Bible Commentaries
Matthew 10

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

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Verse 1

This is Matthew’s first reference to Jesus’ 12 disciples, though here He implied their previous identity as a group. He "summoned" (Gr. proskaleo) these men as a king commands His subjects. He who had all authority now delegated some of it to this select group of disciples. Perhaps Jesus chose 12 close disciples because Israel consisted of 12 tribes.

"As soon as he [Jesus] remarked that number, every Jew of any spiritual penetration must have scented ’a Messianic programme.’" [Note: Hunter, The Message . . ., p. 62.]

If Israel had accepted Jesus, these 12 disciples probably would have become Israel’s leaders in the messianic kingdom. As it turned out, they became leaders of the church.

Until now, there is no evidence that Jesus’ disciples could cast out demons and heal the sick. This was new power He delegated to them for the mission on which He would shortly send them. This ability is a clear demonstration of Jesus’ unique greatness.

"This was without a precedent in Jewish history. Not even Moses or Elijah had given miraculous powers to their disciples. Elijah had been allowed to transmit his powers to Elisha, but only when he himself was removed from the earth." [Note: Plummer, p. 147.]

Verses 1-4

2. Jesus’ commissioning of 12 disciples 10:1-4 (cf. Mark 6:7; Luke 9:1-2)

Verses 2-4

The 12 special disciples now received the title "apostles." This noun, apostolos in Greek, comes from the verb apostello meaning "to send." This was not a technical term until Jesus made it such. It continued to refer generally to people sent out with the Christian message such as Barnabas (Acts 14:4; Acts 14:14; Romans 16:7; 1 Corinthians 12:28-29; 2 Corinthians 8:23; Philippians 2:25). It referred to any messenger (John 13:16) and even to Jesus (Hebrews 3:1). Paul became an apostle who received his commission directly from the Lord, as the 12 special disciples had. This is the only place Matthew used the word "apostle." He probably used it here because Jesus proceeded to prepare to send these 12 men on a special mission to the Israelites (Matthew 10:5-42).

Lists of the 12 Apostles occur in Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:13-16; and Acts 1:13 as well as here. Comparing the four lists we note that there appear to have been three groups of four disciples each. Peter, Philip, and James the son of Alphaeus seem to have been the leaders of these groups.

Matthew 10:2-4Mark 3:16-19Luke 6:14-16Acts 1:13
1.Simon PeterSimon PeterSimon PeterPeter
9.James, son of AlphaeusJames, son of AlphaeusJames, son of AlphaeusJames, son of Alphaeus
10.ThaddaeusThaddaeusJudas, son or brother of JamesJudas, son or brother of James
11.Simon the CananaeanSimon the CananaeanSimon the ZealotSimon the Zealot
12.Judas IscariotJudas IscariotJudas Iscariot

Peter’s name occurs first here as in all the other lists, probably because he was the "first among equals." Matthew may also have listed him first because he became the leading apostle to the Jews. [Note: Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 138.] James’ name occurs before his brother John’s probably because James was older. Matthew described himself humbly as "the tax-gatherer."

Thaddaeus and Judas the son or brother of James seem to be two names for the same man, and Simon the Cananaean seems to have been the same person as Simon the Zealot. The Zealots constituted a political party in Israel, centered in Galilee, that sought to throw off the Roman yoke. [Note: See Edersheim, 1:237.] However, "Zealot" did not become a technical term for a member of this revolutionary group until the time of the Jewish War (A.D. 68-70). So "Zealot" here probably refers to Simon’s reputation for religious zeal. [Note: France, The Gospel . . ., p. 378.] "Cananaean" is the Aramaic form of "Zealot" and does not refer to the land of Canaan.

"Iscariot" may mean "of Kerioth," the name of two Palestinian villages, or "the dyer," his possible occupation. It may be a transliteration of the Latin sicarius, a Zealot-like movement. [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 239, listed six possible meanings.] Some scholars believe it means "false one" and comes from the Aramaic seqar meaning "falsehood." [Note: Earle E. Ellis, The Gospel of Luke, p. 110; Marshall, p. 240.] The names "Andrew" and "Philip" are Greek and probably reflect the more Hellenistic flavor of their hometown, Bethsaida, on the east side of the Jordan River (John 1:44).

