The twelve apostles
1 Then he called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority
over the unclean spirits to drive them out and to heal every disease and
2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first Simon, called Peter,
and his brother Andrew;
3 James, the son of Zebe dee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholo
mew, Thomas and Matthew, the tax collector; James, the son of Al phaeus,
and Thad daeus;
4 Simon, the Cana anite, and Judas Iscariot, the man who would betray
Jesus sends out the first missio naries
5 Jesus sent these twelve on mission with the instruction: ¡°Do not visit
pagan territory and do not enter a Samaritan town.
6 Go instead to the lost sheep of the people of Israel.
7 Go and proclaim this message: The kingdom of heaven is near.
8 Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse the lepers, and
drive out demons. You received this as a gift, so give it as a gift.
9 Do not carry any gold, silver or copper in your purses.
10 Do not carry a traveler¡¯s bag, or an extra shirt, or sandals, or
walking stick: workers deserve their living.
11 When you come to a town or a village, look for a worthy person and
stay there until you leave.
12 As you enter the house, wish it peace.
13 If the people in the house deserve it, your peace will be on them; if
they do not deserve it, your blessing will come back to you.
14 And if you are not welcomed and your words are not listened to, leave
that house or that town and shake the dust off your feet.
15 I assure you, it will go easier for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah
on the day of judgment than it will for the people of that town.
You will be persecuted
16 Look, I send you out like sheep among wolves. You must be clever as
snakes and innocent as doves.
17 Be on your guard with respect to people, for they will hand you over
to their courts and they will flog you in their syna gogues.
18 You will be brought to trial before rulers and kings because of me,
and so you may witness to them and the pagans.
19 But when you are arrested, do not worry about what you are to say and
how you are to say it; when the hour comes, you will be given what you
are to say.
20 For it is not you who will speak; but it will be the Spirit of your
Father in you.
21 Brother will hand over brother to death, and a father his child;
children will turn against parents and have them put to death.
22 Everyone will hate you because of me, but whoever stands firm to the
end will be saved.
23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next. For sure, you
will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man
24 A student is not above his teacher, or a slave above his master.
25 A student should be glad to be come like his teacher, and the slave
like his master. If the head of the family has been called Beelzebul,
how much more the members of the family! So, do not be afraid of them.
26 There is nothing covered that will not be uncovered, and nothing
hidden that will not be made known.
27 What I am telling you in the dark, you must speak in the light. What
you hear in private, proclaim from the housetops.
28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but have no power to
kill the soul. Rather be afraid of him who can destroy both body and
soul in hell.
29 For only a few cents you can buy two sparrows, yet not one sparrow
falls to the ground without your Father¡¯s consent.
30 As for you, every hair of your head has been counted.
31 So do not be afraid: you are worth much more than many sparrows.
32 Whoever acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge be fore my
Father in heaven.
33 Who ever rejects me before others I will reject before my Father in
34 Do not think that I have come to establish peace on earth. I have not
come to bring peace, but a sword.
35 For I have come to set a man against his father and daughter against
her mother; a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
36 Each one will have as enemies those of one¡¯s own family.
37 Whoever 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.
38 And whoever does not take up his cross and come after me is not
worthy of me.
39 One who wants to benefit from his life will lose it; one who loses
his life for my sake will find it.
40 Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes
him who sent me.
41 The one who welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive the reward
of a prophet; the one who welcomes a just man because he is a just man
will receive the reward of a just man.
42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little
ones, because he is a disciple of mine, I assure you, he will not go
Comments Mathew, Chapter 10
• 10.1 Till then, Jesus had spoken only in the synagogues around
Capernaum. Now he attracts fame and followers and begins to draw
multitudes. In that moment he establishes the group of the Twelve. He
needs them to prepare meetings, to spread his doctrine, to multiply the
miraculous signs effected among the sick.
At the same time, Jesus is planning his Church and wants to give it a
head: this will be the group of the apostles. They will be the witnesses
of Jesus among people, so he teaches them a way of living a common life
that will serve as a pattern for the Church.
These are the names of the Twelve. The Jewish nation was integrated into
twelve tribes. This is why Jesus calls twelve apostles: he wants them to
understand that they are the foundation of the new people of God will
form (Ps 102:19). See Luke 22:30; Revelation 21:14.
He called those he wanted (Mk 3:13). These, in turn, will call others.
In the Church everyone can do ¡°apostolic work,¡± but no one makes himself
into an apostle, an official witness of Christ: one has to be called to
Regarding these twelve, see commentary on Mark 3:16.
• 5. From the paragraph beginning in 9:35, Matthew was preparing this
third ¡°Jesus¡¯ discourse¡± (see Introduction). Jesus has begun his
mission, he forms and sends out missionaries.
Apostles means ¡°sent¡± and ¡°mission¡± also means ¡°being sent.¡± The Father
has sent his Son to earth, and the Son, in turn, sends his apostles. The
Father sends messengers of his word, but he also sends his Spirit to
touch the hearts and minds of those who listen. Through the Spirit they
recognize the word of God in the poor preaching of these messengers who
have received no great instruction. The Spirit will give signs: healings
and astounding graces supporting the witness of the missionaries.
The successors of the apostles will be missionaries like them. They will
not be primarily the administrators of an established Church, but living
poorly among the poor, they will establish new Churches (see 1 Cor 3:10;
12:28). This new chapter will speak of a mission, the major
responsibility of a Christian community. In the first part (vv. 5-16)
Jesus addresses the first missionaries of Galilee. In the second part
(vv.17-42) we find Jesus¡¯ words pronounced in different circumstances
that Matthew adapts for his readers at the very time in which the Church
begins to be persecuted in the Roman world.
See commentary on Mark 6:7 and Luke 10:1.
