Notes on Matthew 10

Matthew 10  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 8
The Lord who, touched with compassion for the destitute masses, had told His disciples to ask the Lord of the harvest to send workmen into the harvest, moved by the same compassion, sends them Himself; for He is also Lord of the harvest. But here it is always for searching out the lost sheep of the house of Israel; He has always His rejection in view, but He acts still in the circle of the promises, and does not quit it whilst announcing that they would come from the west and from the east. The Servant accomplishes His service in the limits of His mission; but God in His grace cannot be thus confined. The grace of His divinity and of Η is rights pierces across the humiliation to which He subjected Himself. But He serves in these limits still and sends His disciples into the field where He still seeks His sheep. They were not to go by the way of the Gentiles nor to enter a town of the Samaritans. They were to preach the near arrival of the kingdom of the heavens, then to exercise the power that Jesus had confided to them, that of destroying among men all the power of the enemy up to death itself. Remark here that not only did Jesus work miracles, but He could confer the power of working them. It was the divine power which was revealed in His person whilst serving as He had been sent.
The discourse of the Lord is divided into two parts: one referring to the mission in which the disciples were engaged at that moment; the other more general referring at the same time to the service which the disciples should accomplish after His death, really up to His return, to the presence of the Holy Spirit and to the return of the Son of man, but always to a service rendered in the midst of Israel, though the effect is extended to the Gentiles, yet by means of the persecution excited by the Jews. The first part extends from verse 5 to 15; the second from verse 16 to the end, comprising the general principles of their position.
As the disciples went from God, invested with His power to overthrow all that of the enemy, they were also to trust entirely to Him, to take nothing with them, nor to make provision of that which was necessary for their journey. Emmanuel present disposed the hearts and took care of them. The time would come without doubt, when it would not be so with them. (See Luke 22:3535And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. (Luke 22:35), and following verses.) However, they were to ask, in going into a city, who was worthy, and to remain there till they went away from the city. It was, we may say, the last testimony rendered to Israel. There was still that of the seventy, the last time that He went up to Jerusalem; but there is no question of them in this Gospel. The Lord was warning the remnant in Israel. In wishing peace to a house, if the Son of peace dwelt there, the peace would abide there: otherwise it would return on them. This is not the gospel sent to the world, to sinners, but the gospel of the kingdom sent to those who had ears to hear in Israel. Afterward, where they were not received, they were to wipe off the dust from their feet. We see the final character of the testimony they were to bear. The judgment of such a city would be more terrible than that of Sodom and Gomorrah. Here closes the first part of their mission. The Lord Himself sends them with the consciousness, and He expresses it, that He was sending them like sheep in the midst of wolves, and that they must be wise as serpents and harmless as doves—counsel impossible to follow but for those who are taught of God.
The world may be prudent, knowing evil; the heart may be simple by ignorance and find itself betrayed; the Christian may be wise, prudent, by the wisdom of God who directs him, and simple because he walks according to the life which is in him, and expresses nothing else than that which is found there. The two things are connected; because by the positive possession of good one discerns evil, and snares do not succeed; because the motives which engage men to touch them exert no influence on the heart. One preserves simplicity because one acts according to what one is; and we are prudent because, knowing that we are in the midst of evil, we avoid it by the intelligence which belongs to spirituality! It is not the simplicity of ignorance, but of good which avoids whatever should make one quit ones true position before God. But (terrible word for-man), “Beware of men” says the Lord; and all are cast as such now into the same mass—He does not say, of Israel. It was exactly in Israel that they labored, but Israel is blinded with the mass of human iniquity. God could think of them and the promises, but in fact the heart of man was there as elsewhere. They would be forced to appear before the Jewish authorities by their malice, and not only so but before the Gentile tribunals, and thus bear a witness which would reach the high places of the earth; for it is then God carries His testimony into the high quarters of the world, and not by rendering His own worldly. But God would be with them.
And here we see clearly that this part of the chapter referred to the time when the Lord would be away. It would be the Spirit of their Father speaking to them. But the hatred of the human heart against the testimony of God would be shown in pushing men on to break the ties that God had formed at the time of creation; the affections of the flesh, of the human heart, would be changed into positive antipathy. The more intimate the relation, the more implacable its hatred. There are rights in these relationships; but now it would be the rights of hatred: brother would deliver brother to death.
What a solemn effect of the rejection of Christ, the only true tie of man with man, because the will is restrained and God owned! God can hold the bridle, and He has done so in mercy, but when He is rejected in grace, there remains only the manifestation of man's heart as it is. Nature does not bridle nature; and the testimony of God merely awakens the hatred of him who wishes none of His rights, who does not wish that there should be any, because he knows that' he has abandoned Him. But His grace pursues His work to draw away souls.
If the disciples were persecuted in one city, they were to go to another. They should not have accomplished their task in Israel before the Son of man was come. Thus we see that this testimony of the disciples in Israel extends even to the return of the Lord. Interrupted by the destruction of Jerusalem, and unfinished, it was to be accomplished. Another testimony has been raised up of God in the person of Paul, apostle of the circumcision; but here we have the mission of the disciples formally limited to Israel, and the Gentiles excluded. They were to expect reproach; they were not above their Master whom their adversaries had already called Beelzebub. Their part was to confide in God, whatever the concealed plots of their enemies; all should be set in light, and they were to act as being in it already. They were not to fear. First, they should fear Him who could cast body and soul into hell much more than those who could do nothing but lull the body. But, besides, without their Father—Him who guarded them as a Father—not a sparrow fell to the ground. They had more value in His eye than many sparrows. Lastly, he who confessed Jesus before men, Jesus would confess him before the angels of His Father. These are the three motives that He gives for firmness; but they were not to think that He was come to send peace on earth. As the final result He will, reigning as Prince of peace: but a Savior rejected is another thing. This would bring intestine war into the house; such the sad effect of the arrival of God and of truth on the earth. Man could not endure them, and still less at home; but on the other side He was the touchstone for the heart. It was all over with man according to nature—nature which God owned in itself fully, but which, on the rejection of Christ, the key of the arch if it could have been blessed, was fallen into ruin; and now all depended on Jesus alone; and if man violated the natural relationships by hatred, His own devoted to Him was to be above nature by grace. He was, He is, all: when it is a question of Him, all must yield, and this in regard not only to these relationships but to self (and it is always self that is in question). We must take up the cross and follow Christ. He that would find his life should lose it, and he that would lose it for Christ's sake would find it. All depended now, in a fallen and judged world, on the reception of the word and on the estimate made of it, and on righteousness according to God. He that received a prophet in the name of a prophet, because he was such, had in the eyes of God the usual value of the word that he carried, for it was the word that he loved, such as it was from God; and so with practice. Ceremonies had come to nothing. The point was the word of God and what He loved in a world which had broken with Him. If it were only a cup of water given because of Christ, the soul that gave it loved Christ and would not be forgotten. It is exactly as to God’s ways in the midst of Israel that all these things are displayed. To their work in Israel the instruction given to the twelve disciples applies; but what instruction for us all as to the effect of the rejection of Christ! The chapter after this shows us the change that followed historically, and the place taken by Christ when rejected by man, alone remaining upright before God in the ruin of the world and of Israel.