Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Matthew 10

Verse 4


‘Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.’

Matthew 10:4

There is an awful and fascinating interest about the history of Judas; he stands in such a fearful solitude, his sin is so terribly unique, that the mind is irresistibly drawn to him.

I. Early opportunity.—Called to be an apostle. Separated from the world to be a companion of Christ, and a witness of His work and sufferings. Sharing too in the prayers of Christ (see St. Luke 6:12-13).

II. Growth in evil.—Much of Christ’s teaching must have been given in the presence of Judas—teaching as to greed, covetousness, heaping up riches. This was a part of his discipline. (But see St. John 6:64-71.) Here he is taught that he is seen through; the end is put before him; and he is warned. This is the turning point: he shook off the good, he cherished the evil (St. John 12:1-6). The scene in that house. Mary’s gratitude at the restoration of her brother, and the way she shows it. Judas looking on. His hypocritical pretext. St. John brands it with the indelible mark of truth and shame—‘he was a thief.’

III. The price of a soul.—The supper (St. John 13). The feet-washing. His feet washed by Christ. ‘One of you shall betray me.’ They said, ‘Is it I?’ Judas said, ‘Is it I?’ The sop. Satan entered into him. ‘It was night.’ The compact (St. Matthew 26:14-16). He was now urged on by a maddening impulse. ‘What will ye give me?’ Thirty pieces of silver—about £3. 16s. Absurd, some say, to suppose he really meant to betray Christ for such a sum. That, however, is a very shallow view of human life, for souls fetch in the devil’s market what they are worth, and less than £3. 16s. will sometimes buy us, if we are living far from Christ.

IV. The end.—The betrayal (St. John 18:2-5). Judas knew Gethsemane. Value of his plan to the priests, i.e. a quiet betrayal, avoiding risk of popular tumult. The kiss. Remorse (St. Matthew 27:3-5). The morning had come. Evil deeds before and after commission. But even then had he gone to God to confess his sin, he would not have been turned away. But in remorse, not repentance, he went to man. They turned on him, saying, ‘What is that to us? See thou to that.’ Death (Acts 1:18-25; with St. Matthew 27:5). ‘He went and hanged himself.’ The account in Acts 1:18-25 supplemental to these words. To his ‘own’ place, his own by the acts of a responsible agent, free to reject the good, free to choose the evil. He went to ‘the place’ for which the life had prepared him. And his judgment is with God.

The sentence of the Master upon the life and its work is this, ‘It were better for this man that he had never been born.’

Verse 12


‘And when ye come into an house, salute it.’

Matthew 10:12

In the only Service of our Prayer Book which is provided for private ministration,—if we except Private Baptism, and the communion for the Sick,—the command expressly runs, ‘When any person is sick, notice shall be given thereof to the Minister of the Parish, who coming into the sick person’s house, shall say, Peace be to this house, and to all that dwell in it.’ The Minister is to say it with a humble consciousness and assurance that God’s peace is committed to him. Not that he should feel it only, but that he should impart it. He goes as one who is a medium, who carries an inestimable treasure, which he is authorised and bound to communicate.

Now my message to you is ‘peace.’ Let me unfold to you what that peace means.

I. Peace with God.—the peace which a man feels when his sins are forgiven, and he knows that God is no longer his enemy, but his Friend.

II. Peace through the blood of Jesus Christ. It is the peace which has no fear in it. It is the peace which is above all joy and passeth all understanding. It is the peace which every one wants, and which the believer has. It is the peace which gives a man strength to live, and confidence to die.

III. Peace within,—between a man and himself. His conscience, being sprinkled, is at peace; and the past does not now awake up to torment him; and the man is one,—which he was not before,—but now, with one desire, the whole man is seeking one object,—his heart is single, and singleness of heart is peace.

IV. Peace with the whole world.—The peace with God made a peace within; and the peace within, makes peace without. He is too humble to quarrel; and too little in his own eyes to see wrong in other men. He contemplates God, till he grows like Him; as God is, so is he in this world,—and ‘God is love.’

It is a ‘peace’ unqualified and universal, for all men, in all things, under all circumstances, and for all time. ‘Peace be to this house.’

—The Rev. James Vaughan.

Verse 23


‘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 be come.’

Matthew 10:23

The text is a counsel of prudence. The Gospel is no hare-brained or star-gazing enthusiasm, but a religion sober, healthful, and sensible, taking account of circumstances, discriminating between means and ends, embracing in its view time as well as eternity, the life that now is as well as that which is to come. Such is the counsel of prudence.

I. The reason.—‘For verily I say unto you, ye shall not have gone over,’ or, more literally, ‘ye shall not have finished’ or ‘completed the cities of Israel till the Son of man be come.’ The general idea is plain. Do not court martyrdom; do not make it a point of duty to stay out a local persecution. If one place refuses you, flee to another.

