

James the son of Alphaeus

James the son of Alphaeus

Thaddaeus

Thaddaeus

Simon the zealot

Simon the zealot

Simon the Cananaean

Simon the Cananaean

Judas the brother/son of James

Judas the brother/son of James

Judas Iscariot

Judas Iscariot

Judas Iscariot

[vacant]

It is interesting that none of these lists are the same (even between Luke and Acts with the same author) and much has been observed regarding various patterns and apparent inconsistencies within them. A few of these observations and their deductions (some of them doubtful) are summarized as follows:

  • Peter is always mentioned first, and Judas is always mentioned last.

    • This is said to introduce a sense of order with Peter as the leader of the twelve and Judas always mentioned at the end.

    • Yet, this would not account for the fact that no two lists maintain the same order and would demand that we understand each list as indicating a decrease in significance as the list proceeds.

  • Matthew mentions Peter as “first” (πρῶτος) in the list in the sense that he is the first among equals.

    • This interpretation ignores that πρῶτος always includes the sense of ordinal sequence, even when used to emphasize prominence. Someone/thing is important because it is first sequentially.

    • This interpretation assumes the false teaching of the senior pastor being the first among equal elders.

    • This interpretation ignores the fact that one cannot be both first in prominence while also being equal with one’s peers. To be first in prominence means he has no peers.

    • The natural implication of this interpretation demands that we see a decline in prominence as the list progresses.

      • This of course undermines the interpretation that there are three sets of four disciples, each group having a “leader”.

      • Unless each group is less significant than the one before like an “A” squad, “B” squad, and “C” squad.

  • Peter is always first, Philip is always fifth, and James the son of Alphaeus is always ninth. 

    • This is supposed to prove that the twelve were broken down into three groups of four with these men acting as leaders of the smaller groups.[10]

    • That this is pure conjecture rather than a deduction seems obvious.

  • Matthew is the only list maker to mention himself as a “tax-collector”.

    • The later gospel writers do not seem to hold this against Matthew.

    • This seems to indicate a strong sense of humility in Matthew.

  • Simon the Cananaean and Simon the zealot are the same person.

    • Matthew writes ὁ Καναναῖος (the Cananaean) not ὁ Χαναναῖος (the Canaanite).

    • Καναναῖος is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew קַנָּא (to be jealous, zealous – Ex. 20:5; Num. 25:13; Deut. 5:9).

      • It may not be accurate to associate this Simon with the zealots who began the Jewish revolt over thirty years after Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.

      • It is possible that this “zealot” considered himself more of a Phinehas in that he had zeal for the Law and for Israel.

      • Although, that same “zeal” was the fuel (misunderstood and misapplied) of the later zealots who desired an independent Israel free of pagan influence.

  • Thaddaeus and Judas the bother or son of James are the same person.

    • Having multiple names was common in the 1st century (Saul/Paul, Simon/Peter, Levi/Matthew, Joseph/Barnabas, John/Mark).

    • Undoubtedly, there would be a desire to distinguish oneself from the other Judas.

  • Judas Iscariot was the only non-Galilean.

    • This is an overstatement, for we do not know the origins of several of these men.

    • However, the best explanation of “Iscariot” (ὁ Ἰσκαριώθ) is that it is a transliteration of the Hebrew אִישׁ קְרִיּוֹת (man of Kerioth). Kerioth is found in southern Judea.

    • Certainly, most of the disciples were Galileans (Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthew, Philip, and Bartholomew), making this man of the deep south an outsider from the beginning.


While some of these observations are valid and others are quite far-fetched, the whole process of comparing these lists neglects the greatest of all hermeneutical commandments: Authorial Intention. Matthew, Mark, and Luke present their lists to advance their own points. Any analysis that fails to take this into consideration cannot possibly produce worthwhile information. Therefore, we must look again at Matthew’s list with a pair of fresh eyes as we seek to understand what Matthew intended to communicate.


First, Matthew arranges this list into pairs. With the exception of the first four (Peter, Andrew, James, and John), the apostles are linked by καὶ to indicate a pairing (Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew, etc.). The context of this list is to identify those whom Jesus is sending out as His workers into the harvest. He seems to be sending them out in pairs. This pairing is important for several reasons. (1) There is a sense of accountability with a preaching partner. (2) This pairing ensures that their message is confirmed by at least two witnesses (Deut. 17:6; 19:15). (3) The pairing ensures that the authority they exhibit is not linked to a single disciple but points back to the One who sent them. A lone disciple working by himself might easily (through no fault of his own) be seen as a competitor to Jesus rather than one sent by Jesus. The point is that this pairing is linked with their purpose. This is the list of those whom Jesus sent out to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.


