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The Commission to the Twelve.
Laborers for the harvest:
v. 1. And when He had called unto Him His twelve disciples, He gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.
The first part of Christ's Galilean ministry was over. He had spread the Gospel-message by His personal preaching in all parts of the northern country. But the conditions, as He had just told His disciples, demanded at the same time more general and more intensive work. And so He commissioned His twelve disciples, the twelve that were later distinguished by that name, whose relation to the Lord had been unusually intimate from the first. He had many other disciples or adherents. His Word had not returned void. Most of those that had experienced His healing power had accepted His Gospel and were His true believers. Many of these stayed in their own homes, testifying for the Lord upon occasion. Others, and among them these twelve as the most prominent, accompanied the Lord on all or most of His journeys. The twelve He here called for a special mission. The sum of His charge to them: Power over unclean spirits and power of healing both the severer sicknesses and the infirmities or weaknesses of the people. The authority to heal was especially necessary for the work in Galilee, since the fame of Jesus rested largely upon His miracles, and the populace would naturally demand some proof of their commission, if they claimed to have been sent by Christ.
The apostles enumerated:
v. 2. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew, his brother; James, the son of Zebedee, and John, his brother;
v. 3. Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew, the publican; James, the son of Alpheus, and Lebbeus, whose surname was Thaddeus;
v. 4. Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.
Apostles they are called as the special witnesses of Christ and as His representatives in extending His Church, Acts 1:8-Ecclesiastes :, sent by Him with extraordinary authority. Note: At the head of the list is Peter, because he was called into actual discipleship first, Matthew 4:18. His name, Peter, given to him by the Lord Himself, here distinguishes him from the other Simon of the list. Bartholomew is commonly identified with Nathanael, John 1:46. Matthew expressly adds his epithet "the publican," in modest self-abasement, and yet with a certain pride that Christ's mercy had selected even a tax-gatherer of the lower class as His intimate friend. Simon the Canaanite, or Simon of Cana, was sometimes also called the Zealot, probably with reference to his most marked characteristic. In the last place stands the name of Judas, the traitor. His home town was Kerioth, in Judah, and he was the only non-Galilean disciple. The call of Jesus to this man was just as sincere as that to the other apostles. But Judas, by his own malice and by the temptation of Satan, thrust the mercy of the Lord from him. From petty thieving he fell to the lowest depths possible for a redeemed creature he betrayed his Savior.
Instructions as to the place to preach:
v. 5. These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not;
v. 6. but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
These, twelve in all, known ever after by that designation, Jesus sent away with a definite charge as to the place and sphere of their work. They should stay away from the country of the heathens and from the cities of the Samaritans. With great solemnity, in rhythmic cadence, the emphasis is brought out. The first offer of salvation, by God's intention, was to be made to the Jewish people. As they had been His chosen nation in the Old Testament, so He now confined His own work, through His disciples, chiefly to Israel, though He was not averse to the Gentiles' having occasional crumbs, Matthew 15:1-Malachi :; John 4:1-1 Timothy :. The chief regard of the disciples was to be for the lost sheep of the house of Israel, those that were going astray without their knowledge and intention, having been worried and flayed and deliberately misled by hirelings. Neglected they were and in great danger of final perdition, but probably to be won for salvation by careful and thorough Gospel-work, preaching, not healing, being the more important.
The message itself and the accompanying signs:
v. 7. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
v. 8. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils. Freely ye have received, freely give.
While on your missionary journey, preach; preaching the first and foremost duty and necessity. Its subject: The kingdom of the heavens is even now at hand. In the person of the lowly Nazarene, Jesus Christ, all the types and prophecies are fulfilled. He that accepts Him in faith has the Kingdom, is a member of the Kingdom. So perform your work as heralds, from house to house. And whenever it was necessary, they were empowered to confirm the Word with signs following, Mark 16:20. Not only should ordinary sicknesses yield to their authority, but even the uncleanness of the lepers. Even the power to call the dead back to life and to control evil spirits was entrusted to them. Circumstances may not have required the use of all these miracles in any one city or town, and it is likely that the apostles did not raise any people from the dead before Christ Himself arose from the dead. There is also some probability that, at that time, their faith was not yet strong enough to perform the greatest miracle, Matthew 17:20. But so far as Christ's commission to them was concerned, they received all the authority necessary to back up their preaching with such works as must be accepted as proof positive for their divine mission. But this power was not to be for hire, not to be sold for money.
