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And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples ... - This account of sending the apostles forth is recorded also in Mark 6:7-11, and Luke 9:1-6. Mark says that he sent them out two and two. This was a kind arrangement, that each one might have a companion, and that thus they might visit more places and accomplish more labor than if they were all together. These twelve were the original number of apostles. The word “apostle” means one that is “sent,” and was given to them because they were “sent forth” to preach the gospel. They were ambassadors of Christ. To this number Matthias was afterward added, to supply the place of Judas Acts 1:26, and Paul was specially called to be an apostle to the Gentiles, Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 15:8-9; Galatians 1:1. In all, therefore, there were 14 apostles.
In selecting “twelve” at first, it is probable that the Saviour was somewhat guided by the number of the tribes of Israel. Twelve was, with them, a well-known number, and it was natural that he should select one for every tribe. Their office was clearly made known. They were to heal the sick, cast out devils, raise the dead, preach the gospel. They were to be with him to receive his instructions, to learn the nature of his religion, be witnesses to his resurrection, and then to bear his gospel around the globe. The number twelve was the best number for these purposes that could be selected. It was sufficiently “large” to answer the purpose of testimony, and it was “so small” as not to tend to disorder, or that they could easily be divided into parties or factions. They were not learned men, and could not be supposed to spread their religion by art or talents. They were not men of wealth, and could not bribe men to follow them. They were not men of rank and office, and could not compel people to believe. They were just such men as are always found the best witnesses in courts of justice - plain men, of good sense, of fair character, of great honesty, and with favorable opportunities of ascertaining the facts to which they bore witness. Such men everybody believes, and especially when they are willing to lay down their lives to prove their sincerity.
It was important that the Saviour should choose them early in his ministry, in order that they might be fully acquainted with him; might treasure up his instructions, and observe his manner of life and his person, so that, by having been long acquainted with him, they might be able to testify to his identity and be competent witnesses of his resurrection. No witnesses were ever so well qualified to give testimony as they, and none ever gave so much evidence of their sincerity as they did. See Acts 1:21-22.
Now the names of the twelve apostles - The account of their being called is more fully given in Mark 3:13-18, and Luke 6:12-19. Each of those evangelists has recorded the circumstances of their appointment. They agree in saying it was done on a mountain; and, according to Luke, it was done before the sermon on the mount was delivered, perhaps on the same mountain, near Capernaum. Luke adds that the night previous had been spent “in prayer” to God. See the notes at Luke 6:12.
Simon, who is called Peter - The word “Peter” means a rock. He was also called Cephas, Joh 1:42; 1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:22; 1 Corinthians 15:5; Galatians 2:9. This was a Syro-Chaldaic word signifying the same as Peter. This name was given probably in reference to the “resoluteness and firmness” which he was to exhibit in preaching the gospel. Before the Saviour’s death he was rash, impetuous, and unstable. Afterward, as all history affirms, he was firm, zealous, steadfast, and immovable. The tradition is that he was at last crucified at Rome with his head downward, thinking it too great an honor to die as his Master did. See the notes at John 21:18. There is no certain proof, however, that this occurred at Rome, and no absolute knowledge as to the place where he died.
James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother - This James was killed by Herod in a persecution, Acts 12:2. The other James, the son of Alpheus, was stationed at Jerusalem, and was the author of the epistle that bears his name. See Galatians 1:19; Galatians 2:9; Acts 15:13. A James is mentioned Galatians 1:19 as “the Lord’s brother.” It has not been easy to ascertain why he was thus called. He is here called the son of “Alpheus,” that is, of Cleophas, John 19:25. Alpheus and Cleophas were but different ways of writing and pronouncing the same name. This Mary, called the mother of James and Joses, is called the wife of Cleophas, John 19:25.
Philip and Bartholomew - These two were probably sent out together. Philip was a native of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. He is not the same as Philip the evangelist, mentioned in Acts 6:5; Acts 21:8. Bartholomew (literally, “the son of Tolmai”).
