Matthew 10 Bible Commentary

B. W. Johnson’s Bible Commentary

(Read all of Matthew 10)
The Call and Charge to the Apostles.

SUMMARY.--The Twelve Apostles. The Charge. To Whom Sent. How to Go. What to Preach. What to Do. How to Act If Received or Rejected. Persecution. Prudence Required. Trials to Be Met. Need Have No Care for a Defense. Fear Not Men, but God. The Father's Care. Not Peace, but a Sword. Loving Christ More Than Father or Mother. No Kind Act Lost.

      1. He called unto him his twelve disciples. Compare Mark 3:13-19 and Luke 9:1-6. The twelve had already been called, and had attended the Lord for some time. They were now commissioned and sent forth as apostles. This must be connected directly with the last three verses of the preceding chapter, which should belong to Chapter X. And he gave them power. To do the same kind of works of mercy which Jesus had done, and thus to carry out his mission. Works of mercy and love are inseparable from the true preaching of the gospel.

      2-4. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these. Of the twelve apostles there are four lists, found in Matt. 10:2, Mark 3:16, Luke 6:14, and Acts 1:13. They differ in the following particulars: Luke, in the book of Acts, does not insert the name of Judas Iscariot, who was then dead; both in his Gospel and in Acts he entitles the Simon, who, here and in Mark, is called the Canaanite, Simon Zelotes; Matthew gives as the tenth disciple, Lebbeus; Mark calls him Thaddeus; Luke and Acts, Judas of James, i. e., either son or brother of James; and (4) Mark says that James and John were surnamed by Christ, Boanerges, i. e., the sons of thunder. In other respects the four lists are identical. There are three pairs of brothers among them. Andrew and Peter, James and John, James the Less and Judas, or Thaddeus. James and John I believe to have been cousins of our Lord. With the exception of Judas Iscariot, all were Galileans; several of them were by trade fishermen, a laborious and profitable calling; there was neither priest nor scribe among them; all were from the ranks of the common people.

      5, 6. Go not into the way of the Gentiles. The Jews called all "Gentiles" who were not Jews. Samaritans. The inhabitants of Samaria, a district between Judea and Galilee; descendants of a remnant of the Ten Tribes, mixed with Gentiles colonized there. They accepted the five books of Moses, but worshipped on Mount Gerizim, instead of at Jerusalem. They and the Jews had been for ages bitter enemies. The lost sheep of the house of Israel. The lost descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Compare this commission with the one given to the apostles after the death and resurrection of the Lord (Matt. 28:19). In this commission the apostles are forbidden to go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, and are confined to the house of Israel. In the other they are commanded to go into "all the world," and to "preach the gospel to every creature;" to go "first to Jerusalem, and to Judea, and to Samaria and to the uttermost part of the earth." The first commission is Jewish; the second is world-wide. Yet both are given by the same Lord; why this wide difference? Because the new dispensation was not ushered in until after the resurrection. The Jewish law, national, exclusive, a wall of partition from Gentiles, was yet in force. Christ, "born under the law," and the apostles also were under it until it was removed. They could not keep it and yet become missionaries to the Gentiles. But when Christ died the old dispensation, the law, died with him. "The handwriting of ordinances was nailed to the cross." The old covenant passed away when the new came into force, sealed with the blood of Christ. After the death and resurrection of Christ, the law ceased to be binding upon the apostles. The distinctions of Jew and Gentile were destroyed. Hence, under the new covenant, the world-wide covenant, there was a new commission that would send the gospel to all the world. The old covenant was with the seed of Abraham; the new covenant embraced all nations. See Heb. 8:13.

      7. Preach . . . The kingdom of heaven is at hand. John the Baptist, and Christ also, had preached, "The kingdom is at hand." It had not yet been inaugurated. So the apostles were still to preach. It was near, but not in existence. There was no such charge in the second commission. Then "all power in heaven and in earth was in the hands of Christ." He became King after he suffered, and his kingdom was inaugurated on earth on the day of Pentecost. When he was "lifted up" (John 3:15), he became King.

      8. Heal the sick, etc. Not only in order to do a beneficent work, but to demonstrate that they had the Lord's commission.

