Gospel Reading June 30th

(Matthew 9:36-10:8)

Feast of the Synaxis of the Twelve Apostles

This Gospel passage concerns the first mission that Jesus entrusted to the Apostles during His public ministry. The term “Apostle” is of Greek origin and means “to be sent out”.

At the outset, the passage describes the significance of the Apostles’ mission. The people of Israel were in a dire spiritual state. Despite having the Mosaic Law and the leadership of the Pharisees, they were like sheep with “no shepherd” (verse 36).

Professor Trembelas[1], in his commentary on this passage, notes that we in fact know little about the details of what the Apostles actually did after they were sent out by Jesus. He points out that, in the New Testament, it is “the work” which is glorified and not the workers. The gospel is everything – who preached it is of secondary importance.

We do know, however, that the Apostles’ mission had a dual purpose of preaching and healing (verse 10:1) and that they were fully empowered by Jesus to perform this mission. Trembelas notes that it is this act of empowerment which distinguishes Jesus from the prophets. While the prophets had also performed miracles, only Jesus was able to give this power to others.

Trembelas also makes some interesting comments on the way in which Matthew identifies the twelve men who were sent on this mission (verses 10:2-4). In common with other Evangelists, Matthew refers to Simon Peter first and Judas Iscariot last. The presence of Judas Iscariot among the select twelve is in fact a warning that, even those called to act as shepherds in the Church, can fall victim to the traps of the devil. For no other Apostle does Matthew provide a reference to that Apostle’s former employment. In his own case, however, he demeans himself by using the term “the tax collector”, thereby giving hope to all those with a sinful past who nevertheless wish to serve Christ.


[1] Professor Trembelas is an esteemed Orthodox theologian, now deceased.


Source: June-July 2014 Lychnos Edition