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the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 10

Watson's Exposition on Matthew, Mark, Luke & RomansWatson's Expositions

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Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

1 Christ sendeth out his twelve apostles, enabling them with power to do miracles,

5 giveth them their charge, teacheth them,

16 comforteth them against persecutions:

40 and promiseth a blessing to those that receive them.

Verse 1

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Twelve disciples. — They had before followed him under the character of disciples; but were now expressly made APOSTLES. The word signifies a messenger, any one sent by another for any purpose whatever. In Herodotus it signifies a herald; and in a still higher sense it is used, like the Hebrew שׁ?לות , for legate or ambassador. It is a word of dignity, but only according to the character of the sender, the message, and the person sent. In the highest sense it is applied to Christ himself, who is the “Apostle and High Priest of our profession;” in the next degree it is given to the twelve apostles of Christ, to whom St. Paul was afterward added; then, in 2 Corinthians 8:23, Titus and other brethren are called “apostles of the Churches,” where it is rendered “messengers” in our translation. — “The apostles of Christ,” and “the apostles of the Lamb,” are phrases which seem not to have been used but with reference to “THE TWELVE” and ST. PAUL. Some, indeed, think that the title was, in its higher sense, applied also to Barnabas and other distinguished founders of the Christian faith; but this does not so clearly appear. Many fancies have been built upon the number of apostles being limited to twelve, and allusions have been found in the circumstance to the twelve patriarchs, the twelve spies, the twelve stones in Aaron’s breastplate, the twelve fountains found by the Israelites in the wilderness, the twelve oxen which supported Solomon’s molten laver, &c., &c., for all of which plausible or absurd reasons have been given; but the best use to be made of such speculations is to teach us the necessity of interpreting Scripture with sobriety; for the whole charm of such discoveries of mysteries in the number twelve is dissipated when we recollect that in fact, after St. Paul was called, the number of the apostles of equal rank and dignity, by whom the foundations of the Christian Church were laid, was not twelve but thirteen. If any reason at all can be assigned for the number of twelve being first fixed upon, it appears to have been with reference to their being first sent only to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” to prepare a spiritual Israel for Christ, before the formal calling of the Gentiles. — Their number was therefore that of the twelve tribes, who were mingled in one population after the return from the captivity, the genealogies of Levi and Judah only being preserved with much care with reference to the priesthood and the Messiah. But when the Gentiles were to be called, one was added to the number, not to exclude the rest from ministering to the Gentiles, but to give a strong sanction to the doctrine of the equality of believing Gentiles and believing Jews, with which St. Paul was specially charged.

He gave them power, &c. — This is the grand distinction between the miraculous powers of Christ and those of his apostles. The one was inherent in himself, the other was expressly communicated by him, and was never employed but as his power, not as theirs who exercised it. The distinction, before noticed, will here again be remarked between “CASTING OUT unclean spirits, and HEALING all manner of sickness;” so that possession is excluded expressly from the class of sicknesses and diseases.

Verse 2

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Now the names of the twelve apostles. — The order in which some of these became disciples may be thus collected from the different gospels. Andrew, Peter’s brother, and John, having been disciples of the Baptist, first joined themselves to Christ; then Andrew fetched his brother Peter, and spent the rest of the day with our Lord. — The next day Philip was called, and Nathanael, generally supposed to be Bartholomew. But these returned to their occupations, and when the call was given, which implied that they were to give up themselves wholly to be trained to the ministration of his doctrine, Peter was first called, (see Luke 5:3-10,) then James and John, and probably Andrew at the same time. The call of Matthew is also distinctly related: but of the special calling of the others we have no account, save that the whole twelve are here enumerated together. The catalogues are not formed with reference to rank and dignity, but to order only; for if rank had been implied, the catalogues would have exactly agreed in the gospels and the Acts; yet Peter is in them all named first, and Judas Iscariot last; Peter as having been, in fact, first called to the office of the ministry, as noticed above, while Judas is very naturally put last as the traitor, unless indeed he was the last called.

Peter. — To Simon the name of Peter was given, in Syriac Cephos, in Greek Πετρος , from ωετρα a stone, the first main stone laid upon the foundation corner stone, which is Christ himself, who is also the top corner stone, or “head of the corner.”

Verse 3

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

James the son of Alphæus. — To distinguish him from James the brother of John, both the sons of Zebedee. Alphæus is from תלפי , which is pronounced Alpha, or Cleophi; hence this Alpheus is called Cleopas Luke 24:18.

Lebbæus whose surname was Thaddæus. — Judas, or Jude, was called Lebbæus, from Lebba, a town in Galilee, to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot. Judas, in Syriac, is Thaddai.

Verse 4

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Simon the Canaanite. — From the Hebrew קנא , zeal, whence St. Luke calls him, by interpretation, “Simon Zelotes;” a name given to him, as some thought, for his zeal and piety, but others, from his having belonged to a sect called Zealots, because of their zeal for the law, and their instant execution of it, without waiting for authority. — This was called “the judgment of zeal.” — But it is doubtful whether this sect appeared so long before the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans, when their fanatical zeal is specially recorded by Josephus. Certainly he was not a Canaanite, in the sense of being a descendant of Canaan.

Judas Iscariot. — The town of Carioth, in Judah, is the most probable derivation of the cognomen of the traitor.

Men more influential for their rank, and more eminent for learning, our Lord might have called. Centurions and rulers of synagogues had believed on him, and Nicodemus, a Jewish doctor, at an early period, became his disciple; but the whole work was to be manifestly of God, and it was to be demonstrated as much above the reach of human wisdom to plan, as of human influence to promote. “Plain integrity,” says one very justly, “and honest simplicity, were the qualifications which Christ sought; and he found them more easily in the fishing vessels of the sea of Galilee, than in the banqueting rooms or splendid houses on the shore.” In fact, all that was in the first instance wanted was men of character, to state facts; men of simplicity, to report the doctrines they had been taught, and as they had been delivered to them; and men of holy courage, willing to suffer and to die for the truth. When languages were wanted, they received them by special gift; and when they were called to dispute, “a mouth and wisdom” were given to them for the occasion. Thus they were kept immediately dependent upon their Master, even after he had ascended to heaven, unbiassed by the speculative taste which all the learning of that day tended to form; and they were thereby the fitter channels through which to convey the water of life in the same purity with which it had issued from the FOUNTAIN itself. One, indeed, and but one, proved false; but, happily for the world, he betrayed his Master before he could betray his cause, to the establishment of which his treachery was made signally subservient.

