“These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them, saying, ‘Do not go on a road to Gentiles, and do not enter a city of Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” – Matthew 10:5-6
Jesus begins to give to His twelve apostles (Matthew 10:1–4) very specific instructions about the what, where, why, and how He is sending them out. His first direction is simple: they are not to take this message to Gentiles or Samaritans. That restriction only applies to this particular mission; later, Jesus will send His apostles out to the entire world (Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:8).
Christ was sending the Twelve out into the towns and cities of Galilee in northern Israel. Galilee was surrounded by Gentile territories. These were largely pagan in their belief systems, worshipping idols and false gods. Jesus’ first mission was to call Israel to repentance and faith in Himself (Matthew 15:24). Only after His death and resurrection would the disciples begin to preach to the Gentiles, as well.
Jesus also told the disciples to stay out of the Samaritan towns to the south. The Samaritans were a mixed-race people after intermarrying with Gentiles following the Assyrian invasion in 722 B.C. Intermarriage was forbidden by the law of Moses. In addition, the Samaritans had changed some specific parts of the Law, including where God should be worshiped (John 4:20). Jesus would later introduce the gospel to the Samaritans through the woman at the well (John 4:1–42), but He was sending His disciples only to the people of Israel.
At the end of the previous chapter, Matthew described Jesus as feeling compassion for the people as He looked out over the crowds. Jesus saw that they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Those are the “lost sheep” Jesus is sending His disciples to reach with the good news of the Messiah and the kingdom of heaven.
In saying this, Jesus was directing the good news to all the people of Israel, not just some. God’s plan was that the good news of Jesus would first be preached to Israel and then later to the rest of the nations (Romans 1:16).
The message of Jesus preached to all. Not some. All. We are the continuation of that thought. Our lives have been changed by the good news of Jesus. This should direct us to share that news with others since we’ve seen such a radical change in our own lives….