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Matthew 10:1. And he called unto him his twelve disciples. There is here an indication that they had been previously chosen. They are now sent out as ‘laborers.’ Henceforward they are ‘Apostles’ (Matthew 10:2 ), with a definite mission; first to heal, as Christ did, by the authority He gave them, so as to attest the truth of the message they bore respecting Christ and His teachings. The number twelve ( 3 × 4 ) has been considered a symbol of the Trinity ( 3 ) indwelling in the world ( 4 ). See Lange’s Com. Matthew, p. 183 .
Matthew 10:2. Apostles, those sent out; the name was given when they were chosen (Luke 6:13), but was strictly applicable only after the occurrence here mentioned. On its fuller meaning see Acts 1:2 ff. Matthew mentions the Twelve in pairs, and it is probable that they were thus joined when sent out two by two (Mark 6:7).
The first, Simon, who is called Peter. ‘First’ in all the lists; ‘first’ to confess the Messiahship of Christ, usually ‘first’ to speak both before and after the death of Christ. He was not the first to follow Christ; Andrew and John preceded him (John 1:37 ff.), nor the first one called, since Philip was called long before him (John 1:43). In all bodies of men, one must be first although ‘first among equals.’ Peter was therefore personally, not officially, ‘the first.’ As regards the primacy of Peter, all that can be admitted as historically proven, is a primacy of honor and influence, but without supremacy of jurisdiction. See chap. Matthew 16:18, and John 21:15-43.21.18. His character constituted him a leader, but he neither claimed nor possessed this position as one of office or rank. ‘Simon’ means ‘hearing,’ ‘answer’; on the name ‘Peter’ comp. chap. Matthew 16:18.
Andrew his brother. The name is probably derived from, or related to, a Greek word, meaning ‘manly.’ He was the first (with John) to follow the Lord, and was called with his brother (chap. Matthew 4:18 ff.)
James the son of Zebedee. The same name as ‘Jacob,’ and naturally common among the Jews. This one, usually called James the Elder, to distinguish him from the other James (Matthew 10:3), was the first of the Twelve to suffer martyrdom (Acts 12:2), as John his brother was the last survivor (on the name see chap. Matthew 3:1). The two brothers were called ‘Boanerges,’ according to Mark. John is generally considered the type of an affectionate character, as he was the bosom friend of the Lord. Tradition says he was the youngest of the Twelve. The name of their mother was Salome, as we learn from comparing Matthew 27:56 with Mark 15:40. In John 19:25 it is probable that the sister of the mother of Jesus refers to Salome; if so, these two brothers were cousins of our Lord.
Matthew 10:3. Philip, not the Evangelist. The first disciple called, a native of Bethsaida. The name is Greek.
Bartholomew, i.e., the son of Thol-mai. He is probably identical with Nathanael (John 1:43), the friend of Philip, and is also supposed to have been a resident of Cana in Galilee.
Thomas, i.e., ‘twin,’ the Greek name of the same meaning being ‘Didymus.’ He is frequently mentioned in the Gospel according to John.
Matthew the publican, the writer of the Gospel, who inserts his previous employment as a token of the power of grace.
James (Jacob) the son of Alpheus, called ‘James the less,’ or, the younger (Mark 15:40, where his mother Mary is mentioned). The name ‘Alpheus’ has been considered identical with ‘Clopas’ or ‘Cleophas,’ since ‘the mother of James the less’ (Mark 15:40) is identical with ‘Mary, the wife of Cleophas’ (John 19:25). His mother’s sister, in John 19:25, may refer to Salome (see above). The view that it refers to Mary, the wife of Cleophas, identifies this James with ‘the Lord’s brother’ (Galatians 1:19); the term being taken in the wide sense of relative. Others reject the notion that the two sisters had the same name, and think that Alpheus was an older brother of Joseph, who adopted his children, and that thus they were called our Lord’s ‘brethren.’ We hold that James the Lord’s brother was the author of the Epistle, but not one of the Twelve, nor were any of ‘His brethren,’ who were either the younger children of Joseph and Mary or the children of Joseph by a former wife. For the reasons, see notes on chap. Matthew 13:55. We only remark here: In the many-varying lists of the Apostles there is no hint that these persons were the Lord’s brethren; that in Matthew 12:46-40.12.50 these brethren are distinguished pointedly from the disciples, at a time after the Twelve were chosen; the taunt at Nazareth, which names these brethren, loses much of its force, if they were among His disciples; John (John 7:5) expressly states they did not believe on Him. On the whole subject see Lange’s Com., Matthew, pp. 255 - 260 .
