Wednesday, May 31st, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Contending for the Faith Contending for the Faith
Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
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". "Contending for the Faith". https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ ctf/ matthew-10.html. 1993-2022.
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Matthew 10". "Contending for the Faith". https://studylight.org/
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And when he had called unto [him] his twelve disciples, he gave them power [against] unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.
And when he had called unto [him] his twelve disciples: The word for "called" (proskaleo—having summoned) literally conveys the idea of confronting another face-to-face (MacArthur, Vol. II 120). Thus, this is an official and deliberate commission.
The twelve whom Jesus calls are not the only ones following Him. Luke 6:13 indicates that it is from a larger group of close associates that Jesus handpicks the twelve. Broadus suggests the process Jesus uses in choosing this special group is methodical and gradual (212). Apparently, Jesus first calls various individuals to be His disciples who eventually return to their secular employment (John 1:35-51). Next, He calls men like Andrew and Simon who permanently associate with Him. These two men have probably traveled with Jesus on at least one previous journey but also have returned to their nets. Not until Matthew 4:18-22 do they realize that Jesus will need them full-time (Fourfold 162). Finally, Jesus selects twelve whom He then trains as "apostles" (Matthew 5:1). After giving them sufficient time to hear His doctrine and see His miracles, Jesus now presses them into detailed service.
he gave them power [against] unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease: Jesus fully equips His apostles for the impending job by giving them power (exousia). This Greek word is from a verb that means "it is lawful," thus referring to rights or powers that are legitimately delegated (MacArthur, Vol. II 127). Luke uses another word (dynamin) that suggests the actual power behind their upcoming miraculous works (9:1). Plummer suggests the Jewish exorcists have neither dynamis nor exousia and make elaborate and painful efforts that commonly fail (Fowler, Vol. II 266). Jesus’ apostles, however, have everything they need. They are not charlatans or magicians like other "miracle workers" of the day but have legitimate authority from God.
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; James [the son] of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.
We know little about many of the men Jesus calls. The gospels give us brief glimpses into their lives, and Acts 1:21-22 indicates they are constantly with Jesus; but beyond Pentecost, little comment is made. Undoubtedly all are characterized by heroic faith and constant service.
These men are unlikely candidates for apostleship. To the intelligentsia of that day, these are "ignorant and unlearned men" (Acts 4:13). But as Foster indicates, "Such hypercriticism needs to be reminded how much more rapidly the apostles apprehended the truth about Jesus than did the college trained scholars, the scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem" (Fowler, Vol. II 258). These apostles might have been uneducated commoners, but with them comes a fresh spirit of sincerity. Unlike the scribes, who maintain false ideas and preconceived notions, these men are willing to accept God’s truth.
These are rugged, hard-working men. While Matthew’s tax collecting job demands mental strength, Peter, Andrew, James, and John are fishermen. They are accustomed to rugged living conditions and strenuous work. These kinds of conditions will soon surround them as they face the task of evangelizing the world.
Jesus’ disciples are a group of men with such varied backgrounds that they can relate to many different types of people—a characteristic that will be useful in going into "all the world." Although these men are from "backwoods" Galilee (Acts 2:7) and are ridiculed for their speech (Matthew 26:73), they will soon stand before kings and rulers to preach. Most importantly, however, these are men who are teachable and hunger for truth, longing for a close relationship with God.
Several things can be learned from looking at the order in which these men are listed (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16; and Acts 1:13; Acts 1:26). First, there is a natural connection between some of these men. Peter and Andrew are brothers as are James and John. Others of these men might be related, but the exact relationship is not stated. Edersheim discusses the interesting issue at length but concludes, "The difficulties connected with tracing the family descent or possible relationship between the Apostles are so great, that we must forego all hope of arriving at any certain conclusion" (Vol. III 521).
There is a more important organizational pattern than familial relationship: each synoptic list may be broken down into three groups consisting of four names. Peter, Phillip, and James head each list respectively. The names under each list are always the same although the order within each category occasionally varies. Broadus again says, "It seems a natural and unavoidable inference that the Twelve were in some sense divided into three companies of four, each having a recognized leader" (213).
The first, Simon, who is called Peter: Matthew begins his list with Peter. In reality, Andrew, Peter’s brother, is the first disciple to be called (John 1:40-42). It is also likely that John also precedes Peter (John 1:35). Thus, Matthew does not arrange his list chronologically. McGarvey says that the word "first" indicates that the list is about to begin (88). Perhaps this is the extent of Matthew’s intention; but if so, his comment seems unnecessary. McGarvey goes on to explain, however, that Matthew probably puts Peter first because of the preeminent position Peter attains. Peter is outspoken and a natural leader. The fact that in every apostolic listing Peter’s name is first and Judas’ name is last supports this theory.
Nevertheless, one should not interpret Peter’s preeminence as "primacy." Peter is not more highly favored by the Lord, nor is he "pope" among the other disciples. Indeed, Jesus says there will be no such hierarchy (Matthew 18:1; Matthew 20:20-28; Matthew 23:11; Mark 9:34; Mark 10:35-45). Lenski says that Matthew is simply naming Peter as "primus inter pares" (first among equals) (389). There is no indication that Peter is inherently more spiritual than any other, and elevating him on a "popish pedestal" is to grossly misunderstand and misapply his role in serving Jesus. Peter demonstrates his own fallibility when he denies Jesus and later acts hypocritically (Matthew 26:31-35; Galatians 1:11-13).
There are other interesting facts that should be observed about Peter, however.
Peter’s brother, Andrew, first introduces him to Jesus in John 1:42. Jesus calls Peter the son of Jonah (that is, bar Jonah, or son of John) in Matthew 16:17. Simon is his Greek name and is probably a contraction for Simeon. To Simon the surname Cephas is given (John 1:42), which in the Aramaic language signifies a rock or stone. In Greek, the word is petros, signifying the same thing. The Latin is petrus and in English, it is Peter. Peter and Andrew both are probably disciples of John at first (John 1:4-41). Both are natives of Bethsaida, a town on the Sea of Galilee (John 1:44). After the resurrection, Peter goes back to fishing until Jesus restores him and "recalls" him (John 21:3-19). Peter’s role in the church is undeniable. He first unlocks (Matthew 16:18-19) the gospel to the Jews (Acts 2) and then later to the Gentiles (Acts 10). The traditions of his later life are very uncertain.
Andrew his brother: Andrew is Peter’s brother (John 1:40). His name in Greek signifies "manly." Many of the facts noted in conjunction with Peter’s parentage, background, occupation, and call also apply to Andrew. Later passages that mention Andrew are John 6:8-9; John 12:20-22; and Mark 13:3.
James [the son] of Zebedee, and John his brother: Many believe James is the older brother of John since he is mentioned first. John, however, plays a more prominent role in scripture. Their father, Zebedee, has a fishing business on the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 4:21) and apparently is a man of some status and wealth. Mark indicates that Zebedee has hired servants (Mark 1:20). Zebedee’s wife also contributes to the support of Jesus and His disciples (Matthew 27:55-56; Luke 8:3). It is likely that the family enjoys some social status, as John is familiarly acquainted at the house of the high priest (John 18:15).
Jesus gives James and John the name "Sons of Thunder" (Boanerges) (Mark 3:17). It is almost certain the unnamed disciple in John 1:35-41 is John, thus making him a former disciple of The Baptizer. John is probably with Jesus during His early ministry (John 2-4) but is specifically called in conjunction with James (Matthew 4:21). James becomes the first martyr for the Lord by being put to death by Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:2). It is to John that we owe the forth gospel, the three epistles, and the Revelation.
Philip: His name is Greek and means "lover of horses." He is an early disciple of John the Baptist and brings Nathaniel to the Lord (John 1:45). He is from Bethsaida (John 1:44). We know little of this man except what is recorded in John 6:5; John 12:21; John 14:8. This man and Philip the evangelist, of whom we read in Acts, are not the same person.
and Bartholomew: Bartholomew means "Bar Tolmai" or "son of Tolmai" and is probably the surname for the Nathaniel of John 1:45. This fact is deduced from the fact that John never mentions the name "Bartholomew" while the synoptic gospels never mention "Nathaniel." Nevertheless, John 21:2 indicates that Nathaniel is one of the twelve, leaving us to equate the two. In the synoptics, Philip seems to be a close associate with Bartholomew while John’s gospel suggests his close associate is Nathaniel (John 1:45). Furthermore, it is not uncommon for Jesus’ apostles to have two names.
Thomas: He is also known as "Didymus" which means "twin" (John 11:16). He is best known by the epitaph "Doubting Thomas," but this is probably undeserved. Broadus says, "He was responding, slow to believe what he ardently desired (as he had been ready to believe the worst, John 11:16) but when convinced, uttering the noblest confession in the Gospels (John 20:28)" (216). Although it is uncertain who Thomas’ twin is, some traditions ascribe to him the name "Eliezar" (Fowler 270).
and Matthew the publican: Identifying himself as the former "tax collector," the writer of this gospel unobtrusively includes himself among the twelve. Obviously, Matthew is no longer a "publican," but, as McGarvey says, the title probably still adheres to him (88). While family connections are sometimes mentioned of the other apostles, Matthew’s name is the only one mentioned in conjunction with an occupation. He is, however, listed as the son of Alphaeus (Mark 2:14). James is also listed as the son of an Alphaeus causing some to conjecture that the two are brothers (Ellicott 136). Fowler disagrees with such a conclusion, claiming they would be listed along with the other pairs if they were brothers (Vol. II 271). McGarvey agrees, saying that "Alphaeus" is a common name (Fourfold 224). See the "Introduction" section of this commentary for more general information on Matthew.
