The Apprentice Poster with Donald Trump

“Do as I did… say what I said”

A theology of apprenticed leadership development

An exegetical look at Jesus’ training of the apostles in Matthew 10

By Dave Keehn

Associate Professor, Christian Ministries

Biola University

Jesus Christ faced a myriad of challenges when he walked this Earth; developing the leadership team to continue his mission of redemption, i.e. through the Church after his ascension back to heaven, is one that is easy to underestimate. A glimpse of the training methodology for his disciples is seen in the discourse recorded in the Gospel of Matthew 10:1-8. The passage’s main idea is Jesus’ Kingdom authority, demonstrated in his teaching, healings and miracles, is given to the disciples through an apprenticeship to continue Jesus’ mission of redemption. A conceptual outline of the passage would be:

  1. Jesus calls the twelve disciples to him (1a)
  2. Jesus gave authority to the twelve disciples (1b-4)
    1. To drive out evil spirits
    2. To heal every disease and sickness
  3. Jesus sends out the twelve disciples with specific instructions (5-8)
    1. “Go to the Jews
    2. As you go – use my authority to:
      1. Preach the message of redemption
      2. Heal the sick
      3. Raise the dead
      4. Cleanse those who have leprosy
      5. Drive out demons
    3. Freely give (my authority) as you have received it”

Context of Passage

The historical-cultural context of Matthew’s Gospel must take into account the setting of both the story of Christ and of the intended audience. Jesus was born into a first century Palestine culture that was an island of Judaism in a Roman world. Jesus’ teaching and discipleship practices reflect rabbinic methods. Upon examining the Synoptic Gospels, a reader will recognize the call to discipleship was rooted in the Jewish culture of literally following a rabbi around for a length of time to become like the religious master in belief, attitude and actions. “The Talmud affirms the literal sense in which disciples ‘follow’ their masters” (Stoutenburg, 175). As the disciples abandoned their livelihood, they “accompanied Jesus wherever He went, learning His Message and helping in any way they could” (Kowalski, 370). Jesus’ full invitation was, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers” (Mark 1:17). We must recognize Christ’s call to be with him was a call to ministry: to participation, and even leadership in his grand mission of redemption.

This passage follows 1) the Sermon on the Mount (5:1-7:29) and 2) a series of miracles Jesus performs (8:1-9:34), both which demonstrate the authority of Jesus as Messiah. These elements set the stage for Jesus’ kingdom work that he shares with God the Father. The specific context of the passage (9:35-38) is Jesus’ compassion and concern for the people, asking for prayer for workers to share the Gospel. This in reality was a “visioning” act as in this passage (10:1-8) Jesus calls and empowers his disciples to go and do the mission Jesus has started. The rest of chapter 10:9-42 is Jesus’ instructions on how to accomplish the mission, what to expect in the mission: conflict and suffering, and he offers encouragement in that they will be identified with Jesus, their master, because of their participation in the mission. “The disciples have been passive participants in Jesus’ ministry, but now their perspective completely changes as Jesus commands active involvement in God’s mission to the world” (Osborne, 374). Little did the disciples know that they were to be an answer to prayer (see 9:38) as Jesus calls them to himself to share his authority with them, to take the message of the kingdom to the Jewish people.

Passage Summary

This passage teaches that the authority of Jesus is powerful over all domains, spiritual (“drive out evil spirits”) and physical (“heal every disease”), and was offered to the disciples to be shared with the world as his representatives. The passage also teaches that God views humanity as partners with him in the Gospel (10:1). “They have prayed, been given authority, and been divided into pairs; now it is time to engage in their active mission” (Osborne, 374). The commissioning of the disciples involves two elements: The call (1a) and the empowering (1b). The empowering is centered upon the authority given to them. It was necessary for the disciples to be given Jesus authority if their mission to represent Jesus was going to succeed.

The passage identifies the specific audience of the discourse in verse 1 stating that Jesus “called his twelve disciples to him”. Other Gospel narratives (Mark 3:14, Luke 6:12-13) describe the process of Jesus’ solitude to discern which men, out of the presumed dozens of followers, to be with him. However, while Matthew just names the chosen twelve, he does organize the names in pairs, which is especially recognizable in the Greek text, corresponding to Mark’s statement (6:7) that Jesus sent the Twelve out two by two” (Wilkins (2004), 387). There is incredible diversity listed in names of the disciples: two sets of brothers, a tax collector and a zealot - these two would of hated each other as one worked for the Romans and the other wanted to rid the country of the Roman occupation.

To these chosen disciples Jesus gave his authority. This authority is the key element of this entire section of Matthew’s Gospel. Chapters 8 and 9 have detailed accounts of Jesus’ authority and now, to do the same work, this power is being passed on to his disciples. The word “authority” (εξουσια) implies the very authority of God. While the original meaning implied “permission”, the word took on the additional connotation of “the ability or strength with which one is endued” and later, “the right to exercise power” (Vine, 45). “So the Twelve are to participate in Jesus’ divine mission and are given his authority both in word (10:7) and in deed (10:8)” (Osborne, 378). Verse 1 acts as a summary of the instructions Jesus gives his disciples, detailed again in verses 5-8. As Jesus’ authority to offer forgiveness was questioned (9:1-8), so too the disciples needed the authority to do the miraculous works of God to verify their leadership in the Kingdom establishment.

The authority to act in Jesus’ name is demonstrated in two power-actions: drive out evil spirits and heal disease. The Jews knew one of the prophecies of the coming Messiah was the ability to overcome sickness. Matthew cites Isaiah’s writing, “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases” (Isa. 53:4) when recounting the numerous people Jesus healed and delivered from evil spirits (8:17). Matthew records the travel itinerary of Jesus in 8:16 and 9:35 to further offer evidence of Jesus’ fulfillment of this prophecy, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and illness”. This was now the very work the disciples were empowered to do through the authority that Jesus gave to them.

