Mat_9:35. And Jesus went about, etc. An appropriate introduction to what follows, as well as a fitting close to this account of the leading miracles performed by our Lord; almost identical with Mat_4:23, which precedes the Sermon on the Mount, describing (as the tense in the original shows) a customary course of action. Luke indicates three journeys through Galilee, the second of which precedes the journey to Gadara, and is mentioned by him alone. If this verse refers to a journey distinct from that spoken of in Mat_4:23, it must be the third. This third circuit seems to have begun before the Apostles were sent out (chap. 10), and to have continued until their return. The verse may, however, be only a general description of Christ’s ministry, closing the group of miracles.
Were distressed and scattered (ēsan eskulmenoi kai erimmenoi). Periphrastic past perfect indicative passive. A sad and pitiful state the crowds were in. Rent or mangled as if by wild beasts. Skullō occurs in the papyri in sense of plunder, concern, vexation. “Used here of the common people, it describes their religious condition. They were harassed, importuned, bewildered by those who should have taught them; hindered from entering into the kingdom of heaven (Mat_23:13), laden with the burdens which the Pharisees laid upon them (Mat_23:3).
Erimmenoi denotes men cast down and prostrate on the ground, whether from drunkenness, Polyb. v. 48.2, or from mortal wounds” (Allen): This perfect passive participle from rhiptō, to throw down. The masses were in a state of mental dejection. No wonder that Jesus was moved with compassion (esplagchnisthē).
The harvest – The souls who are ready to receive the truth are very numerous; but the laborers are few. There are multitudes of scribes, Pharisees, and priests, of reverend and right reverend men; but there are few that work. Jesus wishes for laborers, not gentlemen, who are either idle drones, or slaves to pleasure and sin, and nati consumere fruges. “Born to consume the produce of the soil.”
It was customary with the Jews to call their rabbins and students reapers; and their work of instruction, the harvest. So in Idra Rabba, s. 2. “The days are few; the creditor is urgent; the crier calls out incessantly; and the reapers are few.” And in Pirkey Aboth: “The day is short, the work great, the workmen idle, the reward abundant, and the master of the household is urgent.” In all worldly concerns, if there be the prospect of much gain, most men are willing enough to labor; but if it be to save their own souls, or the souls of others, what indolence, backwardness, and carelessness! While their adversary, the devil, is going about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour; and a careless soul, and especially a careless minister is his especial prey.
The place of the harvest is the whole earth: it signifies little where a man works, provided it be by the appointment, in the Spirit, and with the blessing of God.
That he send forth labourers (hopōs ekbalēi ergatas). Jesus turns from the figure of the shepherdless sheep to the harvest field ripe and ready for the reapers. The verb ekballō really means to drive out, to push out, to draw out with violence or without. Prayer is the remedy offered by Jesus in this crisis for a larger ministerial supply. How seldom do we hear prayers for more preachers. Sometimes God literally has to push or force a man into the ministry who resists his known duty.
And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples … – This account of sending the apostles forth is recorded also in Mar_6:7-11, and Luk_9:1-6. Mark says that he sent them out two and two. This was a kind arrangement, that each one might have a companion, and that thus they might visit more places and accomplish more labor than if they were all together. These twelve were the original number of apostles. The word “apostle” means one that is “sent,” and was given to them because they were “sent forth” to preach the gospel. They were ambassadors of Christ. To this number Matthias was afterward added, to supply the place of Judas Act_1:26, and Paul was specially called to be an apostle to the Gentiles, Rom_1:1; 1Co_15:8-9; Gal_1:1. In all, therefore, there were 14 apostles.
In selecting “twelve” at first, it is probable that the Saviour was somewhat guided by the number of the tribes of Israel. Twelve was, with them, a well-known number, and it was natural that he should select one for every tribe. Their office was clearly made known. They were to heal the sick, cast out devils, raise the dead, preach the gospel. They were to be with him to receive his instructions, to learn the nature of his religion, be witnesses to his resurrection, and then to bear his gospel around the globe. The number twelve was the best number for these purposes that could be selected. It was sufficiently “large” to answer the purpose of testimony, and it was “so small” as not to tend to disorder, or that they could easily be divided into parties or factions. They were not learned men, and could not be supposed to spread their religion by art or talents. They were not men of wealth, and could not bribe men to follow them. They were not men of rank and office, and could not compel people to believe. They were just such men as are always found the best witnesses in courts of justice – plain men, of good sense, of fair character, of great honesty, and with favorable opportunities of ascertaining the facts to which they bore witness. Such men everybody believes, and especially when they are willing to lay down their lives to prove their sincerity.
It was important that the Saviour should choose them early in his ministry, in order that they might be fully acquainted with him; might treasure up his instructions, and observe his manner of life and his person, so that, by having been long acquainted with him, they might be able to testify to his identity and be competent witnesses of his resurrection. No witnesses were ever so well qualified to give testimony as they, and none ever gave so much evidence of their sincerity as they did. See Act_1:21-22.
Now the names of the twelve apostles – The account of their being called is more fully given in Mar_3:13-18, and Luk_6:12-19. Each of those evangelists has recorded the circumstances of their appointment. They agree in saying it was done on a mountain; and, according to Luke, it was done before the sermon on the mount was delivered, perhaps on the same mountain, near Capernaum. Luke adds that the night previous had been spent “in prayer” to God. See the notes at Luk_6:12.
Simon, who is called Peter – The word “Peter” means a rock. He was also called Cephas, Joh_1:42; 1Co_1:12; 1Co_3:22; 1Co_15:5; Gal_2:9. This was a Syro-Chaldaic word signifying the same as Peter. This name was given probably in reference to the “resoluteness and firmness” which he was to exhibit in preaching the gospel. Before the Saviour’s death he was rash, impetuous, and unstable. Afterward, as all history affirms, he was firm, zealous, steadfast, and immovable. The tradition is that he was at last crucified at Rome with his head downward, thinking it too great an honor to die as his Master did. See the notes at Joh_21:18. There is no certain proof, however, that this occurred at Rome, and no absolute knowledge as to the place where he died.
James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother – This James was killed by Herod in a persecution, Act_12:2. The other James, the son of Alpheus, was stationed at Jerusalem, and was the author of the epistle that bears his name. See Gal_1:19; Gal_2:9; Act_15:13. A James is mentioned Gal_1:19 as “the Lord’s brother.” It has not been easy to ascertain why he was thus called. He is here called the son of “Alpheus,” that is, of Cleophas, Joh_19:25. Alpheus and Cleophas were but different ways of writing and pronouncing the same name. This Mary, called the mother of James and Joses, is called the wife of Cleophas, Joh_19:25.
Philip, also a Greek name prevalent at the time, partly through the influence of the Macedonian monarchy, whose real founder was Philip, father of Alexander the Great.
Lebbæus, Thaddæus, Jude the [son] of James, are all names of one and the same person. He was the son in all probability of a James or Jacob, not, as usually translated, brother of James. The name “Lebbæus” = “courageous” from a Hebrew word signifying “heart.”
This Jude or Judas must not be confused with Jude or Judas the “brother” of our Lord; nor must James the son of Alphæus be confused with James the brother of our Lord. The “brethren of the Lord” believed not on Him, and could not have been among His apostles. James and Judas were both common names, and the variety of names seems to have been small at this epoch. According to this theory there are four persons named James—(1) the son of Zebedee, (2) the son of Alphæus, (3) the father of Jude, (4) “The less” or rather “the little,” the brother of the Lord: and three named Judas—(1) the brother of the Lord, (2) the apostle, son of James, (3) Iscariot.
Matthew or Levi also was son of an Alphæus, but there is no evidence or hint that he was connected with James son of Alphæus.
Bartholomew = son of Tolmai, probably to be identified with Nathanael. (1) St John, who twice mentions the name of Nathanael, never mentions that of Bartholomew; (2) the three Synoptists mention Bartholomew but not Nathanael. (3) Philip is closely connected with Nathanael and also with Bartholomew. (4) Lastly, Nathanael is mentioned with six other disciples as if like them he belonged to the Twelve.
Simon – He was third son of Alpheus, and brother of James and Jude, or Judas, Mat_13:55.
The Canaanite – This word is not put here to signify a particular people, as it is elsewhere used in the Sacred Writings; but it is formed from the Hebrew קנא kana, which signifies zealous, literally translated by Luke, Luk_6:15, ζηλωτης, zelotes, or the zealous, probably from his great fervency in preaching the Gospel of his Master. But see Luk_6:15.
Judas Iscariot – Probably from the Hebrew איש קריות ish kerioth, a man of Kerioth, which was a city in the tribe of Judah, Jos_15:25, where it is likely this man was born.
As אסכרא iscara, signifies the quinsy, or strangulation, and Judas hanged himself after he had betrayed our Lord, Dr. Lightfoot seems inclined to believe that he had his name from this circumstance, and that it was not given him till after his death.
Who also betrayed him – Rather, even he who betrayed him, or delivered him up; for so, I think, ο και παραδους αυτον should be translated. The common translation, who Also betrayed him, is very exceptionable, as it seems to imply, he was betrayed by some others, as well as by Judas.
Simon the Cananæan (not Canaanite), or Zelotes, equivalent terms. The fierce party of the Zealots professed a rigid attachment to the Mosaic law; they acknowledged no king save God. Under Judas the Gaulonite they rose in rebellion at the time of the census.
We hear of a Theudas (which is another form of Thaddæus) who rose in rebellion (Act_5:36). Is it not possible that this Lebbæus or Jude may owe his third name to this patriot, as a Galilæan might regard him? It may be observed that Simon (Joseph. Ant. xvii. 10, 5) and Judas (Ant. XVIII. 1, 1) were also names of zealous patriots who rose against the Roman government.
Iscariot] Man of Kerioth, in the tribe of Judah; accordingly (if this be the case) the only non-Galilæan among the Apostles. For other accounts of the name see Dict. of Bible.
The choice of the disciples is an instance of the winnowing of Christ, the sifting of the wheat from the chaff. In these men the new life had manifested itself. Their faith, or at least their capacity for faith, was intense, and sufficient to bear them through the dangers that confronted them by their Master’s side. [Editor’s notes on Greek text of St Luke’s Gospel.]
Go not into the way of the Gentiles] For the expression “way of the Gentiles” cp. ch. Mat_4:15, “the way of the sea.”
This prohibition is not laid on the Seventy (St Luk_10:1-16), they are expressly commissioned to carry tidings of the gospel to cities and places which our Lord Himself proposed to visit.
any city of the Samaritans] The Samaritans were foreigners descended from the alien population introduced by the Assyrian king (probably Sargon), 2Ki_17:24, to supply the place of the exiled Israelites. In Luk_17:18, our Lord calls a Samaritan “this stranger,” i. e. this man of alien or foreign race. The bitterest hostility existed between Jew and Samaritan, which has not died out to this day. The origin of this international ill-feeling is related Ezr_4:2-3. Their religion was a corrupt form of Judaism. For being plagued with lions, the Samaritans summoned a priest to instruct them in the religion of the Jews. Soon, however, they lapsed from a pure worship, and in consequence of their hatred to the Jews, purposely introduced certain innovations. Their rival temple on Mount Gerizim was destroyed by John Hyrcanus about 129 b. c. See Nutt’s “Sketch of the Samaritans,” p. 19.
About twenty years previous to our Lord’s ministry the Samaritans had intensified the national antipathy by a gross act of profanation. During the celebration of the Passover they stole into the Temple Courts when the doors were opened after midnight and strewed the sacred enclosure with dead men’s bones (Jos. Ant. XVIII. 2, 2). Even after the siege of Jerusalem, when the relations between Jews and Samaritans were a little less hostile, the latter were still designated by the Jews as the “Proselytes of the lions,” from the circumstance mentioned above.
The lost sheep (ta probata ta apolōlota). The sheep, the lost ones. Mentioned here first by Matthew. Jesus uses it not in blame, but in pity (Bruce). Bengel notes that Jesus says “lost” more frequently than “led astray.” “If the Jewish nation could be brought to repentance the new age would dawn” (McNeile).
And as ye go, preach – πορευομενοι δε κηρυσσετε, and as you proceed, proclaim like heralds – make this proclamation wherever ye go, and while ye are journeying. Preach and travel; and, as ye travel, preach – proclaim salvation to all you meet. Wherever the ministers of Christ go, they find lost, ruined souls; and, wherever they find them, they should proclaim Jesus, and his power to save. For an explanation of the word proclaim or preach, see on Mat_3:1 (note).
From this commission we learn what the grand subject of apostolic preaching was – The Kingdom Of Heaven Is At Hand! This was the great message. “They preached,” says Quesnel, “to establish the faith; the kingdom, to animate the hope; of heaven, to inspire the love of heavenly things, and the contempt of earthly; which is at hand, that men may prepare for it without delay.”
We have here the details of the orders summarized in Mat_10:1. The details are not given in Luk_9:1, Luk_9:2 or Luk_10:9. Heal the sick, etc. According to the true order of these commands, solely physical ills are mentioned first in their partial (sick) and in their final effect (dead); then physical and ceremonial pollution (lepers), which forms a transition to the mention of ills primarily spiritual, even though they ultimately affect the body (devils). On the good that might be expected from their performing these miracles, cf. Thomas Scott (in Ford), “Men will never believe that we really intend the good of their souls, if they do not find that we endeavour to do them good, disinterestedly, in temporal things (Joh_4:15).”
Freely (vide infra) ye have (omit “have,” with Revised Version) received. Blessings of the kingdom, but especially authority and power for this work (Luk_10:1).
Freely give. All that is needed to carry that authority into effect—whatever toil and energy in soul and body the occasion may demand. The clause comes in Matthew only, but comp. Act_20:35. Observe, Christ’s recognition of the tendency of human nature to traffic in the holiest things. Did Judas take the warning at all to heart? (For the thought, cf. Wis. 7:13; Le 25:37, 38.) Freely. Gratuitously (δωρεάν); comp. Rev_21:6; Rev_22:17; Rom_3:24 (on God’s side); 2Co_11:7; 2Th_3:8 (on man’s side).