These men became Jesus’ main agents in carrying out His mission, though Judas, of course, proved to be a hypocritical disciple. Probably Matthew described the Twelve in pairs because they went out in pairs (Mark 6:7). [Note: Tasker, p. 106.]

Verses 5-6

The apostles were to limit their ministry to the Jews living in Galilee. They were not to go north or east into Gentile territory or south where the Samaritans predominated. The Samaritans were only partially Jewish racially. They were the descendants of the poorest of the Jews, whom the Assyrians left in the Promised Land when they took the Northern Kingdom into captivity, and the Gentiles whom the Assyrians imported. Religiously they only accepted the Pentateuch as authoritative. This is Matthew’s only reference to the Samaritans.

The apostles were to go specifically to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, a term that described all the Jews (Isaiah 53:6; Jeremiah 50:6; Ezekiel 34). The designation highlights the needy character of the Jews. Jesus sent them to the Jews exclusively to do three things. They would announce the appearance of a Jewish Messiah, announce a Jewish kingdom, and provide signs to Jews who required them as proof of divine authorization. Jesus did not need the additional opposition that would come from Gentiles and Samaritans. He would have to deal with enough of that from the Jews. His kingdom would be a universal one, but at this stage of His ministry Jesus wanted to offer it to the Jews first. We have already noted that Jesus had restricted His ministry primarily but not exclusively to Jews (Matthew 8:1-13). He was the King of the Jews.

Verses 5-8

The scope of their mission 10:5-8

Jesus first explained the sphere and nature of the apostles’ temporary ministry to Israel.

Verses 5-42

3. Jesus’ charge concerning His apostles’ mission 10:5-42

Matthew proceeded to record Jesus’ second major discourse in his Gospel: the Mission Discourse. It contains the instructions Jesus gave the 12 Apostles before He sent them out to proclaim the nearness of the messianic kingdom. Kingsbury saw the theme of this speech as "the mission of the disciples to Israel" and outlined it as follows: (I) On Being Sent to the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel (Matthew 10:5-15); (II) On Responding to Persecution (Matthew 10:16-23); and (III) On Bearing Witness Fearlessly (Matthew 10:34-42). [Note: Kingsbury, Matthew as . . ., p. 112.] Whereas there is much instruction on serving Jesus here, there is also quite a bit of emphasis on persecution.

"Before Jesus sent His ambassadors out to minister, He preached an ’ordination sermon’ to encourage and prepare them. In this sermon, the King had something to say to all of His servants-past, present, and future. Unless we recognize this fact, the message of this chapter will seem hopelessly confused." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:36.]

"It is evidential of its authenticity, and deserves special notice, that this Discourse, while so un-Jewish in spirit, is more than any other, even more than that on the Mount, Jewish in its forms of thought and modes of expression." [Note: Edersheim, 1:641. See ibid., 1:641-53, for many parallels.]

This observation suggests that this mission was uniquely Jewish. Yet, as in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke beyond His immediate audience with later disciples also in mind. This seems clear as we compare this instruction with later teaching on the conduct of Christ’s disciples in the present age.

Verses 7-8

The apostles were to herald the same message that John (Matthew 3:2) and Jesus proclaimed (Matthew 4:17; Matthew 4:23; Matthew 9:35). They were to be itinerant preachers, as these men had been. [Note: Cf. Plummer, p. 149.] The absence of "repent" here should not be a problem since, as we have pointed out, repentance was not a separate step in preparation but a way of describing adequate preparation.

"If the Jewish nation could be brought to repentance, the new age would dawn; see Ac. iii. 19f., Jo. iv. 22." [Note: M’Neile, p. 134.]

The kingdom was at hand, namely, imminent. It had not yet begun. The powers the apostles had would impress their Jewish hearers with God’s authentication of their message (cf. Matthew 12:28). That was the purpose of signs throughout the Old and New Testaments. [Note: See Thomas R. Edgar, "The Cessation of the Sign Gifts," Bibliotheca Sacra 145:580 (October-December 1988):371-86.]