James [the son] of Alphaeus: This name always begins the third group of apostles. It is difficult to determine exactly who he is and what his place is among the others. Although most theories about his identity seem less than conclusive, the following points might help in describing James.
1. He is usually identified as being the same as James the Less (that is, James the Little) of Mark 15:40. The epitaph probably refers to either his age or stature and is used to distinguish him from James, the son of Zebedee.
2. His mother, whom Mark identifies as Mary (15:40), is probably the person who is called "the wife of Clopas" in John 19:25. Clopas seems to be another name for Alphaeus because the Hebrew form may also be pronounced Alphi or Clephi (Arimaean, Chalphai) leading to the New Testament Cleopas, or Clopas (Fourfold 224). If this is the case, then James the Less and Jesus may be cousins. Eusebius quotes Hegesippus indicating that this is the case (Fowler Vol. II 271). Boles suggests the same conclusion because he believes Jesus and James’ mothers are sisters (see Boles on Matthew for a fuller treatment of this theory). One seeking a thorough investigation of James’ identity should consult Harold Fowler’s detailed work (see "Special Study: The Brethren of our Lord," Vol. III 185-211).
and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus: Mark calls this man by his surname alone (3:18). Luke, however, mentions neither of these names but identifies him as "Judas of James" (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13). Fowler discusses this complexity at greater length.
Thaddaeus comes from a Hebrew word (Shad) that refers to a female breast and means "breast child," probably a common colloquialism for the youngest child of the family (MacArthur Vol. II 168). Lebbaus is a derivation from the Hebrew "Leb," meaning heart, and points to warmth and earnestness of character (Ellicott 136).
Simon the Canaanite: This is Hellenized Hebrew for Simon the Zealot. Edershiem points out that the King James Version is mistaken and should read "Cananeans" not "Canaanites." The term actually comes from the Hebrew "qanna," meaning "jealous" or "zealous." Its Greek equivalent is zelotes ("zealot") and is used by Luke (Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13) (see Edershiem, Life Vol. II 237).
Some years after Jesus’ time on the earth, the political party known as the Zealots emerged. Broadus (217) says that they are known for violence and are accustomed to punish without trial, to lynch any Jew who seems to them a traitor or violator of the law, finding sanction in the precedent of Phinehas (Numbers 25:7). Broadus goes on to say such practices eventually lead to abuses and cruelties and that the Zealots play a role in the ruin of the nation. It seems likely the party already exists at this time of Jesus though on a much smaller scale. Thus, it is probable that Simon has once been a member of this party and has thus acquired his surname.
Along with the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes, the Zealots compose the four dominant religious parties of Judah. All are determined to throw off the yoke of Rome, but the Zealots are by far the most violent. MacArthur says they are primarily guerrilla fighters who make surprise attacks on Roman posts and patrols and then escape into the mountains. Josephus calls them "sicarii" (Latin, "daggermen") because of the frequent assassinations (MacArthur, Vol. II 170). The final heroic defenders of Masada from Rome’s seven-month siege in A.D. 72 are Jewish Zealots led by Eleazar.
and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him: No sadder words are attached to a man. This apostle who witnesses the Lord’s miracles, eats with Him, and hears His words is forever "the traitor." His name is synonymous with treachery. MacArthur reminds us that forty verses in the New Testament mention the betrayal of Jesus, and each of them is a reminder of Judas’s incredible sin (Vol. II 173).
His surname "Iscariot" (Ish Kerioth) means "man of Kerioth," a town in the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:15). It is very likely, therefore, that Judas is not from Galilee as were the others—an issue that Broadus speculates might have some emotional impact on His relationship with the eleven. Such speculation is inconclusive because it is possible that Judas’ father, Simon, is an immigrant. Thus the name might have been given as a nickname to distinguish him from any other Judas in the region (Matthew 26:14-16; Matthew 26:21; Mark 14:10; Mark 14:43-45; Luke 22:3-6; Luke 22:47; John 6:71; John 12:4; John 13:2; John 13:18; John 13:21-30; John 18:1-5; and Acts 1:15-20).
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:
These twelve Jesus sent forth: With just a small band of commoners, the Lord begins evangelizing the world. Many of these men are skilled only in menial trades, yet within them, Jesus sees hearts that can be molded and trained. Although some of these men are related to each other, others have little in common except a commitment to the Master. Indeed, one like Simon the Zealot will naturally despise someone like Matthew who has been a tax collector for Rome. Under the Jesus’ leadership, however, these men find perfect harmony.
and commanded them: Jesus gives these men a focused mission. The verb "commanded" (parangello) implies an official duty. Sometimes it is used by military officers in giving a command or in reference to an official court summons. Thus, Jesus’ commission is specific and must not be altered.
Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into [any] city of the Samaritans enter ye not: First Jesus gives the "negatives" of their mission. Lenksi notes that Jesus’ words mean, "Do not go off on a Gentile road and do not go into a Samaritan town" (391). This restriction prohibits them from going north to Syria, south to Samaria, or even east into the largely Gentile Decapolis area. Galilee is their first mission field.
The apostles are limited because of Jesus’ overall plan. Clearly Jesus is not biased against Samaritans because He freely associates with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’ well (John 4). Nevertheless, the time is not right to go into the entire world. At this time His plan calls for the evangelism of Israel. This is a logical decision for several reasons.
1. The Gentiles are recipients of the Law. They have enjoyed 2,500 years of preparation under Moses and the Prophets. Only the Jews have fully-developed messianic expectations. At this point the Gentiles do not have the background to fully appreciate the revelation God is bringing through His Son.
2. The Samaritans are unprepared for this exciting gospel message. To them religion is a mixture of truth and pagan ideas.
3. Jewish prejudice toward all non-Jews makes it impractical at this point to send this newly-trained group into Gentile territory. Fowler remarks that Jesus’ command is good common sense (Vol. II 284). Later, when the disciples are endued with power from on high, the time will be right to teach the Samaritans and Gentiles. These sheep, of another fold, will soon be brought in (John 10:16). But for now Israel must be the first recipients (see Acts 1:8; Acts 8:4-8).
4. John the Baptist has come to the wilderness of Judea preparing the way for the Messiah (3:1). He has brought many to repentance, and now it is time to reap the harvest of both his and the Lord’s efforts. McGarvey says, "It was proper that the laborers be sent only into that part of the harvest which was ready for the sickle" (89).
5. Jesus probably realizes that His disciple’s thinking is too immature for a larger mission. They still have too many prejudices and misconceptions. Just before Pentecost they are still confused about the nature of Jesus’ kingdom (Acts 1:6-8). Even after that great day, prejudices abound as seen when Peter expresses reservations about taking the gospel to Cornelius (Acts 10). Thus, for now, Jesus limits the scope of His students’ work to Israel.
The twelve, at the period of their first trial mission, were not fit to preach the gospel, or to do good works, either among Samaritans or Gentiles. Their hearts were too narrow, their prejudices too strong: there was too much of the Jew, too little of the Christian, in their character. For the catholic work of the apostleship they needed a new divine illumination and a copious baptism with the benignant spirit of love. Suppose these raw evangelists had gone into a Samaritan village, what would have happened? In all probability they would have been drawn into disputes on the religious differences between Samaritans and Jews, in which, of course, they would have lost their temper; so that, instead of seeking the salvation of the people’s among whom they had come, they would rather be in a mood to call down fire from heaving to consume them, as they actually proposed to do at a subsequent period (101).
Fowler also remarks that if the apostles themselves have difficulty accepting and comprehending the gospel message, how much more scandalized and shocked will Jesus’ more distant followers be if they witness the opening of the Kingdom of God to just anybody—even Gentiles and Samaritans! (Vol. II 284). Barclay summarizes by saying that the twelve are not equipped with the background, knowledge, or technique to go beyond Galilee. "A message has little chance of success, if the messenger is ill-equipped to deliver it" (363).
It will take a man like Paul to spread the gospel to the Gentile world. Even he will find it difficult to convince some Jewish Christians that Gentiles are to be admitted to the privileges of the gospel without first becoming Jews.
But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Jesus now returns to the same metaphor as found in chapter 9:36 (see also Jeremiah 50:6; Ezekiel 34:2). He will again use this same figure of speech in Matthew 15:24 as He shows a Gentile woman that Israel is to be the first recipient of His message.
Israel is described as "lost sheep" because they have wandered from God. They have been led astray by ruthless leaders (under-shepherds) and are in dire need of the Good Shepherd.
And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Having limited the apostles’ mission field, Jesus now limits the content of their message. How simple yet pointed is the message: "The kingdom of heaven is at hand."
"As ye go, preach," says Jesus. In other words, they are to preach all along the way. They are not to wait until they reach a certain location before they began to proclaim the coming kingdom. They are to begin in haste.
Their message is the same powerful proclamation that John the Baptist and Jesus have both previously heralded (see 3:2 and 4:17). Although Matthew does not specifically mention repentance, it is obvious from verses 14-15 that it is to be included in their message. Mark specifically mentions repentance in 6:12. Fowler observes that repentance and the reign of God always go together, for it is the rejection of God’s good government that makes man sinners in the first place. "Only repentance and submission to God’s rule can make men whole again" (Vol. II 289).
