Matthew 10.16a illustrates Jesus sending out his disciples as sheep in the midst of wolves. Alone, such a notion seems innocent, yet frightening, enough; however, in 7.15 we read about false prophets parading around in sheep’s clothing. Both Jesus’ disciples and the false prophets seem to have the appearance of sheep. What, ultimately, differentiates the true from the false sheep?
Davies and Allison offer no significant help in solving this issue, only stating that the false prophets are truly wolves, while the disciples are the authentic sheep (180). For Luz, the repetition of sheep and wolves signifies the fact that violence had been a factor in the area ever since Jesus began to preach (87-8). Stanley Hauerwas does not make a connection to 7.15, but referring to 10.16a, states that Jesus calls the disciples to embody the innocence found in the beatitudes of Mt. 5 (107).
We may be able to put forth a couple of answers to the question. First, one might try to connect Hauerwas’ line of thought back to 7.15, stating the false prophets have not fully embodied the required innocence, and thus are not true disciples of the Kingdom of God as set forth in the beatitudes. Since they only appear as sheep, they do not maintain the vulnerability of true sheep (Hauerwas, 87-8). Second, we see in 10.1 that Jesus gives the disciples authority, which originates from God (7.29; 9.6, 8). As such,, they proceed with true authority, while embodying, with full sheep-ness, the Kingdom of God. Bleeding these two answers together, we may find that even though the disciples are the legitimate sheep, in possession of the authority of Jesus, such authority does not excuse them from the vulnerability of being sheep in the midst of wolves.