Matthew 10 – The Sending of the Twelve
A. Twelve disciples chosen and commissioned.
1. (1-4) The twelve disciples are listed.
And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.
a. When He had called His twelve disciples to Him: The main feature of this list is its diversity. Jesus chose His disciples from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences. About all they had in common was it seems that none of them were privileged or from backgrounds of high status. This is very much in the spirit of 1 Corinthians 1:26-29.
b. He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease: Jesus did not only call the twelve; He also gave them power to do what He had called them to do. The same principle holds true today: whom God calls, God equips. The equipping may not be completely evident before the ministry begins, but it will be evident along the way.
c. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: These twelve (excepting Judas, of course), have an important place in God’s plan of redemption, including some particular role in the future judgment (Matthew 19:28), and in the founding of the church (Ephesians 2:20). The Bible promises that their position and work will be remembered through eternity (Revelation 21:14).
i. This is the first and only time in Matthew that the twelve are called apostles. “The word apostle literally means one who is sent out; it is the word for an envoy or an ambassador.” (Barclay) “Called here for the first and last time apostoloi, with reference at once to the immediate minor mission and to the later great one.” (Bruce)
· The word apostle can mean a mere messenger, as in John 13:16, referring to he who is sent.
· Jesus is called an apostle in Hebrews 3:1: consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.
· Paul sometimes used the word in the sense of messengers or representatives, as in 2 Corinthians 8:23: they are messengers [apostles] of the churches; possibly also in Romans 16:7.
· Yet Paul also used the term in a more narrow sense, referring to the Twelve and himself by special dispensation (1 Corinthians 9:1-5 and 15:7-10; Galatians 1:17 and 1:19 following).
ii. There are four different lists of the twelve in the New Testament. Here in Matthew 10:2-4, and also in Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:13-16, and Acts 1:13. In these lists, Peter is always listed first and Judas is always last. The two pairs of brothers (Peter and Andrew; James and John) are always listed first. In the lists they are arranged in a way that suggests that they were arranged in three groups of four, each with a leader.
· In each list Peter is first mentioned, followed by Andrew, James, and John.
· In each list Philip is fifth mentioned, followed by Bartholomew, Thomas, and Matthew.
· In each list James the son of Alphaeus is ninth mentioned, followed by Thaddaeus/Judas brother of James, Simon the Zealot, and Judas.
iii. “The apostolic number fitly represents the twelve tribes of Israel; and for practical purposes the twelve form a workable band of leaders, a sufficient jury, and a competent company of witnesses.” (Spurgeon)
iv. Bartholomew is often identified with Nathanael of John 1:43-51 and John 21:2. “Many are of opinion that this was Nathanael… whose name was probably Nathanael bar Talmai, Nathanael, the son of Talmai: here, his own name is repressed, and he is called Bar Talmai, or Bartholomew, from his father.” (Clarke)
v. “Bartholomew is never mentioned without an and: he was a kind of man to work with other people.” (Spurgeon)
vi. “We must not understand by Canaanite a pagan, (for Christ sent out none but Jews,) but one of Cana.” (Poole)
vii. “Iscariot is usually thought to mean ‘man of Kerioth’ (a city in southern Judaea), but has also been explained as meaning ‘traitor’, ‘assassin’, ‘carrier of the leather bag’, or ‘redhead’!” (France)
viii. They are called disciples in Matthew 10:1 and apostles in Matthew 10:2. “It is worthy of notice, that those who were Christ’s apostles were first his disciples; to intimate, that men must be first taught of God, before they be sent of God.” (Clarke)
2. (5-6) Where they are to go: unto Israel (the Jewish people) only.
These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
a. These twelve Jesus sent out: Jesus was touring around the region of Galilee teaching, preaching, and helping needy people with miraculous power (Matthew 4:23). The sending of these twelve was a conscious expanding of that work. Now the work of Jesus was being done by many more than simply Jesus Himself.
i. And commanded them: “The word which is used in the Greek for Jesus commanding his men, or giving them orders is interesting and illuminating. It is the word paragellein. This word in Greek has four special usages. (i) It is the regular word of military command…(ii) It is the word used of calling one’s friends to one’s help…(iii) It is the word which is used of a teacher giving rules and precepts to his students…(iv) It is the word which is regularly used for an imperial command.”
