Jesus Calls and Commissions the Twelve - Part 1

by Spiros Zodhiates

Spiros ZodhiatesDr. Zodhiates continues his exposition of Matthew's gospel.

Although Jesus commissions all believers to be workers (ergtai [2040]) in His vineyard in general, He did call to Himself a special group of twelve men whom He empowered in unique ways.

[1] This chapter begins with the reflexive middle voiced verb proskalesmenos, the aorist middle participle of proskaléomai (4341), "having called to Himself" (a.t.), from prs (4314), unto; and kaléo  (2564), to call, used here for the first time in Matthew.

Jesus established a special spiritual relationship between this group and His unique sinless humanity and deity. He gave the Twelve some of the universal authority He received from His Father:

"Unto Me was given all authority in heaven and on earth" (Matt. 28:18b, a.t.).

The "power" (exousa [1849]) was intended to give the Twelve success in worldwide evangelism. This noun combines the ideas of moral authority and physical power, specifically the ability to reward and punish. Moral power requires physical strength (cf. Matt. 9:8; 28:18). If a ruler does not have the power (dnamis [1411]) to reward and punish, his moral or constitutional rights are useless. Needless to say, God's rights are not derived from any law above Him.

Jesus gave the Twelve two powers: the abilities "to cast out" (ekbllein, the present infinitive of ekbllo  [1544]) unclean spirits and to "tenderly heal" (therapeein, the present infinitive of therapeo  [2323], to heal compassionately) the sick.

The first power addressed one of the consequences of sin, namely, the presence of "unclean (aktharta [169]) spirits (pnemata [4151])," that is, incorporeal, evil beings; demons. Because these unclean spirits are continually harmful (poner [4190], malevolent, as in Luke 7:21), casting them out alleviates the torment they inflict (Matt. 17:14-18). A demon enters unbelievers at will, but it exits only under God's compelling command (Luke 11:24, 26).

The second ability given to the 12 Apostles was to heal the sick of every "disease" (nsos [3554]) and "weakness" (malaka [3119], softness).

In spite of this empowerment, demons, sickness, and subsequent weakness are still with us. They will last until the destruction of Satan and the annihilation of sin itself. The Lord Jesus will restore the world to its pristine condition at the time of His return in glory (Matt. 25:31; Acts 3:20, 21). These will be "the times of restitution (apokatstasis [605]) of all things" (Acts 3:21). Jesus did not give the apostles this scope of universal authority and power. Only Christ Himself will restore all things at the appointed time.

[2-4] In Mark 3:14, we read that Jesus "ordained (epoesen, the aorist tense of poiéō [4160], to appoint) twelve," and in Luke 6:13, that "he named (onmasen, the aorist tense of onomzō [3687]) apostles." The list is always headed by Peter (Luke 6:13-16) and concluded by Judas. Representative characterizations are given of Matthew, the publican (Matt. 9:9-13), Judas, the betrayer (Matt. 10:4), and James and John, the sons of thunder (Mark 3:17).

[5] "These twelve Jesus sent on a specific mission (apésteilen, the aorist tense of apostéllo [649], to send out from)" (a.t.). From verse 1 we learned that Jesus first invited the Twelve to Himself, then He sent them out from Himself. Only a disciple who had been with Jesus as a learner (mathetes [3101], disciple) could serve as an apostle (apstolos [652], a sent one). As long as the disciples were with the Lord, He could instruct them, but when they were going to be separated, He gave them special instructions in verses 5 through 15.

Jesus told the apostles where to start and to confine their ministry to Israel. This restriction was limited to the Twelve; it was not imposed on the much larger group of disciples the Lord later sent forth to all nations (Matt. 28:19, 20). Whereas Jesus appointed only twelve to serve Israel, He gave the Great Commission to the Church as a whole (Matt. 28:19).

Jesus told the Twelve not to take the road leading to the Gentiles and not to cross into Samaria, the district that lay between Galilee and Judea, but later, from within Samaria, Jesus said, "Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest" (John 4:35).

[6] Why did Jesus command them, "Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel"? His mission (Matt. 15:24) now became their commission (Luke 24:47; Acts 13:46; Rom. 1:16).

This was a temporary focus (Matt. 8:11; 10:18; 21:43; 22:9; 24:14). As the Gospel to the Jews, the book of Matthew cites this brief limitation, whereas Luke exalts Christ as the Light of the Gentiles (Luke 10:1ff., 24:47). Neither all Jews nor all Gentiles would be saved. The apostles were to go first to the lost sheep among the Jews (see also Rom. 1:16). However, the apostles' message-and later, the message of the seventy (Luke 10:9)-was to be the same to all (Matt. 3:2; 4:17).

The Twelve were to be on the move, as expressed by the verb "go" (poreesthe, the present imperative of poreomai [4198], "keep going"). They were to go not just once but as many times as they had opportunities.

[7] Here we find the use of the present participle poreumenoi, "as you keep going" (a.t.). In their constant going, they were to preach (kerssete, the present active imperative of [2784], be preaching), saying (légontes, the present active participle of légo (3004), not just speaking randomly but giving the rationale), The kingdom of heaven is at hand (eggiken, the perfect active indicative of eggzo [1448], to approach, to come near).

This was equivalent to telling the Jews that the God of the Old Testament, the King, was present. Heaven had come to earth; the Lgos (3056), the logical Word of God, had become flesh (John 1:1, 14).

Dr. Zodhiates is president emeritus of AMG International and publisher emeritus of Pulpit Helps.

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