Matthew had not mentioned raising the dead and cleansing lepers previously (Matthew 10:1). The disciples were to offer their services free of charge because the good news they had received had not cost them anything.

Verses 9-10

They were not to take enough money with them to sustain them while they ministered. "Acquire" (NASB, Gr. ktesesthe) can mean "take along" (NIV, Mark 6:9) or "procure" while they ministered (Acts 1:18; Acts 8:20; Acts 22:28). Probably Jesus did not want them to accumulate money as they ministered or to take along enough money to sustain them. They were not to take an extra tunic either. In other words, they were to travel lightly and to remain unencumbered by material possessions. As a general principle, those who minister spiritual things have a right to expect physical recompense in return (Deuteronomy 25:4; 1 Corinthians 9:4-18; 1 Timothy 5:17-18). That is the principle Jesus wanted to teach His disciples. Itinerant philosophers and teachers typically expected board, room, and a fee from their hearers. [Note: France, The Gospel . . ., p. 384.]

Verses 9-15

The provisions for their mission 10:9-15 (cf. Mark 6:8-11; Luke 9:3-5)

Jesus explained further how the 12 Apostles were to conduct themselves on their mission.

Verses 11-15

They were to stay with "worthy" hosts, not necessarily in the most convenient or luxurious accommodations. A worthy person would be one who welcomed a representative of Jesus and the kingdom message. He or she would be the opposite of the "dogs" and "pigs" Jesus earlier told His disciples to avoid (Matthew 7:6). By this time there were probably people in most Galilean villages who had been in the crowds and had observed Jesus. His sympathizers would have been the most willing hosts for His disciples.

The greeting the disciple was to give his host was the normal greeting of the day. If his host proved to be unworthy by not continuing to welcome the disciple, he was to leave that house and stay somewhere else. By withdrawing personally the disciple would withdraw a blessing from that house, namely, his presence as a representative of Jesus. The apostles were to do to towns as they did to households.

"A pious Jew, on leaving Gentile territory, might remove from his feet and clothes all dust of the pagan land now being left behind . . . thus dissociating himself from the pollution of those lands and the judgment in store for them. For the disciples to do this to Jewish homes and towns would be a symbolic way of saying that the emissaries of Messiah now view those places as pagan, polluted, and liable to judgment (cf. Acts 13:51; Acts 18:6)." [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 246.]

More awful judgment awaited the inhabitants of the Jewish towns that rejected Messiah than the judgment coming on the wicked residents of Sodom and Gomorrah that had already experienced divine destruction (Genesis 19). The unbelievers of Sodom and Gomorrah will receive their sentence at the great white throne judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). The unbelieving Jews of Jesus’ day would also stand before Jesus then. One’s eternal destiny then as now depended on his or her relationship to Jesus, and that was evident in his attitude toward one of His emissaries (cf. Matthew 10:40; Matthew 25:40; Matthew 25:45). In that culture people treated a person’s official representative as they would treat the one he represented. The apostles could anticipate opposition and rejection as Jesus experienced and as the Old Testament prophets had as well.

Verse 16

Jesus pictured His defenseless disciples in a dangerous environment. The Shepherd was sending His sheep into a wolf pack. They needed, therefore, to be as shrewd as serpents, a proverbial way of saying prudent. Their shrewdness must not be cunning though, for they needed to be innocent as well. Either characteristic without the other is dangerous. Innocence without prudence becomes naiveté.

The disciples were to be both prudent and innocent toward the objects of their ministry. Doves are retiring birds; they leave when other birds oppose them rather than fighting. This is how the disciples were to behave. They needed to be shrewd by avoiding conflicts and attacks where possible, but when these came they were to withdraw to other households and other towns. These figures were common in Rabbinic teaching. But the rabbis normally used the sheep and doves as figures of Israel, and the wolves and serpents as representing the Gentiles. [Note: Edersheim, The Life . . ., 1:645.]

Verses 16-25

The perils of their mission 10:16-25

Jesus proceeded to elaborate on the dangers the apostles would face and how they should deal with them.