With this simple declaration, John the Baptizer, Jesus, and now the disciples manifest perfect solidarity. There are not fourteen different messages circulating through the land, but one. What demonstrative proof of genuineness! Fowler notes that Israel can readily see that this ministry is not one of fragmented, chaotic little groups scattered over the country but one of unity (Vol. II 288).
Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.
The mighty miracles the apostles have seen Jesus perform now become their own. Jesus has previously given His disciples power (10:1), but up to this point there is no indication that they have had opportunity to use it. Now they are to exercise solidarity with Him through these signs.
Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: Four types of wonders are mentioned, all of which are previously described by Matthew as being a part of Jesus’ ministry (4:24; 8:2; 9:24, 33). Mark 6:13 indicates that anointing with oil accompanies the healing of the sick—a detail that both Matthew and Luke omit.
Like Jesus, the apostles are given authority over the defiling disease of leprosy (see notes on Matthew 8:1-4). Although there is no record of them raising the dead on this tour, scripture records that they do later (Acts 9:36; Acts 20:9-10). Their authority over Satan’s demons demonstrates both to them and their observers that Jesus is sovereign. Recall that this power particularly excites the seventy (Luke 10:17-20).
freely ye have received, freely give: This expression means "without price." In other words, the apostles are not to charge those whom they heal. They are not to use their miraculous power for personal gain or glory.
Jewish exorcists and healers, common in the first century, often extort tremendous fees for their supposed cures. In desperation, those who are sick might pay almost anything to receive a cure. This seems to be the case with the woman in Mark 5:26. The apostles are not to be materialistically minded. Their mission is spiritual. The miracles are not designed as sideshow or for personal gain but serve as proof that their message is from God. Simon the magician discovers this as he greedily tries to buy the power of the Holy Spirit. Peter rebukes him, saying, "Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money" (Acts 8:20).
Contextually, the phrase "Freely you have received, freely give" has reference to the miracles and signs. Jesus is not forbidding the practice of supporting a preacher. In fact, verse 10 informs us that the worker is worthy of his hire. Such financial support, however, is to based on the value of the preacher’s work rather than his demonstration of miracles. Still, preaching is not simply a worldly "quid pro quo."
Paul further discusses the issue of financial support for preachers in 1 Corinthians 9 and 1 Timothy 5:17-18 as he assures the church that spiritual workers have every right to have their physical needs met. He also prohibits an improper motivation on the preacher’s part, where greed and concern for self take precedent over the gospel. The gospel is not to be treated like merchandise. Even though Paul has the right to support, he does not always take it in order to keep the gospel from being hindered. This is the attitude Jesus purports in this verse.
Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, Nor scrip for [your] journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.
Jesus gives stipulations in the next two verses that seem to go against human nature. He sends out His apostles with their message but little else. He seems to strip them of all but the barest physical necessities before they leave. To the western mind, this restriction seems strange. Most people accumulate extra supplies in preparation for travel. Here, however, Jesus says, "Go as you are!" With faith in God, they are to set forth, realizing that worthy hearers will care for their needs (10:13). The apostles are simple laborers, and their Employer will provide. This is nothing short of a practical application of the Sermon on the Mount (6:25-34).
Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses: They are not to amass great amounts of money or provisions for their trip. Ellicott says that the tense of the word "provide" implies that if they have money, they might take it, but they are not to get it as a condition of their journey. Certainly they are not to delay in order to get it (138). Edersheim says they are to make no immediate provision for their journey beyond the present" (Vol. III 642). Robertson agrees, saying that the phrase is not "do not possess" but is rather "do not acquire" (79). Lenski, however, gives the impression that Jesus forbids all money. He says, "Not even a few coins made of the baser metal" (393).
Several items mentioned here give us insight into the culture of the day. "Purse" might be better translated "girdle" or "money belt." It is common in Jesus’ day for a Jew to wear a sash or leather belt around his waist in order to hold his robe in place. This "belt" also provides a suitable place in which to tuck valuables.
Nor scrip for [your] journey: Jesus next tells them to take no "scrip" (pera). More accurately, this is translated "wallet" and probably refers to a small traveler’s bag carried either on the back or across one shoulder in which food or clothing is stored.
neither two coats: They are not to take "two coats." This has reference to the inner garment or tunic worn by both sexes (see notes on Matthew 5:40). Two such garments might provide a traveler with either a change or extra warmth. Robertson indicates that two coats will be a sign of comparative wealth and must be avoided (309).
neither shoes, nor yet staves: They are to wear only whatever they have on their feet at the time. They are not to take time to provide new or extra footwear for the trip. Neither are they to take two staffs. It is common for mid-eastern travelers to use a walking stick. This staff is helpful in warding off danger and providing sure footing. At times, a second staff is carried over the shoulder on which supplies can be tied. Here, however, Jesus forbids a second. As Mark 6:8 indicates, Jesus is not forbidding a staff. He is simply saying, "Take no extras." This is undoubtedly the light in which Luke 9:3 should be harmonized.
for the workman is worthy of his meat: The last phrase of this verse gives us the logic behind the Jesus’ command. He does not give these instructions because the apostles will have no future needs, nor because to force them to live without the necessities of life. Rather, Jesus wants them to depend both on God’s care and those people who will receive their message. The tenor of scripture is that those who preach the gospel must live of the gospel (see also 1 Corinthians 9:14).
And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence.
And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter: Broadus indicates that most of the people of Jesus’ day live in cities because it is much too dangerous to live alone in the country (222). Thus, the natural and logical place for the apostles to preach is in the city or town, which provides larger audiences and will ensure a safe place to stay.
enquire who in it is worthy: Interestingly, Jesus commands them to enquire about who within the city is worthy. Those of the city itself will be the very ones asked to make a recommendation about who among them is the most spiritual and hospitable. Fowler indicates that such an inquiry will probably be made of the elders who sit in the gate (Genesis 19:1-3). If the elders cannot immediately recommend a family who can provide hospitality, they themselves will, in oriental courtesy, invite them home (Vol. II 299).
Bruce says that Jesus "took for granted…that there would always be found at every place at least one good man with a warm heart, who would welcome the messengers of the kingdom to his house and table for the pure love of God and of the truth. . . It were a wretched hamlet, not to say town, that had not a single worthy person in it. Even wicked Sodom had a Lot within its walls who could entertain angels unawares" (Training 113).
and there abide till ye go thence: Once a suitable dwelling has been found, the disciples are to stay there until they are ready to leave the city. There are two possible reasons for this command. First, the apostles are on a quick and intense mission. They cannot afford to waste time changing lodging and getting reacquainted with their hosts. Second, this command erases any possibility of the apostles going from home to home simply to find better accommodations. Their mission is not designed to gratify their own appetites. Contentment, not comparison, is to be the attitude. In Luke 10:7 Jesus commands the seventy to be satisfied with the food and drink that is set before them. Going from place to place would demonstrate a spirit of fickleness that might hinder the spread of the message.
Fowler humorously says:
Jesus’ advice is a question of emphasis and common sense. Neither banquets nor wide ranging hospitality are wrong; they just get in the way of serious, sustaining work. A different bed every night, ranging form extra hard to lumpy and a new cook every day who is trying to out-do her predecessor in providing the finest feast the visitors ever ate was, is enough to kill any Apostle (Vol. II 301).
And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.
And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: Jesus says to the seventy, "And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace [be] to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again" (Luke 10:5-6).
The Jewish salutation, "Shalom" literally means "Peace." When the apostles have identified a worthy house, they are to offer this greeting, which is no ordinary "hello." In this context, the home that opens its doors to the apostles makes room for God; thus, the apostle’s greeting carries with it the idea of divine blessing (see John 20:19; John 20:26).
In giving this greeting, the apostles show both common courtesy and spiritual intent. Fowler says, "There was no bullying here, no insisting upon special rights to hospitality as Jesus’ messengers, no demanding clergy discounts. He requires them to show the customary regard, following the common rules of social behavior…they are to cultivate a spirit of good will" (Vol. II 302).
but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you: Looks can be deceiving. It might be possible that once the apostles have settled in, their host proves unworthy. Because the apostles’ message makes demands on the householder’s life, the initial oriental hospitality so generously offered could become a point of contention. If such contention occurs, the apostles are to depart and move to accommodations that are more desirable.
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.
The apostles are not to stay where they are unwelcome. Time is too short and their mission too difficult to waste time in conflict with a disgruntled host. Fowler observes that in later missions there will be time for patient labors, but not on this trip. He says, "There is a fundamental distinction between the function of the Apostles who must blaze new, unknown truth from city to city throughout the world, and that of those pastors and teachers who remain in a town to minister patiently, mercifully seeking to convince the unconvinced however long that process takes" (Vol. II 305).
Jesus’ advice is practical. Most likely, even while staying at a particular place, the apostles will leave the house during the day to preach among the townspeople. It will be difficult enough to encounter ridicule during the day without coming home at night to a place where they are unwelcome. They are not to cast their pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6), but are to move on to hearts that are more receptive.
when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet: If rejected, the apostles are to shake the dust from their feet as they leave. In Jesus’ day, roads are dirty and travel is by foot. Feet shod with sandals will often get dusty; hence the need for foot washing when entering a home (Luke 7:44; John 13:4-16).
