the Fifth Week of Lent
Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
Bible Study Resources
Nave's Topical Bible - Commandments; Gomorrah; Jesus Continued; Judgment; Minister, Christian; Opportunity; Responsibility; Sodom; Unbelief; Scofield Reference Index - Day (of Judgment); Thompson Chain Reference - Sodom; The Topic Concordance - Day of the Lord; Evangelism; Hearing; Receiving; Sending and Those Sent;
Verse Matthew 10:15. In the day of judgment — Or, punishment, - κρισεως. Perhaps not meaning the day of general judgment, nor the day of the destruction of the Jewish state by the Romans; but a day in which God should send punishment on that particular city, or on that person, for their crimes. So the day of judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, was the time in which the Lord destroyed them by fire and brimstone, from the Lord out of heaven.
If men are thus treated for not receiving the preachers of the Gospel, what will it be to despise the Gospel itself - to decry it - to preach the contrary - to hinder the preaching of it - to abuse those who do preach it in its purity - or to render it fruitless by calumnies and lies! Their punishment, our Lord intimates, shall be greater than that inflicted on the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah!
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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Matthew 10:15". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​acc/​matthew-10.html. 1832.
Bridgeway Bible Commentary
62. The twelve sent out (Matthew 10:5-42; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6)
Jesus sent out the twelve apostles to preach the good news that the kingdom of the Messiah had come. The miraculous powers of the Messiah were given to them also, so that the knowledge of his love and mercy might spread more quickly throughout the land (Luke 9:1-2).
There would be no time during Jesus’ lifetime to spread the gospel worldwide, so the apostles had to concentrate on Israel. After Jesus’ death and resurrection they could then take the gospel to the countries beyond (Matthew 10:5-8; cf. 28:19-20). They were to take with them only the bare necessities for daily needs, so as not to be hindered in their travels. Also they were not to waste time preaching to people who refused to listen, when others in nearby areas had not even heard (Matthew 10:9-15; Luke 9:3-6).
Although they preached good news and did good works, the apostles could expect persecution. If brought to trial, whether before Jewish leaders or government officials, they would have the help of God’s Spirit in giving them the right words to say (Matthew 10:16-20). They would meet opposition from friends and relatives, but they were to press on urgently in their mission. They would not even cover the whole of Palestine within the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry (Matthew 10:21-23).
As servants of Jesus, the apostles could expect the same sort of opposition as their master received (Matthew 10:24-25), but they were not to fear to teach publicly the things Jesus had taught them privately (Matthew 10:26-27). They were to maintain a reverent obedience to God, knowing that as their heavenly Father he would watch over them. He never forsakes those who are faithful to him (Matthew 10:28-33).
The followers of Jesus must not expect ease and comfort. They must put loyalty to Jesus before all other loyalties, and this may result in conflict and division, even within their own families. They must be prepared for hardship, persecution and possibly death, but in the end they will not be the losers. In sacrificing the life of self-pleasing in order to please their Lord, they will find life in its truest sense (Matthew 10:34-39). All who welcome Jesus’ messengers into their homes are really welcoming Jesus who sent them, and God the Father who sent him. Help given to Jesus’ messengers will be rewarded as if given to Jesus himself (Matthew 10:40-42).
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Matthew 10:15". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bbc/​matthew-10.html. 2005.
Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.
Why were the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah less reprehensible than the sins of cities and villages that rejected the apostles? Simply because they sinned in ignorance, whereas the cities of Jesus' day sinned against the light.
The day of judgment is an expression often used by Christ and refers to the final reckoning of all mankind before the Great White Throne. See more under Matthew 12:41.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Matthew 10:15". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bcc/​matthew-10.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible
It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom ... - The cities here mentioned, together with Admah and Zeboim, were destroyed by fire and brimstone on account of their great wickedness.
They occupied the place afterward covered by the Dead Sea, bounding Palestine on the southeast, Genesis 19:24-25. Christ said that their punishment will be more “tolerable” - that is, more easily borne - than that of the people who reject his gospel. The reason is, that they were not favored with so much light and instruction. See Matthew 11:23-24; Luke 12:47-48. Sodom and Gomorrah are often referred to as signal instances of divine vengeance, and as sure proofs that the wicked shall not go unpunished. See 2 Peter 2:6; Jude 1:7.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 10:15". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bnb/​matthew-10.html. 1870.
Calvin's Commentary on the Bible
Verily, I say to you That they may not imagine this to be an idle bugbear, (578) Christ declares that those who reject the gospel, will receive more severe punishment than the inhabitants of Sodom. Some view the word judgment as referring to the destruction of Jerusalem. But this is foreign to our Lord’s intention: for it must be understood as referring to the general judgment, in which both must give their account, that there may be a comparison of the punishments. Christ mentioned Sodom rather than other cities, not only because it went beyond them all in flagitious crimes, but because God destroyed it in an extraordinary manner, that it might serve as an example to all ages, and that its very name might be held in abomination. And we need not wonder if Christ declares that they will be treated less severely than those who refuse to hear the gospel. When men deny the authority of Him who made and formed them, when they refuse to listen to his voice, nay, reject disdainfully his gentle invitations, and withhold the confidence which is due to his gracious promises, such impiety is the utmost accumulation, as it were, of all crimes. But if the rejection of that obscure preaching was followed by such dreadful vengeance, how awful must be the punishment that awaits those who reject Christ when he speaks openly! Again, if God punishes so severely the despisers of the word, what shall become of furious enemies who, by blasphemies and a venomous tongue, oppose the gospel, or cruelly persecute it by fire and sword?
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Matthew 10:15". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​cal/​matthew-10.html. 1840-57.
Smith's Bible Commentary
Shall we turn now in our bibles to the tenth chapter of the gospel of Matthew?
In the beginning of the tenth chapter we find Christ sending His disciples out, telling them to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But in the fact that He is sending them to go, in the first part of chapter ten, makes the last verse of chapter nine quite significant. For in the last verse of chapter nine, Jesus said to His disciples: "Pray ye therefore the Lord of harvest, that he will send forth labourers into His harvest" ( Matthew 9:38 ). And having told them to pray that the Lord will send workers into the harvest, the next thing He says is, "Go."
So many times as we pray, the Lord speaks to our own hearts. So many times we see a need and we think, oh what a need. The church really should be trying to fulfill that need, and we become all concerned with the need. And the Lord says, "Pray about it." And as we pray about it, suddenly we realize that God has called us. He has shown us the need, because He wants us to plug ourselves into the filling of that particular need. Many times the very fact that God has made you conscious and aware of that particular thing, is the beginning of the call of God upon your own life for that particular field of service.
So the Lord says pray, "Because harvest is plenteous, the labourers are few; pray that the Lord of harvest, will send forth labourers into his harvest" ( Matthew 9:37-38 ). Then in the very next section, the Lord says, "Now you go out into this harvest." And so praying so often prepares us for going. It is while I am praying that the Spirit of God can really get a hold of my heart.
As I've said, I do believe that prayer changes things, mainly me. I don't think that prayer changes God. I wouldn't really want prayer to change God. I think it would be extremely dangerous if prayer could change God. I think that God knows best in every situation. And I would not want to convince God, if I could, I can't, but if I could, I would not want to convince Him to see things my way. I would rather that through prayer the Spirit of God be able to get hold of my own heart and mold me, and shape me, into that which God has purposed, in that which God has designed. So often as I say, "Oh Lord, send forth workers into the harvest." Then I hear the call of God, "Who will go?" And I answer, "Oh Lord, here am I, send me."
And so Jesus said, "Pray the Lord of harvest," and then He says now you go.
And when he had called unto him the twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease ( Matthew 10:1 ).
Jesus is first of all empowering His disciples for that work before He sends them out to do the work, empowering them against unclean spirits, giving them the power to heal all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease.
Now the names of the twelve apostles, and here they are first called apostles, because of the fact that He is sending them out. The word "apostle" means "one who is sent". Up to this point they have been disciples, they've been learning of Him. They have been following Him and learning as He taught, but now the time has come for them to go out. They are now being sent by Him, and thus the change from disciple, a follower, to an apostle, one who has been sent.
Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican [or tax collector]; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him ( Matthew 10:2-4 ).
"Simon the Canaanite", that word translated Canaanite is actually Canaanin. We are told in Luke's gospel that he was Simon the Zelotes ( Luke 6:15 ).
Now Josephus tells us that the Zelotes were the extreme patriots. These were men who valued freedom above life itself. These were men who were willing to sacrifice their own lives, or even see their own families martyred, in order that they might be free. They preferred freedom to life. They were willing to do whatever is necessary to obtain freedom. They were the ones who rebelled constantly against the Roman government. Simon the Zelotes.
Matthew, a publican, was considered a quisling by the Jews. He was one that had more or less sold out to the enemy, because he was collecting taxes, for the hated Roman government.
Now had Simon and Matthew met under any other circumstances, Simon would have done Matthew in. I mean here you've got a Zelote, one who hates the Roman yoke, one who is willing to fight to overthrow it, and you have another one who was almost in league with Rome, a turncoat so to speak. It's interesting though how that Christ takes people from many different backgrounds, even adverse backgrounds, and brings us together in a loving fellowship.
Now it is also interesting to me, that as the Lord names these apostles, there aren't really any great marvelous people among them as far as the world is concerned. None of them are highly educated. None of them are prominent or wealthy. In fact, they are just common ordinary people. Four of them were fishermen, and one was a tax collector. We are not really given much of a background on the others, but they were just plain common people. That always interests me, because these men that God is preparing to send out to do His work, are just plain, common people like you. And when God has a work to be done, He doesn't really go to the universities to select those with the highest grades, and IQ's and all, but God chooses and calls just plain ordinary people like you.
It is wrong for any of us to excuse ourselves from serving the Lord, because of the fact that we are just so ordinary, because that is the kind of person God seeks to use for His glory. If God used the highly talented, highly developed kind of an individual, then we would all be saying, oh, but don't you know he's got his doctorate. Don't you know he was so brilliant? Don't you know he-- and we would be putting the emphasis upon the ability of the instrument, rather than upon the One who has used the instrument. We would have a tendency then to glory in man, or man's educational processes.
So the Lord has chosen the simple things to confound the wise, and the foolish things to put to naught the wisdom of this world. And God uses just plain common ordinary people like Raul Ries, Greg Laurie, Mike Macintosh, and Chuck Smith to do His work, just the plain ordinary people to do His work.
I love to hear Raul on the radio. I have to sacrifice listening to myself, because I am on KYMS at that hour. I heard Raul this week as he was describing his condition when he was in the Marine Corp. He had been such a vicious killer, and had killed so many people, that he was brought back and put in the hospital in Vallejo for the mentally deficient. And he said, "The psychiatrist said, 'Man, I was far and above beyond gone.'" That's a typical Raul-ism. He is ordinary, and yet anointed by the Spirit of God and used by God to do His work.
So not many wise, not many great, not many notable of the world, but just those plain ordinary people who He sent out as apostles to represent Him.
These twelve Jesus sent foRuth ( Matthew 10:5 )
That is what made them apostles.
And commanded them saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, or into any city of the Samaritans do not enter. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel ( Matthew 10:5-6 ).
So by telling them not to go into the way of the Gentiles, He was restricting their area of ministry. They were not to go south into Samaria. They were not to go west over to Tyre and Sidon. They were not to go as far north as Damascus, but they were to go only around the region of the Galilee; not even to the cities of the Decapolis, but only to those Jewish communities around the Galilee. So in the first sending out of the disciples, it was a very restricted area that He gave them to work in. They were to be forerunners of His coming; for He was going to follow up and to go into each of these villages. And they were more or less the forerunners of His own coming to these villages. So they were sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Paul the apostle said, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: it is the power of God unto salvation to those that believe; to the Jew first" ( Romans 1:16 ).
Jesus came to the Jew first. And as He was sending them forth now, it was very limited, only to the Jews, not to be going to the Gentiles or to the Samaritans. However, He Himself later was to reveal Himself to that Samaritan woman. He was to heal the daughter of the Syrophoenician, and finally He was to tell His disciples, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" ( Mark 16:15 ). But it was important in God's plan that the Gospel come first to the Jew.
And so there was first of all that restricted ministry of the disciples when He was first sending them forth. It was not to the world at this time; it was just among the Jews, not even into the Samaritans, but only to the Jews at this point.
Later, He said, "When the Holy Spirit comes upon you: you will be witnesses unto me not only in Judea, but also in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth" ( Acts 1:8 ). But now restricted to the Galilee region, only to those Jewish communities: the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Notice it doesn't say, "The ten lost tribes of the house of Israel." Ten lost tribes is not a Biblical term. There are not ten lost tribes. God knows exactly where they are and who they are. He has never lost them. And when the time comes, He is going to seal 12,000 from each of the tribes to be preserved during the great tribulation period.
I discount the attempt to make a Jew out of me, because of my English heritage. The business of Denmark being of the tribe of Dan, or Danmark, so they are called the Dan-ish people. The word "ish" in Hebrew is "man", so Dan's man or Dan-ish, Brit-ish, Engl-ish, fool-ish. Just because it has an "ish" on the end, doesn't make it Jewish.
Now as Jesus sent them forth, He said,
Go, and preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand ( Matthew 10:7 ).
What is the "kingdom of heaven," this glorious phrase? Well, we'll be getting parables about the kingdom in our next study as we get into Matthew thirteen and fourteen, these parables of the kingdom. What is the kingdom of heaven? Jesus said when you pray, say, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven" ( Matthew 6:10 ). What are we praying for when we pray for the kingdom of heaven? Now Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is among you, rather than in you. But in reality God's kingdom has come to every man who has acknowledged Jesus Christ as his Lord and King. And if you tonight have acknowledged the Lordship of Jesus Christ, if He is the King of your life, you are already a citizen of the kingdom: the kingdom of heaven has come to you. And as a citizen of the kingdom, there are many tremendous benefits for the citizens of that kingdom.
As a citizen of the United States I have many benefits. Even when I travel in a foreign country there are certain protections that I have as a citizen of the United States. Should I get into trouble there are always those embassies to which I can turn who are there to help the citizens of the United States out of whatever difficulty they might find themselves in. And those within the embassies in these foreign countries will seek to help those citizens of the United States, that's just one of the benefits of citizenship. Just because I am a citizen, they'll go to bat for me, and they'll speak up for me, and they will pull strings for me, because I am a citizen of the United States. And the United States has an obligation to guarantee its citizens certain rights, certain privileges. So I enjoy being a citizen of the United States, because of those rights and privileges that I have as a citizen.
But I am also a citizen of a kingdom, the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven. And I tell you, the rights and the privileges that I have as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven far exceed the rights and the privileges that I have as a citizen of the United States. Wherever I go, I have protection. I have authority, the authority of the kingdom of heaven behind me.
Jesus is saying, "Now you go out and preach saying, herald it, the kingdom of heaven is at hand." And they were to demonstrate the aspects of the kingdom of heaven by
Healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, and raising the dead, and casting out the devils ( Matthew 10:8 ).
We read in the prophesy of Isaiah thirty-five, some of the aspects of that kingdom age; where the lame will leap for joy, the dumb will sing praises unto God, the blind will behold the glory of the Lord, and the gospel will be preached unto the meek, to the poor. So Jesus is telling them to demonstrate the aspects of the kingdom by setting men free from the kingdom of darkness.
I love the commission that the Lord gave to Paul the apostle when He called him on the Damascus road. When Paul was talking to king Agrippa and relating to Agrippa that calling of God on the Damascus road, Paul said that the Lord spoke to him to go to the Gentiles, "To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive the forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me" ( Acts 26:18 ). So Paul's commission as he went to the Gentiles was to deliver them from the power of Satan unto God, from the power of darkness to light.
As a citizen of God's kingdom, I've been delivered from the power of darkness, and I am to bring deliverance to those to whom I come, to those who will heed the message and receive Jesus Christ as King. That is the effect: they are delivered from the power of darkness and brought into the light, from the power of Satan and made a part of the kingdom of God. There are people today who are living in the kingdom of darkness.
There are two basic kingdoms in the Universe. In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth there was only one kingdom in the Universe, the kingdom of God: the kingdom of light and life. But God in His kingdom created these beings we call, "angels", and He endowed them with the capacity of choice. And one of the choicest of the angels, the anointed cherub that covered, perfect in beauty, perfect in wisdom, was lifted up by pride and decided to exalt himself and be as God; the first Mormon. And the inspiration behind the Mormons today is to be as God.
What was it Shakespeare has this statement in one of his plays, "Oh Cromwell, flee ambition for by this sin the angels fell." What was the temptation that Satan offered to Eve in the garden? "Eat of it because you will be as God, knowing good from evil" ( Genesis 3:5 ). That bait still works. And there are those who are attempting to be as God still. Tragic.
Now in his rebellion against God, in his pride being lifted up to be as God, he formed a second kingdom in the universe, a kingdom that was an antithesis to the first kingdom, a kingdom that was in rebellion to the first kingdom: The kingdom of death and darkness. So now in the universe there are two opposing kingdoms: the kingdom of God, the kingdom of light and life, ruled by God; but now a sub-kingdom in antagonism to the first, rebelling against the first, the kingdom of death and darkness.
Now when God created man, and placed him here upon the planet earth, He placed man here in the kingdom of God. Adam had fellowship with God. God came down and He communed with Adam there in the garden. There was this beautiful fellowship with man and God in the kingdom of light and life.
But Satan, the ruler of the kingdom of death and darkness, came to Eve and said, Did God say you could eat of all the trees? Yes, all but the one in the middle. He told us if we ate of that tree we would die. Satan said, Oh you really won't die. That's the finest tree in the garden. God isn't really being fair to you, Eve. He is trying to hold back something good. You see that tree holds the key to knowledge. And God doesn't want you to eat that tree because He knows that when you eat of it, you'll be wise as He is, knowing good from evil. He is trying to hold that back. You really ought to try it. How do you know unless you've tried it? ( Genesis 3:1-5 ).
And so Eve being deceived ate of it and her eyes were opened. And she gave to her husband Adam and he did eat. But in that act of disobedience to God, which was a double act, because it was an act of obedience to Satan, they left the kingdom of light and life, and they were drawn into the kingdom of death and darkness. They drew all mankind into the kingdom of death and darkness, because they could not pass on something they did not have. They had lost that place in the kingdom of God, the kingdom of light and life. "And so by one man, sin entered the world, and death by sin; for death passed upon all men, for all sinned" ( Romans 5:12 ).
So each of us born of Adam were born in sin and shapen in iniquity, born sinners by nature, and we were all by nature children of wrath, even as others; born into the kingdom of death and darkness.
But there is another tree. The tree of life is still available. It is through Jesus Christ. And if you choose to come into the kingdom of light and life, you can come by the cross of Jesus Christ, using that same exercise of free choice that Adam used in leaving the kingdom of God. You can use that to come back, come back into the kingdom of God, since Jesus Christ made provision.
So the duty of the apostles was to preach the kingdom. It's possible for a man to now again have fellowship with God. You can come out of the kingdom of darkness. You can come into the kingdom of light. You can have deliverance from the power of Satan, and you can know fellowship with God. And that's the glorious Gospel that we herald today. That's the glorious Gospel we still preach. It is possible for that man who has been bound in the kingdom of darkness and death, that man that has been alienated by God because of his life after the flesh, it is possible for him to know the power of God's Spirit in his life. He can come from that kingdom of darkness into the glorious light and liberty of the sons of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, through the tree, the cross. And so a lot of people blame Adam today for their problems and they feel that it is quite unfair that they have to suffer for Adam's mistake.
I was hiking a group of kids from the High Y camp there in Arizona, coming down the backside of Mt. Lemon from an old mine. And as I was leading them down this trail I heard this yell back in the line, and so I went back to see what this horrible scream was about. This one little guy had brushed to close to an Ajoja cactus. Now the Ajoja is called the jumping cactus, and if you just barely touch it, it will break off and just clamp on to you. He had one that really clamped on to him good. He was really yelling. So I got back there and I took a couple of sticks, and I carefully worked the sticks in between the thorns and then I flipped that Ajoja cactus off of him. And as he was shaking his hand and all, he said, "That darn guy, Adam." Where do you go to Sunday school? He said, "I go to the First Baptist Church." I said, "Well, they're teaching you correct doctrine anyhow." You know that the thorns and the thistles resulted from the curse. "Cursed is the ground... thorns shall it bring forth" ( Genesis 3:17-18 ).
So many times we're looking at the miseries that we're facing and we say, that darn guy, Adam, got us into this mess. He made such a horrible choice. When he had the choice of the tree of life, or the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, why couldn't he have chosen the tree of life, why would he eat of the other tree first? That tree of life in the midst of the garden, why didn't he eat of it? How foolish. And we're prone to really come down on Adam for the foolish choice. But in reality, there are still two trees today and you have the choice. You can choose to eat of the tree of life today, for God has given to you that choice by believing and receiving in Jesus Christ you can have eternal life. Or, you can choose to disobey God, to rebel, to eat of the fruit of the world and abide in death. So you really can't blame Adam for your condition. You can only blame yourself, because you, many, are following Adam's folly not choosing to eat of the tree of life that God has made available to all men through Jesus Christ.
Now Jesus said to His disciples,
Freely you have received, freely give ( Matthew 10:8 ).
I wonder how that fits with these modern evangelists today.
I have got on my desk a letter, I wish I had it here right now before me. It's classic. We have these Jewish friends in Israel that we've been seeking to share the truths of Jesus Christ with, but it's a difficult task sharing with them, because he is a guide and he guides a lot of Christian tours. As a guide he sees a lot of the inner workings and the background, and a lot of the rip-offs. When I go over he will start telling me about these rip-offs that he sees where these tour guides get the people over there, the famous evangelists and all, and then they really rip the people off.
