Wednesday, May 31st, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Matthew 10". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ matthew-10.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Matthew 10". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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Matthew 10:1. Called.—We must distinguish three calls, the first to be disciples; the second to serve as Evangelists; and now the third to the Apostolic office. This call to the Apostolate, however, was only preliminary, and limited by the present circumstances and position of the church. The Apostolic office obtained its full proportions after the ascension of our Lord, when the knowledge of the disciples and their testimony was completed, and the Holy Spirit poured out on the day of Pentecost (Lange). Gave them power.—Authority (R.V.). By this time they had been so far instructed and trained by their companionship with Christ that they could be safely intrusted with a mission by themselves; accordingly He, for the first time, gives them power to do deeds of mercy of the same sort as those which He Himself had been doing, as signs of the kingdom of heaven (Gibson). The word (ἐξουσίαν) signifies both “power” and “authority” or “right.” See Luke 9:1. He both qualified and authorised them (Brown). Great is the authority of conferring authority (Bengel). Unclean spirits.—Demons. They were characteristically unclean or impure, revelling in moral impurity (Morison).
Matthew 10:2. Apostles.—The only passage in this Gospel where the word occurs. Means, “sent forth,” “envoys.” The first.—He was first among the Apostles, not placed over the Apostles; in the Apostolate, not above it (Bengel).
Matthew 10:3. Bartholomew.—A family surname—son of Tholomew, Tholmai or Talmai. Probably to be identified with Nathanael. The reasons for this view are given by Rev. A. Carr as follows:
1. St. John, who twice mentions the name of Nathanael never mentions that of Bartholomew.
2. The three Synoptists mention Bartholomew but not Nathanael.
3. Philip is closely connected with Nathanael and also with Bartholomew.
4. Nathanael is mentioned with six other disciples (John 21:2), as if, like them, he belonged to the Twelve. Matthew … James … Lebbæus.—Lebbæus, Thaddæus, Jude the [son] of James, are all names of one and the same person. He was the son in all probability of a James or Jacob, not, as usually translated, brother of James. The name “Lebbæus” = “courageous” from a Hebrew word signifying “heart.” This Jude or Judas must not be confused with Jude or Judas the “brother” of our Lord; nor must James the son of Alphæus be confused with James the brother of our Lord. The “brethren of the Lord” believed not on Him, and could not have been among His Apostles. James and Judas were both common names, and the variety of names seems to have been small at this epoch. According to this theory there are four persons named James:
1. The son of Zebedee.
2. The son of Alphæus.
3. The father of Jude 1:4. “Theless” or rather “the little,” the brother of the Lord; and three named Judas:
1. The brother of the Lord.
2. The Apostle, son of James
3. Iscariot. Matthew or Levi also was son of an Alphæus, but there is no evidence or hint that he was connected with James son of Alphæus (Carr).
Matthew 10:4. Simon the Canaanite.—The Cananæan (R.V.). Luther supposed that the reference of the word is to Cana of Galilee, and hence he renders the expression, Simon of Cana. But if that had been the meaning of the word, it would have been Canaite, not Canaanite. It is, in truth, a Hebrew or Aramaic word, meaning “Zealot,” and hence in Luke 6:15, it is translated into Greek, “Simon called Zelotes.” In Acts 1:13 the expression is simply Simon Zelotes, i.e. Simon the Zealot. The Zealots were a political party among the Jews, who were animated with peculiar zeal for the recovery of Jewish freedom and the maintenance of all the distinctive Jewish institutions. Phinehas was the model after which they sought to mould their character (Numbers 25:6-8). They scrupled not to take, as they had opportunity, the punishment of law-breakers into their own hands; and amid the subsequent wars that are narrated by Josephus, they played a fiery and somewhat conspicuous part (Morison).
Matthew 10:5. Go not, etc.—The emphatic limitation seems, at first sight, at variance with Matthew 8:11 and John 4:35. We must remember, however:
1. That the limitation was confined to the mission on which they were now sent.
2. That it did but recognise a Divine order (Romans 2:9-10).
3. That the disciples themselves were as yet unfitted to enter on a work which required wider thoughts and hopes than they had yet attained to (Plumptre).
Matthew 10:6. Lost sheep.—They were lying “panting for life” (Trapp).
Matthew 10:8. Raise the dead.—This clause is wanting in so many MSS. and ancient versions that Tischendorf and others omit it altogether, as having found its way into this verse from Matthew 11:5. Retained in R.V. Dr. D. Brown says, “It seems very improbable that our Lord imparted at so early a period this highest of all forms of supernatural power.” The first instance in which the dead were raised by Apostolic agency occurs in the Book of Acts (Matthew 9:36, etc.); but the Seventy reported, on their return, that the evil spirits were subject to them (Luke 10:17) (Gerlach).
Matthew 10:9. Brass = copper. The Hebrews were not acquainted with that comparatively modern alloy of copper and zinc which we call brass (Morison). Purses = girdles, the twisted folds of which were, and are, habitually used in the East instead of the “purse” of the West (Plumptre).
Matthew 10:10. Scrip = wallet. A small basket carried on the back, or by a strap hanging from one shoulder, containing the food of the traveller (ibid.). Neither shoes—I.e. nor a change of shoes or sandals. Lightfoot and Macknight, not perceiving that an extra set of these conveniences is referred to, have supposed that plain sandals were allowed, but not the more comfortable and luxurious shoes (see Mark 6:9) (Morison).
Matthew 10:11. Inquire.—I.e. carefully; search out (R.V.). Worthy.—Or “meet” to entertain such messengers; not in point of rank, of course, but of congenial disposition (Brown). Abide.—A change of houses might have the appearance of fastidiousness (Bengel).
Matthew 10:12. Salute it.—Saying “Peace be unto you,” the usual salutation at this day (Carr).
Matthew 10:14. Shake off the dust.—Probably as implying that the city was to be treated as a heathen place, the dust of which was regarded by the Jews as defiling. See Lightfoot (Mansel).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 10:1-15
A new departure.—The end of the last chapter was a kind of preamble to this. It taught us that action should be preceded by prayer. The beginning of this chapter teaches us the converse truth, viz. that prayer should be followed by action. Does the action described tally with the prayer? We believe that it does; and that in this primary mission of the Apostles (for we seem to read at least of one other afterwards, distinguished from this, Luke 22:36, etc.) the “action” taken will be found to correspond throughout to the “prayer” previously recommended; and, further, that this may be seen especially by comparing:
1. The kind of work to which they were called.
2. The kind of hire on which they were enjoined to depend.
I. The special character of their work.—In a broad way this was the work of being fellow-workers with Christ (contrast afterwards 2 Corinthians 5:20). Virtually it was for such workers He had taught His disciples to ask (Matthew 9:36-38); for those who should help Him in tending the many untended “sheep” He beheld; those who should aid Him in reaping and securing the vast “harvest” fields within sight. Pray for more labourers—more harvest labourers—additional “hands” in a word—that was the thing to be asked. That, accordingly, is what the Saviour’s action now aims to provide. Choosing a number of men from amongst those who were already His disciples (Luke 6:13), and who appear to have been of much the same kind of station (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 6:3), and from much the same part of the country (Acts 2:7; Luke 23:6) with Himself, He “sends” them “forth” (Matthew 10:5) to be helps to Himself. In other words, and more particularly, He sends them forth, first, to do the same kind of work as Himself; to teach, e.g. the same truths as had been taught by Himself from the first (cf. Matthew 10:7; Matthew 4:17); and to do this also, through His blessing upon them, in the same spirit of power (Matthew 10:8; Matthew 9:35). Also, remarkably enough, to do it in this “primary” mission in the same limited sphere as Himself (cf. Matthew 10:5-6; Matthew 15:24). Note how seldom, if ever, the Saviour in His ministry went beyond the borders of Israel (see ibid. and Matthew 16:13); even His going “through Samaria” being apparently a thing to be noted (John 4:4). Also, once more, to do this same work in the same unlimited spirit of beneficence with which it was done by Himself (Matthew 10:8 compared with Matthew 9:35; Matthew 4:23-24). In all these particulars we find these “Apostles” to be yet companions now of the Saviour; men “sent forth,” yet “with Him” also (Luke 8:1; Mark 3:14); and just such helpers, therefore, as the juncture required, and as He had taught His disciples to pray for.