Here the apostles are literally to shake the dust from their feet. Mark explains that such an action is "as a testimony against them" (6:11). Edersheim says that the practice indicates the ban of the Lord on the house. He goes on to note that in this culture, anything that cleaves to an individual is metaphorically called "dust" as, for example, "the dust of an evil tongue" or "the dust of usury" (Life Vol. III 644). Therefore, to shake off the dust symbolizes that the apostles are free from any obligation. The unbeliever’s fate falls at his own door and city gate (Acts 13:51; Acts 18:6).
MacArthur notes that Jews of this day often shake the dust off their feet after returning from Gentile territory so as not to bring pagan soil into their "holy land." Perhaps the idea is that Jews who reject the gospel are no better than Gentiles (Vol. II 196). One must not take Jesus’ allusion too far, however. While He uses terminology that has cultural implications, Jesus does not hold to the Pharisaic idea that dust literally defiles a man (Matthew 15:18-20).
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).
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: The apostles are already in midst of wolves, but Matthew takes great care to demonstrate the ever-rising crescendo of persecution aimed at Jesus and His men. Jesus is not sending these men out for the first time into (eis) wolves, but rather is sending them out in (en) the midst of wolves.
Why does Jesus place such a dangerous task upon the shoulders of these inexperienced men? Possibly, He is preparing them for future persecution. Things are not going to get better, but will, in fact, grow worse and worse. This is the best time to dispatch these men. To wait for a safer opportunity would mean never sending them out.
Jesus’ candidness is refreshing. He does not promise them ease or a pleasant trip, but rather speaks to them openly about the difficult road ahead. Their path will not be strewn with the red petals of roses, but will be splattered with blood.
The simile the Good Shepherd uses is significant. The picture is common to Jews whose land has long been a grazing ground for flocks. Sheep among wolves presents two main ideas. First, the gentleness of sheep is well known. Likewise, Jesus’ apostles are not to go out with violence while preaching the gospel of peace even when among wicked men. Lenski says the illustration demonstrates that the apostles have lost all the viciousness that is due to sin and wickedness in their lives (398). Second, the stark difference between sheep and wolves illustrates the defenselessness of the apostles. On their own, they stand no chance, but because Jesus has sent them, they are fully equipped and will be successful.
The identity of these wolves is clear. It is not the common people but the religious leaders who pose the greatest threat. Verse 9:36 describes these leaders as the ones who have scattered Israel. There are other "wolves" as well. In this overall section, Jesus warns His apostles about perils they will face in three major areas: the state (10:18), the religious establishment (10:17), and among family (10:21).
be ye therefore wise as serpents: First, the apostles are to be "wise." As Lenski notes, this word means "keen" because "wise" carries too lofty a connotation (399). In addition, the Greek indicates continuous action; thus, the apostles are to be alert at all times.
"Like a serpent," says Jesus. The snake has long been an emblem of wisdom and shrewdness. It finds its place first in scripture in the Garden of Eden and is described as "more cunning than any beast of the field" (Genesis 3:1, NKJV). Ellicott notes that the serpent’s connection to wisdom seems to have entered into the early parables of most Eastern nations (141) such as in the worship of Aesculapius and Hermes. Also, the serpent is often synonymous with evil. In this place, however, the idea is that the apostles are to be as skillful at sensing and avoiding danger as is a snake.
and harmless as doves: "Harmless" might be translated more accurately "sincere, simple, guileless, pure, or innocent." Fowler says the word literally means "unmixed or uncontaminated" (Vol. II 318). In other words, the apostles are to manifest a pure spirit toward all men. They are not to deceive or trick in carrying out their work or in order to avoid the consequences of their work. To illustrate the point, Jesus says they are to be "as doves." In contrast to the serpent, the dove is a symbol of peace, simplicity, and purity.
Wisdom and simplicity are to be the apostles’ anchors. No creatures are more dissimilar than snakes and doves, yet Jesus tells His apostles to combine the characteristics of both. Bruce says:
Amid such dangers two virtues are specially needful—caution and fidelity; the one, that God’s servants may not be cut off prematurely or unnecessarily, the other, that while they live, they may really do God’s word, and fight for the truth. In such times Christ’s disciples must not fear, but be brave and true; and yet, while fearless they must not be foolhardy. These qualities are not easy to combine; for conscientious men are apt to be rash, and prudent men are apt to be unfaithful. Yet the combination is not impossible.…[T]he dove must come before the serpent in our esteem, and in the development of our character. This order is observable in the history of all true disciples. They begin with spotless sincerity; and after being betrayed by a generous enthusiasm into some acts of rashness, they learn betimes the serpent’s virtue. If we invert the order, as too many do, and begin by being prudent and judicious to admiration, the effect will be that the higher virtue will not only be postponed, but sacrificed. The dove will be devoured by the serpent: the cause of truth and righteousness will be betrayed out of a base regard to self-preservation and worldly advantage (Training 116).
But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;
But beware of men: "Beware" literally means "hold your mind away from." "Of men" identifies the "wolves" previously mentioned in verse 16. Jesus’ admonition is practical. The twelve must realize that not all men will be willing to receive their message. In fact, evil men will not only reject the message, but also will readily persecute them. Theirs is a task that requires keen senses and sincerity of heart.
for they will deliver you up to the councils: The councils (eis sunedria) of which Jesus speaks are probably the local courts scattered throughout the land. Some suppose that Jesus is referring to the seventy-one member Great Sanhedrin at Jerusalem. Jesus is probably not referring to the Sanhedrin, however, because the term for councils is in the plural, and the apostles at this point will be traveling from town to town where they might encounter local governments. Later, however, some of the apostles will stand before Israel’s greatest court.
and they will scourge you in their synagogues: In the lower courts, twenty-three judges sit together to try cases. These men are appointed directly by the Great Sanhedrin. Lenski notes that these men can decree scourging with rods as a penalty (400). Before Paul is converted, he takes part in such torture of Christians in the synagogue (Acts 22:19; Acts 26:11). He later feels the lashes himself (2 Corinthians 11:24).
The Mosaic Law stipulates that no more than 40 lashes may be given to an offender, although less might be administered according on the severity of the crime (Deuteronomy 25:3). Broadus says that the Jews are very scrupulous not to exceed forty lashes and generally stop at thirty-nine (225).
Barnes describes the scourging process:
The person who was sentenced to scourging was formerly laid upon the ground, and the blows inflicted on his back in the presence of the judge. In later times the criminal was tied to a low post. The instrument formerly used was a rod. Afterward they employed thongs or lashes attached to the rod. To make the blows severe and more painful they sometimes fastened sharp points of iron or pieces of lead in the thongs. These were called scorpions 1 Kg xii 11 (112).
History records that during these proceedings, someone counts the lashes and someone reads "appropriate" scriptures at various times. Even psalms are sung while the scourging takes place (see MacArthur Vol. II 204 and Broadus 225).
And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.
These words are prophetic and find their fulfillment in persecution administered by the various puppet kings, governors, proconsuls, and procurators appointed by Rome to govern Palestine. Scripture notes that the apostles stand before "governors" like Pilate, Felix, and Festus and "kings" like Agrippa, Herod, and even Caesar (Acts 24:10-27; Acts 25:6 to Acts 26:32; Acts 27:24; Philippians 1:12-13; 2 Timothy 4:17).
for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles: Jesus gives two significant reasons why the apostles will stand before these courts. First, they will be on trial for "Jesus’ sake." By espousing Jesus and His doctrine, they become the focus of Jewish and Gentile persecution. Second, they stand before governors and kings "as a testimony against them." McGarvey is correct when he says that these rulers have Christianity, which they would have willfully overlooked, providentially forced upon their attention (91). Lenski says:
This will be a grand testimony, indeed, greater even than ordinary preaching. For it will compel these high authorities to investigate judicially the whole cause of the gospel, noting all that it contains and all that it does for men. Whether this testimony makes a salutary impression or not, its mere rendering is the will of Jesus; and its saving effect will always be successful in the case of some (400).
A "testimony" is the composite product of one’s life. Such witness might be verbal, as in this case, or silent. Nevertheless, when one espouses Jesus, "testimony" will happen. It will be the natural outward manifestation of an inner change that cannot help but be seen. Those who see Peter and John soon realize that they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). In the same way, Christians’ lives today should evidence Whose servants we are.
But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
But when they deliver you up: Jesus says, "When" not "if they deliver you up." These twelve will definitely suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). If they are going to align themselves with Jesus, they now must acknowledge and come to terms with the fact that the road ahead is rough and long (Matthew 5:10-12).
take no thought: The phrase "take no thought" (me merimnesete) means "do not be anxious." In other words, the apostles should not worry about their legal defense if they do suddenly find themselves in court. They should not to worry about persecution. Their job is to preach. Lenski says, "In his uncertainties the poor prisoner would imagine the trial as taking, perhaps, this turn or that turn, and then he would think as to how he would respond. Despite all his thinking the trial, after all, might take a turn he never thought of" ( 401).
If the Christians begin to take time out of their preaching to plan legal defense, they will do themselves untold psychological damage as well as put their own cause in doubt.…They must spend their time in preaching. Jesus knows that positive proclamation will accomplish more psychologically with the audience than would self-defense (Vol. II 327).
how or what ye shall speak: These simple men from Galilee are not to be intimidated by trials and persecutions. What matters is who He is not who they are. The same Master who commissions them will supply their every need (Luke 22:35).
Even their words will be "superintended." Although it will be their mouths that speak, it will be the Lord that gives the thoughts through the power of the Holy Spirit. Broadus is correct in saying, "This was clearly a promise of special inspiration in the highest sense and degree" (226). Jesus also promises the apostles the "Paraclete" as their ever-abiding comfort (John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:13) and fulfills the promise on Pentecost when the kingdom comes with power (Mark 9:1; Acts 2:4).
for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak: Jesus’ promise to the apostles of inspiration is not limited to the trials before courts. Other scriptures demonstrate that the same inspiration via the Holy Spirit is given to the apostles throughout the apostolic era, until full revelation has been given to the church (1 Corinthians 12; 1 Corinthians 13:8-12; Ephesians 4:11-15).
Fowler summarizes plainly Jesus’ instructions:
Since the Holy Spirit will be speaking through you throughout your ministry, do not be anxious for those few moments during your service to me when you must stand before rulers of synagogues or governors of the Empire. The Spirit who has provided all your power up to that moment will certainly not forsake you then! He will speak through you just as much on that occasion as on any other (Vol. II 331).
For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you: Ultimately all that the apostles say in defense of the truth is from God. Therefore, they are not to worry about their own abilities or skills because it will be God’s power working through them via the Holy Spirit.
And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against [their] parents, and cause them to be put to death.
And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death: McGarvey points out that Jesus does not say that brother shall put brother to death but that he will "deliver him up" (91). Family members will act as informants against those of their own house who are Christians. This information will then lead to the Christian’s arrest and death.
and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against [their] parents, and cause them to be put to death: One cannot imagine a greater contempt of Christianity than what is described here: Christians will be betrayed by their own families. Parents and children will abandon natural affection as they testify against their own family members. How sad indeed for one’s own father or son to rise and give the damning testimony against his Christian relative.
How sad that the situation Jesus describes is real. To break with Jewish tradition is no trivial matter. Many believers who were once Jews now find themselves excommunicated and persecuted by their own families.
Fowler observes that here Jesus puts to the test the old proverb "Blood is thicker than water." Fowler says, "What consummate blindness, what depth of conviction, what partisan bigotry, what inhuman opposition to rupture the dearest human ties and to be willing to hand over one’s own kinsfolk or friends to torture and death" (Vol. II 334).
And ye shall be hated of all [men] for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
And ye shall be hated of all [men]: Jesus wants His apostles to fully understand that persecution against them will not be an occasional, isolated instance, but rather will be widespread and pervasive. The more the apostles proclaim the message, and the more men hear it, the more the apostles will be ridiculed.
for my name’s sake: This is the second time Jesus reminds His apostles that it will be "for His sake" that they will suffer (verse 18). Jesus means more than just His actual name; He means all for which His cause stands. Lenski says, "In dislike and opposition men will turn against everything that really reveals Christ and makes him known" (404).
Fowler outlines the several reasons Christians of the first century were hated for the Lord’s sake (Vol. II 335-336).
1. Christians recognized an authority higher than the state. In the event of a conflict between God and the state, they gave their allegiance to God (Acts 5:29).
2. Christianity was a "religio illicita" because it introduced rites that are unrecognized and unapproved by the state. It was viewed as a secret society and is condemned.
3. Christian morals contradicted the pleasure-minded mentality of the world in general. They were hated because they refused to live like others and because their righteousness magnified others’ sins.
4. Because they had no flashy temples, altars, idols, priesthood, etc., Christians were viewed with suspicion as they offered their lives to an invisible Christ.
5. Christians refused to worship the Emperor, thus making them guilty of high treason.
6. Christians espoused a universal religion irrespective of national barriers. They were therefore viewed as destructive to social systems already in place because they value every man: slave and free.
7. Christians worked miracles. Such acts could be misconstrued as magic and set them up for persecution.
8. Christianity came into conflict with the economy of those whose livelihood came from making idols, selling sacrificial animals, etc. Notice Acts 16:16-24; Acts 19:24-26.
9. Christians’ observance of the Lord’s Supper, and the calling one another "brother and sister" led to rumors of cannibalism and incest. Their secret meetings in times of persecution also fostered many rumors.
But he that endureth to the end shall be saved: To what "end" does Jesus refer? Listed are a few possibilities.
1. Jesus’ second coming at the end of time. If this be the case, then Jesus is looking forward predicatively and speaks to encourage future generations of believers. While this passage undoubtedly contains a secondary application for future citizens of the kingdom, such a reference would hardly address the situation of the apostles Jesus is sending out. It also fails to address the situation of the apostolic church and its link to A.D. 70.
2. The end of life. This fits more readily with the context of the passage (10:21). McGarvey holds this view, saying that it is "persecution to death that is to be endured" (92). Lenski likewise says that this aligns with the preceding thought (405). Revelation 2:10 may also shed light on this passage.
3. The end of the Jewish state. This possibility gains support from other statements by Jesus (see Matthew 24; Mark 13:9-13; Luke 21:12-19; and especially, Matthew 10:23). If this is the case, then Jesus is encouraging His followers to endure through that stage of Jewish persecution that ultimately will end with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (see Matthew 24:22). Notice also the obvious parallels between Matthew 10:22-23; Matthew 24:9-14.
Thus, the "end" to which Jesus refers is difficult to ascertain since good scholarship supports different views. Some even suggest that a specific interpretation is not necessary, claiming that Jesus’ words are intentionally ambiguous to keep His disciples spiritually alert (Fowler, Vol. II 337).
Finally, in determining Jesus’ meaning, the reader should consider the phrase "before the Son of man comes" in verse 23.
23 But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.
But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: Jesus’ advice is practical. When the apostles are rejected in one city, they are not to waste time casting pearls before swine but should move on to hearts that are more receptive.
for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come: The idea is not that the "Son of man" will come before they have been cast out of every city; rather, Jesus is addressing their overall mission of preaching. It seems clear that by this time in His discourse, Jesus has moved from the specific context of Matthew 10:5-6 to a much broader context. Fowler says:
This is rather a time when the Apostles would be evangelizing the nations, Israel included. With regard especially to Israel, says Jesus, you will not have terminated your work in this land during your world evangelization, until your time of opportunity will be brought to an end by my coming (Vol. II 342).
Because Jesus connects the His "coming" to "the cities of Israel," it seems reasonable that He has some national event in mind. Thus, Jesus is not referring to the universal end of time. When did "the coming of the Son of man" occur? To help answer this question, observe the following points.
1. In this context, Jesus connects His coming with the severe persecution the apostles will face. There is little evidence that such intense hardship occurs prior to Pentecost. After Pentecost, however, they are faced with terrible persecution as the church spreads. Thus, the "coming of the Son of Man" probably has reference to something that occurs after Pentecost.
2. Furthermore, if tradition be correct, most of the apostles died before 70 A.D. We may conclude, therefore, that the event to which Jesus refers has some connection to that period between Pentecost and their deaths (between the approximate dates A.D. 30 and 70.).
3. The parallels between the words of Jesus regarding the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish state (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21) and this text seem more than coincidental. It seems reasonable, therefore, to conclude that at least in this context the phrase "coming of the Son of man" has reference to the Jewish War (A.D. 66-70) and the subsequent destruction of Jerusalem.
4. If this is the case, then Jesus’ words regarding Israel’s cities becomes clear. Fowler gives an appropriate summation:
5. Jesus’ urgent demand means that the Apostles had only one generation in which to work freely among the Jews in Palestine, i.e. that forty-year period from Pentecost until the Jewish War. To Jesus, every soul was equally precious, so if one hamlet would not accept the message, perhaps another would. Consequently, every moment was precious. Time was not to be lost, trying to convince those who would not be convinced, when there were others who would be (Vol. II 344; see also Broadus 228 and Bruce 118).
Lenski notes that the event described here is the terrible judgment that permanently deprives the Jews of their land, brings total destruction to Jerusalem, and makes 90,000 slaves (406).
The disciple is not above [his] master, nor the servant above his lord.
Here Jesus shifts focus as He continues to prepare His disciples for the difficult road ahead. Lenski says that this statement is so axiomatic—so self evident as to need no proof (406).
Since the basic truth of the statement is obvious, why does Jesus make it? Possibly, it is because that although the apostles intellectually understand Jesus’ words, emotionally they are unprepared for what lies ahead. Jesus will suffer and die, and they must be willing to do the same.
Ellicott (144) suggests that Jesus’ words are a common proverb of the day (Luke 6:40; John 13:16; John 15:20). Bruce captures the spirit of the verse: "To be evil entreated by the ignorant and violent multitude is hard to bear, but not harder for you than for me, who already, as ye know, have had experience of popular malice at Nazareth, and am destined, as ye know not, to have yet more bitter experience of it at Jerusalem" (Training 118).
It is interesting that Jesus uses two relationships to illustrate His point: the disciple-teacher and the slave-master. Both the disciple and slave are connected to their masters; however, it is the disciple only who chooses such a relationship.
Through these two comparisons, Jesus demonstrates both ways of viewing discipleship. We are His because we choose to become learners of Him. At the same time, we are His because He purchased us, and now we must follow His will because He is our Master.
It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more [shall they call] them of his household?
It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord: In this verse Jesus continues the thought found in verse 24 before switching to the illustration of a "household." He is saying that it is appropriate that the understudy and the slave be identified with their superiors. Jesus does not mean that we will attain His regal and lofty position over all things (Ephesians 1:22). His very language precludes such a conclusion (verse 24); rather, as His possession, we are to be identified with His mission and suffering. The servant of the Lord must not think himself deserving of preferential treatment. If the teacher is scorned, then his students will also be ridiculed. If the master is despised, then his property will we be hated.