He will tell me of these things, and then somehow he has gotten on the mailing list of some of these evangelists, and he gets these computerized letters. "Dear brother," and all of this junk. Have you been bothered with an ear problem lately, or maybe its the eyes or nose, or a knee, or hepatitis? I mean the guy goes down a long list, and you're bound to hit something. Somehow I've been impressed to pray for you lately, and I think there might be something wrong. Why don't you write me and share with me. Now please don't send me any money for my birthday, but I've been laboring for the Lord three hundred and forty-one nights a year and I am really tired and I am gonna take a vacation and we could use a little extra money. Our organ blew up -- and all of this kind of stuff. Here this guy is getting these computerized letters, and he is smart enough to see through them, and to him the ministry is a sham. He sees the rip-offs.
Jesus said to His disciples, "Freely you have received, freely give." They weren't to demand fees for their services. They weren't to be taken offerings for themselves. They had received freely from God, and they were to give freely.
Now the Lord said,
Don't provide gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses ( Matthew 10:9 )
Don't take any coins in your purses,
Nor script for your journey, Don't even take two coats, nor an extra pair of shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat ( Matthew 10:9-10 ).
Now you can go and it's proper that the people support you. You don't have to take a lot of money with you. It's proper that the people support you. The workman is worthy of his hire. However, you're not to go in and make yourself a burden, or lay yourself upon people.
And into whatsoever city or town you shall enter, inquire who is worthy; and stay there until you leave. And when you come into a house, greet it. And if the house worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you ( Matthew 10:11-13 ).
Now in those days they really thought quite a bit about giving a person a blessing. If they would greet you, they would often greet you with a blessing of the Lord. "The blessings of the Lord be upon you and your seed." "Thank you." But then if they get down the road and think, oh, he wasn't worthy. That was a Gentile or something, and he comes back, and he says, "I take that blessing back." They felt that they had to remove the blessings that they gave if the person was undeserving or unworthy. So Jesus is pretty much saying if thy house is worthy let your peace abide, if it's not, take your peace with you.
And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when you depart out of that house or city, just shake off the dust off your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the Day of Judgment, than for that city. Behold, I'm sending you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore as wise as serpents, and harmless as doves ( Matthew 10:14-16 ).
Now someone said, well, serpents aren't really noted to be very wise. They're not considered to be a wise kind of a creature. And I heard a professor in biology making fun of the knowledge of Christ by pointing out to the class that serpents really weren't wise, and so for the Lord to say, "be as wise as serpents," was a rather stupid thing, and showed that He had really very little knowledge of biology. One of the students spoke up in class and said, "How long do you think you would survive without any arms or legs, and you had to take care of yourself out in the dessert? So you have to give him some credit, at least they survive. That's more then we could do." The servant of the Lord, harmless as doves.
But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to their councils, they will scourge you in their synagogues [that is they will beat you]; You will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not take forethought how or what you are going to say: for it will be given you in that same hour what you shall speak. For it is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaks in you ( Matthew 10:17-20 ).
So you don't have to make up for the whole speeches in advance, just let the Lord anoint you by His Spirit.
And the brother shall deliver up brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved ( Matthew 10:21-22 ).
So here we have that basis for the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, which is oftentimes used as a contrast to those who would go to antianimism, to the extremes of the security of the believer. And there are those who press this side of the coin, "he that endures to the end," and the perseverance of the saints. Truth lies somewhere in the middle.
But when they persecute you in this city, flee to another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come ( Matthew 10:23 ).
Now Jesus is referring to His journey that He is going to be taken among these cities. And so if they persecute you in one city, just go to the next. You are not actually going through all of these cities before I'll be right behind you. I'll be coming behind you, and I'll be ministering in these cities. He is not really referring to His Second Coming at all, but just to His ministry in these cities of the Galilee.
Now Jesus said,
The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master ( Matthew 10:24-25 ).
That's enough. You bet it is, that's great, if we could only be as our Lord. And He said, "Your not greater than the Lord." It's just enough that you be as the Lord. God help us to be as the Lord.
If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub [or the lord of flies], how much more shall they call them of his household? ( Matthew 10:25 ).
They called me names, they are gonna call you names.
Don't fear them: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak in light: and what you hear [in sort of whispered] in the ear, that preach from the housetops ( Matthew 10:26-27 ).
Now I've been teaching you, I've been training you, I've been telling you in these little intercessions that we have, now you go out and proclaim these truths openly. That, which you've heard in these little sessions that we've had, go out and proclaim them.
And don't fear them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell ( Matthew 10:28 ).
So He's not saying to fear Satan. Satan has no capacity of destroying your soul in hell. He is saying, fear God, don't fear man. The worst thing man can do is kill you. So why should you fear man, "To be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord" ( 2 Corinthians 5:8 ). You should fear the one who is able to take both body and soul and cast it into hell, that's the one you really should be fearing.
Are not two sparrows sold for half of a cent? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father taking note ( Matthew 10:29 ).
Again, "your Father," and again, "your Father oversees His creation," and one of the common things of God's creation are the little sparrows. They are so common as to be almost worthless. You could buy four of them for a penny in those days. Two Sparrows sold for a half a farthing, and yet not a little sparrow falls, but what your Father doesn't know it, doesn't make note of it. How detailed is God's knowledge of you?
But the very hairs of your head are all numbered ( Matthew 10:30 ).
Now just look at all of us here tonight. Some make it easy on the Lord, but isn't it interesting the trivia that God knows about us. He knows more about us than we know about ourselves. God knows even trivia about you. That's how concerned your Father is with you. Oh, if we would only be aware of the tremendous concern that our Father has with us, His children.
For Jesus said, You are worth more than many sparrows ( Matthew 10:31 ).
If God takes note of the sparrows, and He's been saying, don't worry about if they kill you. There is not even a sparrow that falls to the ground, but what your Father knows it, if you fall to the ground in the proclaiming of the gospel, if you be killed in your endeavor to reach others with the glorious love of Christ, how much more will your Father take note. You really have nothing to fear, not man, the worst he can do is kill you.
Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven ( Matthew 10:32-33 ).
This is a heavy, heavy verse, because we must all stand before God one day, stand before the creator of the universe.
Now if I have confessed Jesus Christ before men, when my name is called and I have to stand before God, Jesus will step forth and confess me before the Father. "Father, this is Chuck. He is perfect." Isn't that what Jude said, "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless" ( Jude 1:24 ). Why should you laugh when I say, He says, "I am perfect?" Because you know the truth. I know the truth, but I also know the power of my Redeemer. When He confesses me before the Father, and when He presents me before the Father, I will be complete in Him, "Faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy" ( Jude 1:24 ).
But if a person has denied Jesus before men, you're going to stand all alone before God, the books will be opened, and He who knows all things, He who knows the secrets of the heart. The bible says, "Every thing are naked and opened before him with whom we have to do" ( Hebrews 4:13 ). And there in the embarrassment of your own bare being, and everything exposed, and you might turn fervently to Jesus Christ, and say, "Lord, Lord," and He shakes His head, "I never knew you." Ah, what a heavy thing. "If you deny me before men, I also will deny you before my Father."
Don't think that I am come to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword ( Matthew 10:34 ).
The gospel of Jesus Christ unifies men, it brings together a tax collector and a Zelote, but the gospel of Jesus Christ also divides men. It divides men into two categories: those who are apart of the kingdom of God, and those who are apart of the kingdom of darkness. But Jesus divides men as well as unifies men and many times Jesus divides those within a household. A child comes into the kingdom of light, but the father continues to rebel in the kingdom of darkness, and so division comes, and a difference comes. This contention oftentimes arises over the differences of being in the kingdom of light, and the kingdom of darkness.
For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes will often be those of his own household ( Matthew 10:35-36 ).
Jesus was speaking out of personal experience, for at this particular time His brothers were against Him.
He that loves his father or mother more than he loves me is not worthy of me: and he who loves the son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me ( Matthew 10:37 ).
Our love for Christ has to be supreme, even above those of our family members, if they are not united with us in the faith. If they are not a part of that kingdom of light, our love for Christ must exceed even our love for those in our own family.
And he that does take not his cross, and follow after me, is not worthy of me ( Matthew 10:38 ).
When we get to chapter sixteen, we will take up the cross and what it means.
He that finds his life shall lose it: and he that loses his life for my sake, shall find it ( Matthew 10:39 ).
That we'll also take up in chapter sixteen.
He that receives you ( Matthew 10:40 ).
Now you see the authority that Jesus gives to His disciples. I mean you are there representing the Lord, you should be as your Lord.
Those that receive you receives me, and he that receives me receives the Father that sent me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones even a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward ( Matthew 10:40-42 ).
So you're doing it as unto the Lord, giving as unto the Lord. Giving unto a servant of the Lord, you receive him as you receive the Lord, and as you give to him, it is, as giving unto the Lord and you will receive your reward for it. The giving of a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, "verily I say unto you, you shall in no wise lose your reward."
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Matthew 10:15". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​csc/​matthew-10.html. 2014.
Contending for the Faith
Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.
Verily I say unto you: Jesus begins this statement with His usual stamp of validity (Matthew 5:18; Matthew 5:26; Matthew 6:2). "Verily" means, "Beyond doubt, this is exactly what it will be like for those that reject you!"
It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city: No better illustration of God’s wrath against the unrepentant exists. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is one that all Jews understand.
While Sodom and Gomorrah’s evil is of a different nature than those who reject the apostles, the underlying spirit is the same. This same spirit of rebellion condemns all sinful souls.
Jesus shows a contrast when He says that it will be "more tolerable" for Sodom and Gomorrah than for those that reject the apostles. This statement implies that God’s wrath will be more severe on some than others. Here the apostles not only preach God’s word, but also perform miracles. Such an opportunity is unlike any that Sodom and Gomorrah received. In addition, both Jesus and John have called people to repentance. If, after all of this, Israel still refuses her King, what more proof can be offered? Such open rebellion deserves the severest punishment. Lenski says, "To lie in sin and thus to perish is bad; to lie in sin and in addition to reject grace and thus to perish, is worse" (397). McGarvey adds, "It is a fixed principle in the divine government that men shall be judged with reference to their opportunities" (90) (see Luke 7:47-48; Luke 12:47-48. Compare Matthew 11:23).
Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Matthew 10:15". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​ctf/​matthew-10.html. 1993-2022.
Dr. Constable's Expository Notes
3. Jesus’ charge concerning His apostles’ mission 10:5-42
Matthew proceeded to record Jesus’ second major discourse in his Gospel: the Mission Discourse. It contains the instructions Jesus gave the 12 Apostles before He sent them out to proclaim the nearness of the messianic kingdom. Kingsbury saw the theme of this speech as "the mission of the disciples to Israel" and outlined it as follows: (I) On Being Sent to the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel (Matthew 10:5-15); (II) On Responding to Persecution (Matthew 10:16-23); and (III) On Bearing Witness Fearlessly (Matthew 10:34-42). [Note: Kingsbury, Matthew as . . ., p. 112.] Whereas there is much instruction on serving Jesus here, there is also quite a bit of emphasis on persecution.
"Before Jesus sent His ambassadors out to minister, He preached an ’ordination sermon’ to encourage and prepare them. In this sermon, the King had something to say to all of His servants-past, present, and future. Unless we recognize this fact, the message of this chapter will seem hopelessly confused." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:36.]
"It is evidential of its authenticity, and deserves special notice, that this Discourse, while so un-Jewish in spirit, is more than any other, even more than that on the Mount, Jewish in its forms of thought and modes of expression." [Note: Edersheim, 1:641. See ibid., 1:641-53, for many parallels.]
This observation suggests that this mission was uniquely Jewish. Yet, as in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke beyond His immediate audience with later disciples also in mind. This seems clear as we compare this instruction with later teaching on the conduct of Christ’s disciples in the present age.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 10:15". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/​matthew-10.html. 2012.
Dr. Constable's Expository Notes
The provisions for their mission 10:9-15 (cf. Mark 6:8-11; Luke 9:3-5)
Jesus explained further how the 12 Apostles were to conduct themselves on their mission.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 10:15". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/​matthew-10.html. 2012.
Dr. Constable's Expository Notes
They were to stay with "worthy" hosts, not necessarily in the most convenient or luxurious accommodations. A worthy person would be one who welcomed a representative of Jesus and the kingdom message. He or she would be the opposite of the "dogs" and "pigs" Jesus earlier told His disciples to avoid (Matthew 7:6). By this time there were probably people in most Galilean villages who had been in the crowds and had observed Jesus. His sympathizers would have been the most willing hosts for His disciples.
The greeting the disciple was to give his host was the normal greeting of the day. If his host proved to be unworthy by not continuing to welcome the disciple, he was to leave that house and stay somewhere else. By withdrawing personally the disciple would withdraw a blessing from that house, namely, his presence as a representative of Jesus. The apostles were to do to towns as they did to households.
"A pious Jew, on leaving Gentile territory, might remove from his feet and clothes all dust of the pagan land now being left behind . . . thus dissociating himself from the pollution of those lands and the judgment in store for them. For the disciples to do this to Jewish homes and towns would be a symbolic way of saying that the emissaries of Messiah now view those places as pagan, polluted, and liable to judgment (cf. Acts 13:51; Acts 18:6)." [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 246.]
More awful judgment awaited the inhabitants of the Jewish towns that rejected Messiah than the judgment coming on the wicked residents of Sodom and Gomorrah that had already experienced divine destruction (Genesis 19). The unbelievers of Sodom and Gomorrah will receive their sentence at the great white throne judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). The unbelieving Jews of Jesus’ day would also stand before Jesus then. One’s eternal destiny then as now depended on his or her relationship to Jesus, and that was evident in his attitude toward one of His emissaries (cf. Matthew 10:40; Matthew 25:40; Matthew 25:45). In that culture people treated a person’s official representative as they would treat the one he represented. The apostles could anticipate opposition and rejection as Jesus experienced and as the Old Testament prophets had as well.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 10:15". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/​matthew-10.html. 2012.
Barclay's Daily Study Bible
THE MESSENGERS OF THE KING ( Matthew 10:1-4 )
10:1-4 And when he had summoned his twelve disciples, he gave them power over unclean spirits, so that they were able to cast them out, and so that they were able to heal every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first and foremost Simon, who is called Peter. and Andrew, his brother; James, the son of Zebedee, and John, his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew, the tax-collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean and Judas Iscariot, who was also his betrayer.
Methodically, and yet with a certain drama, Matthew unfolds his story of Jesus. In the story of the Baptism Matthew shows us Jesus accepting his task. In the story of the Temptations Matthew shows us Jesus deciding on the method which he will use to embark upon his task. In the Sermon on the Mount we listen to Jesus' words of wisdom. In Matthew 8:1-34 we look on Jesus' deeds of power. In Matthew 9:1-38 we see the growing opposition gathering itself against Jesus. And now we see Jesus choosing his men.
If a leader is about to embark upon any great undertaking, the first thing that he must do is to choose his staff. On them the present effect and the future success of his work both depend. Here Jesus is choosing his staff, his right-hand men, his helpers in the days of his flesh, and those who would carry on his work when he left this earth and returned to his glory.
There are two facts about men which are bound to strike us at once.
(i) They were very ordinary men. They had no wealth; they had no academic background; they had no social position. They were chosen from the common people, men who did the ordinary things, men who had no special education, men who had no social advantages.
It has been said that Jesus is looking, not so much for extraordinary men, as for ordinary men who can do ordinary things extraordinarily well. Jesus sees in every man, not only what that man is, but also what he can make him. Jesus chose these men, not only for what they were, but also for what they were capable of becoming under his influence and in his power.
No man need ever think that he has nothing to offer Jesus, for Jesus can take what the most ordinary man can offer and use it for greatness.
(ii) They were the most extraordinary mixture. There was, for instance, Matthew, the tax-gatherer. All men would regard Matthew as a quisling, as one who had sold himself into the hands of his country's masters for gain, the very reverse of a patriot and a lover of his country. And with Matthew there was Simon the Cananaean. Luke ( Luke 6:16) calls him Simon Zelotes, which means Simon the Zealot.
Josephus (Antiquities, 8. 1. 6.) describes these Zealots; he calls them the fourth party of the Jews; the other three parties were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. He says that they had "an inviolable attachment to liberty," and that they said that "God is to be their ruler and Lord." They were prepared to face any kind of death for their country, and did not shrink to see their loved ones die in the struggle for freedom. They refused to give to any earthly man the name and the title of king. They had an immovable resolution which would undergo any pain. They were prepared to go the length of secret murder and stealthy assassination to seek to rid their country of foreign rule. They were the patriots par excellence among the Jews, the most nationalist of all the nationalists.
The plain fact is that if Simon the Zealot had met Matthew the tax-gatherer anywhere else than in the company of Jesus, he would have stuck a dagger in him. Here is the tremendous truth that men who hate each other can learn to love each other when they both love Jesus Christ. Too often religion has been a means of dividing men. It was meant to be--and in the presence of the living Jesus it was--a means of bringing together men who without Christ were sundered from each other.
We may ask why Jesus chose twelve special apostles. The reason is very likely because there were twelve tribes; just as in the old dispensation there had been twelve tribes of Israel, so in the new dispensation there are twelve apostles of the new Israel. The New Testament itself does not tell us very much about these men. As Plummer has it: "In the New Testament it is the work, and not the workers, that is glorified." But, although we do not know much about them, the New Testament is very conscious of their greatness in the Church, for the Revelation tells us that the twelve foundation stones of the Holy City are inscribed with their names ( Revelation 21:14). These men, simple men with no great background, men from many differing spheres of belief, were the very foundation stones on which the Church was built. It is on the stuff of common men and women that the Church of Christ is founded.
THE MAKING OF THE MESSENGERS ( Matthew 10:1-4 continued)
When we put together the three accounts of the calling of the Twelve ( Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:13-16) certain illuminating facts emerge.
(i) He chose them. Luke 6:13 says that Jesus called his disciples, and chose from them twelve. It is as if Jesus' eyes moved over the crowds who followed him, and the smaller band who stayed with him when the crowds had departed, and as if all the time he was searching for the men to whom he could commit his work. As it has been said, "God is always looking for hands to use." God is always saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" ( Isaiah 6:8).
There are many tasks in the Kingdom, the task of him who must go out and the task of him who must stay at home, the task of him who must use his hands and the task of him who must use his mind, the task which will fasten the eyes of all upon the doer and the task which no one will ewer see. And always Jesus' eyes are searching the crowds for those who will do his work.
(ii) He called them. Jesus does not compel a man to do his work; he offers him work to do. Jesus does not coerce; he invites. Jesus does not make conscripts; he seeks volunteers. As it has been put, a man is free to be faithful and free to be faithless. But to every man there comes the summons which he can accept or refuse.
(iii) He appointed them. The King James Version has it that he ordained them ( Mark 3:14). The word which is translated ordain is the simple Greek word poiein ( G4160) , which means to make or to do; but which is often technically used for appointing a man to some office. Jesus was like a king appointing his men to be his ministers; he was like a general allocating their tasks to his commanders. It was not a case of drifting unconsciously into the service of Jesus Christ; it was a case of definitely being appointed to it. A man might well be proud, if he is appointed to some earthly office by some earthly king; how much more shall he be proud when he is appointed by the King of kings?
(iv) These men were appointed from amongst the disciples. The word disciple means a learner. The men whom Christ needs and desires are the men who are willing to learn. The shut mind cannot serve him. The servant of Christ must be willing to learn more every day. Each day he must be a step nearer Jesus and a little nearer God.
(v) The reasons why these men were chosen are equally significant. They were chosen to be with him ( Mark 3:14). If they were to do his work in the world, they must live in his presence, before they went out to the world; they must go from the presence of Jesus into the presence of men.
It is told that on one occasion Alexander Whyte preached a most powerful and a most moving sermon. After the service a friend said to him: "You preached today as if you had come straight from the presence of Jesus Christ." Whyte answered: "Perhaps I did."
No work of Christ can ever be done except by him who comes from the presence of Christ. Sometimes in the complexity of the activities of the modern Church we are so busy with committees and courts and administration and making the wheels go round that we are in danger of forgetting that none of these things matters, if it is carried on by men who have not been with Christ before they have been with men.
(vi) They were called to be apostles ( Mark 3:14; Luke 6:13). The word apostle literally means one who is sent out; it is the word for an envoy or an ambassador. The Christian is Jesus Christ's ambassador to men. He goes forth from the presence of Christ, bearing with him the word and the beauty of his Master.
(vii) They were called to be the heralds of Christ. In Matthew 10:7 they are bidden to preach. The word is kerussein ( G2784) , which comes from the noun kerux ( G2783) , which means a herald. The Christian is the herald Christ. That is why he must begin in the presence of Christ. The Christian is not meant to bring to men his own opinions; he brings a message of divine certainties from Jesus Christ--and he cannot bring that message unless first in the presence he has received it.
THE COMMISSION OF THE KING'S MESSENGER ( Matthew 10:5-8 a)
10:5-8a Jesus sent out these twelve, and these were the orders he gave them: "Do not," he said, "go out on the road to the Gentiles, and do not enter into any city of the Samaritans; but go rather to the sheep of the house of Israel who have perished. As you go make this proclamation: The Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the leper, cast out demons."
Here we have the beginning of the King's commission to his messengers. The word which is used in the Greek for Jesus commanding his men, or giving them orders is interesting and illuminating. It is the word paragellein. This word in Greek has four special usages. (i) It is the regular word of military command; Jesus was like a general sending his commanders out on a campaign, and briefing them before they went. (ii) It is the word used of calling one's friends to one's help. Jesus was like a man with a great ideal summoning his friends to make that ideal come true. (iii) It is the word which is used of a teacher giving rules and precepts to his students. Jesus was like a teacher sending his students out into the world, equipped with his teaching and his message. (iv) It is the word which is regularly used for an imperial command. Jesus was like a king despatching his ambassadors into the world to carry out his orders and to speak for him.
This passage begins with what everyone must find a very difficult instruction. It begins by forbidding the twelve to go to the Gentiles or to the Samaritans. There are many who find it very difficult to believe that Jesus ever said this at all, This apparent exclusiveness is very unlike him; and it has been suggested that this saying was put into his mouth by those who in the later days wished to keep the gospel for the Jews, the very men who bitterly opposed Paul, when he wished to take the gospel to the Gentiles.