Thomas - Literally, “a twin,” in reference to which he is also called “Didymus,” John 11:16. For his character, see the notes at John 20:25. “And Matthew the publican.” See the notes at Matthew 9:9. “James the son of Alpheus.” See the note above.
And Lebbeus, called Thaddeus - These two words have the same signification in Hebrew. Luke calls him “Judas,” by a slight change from the name “Thaddeus.” Such changes are common in all writings.
Simon the Canaanite - Luke calls him “Simon Zelotes,” the zealous. It is probable that he was one of a small sect of the Jews called “Zealots,” on account of special zeal in religion. His native place was probably “Cana.” Afterward he might with propriety be called by either title.
Judas Iscariot - It is probable this name was given to him to designate his native place. Carioth was a small town in the tribe of Judah.
Into the way of the Gentiles - That is, among the Gentiles, or nowhere but among the Jews. The full time for preaching the gospel to the Gentiles was not come. It was proper that it should be first preached to the Jews, the ancient covenant people of God, and the people among whom the Messiah was born. Afterward he gave them a charge to go into all the world, Matthew 28:19.
And into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not - The Samaritans occupied the country formerly belonging to the tribe of Ephraim and the half-tribe of Manasseh. This region was situated between Jerusalem and Galilee; so that in passing from the one to the other, it was a direct course to pass through Samaria. The capital of the country was Samaria, formerly a large and splendid city. It was situated about 15 miles to the northwest of the city of Shechem or Sychar (see the notes at John 4:5), and about 40 miles to the north of Jerusalem. For a description of this city, see the notes at Isaiah 28:1. Sychar or Shechem was also a city within the limits of Samaria.
This people was formerly composed of a few of the ten tribes and a mixture of foreigners. When the ten tribes were carried away into captivity to Babylon, the King of Assyria sent people from Cutha, Ava, Hamath, and Sepharvaim to inhabit their country, 2 Kings 17:24; Ezra 4:2-11. These people at first worshipped the idols of their own nations; but, being troubled with lions, which had increased greatly while the country remained uninhabited, they supposed it was because they had not honored the God of the country. A Jewish priest was therefore sent to them from Babylon to instruct them in the Jewish religion. They were instructed partially from the books of Moses, but still retained many of their old rites and idolatrous customs, and embraced a religion made up of Judaism and idolatry, 2 Kings 17:26-28.
The grounds of difference between the two nations were the following:
1. The Jews, after their return from Babylon, set about rebuilding their temple. The Samaritans offered to aid them. The Jews, however, perceiving that it was not from a love of true religion, but that they might obtain a part of the favors granted to the Jews by Cyrus, rejected their offer. The consequence was, that a stare of long and bitter animosity arose between them and the Jews.
2. While Nehemiah was engaged in building the walls of Jerusalem, the Samaritans used every art to thwart him in his undertaking, Nehemiah 6:1-14.
3. The Samaritans at length obtained leave of the Persian monarch to build a temple for themselves. This was erected on “Mount Gerizim,” and they strenuously contended that that was the place designated by Moses as the place where the nation should worship. Sanballat, the leader of the Samaritans, constituted his son-in-law, Manasses, high priest. The religion of the Samaritans thus became perpetuated, and an irreconcilable hatred arose between them and the Jews. See the notes at John 4:20.
4. Afterward Samaria became a place of resort for all the outlaws of Judea. They received willingly all the Jewish criminals and refugees from justice. The violators of the Jewish laws, and those who had been excommunicated, betook themselves for safety to Samaria, and greatly increased their numbers and the hatred which subsisted between the two nations.
5. The Samaritans received only the five books of Moses, and rejected the writings of the prophets and all the Jewish traditions. From these causes arose an irreconcilable difference between them, so that the Jews regarded them as the worst of the human race John 8:48, and had no dealings with them, John 4:9.
Our Saviour, however, preached the gospel to them afterward John 4:6-26, and the apostles imitated his example, Acts 8:25. The gospel was, however, first preached to the Jews.
But go rather to the lost sheep ... - That is, to the Jews. He regarded them as wandering and lost, like sheep straying without a shepherd. They had been the chosen people of God; they had long looked for the Messiah; and it was proper that the gospel should be first offered to them.
