10.01.05 Mt. 10:5-15; Mk. 6:11b (See also Mk. 6:8-11a; Lk. 9:3-5)
5Jesus sent out these 12 after giving them instructions: “Don’t take the road leading to other nations, and don’t enter any Samaritan town. 6 Instead, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 As you go, announce this: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, drive out demons. You have received free of charge; give free of charge. 9 Don’t take along gold, silver, or copper for your money-belts. 10 Don’t take a traveling bag for the road, or an extra shirt, sandals, or a walking stick, for the worker is worthy of his food.
11 “When you enter any town or village, find out who is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 12 Greet a household when you enter it, 13 and if the household is worthy, let your peace be on it. But if it is unworthy, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that house or town…Mk. 11 as a testimony against them…. Mt. 15 I assure you: It will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
“Don’t take the road leading to other nations.” Literally, Jesus said do not go among the Gentiles; do not minister to them. This hard saying must be observed from the covenant viewpoint of Jesus. While He did come to bring salvation for all humanity, proper protocol required that message to be given first to the Jews because it was the fulfillment of the promises in the Jewish covenant with God. Thereafter, the message was to go to the Samaritans (who had a modified edition of the books of Moses), and then on to the Gentiles (Acts 1:8). After the religious leaders refused the words and ministry of Jesus, the message of the gospel was to be carried worldwide by the Church. Hence, Matthew gave the prophetic statement that not only would the gospel be preached throughout the world, but also that He, Jesus, would be with all believers (Jews and Gentiles) “to the very end of the age” (Mt. 28:20).
It has been suggested that Matthew had an anti-Gentile bias since his gospel was written to the Jews. However, this is hardly the case since he previously presented details of the magi, who were obviously Gentiles. He concluded his work by stating that the message of Jesus would be preached throughout the world to all nations (cf. Mt. 24:14, 28:19). The fact that Matthew recorded praise for the Roman centurion (Mt. 8:5-13) and condemned the religious Jewish leaders also negates the theory of any anti-Gentile Bias.
Finally, Jesus did not give instructions for them to go the synagogues. This may have been for two possible reasons:
- They were not confident enough to preach publicly, therefore, their mission at this point was limited to house to house evangelism.
- Jesus and His group were not permitted to preach in synagogues. If the leading Jews threatened the man Jesus healed at the Jerusalem pool with excommunication, they may have threatened the same to Jesus.
“Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The Greek order of words places the emphasis on lost rather than on sheep. Jesus used the term lost more frequently than the term led astray. Centuries earlier, when the Assyrians invaded the ten northern tribal area, some realized they had to quickly leave or face destruction. So they moved south into Judah (1 Kg. 12:16-20; 2 Chron. 11:16-17). Thus, Judah became the embodiment of all 12 tribes. The New Testament does not assume that the 12 tribes were lost. So when Jesus spoke of ministry to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, He meant all 12 tribes.
“Don’t take a traveling bag … extra shirt, sandals, or a walking stick.” In contrast to the other itinerant rabbis with their disciples, there were also traveling Gnostic, Cynic and Stoic philosophers who were attempting to evangelize the Jews to their ideas. The Greek word for bag is pera, which means beggar’s collection bag. For many common folk, it was a bread bag. These itinerant philosophers not only carried their own supplies, but were also begging as they traveled from village to village. Obviously they were not welcomed in the local synagogue. The point that Jesus and the early Church fathers made, was that their missionaries and rabbis were not to have any resemblance to these philosophers. Neither were believers to have these philosophers in their homes. Jesus warned against the appearance of pagan Gnostic, Cynic and Stoic philosophers at least twice:
- When Jesus sent out the disciples on a missions trip (Mt. 10:5-15), He instructed them not to take any traveling bags as this would give the impression they were Gnostic teachers.
- When Jesus told them to be as shrewd as serpents, harmless as doves, and watch out for wolves, He also said that all secrets would be uncovered and whispers would be heard (Mt. 10:16-33).
In addition to not having the appearance of these false teachers, neither were the disciples to take extra clothing because they were to be like the peasant people to whom they would minister (cf. 1 Cor. 9:19-23). Roman tyranny and high taxes had reduced the common Jew to a state of dire poverty and, therefore, the average person had only one tunic. If they would have entered a village dressed as wealthier men, they would have been suspected of being dishonest and corrupt, attributes commonly associated with being wealthy. Notice that Jesus did not ask the disciples to give away their extra clothing, but simply to set them aside so these items would not interfere with the message.