But there are certain things to be remembered. This saying is so uncharacteristic of Jesus that no one could have invented it; he must have said it, and so there must be some explanation.
We can be quite certain it was not a permanent command. Within the gospel itself we see Jesus talking graciously and intimately to a woman of Samaria and revealing himself ( John 4:4-42); we see him telling one of his immortal stories to her ( Luke 10:30); we see him healing the daughter of Syro-Phoenician woman ( Matthew 15:28); and Matthew himself tells us of Jesus' final commission of his men to go out into all the world and to bring all nations into the gospel ( Matthew 28:19-20). What then is the explanation?
The twelve were forbidden to go to the Gentiles; that meant that they could not go north into Syria, nor could they even go east into the Decapolis, which was largely a Gentile region. They could not go south into Samaria for that was forbidden. The effect of this order was in actual fact to limit the first journeys of the twelve to Galilee. There were three good reasons for that.
(i) The Jews had in God's scheme of things a very special place; in the justice of God they had to be given the first offer of the gospel. It is true that they rejected it, but the whole of history was designed to give them the first opportunity to accept.
(ii) The twelve were not equipped to preach to the Gentiles. They had neither the background, nor the knowledge nor the technique. Before the gospel could be effectively brought to the Gentiles a man with Paul's life and background had to emerge. A message has little chance of success, if the messenger is ill-equipped to deliver it. If a preacher or teacher is wise, he will realize his limitations, and will see clearly what he is fitted and what he is not fitted to do.
(iii) But the great reason for this command is simply this--any wise commander knows that he must limit his objectives. He must direct his attack at one chosen point. If he diffuses his forces here, there and everywhere, he dissipates his strength and invites failure. The smaller his forces the more limited his immediate objective must be. To attempt to attack on too broad a front is simply to court disaster. Jesus knew that, and his aim was to concentrate his attack on Galilee, for Galilee, as we have seen, was the most open of all parts of Palestine to a new gospel and a new message (compare on Matthew 4:12-17). This command of Jesus was a temporary command. He was the wise commander who refused to diffuse and dissipate his forces; he skillfully concentrated his attack on one limited objective in order to achieve an ultimate and universal victory.
THE WORDS AND WORKS OF THE KING'S MESSENGER ( Matthew 10:5-8 a continued)
The King's messengers had words to speak and deeds to do.
(i) They had to announce the imminence of the Kingdom. As we have seen (compare on Matthew 6:10-11) the Kingdom of God is a society on earth, where God's will is as perfectly done as it is in heaven. Of all persons who ever lived in the world Jesus was, and is, the only person who ever perfectly did, and obeyed, and fulfilled, God's will. Therefore in him the Kingdom had come. It is as if the messengers of the King were to say, "Look! You have dreamed of the Kingdom, and you have longed for the Kingdom. Here in the life of Jesus is the Kingdom. Look at him, and see what being in the Kingdom means." In Jesus the Kingdom of God had come to men.
(ii) But the task of the twelve was not confined to speaking words; it involved doing deeds. They had to heal the sick, to raise the dead, to cleanse the lepers, to cast out demons. All these injunctions are to be taken in a double sense. They are to be taken physically, because Jesus Christ came to bring health and healing to the bodies of men. But they are also to be taken spiritually. They describe the change wrought by Jesus Christ in the souls of men.
(a) They were to heal the sick. The word used for sick is very suggestive. It is a part of the Greek verb asthenein ( G770) , the primary meaning of which is to be weak; asthenes ( G772) is the standard Greek adjective for weak. When Christ comes to a man, he strengthens the weak will, he buttresses the weak resistance, he nerves the feeble arm for fight, he confirms the weak resolution. Jesus Christ fills our human weakness with his divine power.
(b) They were to raise the dead. A man can be dead in sin. His will to resist can be broken; his vision of the good can be darkened until it does not exist; he may be helplessly and hopelessly in the grip of his sins, blind to goodness and deaf to God. When Jesus Christ comes into a man's life, he resurrects him to goodness, he revitalizes the goodness within us which our sinning has killed.
(c) They were to cleanse the lepers. As we have seen, the leper was regarded as polluted. Leviticus says of him, "He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean; he shall dwell alone in a habitation outside the camp" ( Leviticus 13:46). 2 Kings 7:3-4 shows us the lepers who only in the day of deadly famine dared to enter into the city. 2 Kings 15:5 tells us how Azariah the king was smitten with leprosy, and to the day of his death he had to live in a lazar house, separated from all men. It is interesting to note that even in Persia this pollution of the leper was believed in. Herodotus (1: 138) tells us that, "if a man in Persia has the leprosy he is not snowed to enter into a city or to have any dealings with any other Persians; he must, they say, have sinned against the sun."
So, then, the twelve were to bring cleansing to the polluted. A man can stain his life with sin; he can pollute his mind, his heart, his body with the consequences of his sin. His words, his actions, his influence can become so befouled that they are an unclean influence on all with whom he comes into contact. Jesus Christ can cleanse the soul that has stained itself with sin; he can bring to men the divine antiseptic against sin; he cleanses human sin with the divine purity.
(d) They were to cast out demons. A demon-possessed man was a man in the grip of an evil power; he was no longer master of himself and of his actions; the evil power within had him in its mastery. A man can be mastered by evil; he can be dominated by evil habits; evil can have a mesmeric fascination for him. Jesus comes not only to cancel sin, but to break the power of cancelled sin. Jesus Christ brings to men enslaved by sin the liberating power of God.
THE EQUIPMENT OF THE KING'S MESSENGER ( Matthew 10:8 b-10)
10:8b-10 "Freely you have received; freely give. Do not set out to get gold or silver or bronze for your purses; do not take a bag for the journey, nor two tunics, nor shoes, nor a staff. The workman deserves his sustenance."
This is a passage in which every sentence and every phrase would ring an answering bell in the mind of the Jews who heard it. In it Jesus was giving to his men the instructions which the Rabbis at their best gave to their students and disciples.
"Freely you have received," says Jesus, "freely give." A Rabbi was bound by law to give his teaching freely and for nothing; the Rabbi was absolutely forbidden to take money for teaching the Law which Moses had freely received from God. In only one case could a Rabbi accept payment. He might accept payment for teaching a child, for to teach a child is the parent's task, and no one else should be expected to spend time and labour doing what is the parent's own duty to do; but higher teaching had to be given without money and without price.
In the Mishnah the Law lays it down that, if a man takes payment for acting as a judge, his judgments are invalid; that, if he takes payment for giving evidence as a witness, his witness is void. Rabbi Zadok said, "Make not the Law a crown wherewith to aggrandize thyself, nor a spade wherewith to dig." Hillel said, "He who makes a worldly use of the crown of the Law shall waste away. Hence thou mayest infer that whosoever desires a profit for himself from the words of the Law is helping on his own destruction." It was laid down: "As God taught Moses gratis--so do thou."
There is a story of Rabbi Tarphon. At the end of the fig harvest he was walking in a garden; and he ate some of the figs which had been left behind. The watchmen came upon him and beat him. He told them who he was, and because he was a famous Rabbi they let him go. All his life he regretted that he had used his status as a Rabbi to help himself. "Yet all his days did he grieve, for he said, 'Woe is me, for I have used the crown of the Law for my own profit!'"
When Jesus told his disciples that they had freely received and must freely give, he was telling them what the teachers of his own people had been telling their students for many a day. If a man possesses a precious secret it is surely his duty, not to hug it to himself until he is paid for it, but willingly to pass it on. It is a privilege to share with others the riches God has given us.
Jesus told the twelve not to set out to acquire gold or silver or bronze for their purses, the Greek literally means for their girdles. The girdle, which the Jew wore round his waist, was rather broad; and at each end for part of its length it was double; money was carried in the double part of the girdle; so that the girdle was the usual purse of the Jew. Jesus told the twelve not to take a bag for the journey. The bag may be one of two things. It may simply be a bag like a haversack in which provisions would ordinarily have been carried. But there is another possibility. The word is pera ( G4082) , which can mean a beggar's collecting bag; sometimes the wandering philosophers took a collection in such a bag after addressing the crowd.
In all these instructions Jesus was not laying upon his men a deliberate and calculated discomfort. He was once again speaking words which were very familiar to a Jew. The Talmud tells us that: "No one is to go to the Temple Mount with staff, shoes, girdle of money, or dusty feet." The idea was that when a man entered the temple, he must make it quite clear that he had left everything which had to do with trade and business and worldly affairs behind. What Jesus is saying to his men is: "You must treat the whole world as the Temple of God. If you are a man of God, you must never give the impression that you are a man of business, out for what you can get." Jesus' instructions mean that the man of God must show by his attitude to material things that his first interest is God.
Finally, Jesus says that the workman deserves his sustenance. Once again the Jews would recognize this. It is true that a Rabbi might not accept payment, but it is also true that it was considered at once a privilege and an obligation to support a Rabbi, if he was truly a man of God. Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob said: "He who receives a Rabbi in his house, or as his guest, and lets him have his enjoyment from his possessions, the scripture ascribes it to him as if he had offered the continual offerings." Rabbi Jochanan laid it down that it was the duty of every Jewish community to support a Rabbi, and the more so because a Rabbi naturally neglects his own affairs to concentrate on the affairs of God.
Here then is the double truth; the man of God must never be over-concerned with material things, but the people of God must never fail in their duty to see that the man of God receives a reasonable support. This passage lays an obligation on teacher and on people alike.
THE CONDUCT OF THE KING'S MESSENGER ( Matthew 10:11-15 )
10:11-15 "When you enter into any city or village, make inquiries as to who in it is worthy, and stay there until you go out of it. When you come into a household, give your greetings to it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not receive you, and will not listen to your words, when you leave that house or that city, shake off the dust of it from your feet. This is the truth I tell you--it will be easier for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that city."
Here is a passage full of the most practical advice for the King's messengers.
When they entered a city or a village, they were to seek a house that is worthy. The point is that if they took up their residence in a house which had an evil reputation for morals or for conduct or for fellowship, it would seriously hinder their usefulness. They were not to identify themselves with anyone who might prove to be a handicap. That is not for a moment to say that they were not to seek to win such people for Christ, but it is to say that the messenger of Christ must have a care whom he makes his intimate friend.
When they entered a house, they were to stay there until they moved on to another place. This was a matter of courtesy. They might well be tempted, after they had won certain supporters and converts in a place, to move on to a house which could provide more luxury, more comfort, and better entertainment. The messenger of Christ must never give the impression that he courts people for the sake of material things, and that his movements are dictated by the demands of his own comfort.
The passage about giving a greeting, and, as it were, taking the greeting back again, is typically eastern. In the east a spoken word was thought to have a kind of active and independent existence. It went out from the mouth as independently as a bullet from a gun. This idea emerges regularly in the Old Testament, especially in connection with words spoken by God. Isaiah hears God say, "By myself I have sworn, from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness a word that shall not return" ( Isaiah 45:23). "So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it" ( Isaiah 55:11). Zechariah sees the flying scroll, and hears the voice: "This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole land" ( Zechariah 5:3).
To this day in the east, if a man speaks his blessing to a passer-by, and then discovers that the passer-by is of another faith, he will come and take his blessing back again. The idea here is that the messengers of the King can send their blessing to rest upon a house, and, if the house is unworthy of it, can, as it were, recall it.
If in any place their message is refused, the messengers of the King were to shake the dust of that place off their feet and to move on. To the Jew the dust of a Gentile place or road was defiling; therefore, when the Jew crossed the border of Palestine, and entered into his own country, after a journey in Gentile lands, he shook the dust of the Gentile roads off his feet that the last particle of pollution might be cleansed away. So Jesus said, "If a city or a village will not receive you, you must treat it like a Gentile place." Again, we must be clear as to what Jesus is saying. In this passage there is both a temporary and an eternal truth.
(i) The temporary truth is this, Jesus was not saying that certain people had to be abandoned as being outside the message of the gospel and beyond the reach of grace. This was an instruction like the opening instruction not to go to the Gentiles and to the Samaritans. It came from the situation in which it was given. It was simply due to the time factor; time was short; as many as possible must hear the proclamation of the Kingdom; there was not time then to argue with the disputatious and to seek to win the stubborn; that would come later. At the moment the disciples had to tour the country as quickly as possible, and therefore they had to move on when there was no immediate welcome for the message which they brought.
(ii) The permanent truth is this. It is one of the great basic facts of life that time and time again an opportunity comes to a man--and does not come back. To those people in Palestine there was coming the opportunity to receive the gospel, but if they did not take it, the opportunity might well never return. As the proverb has it: "Three things come not back--the spoken word, the spent arrow, and the lost opportunity."
This happens in every sphere of life. In his autobiography, Chiaroscuro, Augustus John tells of an incident and adds a laconic comment. He was in Barcelona: "It was time to leave for Marseilles. I had sent forward my baggage and was walking to the station, when I encountered three Gitanas engaged in buying flowers at a booth. I was so struck by their beauty and flashing elegance that I almost missed my train. Even when I reached Marseilles and met my friend, this vision still haunted me, and I positively had to return. But I did not find these gypsies again. One never does." The artist was always looking for glimpses of beauty to transfer to his canvas--but he knew well that if he did not paint the beauty when he found it, all the chances were that he would never catch that glimpse again. The tragedy of life is so often the tragedy of the lost opportunity.
Finally, it is said that it will be easier for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for the town or the village which has refused the message of Christ and the Kingdom. Sodom and Gomorrah are in the New Testament proverbial for wickedness ( Matthew 11:23-24; Luke 10:12-13; Luke 17:29; Romans 9:29; 2 Peter 2:6; Jd 1:7 ). It is interesting and relevant to note that just before their destruction Sodom and Gomorrah had been guilty of a grave and vicious breach of the laws of hospitality ( Genesis 19:1-11). They, too, had rejected the messengers of God. But, even at their worst, Sodom and Gomorrah had never had the opportunity to reject the message of Christ and his Kingdom. That is why it would be easier for them at the last than for the towns and villages of Galilee; for it is always true that the greater the privilege has been the greater the responsibility is.
THE CHALLENGE OF THE KING TO HIS MESSENGERS ( Matthew 10:16-22 )
10:16-22 Look you, it is I who am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Show yourself as wise as serpents, and as pure as doves. Beware of men! For they will hand you over to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, that you make your witness to them and to the Gentiles. But when they hand you over, do not worry how you are to speak, or what you are to say. What you are to speak will be given to you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. Brother will hand over brother to death, and father will hand over child. Children will rise up against parents, and will murder them; and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
Before we deal with this passage in detail, we may note two things about it in general.
When we were studying the Sermon on the Mount, we saw that one of Matthew's great characteristics was his love of orderly arrangement. We saw that it was Matthew's custom to collect in one place all the material on any given subject, even if it was spoken by Jesus on different occasions. Matthew was the systematizer of his material. This passage is one of the instances where Matthew collects his material from different times. Here he collects the things which Jesus said on various occasions about persecution.
There is no doubt that even when Jesus sent out his men for the first time, he told them what to expect. But at the very beginning Matthew relates how Jesus told his men not to go at that time to the Gentiles or to the Samaritans; and yet in this passage Matthew shows us Jesus foretelling persecution and trial before rulers and kings, that is to say, far beyond Palestine. The explanation is that Matthew collects Jesus' references to persecution and he puts together both what Jesus said when he sent his men out on their first expedition and what Jesus told them after his resurrection, when he was sending them out into all the world. Here we have the words, not only of Jesus of Galilee, but also of the Risen Christ.
Further, we must note that in these words Jesus was making use of ideas and pictures which were part and parcel of Jewish thought. We have seen again and again how it was the custom of the Jews, in their pictures of the future, to divide time into two ages. There was the present age, which is wholly bad; there was the age to come, which would be the golden age of God; and in between there was the Day of the Lord, which would be a terrible time of chaos and destruction and judgment. Now in Jewish thought one of the ever-recurring features of the Day of the Lord was that it would split friends and kindred into two, and that the dearest bonds of earth would be destroyed in bitter enmities.
"All friends shall destroy each other" ( 2Esther 5:9). "At that time shall friends make war one against another like enemies" ( 2Esther 6:24). "And they will strive with one another, the young with the old, and the old with the young, the poor with the rich, and the lowly with the great, and the beggar with the prince" (Jubilees 23: 19). "And they will hate one another, and provoke one another to fight; and the mean will rule over the honourable, and those of low degree shall be extolled above the famous'" (2 Baruch 70:3). "And they shall begin to fight among themselves, and their right hand shall be strong against themselves, and a man shall not know his brother, nor a son his father or his mother, till there be no number of the corpses through their slaughter" (Enoch 56: 7). "And in those days the destitute shall go forth and carry off their children, and they shall abandon them, so that their children shall perish through them; yea they shall abandon their children that are still sucklings, and not return to them; and shall have no pity on their loved ones" (Enoch 99: 5). "And in those days in one place the fathers together with their sons shall be smitten and brothers one with another shall fall in death till the streams flow with their blood. For a man shall not withhold his hand from slaying his sons and his sons' sons, and the sinner shall not withhold his hand from his honoured brother; from dawn to sunset they shall slay each other." (Enoch 100: 1-2).
All these quotations are taken from the books which the Jews wrote and knew and loved, and on which they fed their hearts and their hopes, in the days between the Old and the New Testaments. Jesus knew these books; his men knew these books; and when Jesus spoke of the terrors to come, and of the divisions which would tear apart the closest ties of earth, he was in effect saying: "The Day of the Lord has come." And his men would know that he was saying this, and would go out in the knowledge that they were living in the greatest days of history.
THE KING'S HONESTY TO HIS MESSENGERS ( Matthew 10:16-22 continued)
No one can read this passage without being deeply impressed with the honesty of Jesus. He never hesitated to tell men what they might expect, if they followed him. It is as if he said, "Here is my task for you--at its grimmest and at its worst--do you accept it?" Plummer comments: "This is not the world's way to win adherents." The world will offer a man roses, roses all the way, comfort, ease, advancement, the fulfilment of his worldly ambitions. Jesus offered his men hardship and death. And yet the proof of history is that Jesus was right. In their heart of hearts men love a call to adventure.
After the siege of Rome, in 1849, Garibaldi issued the following proclamation to his followers: "Soldiers, all our efforts against superior forces have been unavailing. I have nothing to offer you but hunger and thirst, hardship and death; but I call on all who love their country to join with me"--and they came in their hundreds.
After Dunkirk, Churchill offered his country "blood, toil, sweat and tears".
Prescott tells how Pizarro, that reckless adventurer, offered his little band the tremendous choice between the known safety of Panama, and the as yet unknown splendour of Peru. He took his sword and traced a line with it on the sand from east to west: "Friends and comrades!" he said, "on that side are toil, hunger, nakedness, the drenching storm, desertion and death; on this side, ease and pleasure. There ties Peru with its riches; here, Panama and its poverty. Choose each man what best becomes a brave Castilian. For my part I go south" and he stepped across the line. And thirteen men, whose names are immortal, chose adventure with him.
When Shackleton proposed his march to the South Pole he asked for volunteers for that trek amidst the blizzards across the polar ice. He expected to have difficulty but he was inundated with letters, from young and old, rich and poor, the highest and the lowest, all desiring to share in that great adventure.
It may be that the Church must learn again that we will never attract men to an easy way; it is the call of the heroic which ultimately speaks to men's hearts.
Jesus offered his men three kinds of trial.
(i) The state would persecute them; they would be brought before councils and kings and governors. Long before this Aristotle had wondered if a good man could ever really be a good citizen, for, he said, it was the duty of the citizen ever to support and to obey the state, and there were times when the good man would find that impossible. When Christ's men were brought to court and to judgment, they were not to worry about what they would say; for God would give them words. "I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak," God had promised Moses ( Exodus 4:12). It was not the humiliation which the early Christians dreaded, not even the cruel pain and the agony. But many of them feared that their own unskillfulness in words and defence might injure rather than commend the faith. It is the promise of God that when a man is on trial for his faith, the words will come to him.
(ii) The Church would persecute them; they would be scourged in the synagogues. The Church does not like to be upset, and has its own ways of dealing with disturbers of the peace. The Christians were, and are, those who turn the world upside down ( Acts 17:6). It has often been true that the man with a message from God has had to undergo the hatred and the enmity of a fossilized orthodoxy.
(iii) The family would persecute them; their nearest and dearest would think them mad, and shut the door against them. Sometimes the Christian is confronted with the hardest choice of all--the choice between obedience to Christ and obedience to kindred and to friends.
Jesus warned his men that in the days to come they might well find state and Church and family conjoined against them.
THE REASONS FOR THE PERSECUTION OF THE KING'S MESSENGER ( Matthew 10:16-22 continued)
Looking at things from our own point of view, we find it hard to understand why any government should wish to persecute the Christians, whose only aim was to live in purity, in charity, and in reverence. But in later days the Roman government had what it considered good reason for persecuting the Christians (see topic THE BLISS OF THE SUFFERER FOR CHRIST).
(i) There were certain slanders current about the Christians. They were accused of being cannibals because of the words of the sacrament, which spoke of eating Christ's body and drinking his blood. They were accused of immorality because the title of their weekly feast was the agape ( G26) , the love feast. They were accused of incendiarism because of the pictures which the Christian preachers drew of the coming of the end of the world. They were accused of being disloyal and disaffected citizens because they would not take the oath to the godhead of the Emperor.
(ii) It is doubtful if even the heathen really believed these slanderous charges. But there were other charges which were more serious. The Christians were accused of "tampering with family relationships." It was the truth that Christianity often split families, as we have seen. And to the heathen, Christianity appeared to be something which divided parents and children, and husbands and wives.