The kingdom of heaven is at hand - Or, more literally, the “reign” of heaven, or of God, draws near. See the notes at Matthew 3:2.
Freely ye have received, freely give - That is, they were not to sell their favors of healing, preaching, etc. They were not to make a money-making business of it, to bargain specifically to heal for so much, and to cast out devils for so much. This, however, neither then nor afterward precluded them from receiving a competent support. See Luke 10:7; 1Co 9:8-14; 1 Timothy 5:18.
See also Mark 6:8-11, and Luke 9:3-5. In both these places the substance of this account is given, though not so particularly as in Matthew. The general subject is the instructions given to the apostles.
Provide neither gold nor silver, nor brass - This prohibition of gold, silver, and brass is designed to prevent their providing money for their journey.
Pieces of money of “small value” were made of brass.
In your purses - Literally, in your girdles (belts). See the notes at Matthew 5:38-41. A “girdle” or “sash” was an indispensable part of the dress. This girdle was made “hollow,” and answered the purpose of a purse. It was convenient, easily borne, and safe.
Nor scrip - That is, knapsack.
This was made of skin or coarse cloth, to carry provisions in. It was commonly hung around the neck.
Neither two coats - See the notes at Matthew 5:40.
Neither shoes - The original is the word commonly rendered sandals. See the notes at Matthew 3:11.
Mark says, in recording this discourse, “but be shod with sandals.” Between him and Matthew there is an apparent contradiction, but there is really no difference. According to Matthew, Jesus does not forbid their “wearing” the sandals which they probably had on, but only forbids their “supplying themselves with more,” or with “superfluous ones.” Instead of making provision for their feet when their “present” shoes were worn out, they were to trust to Providence to be supplied, and “go as they were.” The meaning of the two evangelists may be thus expressed: “Do not procure anything more for your journey than you have on. Go as you are, shod with sandals, without making any more preparation.”
Nor yet staves - In the margin, in all the ancient versions, and in the common Greek text, this is in the singular number - “nor yet” a staff. But Mark says that they might have a “staff:” “Jesus commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only.” To many this would appear to be a contradiction. Yet the “spirit” of the instruction, the main thing that the writers aim at, is the same. That was, that they were “to go just as they were, to trust to Providence, and not to spend any time in making preparation for their journey. Some of them, probably, when he addressed them, “had staves,” and some had not. To those who “had,” he did not say that they should throw them away, as the instructions he was giving them might seem to require, but he suffered them to take them (Mark). To those who had not, he said they should not spend time in procuring them (Matthew), but “they were all to go just as they were.”
The workman is worthy of his meat - This implies that they were to expect a proper supply for their needs from those who were benefited. They were not to make “bargain and sale” of the power of working miracles, but they were to expect competent support from preaching the gospel, and that not merely as a gift, but because they were “worthy” of it, and had a right to it.
Who in it is worthy - That is, who in it sustains such a character that he will be disposed to show you hospitality and to treat you kindly.
This shows that they were not needlessly to throw themselves in the way of insult.
And there abide - There remain; as Luke adds, “Go not from house to house.” They were to content themselves with one house; not to wander about in the manner of vagrants and mendicants; not to appear to be people of idleness and fond of change; not to seem dissatisfied with the hospitality of the people; but to show that they had regular, important business; that they valued their time; that they were disposed to give themselves to labor, and were intent only on the business for which he had sent them. If ministers of the gospel are useful, it will be by not spending their time in idle chit-chat, and wandering around as if they had nothing to do, but in an honest and laborious improvement of their time in study, in prayer, in preaching, and in visiting their people.
And when ye come into a house, salute it - The word “house” here evidently means “family,” as it does in the following verse.
See also Matthew 12:25, and John 4:53; “And himself believed and his whole house.” The apostles were directed to salute the family - to show them the customary tokens of respect, and to treat them with civility. Religion never requires or permits its friends to outrage the common rules of social contact. It demands of them to exhibit to all the customary and proper tokens of respect, according to their age and station, 1 Peter 2:12-25; 1 Peter 3:8-11; Philippians 4:8. For the mode of salutation, see the notes at Luke 10:4-5.
