Matthew 10:5–6—Did Jesus come only for Jews or also for Gentiles?
Problem: Jesus told His disciples to “make disciples of all the nations” (Matt. 28:19), because He had “other sheep ... which are not of this fold” (John 10:16). Even the OT prophets declared that Jesus would be “a light to the Gentiles” (Isa. 49:6). However, Jesus Himself instructed His disciples, “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans” (Matt. 10:5). Later, He affirmed, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24).
Solution: These apparently contradictory commands refer to two different periods. It is true that Jesus’ original mission was to the Jews. But, the Scriptures testify that “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). The official Jewish position was to reject Him as their Messiah and to crucify Him (Matt. 27; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 18).
Therefore, it was after His crucifixion and resurrection that the mission of the disciples was to go to the nations. This was in fulfillment of prophecies about the Gentiles. Thus, the Apostle Paul could tell the Roman Christians that the Gospel was “for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). Because of their rejection of Jesus, the nation of Israel was cut off (Rom. 11:19), but, when the subsequent “fullness of the Gentiles” (11:25) has been completed, then Israel will be grafted in again (11:23, 26). Of course, even though Jesus’ mission was officially to the Jews, He did not neglect Gentiles. He healed the Syro-Phoenician woman’s daughter (Mark 7:24–30). He went out of His way to minister to the woman of Samaria (John 4). He told His disciples of His anticipated work (through them) among the Gentiles (John 10:16), and His Great Commission was to “make disciples of all the nations” (Matt. 28:18–20). But, both in order of priority and time, the message of Christ came first to the Jew and then to the Gentile. The difference, then, between the two sets of verses can be contrasted in this way:
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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.