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When He instructs us to pray, He fully intends to answer such prayer, as we see now in His sending forth His twelve disciples. It is precious to see Him exercising authority to communicate authority to them over evil spirits, sickness and disease; for He is far more than God's servant: He is Lord. In fact, He sends forth the very servants whom He had instructed to pray that He would send labourers into His harvest. The names are given here in groups of two. Simon Peter is called "the first"' being particularly gifted as a public evangelist and a leader. Andrew follows, though it was he who brought Peter to the Lord (John 1:41-42). James and John were brothers. Bartholomew is evidently Nathanael, who was brought by Philip to the Lord (John 1:46-47). Thomas is linked with Matthew, who writes this Gospel. Lebbaeus (surnamed Thaddeus) is evidently Jude the brother of James (Luke 6:16; Jude 1:1). Of most of these we have very little history, in contrast to the sombre history of Judas Iscariot. But they are chosen from the lowly classes of men, to emphasize the power and grace of the King Himself in empowering them. (Paul, introduced later as apostle to the Gentiles, and to reveal the truth of the assembly, was in contrast a man of outstanding intellect and learning.)
These are commissioned to go neither to Gentiles nor to any city of the Samaritans, but only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Such a commission is plainly not applicable today. The Lord specifically changed this in Luke 22:35-37, in speaking to the same disciples; and in Matthew 28:19-20 the change is emphasized, for all nations are now to hear. The cross has made this great change, for there Israel is seen as rejecting the mercy offered to her, and Samaritans and Gentiles have the door of mercy opened to them, as is so beautifully seen historically in Philip's evangelisation of Samaria (Acts 8:1-40) and in Peter's being sent to the Gentile, Cornelius (Acts 10:1-48).
The twelve were sent to preach the kingdom of heaven as being at hand. This is not the kingdom as come in manifest power, as Israel expected, yet it is a kingdom in which the authority of the King is paramount even in a day that He is rejected by His Own nation Israel. Israel's rejection of Him, which shows itself defiantly by the end of Ch.12, will not deprive Him of this present kingdom. But first, Israel is to be given fullest opportunity to have part In this, though its headquarters are not in Jerusalem: rather it is the kingdom of heaven, its centre outside of the world entirely.
The truth of what they proclaim as to the kingdom is confirmed by the power given them to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead and to cast out demons. This power came from the King Himself: they had received it freely, and they were to freely give, not to use it as de present-day self-styled healers, for their own gain.
More then this, they were to carry no money with them, not a scrip for holding food, and no extra coat, shoes, or staff. This is because the Israelites to whom they went were responsible to care for the needs of the servants of their own Messiah. This would be totally changed when they were sent to Gentiles (Luke 22:36). In whatever city or town they entered they were to inquire for any whose character was of moral worth, and were to partake of their hospitality until they left. Any household that responded favourably to them would be blessed: otherwise be left without blessing. In fact, the disciples were to shake off the dust of their feet, In disclaiming all Identification with such a house or such a city. If it were a city thus opposed, its judgment would be more severe then that of Sodom and Gomorra, for as Israelites they were more responsible.
However, verses 16 to 23 involve, far more than the commission in effect while the Lord was on earth; for this goes on to the testimony seen in Acts, then further still, to that which will be revived in the tribulation period, as verse 23 clearly shows. They were sent as sheep in the midst of wolves, therefore to be always on guard, wise as serpents, yet in contrast to serpents, guileless as doves; for wisdom and transparent honesty are a true protection for the servant of the Lord.
While the Lord was on earth, there is no record of His disciples enduring the opposition of verses 17 and 18 (though John the Baptist suffered imprisonment and death); but in the book of Acts they were delivered up to the Jews' councils and scourged for their testimony to Christ, some of them also brought before governors and kings for His sake. This is first for a testimony against the Jews, but also the Gentiles are added, showing that these words go beyond the commission of verses 5 and 6.
When these things occurred they would need no speech-writer, nor even to study first what would be most wise or appropriate to answer when accused. Rather, they were to depend entirely on God to give them the words to speak at the time they were needed. In this they would allow the Spirit of their Father the freedom to speak without hindrance. We see this beautifully carried out in the cases of Peter and John in Acts 4:8-12; Acts 5:27-32; Stephen in Acts 7:1-60; and Paul in Acts 24:10-21; Acts 26:1-29.
The same will no doubt be true in the tribulation period, and verse 21 will have special application to that time, when even close natural relationships will be ignored because of the intensity of hatred toward the name of Christ, the true Messiah; brothers betraying brothers, fathers their children, children their parents, to be put to death. How dreadfully abnormal! Yet this Will be the exposure of what is the real character of the unbelieving heart of men.
At the time of the tribulation only a small remnant of Israel will bear Witness to Israel's Messiah, and they may expect the hatred of virtually all men. The period of tribulation will not be long, but intense: he that endures to the end of it will be saved for blessing in the millennial earth. Their being persecuted will have the effect of spreading the witness from city to city, for they are instructed, if persecuted In one city, to flee to another. The shortness of the time is then indicated in the fact that, in spite of this rapid dissemination of the testimony, they will not have covered all the cities of Israel before the coming of the Son of Man. Of course, the coming of the Lord to take His saints to glory will take place seven years before this, but the Christian dispensation is passed over here because it is from the viewpoint of a Jewish remnant that the Lord speaks. Such a remnant suffered when the Lord was on earth, then also in Acts (though there they formed the nucleus of the church), and the remnant will suffer in the tribulation too.