If the house be worthy - That is, if the “family” be worthy, or be willing to receive you as my disciples.
Let your peace come upon it - That is, let the peace or happiness which you seek or for which you pray in saluting it (see Luke 10:5), come upon it; or seek their peace and happiness by prayer, instruction, by remaining with them, and imparting to them the blessings of the gospel.
But if it be not worthy ... - If the family be unwilling to receive you; if they show themselves unfriendly to you and your message.
Let your peace return to you - This is a Hebrew mode of saying that your peace shall not come upon it, Psalms 35:13. It is a mode of speaking derived from bestowing a gift. If people were willing to receive it, they derived the benefit from it; if not, then of course the present came back or remained in the hand of the giver. So Christ figuratively speaks of the peace which their labor would confer. If received kindly and hospitably by the people, they would confer on them most valuable blessings. If rejected and persecuted, the blessings which they sought for others would come upon themselves. they would reap the benefit of being cast out and persecuted for their Master’s sake, Matthew 5:10.
Shake off the dust of your feet - The Jews taught uniformly that the dust of the Gentiles was impure, and was to be shaken off.
To shake off the dust from the feet, therefore, was a significant act, denoting that they regarded them as impure, profane, and paganish, and that they declined any further connection with them. It is recorded that this was actually done by some of the apostles. See Acts 13:51; Acts 18:6.
It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom ... - The cities here mentioned, together with Admah and Zeboim, were destroyed by fire and brimstone on account of their great wickedness.
They occupied the place afterward covered by the Dead Sea, bounding Palestine on the southeast, Genesis 19:24-25. Christ said that their punishment will be more “tolerable” - that is, more easily borne - than that of the people who reject his gospel. The reason is, that they were not favored with so much light and instruction. See Matthew 11:23-24; Luke 12:47-48. Sodom and Gomorrah are often referred to as signal instances of divine vengeance, and as sure proofs that the wicked shall not go unpunished. See 2 Peter 2:6; Jude 1:7.
As sheep in the midst of wolves - That is, I send you, inoffensive and harmless, into a cold, unfriendly, and cruel world. Your innocence will not be a protection.
Be wise as serpents ... - Serpents have always been an emblem of wisdom and cunning, Genesis 3:1. The Egyptians used the serpent in their hieroglyphics as a symbol of wisdom. Probably the thing in which Christ directed his followers to imitate the serpent was in its caution in avoiding danger. No animal equals them in the rapidity and skill which they evince in escaping danger. So said Christ to his disciples, You need caution and wisdom in the midst of a world that will seek your lives. He directs them, also, to be harmless, not to provoke danger, not to do injury, and thus make their fellow-men justly enraged against them. Doves are, and always have been, a striking emblem of innocence. Most people would foolishly destroy a serpent, be it ever so harmless, yet few are so hard-hearted as to kill a dove.
But beware of men - That is, be on your guard against people who are like wolves, Matthew 10:16. Do not run unnecessarily into danger. Use suitable prudence and caution, and do not needlessly endanger your lives.
Councils - The word used here commonly signifies the great council of the nation, the Sanhedrin. See the notes at Matthew 5:22. Here it seems to refer to any judicial tribunal, of which there were some in every village.
They will scourge you in their synagogues - Scourging, or “whipping,” is often mentioned in the New Testament as a mode of punishment. The law of Moses directed that the number of stripes should not exceed 40, but might be any number less, at the discretion of the judge, Deuteronomy 25:2-3. The person who was sentenced to scourging was formerly laid upon the ground, and the blows inflicted on his back in the presence of the judge. In later times the criminal was tied to a low post. Scourging is still practiced in the East, but the blows are commonly inflicted on the soles of the feet. It is called the “bastinado.”
