Read: Matthew 10:1-8: Disciple Making
Jesus’ discipleship model was not unlike that which is used today in many fields of study. As when a person begins to study a field, he or she starts with the basic and exercises basic skills in a laboratory environment. As skills grow, so do the task to the point where one is ready to start exercising skills outside the laboratory, but still in a controlled setting under the tutelage of a master. Jesus Matthew 10 is doing just this: he’s sending the disciples out on a mission to do the things that they had seen him doing all through the book of Matthew – teaching (Matthew 5, 6, and 7) and performing signs and wonders to show authority authenticate the message (Matthew 8,9). But here in Matthew Jesus puts parameters on it: he tells them not to go to the nations or into Samaria, rather to go to the people of Israel and do the work among their own, as all the disciples were Jews.
Also of note, this is the only place in the book if Matthew that the disciples are actually called “apostles”. The word literally means “sent one”, which is precisely what Jesus is doing here in the text. The command that Jesus gives them to “go” is the same command given in Matthew 28:19 in the Great Commission. In sending them out, Jesus is appointing them to be apostles to preach the good news of the Kingdom of God.
The command that Jesus gives here and in Matthew 28:18-20 are all about the process of making disciples. The command being carried out here in Matthew and also in the book of Acts reflects a similar discipleship model – a more mature believer will teach and train up new believers and then at some point commission them to do the same thing: go and make disciples. It has been passed on from generation to generation up into the present. Paul expressed this principle to one of his own disciples, Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2 where he commands Timothy to teach what he was taught to those who can teach it to others. There are at least 5 generations implied here: Paul’s teachers, Paul, Timothy, Timothy’s students, and Timothy’s student’s students.
Every believer today does well to be both a disciple and a disciple maker. Having another to teach one’s self and also having some one to teach will help bring everyone to spiritual maturity and also propagate the gospel to the next generation. God wants his gospel to go out and he’s given the means to do it!
Lord, help me to be a disciple and make disciples too!
Read: Matthew 9:35-38
Israel during the first century was time of political and religious uncertainty with many competing religious and political factions. For the common person, knowing where to lend ones allegiance was daunting task. Did they give it to the Pharisees? Sadducees? Romans? Zealots? None of the above? When Jesus surveyed the landscape though, he saw this and had compassion – the people were lost “like a sheep without a shepherd”. At some point in the midst of all this, the leaders of the community had lost their influence over the people and had become concerned with other things other than leading the people in godliness and right living. Ezekiel warned of such a time in Ezekiel 34, where God stands against the shepherd, yet promises that he himself will come and seek out the his sheep.
In light of this, Jesus declares that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few and that one should pray that the Lord of the Harvest – Jesus – send out more workers. This motif is typically associated with a grain harvest, but here in the context it is probably talking about the time of year when the sheep would be gather for shearing, which required a lot of extra hired hands above and beyond the role of the shepherd to accomplish.
The motif of Jesus as shepherd is common in the New Testament. John 10 uses the same kind of metaphors talking about sheep, and therein Jesus declares that he us the “Good Shepherd”. Hebrews 13:20 calls him the “Great Shepherd” and 1 Peter 5:4 calls him the “Chief Shepherd”. This motif was obviously something that Jesus taught his disciples concerning the nature of those that lead and those that follow. In his disciple-making model, Jesus follows his exhortation to pray with the command to go in Matthew 10:1-5, wherein the disciples who had seen Jesus demonstrate his authority over all matters in chapters 7,8, and 9 are given the same authority, which culminates in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 when he declares that he has all authority, and he sends them out.
Christians today are among the workers that Jesus is sending. Like he said to the disciples, Christians are to be about the work of both praying and going. They pray to the Lord to send out workers and in some cases become workers themselves. In all cases though, every Christian plays a part in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
Lord, send more workers into your harvest!
Read: Matthew 3:13-17
Up to this point in his Gospel, Matthew has been building a case for Jesus based on who he was and where he came from with a particular emphasis on prophecies. Here, Matthew switches to Jesus’ adult ministry and life with his baptism being the first episode in the gospel with Jesus as an adult. It serves as a bookend to Jesus’ ministry, with the other bookend being the Great Commission. The connection between Jesus’ baptism and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) is uncanny. In both texts we see a reference to obedience, all members of the Trinity, and a reference to baptism. When Jesus starts his ministry, he comes to John asking for baptism of repentance, rather so he could “fulfill all righteousness”. Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth was to save people from their sins, but in order to do so he had to do what they could not: live a perfect life in obedience to the law. The first act of obedience that is recorded in Matthew is baptism. Jesus had nothing to repent of, but it serves to show that he was in submission to the will of the father willing to do deeds in accordance with righteousness.
A key difference here though is that all the members of the Trinity are present at the event. Jesus is being baptized, the Spirit is descending like a dove, and the Father is speaking from heaven. The Father’s statement by themselves underscore Jesus ministry if nothing else won’t. These same words are spoken in Matthew 17 at the transfiguration of Christ which Peter also recalls in his 2 epistle (2 Peter 1:17). The transfiguration account however tags the remarks with “Listen to him”. In both instances though, the Father is acknowledging the Son before people so that they too will listen to Jesus and his message of salvation.
When Jesus ended his ministry on earth, he was not one under authority, rather one with all authority. He acknowledges this fact in verse 16 in the Great Commission, then offers a command for his disciples to make disciples of all nations. Jesus is commanding the disciples to teach others to obey the commands that he had them to follow. The same commission goes out to all those that followed too. Paul in 2 Timothy 2:2 tells Timothy to teach what he had learned to others who could teach it. By implication, there are 5 generations: Those that taught Paul, Paul himself, Timothy, those that Timothy would teach, then those who who be taught by Timothy’s learners. Christians today stand on the authority of Christ and are commanded to do no less than the disciples did: make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey the things God commanded, and baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!
Lord, all authority has been given to you so help me to obey you by making disciples of all nations!