Furthermore, literary documentation and archaeological evidence all point to the fact that village synagogues provided the traveling Jew with accommodation and food. An example is the “Jerusalem Synagogue Dedication Inscription” quoted below.
“Shake the dust off your feet.” Shaking the dust off one’s feet was a strong body language announcing discontentment. The dust of a heathen country was considered defilement, and the Jews of Israel could not wait to leave the foreign country and visibly and literally shake the dust off their feet. Ironically, when Jews from foreign countries came to Jerusalem to observe the festivals, they often encountered the same snobbish attitudes from the locals. This was also the case whenever traveling Jews exited the Samaritan region. They had such great disdain for the Samaritans, that they considered themselves defiled if there was even a speck of Samaritan dust on their sandals.
Throughout the Middle East, in ancient times and today, feet were and still are considered defiled. The reason is that roads and walkways were always dirty and dusty. Throughout most of history, wherever anyone walked, livestock also walked and, therefore, stepping into animal dung was unavoidable. In Samaria there was the additional factor of ethnic hatred. Common people wore sandals; the wealthy wore shoes. Both were removed when entering a home so feet could be washed. Only the lowest of servants or slaves untied sandals for visitors, and if there were no servants or slaves, then it was the woman’s responsibility to do so.
In this case, Jesus spoke to His disciples, telling them that if Samaritans did not accept the plan of salvation, shake the Samaritan dust off their feet and go elsewhere. As previously stated, there was a long history of animosity between the two groups for both theological and social reasons. A few are as follows.
- The Samaritans had modified the Mosaic Law to suit their needs, but amazingly, they constructed a temple patterned after the one in Jerusalem.
- In the days of the tyrant Antiochus IV Epiphanes (160s B.C.), they claimed no religious or cultural affiliation with the Jews so as to escape his persecution.
- Later they joined the Romans (63 B.C.) and Herod the Great (40-37 B.C.) to fight against the Jews.
These actions, as well as theological differences, created great anger and hatred between the two groups. As a result, the Jews insisted there be no trace of the Samaritan soil on their sandals after walking through the land. Jesus instructed His disciples that they were to have a similar attitude toward those who reject the gospel. As to His attitude toward the Samaritans, He demonstrated love and compassion towards them numerous times (cf. Jn. 4). To those who did not know of the Divine plan or were curious, He taught with love and compassion. If His message was rejected then the relationship was broken.
About two centuries before Jesus, a rabbinic teacher, Yose ben Yoezer, commented on the actions of a good student (disciple). He said,
“Let your house be a meeting place for the rabbis, and cover yourself in the dust of their feet, and drink in their words thirstily.”
Mishnah, Aboth 1:4
An abbreviated form of this verse became the following proverb,
“Follow the rabbi, drink in his words and be covered with the dust of his feet.”
Mark added the legal terminology “as a testimony against them” which was not a curse, but shaking dust off one’s feet was ancient body language declaring the relationship was broken and there would be no further contact – an action of which there is no modern equivalent.
The consequence of rejecting God’s Word has always been severe. The old phrase, “decisions determine destiny,” was true for the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah and would be true for any other community or persons as well. The disciples were God’s messengers who were rejected by the Samaritans. Quite possibly this is why James and John were quick to call destruction from heaven (Mk. 10:35-36). The pattern of rejection would not only continue with them in the future, but the Apostle Paul would also face repeated rejection, beatings, and scourgings.
“It will be more tolerable on the day of judgment.” This passage (v. 15) provides clear evidence that there are various levels of punishment in hell. In Matthew 11:24-24 Jesus clearly affirmed that while Scripture is inspired, some laws have a higher priority than others (cf. Mt. 23:23-24; 22:38-39). He never said that every law has equal weight to every other law.
10.01.05.Q1 Which is correct: “To take a staff, or nothing . . . except a staff (Mk. 6:8-9 vs. Mt. 10:9-10; Lk. 9:3)?”
One of the difficulties in this passage and the parallels is whether Jesus said a walking staff should be taken along on a missionary journey. Mark recorded (Mk. 6:8-9) that Jesus told His disciples to take nothing, only a walking staff. But Matthew and Luke said (Mt. 10:9-10); Lk. 9:3) that the staff was not to be taken. Even though the difference may be a minor point, it is worthy of study.