II. The special character of their hire.—How were these labourers to be supported? This is taught them in two ways. Negatively, on the one hand. They were not to depend at this time on their own efforts, or exertions, or forethought; not to “provide gold or silver,” or so on; not even to go so far as to have a second “coat” or “staff” in reserve (Matthew 10:9-10). In this, of course, they were very different from what was afterwards true of their body; as when St. Paul, e.g. though having a full right to look for the ministration of others, preferred to supply his necessities by his own exertions and care (2 Thessalonians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 11:9, etc.). In this, therefore, they were the more strikingly like the Saviour Himself at this time, who would not make use of His own power to supply His own needs in the wilderness (Matthew 4:3-4). Positively, on the other hand. What they were to depend upon was, under one aspect, what would come to them from below; from the purely voluntary assistance of those amongst whom they should be called upon to labour (Matthew 10:11). What they were to depend on was, under another aspect, what would be ordered about them above; ordered about them by Him, in fact, whose “workmen” they were (Matthew 10:10), and who fully recognised their claim, as such, for such help; and was exceedingly jealous, also, as to whether they received it or not; and would even notice in His jealousy what was testified on that subject by the very dust of their feet (Matthew 10:12-15). And in this again, therefore, they were to be, as before, like their own Master and Lord; who was supported only, so far as we know, by the voluntary ministrations of others (Luke 8:3); and who applied specially to Himself those words to be found in Matthew 4:4. So it was, as a matter of fact, that Christ was living then in the world. So He appointed, therefore, that there, also, His “fellow-workers” should live.
One sees, in this passage, amongst other things:—
1. The consistency of the Saviour.—The prayers He enjoins, the provisions He makes, the instructions He gives, are all of a piece.
2. The consideration of the Saviour.—He does not set His workmen to begin at the top of the ladder. He does not ask from them at first what, to many among them, will not be too easy at last. Not first apart from Him, but first by His side.
3. The forethought of the Saviour.—He sets them at first to that which will help to qualify them for what has to be done at the last.
4. The authority of the Saviour.—It is partly as a Master, partly as a Prophet, and partly as the Ruler of time that He speaks. Do you, my fellow-workmen, do as I bid you, and you will find God’s providence on your side! So here in prospect. So afterwards in retrospect also. See again Luke 22:35.
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 10:1-8. The seed of the church.—
I. Christ selected men for a specific work.—Not all who followed Him were required to become preachers of the gospel; not all who accepted Him were even required to follow Him personally. On the contrary, he forbade some to do so; some He bade go back to their homes; some He forbade to talk about Him. Twelve men He selected for the special work of preaching His gospel. There is a ground and authority in Christ’s own example for a professionally appointed, life-consecrated, life-devoted ministry.
II. But while He established such an order, organised it, if you will, He organised it as a prophetic, not a priestly order.
III. This order was wholly dependent upon the voluntary subscription of the people for its support.
IV. It was an itinerant ministry.
V. It was to be a philanthropic ministry.—L. Abbott, D.D.
Matthew 10:2-4. The King’s ambassadors.—
I. Note the broad fact that there is an order in the enumeration of the twelve.—The number, of course, has reference to the twelve tribes, and proclaims that the kingdom, of which they were the ministers, is the true Israel. In each group the same Apostle is at the head in all the lists. Clearly the most important come first, and probably the most important in each group heads it. They were brethren, and, in some sense, a pure specimen of a Christian democracy; and yet the men of weight came to the front, and there are degrees among them dependent on their force of goodness and consecration, as well as on natural endowment.
II. Note, too, the smaller groups within the circle.—There were, at all events, two pairs of brothers, who constituted the four chief Apostles. One theory makes a third pair in the persons of James and Judas, or Thaddæus as Matthew calls him. Philip and Bartholomew (i.e. Nathanael) were friends. All the first six were closely connected before their discipleship. Further, Matthew and Luke—in both his lists—give the names in pairs; and Mark, who does not do so, mentions what was, no doubt, the reason for the pairs, that they were originally sent out by twos.
1. Learn the good of companionship in Christian service, which solaces and checks excessive individuality and makes men brave. One and one is more than two, for each man is more than himself by the companionship.
2. Note the allowableness of special friendships among Christian workers, the consecration of friendship, and the beauty of the bonds of kindred and amity when they are heightened and sanctified by yoking us to Christ’s plough.
3. These lists also teach us that Christ’s service separates and dissolves natural ties. One of the twelve was Thomas Didymus, and his name in both languages means “a twin.” Where was his twin brother?
III. Note, again, the variations in the order.—Matthew belongs to the second group, and in his own Gospel stands last in it. The lowest place which he could take he modestly takes. Another little touch of lowliness lies in the fact that he, and he only, calls himself “the publican,” and that in no other instance is the occupation of any of them mentioned. The list in Acts may be taken as giving the final positions of the Apostles; and in it the pairs of brothers in the first group are parted, Peter and James being united, as probably the more active, while John, whose work was “to tarry,” and Andrew, are placed together—the latter being last, as certainly the least important of the four. Then, in the second division, Thomas comes up from the last place, which he occupies in Mark and Luke, and probably would have occupied in Matthew, but for that Apostle’s modesty, and is coupled with Philip, whose companion Nathanael, whom he brought to Jesus, is now put third. So we may learn that our place in Christ’s army is altered by our diligence and faithful use of opportunities. It used to be said that in Napoleon’s time every French soldier carried a field-marshal’s baton in his knapsack. Every Christian soldier has the possibility of high rank, and his advance will injure or hinder none of his fellows.
IV. We may note, too, the lessons of the last pair of names.—Simon, the Zealot, had been a member of that fierce party who were ready to draw the sword against Rome, and in whom hot passion masqueraded as holy zeal. The impure fire had been clarified, and turned into holy enthusiasm, by union with Christ, who alone has power to correct and elevate earthly passion into calm and permanent consecration and ardour. What a contrast he presents to the last name! A strangely assorted couple, these two; the zealot, and the cold-blooded, selfish betrayer, whose stagnant soul has never been moved by any breath of zeal for anything! Contact with Christ hurts where it does not help, and maddens to malignant hatred if it does not soften to adoring love.
V. But perhaps, not the least important lesson to be learned from these names, is that contained in the plain fact that of half of them we never hear again.—None of them, except the three “who seemed to be pillars,” appear to have been of much importance in the work of the church.—A. Maclaren, D.D.
Our Lord’s Apostles.—
1. Laymen, unconnected with the priesthood.
2. Unlearned men, unconnected with traditional philosophy.
3. Plain men, unconnected with the false culture and the pomp of the world.
4. Pious Israelites.
5. Believers in the Messiah.
7. Men of gifts, and that of so diverse a character as to form a kind of contrast, and yet to display their higher unity in Christ.—J. P. Lange, D.D.
Wisdom in the Lord’s choice of Apostles.—In this, as in all other matters, our Lord’s selection was guided by a wisdom above that of the world, and justified by the attainment of the ends in view. There were two reasons why this principle of careful adaptation of means to ends should not have been neglected by our Lord. He bore our nature in all but its sins, and therefore must have followed the general lines of human foresight; and as He lived for our example it is incredible that He should have shown a disregard of natural fitness in the means employed, which it is admitted no living man would be profited or even justified in displaying. If we examine His choice of Apostles from the human point of view, we are disposed to reckon amongst His motives:—
I. His desire for sympathy.—His nature was genial. But were the Twelve whom He actually selected qualified to give Him the required support? When He chose them their faith was of the feeblest; they appeared unable to enter into His plans or understand His lofty motives, and often when He came to them after the fatigue and disappointments of public teaching they would harass His spirit with some trifling contention. What joy could He find in the society of minds so coarsely strung and so little in harmony with His own pure and sensitive heart? At times, indeed, He seems to have felt the jar unbearable, and gladly to have escaped at evening from the jangling voices of the house to find the solace of the Father’s presence amid the hush of the listening stars. Yet, in spite of this incongruity of temper, He could and did find true help in their attendance. He ordained them that they should “be with Him”; He called them not servants but friends; His appreciation of their friendship discovered itself in the pathetic appeal, “Will ye also go away?” and at the end He expressed even gratitude for their sympathy, saying, “Ye are they which have continued with Me in My temptations.” Encouragement ought to flow forth to us from this fact, that common people, poor artisans, rustics of unpolished manners, were not too vulgar company for Him, and that their stumbling faith, their brooding doubts, and grievous sins did not hinder Him from taking them as His daily associates.
II. As a second motive prompting His choice, may be named His design that the Apostles should bear public witness of all they saw and heard whilst remaining with Him.—But, granted the need for witnesses, were the men upon whom the solemn choice fell competent for the discharge of so grave a function? The miracles of Jesus were of a kind which the humblest observer could judge, and perhaps judge even better than his superiors in rank. It becomes us, moreover, to remember that, even if the Twelve were in any measure disqualified by inferior station from bearing trustworthy evidence, they were thereby just as much incapacitated for the concoction of a clever forgery.