The instrument formerly used was a “rod.” Afterward they employed thongs or lashes attached to the rod. To make the blows severe and more painful, they sometimes fastened sharp points of iron or pieces of lead in the thongs. These were called “scorpions,” 1 Kings 12:11. The law was express that the number of stripes should not exceed forty. The Jews, to secure greater accuracy in counting, used a scourge with three lashes, which inflicted three stripes at once. With this the criminal was struck thirteen times, making the number of blows thirty-nine. Paul was five times scourged in this way. See 2 Corinthians 11:24.
The Romans did not feel themselves bound by the law of the Jews in regard to the “number” of stripes, but inflicted them at pleasure. Thus our Saviour was scourged until he was so weak as not to be able to bear his cross. This was often done in the synagogue. See Matthew 23:34; Acts 22:19; Acts 26:11.
And ye shall be brought ... - This prediction was completely and abundantly fulfilled, Acts 5:26; Acts 12:1-4; Acts 23:33; Acts 26:1, Acts 26:28, Acts 26:30. Peter is said to have been brought before Nero, and John before Domitian, Roman emperors; and others before Parthian, Scythian, and Indian kings. They were to stand there to bear a testimony against them; or, as it might be rendered, to them. That is, they were to be “witnesses to them” of the great facts and doctrines of the Christian religion; and if they rejected Christianity, they would be witnesses “against” them in the day of judgment. The fulfillment of this prophecy is a signal evidence that Christ possessed a knowledge of the future. Few things were more improbable when this was uttered than that the fishermen of Galilee would stand before the illustrious and mighty monarchs of the East and the West.
Take no thought - That is, be not anxious or unduly solicitous. See the notes at Matthew 6:25. This was a full promise that they should be inspired, and was a most seasonable consolation. Poor, and ignorant, and obscure fishermen would naturally be solicitous what they should say before the great men of the earth. Eastern people regarded kings as raised far above common mortals - as approaching to divinity. How consoling, then, the assurance that God would aid them and speak within them!
And the brother shall deliver up the brother ... - Were there no evidence that this had been done, it would scarcely be “credible.” The ties which bind brothers and sisters, and parents and children together, are so strong that it could scarcely be believed that division of sentiment on religious subjects would cause them to forget these tender relations. Yet history assures us that this has been often done. If this be so, then how inexpressibly awful must be the malignity of the human heart by nature against religion! Nothing else but this dreadful opposition to God and his gospel ever has induced or ever can induce people to violate the most tender relations, and consign the best friends to torture, racks, and flames. It adds to the horrors of this, that those who were put to death in persecution were tormented in the most awful modes that human ingenuity could devise. They were crucified; were thrown into boiling oil; were burned at the stake; were roasted slowly over coals; were compelled to drink melted lead; were torn in pieces by beasts of prey; were covered with pitch and set on fire. Yet, dreadful as this prediction was, it was fulfilled; and, incredible as it seems, parents and children, husbands and wives, were found wicked enough to deliver up each other to these cruel modes of death on account of attachment to the gospel. Such is the opposition of the heart of man to the gospel! That hostility which will overcome the strong ties of natural affection, and which will be satisfied with nothing else to show its power, can be no slight opposition to the gospel of God.
Ye shall be hated of all men - That is, of all kinds of people. The human heart would be opposed to them, because it is opposed to Christ.
But he that endureth to the end ... - That is, to the end of life, be it longer or shorter. He that bears all these unspeakable sufferings, and who does not shrink and apostatize, will give decisive evidence of attachment to me, and shall enter into heaven. See Revelation 3:21-22.
When they persecute ... - The apostles were not permitted to “throw away” their lives. Where they could preserve them without denying their Lord, they were to do it. Yet all the commands of Christ, as well as their conduct, show that they were rather to lay down their lives than deny their Saviour. We are to preserve our lives by all proper means, but we are rather to die than save ourselves by doing anything wrong.
Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel ... - That is, in fleeing from persecutors from one city to another, you shall not have gone to every city in Judea until the end of the Jewish economy shall occur. See the notes at Matthew 24:28-30. By “the coming of the Son of Man,” that is, of “Christ,” is probably meant the destruction of Jerusalem, which happened about thirty years after this was spoken. The words are often used in this sense. See Matthew 24:30; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27, Luke 21:32.