If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more [shall they call] them of his household: The "housemaster" (oikodespotan) of this time period was ruler over his entire household. Broadus indicates that such authority is absolute over his servants and family (229). Thus, if the powerful master is ridiculed, how much more those of lower rank who comprise his household?
Jesus’ illustration is real. He has already been charged with being in league with Satan (9:34; see also 12:24; John 7:20; John 8:48), and so the apostles might expect nothing less against their own reputation.
The term "Beelzebub" seems to be one form of the name of Baal, whom the Philistines worshiped at Ekron. Ellicott says that it means "Lord of flies" and probably has reference to its supposed power of averting such plagues common in the East (144; see also Barnes 113). Apparently, the Jews scornfully corrupt the name into "Beelzebul" meaning "god of the dung hill" (filth, sewer, decay, etc.). Barnes says, "The name, thus altered by the Jews by changing a single letter, was given to Satan to express supreme contempt and aversion" (113). By calling Jesus such, the Jews pour out on Him their utmost derision.
Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known: Here Jesus uses another proverb to encourage His apostles. In this Hebrew parallelism, His words seem to look both backward and forward (Mark 4:22; Luke 8:17; Luke 12:2).
"Do not fear them" says Jesus, "for you will not suffer anything that I have not already suffered." "Do not fear," says Jesus" "for the truth will ultimately be revealed, and you must proclaim it even from the housetops." "Do not be afraid because the motives and deeds of evil men will eventually find just reward." "All will be revealed."
There must be in every servant of God the realization that truth will win. In the grand scheme of God’s economy, He is in control. Satan might attack God’s servants and sow impure seed where the good seed has been laid down, but in the end truth will triumph.
Here is another motive to endurance. Disciples often suffer from injustice that is so covered up from the eyes of the world as to appear like justice, and there is nothing more disheartening than this. But Jesus assures them that no hidden or covered up iniquity shall escape exposure and urges that no truth shall be allowed to remain in obscurity through fear of danger in proclaiming it (92).
What I tell you in darkness, [that] speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, [that] preach ye upon the housetops.
What I tell you in darkness, [that] speak ye in light: This verse continues the same thought as verse 26. All things will be revealed; therefore, the apostles are to preach openly the things Jesus tells them. Even amid persecution, the Lord’s disciples must proclaim the gospel openly!
Jesus’ teaching is similar to the Jewish tradition of the day. According to Broadus, the Talmud repeatedly mentions Jewish teachers whispering to someone standing by who then proclaims the message to the listening audience (229). Edersheim also says that it is the custom for Jewish teachers to communicate their deepest and highest doctrine in secret to their disciples (Life, Vol. III 649).
While there is no indication that Jesus literally "whispers" to His disciples, He is using a figure that they will understand. His point: hold nothing of the gospel back. Even the "private" conversations He has with them are to be preached openly (see Mark 10:10). Edersheim says, "The deepest truths concerning His Person, and the announcement of His kingdom and work, were to be fully revealed, and loudly proclaimed" (Life, Vol. III 649).
and what ye hear in the ear, [that] preach ye upon the housetops: Because the roofs of Palestinian houses are flat, such proclamations might be made from them easily. The Talmud gives evidence that religious festivals are often announced from the rooftop by blowing a trumpet. Broadus reminds us that such proclamation is done even today by the Muslims as they call worshipers to prayer from their minarets (229). Lenski says, "The flat Oriental housetops were ideal pulpits from which to shout out news to the crowds standing beneath" (409).
Many of the apostles’ proclamations will occur in the future, during the spread of the church. As yet, Jesus has not revealed many things about Himself to His apostles. Even after His transfiguration, Jesus instructs them not to speak openly until He has been raised from the dead (Matthew 17:9) (see comments on verse 23 regarding the time frame of Jesus’ instruction).
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: The King’s messengers are not to let threats or fear of bodily harm dissuade them from preaching the "good news." Any earthly evil hurled toward them is limited. Satan’s power stops at being able to destroy the body. God is far more powerful and can destroy both body and soul. Lenski says:
Bodily death has caused many to fear and to deny Christ and the gospel. Yet this is the limit of the power of hostile men: they can murder the body but they cannot touch the soul. To lose the body is to lose little; to lose the soul is to lose all (410).
Fowler says, "The frustrated murderers stand helpless before a broken hunk of human clay! Their prey has escaped beyond their grasp: the Christian witness has just been introduced into the presence of His King!" (Vol. II 357).
but rather fear him: Jesus says we should fear God alone. Scripture never commands us to fear the devil. He is to be resisted but not feared (James 4:7). God’s power is superior to Satan; nevertheless, Satan and his evil emissaries must have our greatest respect. Bruce refers back to verse 16 and says that in this case, "the wisdom of the serpent lies in knowing what to fear" (Training, 118).
Bruce further remarks, "Jesus reminds His disciples that there are two kinds of deaths, one caused by the sword, the other by unfaithfulness to duty; and tells them in effect, that while both are evils to be avoided, if possible, yet if a choice must be made the latter death is most to be dreaded" (Training, 118). Fowler (362) comments, "The most cruel persecution is child’s play compared with falling into the hands of the living God!" (Hebrews 10:26-39).
which is able to destroy both soul and body: Here Jesus distinguishes between the soul (psyche) and the body (soma). Death is that which separates the two. Persecutors might destroy the body, but they are powerless over the soul. Jesus reminds us that God has power over both. God will bring the (resurrected) body into judgment as well as the soul (see John 5:24-29; Acts 24:15; and Revelation 20:11-15).
Jesus’ words clearly show that there is existence beyond the grave. The notion that death brings a total end, and that the wicked, therefore, are somehow not punishable beyond the grave, is foreign to the Bible (John 5:28-29). Jesus is not speaking of annihilation but of eternal punishment and total ruin in Gehenna hell (see Luke 16:19-31).
in hell: The term Jesus uses for "hell" is "Gehenna," a Greek transliteration of the Aramaic form of the Hebrew "Ge-Hinnom" (valley of Hinnom). This refers to a ravine just south of Jerusalem that serves as the city’s trash dump. To the Jew it is the ultimate picture of defilement, pain, and suffering. Every time the term is used in the New Testament, Gehenna denotes eternal and divine wrath (see comments on Matthew 5:22). Geerhardus Vos says:
That the valley of Hinnom became the technical designation for the place of final punishment was due to two causes. In the first place the valley had been the seat of the idolatrous worship of Molech, to whom children were immolated by fire (2 Chronicles 28:3; 2 Chronicles 33:6). Secondly, on account of these practices the place was defiled by King Josiah (2 K 23:10), and became in consequence associated in prophecy with the judgment to be visited upon the people (Jeremiah 7:32). The fact, also, that the city’s offal was collected there may have helped to render the name synonymous with extreme defilement (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia 1183).
Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
Are not two sparrows: Having warned His disciples of God’s divine wrath, Jesus now concludes this section (20-31) with a reminder of God’s divine love by returning to a favorite theme: nature.
In Jesus’ day one can purchase two sparrows at the market for a few pennies. People of the East customarily sell these birds to be cooked as a type of appetizer or hors d’oeuvre—a snack from a street vendor.
sold for a farthing: The "farthing" (assarion) is the smallest coin in circulation in Jesus’ day. It is of limited value, being worth only about one-eighteenth of a denarius, which is the average daily wage for a common laborer (Ellicott 146). Broadus indicates that the term comes to mean any insignificant amount of money (230).
and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father: Even these birds, whose insignificance demands that they be sold in pairs, do not go unrecognized by God. In addition, Jesus recognizes their individual worth by saying, "Not one of them." Each is unique and accounted for. Barclay believes the phrase "fall to the ground" probably carries with it the idea of "lighting or hopping" rather than" falling down dead." If such is true, God not only sees each time a bird dies, but He knows each time it hops (389). This is omniscience!
Luke shows the insignificance of these birds by saying, "Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings" (Luke 12:6). Putting the accounts of Matthew and Luke together, we understand that the price of sparrows fluctuates. On some days the shop keeper might cry, "Two sparrows for one thin coin." But on other days he might cry "Bargain! Buy four birds, spend two thin coins, and I’ll throw in an extra bird for free!" Luke says that even the free bird, the one with no distinguishable value at all, is noticed by God.
If God is the God of the fifth sparrow, how much more is He the Father of His children!
But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Jesus mentions the hairs on our heads to further show God’s love and omniscience.
It is estimated that the average head has some 140,000 hairs. But, as Lenski says, "Each hair is not only counted as one but has its own number and is thus individually known and distinguished" (412). So while there is no apparent value in a single strand of hair (because we daily lose many) God still notes such a loss.
The point is obvious: God cares for His own and notes even the tinniest details. Therefore, Jesus’ disciples should not fret over their individual fates as they go forth to preach. God knows them and notes their every need. Whether they lose their hair or their heads in doing God’s will, He will keep them in the palm of His hand.
Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.
Jesus again returns to His previous thought. He tells them to not worry because they are more valuable than many birds. Barclay notes, "Three times in this short passage (verses 26-31) 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" (384).
Like the apostles, we are to go forth with confidence that God is in constant control. He sees, knows, protects, and provides.
Is it impossible to imagine, much less actually meet, the man who was in want, because he had trusted God too much and gave too much to Christ and His work? Even if that man loses every possession he ever owned and actually were wondering where his next meal were coming from, would he consider himself in want, so great is his love for and dependence upon God? (367).
The courage of the Kings’ messenger is founded on the conviction that, whatever happens, he cannot drift beyond the love of God. He knows that his times are forever 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—of whom then shall we be afraid? (390).
Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.
The beauty of this verse is seen only when taken in the context of the preceding verses. Having commissioned His apostles and buoyed them up with confidence, Jesus now continues by noting the rewards in store for those who align themselves with God.
Here is the fifth and final proof that a disciple must go forward undeterred by fear of men. First, any ill treatment we receive is nothing more than Jesus has suffered (verse 25). Second, no opposition can deter the truth from being made known (verse 26). Third, God and not man is to be feared (verse 28). Fourth, if God cares for birds He will care for us (verse 29). And now, Jesus promises to confess those who confess Him.
The time is coming when the disciples will stand before "kings and governors for [Jesus’] name’s sake" (10:18). Their faith will be tested by harsh penalties meted out for acknowledging Him. In this hour of trial, they must not lose heart because the Master anxiously waits to speak their name to the Father as they speak Jesus’ to the world. In addition, at the final judgment Jesus will recognize them as His own (Matthew 25:34; 1 John 2:28; Revelation 22:14). His confession to the Father will approve them as faithful disciples (McGarvey 93).
How does a believer confess Jesus?
1. By acknowledging Jesus as the Son of God and by recognizing His deity (Matthew 16:16; Mark 1:1; Luke 1:30; Luke 1:35; etc.).
2. By outward obedience to His word. Only when we put Jesus’ words into practice are we salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). Robertson says that the word "confess" here carries with it idea of taking an open stand (83) (see Luke 9:26 and John 12:47-50).
3. By telling others of His saving love. Christianity is a lifestyle of evangelism. In the very context of the verse at hand, Jesus is sending forth His apostles (see also Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; and Acts 1:8).
MacArthur aptly points out that confession is not the same as recognition (Vol. II 227). One might recognize truth and even recognize Jesus as the son of God yet never align himself with the Lord. Like the demons of James 2:19, many today recognize and believe in Jesus but never truly confess Him.
Confession means that we affirm and agree with Jesus. MacArthur explains that the Greek word for "confess" (homologeo) literally means "to speak the same thing" (Vol. II 227). Confession demands changing one’s mind to align with Jesus in word and deed. True confession is a life process. It is a willingness to daily endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3) and is a life-long espousal of Jesus’ lordship.
Confession is also genuine and sincere. Fowler notes that confession is not a long string of pretenses with regard to self, but is the consistent admission to allegiance to Jesus (379). Barnes notes that it is not merely in one act that we must confess Jesus, but in every act (115).
See also Romans 10:9-10; 1 Timothy 6:12; and 1 John 4:2 where the same Greek word (homologeo) is used.
But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
In both this verse and verse 31 it is obvious that the Lord is discussing the life-long commitment or denial to His cause. There might be times when we, like Peter, deny Him through fear or weakness. Fortunately, we can obtain forgiveness if we truly repent. If the pattern of our lives is denial, however, Jesus will deny us before the Great Rewarder (Hebrews 11:6).
How does one deny Jesus?
1. By open rebellion to His cause. This is the case with sinners who, after hearing the gospel, refuse to accept His gracious plan. The world is filled with such people today. They know who Jesus is yet choose to wallow in the mire of sin.
2. For Christians, denial might manifest itself in willful disobedience to God’s word. Many believers know right from wrong yet persist in their sin. To do so is to deny Jesus’ sovereignty in our lives. The end of such denial brings the condemnation: "Depart from me, I never knew you."
3. By not accepting those whom Jesus accepts. Fowler points out that we deny the Lord by being prejudiced (379). Race, color, or economic status is unimportant to Jesus; therefore, to deny recognition of others, whom the Lord accepts, is to deny the Lord Himself.
4. By not standing for the truth in the face of persecution. This method obviously fits the context of these verses. Soon the apostles will face the ultimate decision: confess Jesus and die or deny Him and live. But such thinking is indeed the product of human understanding. In God’s scheme, to confess Jesus is to live, but to deny Him is to die. To these apostolic martyrs, the consequences are awesome but the choice is simple—Jesus is Lord!
Hence, Jesus reminds these twelve ambassadors of the kingdom that denial is serious. If they give up, He will be forced to deny them.
Edersheim notes that these two verses (32-33) are an application of the fundamental principle that "nothing is covered that shall not be revealed" (Life, Vol. III 650). Our confession or denial of Jesus in this life will be evidenced when the Father judges us in the next.
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
The general notion is that Jesus Christ comes to bring peace. He is prophesied to be the "Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6), and "peace" is announced by the angels at His birth (Luke 2:14). The apostle Paul reminds the Ephesians that Jesus is their peace because He makes both Jew and Gentile one (Ephesians 2:14). Likewise, in most of his epistles, Paul speaks of the grace and peace that emanates from the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 2:2, Philippians 1:2; etc.).
In this verse, however, Jesus says, "Think not that I am come to send peace on the earth." Contextually, Jesus is not speaking of His role of reconciling sinners to God through His redemptive blood (1 Peter 1:18-19; Romans 5:10) nor of His merging of Jew and Gentile, but rather is demonstrating the conflict between His servants and Satan’s. In verses 16-25 Jesus reminds the twelve that they will suffer persecution for His name’s sake. He continues that same theme here. "If you are going to live for Me," says Jesus, "you must understand that My doctrine will cause hardship, persecution, and division."
Here Jesus corrects any misunderstanding that His disciples might have concerning the messianic reign. Because the Jews are constantly embroiled in bloody conflicts between various politico-religious parties, they long for the peaceful time of the messianic kingdom. Jesus does not come to bring "world peace" but comes to war against the "world" and its sin. Broadus says, "So as to the prophecies; men will beat their swords into plow-shares, only when men ground the arms of their rebellion against God. Till then the enemies of God will be enemies of his people, and often bitter enemies" (232).
Jesus reminds His apostles of the bloody battle that lies ahead by using the figure of "a sword." In ancient days, the sword was the major weapon of battle since hand-to-hand combat brought men in direct contact with one another. Therefore, Jesus calls His men to arms. They are not to physically fight, however, but are to go forth and teach the truth. They are to fight against the powers of Satan (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).
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.
In this verse Jesus describes in detail the effects of the "sword" mentioned in the previous verse. Just as a literal sword divides, so faith in Jesus will divide entire households. The words "set at variance against" (dixazo) literally mean "to cut in two, to rend asunder" (MacArthur 231). Jesus says that the most intimate of kinship will be rent apart because of the believer’s allegiance to Him.
The family disruption Jesus describes is more fully understood in light of Eastern culture. In modern times it is customary for a man to move many hundreds of miles away from his parents, marry, and never be intimately involved in their lives again. In Jesus’ day, however, families often live close to each other and sometimes with one another. Robertson, for example, indicates that the "daughter-in-law" (numphen) of this verse literally has reference to a young bride who might be living with her mother-in-law (84). Lenski adds that it is Oriental custom for a man to bring his wife to live in his father’s house (415).
Thus, if a division occurs over such an emotional matter as religion, the family will be torn in two. Family members might go their separate ways and never speak again. Financial hardship might result for the young couple who is now forced from their parent’s home.
Some conjecture that Jesus refers to His own family. It seems clear that at least some of His own relatives rejected Him during His earthly ministry (John 7:5). Other commentators think that perhaps Zebedee looked unfavorably on his two sons following Jesus (Matthew 4:21). Still others hold that there might have been a rift in Peter’s household (Matthew 9:14). In reality, specific cases have no impact on the truth of this verse. There is likely to be difficulty anywhere people give their lives to Jesus.
Fowler makes the interesting observation that this verse shows the personal character of Jesus’ religion. No longer is the patriarchal concept of religion upheld whereby a whole family, including the children, by virtue of their birth into the family, becomes participants in the religious activities of the paternal head (387). Faith in Jesus demands separation from time-honored traditions and family practices. McGarvey says, "When a man abandons the religion of his ancestors his own kindred feel more keenly than others the shame which the world attaches to the act, and are exasperated against the supposed apostate in a degree proportionate to their nearness to him" (94).
And a man’s foes [shall be] they of his own household.
Nothing separates man from man more than differences of faith. Nevertheless, the Christian must be willing to forsake earthly ties and bind himself to Jesus. It is the Savior who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). McGarvey says, "But if the Jew and the pagan thus held their religions at a higher value than the ties of kindred, much more should the Christian value his religion above these ties" (Fourfold 367).
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
He that loveth father or mother more than me: In Luke Jesus uses a stronger expression, saying one must "hate" his family (14:26). Clearly the point of both passages is that Jesus must come first.
Neither of Jesus’ statements about family suggests that the believer is justified in acting in an un-Christian way toward his persecutors. Jesus is not asking us to diminish our natural affection toward our closest of kin; rather, He is making a contrast. When values collide or when we are faced with a choice of allegiance, Jesus must come first. Our affection for Him must supersede any affection we have for family.
Ellicott explains the spirit of this verse:
Where two affections come into collision, the weaker must give way, and though the man may not and ought not to cease to love, yet he must act as if he hated, disobey—and it may be, desert—those to whom he is bound by natural ties, that he may obey the higher supernatural calling (148).