      9, 10. Provide neither gold, etc. Because "the workman is worthy of his meat," and those to whom they preached should supply all their wants. Compare 1 Tim. 5:18 and 1 Cor. 9:7-14. This has always been the law of Christ. Scrip. A wallet, or valise. Nor shoes. They were allowed to wear sandals (Mark), such as the common people wore. They should go with simply their ordinary wear. They were required to dress as the people. Nor staves. With the staff each one had, but without an extra supply. A staff was always carried in walking over the rugged mountains of Palestine.

      11. There abide. With some one noted for hospitality and worth. They were not to board round from house to house.

      12. When you come into an house, salute it. Courteously salute the household.

      13. Let your peace come upon it. The Oriental salutation is, "Peace be with you." If the household were hospitable and friendly, let this blessing rest upon them. If they proved unfriendly, leave them to their own course and its result.

      14. Shake off the dust of your feet. This was done when there was a positive rejection of the gospel. It was a symbolical act, signifying that all responsibility for the stubborn household or city had ended. Compare Mark 6:11 and Acts 13:51. Nor can the gospel be forced upon an unwilling people in any age.

      15. Verily I say unto you. This formula always introduces a very emphatic saying. More tolerable for the land of Sodom, etc. The cities of the Jordan valley destroyed for their sins in the time of Abraham (Gen. 19:1-28). These cities did not have the opportunity, and hence, not the responsibility, of those to which Christ or his apostles preached.

      16. As sheep in the midst of wolves. Defenseless by human means, among the fierce and cruel; among bitter enemies. Be wise as serpents. Prudent, discreet. Serpents are very cautious in avoiding danger. Harmless as doves. Guileless and innocent as doves. The dove, peaceful, never preying on other birds, has always been a symbol of innocence.

      17. Beware of men. The wolves. To councils. To the local courts to be tried for heresy and other offenses. In their synagogues. The Jewish assemblages corresponding to modern churches. They will scourge you. This punishment was inflicted on offenders in the synagogues. See Acts 22:19 and 26:11. The Talmud states that scourging was inflicted by the officers of the synagogue.

      18. Ye shall be brought before governors. Before the civil tribunals, like criminals. And kings. This was literally fulfilled in the case of James, the brother of John (Acts 12:2), and Paul (Acts 26:1).

      19, 20. Take no thought how or what ye shall speak. They are not told to take no thought what they shall preach, but that the Holy Spirit will give them utterance when they make their defense before civil magistrates. Your Father. Not "Our Father." The Savior never says, "Our Father," except when he teaches the disciples to pray, but "My Father" and "Your Father." God was his Father in a different sense from that in which he is our Father.

      21. Brother shall deliver up the brother. The rest of the family shall turn upon their own kindred who accept Christ, and become their bitter enemies. This has been fulfilled thousands of times in every age.

      22. Ye shall be hated of all men. As they assailed and sought to destroy all evil, and evil is wont to unite against them. Jews and pagans made a common cause against early Christianity. The wicked and perverse hate it still. He that endureth to the end. Holds out faithful. Perseverance gives proof of genuine faith, and is sure of reward.

      23. Flee ye into another. They were not to rashly expose their lives where it would do no good, but go elsewhere and continue preaching. Life is a sacred possession, and must not be flung away. It may be given up for the sake of Christ. Till the Son of man is come. A reference primarily, no doubt, to the Lord coming into his kingdom. See Matt. 16:28. He was thus to come in the life time of some of the apostles. He did thus come in the establishment of his kingdom in power on the day of Pentecost. He also came in judgment on the Jews at the destruction of Jerusalem. This event ended Jewish persecution. There is also the final coming to judge the world, but the meaning here does not include that.

      24, 25. The disciple is not above his master. The disciples must expect to be treated like the master. Call the master . . . Beelzebub. The prince of evil, Satan, is meant.

      26. Fear them not therefore. Because Christ shall triumph, and all shall be brought to judgment, where every secret shall be made manifest.

      27. What I tell you in darkness. In privacy. The Lord had to teach them in private before he could send them forth. On the house tops. The flat roofs of eastern houses made a conspicuous pulpit. The Lord directs them to speak in the most public manner. In Syria proclamations are still often made from the house tops.

      28. Be not afraid. Of men, who can only destroy the body, but cannot harm the soul. But rather fear him, etc. Fear God, who can condemn the soul to banishment. The command is to fear not the displeasure of man, but that of God. In hell. See note on Matt. 5:22. The word in the Greek is Gehenna, not hades.