In His descriptions of the opposition His disciples would experience, Jesus looked beyond His death to the time of tribulation that would follow. Then the disciples would have the same message and the same power as they did when He sent them out here. The narrow road leading to the kingdom led through a period of tribulation and persecution for the disciples. They did not understand that Jesus would have to die and experience resurrection before the kingdom began, even though this is what the Old Testament revealed. Jesus was beginning to prepare them and their successors for these events and the persecution they would experience as His followers. If Israel had accepted her Messiah, He still would have had to die, rise from the grave, and ascend into heaven. Seven years of tribulation would have followed. Then Jesus would have returned to the earth and set up His kingdom. As it happened, Israel rejected Jesus, so the period of Tribulation, His return, and the kingdom are all still future.

"The King performed His ministry according to the Old Testament Messianic calendar of events. According to the Hebrew Scriptures the Messiah, after He appeared, was to suffer, die, and be raised again (Daniel 9:26; Psalms 22; Isaiah 53:1-11; Psalms 16:10). Following the death and resurrection of Christ there was to be a time of trouble (Daniel 9:26-27; Jeremiah 30:4-6). The Messiah was then to return to the earth to end this tribulation and to judge the world (Daniel 7:9-13; Daniel 7:16-26; Daniel 9:27; Daniel 12:1; Zechariah 14:1-5). Finally, the Messiah as King would establish His kingdom with Israel as the head nation (Daniel 7:11-27; Daniel 12:1-2; Isaiah 53:11-12; Zechariah 14:6-11; Zechariah 14:20-21)." [Note: Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 140.]

Part of the tribulation that Jesus prepared His disciples for took place when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and scattered the Jews all over the world, in A.D. 70. Yet the destruction of Jerusalem then was not the full extent of the tribulation the prophets foretold for Israel. This becomes clear as one compares the prophesied tribulation for the Jews with the events that surrounded the destruction of Jerusalem.

Verse 17

"But" (Gr. de) does not introduce a contrast here but shows how the disciples should apply the warning Jesus just gave them. Opposition would come from the Jews. The courts in view could be either civil or religious. This is the only occurrence of the plural "courts" or " local councils" (Gr. synedria) in the New Testament. The responsibility of these courts was to preserve the peace. The scourging in view would be the result of judicial action, not mob violence. [Note: Douglas R. A. Hare, The Theme of Jewish Persecution of Christians in the Gospel According to St. Matthew, p. 104.]

Verse 18

This prediction has caused problems for many interpreters since there is no indication that the disciples appeared before governors and kings during the mission that followed. As mentioned above, Jesus was evidently looking beyond their immediate mission to what His disciples would experience after His death, resurrection, and ascension. [Note: Hagner, p. 262.]

Verses 19-20

Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would enable the disciples to respond to their accusers. Some lazy preachers have misappropriated this promise, but it applies to disciples who must answer charges leveled against them for their testimonies. Jesus had not yet revealed the Spirit’s relationship to these men after His departure into heaven (John 14-16). Here He simply assured them of the Spirit’s help. Several of the apostles’ speeches in Acts reflect this divine provision.

Verses 21-22

The disciples would find themselves opposed by everyone without distinction, including their own family members, not just rulers. In spite of such widespread and malicious persecution the disciple must endure patiently to the end. "The end" refers to the end of this period of intense persecution, namely, the Tribulation (cf. Matthew 24:13). The second coming of the Son of Man will end it (Matthew 10:23). The promise of salvation for the one who remains faithful does not imply eternal salvation since that depends on faith in Jesus. It is deliverance from the period of intense persecution that is in view. Entrance into the kingdom would constitute salvation for these future persecuted disciples.

Thus this verse does not say that all genuine believers will inevitably persevere in their faith and good works. [Note: E.g., John Murray, Redemption-Accomplished and Applied, p. 152; et al.] Rather it says that those who do during the Tribulation can expect God to deliver them at its end. Jesus was not speaking about eternal salvation but temporal deliverance. Temporal deliverance depended on faithful perseverance. Whereas "the end" has specific reference to the end of the Tribulation in Matthew 24:13, here it probably has the more general meaning of "as long as may be necessary."

If the Jews had accepted Jesus, these 12 disciples would have taken the message of the kingdom throughout Israel during the Tribulation period that would have followed Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension. Before they could finish their task, Jesus would have returned from heaven. Those of them who persevered faithfully would experience deliverance from further persecution by entering the kingdom following His return. Since the Jews rejected Jesus, God postponed the kingdom for at least 2,000 years. During the Tribulation period yet future, the 144,000 Jewish disciples of Jesus living in Palestine and elsewhere in the world will be preparing people for Jesus’ return to set up His kingdom (Revelation 7:1-8; Revelation 14:1-5). Those who remain faithful and withstand persecution will be saved from further persecution by Jesus’ return to the earth to set up His kingdom.

"If those who fight under earthly commanders, and are uncertain as to the issue of the battle, are carried forward even to death by steadiness of purpose, shall those who are certain of victory hesitate to abide by the cause of Christ to the very last?" [Note: Calvin, 1:456.]

Verse 23

Jesus promised that He would return for His disciples before they had finished preaching the kingdom throughout the cities of Israel. If Israel had accepted Jesus as her Messiah, this would have happened at the end of seven years of persecution following Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension. Since Israel rejected her Messiah, it will happen at the end of the Tribulation yet future from our perspective in history (Daniel 7:13). Obviously it did not happen after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Commentators have offered many other explanations of this verse. There is great diversity of opinion concerning what Jesus meant mainly because there is failure to take Jesus’ offer of Himself and the messianic kingdom literally. Some interpreters believe Jesus meant He would return to the Twelve before they completed the mission He sent them on here. The problem with this view is that there is no indication in the text that that happened. Others interpret the Son of Man coming as a reference to the public identification of Jesus as the Messiah. However that is not what Jesus said, and it is not what happened. Some believe Jesus made a mistake, and what He predicted did not happen. Obviously this view reflects a low view of Jesus’ person. Still others believe what Jesus was predicting was the destruction of Jerusalem, but this hardly fits the Old Testament prophecies or the context of this verse. Carson summarized seven views and preferred one that equates the coming of the Son of Man with the coming of the kingdom. He viewed "the end" as the destruction of Jerusalem. [Note: Carson, "Matthew," pp. 250-53.]

"What was proclaimed here was more fully demonstrated in the apostles’ lives after the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) in the spread of the gospel in the church (e.g., Acts 4:1-13; Acts 5:17-18; Acts 5:40; Acts 7:54-60). But these words will find their fullest manifestation in the days of the Tribulation when the gospel will be carried throughout the entire world before Jesus Christ returns in power and glory to establish His kingdom on the earth (Matthew 24:14)." [Note: Barbieri, p. 42.]

Verses 24-25

Jesus’ point was that persecution should not surprise His disciples. They had seen the scribes and Pharisees, and even John’s disciples, oppose Jesus. They could expect the same treatment.

Beelzebul was Satan, the head of the household of demons (Matthew 12:24-27). The word "Beelzebul" probably came from the Hebrew baal zebul meaning "Prince Baal." Baal was the chief Canaanite deity, and the Jews regarded him as the personification of all that was evil and satanic. The house in view is Israel. Jesus as Messiah was the head of that household. However, His critics charged Him with being Satan (cf. Matthew 9:34). Therefore the disciples could expect similar slander from their enemies.

"We believe, that the expression ’Master of the house’ looked back to the claims which Jesus had made on His first purification of the Temple [John 2:16]. We almost seem to hear the coarse Rabbinic witticism in its play on the word Beelzebul. For, Zebhul, . . . means in Rabbinic language, not any ordinary dwelling, but specifically the Temple, and Beel-Zebul would be the Master of the Temple.’ On he other hand, Zibbul . . . means sacrificing to idols; and hence Beel-zebul would, in that sense, be equivalent to ’lord’ or ’chief of idolatrous sacrificing’-the worst and chiefest of demons, who presided over, and incited to, idolatry. ’The Lord of the Temple’ . . . was to them ’the chief of idolatrous worship,’ the Representative of God that of the worst of demons: Beelzebul was Beelzibbul!" [Note: Edersheim, The Life . . ., 1:648.]