The simple belief in the miracles of the Bible which characterized the early centuries of the Christian Church, and which, during the Middle Ages, was, by false analogy, expanded into a credulousness that placed the so-called acts of the saints, spurious inventions of a superstitious age, on a level with the great deeds of God, has long since been declared impossible under modern conditions. Beginning about three centuries ago, the enemies of the Bible have been increasingly active, until at the present time, both without and within the Church, the miraculous element in the Bible is being discarded.
The objections to the Bible account of miracles and therefore to the miracles themselves may be divided into two classes, the radical and the conservative. The first class denies the possibility of miracles outright, without excuse or apology. It has been stated that miracles are violations of the laws of nature, although the statement concedes the existence of a law-maker whose right to suspend laws as well as to make them should be unquestioned. It is declared that miracles are excluded by the uniformity of nature, although experience itself is alterable and indefinite. The critics have said that the human mind is turning away from miracles, that the whole body of modern sciences yields the immense result that there is no supernatural. The miraculous stories are said to be the creations of a credulous and superstitious age. It is argued that it requires no mental effort to cut out of the New Testament the miraculous element. So-called scholars "have examined, in the scientific spirit, our Bible, and at every step they have found the record of miracles mythical or legendary, always incredible as fact. They believe that miracles do not occur, that they never have occurred, that they never will occur. The miraculous element, so it is more and more widely held, is the constant and spurious accompaniment, in ancient times, of every great religious movement. " One critic asks, with reference to the resurrection of Christ: "Is the testimony sufficient to show that a man thoroughly dead... came back to life, passed through closed doors, and ascended into the sky?" And he adds: "I cannot speak for others, but most certainly I cannot believe such monstrous facts on such evidence."
The conservative class of critics desires to save the Bible, such remnants as they still concede to be true, by arguing that miracles need not be believed, that they are not necessary for the truth of Scriptures and of the Christian faith. Most of the Old Testament miracles are explained away by declaring that they are mere poetical ornamentation and have no fundamental connection with the story. We might possess, they say, the miracles of the Lord without possessing the Lord Himself; does it not follow that we might lose the miracles of the Lord and still retain Him? It is frankly stated that the apologist of the present time has an interest in minimizing the miraculousness of miracles, and making them appear as natural as possible. The present temper of the religious public would seem to be to naturalize not only miracles, but the whole spiritual world.
In view of these facts, it is essential, first of all, to know what a miracle is. The following definition is generally accepted: "A miracle is an event making known to the senses the presence of a personal power above the physical and human plane, working towards a moral end. " Under this explanation, which includes miracles, signs, and wonders, we may divide them into three classes. There are the miracles of the constant revelation of God in nature and history, the many evidences of supernatural intervention. There are the miracles or occurrences within the ordinary course of nature, which, nevertheless, human strength and wisdom cannot accomplish without the creative and providential power of God, including all the physiological changes within living organisms due to life. There are the miracles or phenomena outside of nature's course and known laws, brought about by a deliberate suspension of the physical order of the universe, including both the miracles of Scripture and the many cases of supernatural preservation.
To deny the existence of miracles in nature about us is to deny the evidence of all the senses and the results of centuries of research. And to deny the miracles of Scripture is to deny the veracity of the entire Bible-account, for it is impossible to divorce the miraculous from the Christian religion, since all true religion is a miracle. That the Old Testament contains but few miracle stories, and that these are confined to Exodus and the lives of Elisha and Elijah, as has been stated, is so manifestly untrue that a reference to the Bible is sufficient as refutation. To separate the miraculous element from the Gospel-accounts, is to take away the essence of the Gospel-narrative. The miracles of Jesus were seals, credentials, because they were signs, essential features, of His mission. If we remove all references to miracles, the gospels lie before us in ruins.
