One might ask why the Gentiles or Samaritans were not to be taught. To answer this we must understand that Jesus is asking his students to teach a particular message to a particular people. It is not as if Jesus’ mercy and teachings are not to be spread to anyone and everyone. Rather, this is a testament to the fact that particular messages are given at particular times to particular people.
For example, a college professor would have an altogether different set of instructions for a college class than a kindergarten teacher would have for a class of kindergartners. The two teachers have the same goal in mind - to teach the children. But their methods and content will be tailored to the age, maturity and education level of the students.
In the time of Jesus, the Jewish people had access to a collection of knowledge that had been handed down from the great prophets such as Abraham and Moses. As such, teaching specifically to that segment of society had to be altogether different than the teachings Jesus had for Gentiles and Samaritans who had not studied these scriptures or teachings. This is not to say that Jesus did not teach to the Gentiles and Samaritans - he certainly did, as evidenced in other verses.
As for the specific instructions he gave them to teach the Jewish people, “The kingdom of heaven is near;” this statement has been blatantly misinterpreted for centuries by ecclesiastic and sectarian organizations seeking to create a false sense of urgency to gain followers. They have been trying to utilize this statement to scare people into coming into their church or sect by teaching that this means the end of the world is coming. This strategy was part of the Fourth Century' Council of Nicene - organized by the Roman Emperor Constantine to bring the Christian world under his control. This interpretation has continued, as so many sectarian organizations and their teachers have continued to threaten people into becoming their followers.
In each generation, different “signs” have been used together with various quotes of the books of the Bible to offer proof that the world will end next year or even tomorrow. So many centuries have passed, and still the world has not come to an end. Yet these 'false prophets' are still teaching that the end of the world is coming, and still making these false predictions. At what point will we figure out that this interpretation is wrong? (This commentary lists some of the many ecclesiastical Christian teachers who have wrongly predicted the end of the world.)
The correct interpretation of "The kingdom of heaven is near" is quite different: The Greek word used is ἐγγίζω, which means, according to the Greek lexicon:
1) to bring near, to join one thing to another
2) to draw or come near to, to approach
In other words, Near is not a time element: Near is an element of distance. Near means 'close by.' For each of us, the kingdom of heaven is truly near. It is truly close by. For Israelites who had access to the teachings of Moses, David and other servants of God, we might say the kingdom of heaven was especially near - close by. They simply had to apply those teachings within their hearts. They simply had to realize, as both Jesus and Moses taught, that love for God is the “first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:38)
The kingdom of God is also near (close by) to those of us with access to Jesus' teachings. The kingdom of God is so near that all we have to do is make a decision. We don't have to go anywhere special. We don't have to join any special organization. We don't have to undergo any special ceremony. All we have to do is drop to our knees and ask God directly, by the grace of His loving servant Jesus, to help us re-establish our loving relationship with Him.
Everything is part of God's kingdom. He owns everything and He controls everything. We can thus have a relationship with God in whatever part of His kingdom we may reside. The "kingdom" that Jesus is referring to is the consciousness where we are devoted to God. It is the place where we are thinking of God, and wanting to please God and do His will.
We can also refer to this "kingdom" as the spiritual world, because most who have this consciousness of love for God at the time of the death of the body leave the physical dimension and return to the spiritual dimension (resurrection). But even in the spiritual dimension - where we can be in the personal presence of God - the same consciousness (loving service) will still be required in order to exchange a loving relationship with Him.
The physical world is that place where God sends those souls who have rejected Him and become envious of Him. Each of us living in this physical dimension have decided to reject God at some point. This is the symbolism of Adam's eating of the tree of knowledge in the garden of Eden. Adam (like each of us) rejected God's request not to eat of the fruit. What was that fruit? The fruit is self-centered envy - where we wanted to know what it was like to enjoy and be in control like God: ("For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Gen. 3:5).
Just look around. In this section of God’s kingdom - within the gross physical world - most of us wholly disregard God. We got our wish. We now have the illusion of control (over our physical possessions, family or whatever). Indeed, most of us currently seek more control in the form of fame, wealth and a powerful position. We want to be the CEOs, the presidents, the bosses, the movie stars, the rock stars - and so on. We want control and fame. We want to be number one. We are seeking, with different strategies, God's position. This is the manifestation of our enviousness of God, and why we were thrown out of the spiritual dimension.
The epitome of this self-centered envy is the declaration by some - some that even use the teaching of scripture to substantiate their claim - that we are each God. They proclaim that we are God but we forgot, and now they will teach us (if we pay them) to remember we are God. As if God can forget He is God. This is how far away from God some of us in the physical world have come. We want to enjoy the world as though we were God, and bend His scriptures to not only forget Him, but claim to be Him.
So even though we might still be located within a part of God's kingdom - because everything is within God's kingdom - we are in fact not within His personal kingdom when it comes to our consciousness. We are located outside the personal kingdom of love for God, which is the true kingdom of God.
In the kingdom of love for God, the residents are all concerned about God's happiness, and the happiness of His associates and His children. We don't have to imagine such a world, as John Lennon sang. It exists. We simply are not in it because we are self-centered instead of being God-centered.
This is the kingdom that Jesus is referring to as near (close-by). This kingdom is ridiculously "near." It is as near as each of us making a decision to change. It is as near as a simple, heartfelt, and apologetic prayer asking forgiveness and the chance to re-establish our loving relationship with God. It is as near as the ground, where we can place our head and ask God if He will take us back, and teach us to love and serve Him again. Jesus illustrated how to do this:
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will." (Matt. 26:39)
This simple key opens God’s kingdom to us. This is how near His kingdom is.
As for Jesus telling his students to heal the sick, cast out demons, and travel without clothes and money, these are the tools Jesus gave his disciples in order for them to illustrate to others that they can depend upon God. He requested they carry no money or clothes so they would be forced to rely upon God, and show others that God can be relied upon. This is the pure message of Jesus’ instruction: Have complete trust in God and rely upon Him, because He is our Ultimate Savior, and He is truly near.