- In 10:5-6, Jesus restricts the disciples’ mission to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (10:6b) by instructing them not to go to the Gentiles or Samaritans. Later, Jesus tells the disciples to “make disciples of all nations” (28:19), which apparently contradicts his earlier instructions. Does this indicate that Jesus is changing the nature of Christian mission? What is the significance of Jesus’ command to “go only to Israel” when read in light of his later command to “go to all nations?”
- Luz lists several possibilities: Jesus’ command in 28:19 represents an expansion of 10:5-6, his command in 28:10 replaces 10:5-6, or the language of Gentile, Samaritan, and Israel in 10:5-6 is symbolic (Gentile = heathen philosophy, Samaritan = heresy, Israel = the church). Luz indicates that, most likely, 28:19 replaces by 10:5-6 (i.e. there is no longer a mission to Gentiles). Davies and Allison present (and reject) another possibility: that 10:5-6 was part of Matthew’s tradition and included in his gospel “even though it did not reflect his own convictions” (which align better with 28:10) (D and A ,167). Instead, they believe that 10:5-6 reflect Matthew’s beliefs about the pre-Easter mission while 28:10 reflects the post-Easter mission (168).
- My preliminary conclusion is that 28:10 marks a significant and intentional (on the part of the author) shift in the nature of the early Christian mission. Against Luz, I believe that 10:5-6 describes the first phase of a two-part mission. Therefore, the tension between 10:5-6 and 28:10 indicates that Jesus’ mission was first to Israel and second to Gentiles. As Davies and Allison observe, “the Gentile mission did not in truth begin until after the resurrection” (168). Therefore, 10:5-6 describes the first phase of the two-phase Christian mission: first, Jesus and his disciples ministered to Israel, and second, after the resurrection, this mission expanded to include Gentiles too.