The disciple is not above his master ... - That is, you must expect the same treatment which I have received. They have called me, your Master and Teacher, Beelzebub, the prince of the devils (see Matthew 12:24; Luke 11:15; John 8:48), and you must expect that they will call all of the family by the same name. “Beelzebub” was a god of the Ekronites. See 2 Kings 1:2. The word literally means “the god of flies,” so called because this idol was supposed to protect them from the numerous swarms of flies with which that country abounded. The correct reading here, as in Luke 11:15, Luke 11:18-19; Mark 3:22, is supposed to be, not “Beelzebub,” but “Beelzebul” (Griesbach, Hahn, Robinson, Lexicon) an Aramean form of the word meaning the “god of dung” or “filth.” The name, thus altered by the Jews by changing a single letter, was given to Satan to express supreme contempt and aversion. The Jews seem to have first given to Satan the name of a pagan god, and then, to express their sense of the character of Satan, to have changed that name by altering a single letter so as to express their aversion in the most emphatic manner. By giving the name to Christ, they poured upon him the greatest possible abuse and contempt.
Fear them not ... - He encouraged them by the assurance that God would protect them. and that their truth and innocence should yet be vindicated. It is probable that the declaration, There is nothing covered, etc., was a proverb among the Jews. By it our Saviour meant that their “innocence,” their “principles,” and their “integrity,” though then the world might not acknowledge them, in due time would be revealed, or God would vindicate them and the world would do them justice. They were, then, to be willing to be unknown, despised, persecuted for a time, with the assurance that their true characters would yet be understood and their sufferings appreciated.
What I say to you in darkness ... - That is, in “secret,” in “private,” in “confidence. The private instructions which I give you while with me do you proclaim publicly, on the “house-top.” The “house-top,” the flat roof, was a public, conspicuous place. See 2 Samuel 16:22. See also the notes at Matthew 9:1-8.
Them which kill the body - That is, people, who have no power to injure the soul, the immortal part. The body is a small matter in comparison with the soul. Temporal death is a slight thing compared with eternal death. He directs them, therefore, not to be alarmed at the prospect of temporal death, but to fear God, who can destroy both soul and body forever. This passage proves that the bodies of the wicked will be raised up to be punished forever.
In hell - See the notes at Matthew 5:22.
Are not two sparrows ... - He encourages them not to fear by two striking considerations: first, that God takes care of sparrows, the smallest and least valuable of birds; and, secondly, by the fact that God numbers even the hairs of the head. The argument is, that if He takes care of birds of the least value, if He regards so small a thing as the hair of the head, and numbers it, He will certainly protect and provide for you. You need not, therefore, fear what man can do to you.
Sparrows - The sparrows are well-known birds in Syria. They are small; they are found in great numbers; they are tame, intrusive, and nestle everywhere. “They are extremely pertinacious in asserting their right of possession, and have not the least reverence for any place or thing. David alludes to these characteristics of the sparrow in Psalms 84:1-12, when he complains that they had appropriated even the altars of God for their nests. Concerning himself, he says, I watch, and am as a sparrow upon the housetop, Psalms 102:7. When one of them has lost its mate - a matter of everyday occurrence - he will sit on the housetop alone, and lament by the hour his sad bereavement. These birds are snared and caught in great numbers, but, as they are small, and not much relished for food, five sparrows may still be sold for two farthings; and when we see their countless numbers, and the eagerness with which they are destroyed as a worthless nuisance, we can better appreciate the assurance that our heavenly Father, who takes care of them, so that not one can fall to the ground without his notice, will surely take care of us, who are of more value than many sparrows.” - “The Land and the Book” (Thomson), vol. i. pp. 52, 53.
Farthing - See the notes at Matthew 5:26.
Without your Father - That is, God, your Father, guides and directs its fall. It falls only with His permission, and where He chooses.
The very hairs of your head are all numbered - That is, each one has exercised the care and attention of God.
He has fixed the number; and, though of small importance, yet he does not think it beneath him to determine how few or how many they shall be. He will therefore take care of you.