b. Do not go into the way of the Gentiles: This is the pattern of the gospel – it is for the Jew first and also for the Greek (Romans 1:16). Later, the gospel would go to both the Samaritans and the Gentiles, but it had to begin with the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
i. “That Jesus felt it necessary to mention the Samaritans at all presupposes John 4. The disciples, happy in the exercise of their ability to perform miracles, might have been tempted to evangelize the Samaritans because they remembered Jesus’ success there.” (Carson)
ii. “The emphasis of the saying lies not primarily on the prohibition of a wider mission, but on the priority of the mission to Israel.” (France)
c. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel: God’s intention was to reach the whole world, but beginning with Israel. There was certainly enough work to do among the lost sheep of the house of Israel to keep the twelve busy until God directly commanded them to expand their ministry.
i. Significantly, Jesus still called the Jewish people “the house of Israel” even though they had lost their Jewish state many decades before this time. God still saw them as “Israel,” even when there was not a political entity known as “Israel.”
ii. Who were the lost sheep of Israel? In a sense, all of them were. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way. (Isaiah 53:6). Yet in another sense, there were also lost sheep that were abused and neglected by their spiritual shepherds, the scribes, priests, and Pharisees. This is the sense of Jeremiah 50:6: My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray.
iii. Because so many were so spiritually neglected, Jesus sent these apostles out. “The beginnings of the mission to the neglected ‘lost’ sheep of Israel may be found in the Capernaum feast (Matthew 9:10). As time went on Jesus felt increasingly the pressure of the problem and the need for extended effort.” (Bruce)
iv. “Like sheep, that silly creature, than the which as none is more apt to wander, so neither any more unable to return.” (Trapp)
3. (7-8a) What they are to do: go out preaching and healing.
“And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons.”
a. As you go, preach, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand”: Earlier (Matthew 4:17) we were told that Jesus’ message was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The disciples brought the same message Jesus preached, simply bringing it over a much broader area than Jesus could just by Himself.
i. We may also surmise that they were to repeat many of the themes found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), because that message tells what life in the kingdom of heaven should be like.
ii. “Men will do much for a kingdom. And nothing less than a kingdom, and that of heaven, can buy men out of their sweet sins.” (Trapp)
iii. There is no mention of them preaching in the synagogues, only being scourged in them (Matthew 10:17). This was a house-to-house, open field, street preaching ministry.
b. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons: The disciples both had a message to preach and a power to display. In this, they were truly followers of their Master.
i. The authority for these disciples to raise the dead is remarkable; yet the later fulfillment of it was recorded in both Acts 9 and 20, and there were no doubt other unrecorded instances. We have no evidence that either such a thing was common, or that this authority has been permanently withdrawn. It is wise for Christians today to both believe in God’s power to do such miracles through His people, and to not be too quick to believe unsubstantiated reports of such miracles.
4. (8b-15) How they were to provide for themselves.
“Freely you have received, freely give. Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food. Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. And when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!”
a. Freely you have received, freely give: Jesus charged His disciples nothing, and He expected them to give ministry unto others without charge. This is the foundational principle for the commands that follow.
i. “What a scandal is it for a man to traffic with gifts which he pretends, at least, to have received from the Holy Ghost, of which he is not the master, but the dispenser. He who preaches to get a living, or to make a fortune, is guilty of the most infamous sacrilege.” (Clarke)
b. Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts: They should expect God to meet their needs, without taking undue concern for their own needs. Furthermore, they should expect that God would normally meet their needs through the inspired hospitality of others.
i. “Our Saviour designed to give them an experience of the providence of God, and to teach them to trust in it.” (Poole)
ii. “He was once again speaking words which were very familiar to a Jew. The Talmud tells us that: ‘No one is to go to the Temple Mount with staff, shoes, girdle of money, or dusty feet.’ The idea was that when a man entered the temple, he must make it quite clear that he had left everything which had to do with trade and business and worldly affairs behind.” (Barclay)
iii. “Take [Provide] is literally ‘obtain’…The saying in its Matthaean form thus does not so much specify the appropriate equipment for traveling, but rather assures the disciples that no previous fund-raising is necessary, nor need special equipment be acquired. They can go just as they are, and the mission is urgent.” (France)
iv. “The well-known discrepancy over the staff (Mark 6:8 specifically allows them to carry one) may arise from the difference in the verbs: the Matthaean version forbids the acquisition of a staff for the journey, while the Marcan allows them to take (only) the one they already possess.” (France)
v. “See Luke 22:36: ‘He that hath a purse, let him take it…’ Different modes of procedure are to be adopted at different times. Oh, that some of our very spiritual brethren had a little common sense! We offer the prayer with a very faint heart.” (Spurgeon)
c. For a worker is worthy of his food: When they came among others, they were to be workers among them. They would work among them in both spiritual work and practical work. We can imagine them preaching the Word of God, praying for and with people, and helping with the farm work.
i. Even though the twelve could expect their needs to be met through the people they served, they should never require their needs to be met as payment. The foundational principle was freely you have received, freely give.