As for the necessity of miracles, the fact that the Lord found them so ought to be sufficient warrant for their happening. The Gospel arose from witnessing miracles and is a record and explanation of these facts. If the resurrection of Jesus had been a delusion, it would have shared the fate of all delusions in being short-lived. And all the other miracles are credible, because they are associated with the miracle of the resurrection. The Christian religion was introduced into the midst of its enemies by means of the miraculous. Thus the miracles are the sign and seal of divine approbation. God would not have sanctioned such a series if they had been falsehoods. And no magicians could have performed them. The miracles were made in defense of a religion of the most perfect righteousness and universal truth, to stand forever in evidence of the unblemished beauty of Christ's moral character and of the divine call of His disciples. It is sufficient for us to know that He thereby revealed His glory, John 1:14; John 2:11, and that the miracles of the New Testament were recorded that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we might have life through His name, John 20:31.
Instructions as to dress and baggage:
v. 9. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses
v. 10. nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves (for the workman is worthy of his meat).
Neither provide nor acquire on your trip; your mission is to be without material reward. Avarice and hoarding would prejudice your work. Money of any kind should not be taken, lest the gift and the benefit of miracles and of the Gospel seem for sale, least of all gold, not even silver, yea, not a single copper. The girdle of the upper garment was used not only for gathering up the loose mantle, but also for holding the purses or the loose change. In the same way a bag or wallet for provisions was not permitted, nor a second shirt or undergarment, nor traveling shoes, nor heavy staves, all of which would be a hindrance to you on your present journey. You should be like men in great haste, eager to begin and to carry on the great work. "Even the least profit from their office was prohibited; but implying neither a vow of poverty nor of mendicancy, in the popish sense. They were to introduce the great principle that the messengers of the Gospel had claim on daily support and free hospitality. " Worthy is the laborer of his maintenance, Mark 6:8; Luke 9:3. This is an axiom which contains, in the mouth of Christ, also a deep comfort. The workman that follows the other injunctions of the Lord need have no concern about his food and clothing; He will provide.
The form of approach:
v. 11. And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and there abide till ye go thence.
v. 12. And when ye come into an house, salute it.
This shall be a standing rule; no matter what city or village it may be, the same procedure shall be followed. They shall earnestly, accurately examine and inquire as to the moral worthiness of the probable host, for a wrong choice might seriously harm the work. But when the choice has once been made, abide by the decision. Seek no better fare or more congenial company lest you be marked as self-seeking men. It is always best to establish a center of activity rather than depend upon a transient and broken activity. There is here also a hint for the idle chatterer, the gadabout, the busybody, that frequents the streets and the company of those that may be able to further his ambition, instead of finding time for prayer and study at home. Such a home, the worthy abiding-place, shall be distinguished by the salutation of peace, as shall all the houses that are open to the servants of the Lord. Such a salutation is not an empty formula, but a blessing in the name of the Lord, granting the blessing of the Lord. He abides where His servant abides.
Parable of the straying sheep:
v. 12. How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?
v. 13. And if so be that he find it, verily, I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.
v. 14. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
A most effective comparison! The picture is that of a mountain meadow, where the shepherd has taken his flock to give them the full benefit of the rich grass. But now it happens that one goes astray, leaving the richness of the meadow for an occasional hummock of bunch grass, exchanging the safety of the shepherd's protecting care for the uncertainty of the gullies and canyons, with the danger of rock-slides and bloodthirsty animals. For the shepherd that one sheep then becomes an object of concern. Leaving the other sheep behind him, he climbs up into the pathless mountains, and searches for the stray. And if he has the good fortune to see his toil rewarded, his joy over that one sheep will be greater than that over the others that have not felt the temptation to leave the meadow in search of adventures. Most solemnly Jesus emphasizes, most solemnly He states the conclusion: In the same manner it is not the object of the heavenly Father's will that even a single one of the lowly and humble disciples be lost, especially not on account of an offense given by a brother in the faith. The Father in heaven has only one will, the will to save; only one desire He has, to save by grace. The idea of a predestination to damnation is as ridiculous as it is blasphemous.
Reception and rejection;
v. 13. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.
v. 14. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words: when ye depart out of that house, or city, shake off the dust of your feet.
v. 15. Verily, I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Day of Judgment than for that city.
If, after your salutation, the house be worthy of the honor that a servant of the Lord remain there, then your peace, which implies the blessing of the Lord, shall come and rest upon that house. But after all the pains you have taken, your judgment and the information of others may still be at fault; yet your greeting of peace will not have been spoken in vain, rather it shall be returned to you, to bless the speaker coming with the Lord's good will. The unkind treatment, however, shall in no case provoke you. Nevertheless, the mode of action in such a case, when both the house selected for a center of work and the entire community concur in rejecting the Lord's apostles is prescribed. He speaks with great emotion, as the form of the sentence shows. There is an absolute cutting-off reserved for people guilty of such rejection. The symbolical act of shaking off the dust from the feet or shoes to signify utter rejection of the unclean, to be done, not in the spirit of irritation nor of vindictiveness, but in the sorrow which undoubtedly filled the Lord's heart at the thought of such blindness. The vengeance upon such a city will be taken over by the Lord Himself. Even Sodom and Gomorrah, types and examples of the punitive justice of God, would not be so utterly rejected at the final judgment as will be the inhabitants of a city or village that refuse admittance to the servants of Christ and deliberately cast away the offered grace of the Redeemer. So highly Christ values the good tidings, the Gospel-message He commissioned the twelve to preach. Unbelief is the sin of sins.
The Perils of Apostleship.
The basis of the apostles' conduct:
v. 16. Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
Their attention is called to the importance of His instructions. I send you, emphatic; He, the promised Prophet, makes use of His power in commissioning them as His assistants; in the midst of dangerous circumstances His gracious protection would attend them. Due to the natural depravity of men and the hatred of redemption, their position would be that of sheep surrounded by wolves, but not in the power of the wolves! Danger might ever be lurking near, and vigilance untiring is demanded. Here nothing but weakness and natural timidity: there nothing but fierceness and rapacity; yet the mission must go on. The situation requires the wisdom, the prudence the cunning of serpents, Genesis 3:1; Psalms 58:5; but, incidentally, the guilelessness, the innocence, the simplicity of doves, Hosea 7:11. "Though Christ commands His disciples to be harmless as the doves, that is, they should be upright and without bitterness, yet He also admonishes them that they be prudent as the serpents, that is, they should diligently beware of false and deceitful people and be careful, as it is said that serpents in battle with special cunning and art watch and shelter their head."
The enmity of men:
v. 17. But beware of men; for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues.
v. 18. And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for My sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.
Be on your guard against such men as might turn out to be wolves in disguise. Do not, in general, trust yourselves to men, beware of confiding trustfulness, which delivers you into their power, John 2:24. A cordial aloofness may sound like a paradox, but describes the proper attitude. Upon occasion and with the slightest excuse, the enmity of men, directed in reality against the Word, will find its outlet in persecution of the hearers of the Word. Both the higher tribunals of justice, where the punishment might take a very serious form, and the synagogues, whose assemblies, as lower courts, exercised discipline and inflicted penalties, such as scourging, would be used by the enemies. Acts 22:19; 2 Corinthians 11:24. In the present instance even the civil courts may be called upon to pronounce judgment against the servants of Christ on all kinds of trumped-up charges. The Lord refers not only to the provincial governors of Palestine, but, by His omniscience, He looks far forward into the future, where He sees His confessors cited to appear before the mightiest rulers of the world. A tribulation, indeed, but also an honor, since it is for His sake, on His account. And theirs will be the glorious opportunity of witnessing for the Master, of declaring His testimony in the midst of such adverse circumstances to the enemies, who, in the earlier period, were Jews, and to the Gentiles, such as the governors and the court officers and attendants would usually be. This testimony would, as always, have the purpose of calling the sinners to repentance and of hardening the deliberately obstinate to their own damnation.