Lebbeus, whose surname (or other name) was Thaddeus. Both have the same meaning, ‘courageous.’ He was also called ‘Judas’; was probably the brother of James, ‘the son of Alpheus,’ and the author of the short Epistle of Jude. Comp. Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13; John 14:22. One of the Lord’s ‘brethren’ was called Judas (Matthew 13:55); and has been identified with this Apostle. But Matthew was also the son of Alpheus, and yet no one affirms that he was the brother of James. It is as likely that there was a great number of persons about our Lord called James, Judas, and Simon, as that two of the Apostles mentioned together were not brothers, although the father of each was named Alpheus.
Matthew 10:4. Simon the Cananæan. Not ‘Canaanite.’ If a local term at all, it means ‘an inhabitant of Cana’; but it is probably derived from the Hebrew, and is the same as ‘Zelotes’ (Luke 6:15, Acts 1:13). The Zealots were a sect of strict Jews, who afterwards became fierce fanatics. They were apt to take the law into their own hands, to punish offences against the Jewish law. This Apostle has also been considered one of our Lord’s ‘brethren,’ but ‘Simon’ was a very common name (eight persons, at least, of this name are mentioned in the New Testament). These three are joined together in all four lists of the Apostles, but there is no other hint of relationship.
Judas Iscariot, i.e., ‘a man of Kerioth,’ in the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:25). He was not, like all the rest, a Galilean.
Who also betrayed, or, delivered him up. The choice of this man remains a part of the great mystery concerning God’s sovereignty and man’s free choice. He is generally supposed to have been by nature the most gifted of the Twelve; but it is a mistake to suppose that the Twelve as a body were poor, ignorant, or dull. They had fair natural abilities, a teachable disposition, and the common religious education; some had been in the preparatory school of the Baptist; Peter and John were men of genius, especially the latter, as his Gospel abundantly proves; John possessed a house in Jerusalem, and was connected with the family of the high-priest. All were unsophisticated, simple-hearted, open to conviction, and fit vessels to be filled with the saving knowledge of Christ.
Matthew 10:5. The way of the Gentiles would lead northward, they were to go toward Jerusalem, as we infer from the rest of the verse.
Go ye not. This prohibition was removed after the resurrection (Acts 1:8). To have taken the way of the Gentiles at this time would have closed the way to the hearts of the Jews, who must form the basis of the Christian Church.
And into a city of the Samaritans enter ye not. Samaria lay between Galilee, where they were, and Judea, whither they probably went. They were not forbidden to pass through that region, but only to stay there. The Samaritans were half-heathen, the descendants of Gentiles who had been partially instructed in the Jewish religion (comp. 2 Kings 17:27-12.17.41) when they first occupied the territory of the ten tribes. With them the Jews had no dealings in the time of our Lord (John 4:9), treating them as heretics. They received the law of Moses, once had a temple on Mount Gerezim; and they expected the Messiah, and our Lord had already avowed Himself the Christ and gained converts among them (John 4:9-43.4.42). But the harvest He there promised was to be reaped after His death (Acts 8:5) not through this sending forth of laborers. They received the gospel after the Jews and before the Gentiles. The utterance of this prohibition hints that the Apostles had some idea of the wider extension of the gospel.
THE FIRST PREACHING OF THE TWELVE. The locality from which the Twelve were sent out, and the length of their tour are unknown. But Galilee, where our Lord had Himself labored so long, was doubtless the scene of this first mission, which probably covered some time. The instruction given, though directly applicable to the Twelve on that occasion, ‘may be taken as the type of all the commissions given by Christ to His servants.’ (Lange.) We divide the discourse into two sections. The second one is peculiar to Matthew, and more general in its character. The present one was more immediately applicable to the first preaching tour.