In the three and a half year ministry of Jesus, there was sufficient time for several missionary trips. In fact, it is difficult to conclude that there was only one missionary journey. Therefore, the occasion recorded by Mark cannot be the same as the one(s) recorded by Matthew and Luke. The early ministry of Jesus was restricted to Jews who lived in the three small provinces of Galilee, Perea, and Judea. One could easily walk to any of the districts in a few days. As to why a staff was to be taken on one journey and not another, that may never be known. Therefore, it must be concluded that the gospel writers reported on two or more trips for which Jesus gave different instructions. Yet, other early documents also preserved valuable insights.
In the early second century, Church leaders recorded instructions for Church life and service. This document, known as the Didache, applied the instruction of Jesus. The overall tenor of the directives follows:
Let every apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord. He shall stay only one day, or, if need be another day too. If he stays three days, he is a false prophet. When the apostle leaves, let him receive nothing but enough bread to see him through until he finds lodging. If he asks for money, he is a false prophet.
Not everyone who speaks in the Spirit is a prophet but only the one whose Savior is the Lord’s. So the false prophet and the prophet will be recognized by their behavior. No prophet who orders a meal for himself in the Spirit eats of it himself; if he does, he is a false prophet. If any prophet teaching the truth does not do what he teaches, he is a false prophet….You shall not listen to anyone who says in the Spirit, “Give me money or something,” but if he is asking that something be given for others who are in need let no one judge him.
Didache 11:8-10, 12
The instruction of Jesus was continued by the first century Jewish believers. However, there is considerable documented evidence to suggest that synagogues, especially those in Jerusalem, provided traveling Jews with food and accommodations. One of those surviving documents makes specific mention of the intended use of a new first century synagogue in Jerusalem. It states,
Theodotos, son of Vettenus, priest and archisynagogos, son of an archisynagogos, grandson of an archisynagogos, built this synagogue for the reading of the Law and for the teaching of commandments, as well as the hostel, the rooms and the water fittings (?), as a lodging for those coming from a foreign country, which his father established as well as the presbyters and Simonides.
Jerusalem Synagogue Dedication Inscription
Jesus sent His disciples out into the Jewish communities knowing that they would be cared for. Later, Luke mentioned that the Apostle Paul stayed in private homes and, thereby, followed the same principle.
. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:58.
. See Mt. 4:13, 15; Lk. 2:36; Acts 4:36; 26:27; Phil. 3:5; Jas. 1:1.
. Barclay, “Matthew.” 1:367.
. Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East. 108.
. Kaiser, Davids, Bruce, and Brauch, Hard Sayings of the Bible. 422-23.
. For more information, see 02.02.10 Gnosticism, 02.02.10 Romans, commentary on “The Word” in 04.01.03, and “Gnosticism” in Appendix 26.
. Babylonian Talmud, Moed Katan 14a (Mid-Festival Days).
. Llewelyn, New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity. 7:89-90.
. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:59; Lightfoot, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica. 2:185-87.
. Bailey, Jesus through Eastern Eyes. 246. The ultimate act of humiliation was to place a foot on the neck of an enemy (Ps. 110:1) or to throw a shoe at him (Ps. 60:8). David Rubin (The Islamic Tsunami: Israel and America in the Age of Obama. 134) reports that in December of 2008, when U.S. President Bush was in Baghdad, a reporter threw a shoe at him. The Western media reported the incident but failed to understand its meaning (or failed to report its meaning). However, the people of the Middle East understood the grave insult very well. On the contrary, one always removed shoes or sandals when a holy site was entered (Ex. 3:5). The practice continues today, as when entering a mosque See also “Defiled” in Appendix 26.
. See 02.01.17 for more details on the Samaritan-Jew controversy.
. For more details, see “Samaritans” 02.01.17.
. See Acts 13:46 and 2 Pet. 2:6.
. See also Mt. 23:23-24 in 13.05.03.
. The Didache is a book on church order that was written within a century of the life of Jesus. For more information, see 02.02.08.
. Llewelyn, New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity. 7:89-90.
. As this writer has experienced, one does not understand hospitality until invited in a Middle Eastern Home, whether Jewish, Arab, or Samaritan.
. That the apostles stayed in private homes is illustrated in Acts 21:4, Tyre; Ptolemais in Acts 21:7; Caesarea in Acts 21:8; and in Jerusalem, Acts 21:16.