Do not visit pagan territory. Let us not forget that many pagan
communities were established in Galilee together with the Jewish ones.
Jesus follows his Father¡¯s plan of salvation as described in the Bible.
The Savior should first gather the strayed sheep of Israel, and then
bring salvation to all the pagan nations: Is 49:6; 60:1-10; Zec 14:16;
Whoever welcomes you (v. 40). To reject the messengers is to ignore the
call of the Father and to lose the greatest opportunity of one¡¯s life.
• 16. The Martyrs
Matthew here puts advice that Jesus gave to his witnesses on how to
confront persecution. Jesus himself spent long weeks hidden away and his
first missionaries probably had to take similar precautions. In relating
these instructions Matthew has perhaps adapted them a little to the
situation of Christians of his time; he has not invented them.
We have just spoken of witnesses, and martyr in Greek means: witness.
Certain of these martyrs were before long glorified, but the majority
remain unknown. They have often been disfigured by calumny (5:11; Lk
21:17) isolated even from the Christian community and later eliminated.
In certain cases entire Christian communities were massacred as in the
time of the Roman empire. Today in certain countries such atrocities
continue without the media even mentioning it. In many other cases,
persons or Christian groups became martyrs that had assumed a risky
position. When Stephen was assassinated (Acts 7) the apostles were not
pursued, and many may have taken Ste phen to be a fanatic. When the
young Christian women of the Roman Empire were persecuted for having de
cided to remain virgins many said: Why do they flout their family
duties? When the Catholics of England, France or China refused to form
national churches separated from communion with Rome, were they not re
belling against the laws of their nation?
Maybe we must recognize that martyrdom is a grace and is not given to ev
eryone. Many would be ready to give their life for Christ, but
confronted with situations of violence or corruption, they do not see
the necessity to expose a scandal and so submit in order to avoid the
worst. Others, on the contrary, understand that God is asking them to
witness (18) to the Good News that is opposite to what is imposed. In so
doing they face the repression by which Society defends itself.
Revelation affirms that the murder of witnesses advances Salvation
• 19. Brother will hand over brother to death¡ (v. 21) you will be hated
by all. This is usual in a climate of terror. Without going so far,
witnesses to Christ may find themselves unappreciated by a majority, in
their own Church, while perhaps their persecutors are acclaimed (Lk
6:26). In time the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth, but the majority
of those witnesses, the lowly, often those who suffer most and are the
greatest, will remain unknown until the day when Jesus himself will
acknowledge them before his Father (v. 32).
In reality, Jesus does not only speak of those who are massacred. Far
more numerous and doubtless nearer to us are those who have had to
conquer fear (26; 28; 31) of being his witnesses on the streets, in
schools and in every area of this perverted and evil world. (Gal 1:4;
Do not worry. The witnesses of Jesus do not work on their own, and the
more they are identified with Jesus in persecution and in prison, the
more they are assisted by the Spirit. By worrying while pre paring their
legal case, they would hinder the freedom of the Spirit and also lose
the peace that the Spirit grants the persecuted.
• 23. You will not have gone through¡. Possibly this sentence would have
been better placed in the first part of the speech, which is about the
mission in Galilee. But it may refer also to Christians of Jewish
origins who were persecuted by the Pharisees at the time Matthew wrote
Matthew gives this sentence a broader meaning: though people may cast
out the future missionaries, they will never be short of work until the
second coming of Jesus.
• 28. We are cowards and Jesus is aware of this. He has already said,
¡°Do not fear,¡± when he invited us not to look for security in money.
Now, dealing with the fear of repression, he adds, ¡°If you cannot free
yourselves from cowardice, consider where the greater threat comes from,
from God or people?¡±
This is the only time Jesus refers to ¡°fear of God.¡± When the Old
Testament mentioned fear of God, it generally meant giving due respect
to God. Respect is far from fear. Respect is an attitude proper to a
free person. God does not threaten to throw us into hell; rather he
reminds us that to lose him is to lose ourselves also, and this is hell.
• 32. Whoever acknowledges me. After stressing the sovereign power of
his Father, Jesus puts himself on the same level: He will decide our
eternal fate. Jesus refers not only to recognizing him in the ultimate
sense, that is, by not denying our Christian faith before others; his
words also convey a day-by-day demand. We must not be ashamed to act or
talk as people of faith, to go public about our Christian convictions
• 34. Do not think that I have come to establish peace. The peace of the
believer comes from the certainty of being loved by God: the angels of
Bethlehem said so: Luke 2:14.
Jesus gives no peace to the world, because the rest of the world is made
up of confusion, half-truths, people who live midway between greed and
fear of risking. The peace of the world, whether in a family or in
society, veils unjust conditions imposed by the strongest, or a shared
mediocrity. The Gospel awakens everywhere a critical spirit; so that the
presence of only one Christian living by the truth is enough to worry
many persons: John 3:20; 15:18.
The Gospel moves us to make decisions with greater freedom, disregarding
the criticism of those close to us whenever we are convinced that they
cannot understand the Gospel values which motivate us. Take, for
example, a pregnant girl resisting her parents¡¯ advice to obtain an
abortion. Christians have been persecuted in many countries for teaching
that divine law is above parental authority, which was considered the
supreme authority. Thus it happened with the ancient Romans and, more
recently, in Korea and China.
Moreover, the devil stirs up per secutions against every person who
becomes converted, in order to scare her and make her turn away.
He is not worthy¡ (v. 37). Jesus addresses this to others besides
missionaries or persons with an exceptional mission. Each one must break
away from forms of dependency within the family, which do not nurture
the human and spiritual growth of the members. One who loves Christ
finds a thousand and one opportunities to free himself from activities,
entertainments and worries about his own family, which keep both him and
the family at a mediocre level.