III. He called them also to aid Him in His life-work and prosecute it for Him after His departure from the earth.—So brief was His public ministry that, but for their co-operation, He could not have done all the acts of mercy, nor said all the words of wisdom, which were crowded into that eventful time. And if during His sojourn here He needed their services in spreading His doctrine and healing the sick, much more would those services be required when His day of earthly work was ended. In His choice of such men for sympathy, witness, and active work, we cannot fail to see that He calls no man common or unclean, but that, as the sun can turn a chip of glass into a flashing gem, or transfigure the dullest bank of cloud into a Himalaya range, so the least promising materials can in His hands be manipulated to grandest ends.—C. E. B. Reed, M.A.
Matthew 10:2-8. Christ’s choice of Apostles.—As there is no comparison for effectiveness between the single machine which prints so many sheets of paper, or winds so many reels of silk in the hour, and the steam engine which sets and keeps in motion a whole room full of such machines, so the man who seeks to do the largest amount of good will recognise that far higher results may be attained by instructing a few persons of influence who “shall be able to teach others also,” than by working always upon an inert mass, destitute of life and reproductive energy. Hence we find that all the world’s greatest teachers have gathered around them disciples. Socrates frequented the market-place and gymnasia of Athens at their busiest hours, and was ready to talk with anybody and everybody; but there clustered about him a group of pupils and companions, whom he took pains to instruct in the esoteric parts of his system, because to them he looked for its preservation and propagation. Nor was his hope misplaced; for the thoughts of mankind were moulded and stamped in succeeding ages by the rough old Greek, who, through Plato and Aristotle, his intellectual heirs, exercised a widening power through many generations. Peter the Hermit inflaming Europe to the Crusades, Luther waving on the world against priestly craft and tyranny, Loyola the founder of the Society of Jesus, Savonarola at Florence with his penitents, and in England the twin leaders of Methodism—these are examples of religious teachers, not in every case formally organising disciples, but ever setting their followers to work, and through their labours reaching men of all lands and in days long after the watch-fires of their own lives had died down. This same principle was acknowledged by our Saviour to a remarkable degree.—C. E. B. Reed, M.A.
Matthew 10:4. Christ and Judas.—Jesus Himself knew Judas from the beginning, and yet selected him. The choice was in mercy. There was yet time to check the disciple’s evil tendencies, and his character might have developed into strength and nobleness. Never was there such an opportunity as was now given to him! Not only was he placed beneath the influence of Christ’s own character and teaching, but there were, all through that Divine ministry, special appeals, directed against his besetting sin, which might well have sunk into his heart. “A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” “Take heed and beware of covetousness.” “It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye.” Such words as these become most significant and solemn when we think of Judas as listening to them. Jesus uttered them, knowing what was in the heart of His disciple. They were the last appeals of love to a heart where the world and self were becoming supreme.—S. G. Green, D.D.
Matthew 10:5-6. Home first!—
I. Home first is the dictate of a true philanthropy.
II. The law is the dictate of wisdom as well as love.—
1. We have greater facilities for giving the gospel to our neighbours than to foreigners.
2. Our neighbours, when evangelised, would become more effective allies than foreigners. The stronger the forces in the centre, the more powerfully the influence will be felt at the extremities.—D. Thomas, D.D.
Matthew 10:7-10. The work of Christ’s Missionaries.—I. Preaching.—Heralding. A message to deliver.
II. Working.—To disciples miraculous powers were entrusted, only to forcibly illustrate what, with God’s help, our ordinary powers can do. See our work for:
1. Those in suffering; “heal the sick.”
2. In disability; “cleanse the lepers.”
3. In wickedness; “cast out devils.” Learn the value of auxiliaries to missionary labours; medicine and charity open hearts to receive.
III. Giving.—“Freely ye have received, freely give.” Nothing that we have is for keeping.
IV. Trusting.—Let your care be entirely about your work, and not about yourselves. The greatest of all curiosities would be the man who was in want because he gave so much to Christ, and to His cause.—Weekly Pulpit.
Christ’s itinerant preachers.—The pilgrims, lightly attired, carrying in their hearts the treasures of heaven.
I. Outwardly unburdened.
II. Inwardly laden with the greatest riches.—J. P. Lange, D.D.
Matthew 10:7. The kingdom of God with men.—We learn from this passage how needful it is for us all to remember that the kingdom of God exists now in the world. Consider:—
I. What this remembrance means.—God has come forth from His hiding place that we may know Him as a people knows its king, may have communion with Him, and may love Him, as a subject loves his sovereign. Our labour is from henceforth no longer earthly and perishable, it reaches on to heaven.
II. Who are those that most need this reminder?
1. Those who are well satisfied with earth.—Who blindly live by the day, apparently oblivious even to the idea of a kingdom of God.
2. Those who by a spiritualising of earthly things seek to transform the earth itself into the kingdom of heaven.—To them I would say, the kingdom that you strive to raise is here already—no realm of dreams, but a kingdom of glorious reality; break loose from your enchanted world, and believe in the truth which has appeared among us!
3. Those who think their own power sufficient to establish the kingdom of heaven.—R. Rothe.
Matthew 10:8. Receiving to give.—
I. Man, a needy dependent creature.—Never self-sufficient. Looks up to God by a law of his nature.
II. Man receives freely.—Without money and without price, not stintedly. “God upbraids not” for ingratitude, unworthiness, and abuse. A Christian is abundantly blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ.
III. Man receives freely to give freely.—Nature gives freely; the sun and the moon, the sea and soil, flowers and trees give in fulfilling the end of their creation. Man gives voluntarily or involuntarily. Giving is a command of Scripture, and the duty of Christians especially. Give money, time, influence, life, all for Christ. Give freely, you have received freely. “God loves a cheerful giver.” If you would receive, give; if you would live, give (Luke 6:38).—The Study.
Matthew 10:11. “Abide.”—The reason is very obvious to one acquainted with Oriental questions. When a stranger arrives in a village or an encampment, the neighbours, one after another, must invite him to eat with them. There is a strict etiquette about it, involving much ostentation and hypocrisy; and a failure in the due observance of this system of hospitality is violently resented, and often leads to alienation and feuds among neighbours. It also consumes much time, causes unusual distraction of mind, leads to levity, and every way counteracts the success of a spiritual mission. On these accounts the Evangelists were to avoid these feasts; they were sent, not to be honoured and feasted, but to call men to repentance, prepare the way of the Lord, and proclaim that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. They were, therefore, first to seek a becoming habitation to lodge in, and there abide until their work in that city was accomplished.—Thomson’s “Land and Book.”
Fireside preaching.—They went from town to town, receiving hospitality, or rather taking it for themselves, according to custom. The guest in the East has many privileges; he is superior to the master of the house, who has the greatest confidence in him. This fireside preaching is admirably adapted to the propagation of new doctrines. The hidden treasure is communicated, and payment is thus made for what is received; politeness and good feeling lend their aid; the household is touched and converted. Remove Oriental hospitality, and it would be impossible to explain the propagation of Christianity. Jesus, who adhered strongly to good old customs, encouraged His disciples to make no scruple of profiting by this ancient public right, probably already abolished in the great towns where there were hostelries. Once installed in any house, they were to remain there, eating and drinking what was offered them, as long as their mission lasted.—Renan.
Matthew 10:17. Synagogues.—The ecclesiastical and civil elements were so thoroughly inter-blended among the Jews, that “in every synagogue,” says Lightfoot, “there was a civil triumvirate,” or judicatory of three. These magistrates sat in judgment on all cases that required to be treated judicially (Morison).
Matthew 10:23. Till the Son of man be come.—The immediate reference is, probably, to the destruction of Jerusalem.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 10:16-23
Special cautions.—This word “behold” seems to invite us to take a new view of affairs. What is the Saviour really doing in sending forth His Apostles (Matthew 10:5-15)? The Saviour answers for Himself (the “I” is emphatic). “I am sending you forth as sheep among wolves.” Therefore it is that He would have them both “wary” and “guileless.” Never forget that you are exposed to evil. Never be tempted to evil methods of guarding against it. From this principal stem three branches grow out:—
I. Do not trust in mankind.—On the contrary “beware” (Matthew 10:17) even of those (He is speaking to Jews) of your own country and race, who meet in “synagogues” and higher “councils” for the administration of justice. You must expect little justice from them. Rather as far as their powers go (to “scourging” e.g.) they will be exerted against you; and, not satisfied with this, they will invoke against you the more extreme powers of “Gentile” rulers and “kings” (Matthew 10:18). All this, also, will come upon you because of your connection with Me (for My sake); and must be borne with by you, you must remember further, on that very account. For your doing so will enable you to bear “testimony,” that is to say, to do the work you are called to in a most effectual way, viz. in higher quarters, amongst wider numbers, and with greater force than could otherwise be the case. See Acts 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:17; Philippians 1:12-13, etc.
