Some of the more radical Essenes who followed the so-called Teacher of Righteousness eventually gave up hope of renewal through normal channels and withdrew to the Judean wilderness to live together near the Dead Sea.
Life had to have been tough back in that time. You would have to deal with the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Sanhedrin, the Zealots, the Essenes, and aside from that…
The Mission of the Twelve
1 And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother;
3 Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus;
4 Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.
5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:
“Go not” – the good news about the kingdom of God was to be proclaimed first to Jews only. After His death and resurrection, Jesus commanded the message to be taken to all nations.
“Samaritans” – a mixed-blood race resulting from the intermarriage of Israelites left behind when the people of the northern kingdom were exiled and Gentiles brought into the land by the Assyrians (2 Kgs 17:24). Bitter hostility existed between Jews and Samaritans in Jesus’ day (see Jn 4:9).
6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.
“Lepers” – the Greek word for leprosy was used for various diseases affecting the skin – not necessarily leprosy. (see Lev 13:2).
9 Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses,
10 Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.
11 And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence.
12 And when ye come into a house, salute it.
“Salute it” – the Jews’ greeting then, even as now, was shalom, “peace.”
13 And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.
14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.
“Shake off the dust of your feet” – a symbolic act practiced by the Pharisees when they left an “unclean’ Gentile area. Here it represented an act of solemn warning to those who rejecte4d God’s message (cf. Acts 18:6).
15 Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.
16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
Cf. Paul’s statement in Rom 16:19: “I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.”
17 But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;
“Councils” – the lower courts/municipal/misdemeanors, connected with local synagogues that tried less serious cases and flogged those found guilty.
“Synagogues” –a very important religious institution among the Jews of that day. Originating during the exile, it provided a place where Jews could study the Scriptures and worship God. A synagogue could be established in any to0wn where there were at least ten married Jewish men.
18 And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.
19 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.
“Take no thought how or what you shall speak” – not to be used by preachers as an excuse for lack of sermon preparation, see Lk 21:14-15.
20 For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
21 And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.
22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
“He that endureth to the end shall be saved” – such perseverance is a sure indication of salvation (see Rev 22:14-15; cf. Heb 3:14, 6:11-12, 10:36).
23 But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man become.
Jesus’ saying here is probably best understood as referring to His coming in judgment on the Jews when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in 70 A.D.
24 The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.
25 It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?
“Beelzebub” – Satan, the ruler of demons.
26 Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.
27 What I tell you in darkness that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.
28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
“Soul” – the true self. Body and soul are closely related in this life but are separated at death and then reunited as the resurrection (cf. 2 Cor 5:1-10; Phil 1:23-24).
“Fear him” – God. He alone determines the final destiny of us all.
“Hell” – see 5:22.
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
31 Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.
32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.
33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
At first glance this saying sounds like a contradiction of Is 9:6 (”Prince of Peace”), Lk 2:14 (“on earth peace among men”) and Jn 14:27 (“Peace I leave with you”).
It is true that Christ came to bring peace – peace between the believer and God, and peace among men. Yet the inevitable result of Christ’s coming is conflict – between Christ and the antichrist, between light and darkness, between Christ’s children and the Devil’s children. This conflict can occur even between members of the same family.
35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
“His cross” – the first mention of the cross is Matthew’s Gospel. The cross was an instrument of death and here symbolizes the necessity of total commitment – even unto death – on the part of Jesus’ disciples.
39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
40 He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.
10:40-42 – during times of persecution, hospitality was especially important and could be dangerous. So Jesus indicates that those who provide it and show kindness to God’s people will receive a reward.
41 He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.
42 And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.
The Zealots and the Essenes
The Zealots were radical Jews who sought the violent overthrow of the Roman regime in Judea under the rallying cry “No king but God!” They came to prominence during the Jewish revolt against Rome in 66-73 A.D., but the roots of violent rebellion stretch back much further.
While scholars debate whether there was a continuous, organized movement of insurrection throughout the 1st century A.D., it is at least interesting to note that some of the leaders of the uprising in 66 A.D. were direct descendants of men who had fought against Rome during the 1st century B.C.
When Jesus advocated nonviolent resistance to enemies, he may have been directly opposing this kind of armed revolution.
The Essenes were another protest group in early Judaism. This faction most likely grew out of mid-2nd century B.C. reform movements that arose during the Maccabean revolt. By the 1st century A.D. the Essenes were a significant force for renewal in Judaism.
Like the Pharisees, they were concerned with purity and called for a strict adherence to the Law, although the two groups agreed with the Pharisees on particular points of interpretation and practice.
The Essenes were noted for their ascetic tendencies, their nonparticipation in temple worship and their desire to isolate themselves in tight-knit communities.
…the Roman Empire.