II. What coming of the Son of man is in view?—These disciples were being sent out, it seems, on a sort of experimental mission through a region through which Christ Himself was about to follow them in person. The text might mean that they must be expeditions, or He would overtake them before the business on which they were sent was done. So narrow and prosaic an interpretation will satisfy no one. It might mean that they must press forward on their life-journey as heralds of Christ to the chosen people, or they would be overtaken ere that life-journey was accomplished, by the catastrophe which must for ever close the opportunities of grace for the national Israel. But this explanation also is felt to be inadequate. The ‘coming’ spoken of is the great Advent, and the warning, parabolical and typical in its language, is applicable to all Christian work and to all Christian workmen in every land and age.

III. The work of Christ in the world will never be finished till He comes.—Why?

(a) One reason for this lies in the mere sequence of human generations. Births and deaths are incessant. Every birth introduces new work, and every death removes, or ought to remove, an old workman. ‘One generation goeth, and another generation cometh,’ but they are both on the stage at once during a large part of the lifetime of each, and the board is never cleared for a new beginning.

(b) Another and a deeper reason lies in the nature of the work. The most real work of all—perhaps the only kind of work which is quite real—is that intangible, impalpable thing which we call influence. The work that can be finished is always more or less mechanical. Influence is the thing which Christ looks for, and it is an indefinite and so an interminable thing.

(c) We can see one other reason: it is the security thus given for the salubriousness of labour.

There might be something of elation, something certainly of satisfaction, in the contemplation of work done. True indeed it is that when ‘the dead’ has ‘died in the Lord,’ ‘his works “follow him,”’ still influencing and to influence a few that miss and mourn him, a few more than these, perhaps even a Church or a nation stirred by his memory into a brighter zeal and a deeper devotion. ‘But where is boasting? It is excluded.’ By the thought, by the fact of the multitude of the cities of Israel, and of the impossibility of compassing them, of the incompleteness of all work that is worth the name, and of the surprise which interrupts it by the Advent or by the death.’

—Dean Vaughan.


‘Henry Martyn died at the age of one-and-thirty. Into those few years were crowded, first the Grammar School of Truro, with its noble memories of Cardew, the master, and Kempthorne, the monitor; then the early start at Cambridge, developing into the senior wrangler of nineteen; then the awakening piety, under influence of friendship and sorrow—the two most powerful factors the father’s death and the sister’s pleading, the dead Brainerd and the living Simeon; then the self-dedication of the Ely ordination, and the Sunday and weekday ministries at Lolworth and in Cambridge; then the resolution for a missionary life, and the thrilling anguish of the severance; then the nine months’ voyage to India, with the battle scenes of the Cape and the “fighting with beasts” on ship board; then the four years’ ministry at Dinapore and Cawnpore, with its long toils in translating and its eager efforts to evangelise; then the baffled hopes and humble self-resignations; then the cruel journeyings through Persia and Asia; at last the desolate death at Tokat, and the silence settling down upon the tomb in the land of strangers. How mournful a commentary upon the “unfinished” work among the cities of Israel! How incomplete man must acknowledge that work, that toil, that achievement! But were there, or were there not, twelve hours in that day?’

Verse 30


‘The very hairs of your head are all numbered.’

Matthew 10:30

The chief object of our Saviour’s words was to convey the general comfort of the truth, that His people, and everything which belongs to them, are exceedingly dear and precious to Him.

I. The dignity of the body.—And that especially as regards their bodies. For the whole line of thought, about ‘the sparrows,’ and about ‘the hairs,’ springs out of the words, ‘Fear not them which kill the body.’ It is a serious error when, in the wish to exalt the value of the soul, we depreciate the importance of the body. Our Lord never did this. He was never hyper-spiritual. He spent at least as much time and attention upon the bodies of men, as ever He did upon their souls. And the greater part of the Sermon on the Mount is about the body.

II. Christ the defender.—Our Lord is giving His disciples arguments against fear. And one is, that their cause being His cause, He is their defender and their avenger in everything. ‘Do not be afraid,’ He says; ‘do not be afraid of those that kill: for even if a little sparrow fall to the ground, I know who made it fall. And if any one hurt you, or take away one “hair” of your head, I shall be conscious of it—for I have numbered them.’ God does not expose His jewels till He has catalogued them!

III. Therefore

(a) Be sure that you are never afraid to pray about the smallest thing.

(b) Do not shrink from feeling yourself a centre about which God is making all manner of kind things to circulate. You are the sun of a system. Do not hesitate to believe that God is working for you in the most direct and express manner. You cannot exaggerate God’s care of you.

(c) Go without anxiety, for all anxiety not only hurts you, but it grieves God.

(d) And remember that the ‘hair’ is an allegory. The inner life is there. The sorrows and the joys; the conflicts and the victories; the earnest longings, and the bitter remorses,—all the soul’s chequered light and shadow,—are all in God’s record!

The Rev. James Vaughan.