II. Do not trust in yourselves.—To this they might be tempted by the very point named last. If this “testimony” of theirs was so important a thing both to others and themselves, how equally important that they should seek to make it the best in their power. The inference was natural, but not a correct one. Rather, the Saviour says, it is in that exact direction that I would next have you beware. Beware of thinking that the success of your “testimony” depends on yourselves. Beware even of supposing that, in giving it, you will be left to yourselves; or that it will be necessary for you to take long and anxious thought beforehand as to how or what ye shall say. On the contrary the knowledge of this “at the time itself” shall be yours as a gift (Matthew 10:19). For the truth is, that, in cases like these, where it is God’s own providence that has virtually made you ambassadors of Him for the time, the word that ye speak is the word in reality of a far higher than you (Matthew 10:20). Be only anxious, therefore, not to be anxious about what ye shall say (cf. Acts 4:13; Acts 6:10; Acts 7:0 passim).
III. Do not be weary of trusting in Me.—In the circumstances named they might sometimes be tempted to this. Sometimes, e.g., they might find those nearest to them to be the most bitter against them; the “brother” who is “born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17), being the very one to bring adversity on his brother in its most terrible shape (Matthew 10:21). Or the author of life being the one to promote its taking away; or the life bestowed be that which sets itself to take the life of its author away (ibid.). With these, naturally, all sorts of men (Matthew 10:22) might be leagued together against them; all, in fact, being as one in their common opposition to Christ. How great the temptation, therefore, in such circumstances, to one of two things. The temptation to give up one’s profession, and so escape that deluge of hate; or the temptation to give up hope, and battle against the evil no more. Against the first of these temptations the end of Matthew 10:22 seems to speak. He that gives up his profession will not be “saved”; only those who “endure” to the “end.” Against the other the assurance of Matthew 10:23 seems to be directed. Never give up hope, for, in any circumstances, there will always be some means of escape—some city of refuge somewhere in Israel, when all others are closed (2 Peter 2:9; Revelation 3:10). This will be true even until “the Son of man be come.” After that, places of refuge will be wanted no more.
Thus it was that our Saviour taught His disciples to look forward to their work. His words are not bright words in the usual sense of that term. Yet how truly wise, and therefore how truly kind they were may be seen by considering:—
1. The effect they had on the disciples.—First, negatively. They turned no one back. Another cause turned the traitor back. Next, positively. They sent all the rest forward, ready to encounter, equipped to battle with, able to conquer, all He had said. What is the church now, in fact, with all its drawbacks, but a living proof of this truth? It is the result, under God, of their labours, and sorrows, and courage, and perseverance, and faith. Such a result like that we read of in 1 Samuel 17:39-40, proves the wisdom of the original choice.
2. The effect they ought to have on ourselves.—Where can we seek for a surer foundation than in such an initiatory experience as this? Weapons and instruments and buildings of importance to many are often tested at first by being exposed to a greater strain than can ever afterwards come to them in practice. Was it not something thus at first with these Apostles of Christ (1 Corinthians 4:9).
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 10:16, True wisdom.—The properties of this good wisdom are these:
1. To perceive and understand evils and dangers.
2. To do evil unto none, but to pardon and forgive those who offend and injure us.
3. To suspect evils from evil men, especially those who hate us; for Christ Himself would not commit Himself unto the Jews (John 2:24).
4. To keep our own counsel; for it is lawful to conceal some truths. A man is not bound by his own babbling to betray himself; it being the part of a fool to utter all his mind (Proverbs 29:11).
5. To avoid peril, and not to run into the lion’s mouth.
6. To endure patiently and contentedly the evils which lie upon us.
7. So to live that we give no offence, either to the Jew, the Gentile, or the church of God.
8. To profess Christ and religion in sincerity, not show; in truth, not in hypocrisy.—Richard Ward.
True simplicity.—What is this good simplicity that we must labour for? Wherein doth it consist?
1. In a single heart (Acts 2:46).
2. In a tender conscience, and a fear to sin or offend God.
3. In a single tongue.
4. In a boldness unto that which is good.—Ibid.
Serpents and doves.—The Apostles of Christ, when persecuted, were not to attempt to meet force by force of the same description. They could no more fight their enemies than sheep can fight a pack of wolves. Yet the result of the conflict was to be in favour of the “little flock.” The meek endurance of the Apostles and other messengers of Christ was to win a signal victory. By a double reference to the serpents and the doves of Palestine, the Lord indicated to His Apostles the spirit in which they ought to meet hardship and violence, viz., by a blending of qualities, a balancing and harmonising of apparent opposites, which no one attains to without pains and prayer. The servants of Christ should be, on the one hand, wary, but not crafty; on the other, simple, but not simpletons.
I. “Wary as the serpents.”—The illustration must be confined to the one point which is indicated. He who, on another occasion, stigmatised the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees as “serpents” and “the offspring of vipers” was not likely to bid His Apostles be “as serpents.” He spoke of serpent-like prudence evidently with an exclusive reference to the shrewd instinct by which those creatures perceive impending danger and avoid it. His Apostles ought not to offer themselves to injury or martyrdom, or involve themselves needlessly in trouble or danger. They were bound to use discretion, and even astuteness, in avoiding mischief and guarding life and liberty. “Beware of men” is the counsel which immediately follows. It may be supposed that men hardly need exhortation to take care of themselves; but in point of fact men do need such admonition when they are carried away by a strong enthusiasm. It is a familiar incident in war that young soldiers, ardent and burning for distinction, foolishly and unnecessarily expose themselves, and are with difficulty restrained. Something like this appeared in the church of Christ after a generation or two had passed. There arose a fanatical thirst for martyrdom, stimulated by the excessive honour which had come to be paid to the names and relics of the slain confessors of Christ. But this was a departure from the example and teaching of the Saviour Himself and of His Apostles. The general principle is that a servant of Christ should not court reproach, invite trouble, or involve himself in suffering or in danger, if he may honourably and conscientiously avoid it. And by inference we get a similar direction for active service. Zeal is good, but, if not associated with tact and discretion, it may do harm by provoking irritation against the truth and exposing holy things to contempt.
II. “And guileless as the doves.”—No doubt the word “harmless” has an appropriate meaning, for the Apostles were to suffer wrong, not to inflict it. But such is the idea conveyed in the figure of unresisting sheep surrounded by wolves. The characteristic of the dove intended by Christ was evidently meant to balance the knowingness of the serpent. And this is the unwiliness of that bird—the figure of a pure and ingenuous nature. So the Apostles of Christ, while behaving themselves prudently, were to ignore wiles and stratagems, and pursue their ministry with a holy frankness and simplicity. The Lord Jesus is the consummate example to illustrate His own teaching. He was always on His guard, and penetrated all the manœuvres and plots of those who watched and hated Him. He fell into none of their snares; never lost self-possession; never spoke at random; uttered all His words and conducted all His intercourse with infinite discretion. But He formed no counterplots and devised no stratagems. No craft was in His bosom; no guile was in His mouth. Everywhere He showed that the Spirit which rested upon Him had descended in the form of a dove.—D. Fraser, D.D.
Wisdom with simplicity.—I. Let me speak of knowledge and sincerity; light as well as love in social and domestic life.—Christian charity shows itself not in being blind to faults in others, but in graciously bearing with them and with the gentle tact of the loving heart dealing with them. It is the clear-sighted, yet large-hearted, considerate person who is the most reliable friend. It is not the parent who is so stupid as not to see his children as others see them, who gives the highest proofs of parental affection. It is a much stronger evidence of love to bear in the right spirit with faults which fuller acquaintance reveals after marriage than what it was not to be aware of their existence before marriage. It is when the head does its duty that the heart has its opportunity of showing its goodness.
II. Intelligence and rectitude—the wisdom of the serpent and the harmlessness of the dove—or light and love in business.—If a man has received intellectual energy to succeed in business, is he to put his light under a bushel? No; it is his duty to show his wisdom, sagacity, enterprise, by trying to succeed in business. He should be shrewd in his dealings, that is, of nice discernment as the result of careful scrutiny; he should be prudent in his investments, that is, provident, far-seeing, taking as accurate a gauge as possible of the probable course of things in the commercial world, avoiding what is risky, not hasting to be rich, and yet seeking a reasonable and fair return. He should have his wits about him in buying, and his suavity should not fail in selling; in short, he should have common sense, which is a sound judgment in common things all round, and should as far as possible manifest the power that leads to success, such as Abraham, Joseph, and Daniel, and other saints of God have attained in all ages. But then there is the other side—the harmlessness of the dove, integrity, honour, rectitude, unmixedness. There is moral principle to control the desire and the power to succeed.
III. Knowledge and sincerity, light and love in religion.—The two distinct types in the religious world are zeal without knowledge, and knowledge without zeal. The faith that is without intelligence and the intelligence that has lost the robustness and vitality of its faith—we should decline to be driven either to the one extreme or the other.—Jas. Stark.