d. If the household is worthy… if it is not worthy: Those who did receive these disciples can expect to be blessed (let your peace come upon it); but those places that refused them could expect to be treated as Gentile cities (shake off the dust from your feet), and as such, were in serious danger of judgment.
i. “To settle in the house of a ‘worthy’ person implies that the disciples were not to shop around for the most comfortable quarters.” (Carson)
ii. “Easy to perform, not easy to perform in a right spirit; too apt to be the outcome of irritation, disappointment, and wounded vanity – they did not appreciate me, I abandon them to their fate. Christ meant the act to symbolize the responsibility of the inhabitants for the result.” (Bruce)
iii. “Two sure signs of reprobate goats: 1. Not to receive Christ’s ministers to house and harbour, accounting themselves happy in such entertainment. 2. Not to hear their words.” (Trapp)
B. Jesus prepares the disciples for persecution.
1. (16-18) Persecution will come.
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.”
a. I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves: Jesus freely and honestly warned His disciples that they would face persecution. Because they went out without police or military protection, He sent them as sheep in the midst of wolves.
i. “Here you see sheep sent forth among the wolves, as if they were the attacking party, and were bent upon putting down their terrible enemies. It is a novel sight, such as nature can never show, but grace is full of marvels.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “After all, the mission of sheep to wolves is a hopeful one, since we see in the natural world that the sheep, though so feeble, by far outnumber the wolves who are so fierce.” (Spurgeon)
b. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves: Despite their vulnerable position, Jesus’ followers were not to defend themselves with worldly forms of power. They were to remain harmless as doves, though wise as serpents.
i. Wisdom would keep them from attracting trouble unnecessarily or show them how to avoid it without compromise. Serpents are attacked by everyone, and must use creativity and wisdom to survive.
ii. Remaining harmless would keep them from giving in to the temptation of retaliation.
iii. “The Christian missionary will need to be wary, to avoid receiving harm; but he must be of a guileless mind, that he do no harm.” (Spurgeon)
c. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up: Jesus also warned them that men would persecute them in the civic arena (councils) and the religious arena (synagogues). They could expect opposition from both city hall and the halls of religion.
d. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake: This was a remarkable statement, recognizing the great influence the gospel and its preachers would have. Governors and kings would notice them – and arrest them, bringing them to trial.
i. “This affords a striking proof of the prescience of Christ. Who could have thought, at that time, that these despised and illiterate men could excite so much attention, and be called upon to apologize for the profession of their faith before the tribunals of the most illustrious personages of the earth?” (Wakefield, cited in Clarke)
e. For My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles: Because they were persecuted for Jesus’ sake, they could be a testimony to both religious and civic persecutors.
i. “The specific mention of the Gentiles suggests that the wider mission of the post-resurrection period is already in view.” (France)
2. (19-20) When Jesus’ disciples are brought before rulers, God will defend and speak for them.
“But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”
a. Do not worry about how or what you should speak: Jesus’ disciples could have perfect trust in God in that moment, knowing that He would speak through them even if they were unprepared.
i. “It was not the humiliation which early Christians dreaded, not even the cruel pain and the agony. But many of them feared that their own unskilfulness in words and defence might injure rather than commend the truth. It is the promise of God that when a man is on trial for his faith, the words will come to him.” (Barclay)
b. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak: This gave them confidence that the Spirit of the Father would speak to and through them at the necessary moment, even if they were not prepared with a statement.
i. This isn’t a justification of poor preparation in teaching and preaching God’s Word, but it is a promise of strength and guidance for the persecuted that have an opportunity to testify of Jesus.
3. (21-23) The extent of persecution: even among families, from city to city.
“Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”
a. Now brother will deliver up brother to death: Jesus knew that in some cases the gospel would divide family members, and that some of the most bitter persecution would take place among families.
b. And cause them to be put to death: Jesus plainly said that persecution would sometimes result in death. Though most Christians have endured persecution in economic or social arenas, through the centuries, literally millions have given their lives in faithfulness to Jesus.
c. You will be hated by all for My name’s sake: At times this has been true; when entire cultures have hated the followers of Jesus. It seems strange that people who live by the kingdom expectations of Matthew 5-7 should be so greatly hated, but it is the same paradox that inspired the world to condemn and crucify the only sinless man ever to live.
i. It must be painfully admitted that there are times when Christians, because of great unfaithfulness or false profession of faith, have been hated for good reason. Yet no one who is filled with the presence of Jesus and lives like He did can be hated for good reason.
