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Tuesday, July 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 10

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Verses 1-4

The Twelve Disciples

This chapter connects directly to the last verse of the previous chapter. It shows the heart of the Lord, moved with compassion over His poor people. This leads Him to send out the twelve disciples.

The Lord calls “His” twelve disciples. They are His. There are twelve, in accordance with the twelve tribes of Israel to whom they are sent. The Lord not only has the power to perform miracles Himself, but can also give that power to others (cf. Acts 8:18-Psalms :). He gives them power in the spiritual and the physical realm. In this way they will present a powerful testimony of Him Who has come.

These are the powers of the age to come (Hebrews 6:5) that is the millennial kingdom of peace. Then satan will be bound and man set free by Christ. What He and His disciples do, are partial deliverances: for the kingdom of peace is not come. These exorcisms and healings prove that He Who came to establish this kingdom is present.

The disciples are called “apostles” in Matthew 10:2, which means “sent ones”. In the previous chapters they go with the Lord as followers and pupils, now they go before Him as ambassadors. They are heralds of the King, they announce His coming.

The names of the disciples are mentioned. We already know something about some disciples and we will hear more about them. We sometimes hear something about other disciples and from a few we hear nothing else and we only know the name. The Lord knows what each one of His does. He determines whether a service has more recognition or not. Everything that He has commissioned that is done, He will reward according to the faithfulness with which the task is carried out and not to the fame that someone has had.

Brothers are also sent out. The natural ties are not denied. It is a special joy to serve the Lord with a brother or sister. Matthew calls himself in this list “the tax collector”. He doesn’t dress it up in any way, but openly discloses what he was. Judas is also mentioned. He will not sit on any of the twelve thrones, but he is sent out. It is not yet the time of the kingdom of peace. It is still possible that false servants are in the company of the real servants. If the disciples are listed, his name is always mentioned last with the addition of “the one who betrayed Him”.

Verses 5-10

The Twelve Sent Out

At the end of the previous chapter the Lord says to His disciples that they must pray that workers will be sent out. Here it appears that they themselves are the answer to their prayer. When we pray for something, it is often the case that the Lord says, ‘Go and do what you prayed for.’

Matthew 10:5-Ezra : are about the mission of the twelve disciples in the time when the Lord Jesus is on earth. The assignment He gives makes it clear that He presents Himself as the Messiah to His people. He limits the mission of His disciples to the house of Israel. We see in this mission His unchanged grace, for He sends out His disciples after He is rejected by Israel. He Himself sends out, which means that He is the Lord of the harvest of whom He has said that they must pray to Him.

He decides where they should and should not go. He determines the area of their service. Their service is limited to Israel, which makes it clear that the gospel for our time is not preached under this command. The “lost sheep” are not the scattered sheep of Israel among the nations, nor are they backslidden believers who belong to the church. They are the spiritually lost sheep of Israel in the land of Israel. As far as we know, the disciples have never been outside Israel during the life of the Lord Jesus.

The Lord not only determines the area of their service, He also determines their message. It consists of seven words. It is the message that John preached (Matthew 3:2) and that He also preached Himself (Matthew 4:17). It means that the people are still given the opportunity to enter the kingdom of heaven. The disciples are given the power to accompany their preaching with special signs. These signs are an underlining of their preaching. From this people can see that the coming of the Messiah is announced. The disciples are the heralds.

Today we do not look forward to the coming of the Lord Jesus to establish the kingdom of heaven, but to His coming to take the believers to Himself (1 Thessalonians 4:15-Job :). Nor do we preach the gospel of the kingdom, but the gospel of the grace of God. Our preaching is not accompanied by miracles either. Miracles belong to the apostles and the apostolic period.

The Lord’s command not to provide themselves with money and all kinds of means of existence is also specific to the twelve. The disciples must also, as far as their needs are concerned, be entirely dependent on Him Who sent them. They may go trusting in the King Whose kingdom they must proclaim and Who, from the inexhaustible sources at His disposal, will provide everything they need.

Immanuel is present. The miracles are for the world a proof of the power of their Master. The fact that they themselves lack nothing will be the proof for their own hearts. This instruction shall be withdrawn before their time of service that begins following the going back to the Father of the Lord (Luke 22:35-Haggai :).

Verses 11-15

The Field of Work

When the disciples go somewhere, they have to inquire if anyone is worth their entering in. Their inquiry must show that they want to enter in with people with whom they find the characteristics of the real disciple. Whoever is worth it is he who fears God, and shows it by taking up His servants in his house.

The house they come to should be approached positively with a greeting of blessing. Any contact with someone starts with a benevolent attitude towards that other person. If that attitude means acceptance of the disciple, then the disciple wishes that house the peace that is his own possession. If, however, the host subsequently reveals himself as an adversary, for example, under pressure from his family, he makes himself unworthy of the presence of a disciple of the Lord.

They don’t have to beg if people want to accept them and their words. If there is no opening for the word announced so benevolently at first, it will testify against them. The nature of the message is, that whoever rejects it, will not get a share in it and must be marked as an enemy.

The Lord concludes this section with the serious words “truly, I say to you” to underline the seriousness of the rejection of His servants. He who rejects his servants shall suffer a heavier judgment than Sodom and Gomorrah. These cities have sinned heavily against God and have brought God’s judgment upon them. God turned these cities upside down (Genesis 19:24-Lamentations :). Yet their sins are not as bad as rejecting the messengers and the message that come to His people on behalf of the Lord Jesus. His people have a much greater responsibility because God has made His thoughts known to them.

Verses 16-20

Handed Over to Testify

From Matthew 10:16 onwards it is about the end times. By painting this situation, the Lord points forward to the remnant of the future. The principle also applies to us. A sheep among wolves is the epitome of defenselessness against cruelty. That is why it is important to follow the right path of behavior: being watchful, shrewd, yet innocent, without deceit.

The Lord warns His disciples of the dangers that accompany their service. They will have the same position as their Master and will have to reveal the same features: shrewdness and innocence. These virtues are only to be found among those who through the Spirit of the Lord are wise in what is good and innocent in relation to evil (Romans 16:19).

People are the greatest danger, not the circumstances. Disciples of the Lord are an object of hatred because they denounce sin. Religious people in particular will manifest themselves in their cruelty by scourging the disciples, and that in places, synagogues, where God’s law is taught (cf. Acts 26:11). While man will manifest himself in all his wickedness, his conduct shall turn against him as a testimony (Psalms 76:10).

It will be a Divine means to present the gospel of the kingdom to kings and other dignitaries. Their testimony will sound in the ears of these highly-esteemed people without any adaptation of the character of the gospel to the world. There will be no mixing of the customs of the people of God with the customs or greatness of the world. Such circumstances will make their testimony more remarkable than if they allied with the great persons of the earth. The events will lead to the message being heard far beyond Israel’s borders.

All this will come upon them “for My sake”, that is because of their connection with Him. He also has a word of encouragement for them. They don’t have to worry themselves with the question of what they should say. The words will be given to them. They will not speak in their own power, but in their speech the Spirit of their Father will be revealed.

As in the sermon on the mount, here too the connection with their Father is the basis of their qualification for the service they have to perform. That thought gives peace and confidence. The Father is closely involved in what happens to them, it concerns Him.

Verses 21-23

Endurance to the End

Going out for the Lord Jesus will influence the closest family ties in a way that reveals the worst enmity. Brothers who have often gone through thick and thin together come to stand opposite one another. If one of the brothers makes a choice for the Lord Jesus, which is expressed by taking up one of His disciples, then it will have as a consequence that the other brother’s brotherly love turns into hatred. Taking up one of the disciples of the Lord will be seen as betrayal to the family. If a child chooses the side of the disciples, a father, who should protect his child, will surrender it to death. Conversely, children will trample on parental love and parental authority. They will even kill their parents if they join the disciples of the Lord Jesus.

Disciples are hated because they bear the Name of the Lord Jesus. All these persecutions and this hatred will reveal the true disciple, as well as the false. The false disciple will fall away; the true disciple shall endure to the end and be saved. He shall attain salvation, that is to say, he shall enter the kingdom of peace. “The end” is the coming of the Son of Man (Matthew 10:23), that is, His second coming (Matthew 24:3; Matthew 24:6Matthew 24:13-2 Chronicles :) to establish His kingdom. That kingdom has been announced by John, the Lord has announced it, and the disciples have announced it. However, it was not established because the King of the kingdom was rejected and thereby the kingdom that they announced.

The task of the disciples was therefore not fully fulfilled in the time of the Lord Jesus. This task will be fulfilled just before His second coming. This will happen under great tribulation and persecution. The Lord speaks of a time of great tribulation (Matthew 24:21). While the disciples are so busy fulfilling the task He gave His disciples when He was with them on earth, He will appear as the Son of Man. This character of “the Son of Man” indicates a power and glory greater than that of His revelation as the Son of David, as Messiah. The latter He is primarily for Israel, while He will reign over all creation as Son of Man.

The apostles’ mission is abruptly interrupted by the rejection of the Messiah and, as a result, the destruction of Jerusalem. The time that follows is that of the church. When the church has been raptured, the mission will be continued. The interval of the church is not taken into account here. The Lord speaks of the apostles’ mission as something that continues, while He passes over the present time of the church.

Verses 24-25

Disciple-Teacher; Slave-Master

A “disciple” is a pupil who learns from his “teacher” how to behave in all aspects of life. He strives to resemble his teacher, to match him in everything, to become like him. For a disciple of the Lord Jesus, it is perfectly enough to be allowed to resemble his Teacher. The “disciple”-”teacher” relationship is about following the example of the teacher. The “slave”-“master” relationship is about the slave being subject to the authority of his master and doing what he says.

In both these relationships we see the connectedness of the disciple and slave to the Lord Jesus as his Teacher and Master. The Lord joins him in His grace to Himself. As a result, the disciple and slave also shares in the destiny of his Teacher and Master. If we are faithful followers of the Lord Jesus, we must count on the world to treat us as it has treated Him (John 15:18). We are not above Him.

How the world, and especially the religious world, has dealt with Him, He puts forward in the third relationship, in that of “head of the house”-”members of his household”. The Lord Jesus is the Head of the house. The disciples are members of that household. The religious leaders called Him “Beelzebul”, which is a name for satan. The Lord says to His disciples that they will suffer even more of these slanders.

Verses 26-31


After His warnings to His disciples about the persecution to come, the Lord encourages them. The first encouragement is that all the slander that will be spread about them will at one time be brought to light. Then it will become clear that it really was slander. All who have spread these slanders, and all who have believed them, suffer the just punishment for it. We will in some cases already now, but certainly then, know the hidden reasons of the enmity of the people. It is also a great encouragement to know that the Lord was the First to enter the path of rejection.

Our performance should be very different from the underhand slandering of our opponents. The Lord instructs us to pass on loud and clear to others what He says to us personally in our private relationship with Him.

A second encouragement not to be afraid is our Father’s care. We should not be afraid of the people. They can do no more than kill the body. The killing of the soul is beyond their reach. The destruction of both body and soul in hell belongs only to God Who alone has the power to do so. We are not dealing with people, but with God. Someone who was well aware of this is the man of God John Knox (1514-1572). On his tombstone, it reads: ‘Here lies one who feared God so much that he never feared the face of any man’.

For the faithful follower of the Lord Jesus, God is a Father. His concern extends to little animals that are barely meaningful to man and to things that man does not think about at all, such as the number of hairs on his head. If God’s concern goes out to those things that are so completely unimportant to man, how much more does God’s concern go out to those who are connected to His Son and share in His fate on earth. Sparrows don’t worry and hair even less and God takes care of it. For God disciples surpass many sparrows. That’s why they don’t have to worry about whether or not God thinks of them when they encounter the hostility of the world.