‘There is a view, and it is daily increasing, that God, having laid down certain rules for the government of this world, then leaves those general laws to take effect, without any further particular interposition in the affairs of men. “How,” they say, “is it to be expected, how is it possible, how is it consistent with science, that there should be a special interference, in each one of the details of such intricate mechanism as this our universe? and therefore,” they go on to say, “it is vain and wrong to pray, or expect anything, which would be an exception to the ordinary laws of nature.” How do we know that there is not another law behind and beyond what we call “the laws of nature”? Or how do we know—in “the laws of nature”—but that that which we call “an exception,” is not really a part? Or shall we say that the Great Legislator cannot suspend His own laws? Or shall we say that anything is law, but that which originally comes from the mind of God Himself? It is compatible with the universal laws of God’s government—nay, it is essential to them,—nay, it is a part of them,—that God has made this law for Himself—that He orders, in the minutest detail, every event that happens on this earth; and that each passage in a Christian’s life has its own history, its own reason, its own character, and its own intention.’

Verse 37


‘He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.’

Matthew 10:37

I. The consecration of the priests in the Old Testament had a symbol of the heart’s affections being given to God.

II. The phrase of ‘hating father and mother’ is explained by not ‘loving father or mother more than’ Christ.

III. The Lord’s demand here, is that the first place in the heart’s affections be given to Him.

IV. This implies that His love wants our love in return.

V. The Old Testament enjoined, and the conduct of the apostles illustrated, this condition.

VI. Every missionary is an example of its fulfilment.

VII. The calls of the mission-fields of the world are the strongest test of our obedience to this condition.

The Rev. Hubert Brooke.



It was a tremendous claim which Jesus of Nazareth made when He demanded love of all men. Such a claim must and could only have been made by One who was Divine. And we may notice for our purpose that there are three elements in this claim which our Blessed Lord makes.

I. To be loved by all.—Our Lord demanded to be loved by all. What an enormous demand that is upon mankind! Man loves his father and mother; he becomes the head of a household, he loves his family. He may perhaps go a little bit beyond that and love his relations. Outside that, perhaps his friends, and a little farther than that, he may love his country. How impossible it seems to go beyond that, and to love with that universal love which our Lord demands.

II. To be loved above all.—And not only so, but our Lord demands to be loved above all. Have you considered at all what that claim is? We think of the love of brother and sister, and know that it is indeed a great and binding tie. Or we think of the love of the child for its father, and we think that that is, perhaps, the very depth of love. Or we think of the love of the mother for her child, and perhaps of all beautiful things in this unlovely world, there is not a more beautiful or touching sight than the mother with her infant at her breast. And yet there is, perhaps, humanly speaking, one love that is even beyond that, which in this life is the tenderest, deepest of all love, the love of husband for wife and wife for husband. Yet our Lord demands a love deeper than all these.

III. But it was not till Pentecost that the claim was obeyed.—We see, too, that our Lord said this great love would not be given Him during His life, but after His death. He was not loved much in His life. On that Day of Pentecost men came forth from their hiding-places where they feared the very sight of the soldiery, and the one who had denied Him preached that wonderful sermon when three thousand were baptized. On another occasion he preached, and thousands were added to the Church. Those men, timorous no more, were filled with the Holy Ghost, and went out to plant the Church in all lands, and willingly gave up their lives for Christ, and all suffered the martyr’s death.

IV. Let it be obeyed to-day.—There are many things in this world that you cannot control, but this is in your hands, to see that you profess your faith in Jesus Christ, amidst all the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil which crowd upon you, amidst all that tries to draw you away from God and from living that supernatural life which He calls you to live. Let the result of our meditations be to draw from you another act of faith, and a deeper act of love, so that when at the last day we stand before Him face to face, we may be able to say, ‘Lord, I have loved, I have tried to answer to Thy call, perhaps not with great success, but I have tried in so far as in me lies to respond to Thy call, and to love Thee above all things.’

—The Rev. W. H. Bleaden.

Verse 38


‘He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me.’

Matthew 10:38

The Cross is held in honour now; not so in our Lord’s day.

I. The literal Cross.—It was a thing most hateful and most horrible. This must have been a very dark saying to the Apostles; they had never thought of the cross in connection with their Master or themseves.

II. The spiritual cross.—The literal cross is no longer to be feared; but the cross is still the emblem of our religion. The Lord has warned us that we must take up the cross daily; that without bearing the cross we cannot be His disciples.

III. Taking the cross.—The words imply acceptance; the cross is offered, the true disciple takes it. It is offered in many ways.

(a) In our religious duties—private prayer, the study of God’s Holy Word, public worship, the Holy Communion. It is easy to attend to these when all is well and comfortable, when we have no difficulties to contend with. But then there is no cross. The cross is offered to us when there are difficulties, when we are cold and wearied, when there is need of effort and self-denial, when the services seem to us to be dull and unattractive.

(b) In our ordinary occupations. In the little worries of daily life, in our family life, in our amusements, in our business, it is not easy to be always watchful, to keep the thought of God’s presence in our hearts, to try always to please Him.

IV. The cross of suffering.—In the daily round, the common tasks of life, there is abundant room for self-denial. The details of everyday life seem small and commonplace; but it is just in those little details that the trial of our faith commonly lies. If in these small matters we take the cross, we shall be prepared by God’s help to bear that heavier cross which must some day come.

V. Worthy of Christ.—There is no true religion without the cross; self-denial for Christ’s sake is the measure of our love for Him, and therefore of the reality of our religion. None that take not the cross are worthy of Christ (Revelation 3:4).

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Matthew 10". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.