Matthew 10:23. A precept and a reason for it.—The precept is unusual and the reason ambiguous.
I. The precept is a precept of prudence.—It says, there is a great work before you—a work which requires workmen. The labourers are few at the best, and they must not be made fewer by wanton self-sacrifices. Think of the work, think of the object, think of souls, think of the Saviour; think of these more than of yourselves. Martyrdom itself may be a sublime selfishness, enthusiasm may exaggerate even sacrifice; or, at least, the sacrifice of the life may be nobler, more heroic, more divine than the sacrifice of the death. Each as God wills; but you must interpret the will of God by the exigencies of the work. Flight may be courage, if it be flight for Christ and with Christ.
II. The work of Christ in the world will never be finished till He comes.—Not only will the workmen, one by one, be removed by death—the work itself will be cut short, unfinished, by the advent of Christ. “Ye shall not have finished the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.” Our Lord thus ministers to our necessities by warning us against several mistakes which are apt to spoil and ruin true work. One of these is the demand beforehand for a roundness and completeness of defined duty, which is not often to be found, and which must certainly not be waited for. The life and work, and the Christ-work of which this text tells, are never finished till the Son of man comes.
1. One reason for this lies in the mere sequence of human generations. Births and deaths are incessant. “One generation goeth, and another generation cometh,” but they are both on the stage at once during a large part of the lifetime of earth, and the board is never cleared for a new beginning.
2. Another and a deeper reason lies in the nature of the work. The most real work of all is the intangible, impalpable thing which we call influence. Influence is the thing which Christ looks for, and it is an indefinite, and so an interminable thing.
3. We can see one other reason for this arrangement—the incompleteness of all work that is worth the name; and it is the security thus given for the salubriousness of labour.—C. J. Vaughan, D.D.
Matthew 10:25. Beelzebub.—In the original, Beelzebul, which is probably the true reading in all the places of the New Testament where this name occurs. Two principal explanations have been given of the word as thus written:
1. According to the Hebrew of the Old Testament, the signification is, lord of the dwelling, a term, perhaps, corresponding to that of prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2). To this meaning there may possibly be an allusion in the choice of the expression, the Master of the house; our Lord thus appropriating to Himself, in another sense, as a term of honour, the name which His enemies had given in blasphemy.
2. In later Hebrew, the word Beelzebub means, lord of dung; and is possibly a contemptuous perversion of the name Baalzebub, lord of flies, the god of the Ekronites (2 Kings 1:2). Or, as Lightfoot (on Matthew 12:24) explains, an ignominious name, signifying, lord of idolatry. It is possible, however, that the change may be merely euphonic (Mansel).
Matthew 10:27. What ye hear in the ear.—Lightfoot refers this to a custom in the “Divinity School” of the synagogue (see Matthew 4:23), where the master whispered into the ear of the interpreter, who repeated in a loud voice what he had heard (Carr). Upon the housetops.—The flat roofs of which were often actually used by criers and heralds for their announcements (Plumptre).
Matthew 10:28. Fear Him.—Lange in his “Life of Jesus” applies this with Stier, to Satan, but in his Commentary he acknowledges himself to have been in error and applies it to God (see James 4:12). Hell.—Greek, Gehenna.
Matthew 10:29. Sparrows.—Any small kind of bird. Farthing.—See note on Matthew 5:26.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 10:24-33
Further cautions.—All the “cautions” of this passage seem to be alike in being all associated with courage. “Fear not” (Matthew 10:26). “Fear not” (Matthew 10:28). “Fear not” (Matthew 10:31). They seem to be distinguished from each other in being connected partly with passive courage (Matthew 10:24-26), and partly with aggressive courage (Matthew 10:27-32).
I. Passive courage or fortitude.—Let there be strength to bear what has to be borne in the shape of ill-will; and that especially (here) in that form of it in which it is usually manifested the first. Ill “words” are usually the first fruits of ill “will.” People proceed from words to blows; not the opposite way—as a rule. Christ’s Apostles must begin with bearing the first. They must bear the less as well as the greater. Let those who hate you say of you whatever they will. Two reasons for this kind of courage are virtually given. One is, because, in manifesting it, they are only sharing the lot of their Master. Those who are enemies of Him and of His servants have already said the worst of Him in their power. Professing to come as God’s Son they have declared Him to be in reality the worst of God’s foes. “They have called the Master of the house Beelzebub” (Matthew 10:25). Little is the wonder, therefore, if they say the same of His household. Of the two things, indeed, it is not so bad as to say it of Him! The other reason is because this kind of trial can only last for a time. The future, in their case, was bound to much more than compensate for the injustice of the present. The day was coming which would bring to light everything which was at present concealed (Matthew 10:26). In that day, therefore, so far from being found really connected with the evil one, the true connection of such maligned ones with the Source of all good would shine forth as the light (Matthew 13:43; Romans 8:19, etc.). That being so, leave the glories of eternity to reply to the slanders of time. Why seek to answer that which before long will for ever silence itself?
II. Aggressive courage.—The Apostles of Christ were called upon to do more than endure. They were bound sometimes to speak, and that, too, with boldness (Ephesians 6:19). This thought seems to account for the transition from Matthew 10:26 to Matthew 10:27. That day will “declare” all things. Do you, who know of this, do the same in your measure. Turn “darkness” into “light”; turn “secrecy” into “publicity”; fill the whole place with your words (cf. Jeremiah 36:2-6; Acts 5:20, etc.). A bold thing indeed to do with such a message as theirs—a message which had already been spoken of as causing them to be “hated of all” (Matthew 10:22). The encouragements to make them equal to this were of three principal kinds. There was the consideration, first, of the limitations of time. Whatever the enmity aroused by such boldness, its operations were necessarily confined to this world. If it did its worst it would leave untouched that which God alone could either preserve or destroy, and which they knew in consequence to be most precious of all (Matthew 10:28). In doing its worst to them, in short, that kind of enmity may be said to destroy itself as it were; like a bow which, in shooting its arrow, has broken itself. There is the consideration, next, of the limitations of Providence. Even so far as this world is concerned no human enmity can do more than God allows it to do. Moreover, His care in this direction extends to preserving things far beneath them. Creatures so worthless in men’s eyes that they part with them sometimes for nothing (cf. Matthew 10:29 with Luke 12:6) are far from despicable in His sight. “Not one, even of such, falls to the ground without Him” (Matthew 10:29). Neither is one hair of the head of any one of His servants left unreckoned by Him. Well, therefore, may they leave that which is vital to them in those all-fatherly hands (cf. 1 Peter 4:19). There is the consideration, in the last place, of the order of grace. After all, it is only those who do thus practically confess Him before men whom He at the last will so confess before all (Matthew 10:32-33). This is not only true of the end; it is true of all the times we pass through. “Those who eye a Providence,” says an old writer, “will always find a Providence to eye” (see also 2 Chronicles 16:9). In other words, the more entirely we leave ourselves in the hands of God’s providence, the more of a providence we shall find it to be.
On the whole, therefore, we see of this “courage” in service, that it is the most prudent method as well. Leave the words of the wicked to say what they will. Leave the hands of the wicked to do as they will. God can restrain them better than you can from going too far. And God will do so, moreover, and that openly, if you openly confess Him before them. This is the secret, and this is the reward, of being bold for His name.
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 10:24-25. Likeness to Christ.—I Likeness to the Teacher in wisdom is the disciple’s perfection.—“The disciple is not above,” etc. “It is enough for the disciple,” etc. If that be a true principle—that the best that can happen to the scholar is to tread in his teacher’s footsteps, to see with his eyes, to absorb his wisdom, to learn his truth, we may apply it in two opposite directions.
1. It teaches us the limitations, and the misery, and the folly of taking men for our masters.
2. It teaches us the large hope, the blessing, the freedom and joy of having Christ for our Master.
II. Likeness to the Master in life is the law of a disciple’s conduct.—There is no discipleship worth naming which does not, at least, attempt that likeness.
III. Likeness to the Master in relation to the world is the fate that the disciple must put up with.—If we are like Jesus Christ in conduct, and if we have received His word as the truth upon which we repose, depend upon it, in our measure and in varying fashions, we shall have to bear the same kind of treatment from the world.—A. Maclaren, D.D.
Matthew 10:27.Revealed and, proclaimed,—I. The matter of preachers’ sermons should be nothing but truth revealed by Christ.
2. Christ doth not reveal anything to His servants, whether ordinarily, as by reading and meditation, or extraordinarily, by His Spirit, but it is able to abide the light, and the trial of all who shall hear of it, and is worthy to be avowed openly.—David Dickson.
Matthew 10:28. Is death the end?—There is an essential difference between the soul and the body. Death is the end of the physical organism, but it is not the end of man. It is not to science that a man must go for proof of the life to come. When science has said her last word, the reasons on which we chiefly rely are yet to be heard.