Counsel against anxiety:
v. 19. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak, for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.
v. 20. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
Since such persecutions, such trials, will come, since that fact is established, make your preparations accordingly, put your heart and mind in a condition which will enable you to stand the ordeal. Anxious, worrying thoughts argue distrust in God, and tend to produce confusion. It is no personal defense which they are undertaking, but that of a cause. Since it is Christ's and God's cause, He will provide a lawyer at the critical hour. Man's speech is at best imperfect, even in matters concerning this world only; how much greater the cause of the eternal Word! Set apologetic speeches, when the veracity and the power of the Gospel are on trial, may have their value. But so far as the apostles were concerned, they could at such times depend implicitly upon inspiration from on high; the Holy Spirit would give them the very words which they were to speak in their defense, Acts 26:1-Jonah :. And the promise holds true, in a measure, for all times. "Some of the greatest, most inspired utterances have been speeches made by men on trial for religious convictions. A good conscience, tranquility of spirit, and a sense of the greatness of the issue involved, make human speech at such times touch the sublime."
Persecution in the family circle:
v. 21. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child; and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.
v. 22. And ye shall be hated of all men for My name's sake. But he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
The indescribable depravity of man's heart, causing such hatred of the purity of the Gospel, severing the closest natural ties, turning the members of the same household into mortal enemies: brother against brother, father against child; actual insurrection of children against parental authority leading to murder; all natural and family affections forgotten. The world as such has always hated the servants of Christ, and the generality of the hatred toward them has in no wise been modified, even though there is a good deal of prating about toleration. In times of unusual stress, even now, hatred of the pure Gospel and its heralds will spread over the earth like an infectious fever and will readily burst forth in persecution at the slightest apparent provocation. But again: It is for His sake, and therefore a privilege rather than a trial. And Christ holds out the promise of a reward of mercy to stimulate a cheerful courage. He that perseveres, that has enduring patience to the end when the deliverance will come (for the trial will be neither momentary nor perpetual), shall find salvation awaiting him, James 1:12; Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:11-2 Kings :.
Advice and comfort during persecutions:
v. 23. But 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.
v. 24. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.
v. 25. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master and the servant as his lord.
If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of His household! There is a far cry from shunning martyrdom to abandoning prudence and inviting the enemies to wreak their vengeance. Self-appointed martyrs often seek self-glory. Where flight during persecution is possible without a denial of truth, without abandoning a flock of souls to the wolf, it should be chosen. It will be in the interest of the cause, if the work is stopped by persecution in one city, to flee to another, where the reception is likely to be different and the cause of Christ thus furthered. Christ here makes a solemn declaration. The "coming of the Son of Man" is a term referring to the founding and propagating of the kingdom of Christ after His glorification, beginning with the Pentecostal miracle. Ye shall not have finished or completed the cities, there will be abundant room for your labors till the time of My entering into glory and the beginning of My work as the almighty Head of My Church, according to My divinity and humanity. The time is short and the work is great. Energy and courage are sorely needed. In the form of a proverb, Jesus adds another comforting admonition. They should not expect to be better off than their Lord and Master, the Head of the Christian household. To endure the same persecutions, to suffer the same injuries, to be heaped with the same maledictions, is their natural as well as their honorable lot. The enemies had gone so far as to apply the epithet Beelzebub, lord of idolatry, prince of devils, to Christ. It would be presumption for His followers to expect less. "When a person accepts the Word of God, the Gospel, let him think nothing else than that he in that hour comes into peril with reference to all his goods, his house, home, farms, and meadows, his wife, children, father, and mother, also his own life. When danger and misfortune then strike him, it will be so much easier for him, since he thinks: I knew very well before that it would happen thus."