d. But he who endures to the end will be saved: A commitment to endure to the end is required for those who will weather the storms of persecution. We who face little real persecution have little understanding of just how difficult it is to endure under it.
i. “Why, if every man would be saved who began to follow Christ, who would be damned? In such a country as this, the most of men have at least one religious spasm in their lives.” (Spurgeon)
e. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another: In this, Jesus taught His disciples that it was wrong for them to court martyrdom. They were not to run towards persecution, or even remain if they had the chance for an honorable escape. If they could flee to another place, they were to do it.
f. You will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes: This is one of the hardest-to-understand statements of Jesus in Matthew. Could Jesus really mean that He would return to this earth before the disciples would make it through all the cities of Israel? If so, this would make Jesus plainly wrong in this prediction. Instead, it is better to see His “coming” in this passage as His coming in judgment upon Judea in AD 70 which did happen before the gospel came to every city in Israel.
i. This is the fulfillment of the day of judgment warned of in Matthew 10:15. In many ways, the judgment poured out by God upon Judea through the Roman armies in AD 70 was worse than the judgment that came upon Sodom and Gomorrah.
ii. “When they face persecution, they must take it as no more than a signal for strategic withdrawal to the next city where witness must continue, for the time is short. They will not have finished evangelizing the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes in judgment on Israel.” (Carson)
4. (24-25) Why Jesus’ disciples must expect persecution.
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!”
a. A disciple is not above his teacher: Simply put, the disciples should not expect to be treated any better than Jesus was treated. If they called Jesus Himself Satan (Beelzebub), how much worse should the disciples of Jesus expect!
i. This already is the second reference in Matthew we have to Jesus being associated with Satan by His enemies. “Matthew 9:34 suggests that it was a frequent slur.” (Carson)
ii. “Thank God, they may call us what they like, but they cannot make us evil…God was slandered in Paradise, and Christ on Calvary; how can we hope to escape?” (Spurgeon)
b. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master: This is the goal of both the disciple and servant of Jesus. We simply want to be like our teacher and master, as we are conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:29).
5. (26-31) Even in the midst of persecution, Jesus’ disciples should not fear, but be bold in their proclamation of the gospel.
“Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
a. Therefore do not fear them: Jesus’ disciples could have confidence that the truth would prevail, so they should go out and preach it with boldness, despite the danger of persecution.
i. If persecution or the threat of persecution makes us draw back from speaking and preaching God’s word, then in some measure Satan has won a victory. His threat of persecution may not have succeeded in harming us, but in holding back the work of the Word of God.
ii. “Fear not what cannot be avoided if you would be of any use. Fear suits not an apostle any more than a soldier or a sailor, who both take coolly the risks of their calling.” (Bruce)
b. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known: Jesus promised His persecuted followers that the truth of their honorable sacrifice would be known, even if the persecutors did their best to hide it among the pages of history. God would reveal all and justify His servants and reveal the crime of those who thought they had hidden it.
i. The judgment of eternity gives us great confidence in God’s ultimate justice. Those who seem to cheat justice on earth will never cheat it in eternity.
c. Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops: The message of Jesus was gloriously public. It was not for a secret few and was not to be hidden in any way. There isn’t one message for the inner circle and another for those on the outside. Those on the outside may not understand the message, but they can hear it and it is not to be hidden from them.
d. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell: God is the one to fear, not the men who persecute the followers of Jesus. The worst they can do is to destroy the body, but being a coward before God can have eternal consequences.
i. “There is no cure for the fear of man like the fear of God.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “Hence we find that the body and the soul are distinct principles, for the body may be slain and the soul escape; and, secondly, that the soul is immaterial, for the murderers of the body are not able, have it not in their power, to injure it.” (Clarke)
e. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows: Jesus’ disciples didn’t need to be afraid, because God really did care for them, even down to the most minute detail. If God cares for the sparrows, and numbers the very hairs of our head, then He will also pay careful attention to our needs. The persecuted easily feel that God forgets them, but He has not.
i. God knows us better than our friends know us; better than our husband or wife knows us; He knows us better than we know ourselves. We don’t know how many hairs are numbered on our head. The God who knows us so well will take care of us.
ii. The emphasis in this short section is clearly “do not fear.” “This is the third time, in six verses, that they and we are bid to banish this cowardly base passion, this causeless, fruitless, harmful, sinful fear of men. He that fears God need fear none else.” (Trapp)
6. (32-39) The attitude Jesus’ disciples must be equipped with.
“Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”
a. Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven: The disciple must confess Jesus publicly – before men. If we will not be public about our allegiance to Him, we cannot expect Him to be public about His allegiance to us.
i. Everyone Jesus called He called publicly. There is really no such thing as a “secret” Christian, at least not in a permanent sense. This is a contradiction in terms – an oxymoron.
ii. Each individual Christian life should supply enough evidence – evidence that can be seen by the world – that they are indeed Christians. It is to be feared that many modern Christians, if arrested for the crime of following Jesus and tried in a court, would have the charges dismissed for a lack of evidence.
iii. “What Christ is to you on earth, that you will be to Christ in heaven. I shall repeat that truth. Whatever Jesus Christ is to you on earth, you will be to him in the day of judgment. If he be dear and precious to you, you will be precious and dear to him. If you thought everything of him, he will think everything of you.” (Spurgeon)
iv. Yet we dare not miss that Jesus here claimed that one’s eternal destiny depended upon their response to Him. “This ‘egocentricity’ is a striking characteristic of the teaching of Jesus. ‘It is without parallel in the world of Jesus’ (Jeremias, NTT, pp. 250-255). Even more remarkably, the saying is patterned on 1 Samuel 2:30, where the one honoured or despised is God himself.” (France)
b. Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword: The message of Jesus – as reflected in the Sermon on the Mount – is indeed a message of peace. Yet since it calls the individual to a radical commitment to Jesus Himself, it is a message of peace that divides between those who choose it and those who reject it. The division between these two choices explains how Jesus did not come to bring peace but a sword.
c. For I have come to “set a man against his father”…and “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household”: The dividing line between those who accept Jesus and those who reject Him would even run through families. The sword Jesus spoke of would sometimes cut through families.
d. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: In strong terms, Jesus explained that the disciple must love and follow Jesus supremely. Our devotion to Jesus must come above even our own household.
i. We should expect that normally, following Jesus makes us better husbands, fathers, wives, mothers, sons, daughters and so forth. Yet there are times when the presence of Jesus divides rather than unifies.
ii. The greatest danger of idolatry comes not from what is bad, but from what is good – like love in family relationships. The greatest danger to the best comes from second best.
e. Take his cross and follow after Me: The disciple must follow Jesus even to the place of taking his cross. When a person took a cross in Jesus’ day, it was for one reason: to die. The ancient Roman cross did not negotiate, did not compromise, and did not make deals. There was no looking back when you took up your cross, and your only hope was in resurrection life.
i. His cross: Your cross isn’t really your particular trial or trouble. The cross means one thing: death – death to self, but resurrection life unto God.
ii. This is the first mention of the cross in Matthew’s Gospel, and it is not directly associated with Jesus’ own crucifixion. Such an extreme statement – likening discipleship with the horror of crucifixion, something too terrible to be mentioned in polite company – must have jarred the disciples.
iii. Yet they knew what the cross was all about. “Crucifixion itself was not an uncommon sight in Roman Palestine; ‘cross-bearing’ language would have a clear enough meaning, even before they realized how literally he himself was to exemplify it.” (France)
iv. “When the Roman general, Varus, had broken the revolt of Judas in Galilee [4 BC], he crucified two thousand Jews, and placed the crosses by the wayside along the roads to Galilee.” (Barclay)
f. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it: The disciple lives in a paradox. He can only find life by losing it, and he can only live by dying. Resurrection life can only come after we take up our cross to follow Jesus.
i. “Bearing the cross, we are to follow after Jesus: to bear a cross without following Christ is a poor affair. A Christian who shuns the cross is no Christian; but a crossbearer who does not follow Jesus equally misses the mark.” (Spurgeon)
7. (40-42) The reward due to those who, in contrast to the persecutors, receive the disciples of Jesus.
“He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”
a. He who receives you receives Me: The good done to Jesus’ disciples is as if it were good done to Jesus Himself, because they are His representatives, carrying on His ministry.
b. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward: We can share in the reward of God’s servants by supporting them in their work. Even seemingly insignificant works of kindness (a cup of cold water) performed for God’s people are meaningful in God’s eyes.
i. What could seem more insignificant than giving a person a cup of cold water? In a short time, they will be thirsty again. Yet even such a small gesture will always be remembered and rewarded by God. They shall by no means lose their reward.
ii. “Of Midas it is fabled, that whatever he touched turned into gold. Sure it is that whatsoever the hand of charity touch, be it but a cup of cold water, it turns the same, not into gold, but into heaven itself.” (Trapp)
iii. “Again it is not philanthropy which is in view, but reception of a disciple because he is a disciple (again literally ‘in the name of’).” (France) The promise is that those who are His disciples really do represent Him, with both the cost and the reward.
iv. “‘These little ones’ surely includes all the apostles, prophets, and righteous men; they are all ‘little ones’ because they are all targets of the world’s enmity.” (Carson)
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission