Matthew 9:35 -- 10:8, (9-23)


Jesus then instructs his disciples on how to live as itinerants, what to expect, and how to handle difficulties. These teachings were important because his followers would only have known village life - relying on family and kin for sustenance - and would be totally unfamiliar with the social realities of being an outsider.

Year A

Sunday Between June 12 and June 18 Inclusive
Proper 6, Ordinary Time 11

Read the passage at the bottom of this post: Matthew 9:35 -- 10:8, (9-23), The Message   or   Matthew 9:35 -- 10:8, (9-23), The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

Permission is granted for non-profit use of these materials. Acknowledgement in oral presentations is not required. Otherwise, please acknowledge source as, "David Ewart,"


The lesson given for this Sunday has a shorter version, 9:35 - 10:8, and a longer one, 9:35 - 10:23. My choice of a shorter version is 10:5-23 since this gives more of the direct teaching of Jesus to his followers.

Verses 9:35-38. Matthew reports that Jesus now travels through villages and towns / cities: teaching, proclaiming, and curing. These are the activities of a prophet and Holy Man of Israel.

The "crowds" would be non-elite peasants, and they indeed would not have leaders. Not have anyone who took notice of their needs. Jesus then shifts the image from sheep without a shepherd, to a crop without harvesters.

Note that Jesus sees the crowds as belonging to the Lord of the Harvest. They are not nobodies.

Verses 10:1-4. Jesus has been teaching, proclaiming, and curing; but he authorizes his disciples only to cure by giving them authority over the unclean spirits that are the source of illness.

The fact that there are exactly 12 disciples - instead of 10 or 14 or whatever - is no doubt to parallel and symbolize the 12 tribes of Israel. Jesus is reaching out to all of Israel.

Verses 5-6. Note the instruction here to not go outside of the people, Israel. The "lost sheep" is a reference to Matthew 9:36, and refers primarily to the poor and peasants who had no leaders.

Verses 7-8. Here Jesus authorizes his followers to proclaim the Good News as well as to cure. Note that in this context, "proclaim" has the force of creating a new social order as when a King declares a new law. Jesus is not simply texting a juicy tidbit.

Jesus then instructs them on how to live as itinerants, what to expect, and how to handle difficulties. These teachings were important because his followers would only have known village life - relying on family and kin for sustenance - and would be totally unfamiliar with the social realities of being an "outsider."

Verses 9-10. Jesus gives instructions for living as an itinerant; traveling light and relying on hospitality and "payment for services" for sustenance.

Verses 11-15. Jesus then tells his disciples how to receive hospitality from strangers when it is offered; and how to react when it is not. "Shaking the dust off your feet" would be the modern equivalent of "giving them the one finger salute as you leave." That is, it was a rude expression for rude treatment.

Verse 16. Jesus then offers common sense advice that just because you are doing God's work does not grant you immunity from the faults and failings of human nature.

Verse 17-20. This seems more like a foreshadowing of what would happen later to Jesus and his followers than any present concern.

Forecasting this experience demonstrates Jesus authority and closeness with God. It also has the effect of assuring his followers that:

  1. Opposition is not a sign of failure or that Jesus was not trustworthy as a leader. And
  2. Paradoxically, getting arrested is the only way you will have a chance to speak to the elites, so use it to testify. And
  3. Don't worry about what you will say - God's Spirit will speak through you.

Verses 21-22. This testifies to the severity of the disruption that following Jesus will bring. The Jesus group will become our new family, our new primary kinship.

Verse 23. Again, another paradox. Fleeing persecution is an occasion for ensuring that their testimony is taken to other towns and cities. "Before the Son of Man comes" is either Matthew himself inserting a comment for his own community during the time of persecution following Jesus' death and resurrection; or Jesus was babbling. The comment seems to be completely out of context within the text itself as the sending out of the 12 at this point in Jesus' ministry was not anticipated to be a prelude to the coming of the Son of Man.

David Ewart,,
Short, easy to use, faith inspiring explanations of the meaning of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John for your sermon, homily, bible study, or reflection.

Historical background information in this post is drawn primarily from Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, pages 62-65, and the writings of Amy-Jill Levine, et. al.

Matthew 9:35 -- 10:8, (9-23) (NRSV)

   35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."

   10-1 Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

   5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim the good news, 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.' 8 Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. 9 Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

   16 "See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22 and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. 

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Matthew 9:35 -- 10:8, (9-23) (The Message)

   35 Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. 36 When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd.
37 "What a huge harvest!" he said to his disciples. "How few workers! 38 On your knees and pray for harvest hands!"

   10-1 The prayer was no sooner prayed than it was answered. Jesus called twelve of his followers and sent them into the ripe fields. He gave them power to kick out the evil spirits and to tenderly care for the bruised and hurt lives. 2 This is the list of the twelve he sent:

      Simon (they called him Peter, or "Rock"), 
      Andrew, his brother, 
      James, Zebedee's son, 
      John, his brother, 
    3 Philip, 
      Matthew, the tax man, 
      James, son of Alphaeus, 
    4 Simon, the Canaanite, 
      Judas Iscariot (who later turned on him).

   5 Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge: 
      "Don't begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don't try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. 6 Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. 7 Tell them that the kingdom is here. 8 Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.

   9 "Don't think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. 10 You don't need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light.

   11 "When you enter a town or village, don't insist on staying in a luxury inn. Get a modest place with some modest people, and be content there until you leave.

   12 "When you knock on a door, be courteous in your greeting. 13 If they welcome you, be gentle in your conversation. 14 If they don't welcome you, quietly withdraw. Don't make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way. 15 You can be sure that on Judgment Day they'll be mighty sorry—but it's no concern of yours now.

   16 "Stay alert. This is hazardous work I'm assigning you. You're going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don't call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove.

   17 "Don't be naive. Some people will impugn your motives, others will smear your reputation—just because you believe in me. 18 Don't be upset when they haul you before the civil authorities. Without knowing it, they've done you—and me—a favor, given you a platform for preaching the kingdom news! 19 And don't worry about what you'll say or how you'll say it. The right words will be there; 20 the Spirit of your Father will supply the words.

   21 "When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good, they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family. 22 There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don't quit. Don't cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. 23 It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors! Before you've run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived. 

Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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