Verses 26-27

The basis for confidence in the face of persecution is an understanding that whatever is presently hidden will eventually come out into the open. This proverbial statement applies to the truth about Jesus that the fearful disciple might seek to keep hidden for fear of opposition. It also applies to the disciple himself who might want to hide instead of letting his light shine. It applies also to the preceding teaching about persecution.

What Jesus told His disciples privately would eventually become public knowledge, so they should declare it publicly. In Palestine common flat-roofed houses were good places from which to make public addresses.

"Good news is not meant to be kept under wraps, however little some people may wish to hear it." [Note: France, The Gospel . . ., pp. 402-3.]

Verses 26-39

The attitudes of the disciples 10:26-39 (cf. Luke 12:1-12)

Even though Jesus’ disciples would encounter hostile opposition, they should fear God more than their antagonists.

Verse 28

It also helps to conquer fear if the disciple will remember that the worst a human adversary can do does not compare with the worst God can do. Jesus was not implying that true believers might go to hell if they do not remain faithful to God. His point was that God has power over the disciple after he dies whereas human adversaries can do nothing beyond killing the disciple’s body. The believer needs to remember that he or she will stand before God one day to give an account of his or her stewardship. Walvoord took "him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" as a reference to Satan. [Note: Walvoord, Matthew: . . ., p. 77.]

Verses 29-31

Third, the same God who will not permit a sparrow to fall to the ground will certainly take care of His faithful servants. The Jews were very familiar of this illustration. [Note: Edersheim, The Life . . ., 1:649.] The poor in Israel ate sparrows since they only cost a fraction of a day’s wage. [Note: Adolf Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, pp. 272-75.] The mention of the disciples’ heavenly Father (Matthew 10:29) stresses His care that extends to the numbering of his or her hairs. Often people think that God cares only for the big things in life and is unconcerned about the details. Jesus taught the opposite. God’s concern with details should give us confidence that He controls the larger affairs of life.

Verses 32-33

Disciples of Jesus must acknowledge Him publicly. One cannot fulfill the basic requirements of a disciple privately (cf. Matthew 5:13-16). Again, the terms "believer" and "disciple" are not synonymous. In the context, confessing Jesus means acknowledging Him faithfully in spite of persecution to do otherwise. Jesus will acknowledge faithful disciples as such to His Father. He will not give this reward to unfaithful disciples who cave in to pressure to deny Him. Obviously Jesus believed it is possible for believers to be unfaithful. Notice that the blessing of Jesus’ commendation will go to anyone (i.e., any disciple) who confesses Him publicly. Jesus probably looked at the whole course of the disciple’s life as He made this statement. One act of unfaithfulness does not disqualify a disciple from Jesus’ commendation (e.g., Peter). An example of Jesus confessing a faithful disciple before others is His testimony concerning John the Baptist’s greatness (Matthew 11:11; Luke 7:28).

The view that this passage teaches that a believer may lose his or her salvation if he or she fails to confess or denies Jesus cannot be correct. Elsewhere Jesus taught that believers will never lose their salvation (cf. John 10:28-29). This is the consistent revelation of the rest of the New Testament (e.g., John 10:28-29; Romans 8:31-39; et al.). Jesus was speaking here of rewards, not salvation. [Note: See also Robert N. Wilkin, "Is Confessing Christ a Condition of Salvation?" The Grace Evangelical Society News 9:4 (July-August 1994):2-3.]

Verses 34-36

Jesus meant that His immediate purpose would entail conflict even though Messiah would ultimately bring peace (Isaiah 11; Luke 2:14). People would divide over whether Jesus was the Messiah.

Micah 7:6 refers to rebellion that happened during King Ahaz’s reign. It pointed to a greater division in Jesus’ day. In both cases the root of the conflict involved righteousness and unrighteousness.

"Feud between members of a family is also mentioned in the Talmud as a sign of the coming of the Messianic age." [Note: Montefiore, The Synoptic . . ., 2:152.]

Jesus presented the consequences of His coming as though they were His purpose in coming. He came to bring this kind of conflict only in an indirect sense. By expressing Himself this way Jesus demonstrated His Christological and eschatological awareness. These conditions will prevail before Jesus’ second coming too.