(iii) A real difficulty was the position of slaves in the Christian Church. In the Roman Empire there were 60,000,000 slaves. It was always one of the terrors of the Empire that these slaves might rise in revolt. If the structure of the Empire was to remain intact they must be kept in their place; nothing must be done by anyone to encourage them to rebel, or the consequences might be terrible beyond imagining.
Now the Christian Church made no attempt to free the slaves, or to condemn slavery; but it did, within the Church at least, treat the slaves as equals. Clement of Alexandria pleaded that "slaves are like ourselves," and the golden rule applied to them. Lactantius wrote: "Slaves are not slaves to us. We deem them brothers after the Spirit, in religion fellow-servants." It is a notable fact that, although there were thousands of slaves in the Christian Church, the inscription slave is never met with in the Roman Christian tombs.
Worse than that, it was perfectly possible for a slave to hold high office in the Christian Church. In the early second century two bishops of Rome, Callistus and Pius, had been slaves. And it was not uncommon for elders and deacons to be slaves.
And still worse, in A.D. 220 Callistus, who, as we have seen, had been a slave, declared that henceforth the Christian Church would sanction the marriage of a highborn girl to a freed man, a marriage which was in fact illegal under Roman law, and, therefore, not a marriage at all.
In its treatment of slaves the Christian Church must necessarily have seemed to the Roman authorities a force which was disrupting the very basis of civilization, and threatening the very existence of the Empire by giving slaves a position which they should never have had, as Roman law saw it.
(iv) There is no doubt that Christianity seriously affected certain vested interests connected with heathen religion. When Christianity came to Ephesus, the trade of the silversmiths was dealt a mortal blow, for far fewer desired to buy the images which they fashioned ( Acts 19:24-27). Pliny was governor of Bithynia in the reign of Trajan, and in a letter to the Emperor (Pliny: Letters, 10: 96) he tells how he had taken steps to check the rapid growth of Christianity so that "the temples which had been deserted now begin to be frequented; the sacred festivals, after a long intermission, are revived; while there is a general demand for sacrificial animals, which for some time past have met with few purchasers." It is clear that the spread of Christianity meant the abolition of certain trades and activities; and those who lost their trade and lost their money not unnaturally resented it.
Christianity preaches a view of man which no totalitarian state can accept. Christianity deliberately aims to obliterate certain trades and professions and ways of making money. It still does--and therefore the Christian is still liable to persecution for his faith.
THE PRUDENCE OF THE KING'S MESSENGER ( Matthew 10:23 )
10:23 "When they persecute you in one city, flee into another. This is the truth I tell you--you will not complete your tour of the cities of Israel, until the Son of Man shall come."
This passage counsels a wise and a Christian prudence. In the days of persecution a certain danger always threatened the Christian witness. There always were those who actually courted martyrdom; they were wrought up to such a pitch of hysterical and fanatical enthusiasm that they went out of their way to become martyrs for the faith. Jesus was wise. He told his men that there must be no wanton waste of Christian lives; that they must not pointlessly and needlessly throw their lives away. As some one has put it, the life of every Christian witness is precious. and must not be recklessly thrown away. "Bravado is not martyrdom." Often the Christians had to die for their faith, but they must not throw away their lives in a way that did not really help the faith. As it was later said, a man must contend lawfully, for the faith.
When Jesus spoke like this, he was speaking in a way which Jews would recognize and understand. No people were ever more persecuted than the Jews have always been; and no people were ever clearer as to where the duties of the martyr lay. The teaching of the great Rabbis was quite clear. When it was a question of public sanctification or open profanation of God's name, duty was plain--a man must be prepared to lay down his life. But when that public declaration was not in question, a man might save his life by breaking the law; but for no reason must he commit idolatry, unchastity, or murder.
The case the Rabbis cited was this: suppose a Jew is seized by a Roman soldier, and the soldier says mockingly, and with no other intention than to humiliate and to make a fool of the Jew: "Eat this pork." Then the Jew may eat, for "God's laws are given for life and not for death." But suppose the Roman says: "Eat this pork as a sign that you renounce Judaism; eat this pork as a sign that you are ready to worship Jupiter and the Emperor," the Jew must die rather than eat. In any time of official persecution the Jew must die rather than abandon his faith. As the Rabbis said, "The words of the Law are only firm in that man who would die for their sake."
The Jew was forbidden to thrown away his life in a needless act of pointless martyrdom; but when it came to a question of true witness, he must be prepared to die.
We do well to remember that, while we are bound to accept martyrdom for our faith, we are forbidden to court martyrdom. If suffering for the faith comes to us in the course of duty, it must be accepted; but it must not be needlessly invited; to invite it does more harm than good to the faith we bear. The self-constituted martyr is much too common in all human affairs.
It has been said that there is sometimes more heroism in daring to fly from danger than in stopping to meet it. There is real wisdom in recognizing when to escape. Andre Maurois in Why France Fell tells of a conversation he had with Winston Churchill. There was a time at the beginning of the Second World War when Great Britain seemed strangely inactive and unwilling to act. Churchill said to Maurois: "Have you observed the habits of lobsters?" "No," answered Maurois to this somewhat surprising question. Churchill went on: "Well, if you have the opportunity, study them. At certain periods in his life the lobster loses his protective shell. At this moment of moulting even the bravest crustacean retires into a crevice in the rock, and waits patiently until a new carapace has time to grow. As soon as this new armour has grown strong, he sallies out of the crevice, and becomes once more a fighter, lord of the seas. England, through the faults of imprudent ministers, has lost its carapace; we must wait in our crevice until the new one has time to grow strong." This was a time when inaction was wiser than action; and when to escape was wiser than to attack.
If a man is weak in the faith, he will do well to avoid disputations about doubtful things, and not to plunge into them. If a man knows that he is susceptible to a certain temptation, he will do well to avoid the places where that temptation will speak to him, and not to frequent them. If a man knows that there are people who anger and irritate him, and who bring the worst out of him, he will be wise to avoid their society, and not to seek it. Courage is not recklessness; there is no virtue in running needless risks; God's grace is not meant to protect the foolhardy, but the prudent.
THE COMING OF THE KING ( Matthew 10:23 continued)
This passage contains one strange saying which we cannot honestly neglect. Matthew depicts Jesus as sending out his men, and, as he does so, saying to them, "You will not complete your tour of the cities of Israel, until the Son of Man shall come." On the face of it that seems to mean that before his men had completed their preaching tour, his day of glory and his return to power would have taken place. The difficulty is just this-that did not in fact happen, and, if at that moment. Jesus had that expectation, he was mistaken. If he said this in this way, he foretold something which actually did not happen. But there is a perfectly good and sufficient explanation of this apparent difficulty.
The people of the early Church believed intensely in the second coming of Jesus, and they believed it would happen soon, certainly within their own lifetime. There could be nothing more natural than that, because they were living in days of savage persecution, and they were longing for the day of their release and their glory. The result was that they fastened on every possible saying of Jesus which could be interpreted as foretelling his triumphant and glorious return, and sometimes they quite naturally used things which Jesus said, and read into them something more definite than was originally there.
We can see this process happening within the pages of the New Testament itself. There are three versions of the one saying of Jesus. Let us set them down one after another:
Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not
taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his
Kingdom ( Matthew 16:28).
Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not
taste death before they see the Kingdom of God come with power
( Mark 9:1).
But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not
taste death before they see the kingdom of God ( Luke 9:27).
Now it is clear that these are three versions of the same saying. Mark is the earliest gospel, and therefore Mark's version is most likely to be strictly accurate. Mark says that there were some listening to Jesus who would not die until they saw the Kingdom of God coming with power. That was gloriously true, for within thirty years of the Cross the message of Crucified and Risen Christ had swept across the world and had reached Rome, the capital of the world. Indeed men were being swept into the Kingdom; indeed the Kingdom was coming with power. Luke transmits the saying in the same way as Mark.
Now look at Matthew. His version is slightly different; he says that there are some who will not die until they see the Son of Man coming in power. That, in fact, did not happen. The explanation is that Matthew was writing between A.D. 80 and 90, in days when terrible persecution was raging. Men were clutching at everything which promised release from agony; and he took a saying which foretold the spread of the Kingdom and turned it into a saying which foretold the return of Christ within a lifetime--and who shall blame him?
That is what Matthew has done here. Take this saying in our passage and write it as Mark or Luke would have written it: "You will not complete your tour of the cities of Israel, into the Kingdom of God shall come." That was blessedly true, for as the tour went on, men's hearts opened to Jesus Christ, and they took him as Master and Lord.
In a passage like this we must not think of Jesus as mistaken; we must rather think that Matthew read into a promise of the coming of the Kingdom a promise of the second coming of Jesus Christ. And he did so because, in days of terror, men clutched at the hope of Christ; and Christ did come to them in the Spirit, for no man ever suffered alone for Christ.
THE KING'S MESSENGER AND THE KING'S SUFFERINGS ( Matthew 10:24-25 )
10:24-25 "The scholar is not above his teacher, nor is the slave above his master. It is enough for the scholar that he should be as his teacher, and the servant that he should be as his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzeboul, how much more shall they so call the members of his household."
It is Jesus' warning to his disciples that they must expect what happened to him to happen to them. The Jews well knew this sentence: "It is enough for the slave to be as his master." In the later days they were to use it in a special way. In A.D. 70 Jerusalem was destroyed, and destroyed so completely that a plough was drawn across the devastation. The Temple of God and the Holy City were in ruins. The Jews were dispersed throughout the world, and many of them mourned and lamented about the terrible fate which had befallen them personally. It was then that the Rabbis said to them: "When God's Temple has been destroyed, how can any individual Jew complain about his personal misfortunes?"
In this saying of Jesus there are two things.
(i) There is a warning. There is the warning that, as Christ had to carry a cross, so also the individual Christian must carry a cross. The word that is used for members of his household is the one Greek word oikiakoi ( G3615) . This word has a technical use; it means the members of the household of a government official: that is to say, the official's staff. It is as if Jesus said, "If I, the leader and commander, must suffer, you who are the members of my staff cannot escape." Jesus calls us, not only to share his glory, but to share his warfare and his agony; and no man deserves to share the fruits of victory, if he refuses to share the struggle of which these fruits are the result.
(ii) There is the statement of a privilege. To suffer for Christ is to share the work of Christ; to have to sacrifice for the faith is to share the sacrifice of Christ. When Christianity is hard. we can say to ourselves, not only, "Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod," we can also say, "Brothers, we are treading where the feet of Christ have trod."
There is always a thrill in belonging to a noble company. Eric Linklater in his autobiography tells of his experience in the disastrous March retreat in the First World War. He was with the Black Watch, and they had emerged from the battle with one officer, thirty men, and a piper left of the battalion. "The next day, marching peacefully in the morning light of France along a pleasant road we encountered the tattered fragments of a battalion of the Foot Guards, and the piper, putting breath into his bag, and playing so that he filled the air like the massed bands of the Highland Division, saluted the tall Coldstreamers, who had a drum or two and some instruments of brass, that made also a gallant music. Stiffly we passed each other, swollen of chest, heads tautly to the right, kilts swinging to the answer of the swagger of the Guards, and the Red Hackle in our bonnets, like the monstrance of a bruised but resilient faith. We were bearded and stained with mud. The Guards--the fifty men that were left of a battalion--were button-bright and clean shaved--we were a tatter-demalion crew from the coal mines of Fife and the back streets of Dundee, but we trod quick-stepping to the brawling tune of 'Hietan' Laddie', and suddenly I was crying with a fool's delight and the sheer gladness of being in such company." It is one of life's great thrills to have the sense of belonging to a goodly company and a goodly fellowship.
When Christianity costs something we are closer than ever we were to the fellowship of Jesus Christ; and if we know the fellowship of his sufferings, we shall also know the power of his resurrection.
THE KING'S MESSENGER'S FREEDOM FROM FEAR ( Matthew 10:26-31 )
10:26-31 "Do not fear them; for there is nothing which is covered which shall not be unveiled, and there is nothing hidden which shall not be known. What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light. What you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim on the housetops. Do not fear those who can kill the body, but who cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are two sparrows not sold for a penny, and not one of them shall light on the ground without your Father's knowledge? The hairs of your head are all numbered. So then do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows."
Three times in this short passage Jesus bids his disciples not to be afraid. In the King's messenger there must be a certain courageous fearlessness which marks him out from other men.
(i) The first commandment is in Matthew 10:26-27, and it speaks of a double fearlessness.
(a) They are not to be afraid because there is nothing covered that will not be unveiled, and nothing hidden which will not be known. The meaning of that is that the truth will triumph. "Great is the truth," ran the Latin proverb, "and the truth will prevail." When James the Sixth threatened to hang or exile Andrew Melville, Melville's answer was: "You cannot hang or exile the truth." When the Christian is involved in suffering and sacrifice and even martyrdom for his faith, he must remember that the day will come when things will be seen as they really are; and then the power of the persecutor and the heroism of Christian witness will be seen at their true value, and each will have its true reward.
(b) They are not to be afraid to speak with boldness the message they have received. What Jesus has told them, they must tell to men. Here in this one verse ( Matthew 10:27) lies the true function of the preacher.
First, the preacher must listen; he must he in the secret place with Christ, that in the dark hours Christ may speak to him, and that in the loneliness Christ may whisper in his ear. No man can speak for Christ unless Christ has spoken to him; no man can proclaim the truth unless he has listened to the truth; for no man can tell that which he does not know.
In the great days in which the Reformation was coming to birth, Colet invited Erasmus to come to Oxford to give a series of lectures on Moses or Isaiah; but Erasmus knew he was not ready. He wrote back: "But I who have learned to live with myself, and know how scanty my equipment is, can neither claim the learning required for such a task, nor do I think that I possess the strength of mind to sustain the jealousy of so many men, who would be eager to maintain their own ground. The campaign is one that demands, not a tyro, but a practiced general. Neither should you call me immodest in declining a position which it would be most immodest for me to accept. You are not acting wisely, Colet, in demanding water from a pumice stone, as Plautus said. With what effrontery shall I teach what I have never learned? How am I to warm the coldness of others, when I am shivering myself?"
He who would teach and preach must first in the secret place listen and learn.
Second, the preacher must speak what he has heard from Christ, and he must speak even if his speaking is to gain him the hatred of men, and even if, by speaking, he takes his life in his hands.
Men do not like the truth, for, as Diogenes said, truth is like the light to sore eyes. Once Latimer was preaching when Henry the king was present. He knew that he was about to say something which the king would not relish. So in the pulpit he soliloquized aloud with himself. "Latimer! Latimer! Latimer!" he said, "be careful what you say. Henry the king is here." He paused, and then he said, "Latimer! Latimer! Latimer! be careful what you say. The King of kings is here."
The man with a message speaks to men, but he speaks in the presence of God. It was said of John Knox, as they buried him, "Here lies one who feared God so much that he never feared the face of any man."
The Christian witness is the man who knows no fear, because he knows that the judgments of eternity will correct the judgments of time. The Christian preacher and teacher is the man who listens with reverence and who speaks with courage, because he knows that, whether he listens or speaks, he is in the presence of God.
THE KING'S MESSENGER'S FREEDOM FROM FEAR-THE COURAGE OF THE RIGHT ( Matthew 10:26-31 continued)
(ii) The second commandment is in Matthew 10:28. To put it very simply, what Jesus is saying is that no punishment that men can ever lay upon a man can compare with the ultimate fate of one who has been guilty of infidelity and disobedience to God. It is true that men can kill a man's physical body; but God can condemn a man to the death of the soul. There are three things that we must note here.
(a) Some people believe in what is called conditioned immortality. This belief holds that the reward of goodness is that the soul climbs up and up until it is one with all the immortality, the bliss and the blessedness of God; and that the punishment of the evil man, who will not mend his ways in spite of all God's appeals to him, is that his soul goes down and down and down until it is finally obliterated and ceases to be. We cannot erect a doctrine on a single text, but that is something very like what Jesus is saying here.
The Jews knew the awfulness of the punishment of God.
For thou hast power over life and death.
And thou leadest down to the gates of Hades, and leadest up again.
But though a man can kill by his wickedness,
Yet the spirit that is gone forth he bringeth not back,
Neither giveth release to the soul that Hades has received
( Wis_16:13-14 ).
During the killing times of the Maccabean struggle, the seven martyred brothers encouraged each other by saying, "Let us not fear him who thinketh he kills; for a great struggle and pain of the soul awaits in eternal torment those who transgress the ordinance of God"( 4Ma_13:14-15 ).
We do well to remember that the penalties which men can exact are as nothing to the penalties which God can exact and to the rewards which he can give.
(b) The second thing which this passage teaches is that there is still left in the Christian life a place for what we might call a holy fear.
The Jews well knew this fear of God. One of the rabbinic stories tells how Rabbi Jochanan was ill. "His disciples went in to visit him. On beholding them he began to weep. His disciples said to him, 'O Lamp of Israel, righthand pillar, mighty hammer! Wherefore dost thou weep?' He replied to them, 'If I was being led into the presence of a human king who today is here and tomorrow in the grave, who, if he were wrathful against me, his anger would not be eternal, who, if he imprisoned me, the imprisonment would not be eternal, who, if he condemned me to death, the death would not be for ever, and whom I can appease with words and bribe with money even then I would weep. But now, when I am being led into the presence of the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed is he, who lives and endures for all eternity, who, if he be wrathful against me, his anger is eternal, who, if he imprisoned me, the imprisonment would be for ever, who, if he condemned me to death, the death would be for ever, and whom I cannot appease with words or bribe with money--nay more, when before me lie two ways, one the way of the Garden of Eden and the other the way of Gehenna, and I know not in which I am to be led--shall I not weep?'"
It is not that the Jewish thinkers forgot that there is love, and that love is the greatest of all things. "The reward of him who acts from love," they said, "is double and quadruple. Act from love, for there is no love where there is fear, or fear where there is love, except in relation to God." The Jews were always sure that in relation to God there was both fear and love. "Fear God and love God, the Law says both; act from both love and fear; from love, for, if you would hate, no lover hates; from fear, for, if you would kick, no fearer kicks." But the Jew never forgot--and neither must we--the sheer holiness of God.
And for the Christian the matter is even more compelling, for our fear is not that God will punish us, but that we may grieve his love. The Jew was never in any danger of sentimentalizing the love of God, and neither was Jesus. God is love, but God is also holiness, for God is God; and there must be a place in our hearts and in our thought both for the love which answers God's love, and the reverence, the awe and the fear which answer God's holiness.
(c) Further, this passage tells us that there are things which are worse than death; and disloyalty is one of them. If a man is guilty of disloyalty, if he buys security at the expense of dishonour, life is no longer tolerable. He cannot face men; he cannot face himself; and ultimately he cannot face God. There are times when comfort, safety, ease, life itself can cost too much.
THE KING'S MESSENGER'S FREEDOM FROM FEAR-GOD CARES! ( Matthew 10:26-31 continued)
(iii) The third commandment not to fear is in Matthew 10:31; and it is based on the certainty of the detailed care of God. If God cares for the sparrows, surely he will care for men.
Matthew says that two sparrows are sold for a penny and yet not one of them falls to the ground without the knowledge of God. Luke gives us that saying of Jesus in a slightly different form: "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God?" ( Luke 12:6). The point is this--two sparrows were sold for one penny. (The coin is the assarion, which was one-sixteenth of a denarius; a denarius was approximately four new pence; therefore the assarion was about one quarter of one new penny). But if the purchaser was prepared to spend two pennies, he got, not four sparrows, but five. The extra one was thrown into the bargain as having no value at all. God cares even for the sparrow which is thrown into the bargain, and which on man's counting has no value at all. Even the forgotten sparrow is dear to God.
The thing is even more vivid than that. The Revised Standard Version--and it is a perfectly correct translation of the Greek--has it that not one sparrow will fall to the ground without the knowledge of God. In such a context the word "fall" makes us naturally think of death; but in all probability the Greek is a translation of an Aramaic word which means to light upon the ground. It is not that God marks the sparrow when the sparrow falls dead; it is far more; it is that God marks the sparrow every time it lights and hops upon the ground. So it is Jesus' argument that, if God cares like that for sparrows, much more will he care for men.
Once again the Jews would well understand what Jesus was saying. No nation ever had such a conception of the detailed care of God for his creation. Rabbi Chanina said, "No man hurts his finger here below, unless it is so disposed for him by God." There was a rabbinic saying, "God sits and feeds the world, from the horns of the buffalo to the eggs of the louse." Hillel has a wonderful interpretation of Psalms 136:1-26. That psalm begins by telling the story in lyric poetry about the God who is the God of creation, the God who made the heavens and the earth, and the sun and the moon and the stars ( Psalms 136:1-9); then it goes on to tell the story about the God who is the God of history, the God who rescued Israel from Egypt and who fought her battles for her ( Psalms 136:11-24); then finally it goes on to speak of God as the God "who gives food to all flesh" ( Psalms 136:25). The God who made the world and who controls all history is the God who gives men food. The coming of our daily bread is just as much an act of God as the act of creation and the saving power of the deliverance from Egypt. God's love for men is seen not only in the omnipotence of creation and in the great events of history; it is seen also in the day--today nourishment of the bodies of men.
The courage of the King's messenger is founded on the conviction that, whatever happens. he cannot drift beyond the love of God. He knows that his times are for ever in God's hands; that God will not leave him or forsake him; that he is surrounded for ever by God's care. If that is so--whom then shall we be afraid?
THE LOYALTY OF THE KING'S MESSENGER AND ITS REWARD ( Matthew 10:32-33 )
10:32-33 "I too will acknowledge before my Father every one who acknowledges me before men. I too will deny before my Father who is in heaven every one who denies me before men."
Here is laid down the double loyalty of the Christian life. If a man is loyal to Jesus Christ in this life, Jesus Christ will be loyal to him in the life to come. If a man is proud to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is his Master, Jesus Christ will be proud to acknowledge that he is his servant.
It is the plain fact of history that if there had not been men and women in the early Church who in face of death and agony refused to deny their Master, there would be no Christian Church today. The Church of today is built on the unbreakable loyalty of those who held fast to their faith.
