To whom were they to witness? What was their purpose in doing so? What was their message for the Jews?
NASB - 5 These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: "Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans.
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When Jesus tells his apostles not to "go the way of the Gentiles and Samaritans," He could be reminding the apostles to walk as He walked. "Going the way" can also be an idiom for "following." Jesus could have also been telling the apostles not to walk into some of their places. Those places could have been considered "unclean" due to idolatry or perhaps, burying their dead in their houses (this made the house "unclean" to enter). However, we later see the Apostle Paul did go into some of the places and towns of idol worship. For example, there is the instance where he pointed out the altars that were erected, and one was to an "Unknown God." Acts 17:23 The apostles were commissioned to go first to the Jews, the lost sheep of Israel - the dispersed (of the 10 tribes of Israel), the half-Jews (Samaritans), and then to the world (the Gentiles). They were commissioned to go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the world. Acts 1:8 The Jews consisted of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, with Levites. They mainly lived in Jerusalem and Judea, although some lived outside of Judea, too. There is a connection, however, between the Samaritans, the 10 lost tribes (known as the "dispersed" in Jewish history or "scattered"), and the Gentiles. That connection is idolatry. Because of idol worship, the 10 tribes of Israel (sometimes called simply "Israel" or "Ephraim"), were taken into captivity by Assyria. From there they were scattered ("dispersed") into the nations (Gentile nations) and assimilated. As such, due to the assimilation and intermarrying with Gentiles, they are considered "lost" or hidden. (That's why many of the parables of Jesus deal with the "lost," the sheep who went astray, and even stories like the prodigal son). The Samaritans mainly considered themselves to be of the tribe of Manasseh. The Samaritans were heavily into idolatry. They even would side with the enemies of the Jews when those enemies persecuted or fought the Jews. (In a sense, the Jews considered them to be traitors). The Gentiles were idolaters, too. They made up the pagan nations. However, due to the assimilation, it became difficult to tell who was who. If you look at many of the epistles of the Apostles, the letters will usually have a greeting to whomever the letter was written. For example, James 1:1. He greets the "12 tribes scattered abroad." 1 Peter 1:1 addresses his letter to the "Dispersion." Also, some of the letters contained messages about the scattered, dispersed, dispersion, or lost tribes. When the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., the Jews were scattered, too. All except a remnant inhabited the land. The abbreviated message of the Gospel is this: Repent - Return - Restore. The ultimate goal is Restoration to the way things were supposed to be (dwelling with God in unity, in one body). Ministries like 119 Ministries dot com will go deeper into the messages like the tribes, the Gentiles, the commission, and the good news to them.
That is a good question. The nation of Israel was chosen by God to be a priestly nation (Exodus 19:6), so that the heathen nations would come to know God through His chosen people. Sadly, instead of being a Godly influence to the Gentile nations around them, Israel instead became like the heathen nations and repeatedly fell into idolatry. Then, after their Babylonian captivity, they swung to the opposite extreme and wouldn't have anything to do with the heathen nations, considering them scum rather than people that God loves and desired to save. In both extremes, the nation of Israel failed in their role as a priestly nation and as witnessed for God. In Daniel 8, Daniel prays earnestly for himself and his people, because he knows from prophecy that the time of their Babylonian captivity was coming to a close. Daniel then receives the vision of the 2,300 day prophecy. Not understanding the vision, and fearing that it meant that their deliverance from captivity was going to be delayed, Daniel fainted and was sick for days (vs 27) In Daniel chapter 9, the 2,300 day prophecy is explained to Daniel by receiving the 70 week prophecy, which is the first part of the 2,300 day prophecy. Daniel is told, "Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city..." Daniel's people and his holy city, of course, was the Jews and Jerusalem. The nation of Israel was given until the end of the 70-week prophecy to step up and fulfill their role as God's priestly nation. Jesus told them in Matthew 21:43 that God's kingdom would be taken from them and given to a different nation that would bear the fruits of it. He was reminding them that the 70-week prophecy was soon coming to a close. This is why, in Matthew 10:5, Jesus told His 12 disciples not to go into the way of the Gentiles, but rather to the lost sheep of Israel; because the 70-week prophecy hadn't yet come to an end, and God was still giving them opportunity to step up and fill their role as God's nation of priests. The 70-week prophecy ended in 34 AD, which is also when Stephen was stoned, and the gospel then went to the Gentiles.
The disciples were not to preach to the nations, the gentiles. They were to preach and minister only to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Mt 10:6, Mt 15:24). Knowing, as we do, that Jesus' ministry is to save the world, telling His disciples to only go to the Jews makes us wonder. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believed in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life (Jn 3:16). I think He told them why when He sent them out. He told them they were to give "testimony" before the gentiles (Mt 10:18). Instead of preaching the gospel, (to the gentiles) they would be demonstrators of what the gospel teaches (to the gentiles). The gospel of Jesus Christ is a ministry of self-sacrifice. They would be "brought before governors and kings for [His] sake," (for His purpose, His plan) delivered up to councils, flogged (beaten) in their synagogues. They were told beforehand that all of this would happen, and that they were to take it all in stride. Also, they were told they would be hated by all because they were preaching in His name, but when all this persecution broke out in a town they were in, they were to get going quickly to another town to do it all again. They were to be martyrs, plain and simple. A martyr doesn't tell a story or preach a sermon about dedication and self sacrifice, he acts it out. He doesn't tell what his master will do or has done, he does it as a testimony to his master. The way they were to endure persecution was to be their testimony to the gentiles. It wasn't that they didn't have a ministry to the gentiles. They were to "present their bodies a living and holy sacrifice to God" (literally) as we are told In Romans 12:1 to do in the spirit. They were the starters, sent to the home team.The bullpen would come in later and preach the away games... "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave his master" (Mt 10:24,25). They were being set up and told beforehand what to expect. They would be opposed by the people they would minister to. "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; (Mt 10:16). What if we were told that? What if I were told to preach to the people of Atlanta in the midst of chaos as a testimony to the people of Birmingham? "Don't go to Birmingham Danny; stay in the metro Atlanta area. You will be chased out of Atlanta, but don't go to Alabama. It will be as a testimony to the gentiles in Alabama." It's good to know that the Lord has a salvation plan that dates back to the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4, 1Pet 1:20))(Mt 25:34) Otherwise we might think it's all a put up job.
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