Matthew 10:7-15. Following Christ’s Example.
One striking thing, among many, of the mission that Jesus gave the Twelve when He sent them out is how closely their ministry was to resemble His own. In Matthew 4:17, as He began His ministry, He preached that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. Now, as He prepares to send out His best students, He gives them that same message to deliver to any poor, suffering, and oppressed Israelite who would receive it.
It is a curious message indeed for modern people, but for those people in that time, it meant that God had not forgotten or forsaken them. On the contrary, the kingdom of heaven – a euphemism, mostly, for the presence of the Almighty Himself – was coming near to them. He was at hand. It would be one thing to say that God was on the move. That’s all well and good, but what direction was the good Lord moving in? As it turns out, God was coming closer to His people, and He was not coming empty-handed.
The healings and miracles being done were signs of the Lord’s benevolence. They were in themselves a message of His own good will towards His covenant people. Now, Jesus had replicated Himself in His students – what would become the task of any good rabbi. They not only carried His message, but they carried His miraculous signs out into the cities and villages. The preaching and healing that Matthew describes Jesus as doing in Matt. 4:23, the Twelve were now commanded to do,
Jesus not only gives them His message and His miraculous signs, but it is a sure thing that He gave them His own behavior and manner of life as a model. He didn’t use His ability to help people as a way to grift like a traveling con man, and neither should they. He didn’t carry a large amount of money with Him as He traveled, or a large wardrobe, and neither should they. He had let one zealous scribe who had wanted to follow Him know that if he did decide to follow the Master, he would have to leave aside everything that made his life safe and secure. “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head (Matt. 8:20).”
Unlike philosophers of the past and even many holy men and women throughout history, Jesus did not take up His life of poverty after leaving an earthly fortune. The ancient Greek and Roman cynic philosophers had often been quite wealthy before choosing a beggar’s life. So were people like St. Francis of Assisi. For His part, Jesus had been a tekton, a craftsman working in the building trades. A number of the Twelve had been hard working fishermen. Now, they were walking about like the poorest of the poor, finding shelter and food where they could, and depending on the hospitality of strangers. Curiously, Jesus gives the impression that whoever offers His apostles a bed and a meal is actually receiving the greater gift – they have been found worthy (Matt 10:11-13). In addition to preaching and healing, the Twelve also have the authority to bless a house with the peace of God or to take that peace with them if they are not welcome. Such inhospitable people have brought a great misfortune upon themselves. The day of judgment would not be kind to them.