There are three distinct actions in the following passage. See if you can find them:
“Jesus went through all their towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest therefore to send out workers into the harvest field” (Matthew 9:35-38).
Here is the breakdown:
- Lots of teaching and preaching around Galilee
- Healing all their diseases and sickness
- Then asking the father for many more harvest workers
Now let’s go back a few chapters and work forward from Matthew 5 to 10:
- In Matthew 5-7 we see Jesus preaching and teaching at the sermon on the mount
- In Matthew 8-9 we see 10 examples of Jesus healing and performing miracles
- In Matthew 10 we see Jesus sending out the 12 disciples as extra harvest workers
Look familiar? Matthew 9:35-38 is Matthew’s very clever summary of the first two sections and the pivot to the third. I’d never seen the connection before! Those first two sections are clearly a means to an end, advertising the truth, drawing us on to the key section, Matthew 10. The harvest is the real goal, not just teaching and healing. Total social transformation was what Jesus wanted all along. Galilee was the experiment to see if it would work.
That’s why Matthew 10 is a very detailed recording of what Jesus said to do and one of the most important chapters in the New Testament. It is a full description of how 12 ordinary men could transform Galilee. Galilee was the template, the trial run, for the future transformation of the world.
The 12 were first given authority to do what Jesus had been doing. They were then sent out, probably in great fear and trepidation, to towns and villages all over Galilee to repeat what Jesus had been doing: Heal the sick, cast out demons and tell them the joyful news that the kingdom of God has arrived on earth.
And off they went.
Did it work? YES! Luke 9:1-9 briefly describes the same event as Matthew 10 but gives us the results. In verse 6 it says that they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere. They even aroused the concern of the local political ruler, Herod the Tetrarch. Rumours were pouring into his court from all over Galilee that John The Baptist, whom he had already beheaded, was resurrected and doing these things, or it might be Elijah or some of the other prophets come back to life. The disciples obviously created quite a stir. Truth was speaking to power. The disciples must have come back pumped!
But here is a curious thing: Why does Matthew 10 go into incredible detail about the instructions they were given by Jesus when Luke hardly says anything. I believe Matthew recorded the details he heard personally for posterity, while we know Luke was only recording these events years after they happened as a second-hand historian. Matthew knew that what he heard from the master was THE blueprint and THE methodology for the future global harvest, first nutted out in Galilee. Later, after Jesus rose from the dead, the brief would be expanded to the whole world (Matthew 28:18-20), but the blueprint would be exactly the same.
And it worked for the first few hundred years, until the church rediscovered religion and shoved the new wine of the Good News into the old wineskin of dead human institutions. The rest is history until today as the modern church rediscovers the power of Matthew 10’s instructions, with results equal to what you just read about from Luke 9.