Matthew 10:1-4

Now that Jesus, in a number of different ways, has established the “cutting off” (on the one hand) and the inclusion – or receiving – of the Gentile nations (on the other hand), He is ready to begin the process which leads toward the cross, and then toward the final act of separation – that destruction of the nation of old covenant Jews.  And then the dispersion of believers into the nations to form the Church.

And an action of enormous significance toward that end is recorded in this chapter.  Here in the first four verses – which we’ll look at this morning – we find Jesus giving EXOUSIA to His disciples, the chosen twelve.  And then the remainder of the chapter is taken up by this remarkable commissioning of the twelve, as laborers in the harvest, to go out and find the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

But I’ll just leave that for you – just to whet your appetite a little bit – and we’ll learn this morning as much as we can about what an apostle is, and the EXOUSIA that’s been given to them here by Jesus, and about the twelve men themselves.

You remember at the end of chapter nine Matthew gives us a recapping statement about Jesus going all over the region (that is within a very few miles of His home in Capernaum) teaching and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom – in the synagogues as well as other places – and healing all manner of sickness and weaknesses (including the casting out of demonic angels).  And Matthew, there at the end of the chapter, says that Jesus saw the multitudes and was filled with emotion about them because they had been scattered and ripped apart – having no shepherds!

And then He said to them,


“The harvest is abundant, the workers few.  Ask, therefore, of the Lord of the harvest that He throw out workers into His harvest.” 


And He is, indeed, as we know, going to cause great hardship in order that the Christian community is spewed out of the nation into the Gentile regions of the earth!

Our text this morning is a continuation of the same time period – that is, the ministry of our Lord up around the lake where He began – but it is evident that Matthew has shifted the emphasis from the genre with which He was dealing before, and he is now beginning another emphasis.  The next chapter begins, as I said, during the same time period, but it is clear that it is not necessarily the next event.  In fact, Matthew says, here in verse one, “having called unto Him His twelve disciples…” and so forth.  And we know, from the end of chapter nine, that Jesus’ disciples were with Him, and He was speaking to them about the harvest and the laborers.  And if Matthew had wanted us to know that the next verses, which we now know as chapter ten, were concerning the very next events, then he wouldn’t have said that Jesus called His twelve disciples to Himself to speak to them.

Now, that seems like a small point, but, as we’ve learned, no points, no matter how small, are unimportant with reference to the text of Scripture.  But the main thing that I want you to see is that the genre is changed.  The kind of things he’s writing about has changed.  We still have somewhat of a historical time line, now, but the emphasis of the Gospel text has changed a little bit from these great, figurative events and occurrences and meetings – and, now, Matthew is going to begin placing more emphasis again on other things.  Not that Jesus has stopped His figurative cutting off of Israel, but that Matthew’s writing of the Gospel has changed its genre somewhat in order to give us a little different perspective of what’s going on.  Is all of that clear?  Some people don’t see anything there at all – just don’t pay any attention to it - and others get all hung up with things like this.  And I wanted you to have some clarity about what’s going on in the text.

Anyway, Jesus is about to call these twelve men who He, Himself had chosen and called, and then commission them with specific instructions to do some very peculiar things.

And Matthew’s text says,


“And having called unto Him His twelve disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to expel them, also to heal every sickness and every weakness.”


Now, as we have previously stated, the so-called “miraculous” actions of our Lord were for the purpose, first, of establishing His authority.  You see, God has the authority – the power, the freedom – to order things as He wills.  And, as Jesus will later plainly state, God has given all authority in heaven and earth to His Anointed King to order and establish it for ever more!

And for Jesus to establish that fact in “heaven and earth” He actually manipulated the fallen angels, and He changed the normal course of doing things when He changed sickness to health – weakness to strength – blindness to sight – deafness to hearing – unclean to clean – and He caused a great shaking to occur such as had not been seen on earth by man, and then caused it to stop.  And all this for the purpose, in part, of establishing the fact of Who He was, Who He said He was, Who God the Father said He was, and to confirm Old Testament prophesy!

And now He’s about to give this authority – this power – the freedom – to twelve men.  This EXOUSIA.  The power over the other created beings – those who were unclean – and power over the ravages of sin – disease and weakness in the bodies of men.  The power to reverse the ravages of ungodly leaders.

And we can’t say that these twelve, and twelve only, were given this exousia for any other reasons than the reasons that God the Father gave them to Jesus!  Can we?  God the Father gave them to Jesus – all authority in Heaven and earth – in order to establish and order the Kingdom!  There is verification involved, yes.  There is witness involved, yes.  God manifests His Son to the world, yes.  But the primary reason for the EXOUSIA is to establish the Kingdom.