Whosoever therefore shall confess me ... - The same word in the original is translated “confess” and “profess,” 1 Timothy 6:12-13; 2 John 1:7; Romans 10:10. It means to acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ, and our dependence on him for salvation, and our attachment to him, in every proper manner. This profession may be made in uniting with a church, at the communion, in conversation, and in conduct. The Scriptures mean, by a profession of religion, an exhibition of it in every circumstance of the life and before all people. It is not merely in one act that we must do it, but in every act. We must be ashamed neither of the person, the character, the doctrines, nor the requirements of Christ. If we are; if we deny him in these things before people; if we are unwilling to express our attachment to him in every way possible, then it is right that he should “disown all connection with us,” or deny us before God, and he will do it.
Think not that I am come ... - This is taken from Micah 7:6. Christ did not here mean to say that the object of his coming was to produce discord and contention, for he was the Prince of Peace, Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 11:6; Luke 2:14; but he means to say that such would be one of the effects of his coming. One part of a family that was opposed to Him would set themselves against those who believed in him. The wickedness of men, and not the religion of the gospel, is the cause of this hostility. It is unnecessary to say that no prophecy has been more strikingly fulfilled; and it will continue to be fulfilled until all unite in obeying his commandments. Then his religion will produce universal peace. Compare the notes at Matthew 10:21.
But a sword - The sword is an instrument of death, and to send a sword is the same as to produce hostility and war.
He that loveth father or mother ... - The meaning of this is clear. Christ must be loved supremely, or he is not loved at all. If we are not willing to give up all earthly possessions, and forsake all earthly friends, and if we do not obey him rather than all others, we have no true attachment to him.
Is not worthy of me - Is not appropriate to be regarded as a follower of me, or is not a Christian.
And he that taketh not his cross ... - When persons were condemned to be crucified, a part of the sentence was that they should carry the cross on which they were to die to the place of execution. Thus, Christ carried his, until he fainted from fatigue and exhaustion. See notes at Matthew 27:31. The cross was usually composed of two rough beams of wood, united in the form of this figure of a cross It was an instrument of death. See the notes at Matthew 27:31-32. To carry it was burdensome, was disgraceful, was trying to the feelings, was an addition to the punishment. So “to carry the cross” is a figurative expression, denoting that we must endure whatever is burdensome, or is trying, or is considered disgraceful, in following Christ. It consists simply in doing our duty, let the people of the world think of it or speak of it as they may. It does not consist in making trouble for ourselves, or doing things merely “to be opposed;” it is doing just what is required of us in the Scriptures, let it produce whatever shame, disgrace, or pain it may. This every follower of Jesus is required to do.
He that findeth his life ... - The word “life” in this passage is used evidently in two senses. The meaning may be expressed thus: He that is anxious to save his “temporal” life, or his comfort and security here, shall lose “eternal” life, or shall fail of heaven. He that is willing to risk or lose his comfort and “life” here for my sake, shall find “life” everlasting, or shall be saved. The manner of speaking is similar to that where he said, “Let the dead bury their dead.” See notes at Matthew 8:22.
He that receiveth you ... - In all these three illustrations Christ meant to teach substantially the same thing - that he that would entertain kindly or treat with hospitality himself, his disciples, a prophet, or a righteous man, would show that he approved their character, and should not fail of proper reward. To receive in the “name” of a prophet is to receive “as” a prophet; to do proper honour to his character, and to evince attachment to the cause in which he was engaged.
These little ones - By “these little ones” are clearly meant his disciples.
They are called “little ones” to denote their want of wealth, rank, learning, and whatever the world calls “great.” They were “little” in the estimation of the world and in their own estimation. They were “learners,” not yet “teachers;” and they made no pretensions to what attracts the admiration of mankind.
A cup of cold” water “only - Few would refuse a cup of cold water to any man, if thirsty and weary, and yet not all people would give it to such a one “because he was a Christian,” or to express attachment to the Lord Jesus. In bestowing it on a man “because he was a Christian,” he would show love to the Saviour himself; in the other case he would give it from mere sympathy or kindness, evincing no regard for the Christian, the Christian’s Master, or his cause. In one case he would show that he loved the cause of religion; in the other case, he would not.