Pliny, the governor of Bithynia, writes to Trajan, the Roman Emperor, about how he treated the Christians within his province. Anonymous informers laid information that certain people were Christian. Pliny tells how he gave these men the opportunity to invoke the gods of Rome, to offer wine and frankincense to the image of the Emperor, and how he demanded that as a final test they should curse the name of Christ. And then he adds: "None of these acts, it is said, those who are really Christians can be compelled to do." Even the Roman governor confesses his helplessness to shake the loyalty of those who are truly Christian.
It is still possible for a man to deny Jesus Christ.
(i) We may deny him with our words. It is told of J. P. Mahaffy, the famous scholar and man of the world from Trinity College, Dublin, that when he was asked if he was a Christian, his answer was: "Yes, but not offensively so." He meant that he did not allow his Christianity to interfere with the society he kept and the pleasure he loved. Sometimes we say to other people, practically in so many words, that we are Church members, but not to worry about it too much; that we have no intention of being different; that we are prepared to take our full share in all the pleasures of the world; and that we do not expect people to take any special trouble to respect any vague principles that we may have.
The Christian can never escape the duty of being different from the world. It is not our duty to be conformed to the world; it is our duty to be transformed from it.
(ii) We can deny him by our silence. A French writer tells of bringing a young wife into an old family. The old family had not approved of the marriage, although they were too conventionally polite ever to put their objections into actual words and criticisms. But the young wife afterwards said that her whole life was made a misery by "the menace of things unsaid."
There can be a menace of things unsaid in the Christian life. Again and again life brings us the opportunity to speak some word for Christ, to utter some protest against evil, to take some stand, and to show what side we are on. Again and again on such occasions it is easier to keep silence than to speak. But such a silence is a denial of Jesus Christ. It is probably true that far more people deny Jesus Christ by cowardly silence than by deliberate words.
(iii) We can deny him by our actions. We can live in such a way that our life is a continuous denial of the faith which we profess. He who has given his allegiance to the gospel of purity may be guilty of all kinds of petty dishonesties, and breaches of strict honour. He who has undertaken to follow the Master who bade him take up a cross can live a life which is dominated by attention to his own ease and comfort. He who has entered the service of him who himself forgave and who bade his followers to forgive can live a life of bitterness and resentment and variance with his fellow-men. He whose eyes are meant to be on that Christ who died for love of men can live a life in which the idea of Christian service and Christian charity and Christian generosity are conspicuous by their absence.
A special prayer was composed for the Lambeth Conference of 1948:
"Almighty God, give us grace to be not only hearers, but doers of thy holy word, not only to admire, but to obey thy doctrine, not only to profess, but to practice thy religion, not only to love, but to live thy gospel. So grant that what we learn of thy glory we may receive into our hearts, and show forth in our lives: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
That is a prayer which every one of us would be well to remember and continually to use.
THE WARFARE OF THE KING'S MESSENGER ( Matthew 10:34-39 )
10:34-39 "Do not think that I came to send peace on earth: I did not come to send peace, but a sword. I came to set a man at variance against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's enemies shall be the members of his own household. He that loves father or mother more than he loves me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me: He who finds his life will lose it; and he who loses his life for my sake shall find it."
Nowhere is the sheer honesty of Jesus more vividly displayed than it is here. Here he sets the Christian demand at its most demanding and at its most uncompromising. He tells his men exactly what they may expect, if they accept the commission to be messengers of the King. Here in this passage Jesus offers four things.
(i) He offers a warfare; and in that warfare it will often be true that a man's foes will be those of his own household.
It so happens that Jesus was using language which was perfectly familiar to the Jew. The Jews believed that one of the features of the Day of the Lord, the day when God would break into history, would be the division of families. The Rabbis said: "In the period when the Son of David shall come, a daughter will rise up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law." "The son despises his father, the daughter rebels against the mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and the man's enemies are they of his own household." It is as if Jesus said, "The end you have always been waiting for has come; and the intervention of God in history is splitting homes and groups and families into two."
When some great cause emerges, it is bound to divide people; there are bound to be those who answer, and those who refuse, the challenge. To be confronted with Jesus is necessarily to be confronted with the choice whether to accept him or to reject him; and the world is always divided into those who have accepted Christ and those who have not.
The bitterest thing about this warfare was that a man's foes would be those of his own household. It can happen that a man loves his wife and his family so much that he may refuse some great adventure, some avenue of service, some call to sacrifice, either because he does not wish to leave them, or because to accept it would involve them in danger.
T. R. Glover quotes a letter from Oliver Cromwell to Lord Wharton. The date is 1st January, 1649, and Cromwell had in the back of his mind that Wharton might be so attached to his home and to his wife that he might refuse to hear the call to adventure and to battle, and might choose to stay at home: "My service to the dear little lady; I wish you make her not a greater temptation than she is. Take heed of all relations. Mercies should not be temptations; yet we too often make them so.
It has happened that a man has refused God's call to some adventurous bit of service, because he allowed personal attachments to immobilize him. Lovelace, the cavalier poet, writes to his Lucasta, Going to the Wars:
"Tell me not (Sweet) I am unkind,
That from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breast, and quiet mind,
To war and arms I fly.
True; a new mistress now I chase,
The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith embrace
A sword, a horse, a shield.
Yet this inconstancy is such,
As you too shall adore.
I could not love thee (Dear) so much,
Loved I not honour more."
It is very seldom that any man is confronted with this choice; he may well go through life and never face it; but the fact remains that it is possible for a man's loved ones to become in effect his enemies, if the thought of them keeps him from doing what he knows God wants him to do.
(ii) He offers a choice; and a man has to choose sometimes between the closest ties of earth and loyalty to Jesus Christ.
Bunyan knew all about that choice. The thing which troubled him most about his imprisonment was the effect it would have upon his wife and children. What was to happen to them, bereft of his support? "The parting with my wife and poor children hath often been to me in this place, as the pulling the flesh from my bones; and that not only because I am somewhat too fond of these great mercies, but also because I should have often brought to my mind the many hardships, miseries, and wants that my poor family was like to meet with, should I be taken from them, especially my poor blind child, who lay nearer my heart than all I had besides. O the thought of the hardship I thought my blind one might go under, would break up my heart to pieces.... But yet, recalling myself, thought I, I must venture you all with God, though it goeth to the quick to leave you; O I saw in this condition, I was a man who was pulling down his house upon the head of his wife and children; yet thought I, I must do it, I must do it."
Once again, this terrible choice will come very seldom; in God's mercy to many of us it may never come; but the fact remains that all loyalties must give place to loyalty to god.
THE COST OF BEING A MESSENGER OF THE KING ( Matthew 10:34-39 continued)
(iii) Jesus offers a cross. People in Galilee well knew what a cross was. When the Roman general, Varus, had broken the revolt of Judas of Galilee, he crucified two thousand Jews, and placed the crosses by the wayside along the roads to Galilee. In the ancient days the criminal did actually carry the crossbeam of his cross to the place of crucifixion, and the men to whom Jesus spoke had seen people staggering under the weight of their crosses and dying in agony upon them.
The great men, whose names are on the honour roll of faith, well knew what they were doing. After his trial in Scarborough Castle, George Fox wrote, "And the officers would often be threatening me, that I should be hanged over the wall ... they talked much then of hanging me. But I told them, 'If that was it they desired, and it was permitted them, I was ready.'" When Bunyan was brought before the magistrate, he said, "Sir, the law (the law of Christ) hath provided two ways of obeying: The one to do that which I in my conscience do believe that I am bound to do, actively; and where I cannot obey it actively, there I am willing to lie down and to suffer what they shall do unto me."
The Christian may have to sacrifice his personal ambitions, the ease and the comfort that he might have enjoyed, the career that he might have achieved; he may have to lay aside his dreams, to realize that shining things of which he has caught a glimpse are not for him. He will certainly have to sacrifice his will, for no Christian can ever again do what he likes; he must do what Christ likes. In Christianity there is always some cross, for it is the religion of the Cross.
(iv) He offers adventure. He told them that the man who found his life would lose it; and the man who lost his life would find it.
Again and again that has been proved true in the most literal way. It has always been true that many a man might easily have saved his life; but, if he had saved it, he would have lost it, for no one would ever have heard of him, and the place he holds in history would have been lost to him.
Epictetus says of Socrates: "Dying, he was saved, because he did not flee." Socrates could easily have saved his life, but, if he had done so, the real Socrates would have died, and no man would ever have heard of him.
When Bunyan was charged with refusing to come to public worship and with running forbidden meetings of his own, he thought seriously whether it was his duty to flee to safety, or to stand by what he believed to be true. As all the world knows, he chose to take his stand. T. R. Glover closes his essay on Bunyan thus: "And supposing he had been talked round and had agreed no longer 'devilishly and perniciously to abstain from coming to Church to hear divine service,' and to be no longer 'an upholder of several unlawful meetings and conventicles to the great disturbance and distraction of the good subjects of the kingdom contrary to the laws of our sovereign lord the king'? Bedford might have kept a tinker the more--and possibly none of the best at that, for there is nothing to show that renegades make good tinkers--and what would England have lost?"
There is no place for a policy of safety first in the Christian life. The man who seeks first ease and comfort and security and the fulfillment of personal ambition may well get all these things--but he will not be a happy man; for he was sent into this world to serve God and his fellow-men. A mall can hoard life, if he wishes to do so. But that way he will lose all that makes life valuable to others and worth living for himself. The way to serve others, the way to fulfil God's purpose for us, the way to true happiness is to spend life selflessly, for only thus will we find life, here and hereafter.
THE REWARD OF THOSE WHO WELCOME THE KING'S MESSENGER ( Matthew 10:40-42 )
10:40-42 He who receives you, receives me; and he who receives me, receives him that sent me. He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward; and he who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones a drink of cold water because he is a disciple--this is the truth I tell you--he will not lose his reward.
When Jesus said this, he was using a way of speaking which the Jews regularly used. The Jew always felt that to receive a person's envoy or messenger was the same as to receive the person himself To pay respect to an ambassador was the same as to pay respect to the king who had sent him. To welcome with love the messenger of a friend was the same as to welcome the friend himself The Jew always felt that to honour a person's representative was the same as to honour the person whose representative he was. This was particularly so in regard to wise men and to those who taught God's truth. The Rabbis said: "He who shows hospitality to the wise is as if he brought the first-fruits of his produce unto God." "He who greets the learned is as if he greeted God." If a man is a true man of God, to receive him is to receive the God who sent him.
This passage sets out the four links in the chain of salvation.
(i) There is God out of whose love the whole process of salvation began. (ii) There is Jesus who brought that message to men. (iii) There is the human messenger, the prophet who speaks, the good man who is an example, the disciple who learns, who in turn all pass on to others the good news which they themselves have received. (iv) There is the believer who welcomes God's men and God's message and who thus finds life to his soul.
In this passage there is something very lovely for every simple and humble soul.
(i) We cannot all be prophets, and preach and proclaim the word of God, but he who gives God's messenger the simple gift of hospitality will receive no less a reward than the prophet himself. There is many a man who has been a great public figure; there is many a man whose voice has kindled the hearts of thousands of people; there is many a man who has carried an almost intolerable burden of public service and public responsibility, all of whom would gladly have borne witness that they could never have survived the effort and the demands of their task, were it not for the love and the care and the sympathy and the service of someone at home, who was never in the public eye at all. When true greatness is measured up in the sight of God, it will be seen again and again that the man who greatly moved the world was entirely dependent on someone who, as far as the world is concerned, remained unknown. Even the prophet must get his breakfast, and have his clothes attended to. Let those who have the often thankless task of making a home, cooking meals, washing clothes, shopping for household necessities, caring for children, never think of it as a dreary and weary round. It is God's greatest task; and they will be far more likely to receive the prophet's reward than those whose days are filled with committees and whose homes are comfortless.
(ii) We cannot all be shining examples of goodness; we cannot all stand out in the world's eye as righteous; but he who helps a good man to be good receives a good man's reward.
H. L. Gee has a lovely story. There was a lad in a country village who, after a great struggle, reached the ministry. His helper in his days of study had been the village cobbler. The cobbler, like so many of his trade, was a man of wide reading and far thinking, and he had done much for the lad. In due time the lad was licensed to preach. And on that day the cobbler said to him, "It was always my desire to be a minister of the gospel, but the circumstances of my life made it impossible. But you are achieving what was closed to me. And I want you to promise me one thing--I want you to let me make and cobble your shoes--for nothing--and I want you to wear them in the pulpit when you preach, and then I'll feel you are preaching the gospel that I always wanted to preach standing in my shoes." Beyond a doubt the cobbler was serving God as the preacher was, and his reward would one day be the same.
(iii) We cannot all teach the child; but there is a real sense in which we can all serve the child. We may not have either the knowledge or the technique to teach, but there are simple duties to be done, without which the child cannot live. It may be that in this passage it is not so much children in age of whom Jesus is thinking as children in the faith. It seems very likely that the Rabbis called their disciples the little ones. It may be that in the technical, academic sense we cannot teach, but there is a teaching by life and example which even the simplest person can give to another.
The great beauty of this passage is its stress on simple things.
The Church and Christ will always need their great orators, their great shining examples of sainthood, their great teachers. those whose names are household words; but the Church and Christ will also always need those in whose homes there is hospitality, on whose hands there is all the service which makes a home, and in whose hearts there is the caring which is Christian love; and, as Mrs. Browning said, "All service ranks the same with God."
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
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Barclay, William. "Commentary on Matthew 10:15". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dsb/​matthew-10.html. 1956-1959.
Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible
Verily, I say unto you,.... This was not all the punishment that should be inflicted on such despisers of the Gospel of Christ, and the ministers of it; as not to enjoy that peace and prosperity wished for by the apostles, and to be declared to be on an equal foot with Heathen cities and countries: but they were to suffer everlasting punishment in the world to come; which is here asserted by Christ in the strongest manner, saying:
it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha, in the day of judgment, than for that city. The inhabitants of the land of Sodom and Gomorrha are the rather mentioned, because, as they were very notorious and abominable sinners, so their temporal punishment was well known, exemplary and awful, though not that, but their future damnation is here regarded, of which the Jews made no doubt; for they say y,
"the men of Sodom have no part in the world to come; as it is said, Genesis 13:13 "the men of Sodom were wicked, and sinners, before the Lord exceedingly": they were "wicked" in this world, and "sinners" in the world to come;''
meaning, that by this passage is designed their double punishment in this, and the other world. But though their punishment was very tremendous, and they will suffer also "the vengeance of eternal fire", as Jude says; yet, their punishment will be milder, and more tolerable, than that of the inhabitants of such a city, that rejects the Gospel of the grace of God: as there are degrees in sinning, for all sins are not alike, as the Stoics say; so there will be degrees in suffering; the sins of those that are favoured with the Gospel, are greater than those who only have had the light of nature, and so their torments will be greater. The inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrha, though they sinned against the light of nature, despised the advice and admonitions of Lot, and ill treated the angels, yet will be more mildly punished than the wicked Jews, who rejected Christ, and his Gospel, and despised his apostles, and ministers; because they sinned not against so much light, and such means of grace, and knowledge, as these did; see Lamentations 4:6 which is thus paraphrased by the Targumist, and may be aptly applied to the Jews in Christ's time:
"the sin of the congregation of my people is greater than the sin of Sodom, which was overturned in a moment; and there dwelt no prophets in it to prophesy, and turn it to repentance.''
The time referred to, signified by "the day of judgment", respects not the destruction of Jerusalem, which was a very severe judgment on that people, but the general judgment, at the end of the world, which is appointed and fixed by God, though unknown to angels and men. The phrase is Jewish, and often to be met with in their writings, who use it in the same sense; particularly in the book of Zohar z, mention is made of יומא דדינא, "the day of judgment", when there will be no pollution in the sanctuary.
y Misn. Sanhedrim, c. 11. sect. 3. Hieros. Sanhedrim, fol. 29. 3. z In Gen. fol 13. 3. & 16. 1.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Matthew 10:15". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​geb/​matthew-10.html. 1999.
Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible
|Instructions to the Apostles.|
5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. 9 Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, 10 Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat. 11 And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. 12 And when ye come into a house, salute it. 13 And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. 15 Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.
We have here the instructions that Christ gave to his disciples, when he gave them their commission. Whether this charge was given them in a continued discourse, or the several articles of it hinted to them at several times, is not material; in this he commanded them. Jacob's blessing his sons, is called his commanding them, and with these commands Christ commanded a blessing. Observe,
I. The people to whom he sent them. These ambassadors are directed what places to go to.
1. Not to the Gentiles nor the Samaritans. They must not go into the way of the Gentiles, nor into any road out of the land of Israel, whatever temptations they might have. The Gentiles must not have the gospel brought them, till the Jews have first refused it. As to the Samaritans, who were the posterity of the mongrel people that the king of Assyria planted about Samaria, their country lay between Judea and Galilee, so that they could not avoid going into the way of the Samaritans, but they must not enter into any of their cities. Christ had declined manifesting himself to the Gentiles or Samaritans, and therefore the apostles must not preach to them. If the gospel be hid from any place, Christ thereby hides himself from that place. This restraint was upon them only in their first mission, afterwards they were appointed to go into all the world, and teach all nations.
2. But to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. To them Christ appropriated his own ministry (Matthew 15:24; Matthew 15:24), for he was a minister of the circumcision (Romans 15:8): and, therefore, to them the apostles, who were but his attendants and agents, must be confined. The first offer of salvation must be made to the Jews, Acts 3:26. Note, Christ had a particular and very tender concern for the house of Israel; they were beloved for the fathers' sakes,Romans 11:28. He looked with compassion upon them as lost sheep, whom he, as a shepherd, was to gather out of the by-paths of sin and error, into which they were gone astray, and in which, if not brought back, they would wander endlessly; see Jeremiah 2:6. The Gentiles also had been as lost sheep, 1 Peter 2:25. Christ gives this description of those to whom they were sent, to quicken them to diligence in their work, they were sent to the house of Israel (of which number they themselves lately were), whom they could not but pity, and be desirous to help.
II. The preaching work which he appointed them. He did not send them forth without an errand; no, As ye go, preach,Matthew 10:7; Matthew 10:7. They were to be itinerant preachers: wherever they come they must proclaim the beginning of the gospel, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Not that they must say nothing else, but this must be their text; on this subject they must enlarge: let people know, that the kingdom of the Messiah, who is the Lord from heaven, is now to be set up according to the scriptures; from whence it follows, that men must repent of their sins and forsake them, that they might be admitted to the privileges of that kingdom. It is said (Mark 6:12), they went out, and preached that men should repent; which was the proper use and application of this doctrine, concerning the approach of the kingdom of heaven. They must, therefore, expect to hear more of this long-looked-for Messiah shortly, and must be ready to receive his doctrine, to believe in him, and to submit to his yoke. The preaching of this was like the morning light, to give notice of the approach of the rising sun. How unlike was this to the preaching of Jonah, which proclaimed ruin at hand! Jonah 3:4. This proclaims salvation at hand, nigh them that fear God; mercy and truth meet together (Psalms 85:9; Psalms 85:10), that is, the kingdom of heaven at hand: not so much the personal presence of the king; that must not be doated upon; but a spiritual kingdom which is to be set up, when his bodily presence is removed, in the hearts of men.
Now this was the same that John the Baptist and Christ had preached before. Note, People need to have good truths pressed again and again upon them, and if they be preached and heard with new affections, they are as if they were fresh to us. Christ, in the gospel, is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever,Hebrews 13:8. Afterwards, indeed, when the Spirit was poured out, and the Christian church was formed, this kingdom of heaven came, which was now spoken of as at hand; but the kingdom of heaven must still be the subject of our preaching: now it is come, we must tell people it is come to them, and must lay before them the precepts and privileges of it; and there is a kingdom of glory yet to come, which we must speak of as at hand, and quicken people to diligence from the consideration of that.
III. The power he gave them to work miracles for the confirmation of their doctrine, Matthew 10:8; Matthew 10:8. When he sent them to preach the same doctrine that he had preached, he empowered them to confirm it, by the same divine seals, which could never be set to a lie. This is not necessary now the kingdom of God is come; to call for miracles now is to lay again the foundation when the building is reared. The point being settled, and the doctrine of Christ sufficiently attested, by the miracles which Christ and his apostles wrought, it is tempting God to ask for more signs. They are directed here,
1. To use their power in doing good: not "Go and remove mountains," or "fetch fire from heaven," but, Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers. They are sent abroad as public blessings, to intimate to the world, that love and goodness were the spirit and genius of that gospel which they came to preach, and of that kingdom which they were employed to set up. By this it would appear, that they were the servants of that God who is good and does good, and whose mercy is over all his works; and that the intention of the doctrine they preached, was to heal sick souls, and to raise those that were dead in sin; and therefore, perhaps, that of raising the dead is mentioned; for though we read not of their raising any to life before the resurrection of Christ, yet they were instrumental to raise many to spiritual life.
2. In doing good freely; Freely ye heave received, freely give. Those that had power to heal all diseases, had an opportunity to enrich themselves; who would not purchase such easy certain cures at any rate? Therefore they are cautioned not to make a gain of the power they had to work miracles: they must cure gratis, further to exemplify the nature and complexion of the gospel kingdom, which is made up, not only of grace, but of free grace. Gratia gratis data (Romans 3:24), freely by his grace, Buy medicines without money, and without price,Isaiah 55:1. And the reason is, because freely you have received. Their power to heal the sick cost them nothing, and, therefore, they must not make any secular advantage to themselves of it. Simon Magus would not have offered money for the gifts of the Holy Ghost, if he had not hoped to get money by them; Acts 8:18. Note, The consideration of Christ's freeness in doing good to us, should make us free in doing good to others.