Verse 5

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Way of the Gentiles, &c. — That the apostles on this mission were forbidden to go to Gentile nations or among the Samaritans, in deference to the, prejudices of the Jews, or in the least degree to give sanction to their notions of superiority over the heathens or semi-heathens, with whom they were surrounded, is a very unfounded notion, and is wholly inconsistent with that spirit of charity and kindness to the whole world which so often breaks forth in the discourses of our Lord himself. This mission of the twelve, as appears by the foregoing chapter, proceeded from Christ’s deeply excited compassion for the neglected and perishing condition of the Jewish people; so that their degradation and misery, not their fancied superiority, were implied in it. Christ, indeed, was sent first and principally to the Jews, and so were his apostles; and the reason was obvious. — Christianity was to be built upon the foundation of the Old Testament, as the same dispensation perfected. No other people had been placed in such a course of training to receive it; and either the Jews, who held the prophecies of this new dispensation, and certain principles common both to the new and to the old, must be convinced of the truth of Christ’s claims and doctrines, or be reasonably silenced by appeals to what they held sacred, before Christianity could be proposed to any distant nation with hope of success. The kind affection of our Lord to his country — for among his other illustrious human virtues he has shown us what a pure and ardent patriotism really is — would impel him to seek first the salvation of his own people; but the design was higher than this.

The Gospel system had been yet but imperfectly announced, and indeed was incomplete as wanting the facts of the great sacrifice, the resurrection, the ascension, and the priesthood of its Founder, by all which, many important prophecies were yet to be accomplished; and the time, therefore, was not come for its being propounded to Gentile nations, who did not admit the preliminary and preparatory dispensation of the Old Testament. Yet before Christianity received its perfect form, and was stamped by the hand of its Divine Author with its final seal, an opportunity for effecting great good presented itself among the Jews. John the Baptist had, by his preaching, produced a great impression upon the people, and led them to expect the immediate appearance of Messiah: now, the office of the apostles, to be sent forth in different directions, was to declare that Jesus was that Messiah; to work miracles in his name, in order to prove it: to relate his mighty works; and, no doubt, to repeat his sayings and discourses; thus calling forth prayer, and incipient faith, and, spiritual desires, and disposing many at least to receive the Gospel when it should, in its complete form and its fulness of evidence, be proposed to them; for the subject of their preaching was to be, “The kingdom, of heaven is at hand.” Great immediate good was to be done, and the seed of a large future harvest was sown. Nor are we to understand the prohibition of our Lord so strictly as to suppose that the Gentiles who mingled with the Jews, many of whom were either proselytes or well affected to many truths in the Jewish religion, or that the Samaritans they might meet with, were to be wholly neglected. Christ himself did not despise this class of men, though he too was sent, as he sent his apostles, “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” that is, chiefly and principally. “The WAY of the Gentiles” means the road leading to the Gentile nations; therefore they were not to go to the Gentiles as nations; and into any CITY of the Samaritans they were not to enter, that is, to fulfil their mission. These were to be visited in the fulness of time.

But many individual Gentiles in Judea were as well prepared, by their previous knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures, to receive benefit from their mission as the Jews, and probably many individual Samaritans also, as their Master himself had found.

Verse 8

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Raise the dead. — Because we have no account of the apostles raising the dead before the ascension of Christ, it has been contended that these words have been interpolated; in favour of which, it is pleaded that they are not found in several MSS. and versions. They are, however, found in the Vulgate, Syriac, Ethiopic, and Arabic versions, and in the Cambr. and Alex. MSS., and in several of the fathers; nor for such an interpolation can any good reason be conjectured. The allegation that the twelve apostles, during this their first mission, raised no dead to life, or it is thought the fact would have been mentioned, proves nothing; for neither do we read that they “cleansed any lepers, and yet that power is expressly committed to them. It may, however, be granted that they did not, at that time, raise any dead to life; yet to argue from this against the clause in the text entirely overlooks one of the main circumstances connected with the exercise of these powers; that they were not to be wielded at the judgment and discretion of man. The occasions for their exercise were presented to them by a special providence, and the powers were to be exercised on consideration, prayer, and looking up to God for intimations of his will. It could never be intended that they should raise all the dead to life, whom they might meet on their journey, carried out for burial. Our Lord did not thus use his power, as they well knew; but that when it should seem to be for the glory of God, and when they were under the impulse of that superior power by which alone the attempt could be effectual. No such occasions might or probably did occur on this journey; but that power was with them which was adequate to the case, had the wisdom of God so appointed; and it continued with them through their whole apostolic life but still subject to be exerted only under special impulses. It is farther to be observed, that the discourse is not to be considered as applicable only to their first limited apostolical journey, although that was the occasion which called it forth. See note on verse 17.

Freely ye have received, &c. — They were to receive no money, no compensation, but the bare support afforded by a free hospitality; although, when they healed diseases, the gratitude of many might offer them considerable gifts. They were to be decently supported in their work; and this was to be the standing rule of future times as to ministers, and its limit; but whether this support was to be given in kind or money, circumstances may determine. The intention of the rule is to prohibit making a gain of godliness, and to prevent the ministry from being regarded as a lucrative profession. They were therefore to go forth in full dependence upon Providence, and, under that, the good will of well disposed men. No money was to be taken in their purses, εις τας ζωνας, girdles, which the orientals and even Romans used as purses. Nor were they to take a scrip, πηρα , the bag in which travellers carried provisions from stage to stage; nor two coats, χιτων , vests or tunics; nor shoes, υποδηματα , which some distinguish from sandals. They were, however, originally the same, although, in a later age, the shoe was a covering for the whole foot, as distinguished from σανδαλιον , which defended only the sole. The meaning certainly was, not that they should go barefoot, as some have understood it, any more than that they should go without coats; but that they should not take two pair of sandals, as they were not to take two coats, nor yet staves. St. Mark says, “save a staff only,” which shows that one was permitted. Two staves were therefore prohibited, as two coats and two pair of sandals: should, therefore, their staff be broken or lost, they were to look to the kindness of those to whom they preached to furnish them with this part of the necessary equipment of an eastern traveller, as well as for a supply of sandals and coats when needed; so absolute was to be their trust in God, so free were they to keep themselves from those anxieties which superfluity always brings with it; and yet such care was taken to remind the people of the duty of a liberal hospitality to guests sent by such a Master and on such an errand, that they might want nothing necessary to health and comfort, when it was seen that their necessities called for supplies; for, adds our Lord, the labourer is worthy of his meat, της τροφης , of his maintenance, including here all necessaries, but not money. — Michaelis, who holds that Matthew’s gospel was first written in Hebrew, conjectures, that before the words shoes and staves, stood אלא , “except only;” it would then be read, that the disciples were to take nothing with them but shoes and staves; but the sense does not require this conjectural amendment; and the notion of a Hebrew original is exceedingly doubtful. See the introduction.

Verse 11

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Worthy. — Not PIOUS, as some suppose; for of whom were the apostles to obtain their information, but from those they might casually meet, persons who would generally direct them to the highest professors of the piety most popular in that day; the ostentatious Pharisees, who were the most likely persons to reject them? But by the “worthy,” are probably meant liberal and bountiful persons, well known for practising hospitality to strangers: which was generally a good indication of moral worth, though not an infallible one; and our Lord prepares them for disappointment in some instances, even from persons who had this good report.

There abide. — They were not to go from house to house through fickleness of temper, or show that they could not bear with the infirmities of those by whom they were entertained, should they be exercised with this trial of meekness; or that they were discontented with the accommodations afforded them. If, upon the whole, their entertainers were willing to receive them, and out of respect to their message, they were to show themselves indifferent to all inferior considerations, and to practise humility, patience, and self-denial.

Verse 12

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Salute it. — That is, the house-hold, the family. What the salutation was we learn from St. Luke: “Peace be to this house;” which indeed is added here in the Vulgate, Pax huic domui. Peace signifies every kind of felicity. “Great is peace,” say the rabbins; “for all other blessings are comprehended in it.”

Verse 13

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

But if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. — If you are rejected out of hatred to your Master and his message, your office and your work, let your peace return; that is, it shall return, the imperative being used for the prophetic future: they were to withdraw a benediction which could only be pronounced in Christ’s name; and he engages to ratify their act. This is a proof that more than the ordinary salutations are here intended; for our Lord was not teaching his apostles the common forms of civility, which they well enough understood. Let your peace RETURN to you, is a Hebraism. Thus it is said of God’s word, that it “would return to him void,” on the supposition that it failed to produce its effect; and prayer not answered is said to return “into the bosom.” The sense, therefore, is that, in the case stated, the peace prayed for would not be imparted, the blessing offered would not be given.

Verse 14

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Shake off the dust of your feet. — The Jews thought the dust of heathen lands polluted, and were careful to free themselves from it. Of this, Wetstein has given many examples from their writers, as, “The dust of Syria defiles, like the dust of other heathen countries.” By this significant act, therefore, not performed in passion and resentment, but solemnly, as commanded by Christ, the apostles were to declare that house or city which rejected them, as worthy only to be ranked with the polluted dries of the heathen, even with Sodom and Gomorrah.

Verse 15

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

In the day of judgment, than for that city. — That is, than for the inhabitants of that city. Collective bodies of men composing cities and nations have their punishment in this life; but in the final judgment they will be dealt with as individuals: “EVERY ONE shall give account of himself to God.” Some modern critics, relying on that frail ground, the absence of the article before ημερα , render it “A day of judgment;” forgetting that, in the very same day here mentioned, the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah are also to be judged. The day mentioned can therefore be no other than THE day of final judgment. Let two things here be strongly marked:

1. That the severest TEMPORAL judgments upon sinful men, do not satisfy the claims of the offended justice of a holy God. The wretched inhabitants of the cities of the plain are still reserved to public trial and future vengeance.

2. That terrible as their case will be, it shall be more tolerable, more supportable, than that of those who reject the Gospel of Christ, an act which involves a contempt of the highest manifestation of the Divine mercy.

Verse 16

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Wise as serpents. — Not wise or skilful to inflict injury, which, indeed serpents are, by hiding themselves, and striking their victim unawares. This interpretation is excluded by the next simile, harmless as doves; but, as the instinct of the serpent leads him also adroitly to shun danger by quickly retiring into his hiding place, so our Lord enjoins upon his disciples a prudent foresight of impending evils, and a timely escape from them; in opposition to that fanatical courting and braving of persecution, in which some ardent minds might be apt to indulge. This precept, however, shows that Holy Scripture as to be interpreted by a collation of its parts, or we might fall into the greatest errors. In other passages our Lord enjoins the exposing ourselves to all risks and sufferings for the sake of the truth; and even to rejoice in persecutions for his name’s sake. Between these there is no contradiction, but the finest moral harmony. Whenever duty, honestly interpreted, without the bias of self- love, allows us to escape danger by the exercise of prudence, not only respect to ourselves, but also that we may prevent others from grievously sinning, by indulging their malignity against Christ, requires that we ought to embrace the opportunity of doing so. — When, however, safety cannot be secured without injury to our Master’s truth and cause, no consideration will induce the faithful disciple to desert his post, or to shrink from death itself. PASSION is excluded from our religion, that calm PRINCIPLE may exhibit its more noble triumphs.

Harmless as doves. — This admits of no limitation; but is to be the character of disciples at all times and under all circumstances, whether they fight or fly. Harmless ακεραιος , which some derive from α , privative, and κεραω , or κεραννυμι , to mingle and hence render it pure, without malice: so Hesychius. But the antithesis appears thus to be lost. As our Lord obviously meant to enjoin prudence, rightly understood, upon his disciples by the proverbial example of the serpent, he must have intended to guard them against that cunning of the serpent which is employed to injure and destroy; the opposite to which is not so properly freedom from malice, which is not an obvious quality of the dove, as harmlessness, which has rendered the dove everywhere the emblem of peace. The derivation may therefore be better drawn from α , privative, and κεραιζω , to hurt, and is therefore accurately expressed in our translation. The expression was probably proverbial.

Verse 17

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

But beware of men, &c. — Whether the article before ανθρωπον has the emphasis assigned to it by Middleton and others who regard it either as making a renewed mention of the class of men previously designated as “wolves,” or as signifying Jews in opposition to heathens, a still less probable supposition, is quite conjectural; and, indeed, either view only serves to divert the reader from what appears to be the true antithesis, which lies not between one class of men and another, but is an implied one between MEN and SERPENTS. The last idea in our Lord’s mind was the mischievous nature of the serpent tribe, all imitation of which he forbids to his disciples; and this naturally leads him to caution them against MEN, as more venomous, cunning, and deadly than serpents themselves: but beware of men.

Councils, synagogues. — The councils here mentioned are the courts attached to each synagogue, which had the power of scourging. The disciples are forewarned that they would be delivered up to councils to be proceeded against as delinquents, and the result would be the infliction of “forty stripes, save one,” as many of the disciples afterward experienced; for our Lord must be understood, not as speaking of what should happen to the twelve apostles during the temporary mission on which he was now sending them, nor as confining his remarks and exhortations to them alone, but through them to all his persecuted disciples afterward, and to them with respect to their whole ministry to the end of their life. This is clear from the next verse: And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles; so that his words manifestly extend to those times also when they should be employed in their mission among the Gentile nations, to whom they were as yet commanded not to go. This consideration is necessary for the right understanding of several parts of this discourse; for if it be restrained only to the first limited mission of the apostles, it becomes in many parts obscure. The scourging of delinquents was performed by the chuzan, or servant of the synagogue. The practice was for the superior judge to rest passages out of the law during the infliction of the punishment; the second judge numbered the stripes; and the third gave the order to strike before each blow. St. Paul was thus scourged in the synagogue five times. The instrument of scourging was a leathern thong, doubled and twisted.

Verse 18

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

A testimony against them. — The first preachers of the Gospel gave a strong testimony to the truth of their religion by the readiness which they showed to suffer in attestation of the facts on which it was built, and the truth of which they had the means of knowing with certainty; while the Divine origin of its doctrines derived a powerful evidence from the calm heroism, the meek and forgiving spirit, with which they inspired the sufferers. This was also a testimony AGAINST their persecutors, because it rendered the cruelties they exercised upon holy, benevolent, and peaceful men inexcusable, and a crime against God, though done often under the sanction of public laws.

Verse 19

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

It shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. — As they would often be questioned, not only as to matters of fact touching their conduct, but as to their motives, designs, and opinions, their appearance before magistrates would necessarily often demand both the statement and defence of the truths of Christianity, and, before Jewish rulers, appeals also to the prophecies of the Old Testament, in which they would have to encounter, not only violent prejudices, but subtle objections. They might naturally therefore be anxious, lest, in such circumstances, through fear, they might lose their self-possession, and through hurry of spirit injure both the truth and themselves. The promise of our Lord was therefore designed to remove all anxiety in this respect. It assured them of special assistance, both as to WHAT and HOW they should speak, which two particulars comprehend every thing in a suitable and truly eloquent discourse. The matter and the manner both were to be under Divine suggestion; but the latter is not to be understood of the graces of delivery, but of “the spirit and power” of their addresses. — Such is the import of the promise made to the apostles; but it contains no more than all true Christians in all ages may expect, when called upon in any way to bear their testimony to the truth; for new revelations are not at all intended in the text, and in fact do not appear to have been ever made to the first preachers in such circumstances.

What is promised is the power to give a clear, convincing, energetic statement of what had been already revealed; an assistance which was to suggest the fittest topics, and the most appropriate manner of stating them. — Why, then, should we be told that other Christians have no authority to look up to Christ their Master with the same confidence? Those who have descanted on the fanaticism of looking for new revelations on the authority of this text, do not themselves understand its meaning, which implies, not the revelation of new truth, but the power of stating effectually that which had been communicated. Let the private Christian, then, when placed in difficult circumstances, and yet is called upon to speak concerning his religion, rely upon the promise of his Master, both to aid his THOUGHTS, and influence his SPIRIT and manner; and let ministers also have the same holy confidence in Divine help in their great though regular employment of PREACHING the Gospel. Nor did it follow from this promise, that the apostles were not previously to study their religion, or to revolve in their minds the points on which they might be interrogated: they were not to be careless as to the matter, but simply not anxious and distracted; for that is the import of μη μεριμνησητε , the words used. This also is applicable to the ordinary exercise of the ministry. After all the previous thought which may have been employed, the dependence, as to the statement of truth in a proper and influential manner, is to be placed upon Christ; and if prayer for Divine aid means any thing, that aid must be similar to the assistance here promised to the apostles when they had to “give a reason of the hope within them” before governors and kings. Like them, too, all true “ministers of Christ are authorized to dismiss distracting anxiety, as to what or how they shall speak, and to make their preaching “a work of faith,” as well as “a labour of love.” Those who choose to write their sermons at full length, and read or repeat, them from memory, of course, give up all claim in this promise.

Verse 20

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

For it is not you that speak, &c. — You alone do not speak; or, you speak not without special and direct assistance; but the Spirit of your Father speaketh in you, by ordering your thoughts, and giving you “utterance.” And He who “made man’s mouth” to be his instrument, is still “with the mouth” of his faithful servants to this day.

Verse 21

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Children shall rise up. — That is, if the term be taken forensically, as witnesses in the courts in which their believing parents shall be prosecuted; but it need not be so restricted. The words intimate that religious hatred should sever the tenderest bonds of natural affection, and overcome and pervert the strongest instincts of human nature. This declaration is to be regarded in the light of a prediction, which, in many subsequent ages, has been most fully accomplished; and who but He that “knew what was in man,” and whose omniscient eye could search the depths of the future, could have so accurately traced this repulsive feature in the dark history of religious persecutions? The experience of past ages afforded little aid to conjecture here. That persecution “for righteousness’ sake,” in which the highest degree of truth and holiness uniformly provoked the most diabolical enmity, arising from an unmixed hatred of truth and holiness themselves, which, since Christianity was first introduced into our world, has been practised in almost every age and place, both by Jews, pagans, and hypocritical Christians, had no parallel in the ancient world. To foresee this extraordinary moral phenomenon, and to foretell it, was, in the proper sense, to utter a prophecy, every part of which has been exactly and a thousand times exemplified.

Verse 22

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Endureth to the end, &c. — Some have explained the end to mean the time of the destruction of Jerusalem; and the salvation here promised to the enduring, to be deliverance from the calamities which should befall the Jews; but this is too limited and secular an interpretation. The end is the termination of the sufferings and trials of each individual, which would not, however, in all its forms cease but with the life of the faithful disciple; and the salvation is deliverance from eternal wrath, to which every one who should be ashamed of confessing Christ would be inevitably doomed. “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life,” may be taken as our Lord’s own comment upon these words, in his message to one of the persecuted Churches of Asia Minor. The practice of many commentators to refer so many of the allusions in the discourses of John the Baptist, and those of our Lord, to the destruction of Jerusalem, and the deliverance of the Christians, has destroyed the force of many of the most impressive passages in both. This misapplication, in many instances, is absurd; in others it corrupts the sense of Scripture, and destroys its spirituality. In the present instance, the promise, that he that endureth to the end shall be saved, can have no important meaning when considered as a part of a discourse which contains solemn directions to the apostles, as to the exercise of their ministry to the end of their life, and through them to all ministers. What appositeness to this great design would there have been in saying, “He that continues a Christian until Jerusalem is besieged by the Romans, shall escape being shut within its walls?” a danger to which not more than one or two, if any, of the apostles were exposed, they being for the most part absent from Judea; but, if otherwise, it has no correspondence with the labours, sufferings, and rewards of the faithful, enduring minister of Christ, as set forth in other passages, which connect, them all with the interests of the soul, and the solemnities and glories of eternity. These remarks are made to guard the reader against those false and generally debasing interpretations of Scripture which often occur even among learned commentators, both domestic and foreign, who, not being spiritual men themselves, or prone largely to sacrifice the sense of particular passages to some favourite theory or principle of interpretation, greatly mislead the inattentive and incautious.

Verse 23

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Ye shall not have gone over the cities, &c. — Ου μη τελεσητε τας πολεις , ye shall not end or finish the cities, says the margin, that is, by visiting them. The meaning is, “Ye shall not have accomplished your mission to the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come;” or, “Ye shall scarcely have conveyed to all those cities the tidings of salvation before the Son of man come.” The coming of the Son of man signifies his awful manifestation as the Judge of the Jewish nation, by the ever memorable and fatal invasion of the Romans, and the entire consequent subversion of their polity; which invisible coming of his he several times refers to in his prophecies, as the type of his final advent as the Judge of the world. This is another proof that the address here made to the apostles referred also to their future ministry after his resurrection, and that of his other commissioned servants; and the object of it was to quicken them to a zealous itinerancy through all the cities of Israel, by intimating that the judgment of that wretched people could not long be delayed. They had a great work to do, and but little space to do it in. Judgment was at the door in its most awful forms, and the ministers of salvation were therefore to employ every effort in plucking as many out of the fire as possible. There was no time to be lost in disputing with the incorrigibly obstinate; “when, therefore, they persecute you in one city, flee to another,” and compass the length and breadth of a devoted land in order to save some.

To refer this coming of the Son of man to his resurrection or ascension, has no warrant from any similar use of the phrase, and, in fact, wholly obscures the passage; for the apostles were not employed in this work until the resurrection of Christ, except only for a very short time, after which they returned and remained with Christ. If, therefore, the work assigned them of visiting all the cities of Israel, was subsequent to the resurrection and ascension, then the coming of “the Son of man” must be subsequent to that event also, and can only be referred to his coming to judge and destroy the nation. Some render τελειν , to instruct; but this is far-fetched; and there is no necessity for departing from the common rendering for the objection, that, as many years elapsed before the destruction of Jerusalem, there could be no such scarcity of time to go over the cities of Israel as seems to be intimated; that would be true, if nothing more had been meant than paying a hasty visit to each; but our Lord refers to the serious and laborious efforts of his apostles and other disciples to bring the Jews to embrace the Gospel, in order that they might escape the threatened judgments of God; and forty years was but a short time for them to pursue such labours amid prejudice, calumny, and persecution, so as to discharge their consciences as to every city, and town, and village of Judea, to render all inexcusable, and to train up, out of so corrupt a mass, those numerous, though small Hebrew Churches, which by their instrumentality were in fact raised up.

Verse 24

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

The disciple is not above his master, &c. — The consideration of the humiliations, persecutions, and reproaches of our blessed Lord, will always greatly tend to sustain the patience of the suffering disciples. We can only successfully run the race of difficulty, as the race of duty, by “looking unto Jesus.”