1. From the narrative in this chapter, in connection with that in Luke, we are permitted to see the Saviour’s habits in regard to prayer. An important event was before him; an event on which, humanly speaking, depended the whole success of his religion - the choice of those who should be his messengers to mankind. He felt its importance; and even the Son of God sought the place of prayer, and during the nightwatches asked the direction of his Father. His example shows that we, in great and trying circumstances, should seek particularly the direction of God.
2. We see the benevolence of the gospel, Matthew 10:7-8. The apostles were to confer the highest favors on mankind without reward. Like air, and sunbeams, and water - gifts of God - they are without price. The poor are welcome; the rich, unaided by their wealth, are welcome also; the wide world may freely come and partake the rich blessings or the gospel of peace.
3. Ministers of the gospel, and all the followers of Jesus, should depend on the providence of God for support and the supply of their wants, Matthew 10:9-10. He sent his apostles into a cold, unfriendly world, and he took care of them. So none that trust Him shall lack. The righteous shall not be forsaken. The God who has in His hand all the pearls of the ocean, the gold in the heart of the earth, and the cattle on a thousand hills, and that feeds the raven when it cries, will hear the cries of His children and supply their needs.
4. We see the duty of treating kindly the messengers of salvation, Matthew 10:11-13. Christ expected that in every city and town they would find some who would welcome them. He promised the reward of a prophet to those who should receive a prophet, and assured those of his favor who had nothing better to bestow than even a cup of cold water. The ministers of religion are sent to benefit the world. It is but right that in that world they should be kindly received, and that their wants should be supplied.
5. The guilt of rejecting the gospel, Matthew 10:14-15. It is not a small matter to reject an offer of heaven. A palace, a throne, a rich earthly inheritance, might be rejected, and, compared with rejecting the gospel, it would be a trifle. But life eternal is not like thrones, and gold, and palaces. This lost, all is lost. The gospel rejected, all is gone. Nor hope nor happiness awaits him that hath spurned this offer. God requires everyone to believe the gospel; and woe, woe, a greater woe than befell guilty Sodom and Gomorrah, to him who rejects it.
6. Judgment will certainly overtake the guilty, Matthew 10:15. It fell upon Sodom, and it will fall on all transgressors. None shall escape. Damnation may slumber long over the wicked, and they may long mock the God of truth, but in due time their feet will slide, and the whole creation shall not be able to save them from woe. How dangerous, how awful is the condition of an impenitent sinner!
7. We are to take proper care of our lives, Matthew 10:23. The apostles were to flee from danger, when they could do it without denying their Lord. So are we. He that throws away his life when it might have been, and ought to have been preserved, is a self-murderer. He that exposes himself when duty does not require it, and whose life pays the forfeit, goes before God “rushing unbidden into his Maker’s presence,” nor can he be held guiltless.
8. We are to persevere “in our duty” through all trials, Matthew 10:23. Neither the world, nor pain, nor poverty, nor persecution. nor death is to appal us. He that endures to the end shall be saved. We have but one thing to do - to do the will of God, to “be Christians everywhere,” and to leave the event with him.
9. God exercises a particular providence, Matthew 10:29-30. He watches the falling sparrow, numbers the hairs of the head, and for the same reason he presides over all other things. The Lord reigneth, says the Psalmist, let the earth rejoice, Psalms 97:1.
10. The duty of making a profession of religion, Matthew 10:32-33. It must be done in a proper way, or Christ will disown us in the day of judgment. It is impossible to neglect it, and have evidence of piety. If ashamed of him, he will be ashamed of us.
11. Religion is easy, and easily tested, Matthew 10:40-42. What more easy than to give a cup of water to a stranger, and what more easy than to know from what motive we do it! Yet how many are there who, while they would do the thing, would yet “lose eternal life” rather than do it with a view of honoring Christ or showing attachment to him! How dreadful is the opposition of the human heart to religion! How amazing that man will not do the slightest act to secure an interest in the kingdom of God!
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 10". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter