These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Matthew 10:5-6)
Why did Jesus send his disciples to the Jews, and expressly forbid preaching to the Gentiles or Samaritans? Blessed Theophylact explains that this was to deprive the Jews of any excuse, such as
“the apostles were sent to the Gentiles and because of this we Jews did not believe”
This is not a totally implausible excuse. Jesus Christ came to fulfill the law, and therefore followed it. If He had sent his disciple to the Gentiles or Samaritans first, or even along with the Jews, in the mind of a Jew, He would have been breaking the law. Jesus took pains to not openly do things that appeared to be contrary to the law (or what the contemporary Jew thought was the law), except in certain circumstances (e.g., healing on the Sabbath, talking with the Samaritan woman at the well, and others).
One must note here that the “law” in the mind of the Jew of Jesus’ time was much more than the Ten commandments and other ordinances contained in the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Jewish (and Christian) canon, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers) . The Jews had created a bewildering mix of rules that interpreted the original law in the minutest detail. Jesus refers to this when he rebuked them:
But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (Luke 11:42 )
In this ultra-legalistic climate, Jesus would have been certainly condemned out of hand for sending his disciples to preach to anyone except the Jews.
And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. (Matthew 10:7)
Blessed Theophylact explains that this phrase: “freely ye have received, freely give” indicates the two virtues, humility and non-possessiveness.
We have the proverb that we should “give with an open hand”. This applies equally well with receiving, since all that we receive from God is a gift (of which we are undeserving). The Christian knows that since all good comes down from God the Father of lights, he attributes no good to himself, and does not attempt to “possess” it, that is think highly of himself because he has some virtue, or success or good thing. He receives all God gives with an open hand, ready at any time to freely give to others what he has freely received.
.How in practice do we do this? The perfect answer is to become holy! What is the long answer for us not yet, but becoming more holy ones?
All sin and virtue begins in the mind. This is the place to start. We must constantly remind ourselves of our condition, and God’s grace. One of my favorite “mindset” verses is Jesus’ instruction to His apostles:
“So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10)
Matthew 9:36-10:8 is read on the 3rd Monday after Pentecost:
36 But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; 38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest. 1 And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. 2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him. 5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.
Priest Seraphim Holland 2009. St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
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