Read the Passage (NRSV)    Find more resources related to this passage  Print

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


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 disciples' 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 disciple mission, instructions that would seem to offer some transparency to the situation and mission of Matthew's own contemporary disciple community. It suggests a situation of wandering missionaries, relying on the hospitality of those who receive them and not lingering long with those who do not (10:9-15). It warns 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, combining material from Mark, Q, and special Matthean material. 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).

Matthew 10:1-42

The Twelve Apostles

10Then Jesus* summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2These 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; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;* 4Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

The Mission of the Twelve

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

Coming Persecutions

16 ‘See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19When 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; 20for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23When 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.

24 ‘A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

Whom to Fear

26 ‘So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.* 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. 30And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

32 ‘Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

Not Peace, but a Sword

34 ‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35 For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
37Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.


40 ‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’

Related Passages