IV. The provision that must be made for them in this expedition; it is a thing to be considered in sending an ambassador, who must bear the charge of the embassy. As to that,
1. They must make no provision for it themselves, Matthew 10:9; Matthew 10:10. Provide neither gold nor silver. As, on the one hand, they shall not raise estates by their work, so, on the other hand, they shall not spend what little they have of their own upon it. This was confined to the present mission, and Christ would teach them, (1.) To act under the conduct of human prudence. They were now to make but a short excursion, and were soon to return to their Master, and to their head-quarters again, and, therefore, why should they burthen themselves with that which they would have no occasion for? (2.) To act in dependence upon Divine Providence. They must be taught to live, without taking thought for life,Matthew 6:25; Matthew 6:25, c. Note, They who go upon Christ's errand, have, of all people, most reason to trust him for food convenient. Doubtless he will not be wanting to those that are working for him. Those whom he employs, as they are taken under special protection, so they are entitled to special provisions. Christ's hired servants shall have bread enough and to spare while we abide faithful to God and our duty, and are in care to do our work well, we may cast all our other care upon God; Jehovah-jireh, let the Lord provide for us and ours as he thinks fit.
2. They might expect that those to whom they were sent would provide for them what was necessary, Matthew 10:10; Matthew 10:10. The workman is worthy of his meat. They must not expect to be fed by miracles, as Elijah was: but they might depend upon God to incline the hearts of those they went among, to be kind to them, and provide for them. Though they who serve at the altar may not expect to grow rich by the altar, yet they may expect to live, and to live comfortably upon it, 1 Corinthians 9:13; 1 Corinthians 9:14. It is fit they should have their maintenance from their work. Ministers are, and must be, workmen, labourers, and they that are so are worthy of their meat, so as not to be forced to any other labour for the earning of it. Christ would have his disciples, as not to distrust their God, so not to distrust their countrymen, so far as to doubt of a comfortable subsistence among them. If you preach to them, and endeavour to do good among them, surely they will give you meat and drink enough for your necessities: and if they do, never desire dainties; God will pay you your wages hereafter, and it will be running on in the mean time.
V. The proceedings they were to observe in dealing with any place, Matthew 10:11-15; Matthew 10:11-15. They went abroad they knew not whither, uninvited, unexpected, knowing none, and known of none; the land of their nativity was to them a strange land; what rule must they go by? what course must they take? Christ would not send them out without full instructions, and here they are.
1. They are here directed how to conduct themselves toward those that were strangers to them; How to do,
(1.) In strange towns and cities: when you come to a town, enquire who in it is worthy. [1.] It is supposed that there were some such in every place, as were better disposed than others to receive the gospel, and the preachers of it; though it was a time of general corruption and apostasy. Note, In the worst of times and places, we may charitably hope that there are some who distinguish themselves, and are better than their neighbours; some who swim against the stream, and are as wheat among the chaff. There were saints in Nero's household. Enquire who is worthy, who there are that have some fear of God before their eyes, and have made a good improvement of the light and knowledge they have. The best are far from meriting the favour of a gospel offer; but some would be more likely than others to give the apostles and their message a favourable entertainment, and would not trample these pearls under their feet. Note, Previous dispositions to that which is good, are both directions and encouragements to ministers, in dealing with people. There is most hope of the word being profitable to those who are already so well inclined, as that it is acceptable to them; and there is here and there one such. [2.] They must enquire out such; not enquire for the best inns; public houses were no proper places for them that neither took money with them (Matthew 10:9; Matthew 10:9), nor expected to receive any (Matthew 10:8; Matthew 10:8); but they must look out for accommodations in private houses, with those that would entertain them well, and expect no other recompence for it but a prophet's reward, an apostle's reward, their praying and preaching. Note, They that entertain the gospel, must neither grudge the expense of it, nor promise themselves to get by it in this world. They must enquire, not who is rich, but who is worthy; not who is the best gentleman, but who is the best man. Note, Christ's disciples, wherever they come, should ask for the good people of the place, and be acquainted with them; when we took God for our God, we took his people for our people, and like will rejoice in its like. Paul in all his travels found out the brethren, if there were any, Acts 28:14. It is implied, that if they did enquire who was worthy, they might discover them. They that were better than their neighbours would be taken notice of, and any one could tell them, there lives an honest, sober, good man; for this is a character which, like the ointment of the right hand, betrays itself and fills the house with its odours. Every body knew where the seer's house was, 1 Samuel 9:18. [3.] In the house of those they found worthy, they must continue; which intimates that they were to make so short a stay at each town, that they needed not change their lodging, but whatever house providence brought them to at first, there they must continue till they left that town. They are justly suspected, as having no good design, that are often changing their quarters. Note, It becomes the disciples of Christ to make the best of that which is, to abide by it, and not be for shifting upon every dislike or inconvenience.
(2.) In strange houses. When they had found the house of one they thought worthy, they must at their entrance salute it. "In those common civilities, be beforehand with people, in token of your humility. Think it not a disparagement, to invite yourselves into a house, nor stand upon the punctilio of being invited. Salute the family, [1.] To draw on further discourse, and so to introduce your message." (From matters of common conversation, we may insensibly pass into that communication which is good to the use of edifying.) [2.] "To try whether you are welcome or not; you will take notice whether the salutation be received with shyness and coldness, or with a ready return. He that will not receive your salutation kindly, will not receive your message kindly; for he that is unskilful and unfaithful in a little, will also be in much, Luke 16:10. [3.] To insinuate yourselves into their good opinion. Salute the family, that they may see that though you are serious, you are not morose." Note, Religion teaches us to be courteous and civil, and obliging to all with whom we have to do. Though the apostles went out backed with the authority of the Son of God himself, yet their instructions were, when they came into a house, not to command it, but to salute it; for love's sake rather to beseech, is the evangelical way, Philemon 1:8; Philemon 1:9. Souls are first drawn to Christ with the cords of a man, and kept to him by the bands of love,Hosea 11:4. When Peter made the first offer of the gospel to Cornelius, a Gentile, Peter was first saluted; see Acts 10:25, for the Gentiles courted that which the Jews were courted to.
When they had saluted the family after a godly sort, they must by the return, judge concerning the family, and proceed accordingly. Note, The eye of God is upon us, to observe what entertainment we give to good people and good ministers; if the house be worthy, let your peace come and rest upon it; if not, let it return to you,Matthew 10:13; Matthew 10:13. It seems then, that after they had enquired for the most worthy (Matthew 10:11; Matthew 10:11), it was possible they might light upon those that were unworthy. Note, Though it is wisdom to hearken to, yet it is folly to rely upon, common report and opinion; we ought to use a judgment of discretion, and to see with our own eyes. The wisdom of the prudent is himself to understand his own way. Now this rule is intended,
First, For satisfaction to the apostles. The common salutation was, Peace be unto you; this, as they used it, was turned into gospel; it was the peace of God, the peace of the kingdom of heaven, that they wished. Now lest they should make a scruple of pronouncing this blessing upon all promiscuously, because many were utterly unworthy of it, this is to clear them of that scruple; Christ tells them that this gospel prayer (for so it was now become) should be put up for all, as the gospel proffer was made to all indefinitely, and that they should leave it to God who knows the heart, and every man's true character, to determine the issue of it. If the house be worthy, it will reap the benefit of your blessing; if now, there is no harm done, you will not lose the benefit of it; it shall return to you, as David's prayers for his ungrateful enemies did, Psalms 35:13. Note, It becomes us to judge charitably of all, to pray heartily for all, and to conduct ourselves courteously to all, for that is our part, and then to leave it with God to determine what effect it shall have upon them, for that is his part.
Secondly, For direction to them. "If, upon your salutation, it appear that they are indeed worthy, let them have more of your company, and so let your peace come upon them; preach the gospel to them, peace by Jesus Christ; but if otherwise, if they carry it rudely to you, and shut their doors against you, let your peace, as much as in you lies, return to you. Retract what you have said, and turn your backs upon them; by slighting this, they have made themselves unworthy of the rest of your favours, and cut themselves short of them." Note, Great blessings are often lost by a neglect seemingly small and inconsiderable, when men are in their probation and upon their behaviour. Thus Esau lost his birthright (Genesis 25:34), and Saul his kingdom, 1 Samuel 13:13; 1 Samuel 13:14.
2. They are here directed how to carry it towards those that were refusers of them. The case is put (Matthew 10:14; Matthew 10:14) of those that would not receive them, nor hear their words. The apostles might think, that now they had such a doctrine to preach, and such a power to work miracles for the confirmation of it, no doubt but they should be universally entertained and made welcome: they are, therefore, told before, that there would be those that would slight them, and put contempt on them and their message. Note, The best and most powerful preachers of the gospel must expect to meet with some, that will not so much as give them the hearing, nor show them any token of respect. Many turn a deaf ear, even to the joyful sound, and will not hearken to the voice of the charmers, charm they never so wisely. Observe, "They will not receive you, and they will not hear your words." Note, Contempt of the gospel, and contempt of gospel ministers, commonly go together, and they will either of them be construed into a contempt of Christ, and will be reckoned for accordingly.
Now in this case we have here,
(1.) The directions given to the apostles what to do. They must depart out of that house or city. Note, The gospel will not tarry long with those that put it away from them. At their departure they must shake off the dust of their feet, [1.] In detestation of their wickedness; it was so abominable, that it did even pollute the ground they went upon, which must therefore be shaken off as a filthy thing. The apostles must have no fellowship nor communion with them; must not so much as carry away the dust of their city with them. The work of them that turn aside shall not cleave to me,Psalms 101:3. The prophet was not to eat or drink in Bethel, 1 Kings 13:9. [2.] As a denunciation of wrath against them. It was to signify, that they were base and vile as dust, and that God would shake them off. The dust of the apostles' feet, which they left behind them, would witness against them, and be brought in as evidence, that the gospel had been preached to them, Mark 6:11; James 5:3. See this practised, Acts 13:51; Acts 18:6. Note, They who despise God and his gospel shall be lightly esteemed.
(2.) The doom passed upon such wilful recusants,Matthew 10:15; Matthew 10:15. It shall be more tolerable, in the day of judgment, for the land of Sodom, as wicked a place as it was. Note, [1.] There is a day of judgment coming, when all those that refused the gospel will certainly be called to account for it; however they now make a jest of it. They that would not hear the doctrine that would save them, shall be made to hear the sentence that will ruin them. Their judgment is respited till that day. [2.] There are different degrees of punishment in that day. All the pains of hell will be intolerable; but some will be more so than others. Some sinners sink deeper into hell than others, and are beaten with more stripes. [3.] The condemnation of those that reject the gospel, will in that day be severer and heavier than that of Sodom and Gomorrah. Sodom is said to suffer the vengeance of eternal fire, Jude 1:7. But that vengeance will come with an aggravation upon those that despise the great salvation. Sodom and Gomorrah were exceedingly wicked (Genesis 13:13), and that which filled up the measure of their iniquity was, that they received not the angels that were sent to them, but abused them (Genesis 19:4; Genesis 19:5), and hearkened not to their words,Matthew 10:14; Matthew 10:14. And yet it will be more tolerable for them than for those who receive not Christ's ministers and hearken not to their words. God's wrath against them will be more flaming, and their own reflections upon themselves more cutting. Son, remember I will sound most dreadfully in the ears of such as had a fair offer made them of eternal life, and chose death rather. The iniquity of Israel, when God sent them his servants the prophets, is represented as, upon that account, more heinous than the iniquity of Sodom (Ezekiel 16:48; Ezekiel 16:49), much more now he sent them his Son, the great Prophet.
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Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Matthew 10:15". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​mhm/​matthew-10.html. 1706.
Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible
Chapter 8, which opens the portion that comes before us tonight, is a striking illustration as well as proof of the method which God has been pleased to employ in giving us the apostle Matthew's account of our Lord Jesus. The dispensational aim here leads to a more manifest disregard of the bare circumstance of time than in any other specimen of these gospels. This is the more to be noticed, inasmuch as the gospel of Matthew has been in general adopted as the standard of time, save by those who have rather inclined to Luke as supplying the desideratum. To me it is evident, from a careful comparison of them all, as I think it is capable of clear and adequate proof to an unprejudiced Christian mind, that neither Matthew nor Luke confines himself to such an order of events. Of course, both do preserve chronological order when it is compatible with the objects the Holy Spirit had in inspiring them; but in both the order of time is subordinated to still greater purposes which God had in view. If we compare the eighth chapter, for example, with the corresponding circumstances, as far as they appear, in the gospel of Mark, we shall find the latter gives us notes of time, which leave no doubt on my mind that Mark adheres to the scale of time: the design of the Holy Ghost required it, instead of dispensing with it in his case. The question fairly arises, Why it is that the Holy Ghost has been pleased so remarkably to leave time out of the question in this chapter, as well as in the next? The same indifference to the mere sequence of events is found occasionally in other parts of the gospel; but I have purposely dwelt upon this chapter 8, because here we have it throughout, and at the same time with evidence exceedingly simple and convincing.
The first thing to be remarked is, that the leper was an early incident in the manifestation of the healing power of our Lord. In his defilement he came to Jesus and sought to be cleansed, before the delivery of the sermon on the mount. Accordingly, notice that, in the manner in which the Holy Ghost introduces it, there is no statement of time whatever. No doubt the first verse says, that "when He was come down from the mount, great multitudes followed Him;" but then the second verse gives no intimation that the subject which follows is to be taken as chronologically subsequent. It does not say, that " then there came a leper," or " immediately there came a leper." No word whatever implies that the cleansing of the leper happened at that time. It says simply, "And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." Verse 4 seems quite adverse to the idea that great multitudes were witnesses of the cure; for why "tell no man," if so many knew it already? Inattention to this has perplexed many. They have not seized the aim of each gospel. They have treated the Bible either with levity, or as too awful a book to be apprehended really; not with the reverence of faith, which waits on Him, and fails not in due time to understand His word. God does not permit Scripture to be thus used without losing its force, its beauty, and the grand object for which it was written.
If we turn toMark 1:1-45; Mark 1:1-45, the proof of what I have said will appear as to the leper. At its close we see the leper approaching the Lord, after He had been preaching throughout Galilee and casting out devils. In Mark 2:1-28 it says, "And again he entered into Capernaum." He had been there before. Then, in Mark 3:1-35, there are notes of time more or less strong. In verse 13 our Lord "goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach." To him who compares this with Luke 6:1-49, there need not remain a question as to the identity of the scene. They are the circumstances that preceded the discourse upon the mount, as given in Matthew 5:1-48; Matthew 6:1-34; Matthew 7:1-29. It was after our Lord had called the twelve, and ordained them not after He had sent them forth, but after He had appointed them apostles that the Lord comes down to a plateau upon the mountain, instead of remaining upon the more elevated parts where He had been before. Descending then upon the plateau, He delivered what is commonly called the Sermon on the Mount.
Examine the Scripture, and you will see for yourselves. It is not a thing that can be settled by a mere assertion. On the other hand, it is not too much to say, that the same Scriptures which convince one unbiassed mind that pays heed to these notes of time, will produce no less effect on others. If I assume from the words "set forth in order," in the beginning of Luke's gospel, that therefore his is the chronological account, it will only lead me into confusion, both as to Luke and the other gospels; for proofs abound that the order of Luke, most methodical as he is, is by no means absolutely that of time. Of course, there is often the order of time, but through the central part, and not infrequently elsewhere, his setting forth in order turns on another principle, quite independent of mere succession of events. In other words, it is certain that in the gospel of Luke, in whose preface we have expressly the words "set in order," the Holy Ghost does in no way tie Himself to what, after all, is the most elementary form of arrangement; for it needs little observation to see, that the simple sequence of facts as they occurred is that which demands a faithful enumeration, and nothing more. Whereas, on the contrary, there are other kinds of order that call for more profound thought and enlarged views, if we may speak now after the manner of men; and, indeed, I deny not that these the Holy Ghost employed in His own wisdom, though it is hardly needful to say He could, if He pleased, demonstrate His superiority to any means or qualifications whatsoever. He could and did form His instruments according to His own sovereign will. It is a question, then, of internal evidence, what that particular order is which God has employed in each different gospel. Particular epochs in Luke are noted with great care; but, speaking now of the general course of the Lord's life, a little attention will discover, from the immensely greater preponderance paid to the consideration of time in the second gospel, that there we have events from first to last given to us in their consecutive order. It appears to me, that the nature or aim of Mark's gospel demands this. The grounds of such a judgment will naturally come before us ere long: I can merely refer to it now as my conviction.
If this be a sound judgment, the comparison of the first chapter of Mark affords decisive evidence that the Holy Ghost in Matthew has taken the leper out of the mere time and circumstances of actual occurrence, and has reserved his case for a wholly different service. It is true that in this particular instance Mark no more surrounds the leper with notes of time and place than do Matthew and Luke. We are dependent, therefore, for determining this case, on the fact that Mark does habitually adhere to the chain of events. But if Matthew here laid aside all question of time, it was in view of other and weightier considerations for his object. In other words, the leper is here introduced after the sermon on the mount, though, in fact, the circumstance took place long before it. The design is, I think, manifest: the Spirit of God is here giving a vivid picture of the manifestation of the Messiah, of His divine glory, of His grace and power, with the effect of this manifestation. Hence it is that He has grouped together circumstances which make this plain, without raising the question of when they occurred; in fact, they range over a large space, and, otherwise viewed, are in total disorder. Thus it is easy to see, that the reason for here putting together the leper and the centurion lies in the Lord's dealing with the Jew, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, in His deep grace working in the Gentile's heart, and forming his faith, as well as answering it, according to His own heart. The leper approaches the Lord with homage, but with a most inadequate belief in His love and readiness to meet his need. The Saviour, while He puts forth His hand, touching him as man, and yet as none but Jehovah might dare to do, dispels the hopeless disease at once. Thus, and after the tenderest sort, there is that which evidences the Messiah on earth present to heal His people who appeal to Him; and the Jew, above all counting upon His bodily presence demanding it, I may say, according to the warrant of prophecy, finds in Jesus not merely the man, but the God of Israel. Who but God could heal? Who could touch the leper save Emmanuel? A mere Jew would have been defiled. He who gave the law maintained its authority, and used it as an occasion for testifying His own power and presence. Would any man make of the Messiah a mere man and a mere subject of the law given by Moses? Let them read their error in One who was evidently superior to the condition and the ruin of man in Israel. Let them recognize the power that banished the leprosy, and the grace withal that touched the leper. It was true that He was made of woman, and made under the law; but He was Jehovah Himself, that lowly Nazarene. However suitable to the Jewish expectation that He should be found a man, undeniably there was that apparent which was infinitely above the Jew's thought; for the Jew showed his own degradation and unbelief in the low ideas he entertained of the Messiah. He was really God in man; and all these wonderful features are here presented and compressed in this most simple, but at the same time significant, action of the Saviour the fitting frontispiece to Matthew's manifestation of the Messiah to Israel.
In immediate juxtaposition to this stands the Gentile centurion, who seeks healing for his servant. Considerable time, it is true, elapsed between the two facts; but this only makes it the more sure and plain, that they are grouped together with a divine purpose. The Lord then had been shown such as He was towards Israel, had Israel in their leprosy come to Him, as did the leper, even with a faith exceedingly short of that which was due to His real glory and His love. But Israel had no sense of their leprosy; and they valued not, but despised, their Messiah, albeit divine I might almost say because divine. Next, we behold Him meeting the centurion after another manner altogether. If He offers to go to his house, it was to bring out the faith that He had created in the heart of the centurion. Gentile as he was, he was for that very, reason the less narrowed in his thoughts of the Saviour by the prevalent notions of Israel, yea, or even by Old Testament hopes, precious as they are. God had given his soul a deeper, fuller sight of Christ; for the Gentile's words prove that he had apprehended God in the man who was healing at that moment all sickness and disease in Galilee. I say not how fax he had realized this profound truth; I say not that he could have defined his thoughts; but he knew and declared His command of all as truly God. In him there was a spiritual force far beyond that found in the leper, to whom the hand that touched, as well as cleansed, him proclaimed Israel's need and state as truly as Emmanuel's grace.
As for the Gentile, the Lord's proffer to go and heal his servant brought out the singular strength of his faith. "Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof" He had only to say in a word, and his servant should be healed. The bodily presence of the Messiah was not needed. God could not be limited by a question of place; His word was enough. Disease must obey Him, as the soldier or the servant obeyed the centurion, their superior. What an anticipation of the walk by faith, not by sight, in which the Gentiles, when called, ought to have glorified God, when the rejection of the Messiah by His own ancient people gave occasion to the Gentile call as a distinct thing! It is evident that the bodily presence of the Messiah is the very essence of the former scene, as it ought to be in dealing with the leper, who is a kind of type of what Israel should have been in seeking cleansing at His hands. So, on the other hand, the centurion sets forth with no less aptness the characteristic faith that suits the Gentile, in a simplicity which looks for nothing but the word of His mouth, is perfectly content with it, knows that, whatever the disease may be, He has only to speak the word, and it is done according to His divine will. That blessed One was here whom he knew to be God, who was to him the impersonation of divine power and goodness His presence was uncalled for, His word more than enough. The Lord admired the faith superior to Israel's, and took that occasion to intimate the casting out of the sons or natural heirs of the kingdom, and the entrance of many from east and west to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of the heavens. What can be conceived so perfectly to illustrate the great design of the gospel of Matthew?
Thus, in the scene of the leper, we have Jesus presented as "Jehovah that healeth Israel," as man here below, and in Jewish relationships, still maintaining the law. Next, we find Him confessed by the centurion, no longer as the Messiah, when actually with them, confessed according to a faith which saw the deeper glory of His person as supreme, competent to heal, no matter where, or whom, or what, by a word; and this the Lord Himself hails as the foreshadowing of a rich incoming of many multitudes to the praise of His name, when the Jews should be cast out. Evidently it is the change of dispensation that is in question and at hand, the cutting off of the fleshly seed for their unbelief, and the bringing in of numerous believers in the name of the Lord from among the Gentiles.
Then follows another incident, which equally proves that the Spirit of God is not here reciting the facts in their natural succession; for it is assuredly not at this moment historically that the Lord goes into the house of Peter, sees there his wife's mother laid sick of a fever, touches her hand, and raises her up, so that she ministers unto them at once. In this we have another striking illustration of the same principle, because this miracle, in point of fact, was wrought long before the healing of the centurion's servant, or even of the leper. This, too, we ascertain from Mark 1:1-45, where there are clear marks of the time. The Lord was in Capernaum, where Peter lived; and on a certain Sabbath-day, after the call of Peter, wrought in the synagogue mighty deeds, which are here recorded, and by Luke also. Verse 29 gives us strict time. "And forthwith when they were come out of the synagogue they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John; but Simon's wife's mother was sick of a fever, and anon they tell Him of her. And He came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them." It would require the credulity of a sceptic to believe that this is not the self-same fact that we have before us inMatthew 8:1-34; Matthew 8:1-34. I feel sure that no Christian harbours a doubt about it. But if this be so, there is here absolute certainty that our Lord, on the very Sabbath in which He cast out the unclean spirit from the man in the synagogue of Capernaum, immediately after quitting the synagogue, entered the house of Peter, and that there and then He healed Peter's wife's mother of the fever. Subsequent, considerably, to this was the case of the centurion's servant, preceded a good while before by the cleansing of the leper.
How are we to account for a selection so marked, an elimination of time so complete? Surely not by inaccuracy; surely not by indifference to order, but contrariwise by divine wisdom that arranged the facts with a view to a purpose worthy of itself: God's arrangement of all things more particularly in this part of Matthew to give us an adequate manifestation of the Messiah; and, as we have seen, first, what He was to the appeal of the Jew; next, what He was and would be to Gentile faith, in still richer form and fulness. So now we have, in the healing of Peter's mother-in-law, another fact containing a principle of great value, that His grace towards the Gentile does not in the least degree blunt His heart to the claims of relationship after the flesh. It was clearly a question of connection with the apostle of the circumcision ( i.e., Peter's wife's mother). We have the natural tie here brought into prominence; and this was a claim that Christ slighted not. For He loved Peter felt for him, and his wife's mother was precious in His sight. This sets forth not at all the way in which the Christian stands related to Christ; for even though we had known Him after the flesh, henceforth know we Him no more. But it is expressly the pattern after which He was to deal, and will deal, with Israel. Zion may say of the Lord who laboured in vain, whom the nation abhorred, "The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me." Not so. "Can a woman forget her sucking child? yea, they may forget, yet will not I forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands." Thus it is shown that, though we have rich grace to the Gentile, there is the remembrance of natural relationship still.
In the evening multitudes are brought, taking advantage of the power that had so shown itself, publicly in the synagogue, and privately in the house of Peter; and the Lord accomplished the words ofIsaiah 53:4; Isaiah 53:4: "Himself," it is said, "took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses," an oracle we might do well to consider in the limit of its application here. In what sense did Jesus, our Lord, take their infirmities, and bear their sicknesses? In this, as I believe, that He never employed the virtue that was in Him to meet sickness or infirmity as a matter of mere power, but in deep compassionate feeling He entered into the whole reality of the case. He healed, and bore its burden on His heart before God, as truly as He took it away from men. It was precisely because He was Himself untouchable by sickness and infirmity, that He was free so to take up each consequence of sin thus. Therefore it was not a mere simple fact that He banished sickness or infirmity, but He carried them in His spirit before God. To my mind, the depth of such grace only enhances the beauty of Jesus, and is the very last possible ground that justifies man in thinking lightly of the Saviour.
After this our Lord sees great multitudes following Him, and gives commandment to go to the other side. Here again is found a fresh case of the same remarkable principle of selection of events to form a complete picture, which I have maintained to be the true key of all. The Spirit of God has been pleased to cull and class facts otherwise unconnected; for here follow conversations that took place a long time after any of the events we have been occupied with. When do you suppose these conversations actually occurred, if we go to the question of their date? Take notice of the care with which the Spirit of God here omits all reference to this: "And a certain scribe came." There is no note of the time when he came, but simply the fact that he did come. It was really after the transfiguration recorded in chapter 17 of our gospel. Subsequently to that, the scribe offered to follow Jesus whithersoever He went. We know this by comparing it with the gospel of Luke. And so with the other conversation: "Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father;" it was after the glory of Christ had been witnessed on the holy mount, when man's selfishness of heart showed itself in contrast to the grace of God.
Next, the storm follows. "There arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch, that the ship was covered with the waves; but he was asleep." When did this take place, if we enquire into it merely as a matter of historical fact? On the evening of the day when He delivered the seven parables given in Matthew 13:1-58. The truth of this is apparent, if we compare the gospel of Mark. Thus, the fourth chapter of Mark coincides, marked with such data as can leave no doubt. We have, first, the sower sowing the word. Then, after the parable of the mustard seed (ver. 33), it is added, "And with many such parables spake He the word unto them . . . . and when they were alone, He expounded all things to His disciples [in both the parables and the explanations alluding to what we possess in Matthew 13:1-58.]. And the same day, when the even was come, He saith unto them, let us pass over unto the other side. [There is what I call a clear, unmistakable note of time.] And when they had sent away the multitude, they took Him even as He was in the ship. And there were also with Him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And He was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake Him, and say unto Him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And He said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?" After this (what makes it still more unquestionable) comes the case of the demoniac. It is true, we have only one in Mark, as in Luke; whereas in our gospel we have two. Nothing can be simpler. There were two; but the Spirit of God chose out, in Mark and Luke, the more remarkable of the two, and traces for us his history, a history of no small interest and importance, as we may feel when we come to Mark; but it was of equal moment for the gospel of Matthew that the two demoniacs should be mentioned here, although one of them was in himself, as I gather, a far more strikingly desperate case than the other. The reason I consider to be plain; and the same principle applies to various other parts of our gospel where we have two cases mentioned, where in the other gospels we have only one. The key to it is this, that Matthew was led by the Holy Ghost to keep in view adequate testimony to the Jewish people; it was the tender goodness of God that would meet them in a manner that was suitable under the law. Now, it was an established principle, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word should be established. This, then, I apprehend to be the reason why we End two demoniacs mentioned; whereas, in Mark or Luke for other purposes, the Spirit of God only draws attention to one of the two. A Gentile (indeed, any mind not under any kind of legal prejudice or difficulty) would be far more moved by a detailed account of what was more, conspicuous. The fact of two without the personal details would not powerfully tell upon mere Gentiles perhaps, though to a Jew it might be for some ends necessary. I do not pretend to say this was the only purpose served; far be it from me to think of restraining the Spirit of God within the narrow bounds of our vision. Let none suppose that, in giving my own convictions, I have the presumptuous thought of putting these forward as if they were the sole motives in God's mind. It is enough to meet a difficulty which many feel by the simple plea that the reason assigned is in my judgment a valid explanation, and in itself a sufficient solution of the apparent discrepancy. If it be so, it is surely a ground of thankfulness to God; for it turns a stumbling-block into an evidence of the perfection of Scripture.
Reviewing, then, these closing incidents of the chapter (ver. Matthew 13:19-22), we find first of all the utter worthlessness of the flesh's readiness to follow Jesus. The motives of the natural heart are laid bare. Does this scribe offer to follow Jesus? He was not called. Such is the perversity of man, that he who is not called thinks he can follow Jesus whithersoever He goes. The Lord hints at what the man's real desires were not Christ, not heaven, not eternity, but present things. If he were willing to follow the Lord, it was for what he could get. The scribe had no heart for the hidden glory. Surely, had he seen this, everything was there; but he saw it not, and so the Lord spread out His actual portion, as it literally was, without one word about the unseen and eternal. "The foxes," says He, "have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head." He takes accordingly the title of the "Son of man" for the first time in this gospel. He has His rejection before His eyes, as well as the presumptuous unbelief of this sordid, and self-confident, would-be follower.
Again, when we listen to another (and now it is one of His disciples), at once faith shows its feebleness. "Suffer me first," he says, "to go and bury my father." The man that was not called promises to go anywhere, in his own strength; but the man that was called feels the difficulty, and pleads a natural duty before following Jesus. Oh, what a heart is ours! but what a heart was His!
In the next scene, then, we have the disciples as a whole tried by a sudden danger to which their sleeping Master paid no heed. This tested their thoughts of the glory of Jesus. No doubt the tempest was great; but what harm could it do to Jesus? No doubt the ship was covered with the waves; but how could that imperil the Lord of all? They forgot His glory in their own anxiety and selfishness. They measured Jesus by their own impotence. A great tempest. and a sinking ship are serious difficulties to a man. "Lord, save us; we perish," cried they, as they awoke Him; and He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea. Little faith leaves us as fearful for ourselves as dim witnesses of His glory whom the most unruly elements obey.
In what follows we have that which is necessary, to complete the picture of the other side. The Lord works in delivering power; but withal the power of Satan fills and carries away the unclean to their own destruction. Yet man, in face of all, is so deceived of the enemy, that he prefers to be left with the demons rather than enjoy the presence of the Deliverer. Such was and is man. But the future is in view also. The delivered demoniacs are, to my mind, clearly the foreshadow of the Lord's grace in the latter days, separating a remnant to Himself, and banishing the power of Satan from this small but sufficient witness of His salvation. The evil spirits asked leave to pass into the herd of swine, which thus typify the final condition of the defiled, apostate mass of Israel; their presumptuous and impenitent unbelief reduces them to that deep degradation not merely the unclean, but the unclean filled with the power of Satan, and carried down to swift destruction. It is a just prefiguration of what will be in the close of the age the mass of the unbelieving Jews, now impure, but then also given up to the devil, and so to evident perdition.
Thus, in the chapter before us, we have a very comprehensive sketch of the Lord's manifestation from that time, and in type going on to the end of the age. In the chapter that follows we have a companion picture, carrying on, no doubt, the lord's presentation to Israel, but from a different point of view; for inMatthew 9:1-38; Matthew 9:1-38 it is not merely the people tried, but more especially the religious leaders, till all closes in blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. This was testing matters more closely. Had there been a single thing good in Israel, their choicest guides would have stood that test. The people might have failed, but, surely, there were some differences surely those that were honoured and valued were not so depraved! Those that were priests in the house of God would not they at least receive their own Messiah? This question is accordingly put to the proof in the ninth chapter. To the end the events are put together, just as in Matthew 8:1-34, without regard to the point of time when they occurred.
"And He entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into His own city." Having left Nazareth, as we saw, He takes up His abode in Capernaum, which was henceforth "His own city." To the proud inhabitant of Jerusalem, both one and the other were but a choice and change within a land of darkness. But it was for a land of darkness and sin and death that Jesus came from heaven the Messiah, not according to their thoughts, but the Lord and Saviour, the God-man. So in this case there was brought to Him a paralytic man, lying upon a bed, "and Jesus, seeing their faith, said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee." Most clearly it is not so much a question of sin in the aspect of uncleanness (typifying deeper things, but still connected with the ceremonial requirements of Israel, as we find from what our Lord said in the chapter to the cleansed leper). It is more particularly sin, viewed as guilt, and consequently as that which absolutely breaks and destroys all power in the soul towards both God and man. Hence, here it is a question not merely of cleansing, but of forgiveness, and forgiveness, too, as that which precedes power, manifested before men. There never can be strength in the soul till forgiveness is known. There may be desires, there may be the working of the Spirit of God, but there can be no power to walk before men and to glorify God thus till there is forgiveness possessed and enjoyed in the heart. This was the very blessing that aroused, above all, the hatred of the scribes. The priest, in chap. 8, could not deny what was done in the case of the leper, who showed himself duly, and brought his offering, according to the law, to the altar. Though a testimony to them, still it was in the result a recognition of what Moses commanded. But here pardon dispensed on earth arouses the pride of the religious leaders to the quick, and implacably. Nevertheless, the Lord did not withhold the infinite boon, though He knew too well their thoughts; He spoke the word of forgiveness, though He read their evil heart that counted it blasphemy. This utter, growing rejection of Jesus was coming out now rejection, at first allowed and whispered in the heart, soon to be pronounced in words like drawn swords.
"And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth." Jesus blessedly answered their thoughts, had there only been a conscience to hear the word of power and grace, which brings out His glory the more. "That ye may know," He says, "that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins," etc. He now takes His place of rejection; for Him it is manifest even now by their inmost thoughts of Him when revealed. "This man blasphemeth." Yet is He the Son of man who hath power on earth to forgive sins; and He uses His authority. "That ye may know it (then saith He to the sick of the palsy), Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thy house." The man's walk before them testifies to the reality of his forgiveness before God. It ought to be so with every forgiven soul. This as yet draws out wonder, at least from the witnessing multitudes, that God had given such power unto men. They glorified God.
On this the Lord proceeds to take a step farther, and makes a deeper inroad, if possible, upon Jewish prejudice. He is not here sought as by the leper, the centurion, the friends of the palsied man; He Himself calls Matthew, a publican just the one to write the gospel of the despised Jesus of Nazareth. What instrument so suitable? It was a scorned Messiah who, when rejected of His own people, Israel, turned to the Gentiles by the will of God: it was One who could look upon publicans and sinners anywhere. Thus Matthew, called at the very receipt of custom, follows Jesus, and makes a feast for Him. This furnishes occasion to the Pharisees to vent their unbelief: to them nothing is so offensive as grace, either in doctrine or in practice. The scribes, at the beginning of the chapter, could not hide from the Lord their bitter rejection of His glory as man on earth entitled, as His humiliation and cross would prove, to forgive. Here, too, these Pharisees question and reproach His grace, when they see the Lord sitting at ease in the presence of publicans and sinners, who came and sat down with Him in Matthew's house. They said to His disciples, "Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?" The Lord shows that such unbelief justly and necessarily excludes itself, but not others, from blessing. To heal was the work for which He was come. it was not for the whole the Physician was needed. How little they had learnt the divine lesson of grace, not ordinances! "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice." Jesus was there to call, not righteous men, but sinners.
Nor was the unbelief confined to these religionists of letter and form; for next (verse 14) the question comes from John's disciples: "Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?" Throughout it is the religious kind that are tested and found wanting. The Lord pleads the cause of the disciples. "Can the children of the bride-chamber mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?" Fasting, indeed, would follow when the Bridegroom was taken from them. Thus He points out the utter moral incongruity of fasting at that moment, and intimates that it was not merely the fact that He was going to be rejected, but that to conciliate His teaching and His will with the old thing was hopeless. What He was introducing could not mix with Judaism. Thus it was not merely that there was an evil heart of unbelief in the Jew particularly, but law and grace cannot be yoked together. "No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment; for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse." Nor was it only a difference in the forms the truth took; but the vital principle which Christ was diffusing could not be so maintained. "Neither do men put new wine into old bottles, else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish; but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved." The spirit, as well as the form, was alien.
But at the same time it is plain, although He bore the consciousness of the vast change He was introducing, and expressed it thus fully and early in the history, nothing turned away His heart from Israel. The very next scene, the case of Jairus, the ruler, shows it. "My daughter is even now dead, but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live." The details, found elsewhere, of her being at the point of death then, before reaching the house, the news that she was dead, are not here. Whatever the time may have been, whatever the incidents added by others, the account is given here for the purpose of showing, that as Israel's case was desperate, even unto death, so He, the Messiah, was the giver of life, when all, humanly speaking, was over. He was then present, a man despised, yet with title to forgive sins, proved by immediate power to heal. If those who trusted in themselves that they were wise and righteous would not have Him, He would call even a publican on the spot to be among the most honoured of His followers, and would not disdain to be their joy when they desired His honour in the exercise of His grace. Sorrow would come full soon when He, the Bridegroom of His people, should be taken away; and then should they fast.
Nevertheless, His ear was open to the call on behalf of Israel perishing, dying, dead. He had been preparing them for the new things, and the impossibility of making them coalesce with the old. But none the less do we find His affections engaged for the help of the helpless. He goes to raise the dead, and the woman with the issue of blood touches Him by the way. No matter what the great purpose might be, He was there for faith. Far different this was from the errand on which He was intent; but He was there for faith. It was His meat to do the will of God. He was there for the express purpose of glorifying God. Power and love were come for any one to draw on. If there were, so to speak, a justification of circumcision by faith, undoubtedly there was also the justification of uncircumcision through their faith. The question was not who or what came in the way; whoever appealed to Him, there He was for them. And He was Jesus, Emmanuel. When He reaches the house, minstrels were there, and people, making a noise: the expression, if of woe, certainly of impotent despair. They mock the calm utterance of Him who chooses things that are not; and the Lord turns out the unbelievers, and demonstrates the glorious truth that the maid was not dead, but living.
Nor is this all. He gives sight to the blind. "And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed Him, crying and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us." It was necessary to complete the picture. Life had been imparted to, the sleeping maid of Zion the blind men call on Him as the Son of David, and not in vain. They confess their faith, and He touches their eyes. Thus, whatever the peculiarity of the new blessings, the old thing could be taken up, though upon new grounds, and, of course, on the confession that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. The two blind men called upon Him as the Son of David; a sample this of what will be in the end, when the heart of Israel turns to the Lord, and the veil is done away. "According to your faith be it done unto you."
It is not enough that Israel be awakened from the sleep of death, and see aright. There must be the mouth to praise the Lord, and speak of the glorious honour of His majesty, as well as eyes to wait on Him. So we have a farther scene. Israel must give full testimony in the bright day of His coming. Accordingly, here we have a witness of it, and a witness so much the sweeter, because the present total rejection that was filling the heart of the leaders surely testified to the Lord's heart of that which was at hand. But nothing turned aside the purpose of God, or the activity of His grace. "As they went out, behold, they brought to Him a dumb man possessed with a devil. And when the devil was come out, the dumb spake: and the multitudes marvelled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel." (SeeMatthew 9:32-33; Matthew 9:32-33.) The Pharisees were enraged at a power they could not deny, which rebuked themselves so much the more on account of its persistent grace; but Jesus passes by all blasphemy as yet, and goes on His way nothing hinders His course of love. He "went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people." The faithful and true witness, it was His to display that power in goodness which shall be put forth fully in the world to come, the great day when the Lord will manifest Himself to every eye as Son of David, and Son of man too.
At the close of this chapter 9, in His deep compassion He bids the disciples pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers into His harvest. At the beginning of Matthew 10:1-42 He Himself sends forth themselves as labourers. He is the Lord of the harvest. It was a grave step this, and in view of His rejection now. In our gospel we have not seen the apostles called and ordained. Matthew gives no such details, but call and mission are together here. But, as I have stated, the choice and ordination of the twelve apostles had really taken place before the sermon on the mount, though not mentioned in Matthew, but in Mark and Luke. (Compare Mark 3:13-19, andMark 6:7-11; Mark 6:7-11; Luke 6:1-49; Luke 9:1-62) The mission of the apostles did not take place till afterwards. In Matthew we have no distinction of their call from their mission. But the mission is given here in strict accordance with what the gospel demands. It is a summons from the King to His people Israel. So thoroughly is it in view of Israel that our Lord does not say one word here about the Church, or the intervening condition of Christendom. He speaks of Israel then, and of Israel before He comes in glory, but He entirely omits any notice of the circumstances which were to come in by the way. He tells them that they should not have gone over (or finished) the cities of Israel till the Son of man be come. Not that His own rejection was not before His spirit, but here He looks not beyond that land and people; and, as far as the twelve were concerned, He sends them on a mission which goes on to the end of the an. Thus, the present dealings of God in grace, the actual shape taken by the kingdom of heaven, the calling of the Gentiles, the formation of the Church, are all passed completely over. We shall find something of these mysteries later on in this gospel; but here it is simply a Jewish testimony of Jehovah-Messiah in His unwearied love, through His twelve heralds, and in spite of rising unbelief, maintaining to the end what His grace had in view for Israel. He would send fit messengers, nor would the work be done till the rejected Messiah, the Son of man, came. The apostles were then sent thus, no doubt, forerunners of those whom the Lord will raise up for the latter day. Time would fail now to dwell on this chapter, interesting as it is. My object, of course, is to point out as clearly as possible the structure of the gospel, and to explain according to my measure why there are these strong differences between the gospels of Matthew and the rest, as compared with one another. The ignorance is wholly on our side: all they say or omit was owing to the far-reaching and gracious wisdom of Him who inspired them.
Matthew 11:1-30, exceedingly critical for Israel, and of surpassing beauty, as it is, must not be passed over without some few words. Here we find our Lord, after sending out the chosen witnesses of the truth (so momentous to Israel, above all) of His own Messiahship, realizing His utter rejection, yet rejoicing withal in God the Father's counsels of glory and grace, while the real secret in the chapter, as in fact, was His being not Messiah only, nor Son of man, but the Son of the Father, whose person none knows but Himself. But, from first to last, what a trial of spirit, and what triumph! Some consider that John the Baptist enquired solely for the sake of his disciples. But I see no sufficient reason to refuse the impression that John found it hard to reconcile his continued imprisonment with a present Messiah; nor do I discern a sound judgment of the case, or a profound knowledge of the heart, in those who thus raise doubts as to John's sincerity, any more than they appear to me to exalt the character of this honoured man of God, by supposing him to play a part which really belonged to others. What can be simpler than that John put the question through his disciples, because he (not they only) had a question in the mind? It probably was no more than a grave though passing difficulty, which he desired to have cleared up with all fulness for their sakes, as well as his own. In short, he had a question because he was a man. It is not for us surely to think this impossible. Have we, spite of superior privileges, such unwavering faith, that we can afford to treat the matter as incredible in John, and therefore only capable of solution in his staggering disciples? Let those who have so little experience of what man is, even in the regenerate, beware lest they impute to the Baptist such an acting of a part as shocks us, when Jerome imputed it to Peter and Paul in the censure of Galatians 2:1-21. The Lord, no doubt, knew the heart of His servant, and could feel for him in the effect that circumstances took upon him. When He uttered the words, "Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me," it is to me evident that there was an allusion to the wavering let it be but for a moment of John's soul. The fact is, beloved brethren, there is but one Jesus; and whoever it may be, whether John the Baptist, or the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, after all it is divinely-given faith which alone sustains: else man has to learn painfully somewhat of himself; and what is he to be accounted of?