Both Mark (Mark 6:7-41.6.11) and Luke (Luke 9:2-42.9.5; comp. Matthew 5:3-40.5.16) record the substance of this section, but Matthew, himself an Apostle, gives a fuller statement, appending much that is not found in the other Evangelists. Matthew 10:5-40.10.6 tell where they were to go; Matthew 10:7-40.10.8 what they were to do (preach and heal); Matthew 10:9-40.10.10 describe their outfit or want of outfit; Matthew 10:11-40.10.14 their conduct in cases of reception and rejection, while Matthew 10:15 adds a solemn warning in reference to the latter case. ‘In these first verses ( 5 , 6 ) we have the location; in Matthew 10:7-40.10.8 the purpose; in Matthew 10:9-40.10.10 the fitting out; and in Matthew 10:11-40.10.14 the manner of proceedings of their mission; Matthew 10:15 concluding with a prophetic denouncement, tending to impress them with a deep sense of the importance of the office entrusted to them’ (Alford).
Matthew 10:6. Lost sheep (comp. Matthew 9:36). As most needy and most ready.
Matthew 10:7. And as ye go preach, proclaim, announce. The matter of their preaching was the approach of the kingdom of heaven (comp. Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17). Their mission was preparatory; the gospel tells of a kingdom already come. As yet they were not instructed to proclaim the King, but were sent rather to announce the kingdom (Matthew 10:7), ‘to teach men its nature, and to prove it at hand by their miracles. If men had faith in the words of the Apostles, they would soon come to Jesus to be taught by Him.’ (Andrews.)
Matthew 10:8. According to the best authorities, raise the dead should come before cleanse the lepers. The Apostles did raise the dead after the resurrection of Christ, whether they availed themselves of this power on this journey is not stated. The power to do these things was delegated to them for the specific purpose of calling attention to and confirming their words.
Freely ye received. This refers both to the instruction and the power. ‘Freely’ means not abundantly, but gratuitously, thus they were to give. The grace and the instrumentality are alike unbought.
Matthew 10:9. Although their labor was to be performed gratuitously and not for gain, they were not to make preparations for the journey, but to go without first providing a store of money: no gold, nor silver, nor brass. ‘Brass,’ not even the smaller copper coins.
In your purses, i.e., girdles, which were used as pockets or purses.
Matthew 10:10. No wallet. They need provide neither money nor baggage.
Two coats, two inner garments or tunics.
Nor shoes. This either means a second pair, or that they should wear their ordinary sandals without waiting to get a pair of walking shoes. The latter is preferable, since we should read next, a staff. ‘Staves’ was inserted to avoid a seeming conflict with Mark 6:8. The meaning really is: they need not provide a staff especially for this journey, but take the one they had. They were to be free from care, not seeking any profit from their office; outwardly unburdened, inwardly carrying the greatest treasures. Without money or luggage they would be most free from care, for the workman is worthy of his meat (or ‘sustenance.’) Those who ‘freely received’ from them are expected in their turn to ‘freely give.’ These verses in their literal sense apply only to that particular journey, the principle, ‘the workman is worthy of his meat,’ remains always in force. Matthew 10:8, in forbidding the spirit of covetousness in the ministry, shows that the preaching of the gospel should not become a mere livelihood; this verse shows that the laborers should be without worldly care. Those among whom they labor should so provide for them as to prevent care; the extent of the provision to be regulated by the mode of living of those who provide it.
Matthew 10:11. And into whatsoever city or town, etc. Left to choose their own precise route, their work involved the exercise of judgment and prudence, it was not a mere mechanical routine.
Who in it (in the city or town) is worthy. This refers either to hospitable or to pious character, probably to both, since they are often united. Those who bore such a reputation might indeed be unworthy (Matthew 10:13), but pious people easily find each other out. The next clause assumes that they had found the right place.
There abide till ye depart. In this fixed abode they were not to give unnecessary trouble (Luke 10:7). They were not social visitors but messengers of the gospel. The time of the ministry may be wasted by social exactions.
Matthew 10:12. The house. ‘The house’ they might enter, whether it was the house of one really worthy was to be tested. But whether worthy or not they were to salute it. Conformity to proper social customs, without official pride, with an immediate and friendly recognition of the expected hospitality, irrespective of the worthiness or unworthiness of the host.
Matthew 10:13. And if the house be worthy, i.e., of your stay. The worthiness of the house is dependent on the worthiness of its head. In its nature, whatever exceptions there may be, the family is to be regarded as a spiritual unit.
Let your peace come upon it. The usual Eastern salutation meant: ‘Peace be to you.’ In the case of worthiness the Lord will ratify your salutation which includes a wish for the highest prosperity. Salutations are not necessarily unmeaning forms; nor should Christians make them such.
Let your peace return to you. ‘Be content with having brought a blessing on yourselves by showing such a spirit and obeying my express command’ (J. A. Alexander). It is implied in Matthew 10:14 that they should have no further fellowship with such households. The ‘angels unawares’ would thus be driven away.
Matthew 10:14. And whosoever shall not receive you, as guests in the house.
Nor hear your words, as teachers in a town. If refused in one house, they need not leave the town at once, although after inquiring for one ‘worthy,’ such a refusal would probably precede a rejection in the place itself.
Shake off the dust of your feet. To be done immediately after decided rejection in a house or a city. The act was symbolical, expressing an end of all intercourse, and perhaps an end of responsibility. As His representatives, their act implied rejection and consequent judgment (comp. Mark 6:11).
Matthew 10:15. The solemn formula, Verily I say unto you, introduces a prophetic denunciation of those who rejected them.
The land of Sodom, etc., the inhabitants of those guilty and doomed cities. The higher the spiritual offer rejected, the greater the sin. Applicable then only to the Jews with their light, now only to professing Christians, not to the heathen. As the rejection would be general, instructions follow which apply to the ministry of the Apostles during persecutions, introducing suitable warnings and comforts.
Matthew 10:16. Behold, as usual, marking a new thought.
I send you forth. ‘I’ emphatic; I who know what awaits you, send you into these trials, but as my ‘Apostles,’ with my authority and promise and support.
As sheep in the midst of wolves. Contrary to the order of nature, the meek and defenceless are sent among the fierce and cruel, their natural enemies. The spiritual strength He had imparted prevented the discouragement likely to arise from this revelation of the thorough hostility of the world. Only His sheep can successfully encounter wolves.
Be, or ‘become,’ ye therefore wise as serpents, and simple as doves. Like serpents, cautious in avoiding danger; like doves, in simplicity of motive (rather than in harmlessness). Wisdom to avoid persecution without cowardice, simplicity to encounter it without compromise. The spirit of Christ alone can combine these apparently antagonistic qualities of serpents and doves.
Peculiar to Matthew, though some of the sayings occur in the other Gospels. As such trials and emergencies did not occur on this journey, some suppose this part of the discourse was uttered at a later period. But Matthew, himself an Apostle, would be most likely to give the whole discourse. The Twelve alone were prepared for so early a revelation about persecution; yet this section is more universally applicable than the Matthew 10:5-40.10.15. No satisfactory analysis can be given; the whole is a series of alternate warnings and comforts. Trials await them in the world (Matthew 10:16-40.10.18; no care about their defence (Matthew 10:19-40.10.20); the intensity of persecution, with the promise to those who endure (Matthew 10:21-40.10.22); then with a twofold reference, flight in persecution, with the accompanying promise (Matthew 10:23); the disciples will only suffer as Christ has done before them (Matthew 10:24-40.10.25); holy boldness and candor enjoined, since we should not be afraid of men, but fear God, who is our protecting father (Matthew 10:26-40.10.31); as we confess or deny, He confesses or denies us (Matthew 10:32-40.10.33). The opposition is further set forth by the declaration that not peace but a sword is the result of the gospel in the world; so that it divides even the family (Matthew 10:34-40.10.36); but Christ demands a love beyond that for the family (Matthew 10:37), that for life itself (Matthew 10:38-40.10.39); and yet despite this opposition His servants bring Him to those who receive them, and the reward of reception is a corresponding one (Matthew 10:40-40.10.42).
Matthew 10:17. But beware of men, i.e., ‘wolves.’ Men in general will be hostile and weak. To ‘beware’ they must be ‘wise.’ Not needless suspicion but prudent discernment.
Councils. The regular local courts, which tried for heresy. The sentence they pronounced was executed in the synagogues. Literally fulfilled in Apostolic times, yet in all ages church courts have been apt to persecute. Human nature is selfish and intolerant, and slow to learn the lesson of mercy and charity.
Matthew 10:18. And moreover. An additional thought. Besides trials before Jewish spiritual tribunals, they should be brought before governors and kings, before the civil tribunals as common criminals. All kinds of magistrates and rulers are meant. The civil power has often aided ecclesiastical persecutors. Romanists still justify this step.
For a testimony to them and the Gentiles. Probably an allusion to the ‘witness-bearing’ of martyrdom. This testimony was, of the truth, and made to the Jews (‘them’) and the Gentiles, yet it was also ‘against’ both, in so far as they rejected the truth. Persecution extended the testimony; the martyrdom extended the truth.
Matthew 10:19. But. Here the simplicity of the dove is to be exercised.
Be not anxious, i.e., do not be unduly concerned; comp. chap. Matthew 6:34.
How or what, neither about the form nor the substance.
For it shall be given you. A promise of special inspiration for particular emergencies, in that hour; hence not an encouragement to laziness regarding pulpit preparation. ‘How’ comes first; studied eloquence checks the natural utterances of the heart, which are always the best defence: ‘when the orator wholly disappears, the True Orator will appear.’ The promise is: what ye shall speak shall be given.
Matthew 10:20. It is not ye, etc. Inspiration for their defence is an indirect proof of the inspiration of the apostolic writings, since the purpose of both is ‘testimony’ (Matthew 10:18), and writing was a permanent, and hence the most important, testimony. The inspiration affects both what is said and how it is said. The human form is influenced by the Divine substance revealed.
Your Father. Never ‘our Father,’ except in the Lord’s Prayer, which He taught others to use. God is our Father in a different sense; Christ’s sonship differs from ours, and He calls God simply ‘Father’ or ‘My Father.’
Matthew 10:21. And. The heavenly ‘Father’ aids; the human relatives may persecute.
Deliver up. Become informers. The first prophecy of actual martyrdom. The idea of persecution in general is of course included.
Shall rise up. A strong word, implying first, rebellion against parental authority, and then, in this connection, a parricidal course of conduct.
Matthew 10:22. And ye shall be hated by all. ‘All’ other than believers, referred to in ‘ye.’ This hatred toward Christ will spread over the world like an infectious fever or pestilence.
For my name’s sake. The Christianity of Christians, not their errors or personal faults, will call forth this hatred. The latter may be the pretext, yet the world has hated most those whom it was forced to respect and admire most.
He that endureth, or ‘shall have endured,’ i.e., in his confession of Christ.
To the end. In the case of individual believers, to the end of life, but primarily with a literal reference to great epochs; in this case, to the destruction of Jerusalem.
Shall be saved. Literally fulfilled in the escape of the Christians from that doomed city, but with a wider application, and higher fulfilment, in the everlasting salvation. Perseverance to the end, however bitter, is the evidence of genuine faith.
Matthew 10:23. This city the next. General expressions, though in particular form.
Flee ye. Here the wisdom of the serpent was to be exercised. Flight in persecution, from selfish regard to personal safety and comfort, is cowardice and sin; but flight from conscientious conviction of duty to God and to the Church, is commanded by Christ, and sanctioned by the conduct of the Apostles and martyrs (as Polycarp and Cyprian). It often transfers to a wider field of usefulness.
Ye shall not have gone, etc. The Son of man shall overtake you while performing this duty. Before they finished their labors in Judea, the judgment impending over Jerusalem should come, and the old economy be entirely set aside. This prophecy has, however, a typical or symbolical reference (as chap. 24 ). The literal fulfilment foreshadowed what is yet to take place. In general, there will always be a new sphere of labor for Christ’s people when excluded from the old one; this succession of opportunities will not cease until the end comes; the missionary work of the Church shall continue till the second coming of Christ.
Till the Son of man be come, refers first of all to the destruction of Jerusalem, since the last verse pointed to that event. The more remote reference, however, is not excluded.
Matthew 10:24. The same general statement, with a different application, is found in Luke 6:40; John 13:16. Here it means they cannot expect better treatment than He received, thus implying His sympathy. Notice the relation of Christ and
His followers: ‘teacher’ and ‘disciple’; ‘Lord’ and ‘servant’; ‘master of the house’ and ‘members of the household.’
Matthew 10:25. If they have called; as they had already done (see chap. Matthew 9:34; comp. chap. Matthew 12:24).
Beelzebub, more correctly ‘Beelzebul.’ The former (‘lord of flies’) was the name of a Philistine idol. ‘Beelzebul’ means either, ( 1 ) ‘lord of dung,’ the word being changed from Beelzebub to Beelzebul to admit of this contemptuous sense; or ( 2 ) ‘lord of the habitation.’ The latter corresponds better with the expression, ‘master of the house.’ Satan is referred to, but with a special reference to the indwelling of evil spirits in man; Satan being their lord. This view agrees with the allusions to a ‘house’ in connection with the casting out of devils, in chap. Matthew 12:25; Matthew 12:29; Matthew 12:44-40.12.45.
Matthew 10:26. Fear them not therefore, because of the relation to Christ, who will certainly triumph. Another reason follows: for there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed. A proverbial statement, occurring with a different application in Luke 12:2; in a different connection, but with the same general application in Mark 4:22; Luke 8:18. This clause refers to God’s dealing; the next, and hid, that shall not be known, to man’s conduct in regard to what is revealed. The course of thought is: God designs to reveal His truth (‘there is nothing covered,’ etc.). You are the agents in doing so, be bold therefore, for however you or others may hide it, there is nothing ‘hid that shall not be known.’ The injunction: ‘fear not’ has then a double support; fear not, for it is your duty as my servants to proclaim the truth; fear not, for however men treat it, your Master will set things in the true light. A subordinate thought is: Beware of hypocrisy and holding back of the truth; which will be detected hereafter.
Matthew 10:27. What I tell you in the darkness, etc. A further incitement to boldness in preaching. Our Lord must first privately teach, so as to train His disciples; to them the duty of publishing the truth was committed. The verse probably alludes both to the extension of the gospel beyond the narrow limits of Palestine; and also to the future revelation by the Holy Spirit, in the ear, which was to be made known everywhere by the Apostles.
Housetops. From the flat roofs of the Eastern houses with a loud voice the greatest publicity could be obtained. The whole truth is to be publicly made known.
Matthew 10:28. And be not afraid of them. Boldness and candor in speaking God’s truth awaken deadly opposition. Such opposers, though they can kill the body, are not able to kill the soul. The word translated ‘soul’ sometimes means ‘life,’ and is sometimes contrasted with ‘spirit’; here where ‘body’ and ‘soul’ are contrasted and then joined as including the whole man, it must mean ‘soul’ as we ordinarily use that word, i.e., the whole immaterial and immortal part of man. Hence: the soul is not killed by the death of the body; it is the higher part of our nature; the eternal safety of the soul is infinitely more important than the present safety of the body.
But rather fear him who is able, etc. God, not Satan. We may ‘be afraid of’ the latter, but are to ‘fear’ the former. Satan does not destroy ‘in hell’ but before, so that men are punished there with him.
To destroy both soul and body in hell. God alone is the dispenser of life and death, temporal and eternal. Hence reverence and awe, not fear and terror, are required, as the change of terms implies. The change from ‘kill’ to ‘destroy’ is also significant. The latter implies not annihilation, but continued punishment, affecting both the material and the spiritual part of man (‘both soul and body’). The place of such punishment is ‘hell.’ There is no other probable interpretation of the passage. Such holy ‘fear’ is not carnal fear, but sets us free from that.
