2The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;a 4Simon the Zealot,b and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.Of course, I can’t really blame Matthew for wanting to throw in there that Judas Iscariot was the one who betrayed Jesus. That mention lets us know to keep an eye out for his actions and to see how the road led him there. Also the mention of the fathers of the James’s allows us to delineate between them. The mention that Simon is a zealot gives us a window into his perspective. That said, what is a zealot? We can’t simply define the word because so much of the definition has come from the usage in the Bible while not meaning the same thing. Zealot was a political party of the time that wanted the people to rise up against Rome and shake off their authority. Someone with this goal in mind, may have been following Jesus with very different hopes than the others. This is part of why it’s important to remember that the apostle who later betrayed Jesus may also have been a zealot. Jesus first talks to them about going to just the towns and cities of Jerusalem and staying away from Gentiles and Samaritans. Given the way that Christianity has almost taken the world over, we know that this instruction doesn’t stick, but it’s a starting point. He wants them to just go out to their people. The people who look like them, probably the people who will most easily receive them. Maybe He wants them to just get a little practice in or to get a snowball effect going where they start off with their neighborhoods and those people talk to the next people and so on. With that instruction He also gives them authority over quite a bit. They can do a bunch of things that He was doing like healing people and casting out demons. Most interestingly, they can all “raise the dead”. Also, He tells them to “proclaim” that “the kingdom of Heaven is at hand”. This is the third time we’ve seen this phrase so far, the first from John the Baptist in the third chapter and the second from Jesus Himself in the fourth. Now they are all to say it as they travel. He warns them that people will betray and persecute them but that they’ll know what to do and say when it happens and to just go to the next town. Part of the warning is that the people of the towns that refuse them will have worse fate on the “day of judgement” than even Sodom and Gomorrah. If you recall, those are the Genesis cities that got the fire and brimstone after the people tried to get Lot to let them gang-rape the angels that were sent to check them out. Why would the fate of these cities be so much worse for just refusing an apostle? My guess is opportunity. God sent the angels to check out Sodom and Gomorrah, not to save it or even try to save it. Whether or not they were beyond saving isn’t part of the equation here. The Israelite cities that the apostles are going to will have a hand-selected representative of God coming out to see them. If they refuse to at least hear them out, Jesus has no time for them. At least, that’s what I got from that. He also doesn’t want them to waste time, as evident from the sentiment in verse 25 when Jesus says that they won’t even have been through all the cities before He’s completed His mission on earth. There’s emphasis on people to “acknowledge”, “receive”, or lose your life to Jesus and/or representatives and the rewards that follow as well. It reminds me of the old saying about opportunities not being about “who you know” but “who knows you”. The most surprising thing in this chapter for me was the paragraph on not bringing peace.
34“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For 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. 36And a person’s enemies will be those of his 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 his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.I get that Jesus, as an extension of God, is supposed to be the most loved of all in order to show faith and all that. I think a lot of us struggle with the idea of doing more for God and Jesus than our children, but I get the overall sentiment as an expression of faith. What I don’t get is bringing the sword. So much of the things we see all over the place in those areas of the US that call itself Christian and throws Bible quotes all over the place, talk about peace and joy. We quote turning the other cheek over and over again and loving our neighbors and enemies. We even discussed loving our enemies not too long ago in the Sermon on the Mount. Now Jesus talks about bringing the sword and about causing conflict within families. It seems in opposition to so much of everything else. Then I remember all the families with fundamental opposition in the way they read scripture or act it out or show the love of God to each other. None of it means to not love each other. If we are to love our enemies in chapter five and then discover that they are within our own families in chapter ten, well maybe it won’t be so hard. I know it’s more than these enemies that we are to love and pray for, but just remember that it doesn’t mean not to love and pray for them just because they are enemies here. Just don’t love them more than Jesus. But, uh, what does it mean to bring the sword instead? My best guess is that He means to hurt people and to tear them apart. This sounds counter to everything too until you think for a minute about what it feels like to do the actual things Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount and to follow the teachings of the Prophets and the Law rather than whatever is convenient, comfortable, socially acceptable, or valued by your family. Of course, He’s not saying to go out and not be safe, as evidenced by the stuff beforehand when He tells the apostles to not waste their time in places that don’t receive them. But don’t waste time in places that don’t receive you as a follower of Christ and someone who’s gonna do what’s Christian. Don’t forget the Prophets and the Law, too. He didn’t get rid of that stuff, remember? The prophets are just brutal on taking care of the poor and not being greedy and, well, most of the American culture if I’m being honest. I think He’s saying to not make peace with that stuff but cut it out like cancer. Love each other, love your enemies, but don’t let them entangle you in all the worldly things, don’t let them tie you off from Jesus. With that, they go. I think. I mean, aren’t they with Jesus for the rest of His ministry too? I guess I’ll find out in the next chapter.
For downloadable study guides, click here. Chapter links go to the ESV translations at Biblehub.com but I’m reading from the ESV Global Study Bible, which is available for free on the Kindle Reading App.