I. One of the familiar indications that the soul and the body are not one, but twain, is seen in the utter disproportion which often exists between the physical and the mental powers, and especially in the fact that in many cases the ravages of disease in the body, and the near approach of death itself, seem to despoil the soul of none of its vigour. The late Samuel Bowles—one of the most brilliant men I ever knew—performed much the largest and best part of his life-work after his health was shattered. Mrs. Browning seems to have gained in intellectual power as her bodily strength waned. This is not the rule; but if in one instance the soul seems undisturbed by the sufferings of the body, that one instance strongly indicates that the soul may continue to live after the body has crumbled into dust.
II. The fragmentary character of human experience, without this lengthening of the term of life, is another indication that life will be lengthened. There is no sign of a term in the growth of the human soul. Is the prospect of indefinite growth in knowledge which opens up so grandly before every thoughtful human being an illusion? Are these powers of knowing and of loving, that in the greatest and the best men seem to be only just beginning to unfold when death comes, never to reach perfection? If there be no future for men, every man’s life is but the introduction to a book that never will be written, the prologue to a drama that never will be acted. Our faith in the wholeness and unity of nature discourages such a supposition.
III. The moral imperative within us seems to ask for its realisation a longer term than human life. The stringency and vigour of its injunctions seem cruel if there be not time for compensations hereafter. Its one word is, “Wait! put the present pleasure by; wait for the enduring good.” If there be no future, this most august voice is the voice of a mocker.
IV. The underlying sentiment of justice within us demands another life, where the miscreants that here go unwhipt shall get their dues; where the troubled and heavy laden shall find comfort and rest.
V. All the strongest reasons for this faith are summed up in the belief that God exists, and that He is good; and that the universe is the expression of His righteous will. For if God is, then, in the largest and fullest sense, what ought to be will be.—Washington Ghulden, D.D.
Matthew 10:29-31. The providential care of God.—
I. That in the estimation of the great God some of His creatures are more valuable than others.—Men are more valuable than birds.
II. That over those of His creatures which are the lowest in the scale of value, He exercises a benevolent providence.
III. That the fact that He exercises a benevolent providence over the least valuable is an assurance that He does so over the most valuable.—D. Thomas, D.D.
Matthew 10:32-39. The King’s charge to His ambassadors.—
I. The duty and blessedness of confessing Christ.—The “therefore” is significant. It attaches the promise which follows to the immediately preceding thoughts of a watchful, fatherly care, extending like a great invisible hand over the true disciple. Nothing can come between Christ’s servant and his crown. The river of the confessor’s life may plunge underground and be lost amid persecutions, but it will emerge again into the better sunshine on the other side of the mountains. The confession which is to be thus rewarded, like the denial opposed to it, is, of course, not merely a single utterance of the lip. Judas Iscariot confessed Christ and Peter denied Him. But it is the habitual acknowledgment by lip and life, un-withdrawn to the end.
II. The vision of the discord which follows the coming of the King of peace.—The ultimate purpose is peace; but an immediate purpose is conflict, as the only road to peace. Christ is first King of righteousness, and after that also King of peace. But if His kingdom be righteousness, purity, love, then unrighteousness, filthiness, and selfishness will fight against it for their lives. The conflict ranges the dearest in opposite ranks. As when a substance is brought into contact with some chemical compound which has greater affinity for one of its elements than the other element has, the old combination is dissolved, and a new and more stable one is formed, so Christianity analyses and destroys in order to synthesis and construction. Perhaps it is fanciful to observe that the persons “set at variance” are all junior members of families, as if the young would be more likely to flock to the new light. However that may be, the separation is mutual, but the hate is all on one side.
III. Our Lord passes from the warnings of discord and hate to the danger of the opposite, viz., undue love.—He claims absolute supremacy in our hearts. He goes still farther and claims the surrender, not only of affections, but of self and life to Him. Self-denial for Christ’s sake is the badge of all our tribe. Observe that word “take.” The cross must be willingly and by ourselves assumed. No other can lay it on our shoulders. Observe that other word “his.” Each man has his own special form in which self-denial is needful for him. Matthew 10:39 contains a lesson, not only for times of persecution; the words go down into the very depths of Christian experience. Death is the gate of life. To die to self is the path to living in Christ.—A. Maclaren, D.D.
Matthew 10:32-33. Confessing Christ.—Notice:—
I. Whom are we to confess?—“Me,” says Christ. Not a denomination or a creed, but a Person. He must be confessed in His offices, sufferings, His ministers, His people. “He that receiveth you receiveth Me.” “Forasmuch as ye have done it,” etc.
II. Before whom are we to confess Christ?—“Before men.” Good and bad, poor and rich, ignorant and learned.
III. How are we to confess Christ?—
1. Verbally.—We should never blush to own that we,
(1) need Him;
(2) trust Him;
(3) love Him.
2. Practically.—Actions speak louder than words. Christ must be confessed in sanctuary, shop, family.
3. Passively.—The Christian in poverty, affliction, bereavement may confess Christ.
IV. What hinders us from confessing Christ?—
1. Fear of being reviled (Matthew 10:25).
2. Fear of men’s hatred (Matthew 10:21-22).
3. Fear of persecution and loss. The parents of the blind man had this fear (John 9:22).
V. What are the advantages of confessing Christ?—
1. An approving conscience (Romans 10:9-10).
2. Open deliverance. The three Hebrew young men. Peter.
3. Open acknowledgment and approval (Revelation 3:5).
VI. What will be the consequences of not confessing Christ?—
1. A guilty conscience.
2. A useless life.
3. A miserable death.
4. A dark eternity.—B.D.
Matthew 10:38. Taketh not his cross.—By the Roman custom criminals were compelled to bear the cross to the place of execution. The Galilæans would know too well what was meant by “taking the cross.” Many hundreds had paid that forfeiture for rebellion that had not prospered, under Judas the Gaulonite and others (Carr).
Matthew 10:39. He that findeth his life.—The word is the same as that translated “soul” (i.e. that by which man lives in the lower or the higher sense of life) in Matthew 10:28. The point of the maxim lies in the contrast between the two senses. To gain the lower now is to lose the higher hereafter, and conversely, to lose the lower for the sake of Christ (i.e. to die a martyr’s death in confessing Him) is to gain the higher.—Plumptre.
Matthew 10:41. In the name of a prophet … righteous man.—I.e. for the sake of that which the name connotes—the prophet’s work as a messenger of God, the righteousness of which the living righteous man is the concrete example (ibid).
Matthew 10:42. One of these little ones.—The reference may be to the disciples. But there appears to be a gradation, in the lowest step of which are “these little ones.” Possibly some children standing near were then addressed, or, perhaps, some converts less instructed than the Apostles had gathered round. “The little ones” then would mean the young disciples, who are babes in Christ. The lowest in the scale—Apostles, prophets, the saints, the young disciples.—Carr.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 10:34-42
Final counsels.—The Saviour’s object in these final counsels seems to be that of enforcing decision. He would have His Apostles go forth on this their primary mission with their minds fully made up. With this object He brings before them, in closing, some fuller information. First, respecting the nature of the case, and, secondly, respecting the nature of the issue.
I. The nature of the case.—It was one requiring decision. It was so on account of the vital nature of that which had to be taught. The message they had to carry to men in His name, or as it were to “cast” down (Matthew 10:34, R. V.) in their sight, was not one which would leave the feelings of men as they had previously been. It would not lie there, like a dead thing, having no effect on their thoughts. Rather, it would excite those thoughts in no common degree, and arouse men wholly out of any such unthinking peace as they may have previously known. Also, the feelings which would be aroused by it would not be all on one side. Rather, again, they would be on exactly opposite sides from the very nature of the case. They would be on more than opposite—they would be on conflicting sides—and on such as bring about strife. Not peace, in a word, but a “sword” (Matthew 10:34). That would be the first result of promulgating His word. Moreover, this will be so even in those cases where we should otherwise have looked for it least. No natural tie, no tie of affinity (Matthew 10:35) can resist the separating force of this “sword.” Nor will even home itself—the very place of peace—be always undisturbed by its power (Matthew 10:36). That is the essence of the story to be told. It is such as will divide those who hear it amongst themselves, wherever they are. Also, it will do so in a manner which does not admit of either compromise or half measures. One of two things only can be done with the truth it declares. That truth, in effect, is nothing less than the truth about Christ. “What think ye of Christ?” that is the question which it presents to men’s minds. The answer, therefore, to such a question can be of only two sorts. It must put Christ first, or it puts Him nowhere, according to His view of the case. This is true, moreover, no matter to whom else the first place may be given. “He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37)—is not considered by Me to be “loving” Me as he ought. No one, in short, is considered by Me as doing so who is not willing for My sake to bear any “cross” of this kind (Matthew 10:38). That is how I expect men to be on My side. Such a proclamation, as it were, at once sifts men into two opposite camps. In the one camp are all those who deal in any way falsely with such a requirement. In the other camp are only those who accept it in full. I expect My Apostles to “lead the way” to this last.
II. The nature of the issue.—This is not such as may be supposed. This is not so doubtful as may sometimes appear. On the contrary, looking on things as a whole, and taking “life,” as it comes to us, as a thing in which good and evil are greatly mingled together, this fulness of decision on Christ’s side is far the best side in this “war.” So much so, indeed, that in no other way, can “life” really be to us what it should. All other seeming gains amount to deadliest loss in the end. All apparent losses in this way are but the price paid for “finding” all in the end. “He that findeth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:39). Let nothing, therefore, be allowed to shake you as to the truth of that paradox. That alone should satisfy you as to the wisdom of being heartily on My side. At the same time, that statement, with all its preciousness, does not stand by itself. It is not only true, as it were, that, on a general balance, things will come out as I say, and that the good to be hoped for will be found in the end to more than compensate for the evil to be borne; it is true also, meanwhile, and in every particular, when things are judged as they should be, that it will be best to do as I say. For there is a blessing, in fact, about your very mission which is found in practice to make a blessing of every action that is in accordance therewith. A blessing on yourselves and those who receive you (Matthew 10:41), a blessing on the least as well as on the greatest (Matthew 10:41-42); a blessing, in short, on everything that, in any way is a ministration of blessing in turn. Even a cup of cold water given to one of whom nothing more can be said than that he is one of the “little ones” but one of the true ones in the kingdom of God, is far more than it seems. It is something done with a worthy object in view. It is something done unto Christ (Matthew 25:40), and, therefore, not without note (Hebrews 6:10). It is something which it is Godlike and Christlike to do; something, therefore, which in itself and in its very essence, it is a signal blessing to do. Happy is the man so devoted to Christ that His life is a life of such deeds. Every step in his life is in itself a justification of his choice.
In speaking thus to His chosen Apostles Christ is also speaking to us. This is true whether we consider:—
1. The points of resemblance between us and them.—In their measure all true disciples are in a similar position with these. They have the same Master above them, the same deposit entrusted to them, the same duty in regard to it, the same choice and the same difficulties before them, the same assurances to support them. As did these first, therefore, so must we in our turn. All the arguments then drawn from the nature of the case may be drawn from it still. There is but one choice, and one way of choosing, in the great strife betwixt Christ and the world. All for Him who does all for us—is still the badge of His church.
2. The points of difference.—When the Apostles thus went forth to their work with their lives in their hands, they went forth to a forlorn hope in the eyes of the world. We, in our day, and in this respect, are not called to the same. We have the benefit of both their example and experience, and that of generations like them till now. All the greater, therefore, would be our disgrace if we were to hang back. Every disciple is not expected to lead like these first; but no disciple can expect to be called a disciple if he does not follow when led.
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 10:34-36. Christianity producing social divisions.—
I. Christ’s doctrines create divisions amongst men even where there is the closest physical relationship.—Christianity is simply the occasion of their development.
II. The feelings which these divisions create are generally, on the part of the rejecter, most malignant.—Matthew Henry justly says, “The most violent feuds have ever been those that have arisen from difference in religion. No enmity like that of the persecutors; no resolution like that of the persecuted.”
III. As the result of all this, the promoters of Christianity are to expect opposition, and even persecution.—D. Thomas, D.D.
Matthew 10:34. Not peace but a sword.—The influence of Jesus was not of a peaceful order. It was a reforming, a dividing, a disturbing, a dissolving, a revolutionary influence. It was a pungent, painful, sacrificial influence. The history of Christianity is not a peaceful history. This fact is brought forward sometimes as a proof that Christianity has been a failure.
I. But now, before we admit the validity of this objection, let us just consider this prior question. Is the assumption upon which it is based a valid one? Is peace the first aim of Christianity? Is it the main object of the Christian religion to give you an undisturbed and placid life? It is an ignoble view of life which regards its highest good as a placid and undisturbed existence. To live is to endure and overcome, to aspire and to attain. And the man who settles down upon his lees and thinks that religion has done its work with him, because, forsooth, he is at peace, is very far from knowing the true intent either of religion or of life.
II. But lest I should seem to overstate the truth, or perhaps to indulge in wanton paradox, let me discriminate between two kinds of peace, or, rather, let me define more closely the nature of that “peace” which alone is worthy of the name. What is peace? Is it mere quiescence? Is it a perfectly inactive existence? Do you call a stone which lies upon the path or the mere puddle by the roadside “peaceful”? We feel at once that the term is ludicrously inapplicable to such cases, and that there is something lying hidden in it which may, perhaps, after all, reconcile this hard saying of our Lord’s with a just conception of religious peace.
1. The true idea of “peace” involves the idea of “life.” There is no peace where there is no life. In order to be peaceful there must be a possibility of the opposite.
2. Let me illustrate this in some of the main divisions of our nature.
(1) The quickening of thought. Is peace (i.e. quiescence) the best thing for a man’s intellectual life? Certainly not. It is not the best thing in the world for a man to have no doubts, to ask no questions, to be free from all speculation and all wonder. It is not the best thing for a man to receive his opinions ready-made and to reiterate them unthinkingly till he comes to look upon them as infallible.
(2) We may illustrate the truth by an appeal to the emotions. Is the happier man he who has no sympathy or he who has much? Is it better to be hardhearted or tender-hearted?
(3) As it is in our intellectual life, and as it is in our emotional life so is it in our moral life. Let your memory go back to some one moral decision of your life, some one occasion when you sacrificed advantage to principle. The pain of renunciation may have been sharp; it may have been, in very truth, a “sword” to which you bared your breast. But would you have it unmade now? Would you recall the act even if you could? Was not the glow of moral success worth all the self-denial? The truest peace is compatible with life, and peace of this order is the gift of religion. There are two ways in which you may set to work in order to produce harmony in the individual or social life—you may work from without inwards or from within outwards. The politician works from without inwards—he has to deal with the outward conditions of life. This, of course, is very good and necessary, but the object and method of the politician are quite distinct from those of religion. Religion, too, seeks to produce peace—not necessarily, however, in the visible sphere of human life. Religion, in dealing with our disordered life, regards the causes rather than the symptoms of disease, and in dealing with the causes may sometimes even aggravate the symptoms, bringing strange trouble and conflict where it enters.—H. Rix, B.A.
Elements of Christ’s unpopularity.—We are to consider what were some of the causes of the hostility which was aroused against Jesus Christ:—
I. Christ set Himself against the established order.—He was, in the true sense of the term, a revolutionary preacher. The established order was one of hierarchy in church and aristocracy in state. There were few rich, and many poor. There were few learned, and many ignorant. He set Himself to reverse this condition. He set Himself to make the many rich, to make the many wise. And the few who were at the top of society did not like it—they never have liked it, and it is doubtful whether they ever will like it to the end of time. It is true His teaching was not inconoclastic. It is true that He clothed it in forms as little likely to excite prejudice as possible—at least, in His earlier ministry. He announced principles out of which were to grow revolutionary results. Christ was a reformer. He was a leveller; not a leveller down, but He was a leveller. Christ led the great democratic movement that has gone through history from the time of the birth of Christ up to this day, levelling all institutions and organisms that have stood in the way of the uprise of humanity. Man—not the Jew-man, not the learned man, not the rich, not the blooded, not the aristocratic—but man is to be transformed, educated, ransomed, enfranchised, enriched, until the whole human race shall stand bound together in one great brotherhood. And the established order of things armed itself against Him.
II. This established order was entrenched behind, and allied with, a superstitious conception of religion, with a reverence for material things.—The temple was the centre of all worship, and men could hardly conceive that religion could live if the temple were destroyed. Christ told them that the temple would be destroyed. Christ told them that obedience was better than an elaborate system of sacrifices that had come down to them from their fathers. And all the conventional religious reverence of Palestine gathered up to arm itself against a Man who really seemed to the religious teachers of that day to be teaching irreligion, if not atheism, to be sweeping the land of its religious institutions.
III. Along with this entrenched established order, supported by this religion of reverence for forms and ceremonies went a traditional theology.—It was laid down as a rule and law in theological schools, that each man must repeat what the father before him had taught, and each pupil must learn and commit to rote what the instructor had taught to him. Religion consisted, not in believing truth, but in committing catechisms to memory. Christ came into the world, and fermented men; He incited men; He flung out aphorisms at them that set them thinking; He stirred them up with thought; He did just that which the church in that age, and which sectarianism in all ages, endeavours to prevent; He excited independent thought. If a heretic is what the dictionary tells us he is—a man who gives forth his own opinions when they are in conflict with the received opinions of his age—there never was such a heretic as Jesus Christ.