Verse 25

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Beelzebub. — Our translators have followed the Vulgate in writing this name Beelzebub, instead of Beelzebul, which is undoubtedly the true reading. Baalzebub was an Ekronite or Philistine idol, בעל זבוב , mentioned 2 Kings 1:2, and this in Greek is written βεελζεβουλ , Beelzebul, the β being changed into λ , because no word in Greek is found to end in β . The same idol is meant by each appellation; and as this was a chief deity among the pagan nations which surrounded the Jews, and as the latter believed all the false deities of the heathens to be evil spirits, the name was transferred to Satan, and commonly used as a name for “the prince of devils.” Baalzebub signifies the lord of flies, this deity being probably the object of special trust for deliverance from hornets, locusts, and other winged insects, the scourge of those countries; but with the Jews of our Lord’s time it was merely employed as one of the names of Satan. The notion of Lightfoot that Baalzebub was altered by the Jews into Beelzebul, from זבול Zebul, DUNG, in order to express their contempt of this and other idols invented by them, and that it was in this contemptuous sense that it was applied to our Lord by the Pharisees, appears to be no better than an ingenious conjecture; for the Syriac, Ethiopic, and Arabic versions agree with the Vulgate, which indicates that the oriental name was Beelzebub. If Beelzebul be the same as Beelzebub, the change in the final letter when expressed in Greek is sufficiently accounted for above; and if Beelzebul were a different deity from Beelzebub, the word may mean the Lord of heaven, or the celestial habitation, זבול , Zebul having that signification: and this was probably the same deity whom the Phenicians, neighbours of the Ekronites, worshipped under the name of בעל שׂ?מן Baal Shemin Lord of the heavens. Beside this, the name of Beelzebub or Beelzebul was not given to our Lord with reference to these idols at all, but to Satan himself. It was not, therefore, so much a name of jeering contempt as of deep malignant blasphemy. They called him, in fact, a devil a chief devil, or, as when speaking out fully on another occasion, “Thou hast A DEVIL, and art mad.”

Verse 26

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

There is nothing covered, &c. — As our Lord had been just referring to the gross and malicious slanders with which his disciples should be assailed, and as he here fortifies their minds against the fear of calumniators, it is most natural to refer these words to that ultimate justification of their characters and motives which Divine Providence would bring about; so that these words also have a prophetic character. For a time obloquy “covered” and “hid” the faith, the charity, and the purity of the first preachers of the Gospel; and in place of these virtues the worst motives were attributed to them. They were regarded “as the filth and off-scouring of all things, and not fit to live,” “men that turned the world upside down,” “pestilent fellows, and movers of sedition;” but what was thus covered and hid has been revealed. How truly has “the righteousness” of these men, who laid character as well as life upon the altar of sacrifice, “been brought forth as brightness, and their judgment as the noonday!” What honours, true and grateful honours, have been for ages rendered to the apostles, evangelists, and prophets of primitive Christianity, while the names of their revilers have perished in the dust, or been preserved only on the records of infamy! And the hallowed fame of these heroic men still extends; new nations every year learn their history, read their writings, derive life and salvation from the truth for which they suffered and died; and pronounce, and to the end of time shall pronounce, with admiration, affection, and the joyful hope of seeing them in person, these names once cast out as evil, and which were joyfully surrendered to be a “proverb and a byword” for the sake of Christ, and for the salvation of the world. Thus also has constancy in suffering in a righteous cause been often since their day rewarded; and those great imitators of apostolic zeal and patience, by whose efforts fallen truth has so often been raised up in the Church, and the kingdom of darkness successfully assailed, and who long were objects of popular abuse, or the hatred of proud persecutors, have either outlived every calumny, or left a name, the reputation of which God himself has so cared for as to cause it to be embalmed in the grateful homage of succeeding generations.

Verse 27

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

What I tell you in darkness. — This duty is urged by the preceding consideration: if God will take care of the interest and reputation of those who suffer reproach for the sake of Christ, let this animate you to the great duty of openly and fearlessly proclaiming the Gospel. Darkness here means privacy; for to his disciples alone, partially before, and especially after his resurrection, our Lord opened the full and perfect system of his religion; but not for themselves only, for they were thus made “stewards,” dispensers, “of the mysteries of God.”

What ye hear in the ear, &c. — This allusion is to a practice in the Jewish synagogues. After the return from the captivity the pure Hebrew was no longer the vernacular tongue of the Jews, yet the law continued to be read in that language; but that its sense might be conveyed to the people, an interpreter, called Targumists, was attached to every synagogue, into whose ear the doctor in a soft voice read the Hebrew text, and the interpreter pronounced it aloud in the common dialect. The Jewish doctors too employed interpreters, from notions of dignity, into whose ear they whispered their instructions in the Hebrew tongue; and they declared them to the multitude in their own dialect. But our Lord gives stronger emphasis to the open and earnest publication of the truths he should privately teach his disciples, by enjoining that they should preach them upon the house- tops. The Jewish houses had flat roofs, and so also had their public buildings, from which proclamations were made to the people. The publication of the Gospel is therefore to be a PUBLIC OFFICIAL PROCLAMATION to all ranks of people. This custom appears to explain the words of Christ better than that of sounding a trumpet from the roof by the minister of the synagogue to announce the approach of the Sabbath.

Verse 28

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Are not able to kill the soul. — Thus our Lord at once declares the soul’s immortality, and shows how limited is the power of tyrannous persecutors; their malignant arm reaches not the soul; it can neither destroy its peace here, nor its happy existence hereafter. This text also furnishes a decisive argument in favour of the conscious existence of the soul in a separate state. For, not to urge that we cannot conceive of the existence of the soul at all without consciousness; yet, if by the death of the body it were deprived of perception and thought, of activity and enjoyment, though all these should be restored at the last day, it would be as truly killed as the body, which also at the resurrection shall have its life, sensation, and activity more perfectly restored. It is only upon the basis of the soul’s immortality, that a true courage in the way of duty can be built: well might he be excused from suffering for any truth, who has no hope beyond the present life. “That man,” says Epictetus, “deserves to be terrified, αξιος εστι φοβεισθαι , who has not learned that he himself is not flesh and bones, but that his proper self is that which uses these, and suitably employs them.”