Fearless Confession of Christ Demanded.
v. 26. Fear them not therefore; for there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.
v. 27. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light; and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.
Have no fear, is the key-note of this section. Do not let fear, which is natural under the circumstances, overpower you, since they that are your enemies and try to harm you, are human beings. Take the risks of your high calling. Two proverbial sayings are offered by Christ in support of His urgent admonition. The covered things will be revealed, the secret things will be made known. The hatred and persecution of the world are often disguised under the form of patriotism and humanity, necessity of unification, etc. ; but God will, on the Day of Judgment, set everything in the proper light and render to every man his dues. In the meantime His work must go on. Its beginnings had of necessity been obscure, done, as it were, in darkness. But the disciples are to give it the proper publicity, set it forth in the light before the whole world. In the same way His confidential communications, His private teaching to them, was to be made common property. The learned doctors of the Jews had the custom of delivering their discourses in the synagogues to one of the elders, who then served as an interpreter in giving the people the sum of the dissertation in a popular form. In a similar manner, the work of the apostles should be carried on. The doctrine which they had received from Christ they are to proclaim with a loud voice from the roofs, since those of the Orient were flat and permitted such a use. Even today, and today perhaps more than ever, the disciples of Christ should make use of all legitimate ways to spread the Gospel-truths as widely as possible, never forgetting, however, that means to attract the people to the Gospel can never be made an end in themselves, lest the chief thing be made a matter of secondary importance. They shall be used to serve the Gospel only.
v. 28. And fear not them which, kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
v. 29. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
v. 30. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
v. 31. Fear ye not, therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.
Why harbor fear? All that the persecuting enemies can destroy or injure is the body, if God should so permit. Only one fear can and should live in the hearts of Christ's disciples, a deep-seated fear, an awe and relevance which fears not the punishment, but stands in holy dread of Him that judges and condemns both soul and body in everlasting destruction. For this is not a mere human tempter, who tries to harm his neighbor's soul by leading him into sin, nor is it Satan, for he has no absolute power over body and soul. It is the great God, the divine Judge Himself. Fear of human enemies implies lack of faith in Him, which may in turn lead to denial and thus to damnation. And again: Why fear? So little is the sparrow valued that one will be sold for one half an assarion , less than one cent; so small is the loss of a single hair that it is not even noticed. And yet: Not a single one of the lowest of birds falls to the ground without God's consent; the very individual hairs of our head are numbered. Will He whose care embraces the smallest details of every-day life permit harm to befall those that put their unwavering trust in Him? Will He who gives the assurance that we are preferred above many sparrows permit the enemies to harm our bodies?
v. 32. Whosoever, therefore, shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven.
v. 33. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven.
A solemn reference to the final judgment. A confession of Christ in word and deed, an open proclamation of the truth and a steadfast defense of the truth, is demanded for every follower of Christ. This is all the more necessary, since we confess by the grace of Christ, and He wants to give every one that believes in Him this grace. In denying Him, therefore, we prove ourselves destitute of all grace and lacking faith entirely. As He will stand by those with an open confession and defense that cheerfully confess Him here, so will He turn from those who by their denial of Him cut themselves off from the grace of God. There is no neutral ground; for every one the choice is only between confession and denial.
The result of such uncompromising demands:
v. 34. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth. I came not to send peace, but a sword.
v. 35. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
v. 36. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.
The same thought as in verse 21. Peace on earth was promised at the birth of Jesus, Luke 2:14. And peace on earth was earned by the Redeemer, Isaiah 53:5; Romans 5:1; 2 Corinthians 5:18-Psalms :. But here is where the Lord refers to the second, terrible effect of Gospel-preaching, in the case of those that persistently refuse to accept the redemption through the blood of Jesus, 2 Corinthians 2:16. Christ foresaw this hostile opposition to His message; He knew, also, that the spiritual conflict which would be brought on by carnal enmity would find its expression in actual physical persecution. His disciples should not then imagine, as they were likely to do, that there would now be a reign of earthly quietness and peace, with all the blessings which the word implies. Division, contention, war, sudden, fierce calamities would follow the introduction of the Gospel. There is no more bitter hatred and strife than that due to religious differences. It estranges the closest of friends, it disrupts families, it causes lasting enmity between members of the same household. These features will accompany the propagation of the new religion. To stand firm on the side of Christ demands the utmost fearlessness.
Perfect Consecration to Christ.
v. 37. He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.
v. 38. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me.
v. 39. He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it.
The facts, as just stated by Christ, may, under circumstances, make a very painful choice necessary, that between relatives and truth. In case of dissension in a family, policy and expediency suggest compromises, and this is the form of settlement usually adopted at the present time. Too often this means yielding on the part of the believers amounting to a denial of Jesus. It implies that earthly ties, the love of parents, the affection between brothers and sisters, are stronger, have a firmer hold upon the heart, than the express command of Jesus. If there is any yielding of principle, of the reading of Scriptures, of praying in private, of attending church services, of resenting blasphemy, then there is an express or implied denial of Christ by one who is not worthy of Him. It is a peremptory demand for preference above all earthly interests. Of course, conscientious confessing of Christ will result in unpleasantness, will lay many a cross on the earnest Christian, just as the Romans forced those that were condemned to the accursed tree to carry their own cross. There is here also a prophetic reference. The Lord by expressions of this kind was preparing His disciples for the fate which was awaiting Him. He suffered all,. even death on the cross, in confessing us. Crucifixion, terrible death; but horrible though it be, it means salvation for us. Shall His disciples prove themselves unworthy by refusing to follow after Him on the way of suffering, when a few years' tribulation will bring them eternal joy? The life of a disciple of Christ is not his to use for selfish ends. Jesus uses the word "life" here alternately for the bodily life and for eternal life, the salvation of the soul. He that seeks and apparently finds his life here in this world, in the pursuit of temporal interests, and forgets the care of his soul, will lose the salvation of. his soul. But if any one, for the sake of Christ and in staunch confession of Him, loses this earthly life with all it has to offer, he will find more than full and satisfying compensation in the reward of mercy at the hand of his Lord, the glories of eternal life.
A cheering saying:
v. 40. He that receiveth you receiveth Me; and he that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me.
v. 41. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward.
v. 42. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, verily, I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.
The apostles, the messengers of Christ, are His representatives. The treatment accorded them is, in them, given to Christ, and thus to God Himself, for the Master and God are one. But He makes the statement more general. He who receives, shows any kindness to, a prophet, one commissioned by God to teach the truth of eternal life, always keeping that fact in mind, will receive the reward of the prophet from God. The same holds true of him that shows a similar favor to any Christian brother, to any of the righteous. He also shall have a reward of mercy. And were it, under circumstances, only so much as a drink of cold water, as a welcome boon to a thirsty traveler, to refresh a brother, a fellow-disciple, or another sufferer, Christ affirms with great emphasis that such a person will not be without his reward. Christ speaks with great emotion, it is a question which affects Him very deeply, since the men whom He is sending out are His own messengers, who shall be consecrated wholly to Him. Any attention which may aid them in doing the great work of proclaiming the Gospel more cheerfully not only meets with His approval, but will, in the end, at least on the great day of reckoning, find such acknowledgment as will fully repay the kindness, and with thousand-fold interest.
Summary. Christ commissions twelve of His disciples as apostles by transmitting to them miraculous powers, by giving them instructions as to dress, equipment, content of preaching, manner of entry, reception, and rejection of the Gospel, and demanding perfect consecration to Him.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Matthew 10". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29