To love anything more than God is idolatry. We must never allow family or friends to sit on the throne of our hearts. Fowler correctly notes that Christians must begin "living" their deep commitment long before the crucial test of loyalty occurs. By so living, the Christian can "set [relatives and friends’] minds in order psychologically" in relation to us…. When the crisis arises it is too late to begin telling a loved one that our love had a secret reservation all along, i.e. our commitment to the Master" (Vol. II 392). The Christian who espouses any higher lordship than that of Jesus is unfit for the Kingdom (Luke 9:62).
is not worthy of me: Since no one is truly "worthy" of Jesus, what does He mean here? Thayer defines "worthy" as "worthy of one’s fellowship, and of the blessings connected with it" (53). In other words, the one who puts others above the Lord does not deserve to wear His name. Jesus is not speaking of our inherent moral goodness as human beings but of our value in His service as disciples.
And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
Here Jesus continues and intensifies the previous thought. For those who might imagine that rejection from family is the pinnacle of persecution, Jesus says, "Think again! A true follower must not only be willing to suffer for Me, he must be willing to die."
The picture Jesus paints no doubt startles the apostles. While the Jews do not use crucifixion as a means of death, the Romans are experts at it. No one knows this better than the Galileans. Just a few years earlier, a zealot named Judas tried to lead an insurrection against Roman occupation. He soon found his uprising quelled, and in order to teach the people a lesson, the Roman general Quintilius Varus crucified over 2,000 Jews. For a time their crosses literally lined the roads of Galilee. Jesus’ words probably bring this awful scene to mind. Some of the twelve might even have traveled in the shadow of these crosses, and undoubtedly, some of them have stood beside the road to let the condemned pass.
Because it is the custom for the condemned to carry his own cross to the site of execution, Jesus says, "take up his cross." Fowler notes:
How many times had these very men witnessed a straggling line of condemned Galileans shuffling along to their tortured death, bearing their crosses, hurried along by Roman guards? How often had these men watched the death agony of human beings nailed to those wooden trees while their pain, thirst and anger mingled with blood, sweat and flies in the hot Palestinian sun?" (Vol. II 392).
Some believe that Jesus alludes to His own death on Calvary. While this might be the case, it is also clear at this point the twelve do not understand that crucifixion will be the end of Jesus’ ministry. As Ellicott notes, however, they will soon hear their call to "like endurance of ignominy and suffering as they saw their Master Himself carrying His own cross" (148).
Even if some of the apostles are not crucified literally (perhaps Peter alone suffers this death), Jesus’ words are true. For the twelve it is political, religious, and economic suicide to follow the Lord. Even if such persecution is not the case today, all Christians must be crucified to self (Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 2:20).
Fowler makes the observation that Jesus is telling the twelve to pronounce upon themselves a death sentence. He is really saying, "Finish the funeral so you can get on with more important things" (394). How true indeed!
One of the biggest problems in Christian commitment today is that many have not yet said farewell to the past. On one hand believers long to follow the Master unreservedly, but on the other they hover with weeping eyes over the casket—unable to let go of the memories of their past lives. For some Christians the funeral goes on for years, and for others it never ends. Their funerals for self become a life-long affair, perpetually dragging them down, robbing them of spiritual fulfillment, joy, and peace with the Lord.
For a few, the spiritual nightmare is worse. The "corpse" is not yet dead! They have not yet crucified the old man of sin (Romans 6:6). Nails of good intention have been pounded through its hands and feet but not sufficiently enough to hold it to the cross. The bloody body has been stuffed into the coffin of religious pretense, but the head keeps rearing up, reeking terror in the mourner’s heart.
He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
Having instructed His disciples to follow Him even to death, Jesus now continues the same thought. With a play on words, Jesus shows them once again that spiritual life is far more valuable than physical existence.
The word "life" (psyche) has many variations of meaning (see Arndt and Gingrich 893). It can refer to literal life on earth in its external, physical aspects, of the soul as seat and center of the inner life of man in its many and varied aspects or of the soul as seat and center of life that transcends the earthly.
Here the idea seems to be that he who will save his life (physical psyche) by denying Jesus, in reality loses his life (spiritual psyche). Although paradoxical, the thought is similar to that found in verses 32-33. How one responds to persecution directly affects how God views him in judgment.
While the truth of this verse certainly applies to martyrdom, it is not limited to it. Jesus notes in Luke 9:23 that a person should take up his cross "daily" and follow Him. This is impossible if literal martyrdom is required. While one might verbalize a willingness to die for Jesus, the real test of loyalty is in living for Him.
By worldly standards, "real living" means charting a course for Pleasure Island. Little commitment is required, and the fare costs nothing. The ticket is only "one way" but what a trip! Captain "Flesh" is at the helm, his ship "Indulgence" is a beauty, and every leisure is supplied. But Jesus again reminds us in this verse that the storm of God’s judgment is coming. Perhaps to some degree in this life, but certainly in the next, we shall face the consequences of our hedonism. For those who live for self, sure death waits beneath the waves. Only those barks whereupon Jesus is pilot shall find safe passage into the heavenly harbor.
He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.
Notice the intimacy and solidarity between Jesus and His apostles. They are His ambassadors; therefore, rejecting them means rejecting Him and receiving them means receiving Him. This concept is familiar to the Jews, who hold that receiving a person’s envoy or messenger is the same as receiving the person himself (see Matthew 21:37).
Jesus presents a similar thought in John 17:18 where He says, "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world." There is a chain of command: God sends Jesus who, in turn, commissions His apostles. The message we have recorded in scripture, therefore, is from God (Matthew 4:4; 2 Timothy 3:16). Notice also John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:13 for the role of the Holy Spirit in this process.
This verse demonstrates that the hearer is held accountable for the truth regardless of who teaches it. Even if one who is Pharisaical speaks the truth, we must listen (Matthew 23:2-3). Human nature, however, is to show partiality. If a preacher whom we like teaches a message, we tend to accept it immediately and without further study. On the other hand, if a preacher whom we dislike teaches the same message, we tend to discount it merely because of its source. Both practices are equally dangerous. Often those who lead us astray are not those we fear or dislike but those in whom we have blind confidence.
In the modern world of "religious enlightenment" it is fashionable to question the words of the apostles. Seminaries all across the United States turn out "preachers" who no longer believe in the inspiration of scripture or the authenticity of apostolic writ. But let all those who hold such heresy be reminded, "To deny Jesus’ apostles is to deny God" (Mark 9:37; Luke 10:16; John 12:44; John 13:20; John 17:18; John 20:21; and 1 John 4:6).
He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.
The idea presented here is the same as in the previous verse: to accept Jesus’ messengers is to accept Him. Any support coming through acts of kindness toward the gospel messenger will not go unnoticed by God. Barclay summarizes:
Even the prophet must get his breakfast, and have his clothes attended to. Let those who have the often thankless tasks 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 prophets reward than those whose days are filled with committees and whose homes are comfortless (399).
in the name of a prophet: A prophet is one who speaks by divine inspiration; thus, to accept his words is to accept the source of his teaching: God. McGarvey notes that the words, "in the name of a prophet" are a Hebraism for "because he is a prophet" (95). The verse then means that in order to gain a reward, we must accept a true teacher on the basis of his message rather than on the basis of his popularity, status, kinship, ability, etc. (see Broadus 233). Likewise, the same is true for the "righteous man." Since elsewhere Jesus connects the idea of "prophets and righteous men," His words might serve as a Jewish expression that proverbially describes all of those important to God’s Old Testament system (Matthew 13:17; Matthew 23:29-34; Luke 47:51). See also the discussion below.
shall receive…reward: Various opinions exist as to the nature of the "reward" (misthos) of which Jesus speaks. Many commentators believe Jesus is referring to the eternal reward of the messianic kingdom (see Broadus and Ellicott). McGarvey, however, notes that the idea is not synonymous with final salvation, for although one will be rewarded in heaven for all the good he has done on earth, salvation is a product of "grace" and not of reward. McGarvey says, "So then the promise of the text does not imply the salvation of all that receive a prophet, etc., but simply that he shall be rewarded" (95). Lenski takes says of this issue, "This misthos (reward) was always one of pure grace, beyond any merit of their own, as generous as the great Lord God whom they served" (421).
Notice also that Jesus does not define what the reward will be or when and where it will be given. It is possible, therefore, that "reward" is not any one specific reward but has reference to all of God’s grace and the variety of blessings God bestows upon those who seek Him.
And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold [water] only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.
And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones: "Little ones" refers to anyone who is a servant or learner of Jesus. In ancient times the term is often used of a Rabbi’s students. Edersheim says:
These "little ones" were "the children," who were still learning the elements of knowledge, and who would by-and-by grow into "disciples." For, as the Midrash has it: "Where there are no little ones, there are no disciples, and where no disciples, no sages: where no sages, there no elders; where no elders, there no prophets; and where no prophets, there does God not cause His Shekhinah to rest" (Life, III 652).
MacArthur says, "Jesus’ point is that any service done to any of His people in His name amounts to service to Him and will be rewarded. The simplest help given to the simplest disciple will not go unnoticed or unrewarded by God" (235)
a cup of cold [water]: The value of the act is not based on its size and worldly significance, but rather is based upon "the motive and its appreciation by the Lord" (Lenski 423).
verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward: A cup of cold water might not be expensive, but when offered with kindness to a disciple in recognition of his service to Jesus, it brings refreshment both to the thirsty disciple and to the giver, who receives showers of heavenly blessing.