Destroy both soul and body in hell. — The meaning is not that the punishment of bad men in a future life is annihilation; for the word is often used to express continuance in a state of wretchedness, as Matthew 15:24; and, whatever more modern rabbins may have thought, the utter destruction of the souls of the wicked in a future state was not the opinion of the Jews of our Lord’s age, except of the Sadducees, who, being materialists, made no distinction between the soul and the body. We have, on this point, the sentiment of Philo: “Men think that death is the end of their troubles, whereas it is only the beginning of them. It is the lot of the wicked that they live in death, and suffer as it were continual death.”

Verses 29-31

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? &c. — This passage forcibly and affectingly declares the providence of God as the foundation of an assured trust on the part of the disciples, even in the most perplexed and dangerous circumstances. — The connection of the argument with what precedes is, “Fear not them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul;” so limited is their power, so short the arm of your most potent adversary: but this is not the only reason why you ought not to fear these wrathful and tyrannous men; even the limited power they have they cannot exert independently of the Divine permission. — Their hearts and hands are grasped by an invisible but superior control; and neither in their own time, nor in their own manner, can they injure or destroy you. Either they shall be entirely restrained from injuring you at all, or, when left to follow the impulses of their own bad passions, all results are still under the control of God. Till your work is done, or till your sufferings shall be for his glory and your own advantage, they rage only in a chain which they cannot break. — This is supported by a general illustration applicable to the trust and comfort of Christ’s true disciples, beyond the immediate occasion which called it forth. Sparrows are mentioned as representing the smallest and most insignificant class of birds, of so little value that two were sold for a farthing, an assarium, about three of our farthings; yet so minute and universal is the providence of God, that nothing to which he has given life dies but by his permission. As in the sermon on the mount God is represented as caring to provide the fowls of heaven with food, so here he is introduced as regulating the production and the extinction of the life of every individual, however small and contemptible.

The argument then arises from the less to the greater; ye are of more value than many sparrows; and if the life of an individual bird cannot perish without your Father, how much less the life of a human being, the life of a ransomed child of God, the life of a man sent forth on the greatest work upon earth to proclaim salvation, and that under God’s special commission, as his own ambassador! Nor is the notice and care of God directed to individual persons only, but to whatever concerns that individual, however minute: the very hairs of your head are all numbered. This mode of expression appears to he taken from 1 Samuel 14:45; “And the people said, Shall Jonathan die? — God forbid: as the Lord liveth, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground;” that is, he shall not sustain the least conceivable injury. The very brightness of this revelation of the doctrine of a particular providence has dazzled the eye of mere human philosophy. A general providence it may often admit; but not this condescension of the Divine Being to particulars. The true reason, however, is, that, with all its pretence to high and noble views of God, it, in fact, grovels in low and unworthy conceptions of his wisdom and power; and it knows nothing of his LOVE, his peculiar love to those who trust in him. But, even in right reason, the care of the whole necessarily implies the care of all the parts, however minute; and if it was not beneath God to create the smallest objects, it can never be thought below him to preserve and order them. Nor ought the allegation, that God has established general laws, to be suffered to obscure in our minds the great truth which these words of Christ contain. These general laws depend for their efficiency upon his continued agency; for natural things have no powers which they derive not from him; and these they cannot exercise independently of him; or even that general government of the world which is conceded would be put out of his hand.

Ordinarily, there is in God what has been called an ACQUIESCENCE in a common course of events, or rather his power ordinarily works in an observable, regular manner; but there is also INTERPOSITION as well as acquiescence, or prayer and individual trust must be expunged from religion, and with them religion itself must lose the great foundations upon which it rests. — These then are the noble views which are opened to us by the Divine Teacher. God regulates every thing, however minute, without degradation to his glorious majesty, and without embarrassment to his infinite intelligence. He governs absolutely without violence to the moral freedom of accountable beings, and their contending volitions wonderfully but certainly work out his purposes; but no general arrangement can render his special interposition impracticable, since all is foreseen and all provided for. The true disciple may therefore fully “trust in his mercy:” God himself takes his cause into his hand, orders his steps, weighs out his blessings and his afflictions, wards off his dangers, controls his enemies, disposes all the events of life into a course of hallowing discipline, and never permits him to fall into the hands of an enemy except when by that means some good to the Church, and some benefit to the suffering disciple himself, are to be accomplished by it; so that, even then, “he maketh the wrath of man to praise him.” This may often take place by an inscrutable process; but the result is certain.

Verse 32

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Confess me, &c. — To confess Christ is openly to acknowledge our faith in him, and publicly to observe the rules and ordinances of his religion. Ομολογεω properly signifies to use the same language or words as another; and hence, says Wahl, in the New Testament, by implication, “to profess the same things as another, to admit what another professes.” Him, therefore, who publicly and courageously confesses Jesus to be what he professed to be, that is, the Christ, and acts suitably to that belief, him will Christ publicly confess to be what he himself professes to be: that is, a true disciple of Christ. See the note on Luke 12:8.