Verses 32-33

Confessing or Denying

A third encouragement is reward. Disciples of the Lord Jesus confess Him before the people, despite the hatred and mockery this entails. He rewards this by confessing them before His Father. This recognition by the Lord before the Father goes beyond the honor of people many times over.

But whoever denies Him before men will be denied by him before His Father. People who confess only with their mouths that they know the Lord, and call Him “Lord, Lord” (Matthew 7:21), arrive in situations where they deny Him. He will also deny them. The consequences of this are terrible. They will be denied by Him forever (Matthew 10:33; Matthew 7:22-Isaiah :).

Peter’s denial is of a different nature. It is a shameful act. Against his better judgment, he denies that he knows the Lord (Matthew 26:69-Prayer of Azariah :). We know for sure that Peter is a believer, for he has confessed this sin and the Lord has forgiven him. This sin can be committed by any believer. If that happens, the Lord must deny that believer, just as He also had to deny Peter.

From the moment that Peter denied the Lord Jesus, the Lord told His Father that He did not know Peter. This does not mean that the Lord did not keep His eye on Peter. We know that He brought him to repentance (Luke 22:61). But until the moment of repentance the Lord denied before His Father that He knew Peter. This denial by the Lord also means that Peter lost the blessing and reward he would have received if he had not denied the Lord. The denial of the Lord has consequences for the present and for the future.

Verses 34-39

No Peace, but a Sword

The Lord does not paint a bright future for His disciples on earth. He has not come to bring peace on the earth. He even says that twice. Certainly He originally came to bring peace. So it was proclaimed at His birth (Luke 2:14). Because of the rebellion of man who went so far as to reject the Prince of Peace, that peace could not be established on earth. Peace is there only for those who confess their sins. Peace comes in their hearts. At the same time, there is a separation between them and their unbelieving environment which persists in sin. New life is hated by the unbelievers just as the Lord Jesus was and is hated.

The sword of division brings separation in family relationships and between housemates. It causes situations that reveal whether there is real love for the Lord Jesus. The choices that are made will show whether the love for Him transcends any earthly love. He cannot be satisfied with second place. To Him belongs the place that surpasses everything and everyone. He who doesn’t want to give that to Him, but lets love for a family member predominate, is not worthy of Him. Christ must be more precious to His own than father or mother or even own life. The love for our own life can rob Christ of His place much more than the love for our family.

We are also not worthy of Him if we do not follow Him in His way of rejection. In our hearts we may want to give Christ the first place, but an open confession should also accompany that. This is seen in the taking up of our cross, that is, the taking of the place of contempt in the world. The cross is the place where Christ died as the despised One. There we lost our life, that life we lived for ourselves, and found new life.

Verses 40-42

Reward for Imitation

The possession of new life has brought us into a new company. That new company consists of people who also have that new life. When we receive them, we receive Him and through Him we receive the Father. One blessing results from the other and brings us to the source of all blessings.

The disciples are sent out as prophets. Everywhere in Israel they bring the Word of God. He who does not reject one of them as a prophet of God, but receives him, will receive the same reward as the prophet. The same goes for those who will receive a righteous person precisely because he is a righteous person. A righteous person is one who lives in accordance with God’s Word.

The Lord mentions a third category to which His disciples are compared: “These little ones.” His disciples are the insignificant of the world, the ‘little ones’ that are not counted. Whoever provides refreshment for such disregarded messengers, precisely because they are disrespected, receives the reinforced assurance from the Lord – “truly I say to you” – that he shall not lose his reward. It is about the motive, not about a good deed out of pity or just to do good and to think that God will be satisfied with it.

A prophet speaks the Word of God, a righteous man lives the Word of God, a little one reveals the mind of the Word of God. These three persons with these characteristics are hated, persecuted and not counted by the world. All three features have the greatest meaning for God, for they are the features of His Son. When He sees these features in disciples, He is reminded of His Son. All those disciples will be rewarded by Him for this, as will those who make themselves one with these disciples.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Matthew 10". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/matthew-10.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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