IV. This established order, this superstitious reverence, this traditional theology was further entrenched and supported by a race prejudice.—The Jews believed that they were the chosen people of God and all other people were of no account. Now Christ assailed this race prejudice.—L. Abbott, D.D.
Matthew 10:37. The exclusiveness of Christ’s claims.—How easily we may misunderstand Christ here! It is as if He underestimated family ties, responsibilities, and duties; and treated lightly the “first commandment with promise.” Yet we know well that, both by precept and example, He ever upheld parental rights. His point here is a twofold one:—
I. His claim must be wholly absorbing, because it is Divine.—The disciples only gradually apprehended that He wanted them altogether. They were to be, in an outward sense, given over entirely to His service. But that was only the illustration of their entire spiritual separation unto Him. We ask, Cannot we be Christ’s, and yet have a reserve for self; and yet have others in our love, taking their place with Christ.
II. Christ being first, we must keep Him in His place by putting everything else second.—Life offers so many things to us all that may easily absorb our interest, and push Christ into the background. Loves, pleasures, pursuits. But here is the great Christian law for us.—Weekly Pulpit.
Matthew 10:38. The necessity of self-denial.—
I. The nature of self-denial.—
1. Self-denial is opposed to our feelings, propensities, and our selfishness.—Self-denial must be submitted to, in order to the well-being of society—the child to the parent—the scholar to the teacher—the servant to the master—the subject to the sovereign; but the self-denial referred to is altogether of a spiritual character.
2. Mortification.—Take up the cross. This language is highly figurative, and is borrowed from a custom of putting criminals to death by the Romans, and other nations. The criminal was compelled to bear his own cross to the place of execution. It was doing something extremely humiliating and painful.
3. Imitation of Christ.
II. The necessity of self-denial.—There are two kinds of necessity, natural and moral; what is absolute in itself, and what is rendered so by circumstances. In order to become a disciple of Christ you must comply with His conditions. It is necessary:—
1. To the maintaining of the spirit of religion.—The religion of Jesus includes a belief of the doctrines He taught—but it includes more—it includes the conquering of self.
2. To the practice of religion.—The Christian is a racer—soldier—pilgrim. These designations all show the necessity of self-denial.
3 To the enjoyment of religion.—Why are so many professors crying, My leanness, my leanness? Self is not denied—Christ is not followed fully.
4. To the final reward of religion.—Jesus said, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit upon My throne,” etc. Then, overcoming is necessary to the final reward.
III. The reasonableness of self-denial.—
1. From the character of God.—How reasonable that the will of such a Being should rule.
2. From our mutual dependence upon one another.
3. From the final destination of man.—God is training the Christian for a station of infinite dignity.—Anon.
Matthew 10:41. The prophet’s reward.—Two questions suggest themselves to the thoughtful reader of these words:
1. What is a prophet’s, what is a righteous man’s reward?
2. No matter what that reward is, is it quite fair and equitable that a man who merely receives a prophet or a righteous man; who, that is, gives shelter and hospitality to them because they are what they are, should get the same reward which those men themselves get? If a man may get a prophet’s reward by merely being hospitable to either of them, what is the good of being a prophet or a righteous man? We look in vain for any light on this difficulty from the context. The Master is speaking to His disciples here before sending them forth on what might be called a missionary enterprise, and He tells them what kind of treatment they are to expect. He identifies Himself here with them in the work they are to do and the treatment they shall receive. Nay, He identifies God with them, and regards every kindness shown to them in their service or ministry as a kindness paid to Him.
I. The Master does not here tell us what is the prophet’s reward, nor what is the reward of the righteous man.—Yet here must lie the key that will open for us the mystery. The Master here does not tell us—did not tell His disciples. Why? Did they know already? Or did the Master tell them before this what it was? Or were they left to learn the nature and extent of it gradually by the teaching of experience, which, through the help of the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of light and grace—was to develop in them the power of spiritual apprehension and understanding—was to bring all things again to their remembrance, and help them to interpret His teaching aright? I think we must accept this latter as the correct assumption. Our Lord had taught the nature of the righteous man’s and prophet’s reward before this, as after it, but I fear we cannot credit the disciples at this period with having fully grasped it. They partook too largely of the spirit of their race and of their times to rise so early as this to the loftier conception of Christ’s kingdom and of the rewards it conferred on those who were of it which we find in the Master’s general teaching and in the pages of St. Paul and others in the New Testament.
II. The whole tenor of our Lord’s teaching was to bring out in regard to this matter that a man’s true wealth lay in himself, not in his belongings, not in his surroundings.—This was what our Lord was constantly teaching, and it was to seek after these treasures that He was ever exhorting the crowds that followed Him. This being so, we know very well what is the reward of the prophet, and what is the reward of the righteous man. It is not money. It is not place. It is not power. These things may come, or they may not; more likely by far that they do not. But if they come, they come as additions to their true reward, bringing with them other and grave responsibilities which further try the prophet’s gifts and the righteous man’s character. The true reward of the prophet, the only one that really enriches him, is the growing power of seeing more deeply into the deep things of God, and the growing power of revealing these more and more clearly to men. The true reward of the righteous man is his becoming more righteous still, his finding the virtuous principles within him growing stronger, the vicious in their presence becoming weaker, his finding the path of duty before him growing clearer and clearer, and himself more able to walk in it without stumbling. The reward of the one is the growing strength of his character, that of the other the increasing fitness for his office.
III. This, then, being the reward of the prophet and of the righteous man, that they grow in power and goodness, in the capacity for work, and in the practice of virtue, it is not hard to see why the man who receives the prophet in the name of a prophet, and the righteous man in the name of a righteous man should receive their reward—the same reward as they do. Observe that in the one case the man receives the prophet in the name of a prophet. He receives him because he knows him to be a prophet. This indicates that the man esteems the prophet for the sake of his office, that his sympathy is with him, and that he is interested in his work. He rejoices to hail this stranger, and gladly offers him hospitality, because he is of a kindred spirit to himself. And what follows? Their intercourse brings to the host the prophet’s reward. The host is enriched in his prophetic gifts by his guest’s conversation, and truly receives the prophet’s reward, shares with him and through him that enlargement of mind and that penetrating spiritual vision which are the richest fruits of his prophetic labours, as well as the power of clothing his thoughts in more accurate and impressive speech. The other case is similar to this. The righteous man is received in the name of a righteous man; that is, because he is a righteous man. The man who thus receives him has himself the cause of righteousness at heart, and his ready hospitality brings to his table, to his hearth, one whose words and example stimulate all his own virtuous aspirations; evoke and strengthen everything that is noble and good in him; bring him, in fact, the reward of the righteous man.
IV. There is no question in either case of the equality of the reward so far as amount is concerned. Such reward is proportioned to our capacity, very often to our length of service, always to our devotion to God and the right.—It is a thing of growth, and the prophet cannot but stimulate the prophetic gifts in all hearts that come under his influence, nor the righteous man fail to strengthen, confirm, and ripen the character of those who are already in sympathy with him, and, because of that sympathy, receive him and give him hearty welcome.—W. Ewen, B.D.
Matthew 10:42. God’s notice of little things.—I. God’s intimate acquaintance with every member of His spiritual kingdom.—“One of these little ones.” This reflection should:—
1. Inspire a feeling of profound trust in God.
2. Inspire a feeling of profound reverence for God.—His eye is upon me, etc.
II. God appreciates a gift according to the motive which actuates the giver.—“In the name of a disciple.” See also Mark 9:41; Hebrews 6:10 It is of vital importance to understand this principle, because:—
1. It casts light on the subject of good works.—If the gift of “a cup of cold water” is to be rewarded, then all the world might be rewarded, because there is hardly a man but would give such a gift to a fellow-creature. Mark, however, the regard which is paid to the subject of motive. A distinction is inferentially drawn between mere animal kindness and Christian generosity.
2. It tends to prevent self-deception.—Why was that gift given—that deed done—or that word uttered? How prone we are to deceive ourselves on the subject of motive!
III. In the vast economy of the universe there is nothing lost.—That “cup of cold water” is not lost. This thought applies:—
1. To the sublime processes of physical creation.—In the flight of boundless ages we are taught that not one particle of matter is lost!
2. To the moral effects of the gospel.—“My word shall not return unto Me void.” It will be “a savour of life unto life,” etc.
3. To all efforts in the cause of moral regeneration.—The humblest effort in the cause of Christ cannot be lost.
Let us treasure up the holy lessons of the subject:—
1. To belong to Christ is the highest of all honours. 2 He who belongs to Christ will be a giver as well as a receiver.—J. Parker, D.D.