Verse 34

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

To send peace, but a sword. — Those who refer this to the Roman sword, which, about forty years after Christ’s ascension, desolated Judea, forcibly break off the words from their connection. From the persecutions which our Lord predicted should be excited against his religion, he proceeds to declare the dissensions of which, through the guilty passions of men, it should be the innocent occasion; a prophetic declaration equally remarkable as the former, and an effect which had no exact parallel in the previous history of man; so that to foretell this, as the consequence of the introduction of a religion of pure benevolence and charity, could only result from a certain prescience of the future. As to the mode of expression used, it is to be observed, that in the Hebrew idiom one is said to do that which he is the occasion of being done, however undesigned by him, nay, though directly contrary to his intentions. Thus Isaiah is commanded to “make the heart of the people fat, and their ear heavy,” because the mission on which he was sent would have that effect, through the criminal obstinacy of his hearers; and Jeremiah calls himself “a man of strife and contention to the whole land,” because the delivery of his exhortations and reproofs had occasioned great strife against himself among the exasperated rulers. Attention to these peculiarities in the style of speaking which obtained among the Hebrews, is absolutely necessary to a right interpretation of many passages; and, for want of it, some very false conclusions have been drawn from the texts in which they occur. To apply this to our Lords words: the end of Christ’s coming was unquestionably to establish peace on earth; but because sharp dissensions, and the alienation of friends and families, have often been the result, through the violent enmity of the carnal mind to truth and holiness, he represents himself, according to the oriental mode of speaking, as having sent, not PEACE, but a SWORD, and as setting a man at variance with his father, &c.

Verse 38

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

That taketh not his cross and followeth, &c. — There is an allusion here to the custom of the Romans, who compelled those who were to be crucified to bear the cross on which they were to suffer to the place of execution; but, as crucifixion was not a Jewish punishment, and even if the power of life and death had now been taken away from the Jews by the Romans, this was but a recent event, it can scarcely be thought that they had become so familiar with it as that “to take the cross” should have already become proverbial for the endurance of sufferings. The notion of Grotius, that the Jews had the phrase from the Persians, who used that punishment, can scarcely be admitted, because it was long since the Persians had had any power in Judea, and even then the Jews were permitted to use their own laws and customs. The words of our Lord had probably a prophetic reference to the manner of his own death, and had a meaning therefore which was to be hereafter more fully explained. He was to take his cross, and endure this barbarous Roman punishment; and he here declares, that every one who is not willing to follow him in this respect, that is, to die for the truth, is not worthy of him, that is, not worthy of him as his Lord and Master, or to be called his disciple. The cross stands for DEATH, in its most frightful and ignominious forms, but includes all other minor sufferings to be endured for the truth; but it is ridiculous to apply this phrase of taking up the cross, as is often done, to express submission to some little mortification of our will, or to some duty not quite agreeable to our views and feelings: By a careless habit of using the language of Scripture, the force of many important passages of Scripture is silently undermined.

Verse 39

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

He that findeth his life, &c. — To find and to lose here signifies the same as to save and to lose. Hence in Proverbs 29:10, we read, “the just shall SEEK his soul;” shall seek it successfully; that is, shall find it: in other words, shall save or preserve it. We have here another instance of that enigmatical manner of speaking often adopted by our Lord, especially when he uses strong antitheses; and which gives them so great a force. The term LIFE is manifestly used in two senses, both for the animal life, and the immortal soul: “he that findeth or saveth his bodily life by cowardly desertion of my cause, shall lose his life,” or soul, that is, the felicity of the immortal principle in man; and he that loseth his bodily life for my sake, shall find, or save his life, that is, his soul, which shall be raised to the blessedness of a higher and future life. The paranomasia in this instance was favoured by the original word ψυχη , which signifies both life and soul as also does the Syriac word. It is a somewhat striking remark of Tertullian, with reference to our Lord’s phrases, to save life, and to lose it for his sake, that the heathen judges, when they would persuade a Christian to renounce his faith, made use of these terms, Serva animam tuam, “Save your life;” and, Noli animam tuam perdere, “Do not throw your life away.”

Verse 41

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

A prophet in the name of a prophet. — That is, to receive a Christian teacher in the name of, or in consideration of his being a Christian teacher, a servant of Christ, and a publisher of his messages, and not merely from common hospitality, or personal friendship, or for his parts and eloquence; but, as it is expressed in the preceding verse, receiving Christ himself in and by him who represents Christ as his ambassador. He shall receive a prophet’s reward; a reward proportioned to the office which is held by him who is received, and which he that receives honours. There is here, no doubt, an allusion to the special benefits conferred upon several persons mentioned in the Old Testament, who received the prophets in ancient times; as the hostess of Elijah, whose barrel of meal did not waste, and whose cruse of oil did not fail, until the famine of the land ceased; and the two instances in which the deceased children of those who entertained prophets were restored to life, one by Elijah, the other by Elisha. Similar rewards are not intended; but still great rewards either in time or eternity, and sometimes in both.

A righteous man. — That is, a private Christian who bears not the office of a minister of Christ. In the early times especially, it was necessary for Christians to practise a liberal hospitality toward each other, by opening their houses to believing travellers, lest they should be exposed to mix with idolaters. To such acts Christ promises a blessing, provided every such righteous man be received as a righteous man; that is, in respect of his faith in Christ, and his relationship to him as one of his disciples. Even should he prove a hypocrite, yet being received as a sincere disciple of Christ, the host shall not lose his reward.

Verse 42

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

A cup of cold water. — An acceptable gift to the thirsty traveller in those countries, and often not easily to be procured but by the benevolence of hospitable persons. Yet where water was abundant, as in cities, it was a present of small value. Some poor persons indeed might have no more to give; yet, being offered in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, it shall in no wise lose its reward. In the Talmud it is said, that whoever entertains a man well instructed in the law, and causes him to eat and drink, shall be more blessed than the house of Obed Edom was for the ark’s sake; for the ark neither ate nor drank with him. This as well as many other sayings, similar to those of our Lord, we may again remark, were in all probability borrowed from the New Testament, with which the wise men among the Jews in former times were very conversant. Thus they have imitated the words of Christ in verse 29 of this chapter, saying, “A bird without God does not perish; much less, a man: a bird without God does not fly away; much less, the soul of a man;” with many other instances. Our Lord here calls his disciples his little ones, οι μικροι , referring either to the humble condition of the disciples, as Beza thinks; or, probably, as Koinoel thinks, the word is used like the Hebrew קשׂ?ין , which signifies both a little one and a disciple.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 10". "Watson's Exposition on Matthew, Mark, Luke & Romans". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwc/matthew-10.html.
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