They may expect this because the disciple is not above his master nor the servant above his Lord. As their Lord was treated by men, so they could expect to be. The disciple should be content then to be called by hateful names, as his Lord was: indeed, even in this it is an honour to be identified with Him (See Ch.12:24). In suffering such reproach, Peter says "happy are ye" (1 Peter 4:14).
They may well trust the strength of His own word, "fear them not therefore." Though their falsehood may seem to triumph for the time being, it will get be fully exposed to their own shame. Truth will eventually gain its complete victory. What the Lord spoke to them in darkness (that is, privately) they were to speak in the light, for it was the truth that men needed. Just so, what we today learn in the quietness of communion with the Lord we are to declare In the boldness of honest faith. These things Must not be merely our opinions, but what the Lord speaks.
Fear of man is to have no place where the word of God is faithfully proclaimed. If, as in the case Of Stephen (Acts 7:1-60), men kill the body out of antagonism against the word of God, they cannot kill the soul, as Stephen's triumphant faith bore witness at the very time of his martyrdom. God is able to destroy both soul and body in hell: He then is the One whom men should fear. To destroy however does not mean to annihilate, but to render unfit for any intended use.
The Lord uses the sparrow as the picture of virtual worthlessness, yet it is the social bird, always found in inhabited places, desiring fellowship. How apt an illustration of believers, who are more valuable then many sparrows! (Compare Psalms 102:7) Not one of them falls to the ground without the Father's concern; and that concern is such toward Us as to number the very hairs of our head. If this is true of the smallest details physically, what of all the other details of our needs, whether of spirit or soul?
To be valued so greatly by the Father surely calls for a fitting response on our part, that response of fearlessly Confessing Christ before men. He is far more then worthy of this. But this too will elicit a response on the part of the Lord Jesus in confessing before His Father the one who confessed Him before men. Wonderful honour indeed given to the wholehearted believer!
But the reverse is true for one who dares to deny Him before men. To be denied by the Son of God will involve for him the greatest dishonour and humiliation. Men do not stop to consider the solemn horror and dishonesty denying the Son of God those rights that are His alone. This is not only an insult to Him, but also to His Father, to whom the name of His beloved Son is precious beyond all we can imagine.
Christ Himself is the test of men's condition. He did not come to send peace on earth, that is, to make men comfortable with one another while still In a state of quilt. Rather His presence is as a sharp, dividing sword, bringing into focus the reality of some and the rebellion of others. By this touchstone the variance between father and son is manifested, and between mother and daughter, etc. So it has proven in history: many households have been divided because Christ is received by some and refused by other members of a family.
There must be a decision as regards Christ. If one loves father or mother, son or daughter more than Him, he is not worthy of Him. He cannot take a secondary place to any natural relationship. For any mere man to require this would be wickedness; but this Man is the eternal God, worthy of unconditional worship, and entitled to the absolute obedience of every creature. It is added also that if one does not take his cross and follow Christ, he is not worthy of Him. For Christ has willingly accepted the cross of the rejection of mankind for our sake. Every disciple of His therefore is to take his own cross, that is, to voluntarily identify himself with the rejected Christ of God, and to follow Him in this path of rejection, not expecting any recognition by the world, but rather reproach. This is of course inseparably connected with a confession of Christ, as in verse 32.
One who found his life, that is, chose a life of ease and comfort on earth, would only lose it, for man cannot retain what be seeks so ardently to hold, a fact that Ecclesiastes 12:1-14 so graphically portrays. But if one would lose his life for Christ's sake, that is, make Christ his object, though this might mean sacrificing life's natural pleasures and objects, he would actually find his life in its satisfying character of lasting value and blessing, a life with eternal good In view.
Verse 40 is a wonderful assurance for the sake of one who receives the Lord's servant. Since Christ has sent him, then receiving him is receiving Christ Himself, and this involves receiving the Father also, a steadying, precious reminder for us, for there are many indeed who do not stop to consider the seriousness of this principle. We know it is true among unbelievers, who think nothing of treating the Lord's servant with contempt. On the other hand, even believers are sometimes most unwise in the way in which they criticize the message or the person of one whom the Lord Himself has sent to bring the truth of His word to bear upon consciences and hearts. While it is unbecoming to flatter one because he is the Lord's servant, get it is also most unbecoming to treat him with disrespect, for in this we express our disrespect for the Lord.
Also, if one receives a prophet in the name of a prophet, that is, as a prophet, he will receive a prophet's reward. Since he takes to heart God's Message sent by a prophet, then he will receive a similar reward to that of the prophet who faithfully speaks for God. If he receives a righteous man as a righteous man, this puts him in the class of righteous man, and as such he will receive a reward. If he receives him with ulterior motives, this would be totally different, of course. Simon the Pharisee received the Lord into his house (Luke 7:36), but not as a prophet (v3,34), though he admitted He was a teacher (v.40).
Finally, even the smallest recognition of Christ would not be unrewarded. One who gave a cup of cold water to a little child, only in the name of a disciple, that is, as identified with a disciple of the Lord, would certainly be rewarded. For, in doing this one is evidencing the fact that he doe at least have some respect for Christ.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Matthew 10". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25