Second, the order of the list has more to do with the order in which Jesus called them and less with their ranking. Matthew has already recounted how Jesus called the first four disciples (4:18-22). We should notice that the names appear in the exact same order: Peter, Andrew, James, and John. There is an assumption that all twelve were similarly called by Jesus, something probably well known by Matthew’s audience.[11] These callings were not necessarily how these men were introduced to Jesus or heard of Jesus (Jn. 1:35-51), but are the moment when Jesus personally took the initiative to call them into formal discipleship. With this in mind, Peter was the first (πρῶτος) disciple called, followed immediately by his brother Andrew and then shortly by the brothers James and John. Matthew’s list is arranged in the order in which Jesus called these men into service, the last of whom was Judas Iscariot who betrayed or delivered Him (ὁ καὶ παραδοὺς αὐτόν). This list would not be complete without the betrayer. The point is that these men were hand-picked by Jesus for a purpose.


Finally, these men were as ordinary as men could be. We tend to think of the twelve as some kind of heroes, yet most church goers would be hard pressed to name them all. There’s a reason for that. Of the twelve, only three go on to author scripture (Matthew, Peter, and John) while most of them remain completely obscure. Matthew makes no mention of  Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Thaddaeus, and Simon the zealot as individuals after this list,[12] nor are any besides Peter, James, and John even mentioned in the New Testament after Acts 1. Nearly all the information we receive about these men are confined to the four lists found in the New Testament, a fact that makes any attempt at character sketches laughably naive. Yet that is precisely the point. In Matthew’s gospel, only two of these men receive much attention: Peter and Judas. One confesses Jesus to be the Messiah and Son of God and the other betrays Him. The rest receive little to no mention because they are simply men who do their master’s bidding. These are no supermen, but ordinary men.[13] They are not moved by passions but were called by Jesus and assigned a job to do. These are the men Jesus chose to advance His agenda.



[1] While ὥστε + infinitive is not normally used to convey purpose, this is the case here (Wallace, p. 591). Besides, it is difficult to understand this verse in any other way. To call these infinitives “intended result” (Quarles, p. 99) is a horse by the same name.


[2] That the task of casting out demons is now being distributed among the twelve is yet another indication of the unprecedented high level of demonic activity during the time of Jesus’ advent.


[3] There is no need to perform exegetical gymnastics as Lenski does (p. 387) by connecting ἐκβάλλειν (to cast out) with ὥστε (so that/in order to) yet connects the second infinitive θεραπεύειν (to heal) all the way back with ἐξουσάιν (authority). Lenski rushes to do this for fear of teaching that all sickness is due to demonic activity. Yet, if we remember the context and resist the urge to apply all of chapter 10 to the church as the new Israel (rank heresy indeed) then there is no reason for this statement to make us uneasy. This authority is not given to the church in any way shape or form but was given to these twelve men at this time for this purpose. To argue from this verse that all (or even most) sickness is due to demonic activity is to assume that the church occupies the same dispensation as Jesus’ first advent with zero significant differences.


[4] John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005), p. 409-10.


[5] David Garland, Reading Matthew: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the First Gospel (New York, NY: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1993), p. 111.


[6] Nolland, p. 409.


[7] Those who advocate the heresy of replacement theology (that the church is the new Israel) conveniently overlook several facts. The first of which is that the church is not in view in Matt. 10 and the nation of Israel is. Secondly, the chosen disciples were Israelites and thus serve as representatives for Israel and not the Gentile nations. Finally, Matthew’s audience is entirely Jewish as was the church for the first decade of its existence. If a predominantly Gentile church is supposed to replace Israel and assume the promises made to them, this is a very confusing way to articulate it.


[8] Those who heretically claim the office of apostle today are claiming to speak and act with the full authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. The implications of this errant claim are far reaching and disastrous to those who follow them.


[9] Garland, p. 111.


[10] D. A. Carson, Walter Wessel, and Mark Strauss, Matthew & Mark, Revised, vol. 9, 13 vols., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2010), p. 277.


[11] Nolland, p. 409.


[12] David Turner, Matthew, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p. 265.


[13] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992), p. 242.

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