Our Lord then answers, with perfect dignity, as well as grace; He puts before the disciples of John the real state of the case; He furnishes them with plain, positive facts, that could leave nothing to be desired by John's mind when he weighed all as a testimony from God. This done, with a word for the conscience appended, He takes up and pleads the cause of John. It ought to have been John's place to have proclaimed the glory of Jesus; but all things in this world are the reverse of what they ought to be, and of what will be when Jesus takes the throne, coming in power and glory. But when the Lord was here, no matter what the unbelief of others, it was only an opportunity for the grace of Jesus to shine out. So it was here; and our Lord turns to eternal account, in His own goodness, the shortcoming of John the Baptist, the greatest of women-born. Far from lowering the position of His servant, He declares there was none greater among mortal men. The failure of this greatest of women-born only gives Him the just occasion to show the total change at hand, when it should not be a question of man, but of God, yea, of the kingdom of heaven, the least in which new state should be greater than John. And what makes this still more striking, is the certainty that the kingdom, bright as it is, is by no means the thing nearest to Jesus. The Church, which is His body and bride, has a far more intimate place, even though true of the same persons.
Next, He lays bare the capricious unbelief of man, only consistent in thwarting every thing and one that God employs for his good; then, His own entire rejection where He had most laboured. It was going on, then, to the bitter end, and surely not without such suffering and sorrow as holy, unselfish, obedient love alone can know. Wretched we, that we should need such proof of it; wretched, that we should be so slow of heart to answer to it, or even to feel its immensity!
"Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you . . . . . At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father." What feelings at such a time! Oh, for grace so to bow and bless God, even when our little travail seems in vain! At that time Jesus answered, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." We seem completely borne away from the ordinary level of our gospel to the higher region of the disciple whom Jesus loved. We are, in fact, in the presence of that which John so loves to dwell on Jesus viewed not merely as Son of David or Abraham, or Seed of the woman, but as the Father's Son, the Son as the Father gave, sent, appreciated, and loved Him. So, when more is added, He says, "All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." This, of course, is not the moment to unfold it. I merely indicate by the way how the thorough increasing rejection of the Lord Jesus in His lower glory has but the effect of bringing out the revelation of His higher. So, I believe now, there is no attempt ever made on the Name of the Son of God, there is not a single shaft levelled at Him, but the Spirit turns to the holy, and true, and sweet task of asserting anew and more loudly His glory, which enlarges the expression of His grace to man. Only tradition will not do this work, nor will human thoughts or feelings.
In Matthew 12:1-50 we find not so much Jesus present and despised of men, as these men of Israel, the rejectors, in the presence of Jesus. Hence, the Lord Jesus is here disclosing throughout, that the doom of Israel was pronounced and impending. If it was His rejection, these scornful men were themselves rejected in the very act. The plucking of the corn, and the healing of the withered hand, had taken place long before. Mark gives them in the end of his second and the beginning of his third chapters. Why are they postponed here? Because Matthew's object is the display of the change of dispensation through, or consequent on, the rejection of Jesus by the Jews. Hence, he waits to present their rejection of the Messiah, as morally complete as possible in his statement of it, though necessarily not complete in outward accomplishment. Of course, the facts of the cross were necessary to give it an evident and literal fulfilment; but we have it first apparent in His life, and it is blessed to see it thus accomplished, as it were, in what passed with Himself; fully realized in His own spirit, and the results exposed before the external facts gave the fullest expression to Jewish unbelief. He was not taken by surprise; He knew it from the beginning Man's implacable hatred is brought about most manifestly in the ways and spirit of His rejectors. The Lord Jesus, even before He pronounced the sentence, for so it was, indicated what was at hand in these two instances of the Sabbath-day, though one may not now linger on them. The first is the defence of the disciples, grounded on analogies taken from that which had the sanction of God of old, as well as on His own glory now. Reject Him as the Messiah; in that rejection the moral glory of the Son of man would be laid as the foundation of His exaltation and manifestation another day; He was Lord of the Sabbath-day. In the next incident the force of the plea turns on God's goodness towards the wretchedness of man. It is not only the fact that God slighted matters of prescriptive ordinance because of the ruined state of Israel, who rejected His true anointed King, but there was this principle also, that certainly God was not going to bind Himself not to do good where abject need was. It might be well enough for a Pharisee; it might be worthy of a legal formalist, but it would never do for God; and the Lord Jesus was come here not to accommodate Himself to their thoughts, but, above all, to do God's will of holy love in an evil, wretched world. "Behold my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased." In truth, this was Emmanuel, God with us. If God was there, what else could He, would He do? Lowly, noiseless grace now it was to be, according to the prophet, till the hour strikes for victory in judgment. So He meekly retires, healing, yet forbidding it to be blazed abroad. But still, it was His carrying on the great process of shewing out more and more the total rejection of His rejectors. Hence, lower down in the chapter, after the demon was cast out of the blind and dumb man before the amazed people, the Pharisees, irritated by their question, Is not this the Son of David? essayed to destroy the testimony with their utmost and blasphemous contempt. "This [fellow]," etc.
The English translators have thus given the sense well; for the expression really conveys this slight, though the word "fellow" is printed in italics. The Greek word is constantly so used as an expression of contempt, "This [fellow] doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils." The Lord now lets them know their mad folly, and warns them that this blasphemy was about to culminate in a still deeper, deadlier form when the Holy Ghost should be spoken against as He had been. Men little weigh what their words will sound and prove in the day of judgment. He sets forth the sign of the prophet Jonah, the repentance of the men of Nineveh, the preaching of Jonah, and the earnest zeal of the queen of the South in Solomon's day, when an incomparably greater was there despised. But if He here does not go beyond a hint of that which the Gentiles were about to receive on the ruinous unbelief and judgment of the Jew, He does not keep back their own awful course and doom in the figure that follows. Their state had long been that of a man whom the unclean spirit had left, after a former dwelling in him. Outwardly it was a condition of comparative cleanness. Idols, abominations, no longer infected that dwelling as of old. Then says the unclean spirit, "I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation." Thus He sets forth both the past, the present, and the awful future of Israel, before the day of His own coming from heaven, when there will be not only the return of idolatry, solemn to say, but the full power of Satan associated with it, as we see in Daniel 11:36-39; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17; Revelation 13:11-15. It is clear that the unclean spirit, returning, brings idolatry back again. It is equally clear that the seven worse spirits mean the complete energy of the devil in the maintenance of Antichrist against the true Christ: and this, strange to say, along with idols. Thus the end is as the beginning, and even far, far worse. On this the Lord takes another step, when one said to Him, "Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee." A double action follows. "Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?" said the Lord; and then stretched forth His hand toward His disciples with the words, "Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." Thus the old link with the flesh, with Israel, is now disowned; and the new relationships of faith, founded on doing the will of His Father (it is not a question of the law in any sort), are alone acknowledged. Hence the Lord would raise up a fresh testimony altogether, and do a new work suitable to it. This would not be a legal claim on man, but the scattering of good seed, life and fruit from God, and this in the unlimited field of the world, not in the land of Israel merely. In Matthew 13:1-58 we have the well-known sketch of these new ways of God. The kingdom of heaven assumes a form unknown to prophecy, and, in its successive mysteries, fills up the interval between the rejected Christ's going to heaven, and His returning again in glory.
Many words are not now required for that which is happily familiar to most here. Let me passingly notice a very few particulars. We have here not only our Lord's ministry in the first parable, but in the second parable that which He does by His servants. Then follows the rise of what was great in its littleness till it became little in its greatness in the earth; and the development and spread of doctrine, till the measured space assigned to it is brought under its assimilating influence. It is not here a question of life (as in the seed at first), but a system of christian doctrine; not life germinating and bearing fruit, but mere dogma natural mind which is exposed to it. Thus the great tree and the leavened mass are in fact the two sides of Christendom. Then inside the house we have not only the Lord explaining the parable, the history from first to last of the tares and wheat, the mingling of evil with the good which grace had sown, but more than that, we have the kingdom viewed according to divine thoughts and purposes. First of these comes the treasure hidden in the field, for which the man sells all he had, securing the field for the sake of the treasure. Next is the one pearl of great price, the unity and beauty of that which was so dear to the merchantman. Not merely were there many pieces of value, but one pearl of great price. Finally, we have all wound up, after the going forth of a testimony which was truly universal in its scope, by the judicial severance at the close, when it is not only the good put into vessels, but the bad dealt with by the due instruments of the power of God.
In Matthew 14:1-36 facts are narrated which manifest the great change of dispensation that the Lord, in setting forth the parables we have just noticed, had been preparing them for. The violent man, Herod, guilty of innocent blood, then reigned in the land, in contrast with whom goes Jesus into the wilderness, showing who and what He was the Shepherd of Israel, ready and able to care for the people. The disciples most inadequately perceive His glory; but the Lord acts according to His own mind. After this, dismissing the multitudes, He retires alone, to pray, on a mountain, as the disciples toil over the storm-tossed lake, the wind being contrary. It is a picture of what was about to take place when the Lord Jesus, quitting Israel and the earth, ascends on high, and all assumes another form not the reign upon earth, but intercession in heaven. But at the end, when His disciples are in the extremity of trouble, in the midst of the sea, the Lord walks on the sea toward them, and bids them not fear; for they were troubled and afraid. Peter asks a word from his Master, and leaves the ship to join Him on the water. There will be differences at the close. All will not be the wise that understand, nor those who instruct the mass in righteousness. But every Scripture that treats of that time proves what dread, what anxiety, what dark clouds will be ever and anon. So it was here. Peter goes forth, but losing sight of the Lord in the presence of the troubled waves, and yielding to his ordinary experience, he fears the strong wind, and is only saved by the outstretched hand of Jesus, who rebukes his doubt. Thereon, coming into the ship, the wind ceases, and the Lord exercises His gracious power in beneficent effects around. It was the little foreshadowing of what will be when the Lord has joined the remnant in the last days, and then fills with blessing the land that He touches.
In Matthew 15:1-39 we have another picture, and twofold. Jerusalem's proud, traditional hypocrisy is exposed, and grace fully blesses the tried Gentile. This finds its fitting place, not in Luke, but in Matthew, particularly as the details here (not in Mark, who only gives the general fact) cast great light upon God's dispensational ways. Accordingly, here we have, first, the Lord judging the wrong thoughts of "Scribes and Pharisees which were of Jerusalem." This gives an opportunity to teach what truly defiles not things that go into the man, but those things which, proceeding out of the mouth, come forth from the heart. To eat with unwashed hands defileth not a man. It is the death-blow to human tradition and ordinance in divine things, and in reality depends on the truth of the absolute ruin of man a truth which, as we see, the disciples were very slow to recognize. On the other side of the picture, behold the Lord leading on a soul to draw on divine grace in the most glorious manner. The woman of Canaan, out of the borders of Tyre and Sidon, appeals to Him; a Gentile of most ominous name and belongings a Gentile whose case was desperate; for she appeals on behalf of her daughter, grievously vexed with a devil. What could be said of her intelligence then? Had she not such confusion of thought that, if the Lord had heeded her words, it must have been destruction to her? "Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David!" she cried; but what had she to do with the Son of David? and what had the Son of David to do with a Canaanite? When He reigns as David's Son, there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of Hosts. Judgment will have early cut them off. But the Lord could not send her away without a blessing, and without a blessing reaching to His own glory. Instead of giving her at once a reply, He leads her on step by step; for so He can stoop. Such is His grace, such His wisdom. The woman at last meets the heart and mind of Jesus in the sense of all her utter nothingness before God; and then grace, which had wrought all up to this, though pent-up, can flow like a river; and the Lord can admire her faith, albeit from Himself, God's free gift.
In the end of this chapter (15) is another miracle of Christ's feeding a vast multitude. It does not seem exactly as a pictorial view of what the Lord was doing, or going to do, but rather the repeated pledge, that they were not to suppose that the evil He had judged in the elders of Jerusalem, or the grace freely going out to the Gentiles, in any way led Him. to forget His ancient people. What special mercy and tenderness, not only in the end, but also in the way the Lord deals with Israel!
In Matthew 16:1-28 we advance a great step, spite (yea, because) of unbelief, deep and manifest, now on every side. The Lord has nothing for them, or for Him, but to go right on to the end. He had brought out the kingdom before in view of that which betrayed to Him the unpardonable blasphemy of the Holy Ghost. The old people and work then closed in principle, and a new work of God in the kingdom of heaven was disclosed. Now He brings out not the kingdom merely, but His Church; and this not merely in view of hopeless unbelief in the mass, but of the confession of His own intrinsic glory as the Son of God by the chosen witness. No sooner had Peter pronounced to Jesus the truth of His person, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," than Jesus holds the secret no longer. "Upon this rock," says He, "I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." He also gives Peter the keys of the kingdom, as we see afterwards. But first appears the new and great fact, that Christ was going to build a new building, His assembly, on the truth and confession of Himself, the Son of God. Doubtless, it was contingent upon the utter ruin of Israel through their unbelief; but the fall of the lesser thing opened the way for the gift of a better glory in answer to Peter's faith in the glory of His person. The Father and the Son have their appropriate part, even as we know from elsewhere the Spirit sent down from heaven in due time was to have His. Had Peter confessed who the Son of man really is? It was the Father's revelation of the Son; flesh and blood had not revealed it to Peter, but, "my Father, which is in heaven." Thereon the Lord also has His word to say, first reminding Peter of his new name suitably to what follows. He was going to build His Church "upon this rock" Himself, the Son of God. Henceforth, too, He forbids the disciples to proclaim Him as the Messiah. That was all over for the moment through Israel's blind sin; He was going to suffer, not yet reign, at Jerusalem. Then, alas! we have in Peter what man is, even after all this. He who had just confessed the glory of the Lord would not hear His Master speaking thus of His going to the cross (by which alone the Church, or even the kingdom, could be established), and sought to swerve Him from it. But the single eye of Jesus at once detects the snare of Satan into which natural thought led, or at least exposed, Peter to fall. And so, as savouring not divine but human things, he is bid to go behind (not from) the Lord as one ashamed of Him. He, on the contrary, insists not only that He was bound for the cross, but that its truth must be made good in any who will come after Him. The glory of Christ's person strengthens us, not only to understand His cross, but to take up ours.
In Matthew 17:1-27 another scene appears, promised in part to some standing there in Matthew 16:28, and connected, though as yet hiddenly, with the cross. It is the glory of Christ; not so much as Son of the living God, but as the exalted Son of man, who once suffered here below. Nevertheless, when there was the display of the glory of the kingdom, the Father's voice proclaimed Him as His own Son, and not merely as the man thus exalted. It was not more truly Christ's kingdom as man than He was God's own Son, His beloved Son, in whom He was well pleased, who was now to be heard, rather than Moses or Elias, who disappear, leaving Jesus alone with the chosen witnesses.
Then the pitiable condition of the disciples at the foot of the hill, where Satan reigned in fallen ruined man, is tested by the fact, that notwithstanding all the glory of Jesus, Son of God and Son of man, the disciples rendered it evident that they knew not how to bring His grace into action for others; yet was it precisely their place and proper function here below. The Lord, however, in the same chapter, shows that it was not a question alone of what was to be done, or to be suffered, or is to be by-and-by, but what He was, and is, and never can but be. This came out most blessedly through the disciples. Peter, the good confessor of chapter 16, cuts but a sorry figure in chapter 17; for when the demand was made upon him as to his Master's paying the tax, surely the Lord, he gave them to know, was much too good a Jew to omit it. But our Lord with dignity demands of Peter, "What thinkest thou, Simon?" He evinces, that at the very time when Peter forgot the vision and the Father's voice, virtually reducing Him to mere man, He was God manifest in the flesh. It is always thus. God proves what He is by the revelation of Jesus. "Of whom do the kings of the earth take custom? of their own children, or of strangers?" Peter answers, "Of strangers." "Then," said the Lord, "are the children free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money. that take and give unto them for me and thee." Is it not most sweet to see, that He who proves His divine glory at once associates us with Himself? Who but God could command not only the waves, but the fish of the sea? As to any one else, even the most liberal gift that ever was given of God to fallen man on earth, to the golden head of the Gentiles, exempted the deep and its untamed inhabitants. IfPsalms 8:1-9; Psalms 8:1-9 goes farther, surely that was for the Son of man, who for the suffering of death was exalted. Yes, it was His to rule and command the sea, even as the land and all that in them is. Neither did He need to wait for His exaltation as man; for He was ever God, and God's Son, who therefore, if one may so say, waits for nothing, for no day of glory. The manner, too, was in itself remarkable. A hook is cast into the sea, and the fish that takes it produces the required money for Peter as for his gracious Master and Lord. A fish was the last being for man to make his banker of; with God all things are possible, who knew how to blend admirably in the same act divine glory, unanswerably vindicated, with the lowliest grace in man. And thus He, whose glory was so forgotten by His disciples Jesus, Himself thinks of that very disciple, and says, "For me and thee."
The next chapter (Matthew 18:1-35) takes up the double thought of the kingdom and the Church, showing the requisite for entrance into the kingdom, and displaying or calling forth divine grace in the most lovely manner, and that in practice. The pattern is the Son of man saving the lost. It is not a question of bringing in law to govern the kingdom or guide the Church. The unparalleled grace of the Saviour must form and fashion the saints henceforth. In the end of the chapter is set forth parabolically the unlimited forgiveness that suits the kingdom; here, I cannot but think, looking onward in strict fulness to the future, but with distinct application to the moral need of the disciples then and always. In the kingdom so much the less sparing is the retribution of those who despise or abuse grace. All turns on that which was suitable to such a God, the giver of His own Son. We need not dwell upon it.
Matthew 19:1-30 brings in another lesson of great weight. Whatever might be the Church or the kingdom, it is precisely when the Lord unfolds His new glory in both the kingdom and the Church that He maintains the proprieties of nature in their rights and integrity. There is no greater mistake than to suppose, because there is the richest development of God's grace in new things, that He abandons or weakens natural relationships and authority in their place. This, I believe, is a great lesson, and too often forgotten. Observe that it is at this point the chapter begins with vindicating the sanctity of marriage. No doubt it is a tie of nature for this life only. None the less does the Lord uphold it, purged of what accretions had come in to obscure its original and proper character. Thus the fresh revelations of grace in no way detract from that which God had of old established in nature; but, contrariwise, only impart a new and greater force in asserting the real value and wisdom of God's way even in these least things. A similar principle applies to the little children, who are next introduced; and the same thing is true substantially of natural or moral character here below. Parents, and the disciples, like the Pharisees, were shown that grace, just because it is the expression of what God is to a ruined world, takes notice of what man in his own imaginary dignity might count altogether petty. With God, as nothing is impossible, so no one, small or great, is despised: all is seen and put in its just place; and grace, which rebukes creature pride, can afford to deal divinely with the smallest as with the greatest.
If there be a privilege more manifest than another which has dawned on us, it is what we have found by and in Jesus, that now we can say nothing is too great for us, nothing too little for God. There is room also for the most thorough self-abnegation. Grace forms the hearts of those that understand it, according to the great manifestation of what God is, and what man is, too, given us in the person of Christ. In the reception of the little children this is plain; it is not so generally seen in what follows. The rich young ruler was not converted: far from being so, he could not stand the test applied by Christ out of His own love, and, as we are told, "went away sorrowful." He was ignorant of himself, because ignorant of God, and imagined that it was only a question of man's doing good for God. In this he had laboured, as he said, from his youth up: "What lack I yet?" There was the consciousness of good unattained, a void for which he appeals to Jesus that it might be filled up. To lose all for heavenly treasure, to come and follow the despised Nazarene here below what was it to compare with that which had brought Jesus to earth? but it was far too much for the young man. It was the creature doing his best, yet proving that he loved the creature more than the Creator. Jesus, nevertheless, owned all that could be owned in him. After this, in the chapter we have the positive hindrance asserted of what man counts good. "Verily, I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven." This made it to be plainly and only a difficulty for God to solve. Then comes the boast of Peter, though for others as well as himself. The Lord, while thoroughly proving that He forgot nothing, owned everything that was of grace in Peter or the rest, while opening the same door to "every one" who forsakes nature for His name's sake, solemnly adds, "But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first." Thus the point that meets us in the conclusion of the chapter is, that while every character, every measure of giving up for His name's sake, will meet with the most worthy recompence and result, man can as little judge of this as he can accomplish salvation. Changes, to us inexplicable, occur: many first last, and last first.
The point in the beginning of the next chapter (Matthew 20:1-34) is not reward, but the right and title of God Himself to act according to His goodness. He is not going to lower Himself to a human measure. Not only shall the Judge of all the earth do right, but what will not He do who gives all good? "For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard . . . . . And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny." He maintains His sovereign title to do good, to do as He will with His own. The first of these lessons is, "Many first shall be last, and last first." (Matthew 19:30.) It is clearly the failure of nature, the reversal of what might be expected. The second is, "So the last shall be first, and the first last; for many are called, but few are chosen." It is the power of grace. God's delight is to pick out the hindmost for the first place, to the disparagement of the foremost in their own strength.
Lastly, we have the Lord rebuking the ambition not only of the sons of Zebedee, but in truth also of the ten; for why was there such warmth of indignation against the two brethren? why not sorrow and shame that they should have so little understood their Master's mind? How often the heart shows itself, not merely by what we ask, but by the uncalled-for feelings we display against other people and their faults! The fact is, in judging others we judge ourselves.
Here I close tonight. It brings me to the real crisis; that is, the final presentation of our lord to Jerusalem. I have endeavoured, though, of course, cursorily, and I feel most imperfectly, to give thus far Matthew's sketch of the Saviour as the Holy Ghost enabled him to execute it. In the next discourse we may hope to have the rest of his gospel.
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Kelly, William. "Commentary on Matthew 10:15". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​wkc/​matthew-10.html. 1860-1890.