And the EXOUSIA – the authority – was both concrete and figurative!  Not only were demons, fallen angels, cast out from the possession of men’s souls and bodies – from, rather, the possession of men – but the casting out was representative and figurative of the coming of the Kingdom and the life which is inherent in its coming!  Not only for individual men and their families, but for universal creation itself!

The casting out and ultimate inundation of the Gadarene demons (for example) not only was a concrete freeing of individual souls from the possession of Satan and his following angels, but it was a freeing – an Exousia activity – of a city, and a nation, and, ultimately, all of the Gentiles!  It represented so much more!

So these twelve men, and twelve only, were given this EXOUSIA for the same reasons that God gave it to His Anointed King.  To exhibit the King to the world and establish the Kingdom!  Confirming Old Testament prophesy!

And it is for us to see that it is a derivative EXOUSIA.  That’s such a simple thing to see – and to say – but it is so very important.  These twelve men could do nothing other than what was given them to do.  First, we learned that EXOUSIA was for the purpose of establishing the Kingdom for the King.  And now we learn that the EXOUSIA is completely derivative and not inherent, or original.  First it’s for the glory of another; second it is the EXOUSIA of another – given to the twelve.  And isn’t that so different from the self-exaltation that we see today from those who claim to have apostolic power, but really only have pseudo-exousia?  These fake demonstrations are always for self-glory and never, as we’ve just seen, for the glory of another and for the further establishment of the Kingdom.

Now, I mentioned the reason – the figurative reason – for the EXOUSIA, the power, to cast out fallen angels.  Now let me mention quickly the reason for the healing of the diseases and weaknesses of men.  Ultimately this, too, is for the glory of the King and the establishment of the Kingdom, but the immediate significance of the healing miracles is that Christ and the establishment of His Kingdom, has the effect of terminating the ravages of sin and deterioration and rotting.  The depravity of man, and the lying, death-dealing activities of Satan and the horde of rebellious angels, has caused men and creation to deteriorate – to die – to decline – to go under – to head directly to Hades and eternal suffering.  Things fall apart and disintegrate due to sin and uncleanness and disobedience.

But the coming of the King, establishing the Kingdom, has defeated sin, Satan and death; and that victory has turned everything back around in the other direction!  And although man still reaps the rewards of his depravity, life has entered with the coming of the King.  The Kingdom is a Kingdom of light and life!  The final end of which is completeness and perfection, sin having been totally eliminated.

So the healing of every kind of sickness and weakness among men is again both concrete and figurative.  There is so much more there than just the healing of a sick man, or a blind man, or a lame man, or a bleeding woman!  Life has entered, and the One Who brought it will complete its perfection!

So the twelve apostles were given – it was delivered to them, and they possessed it – they were given this EXOUSIA, and they, too, glorified the King and participated in the establishment of His kingdom!

Now I just want to mention to you that there is some significance to the number twelve – twelve disciples are sought by Jesus and called by Him, and then given EXOUSIA.  Then they are called apostles to be sent out to find the lost sheep of Israel, a nation who had twelve patriarchs and twelve tribes!

And the lost sheep of Israel who were to be found by the twelve apostles are said to be one hundred forty-four thousand in number – a number which is a multiple of twelve – twelve thousand from each tribe, Scripture says.  And in the Revelation passage which we read last Lord’s Day concerning the travail of the woman – giving birth to the new nation of Israel – there were twelve stars in her crown – with the lights of heaven and earth as her clothing and footstool!  And there’s no question in my mind that this represents the totality – the inviolable totality – the completeness – of the new nation of Israel, the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And that Divine order is complete and fulfilled in Him.  And the twelve He chose – and to whom He gave this concrete and representative EXOUSIA are figurative of the completion of the Kingdom.  And, we, the Church, the Kingdom, are complete in them as they receive the authority from Him and begin the process of submitting the nations to the King.

I also don’t think it coincidence that the woman healed by Jesus, which we discussed several Sundays ago, had been bleeding for twelve years; or that Jairus’ daughter, who Jesus was going to heal when that woman touched His garment, was twelve years old.  And I don’t think it coincidental that Jesus Himself was twelve years old when He was presented at the temple; nor that there were twelve baskets of food left after the five thousand were fed.

So “the twelve” as they are many times called, are a backward and a forward representation – backward to the constitution of the twelve tribes of Israel, and forward to the final form of the Messianic community, which is perfect in form and perfect in number.

Now, I don’t want to make this a lengthy sermon on the nature of the office of apostle.  We’ve done that before, when we began the exegesis of First Peter.  But let me just say, before we find out as much as we know about these twelve men, that “the twelve” stand alone in terms of their role.  The apostleship is an obsolete office.  It never was intended to continue.  No apostle ever ordained another man to continue on after he was dead.  Why?  Because the confirmation and establishment of the Kingdom had been begun.  And with the writing of the Word, the established Church had no more need to confirm who Jesus was.  And it had no more need to be established.  And it had no more need for apostolic authority.

Although their office was a lofty one – the foundation of the Kingdom – there was no elevation of the men.  As we’ve mentioned before – after they did what Christ had for them to do, they decreased.  The glory of the Lord and of His Church remains, but the men decreased.  That’s a proper view of the Kingdom, and it’s a view begun by the apostles.  Old Testament prophecy had been confirmed by Jesus to His apostles.  Then it was done!

Now.  Verses two through four once again: 


“Now here is the names of these twelve apostles:  first Simon the one called Peter and Andrew his brother, and James (Jacobus) of Zebedee and John his brother, Phillip and Bartholomew (son of Ptolomy), Thomas, and Matthew the tax collector, James (Jacobus) of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus, Simon the Cananaean and Judas Iscariot, who, moreover, was the one who betrayed Him.” (delivered Him up)


Now, we’ve already met Peter, so I won’t spend much time on him.  All we need to remember is that Jesus changed his name from Simon Bar-Jonah to “rock” Bar-Jonah – the one whose confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God – and whose confession is the firmest foundation upon which the Church can be built.  And it would be good for us to see here that Peter was sent by Jesus to find the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  And those are the very ones to whom he writes in his first letter when he says, “To the refugees of the diaspora, elect according to the foreknowledge of God.  Grace and peace to you.”

The ones he was sent out to find in 30 AD scattered among the nations, and he writes to them to give them comfort and warning.

Andrew was also a son of Jonah.  He was a follower of John the Baptizer, but left John to follow Jesus when it was pointed out that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  He then went to get his brother Peter who also, then, followed Jesus.  Andrew shows up rarely in Scripture and plays rather minor roles with regard to the text.  After the dispersion spurious reports have him preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom in Greece where he was supposed to have been crucified.

Neither do we know much about James, the brother of John and the son of Zebedee.  But he was included often in the text as one who was there.  And Jesus once referred to him and his brother as “sons of thunder.”  But apparently his preaching was so bold and his life so filled with the holiness of Christ, that he holds that special distinction of being the only apostle, the spilling of whose blood is recorded in the text of the New Testament.  There is a side story in the history books that says that the soldier who took James to his death was so stricken with his life and his bold preaching that he professed the faith and suffered the same fate as James did.  But we don’t know if that’s true.

John was the brother of James and son of Zebedee – born into a fishing family.  He is all through the Gospels and Acts, and he wrote the Gospel of John, three letters and the Revelation.  He spent most of his later life in Ephesus as pastor of a Church in dispersion, but later he was exiled by the authorities to the island of Patmos where he received the Revelation of the cosmic events taking place all around him.  He was the one whom Jesus loved.  And it was said that John was so attuned to the Savior that his emotions and his mind and his demeanor were very much the same as Jesus’ were.  And his swift, cutting and slicing comments concerning idolatry and sin are very indicative of his great love for Jesus.  And the books written by the men who knew him say that in his great old age his concern for the elect and called-out sons of God was that they love one another, especially in the critical end times of suffering and torture.

Very little is known of Phillip.  He is the one who came to get Nathaneal (here called Bartholomew) after having met the Lord.  He seems to have been the procurer of things needed for the twelve, and the one needing the most instruction and correction from Jesus.  Nothing is known about his later ministry as an apostle except a historical rumor that he preached in and around Scythia and Phrygia.

Bartholomew, or Nathanael, is the one of whom the Lord said, “Behold, an Israelite, indeed, in whom is no guile.”  Other than Thomas he needed the most convincing of who Jesus was.  Rumor had him in India - carrying with him the Gospel of Matthew written in Hebrew.

Thomas, as you may recall, was the one who showed a complete lack of confidence in the things that were taking place.  He would believe nothing until the Lord met him face to face.  We know nothing else about him.

Matthew we know all about.  It’s interesting to note here that the author refers to himself in a denigrating fashion – “the tax collector”.

All we know of James of Alphaeus is that he is also called James the Less – or the little – and is once called James the son of Mary.  And this Mary was the wife of Clophus, who is also called Alphaeus.  That’s all we know.

Thaddeus was also named Judas and Leddeus.  And there’s no reliable history about his ministry.

Simon the Cananaean was also Simon the Zelot – a very political group of Jews were called zelots, and this man was one of them before he met Jesus and was called an apostle.  Nothing else is known.

And then Judas Scariotes, or Judas Iscariot, who betrayed the Lord (delivered Him up) for a few pieces of silver and hung himself in shame.

Men of all kinds.  Eleven chosen and loved.  One chosen for another reason.  Next Lord’s Day the commission to these men to go and find the lost sheep of the house of Israel.