Matthew identifies the twelve chosen men as “apostles” in 10:2 designating them agents “sent” from God; interestingly this is the only time this term is used in Matthew. The word apostle is “… reflecting the rabbinic idea of the ‘saliah’ as an agent ‘sent’ to represent a person… Here the emphasis is that they are already authoritative agents of Jesus and of God” (Osborne, 371). The specific instructions Jesus gave his disciples began by identifying the target to which the disciples were to go to. Jesus tells the disciples not to go to Gentiles, and names the Samaritans specifically as there was bad blood between the Jews and Samaritans. This conflict was rooted in the Assyrian practice of forced intermarriage, which occurred at the time of the Old Testament exile, after the fall of the northern tribes in 722 B.C. (Osborne, 377). Instead Jesus sends the disciples to the “lost sheep of Israel” (10:6), which poetically relates to Jesus’ commentary in 9:36 as he took pity on the people for they seemed as “sheep without a shepherd”.

The actions the disciples were to conduct through the authority of Jesus were the same activities they had watched Jesus do prior to their commissioning. They were told to preach the same message Jesus preached, the kingdom of heaven is near” (10:7). This is the summary of Jesus’ sermons as recorded by Matthew, both in 4:17 and 9:35. As with the healing of the paralytic, the implication of this message is repentance. To back up this call to repent, Jesus gives instruction to use his authority to do the same miracles they had witnessed, recorded by Matthew in chapters 8 and 9. Jesus literally says, “As you go”… say what I said, do what I did. In addition to healing the sick, the same work as Jesus in chapters 8 and 9 (with a summary statement in 9:35), Jesus incredibly calls the disciples to raise the dead. This remarkable miracle Jesus did for the synagogue ruler’s daughter (9:25). Another task, cleanse those who have leprosy as Jesus did (8:3), would set the disciples apart from other religious workers as this disease carried social and spiritual taboos that made lepers the rejected ones of society, isolated from the rest of the community (Wilkins (2002), 54). Using the original instructions from verse 1, Jesus repeats the call to “drive out demons” (10:8) as Jesus did this both in 8:32-33 and 9:32-33. In this way healing and delivering from demons serve as bookends to the charge to use Jesus authority “freely”. “Jesus reminds them that they received the kingdom and the gifts of the kingdom without charge. Moreover, they have received the authority to heal, raise the dead, and cast out demons as free gifts from God. Therefore, Jesus expects them to give these things to others without charge” (Osborne, 378). Matthew uses the term “freely” (δωρεαν) in the aorist tense indicating this is to characterize their life as a whole (Osborne, 378). Jesus concludes this first section of the discourse reminding the disciples they have freely received his authority, and they were to freely give it to those in need.

Developing a theology of Apprenticed Leadership Development

What the disciples had observed and heard Jesus do in the past, Jesus now empowers them to use his authority to speak and act in the same manner, to continue his mission of redemption and establishing his kingdom. The disciples were Jesus’ apprentices and they are now commissioned to do the work of Jesus in his authority, for his kingdom, sent out in his place. This methodology of apprenticeship becomes the dominant leadership development technique of Jesus. David Csinos relates the pedagogy of Jesus to the educational approach “known as legitimate peripheral participation” (46). This method creates a pathway of inclusive behavior through graduated experiences to learn and practice the life and teachings of Jesus. These apprenticeships are similar to the hands-on training of internships in ministry settings today.

There is significant body of literature devoted to examining the models of teaching and apprenticeship that Jesus used to instruct and induct his followers into his way of life. Scholars have discussed his use of parables, allegory, rhetoric, prophecy, and numerous other teaching methods of which he made use. Yet a key way that Jesus taught and formed members of his community was though apprenticeship and discipleship. (Csinos, 45).

The disciples became legitimate leaders in his new movement through the manner Jesus modeled ministry and treated his disciples. It is the graduated experiences that lead to increased leadership competencies. “As his disciples witnessed him teaching, preaching and healing, they gradually came to understand and experience life as a member of his community” (Csinos, 53). Jesus was training his followers to do the activity of ministry in his place, representing him in the redemption mission.

Paul also utilizes a similar apprenticeship methodology in training his disciples, as Timothy followed Paul on his mission journeys before being sent to strengthen the church in Ephesus. It is the identification of being sent in the place of Jesus, as referred to in 10:40 that places the correct emphasis on the apprentice, not just the authority. The importance of the authority is in the recognition of whom the apprentice represents. The work, the message, and the mission that the disciples were to carry out was to be done as if Jesus were there with the people. The authority to do miracles would identify that these men had been with Jesus as was the case in Acts 4:13, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” This “being with” the master is the key element of “hands-on” training modeled in the New Testament.

However the role of the authority cannot be underestimated. It is only through the process of “being with” that an apprentice would know how to operate with the master’s authority properly. Jesus had to add to his instructions that this gift of authority was to be used “freely” and not for the personal gain of the disciples. The authority was powerful and was the “license to minister” that the disciples required to guarantee a successful mission. Apprenticeship is a valid training model for leadership development for ministry purposes. The apprentice’s goal is to do the work of the master, in the master’s place so the master can be somewhere else doing the work as well. As Matthew records in this discourse, the master’s authority is the key to make it all happen. In this passage Jesus gives us a methodology of leadership training as the disciples are commissioned as apprentices, empowered by the authority of Jesus to preach the same message and do the same work that Jesus did.


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