      29. Two sparrows. Among the smallest and least valuable birds, yet under the Divine care. So cheap as to be offered in pairs for an insignificant coin, but God notes the fall of one.

      30, 31. The very hairs of your head are all numbered. An assurance of the most special providence over all Christ's disciples. The next verse shows to whom the blessed assurance applies.

      32. Whosoever will confess me before men. To confess Christ does not mean to accept some particular creed, but to publicly acknowledge the Lord, and to live before men as his servant. It implies, 1. A confession of faith in him with the lips, such a confession as Peter made, Matt. 16:16, and the eunuch, Acts 8:37. Paul describes this confession in Rom. 10:10. 2. An acknowledgment of Christ by obedience and by giving the life to his service. Confession is a demonstration of faith, (1) by public acknowledgment, and (2) by an obedient life. A verbal acknowledgment of Christ is not enough if the life is a denial, for then it shows that the acknowledgment was a lie. The two must correspond. Him will I confess. Christ sitting on the throne of judgment promises to acknowledge as his own faithful brother every one who has thus acknowledged him before men.

      33. But whosoever shall deny me before men. The Jews denied him when they rejected him as Messiah. All who refuse to receive him as their Lord deny him still. The disciple who, through the cares of the world, turns away from Christian life, denies him. Him will I also deny. Those who receive him will be received; those who reject him will be rejected; those who confess him will be confessed, and those who deny him, denied.

      34. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth. Christ has to conquer a peace by overcoming the evil that is in the way of peace. Hence, to preach the gospel of purity and peace always arouses the opposition of the evil doer. Evil has to be put down before peace can prevail. Hence, while the great end that Christ proposes is peace, the immediate result of his coming, and of the preaching of the gospel, was opposition and bloodshed. I come . . . but a sword. The only sword that Christ or his followers use in the conflict is the Sword of the Spirit, but the persecutor has in every age turned upon them the carnal sword. The sword is sent, because persecutors use it upon the church.

      35. For I come to set a man at variance with his father. This was not the Savior's object, but the effect. The conversion of individual members of the family would cause variance. In nearly all quarrels, except those about religion, the members of the same family stand together, but in religious feuds the family circle is often broken and its parts arrayed against each other.

      36. A man's foes shall be of his own household. This has been verified thousands of times. Many a convert has been turned out of home and banished by kindred, because he had confessed Christ.

      37. He that loveth father or mother more than me. The Lord does not require us to love these less, but him more. Love for him must become the dominant principle of life. Is not worthy of me. Will not be accepted as worthy.

      38. He that taketh not his cross. Luke adds, daily; not once, but all the time. The cross is the pain of the self-denial required. The cross is the symbol of doing our duty, even at the cost of the most painful death. Christ obeyed God, and carried out his work of the salvation of men, though it required him to die upon the cross in order to do it. And ever since, the cross has stood as the emblem, not of suffering, but of suffering for the sake of Christ and his gospel. And follow me. To follow Christ is to take him for our master, our teacher, our example; to believe his doctrines, to uphold his cause, to obey his precepts, and to do it though it leads to heaven by the way of the cross.

      39. He that findeth his life shall lose it. Whoever counts his life of so much value that he will preserve it by sacrificing his Christian integrity, or will renounce his religion to save his life, will find in the end that he has lost his soul forever for the sake of a few fleeting years; while he who gives up all things, even life itself, will find an abundant reward in the life eternal. All self-seeking is self-losing. The Divine law is always to give in order to receive.

      40. He that receiveth you, receiveth me. They would go forth in Christ's name, as his servants and ambassadors. They carried his message, and to receive it and them was virtually receiving him.

      41. In the name of a prophet. That is, because he is a prophet. The apostles themselves were prophets.

      42. Whosoever shall give to drink to these little ones. By the "little ones" are probably meant Christ's disciples. A cup of cold water only. The smallest act of kindness. If done "because he was a disciple," or out of regard for Christ, he should never lose his reward. Good deeds are never lost. Note the six things here spoken of as belonging to discipleship of Christ: (1) Confessing, or professing; (2) Fighting; (3) Bearing his standard (the cross); (4) Suffering; (5) Following; (6) Giving up life. These are all the duties of the soldier.