Matthew 10:29 introduces, immediately after the command to ‘fear’ God, a tender description of His care, to call forth childlike trust. The two are joined by Christ, are joined through and in Christ alone. He reveals God’s power and care in harmony; He also harmonizes the corresponding fear and trust of the believer, which are therefore indissoluble.
Two sparrows, or ‘little birds.’
For a penny. Not the same word as in chap. Matthew 5:26 (‘farthing’), but ‘assarion’ (worth about three farthings English, or a cent and a half American), the tenth part of a Roman drachm; here used to express an insignificant value, the birds being very plenty and destroyed in great numbers.
Not one of them. Too small to be offered for sale except in pairs, yet God marks the fall of one.
Fall on the ground, as ‘birds do, when struck violently, or when frozen, wet, or starved’ Comp. Luke 12:6: ‘Not one of them is forgotten before God.’
Matthew 10:30. The very hairs of your head. The most special providence, and the most absolute preservation. No part of our life, of what characterizes or adorns it, shall be lost. God, to be God, must know the very hairs of our head. The word ‘your’ is emphatic, asserting a special care for Christ’s disciples: ‘Of you the hairs of the head are all numbered.’ This refers to all who truly confess Christ (Matthew 10:32).
Matthew 10:31. Fear ye not therefore. In Matthew 10:25 the motive was drawn from the relation to Christ, here from the relation to God: ye are of more value, i.e., in the sight of God, who is ‘your Father’ (Matthew 10:29). ‘The humblest of God’s creatures have their value in His sight: how much more human beings. Especially Christians, but above all, the witnesses of Jesus.’
The scope of Matthew 10:25-40.10.31 is: A right sense of our immortality consists in the feeling that we are perfectly safe in the keeping of our Father; let us then not fear men, but boldly and fully proclaim the truth we have from our Master who also suffered from men.
Matthew 10:32. Every one, without exception.
Therefore points to the previous argument for fearing and trusting God.
Confess me, lit, ‘confess in me.’ A peculiar mode of expression, meaning: ‘shall make me the object of his acknowledgment among and before men.’ The idea of being ‘in Christ,’ in vital union with Him, is also implied. Confession is the first act of faith; but confessing Christ must not be confounded with confessing a particular creed about Christ framed by men.
Him will I also confess. ‘I’ emphatic; Christ is the Supreme Judge, even in the presence of His heavenly Father, where He is the Advocate of His people (1 John 2:1). The time is not indicated, but it will be publicly done.
Matthew 10:33 solemnly repeats the same thought, applying it to those who deny Him before men. Alford: ‘The Lord will not confess the confessing Judas, nor deny the denying Peter; the traitor who denied Him in acts is denied. The Apostle who confessed Him even to death will be confessed.’ We ‘confess’ Christ by every genuine and earnest testimony for Him; we deny Him by every unchristian deed.
Matthew 10:34. Think not, as you naturally might.
To send (lit, ‘cast’) peace on the earth. The immediate result (and purpose, too, since with God and Christ results are all purposes) was not peace, by external means.
I came not to send peace, but a sword. He was revealed ‘that He might destroy the works of the devil’ (1 John 3:8); the inevitable result of His coming into a world lying under the wicked one, is strife. There is probably an allusion to His own sufferings and death, more fully brought out in Matthew 10:38. He gave up His own life to the sword He sent. Yet the sword which Christ sends brings true peace, while the false peace, which men expect (‘think not’), brings in eternal warfare. The ‘peace on earth’ of which the angels sang (Luke 2:14) is not earthly peace, but God’s peace among God’s chosen ones.
Matthew 10:35. A quotation (or reminiscence) from Micah 7:6, which contains the same general thought of wars and sorrows ushering in the kingdom of peace. The sword shall enter into the family. The conversion of individual members to Christ will cause variance. Domestic peace, the highest earthly peace, is thus disturbed by peace with God through Christ. It is supposed that the terms: a man ( i.e., ‘a son’ in this case), a daughter, a daughter in law (or ‘bride’), refer to those converted, ‘because the younger members and the female members of households were commonly the first to embrace the gospel,’ and because Christ speaks of these as ‘set’ by Himself.
