Thoughts on Matthew 10:1-4
In the previous passage, Jesus told his disciples to “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest,” and here, Jesus sends out his Disciples to begin that work. But, Jesus does not send them out to labor in their own strength and power; rather, Jesus gives them special authority to cast out demons and heal “every disease and every affliction.” This was a unique anointing given to these particular men at that particular time. This power, though not stated explicitly to be the Holy Spirit, was likely an outpouring of the third person of the Trinity such as we read about in various Old Testament passages and in the Gospels.
Here in Matthew, the author takes this opportunity to name the Twelve Disciples – Jesus’ inner circle, and says it was they who were given this pre-Pentecost Holy Spirit power. In the parallel passage in Luke, we are told there were 72 disciples who were commissioned for this special task. For the record, there’s no contradiction here as “The Twelve” of whom Matthew writes easily fit within the 72 of whom Luke writes. Matthew simply chose to limit his description to the 12 men, keeping the focus on the dozen whom Jesus especially set apart.
What is most significant in this passage is this: that someone who was called by Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit (for a limited time and a specific purpose, like King Saul and Samson), likely performed miracles in Jesus’ name, and sat under the direct authoritative teaching of Jesus for nearly three years, could then turn and betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.
When I was a boy, there was a super cheesy song that was an attempt (I won’t call it more than that) at Christian rap. I don’t recall who the artist was or what the song was called, but some of the lyrics were along the lines of, “Just because you [sic] in a church doesn’t make you a Christian, just like being in a coop doesn’t make you a chicken.” It went on to use other analogies such as how being in a garage doesn’t make someone a car. As cringy as those lyrics are, the point is valid and even confirmed by Jesus in Matthew 7:21-23. He says in verse 21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” I can’t help but think he looked at Judas as he said these words. This is a dire warning to do as Paul the Apostle encourages us to do in 2 Corinthians 13:5 where he says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.”
There are many people who identify as “Christians” for a variety of reasons – they were raised in church; they recited the “sinner’s prayer” at some point in their lives; or they were baptized, whether as an infant or not, into some denomination. However, Jesus makes it clear that following him is much more than a mental assent to the truth of the Gospel or the completion of some religious rite. Rather, he says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23)
This means being “in the faith” is a daily dying to self and following Jesus no matter the cost. This is not a comfortable, accessorized Christianity that we can pull out of our pocket and use when it’s convenient or we fall on hard times. Judas was, by all external appearances, a follower of Jesus Christ – called, empowered, taught, and included in the list of Disciples. However, when the time of testing came, he was shown to be false. Let us examine and test ourselves today and live lives of humble repentance and dependence on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ so that when the final fire of testing comes we will be found “in the faith.”