The Limited Commission
Jesus said, "Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 10:5-6). Jesus made these remarks to His disciples immediately after naming them to be apostles (verse 2). A disciple is a learner andfollower. An apostle is one sent forth. They were not merely to learn, but were sent out with the message of the gospel.
The Limited Commission — This has been identified as the limited commission because of its contrast with the great commission in Matthew 28:18-20. The great commission was to all nations. However in this commission, Jesus said, "Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans." They were limited to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Luke tells us that there were actually two phases of the limited commission. This first one as recorded in Matthew 10 and Luke 9. Then there was a second phase in which He appointed "seventy others, and sent them two by two" (Luke 10:1).
The Lost Sheep — Over six hundred years before the coming of Christ, Jeremiah, the prophet said, "My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray; They have turned them away on the mountains. They have gone from mountain to hill; They have forgotten their resting place. All who found them have devoured them; And their adversaries said, ‘We have not offended, Because they have sinned against the Lord, the habitation of justice, The Lord, the hope of their fathers’" (50:6-7). In that great dissertation on the suffering servant, Isaiah said, "All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (53:6). Just before sending the twelve on this adventure, "He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd" (Matthew 9:36). When left to himself and his own devices, man will not rise to the height of glory, but will sink to the depths of despair. That is why Jesus is the shepherd (John 10:11, 14).
The House of Israel — Initially the gospel was preached to the Jews. Jesus told the Canaanite woman, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 15:24). Even on the day of Pentecost, there were "in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation" (Acts 2:5). However John tells us, "He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him" (John 1:11). However, there is hope. "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God" (verse 12). Paul said that we become children of God by faith when we are "baptized into Christ" (Galatians 3:26-27). "And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise" (verse 29). In that way, all of us may become part of spiritual house of Israel.