Verses 37-39

Jesus taught that people must love one another, but they must love Him more. This is a remarkable claim that shows how important Jesus’ viewed the supreme allegiance of His disciples. Taking one’s cross does not mean tolerating some unpleasant situation in one’s life for Jesus’ sake. It means dying to self, namely, putting Jesus first. In this sense every disciple bears the same cross. Jesus’ reference to crucifixion, His first in Matthew, would have helped His disciples realize that their calling would involve pain and shame.

Those who find (i.e., preserve) their lives now will forfeit them later. Conversely the disciple who loses his or her life (Gr. psyche) by martyrdom or by self-denial now will find (preserve) it in the next stage of his or her existence. This is true in a twofold sense. The person who lives for the present loses the real purpose of life. [Note: William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew, p. 477.] He or she also loses the reward for faithful living.

"There is an absolutism in the call to Jesus and the kingdom that can seem unattractive, if not unendurable. But this is only half the story, for the rewards are beyond calculation." [Note: Hagner, p. 293.]

This entire section (Matthew 10:26-39) contrasts the present with the future. For the 12 Apostles their present ministry, self-denial, and consequent persecution involved identifying themselves publicly as Jesus’ disciples. It involved calling on the Jews to repent for the kingdom was at hand because the King had arrived. For modern disciples our present ministry, self-denial, and consequent persecution involve identifying ourselves publicly as Jesus’ disciples. They also involve urging people to believe in Him. In both groups those who are faithful to their calling will receive God’s commendation when we stand before Him. Old Testament saints will stand before God when He judges Israel at Jesus’ second coming (Daniel 12:1-2). Modern Christians will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Those who are unfaithful will not receive some of the commendation, joy, and reward that could have been theirs had they remained faithful.

This discourse (ch. 10) covers the whole period during which disciples of Jesus will minister, from Jesus’ day until the establishment of the messianic kingdom. It begins with the duty of the 12 Apostles but then broadens to include all subsequent disciples before the establishment of the kingdom. The scope of the Mission Discourse and the Sermon on the Mount are the same, the interim between Jesus’ first and second advents.

Verse 40

By receiving His disciples those to whom the disciples would go would show that they welcomed Jesus. Because they received Jesus they would also receive God. How a person receives an agent shows his attitude toward the one who sent him and toward all that one represents.

Verses 40-42

The reward for hospitality 10:40-42

These verses bring Jesus’ teaching to a positive and encouraging conclusion. Jesus had given His disciples severe warnings. Now He gave them great encouragement.

Verse 41

A prophet is one who speaks for another. The disciples served as prophets when they announced Jesus’ message. Jesus Himself was a prophet since He spoke for God. The one who received the disciple would receive a reward from God suitable to one who had entertained one of God’s representatives. Likewise the disciples were righteous men who represented another righteous man, Jesus. God would give those who received the disciples as righteous men a reward in keeping with what a righteous man deserves (cf. Matthew 5:20; John 13:20).

Verse 42

The "little ones" in view of the context probably refer to the persecuted disciples who remain faithful to the Lord. Anyone who assists one of them by giving him or her even a cup of refreshing cold water will receive a reward from God. That person can even give the cup of cold water in the name of a follower of Jesus, not in the name of Jesus Himself. The point is that no act of kindness for one of Jesus’ suffering disciples will pass without God’s reward.

"Keep in mind that the theme of this last section is discipleship, not sonship. We become the children of God through faith in Christ; we are disciples as we faithfully follow Him and obey His will. Sonship does not change, but discipleship does change as we walk with Christ. There is great need today for faithful disciples, believers who will learn from Christ and live for Him." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:40.]

This Mission Discourse (ch. 10) is instruction for Jesus’ disciples in view of their ministry to call people to prepare for the kingdom. Jesus gave the 12 Apostles specific direction about where they should go and to whom they should minister. However, He broadened His instruction in view of mounting opposition to give guidance to disciples who would succeed the Twelve. Their ministry was essentially the same as that of the apostles. Jesus did not reveal here that Israel’s rejection of Him would result in a long gap between His first and second advents. That gap is irrelevant to the instruction and its meaning. Christian disciples today need to do essentially what the Twelve were to do but to a different audience and region (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus explained those changes after His firm rejection by the Jews.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 10". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.