Matthew 10:36, from the same prophecy, is a more general statement of the same thought.
A man’s foes. The idea here expressed is the reverse of that stated in Matthew 10:21.
Matthew 10:37. He that loveth, etc. Not to love these less, but Christ more. Connection: Love to Christ may divide family ties, but is superior to family affection; because it is a love and devotion due only to a Divine being. This claim to supreme love, if made by others, would be extreme madness or intolerable presumption; from the God-man it seems natural.
Not worthy of me. No one is worthy of Christ; but the love Christ gives creates the love Christ claims, and is the reward for all the trials and self-sacrifices here spoken of. Hence the saying is not harsh, though deemed ‘hard.’
Matthew 10:38. Taketh not his cross, etc. We may supply in thought: as I shall carry my cross. The culprit bore his own cross to the place of crucifixion. The first allusion to the mode of the death, which must have startled the Apostles, even after what had been said.
Matthew 10:39. He that findeth his life, shall lose (or ‘destroy’) it, etc. ‘Life’ is here used in two senses; otherwise the paradoxical statement would have no meaning at all. (Comp. chap. Matthew 16:25-40.16.26.) In both clauses it means, in the first instance, the outward, earthly life, with all its pleasures and comforts; and in the second (‘it’) the inward, spiritual life, beginning here in faith, and to be perfected in heaven. This is the climax, in setting forth Christ as the supreme object of our affection. It is not said, that we must lose the one life in order to gain the other; nor that each one is called to make the sacrifice literally. The meaning is: Christ must be loved more than life itself, or, ‘he that gains or saves his earthly life, saving it by unfaithfulness, shall lose his heavenly life; but he that loses his temporal life by faithfulness, shall find eternal life.’ The standard is not too high. He gave His life for us, and therefore asks us to give our lives for Him; He gives His life to us, so that we can give our lives both to and for Him.
Matthew 10:40. H e that receiveth you, receiveth me. The concluding verses convey one appropriate thought, similar to that of Matthew 10:24-40.10.25: Christ’s disciples are identified with Him. Notwithstanding all the opposition and sundering of family ties, just set forth, Christ’s people carry true peace with them, bearing Him and His blessing to all who receive them. The reception is not merely a welcome of the disciples to the house, but of their message to the heart. The language is not entirely figurative. Those who welcome the men, are most apt to welcome the truth they bear, and thus the Master they represent.
He that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me, i.e., God. Receiving the servant of Christ is receiving God. Comp. John 17:21; John 17:23; John 20:21. Applicable to all true Christians.
Matthew 10:41. In the name of a prophet, i.e., ‘because he is a prophet,’ the original implying an inward impulse of love toward the object. The prophet may be unworthy, but the love and the regard arise from the relation to Christ implied in his office.
A righteous man i.e., a Christian, one righteous through and in Christ; the usual meaning among Christians when this Gospel was written.
Shall receive a prophet’s reward a righteous man’s reward. The reward they receive (not the reward they can give) on the principle of identification through love.
Matthew 10:42. One of these little ones. Either the disciples, or children, who were present. The former is preferable. An allusion to their weakness in themselves as they went out on their mission.
A cup of cold water only. The smallest kindness.
In the name of a disciple, ‘because he is a disciple,’ out of love to Christ His master.
Verily I say unto you. A solemn declaration that for such an act, he shall in no wise, lose his reward. Not as before, the reward a disciple receives, but a reward due to himself, measured, not by our estimate of the act, but by God’s. In His sight it may be more worthy than the great benefactions which the world applauds. Thus those who went out to persecution, to cast a sword into the world, to be hated of all, and holding loosely to their lives for Christ’s sake, bestowed blessings by their very presence, and He who numbered the hairs of their head, treasured up every act and look of kindness given them for their Master’s sake.
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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Matthew 10". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany