When Jesussent out his disciples, he literally "apostled" them. Thus he provides a relevant model for his appointed agents in subsequent generations (whether they are "apostles" in the narrower sense or not). The language used here for "sending" probably connotes commissioning agents with delegated authority. Ancient Israelite circles also used formal agents or messengers (as in Prov 10:26; 13:17; 26:6); agency eventually became a legal custom so pervasive that both Roman and Jewish law recognized the use of agents, or intermediary marriage brokers, in betrothals (Cohen 1966:295-96).
Agents did not always have high legal status; some were even slaves. Yet they carried delegated authority, acting on the authority of the one who sent them. Thus later teachers commonly remarked that a person's agent is "equivalent to the person himself" (t. Ta`anit 3:2; m. Berakot 5:5). How one treats Jesus' messengers or heralds therefore represents how one treats Jesus himself (Mt 10:40-42).
Because the agent had to be trustworthy to carry out his mission, teachers sometimes debated the character the pious should require of such agents (m. Demai 4:5; t. Demai 2:20). This also implies, of course, that an agent's authority was entirely limited to the scope of his commission and the faithfulness with which he carried it out. The fact that Jesus authorizes us to do acts of compassion in his name (Mt 9:36) does not authorize us to use his power to get whatever we want (4:3).
Jesus' agents were not like just any legal agents: in biblical history, God's agents were the prophets. The connections in this text between Jesus' commissioned messengers and prophets should not be overlooked (10:41; compare Boring 1982:89).
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
Step 1 - Create an account or log in to start your free trial.
Starting your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus is easy. You’re already logged in with your Bible Gateway account. The next step is to enter your payment information. Your credit card won’t be charged until the trial period is over. You can cancel anytime during the trial period.
Click the button below to continue.
Step 1 - Create an account or log in to start your subscription.
You’ve already claimed your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus. To subscribe at our regular subscription rate of $3.99/month, click the button below.
Want to get the most out of Bible Gateway? Find out why Bible Gateway Plus is the ultimate toolkit for anyone seeking to grow closer to the Word. For less than the cost of a latte, Plus membership gives you access to a complete digital Bible study library and reduced banner ads. Try it free for 30 days!