Remarks on Matthew 10

Matthew 10  •  23 min. read  •  grade level: 7
At the close of the chapter before, our Lord, in looking upon the lost sheep of the house of Israel, speaks of them, in deep pity, as sheep without a shepherd. He was now feeling what the Pharisees really were: not but what He knew it before; but the circumstances of their entire rejection of Himself, and their hatred coming out more and more decidedly, brought up before His spirit the exposure of God's sheep. If their spirit was implacable against Him, in whom there was no sin, who was God's own Son, the Shepherd of Israel, what must not be the sorrowful lot of those who had infirmities and failures which laid them open to the malice of those who cared not for them for God's sake, who would have the keenest and most suspicious eye for everything weak and foolish about them! Let us always remember the grace of the Lord, that even that which is humiliating in us draws out nothing but His compassion. I am not now speaking of sin, but of that which is infirm: for infirmities and sins are two different things. We do not want the Lord's sympathy with evil. The Lord has suffered—died—for our sin. But we do want sympathy with us in our weakness, trembling, liability to anxieties, cares, trouble: in all these things which make us suffer here, we do want sympathy; and the Lord has it fully with us. This was also the case with Israel. Unconscious of their miserable condition, Jesus calls upon the disciples, in the love of His own heart, to pray the Lord of the harvest that He would send forth laborers into His harvest. It was His harvest, and His laborers alone could gather. But immediately after, and this is remarkable, He shows that He is the Lord of the harvest Himself; and He sends forth laborers. The next chapter illustrates this, and beautifully harmonizes with Matthew, who portrays Him as the One who should save His people from their sins—Emmanuel, God with us. Mark the circumstances. This takes place upon His rejection by Israel. His own ministry, full of grace as well as power, we have seen fully exhibited and terminating in the utter indifference of Israel, and the hatred of the religious leaders. Chapter viii. gives us the people; and chapter ix. their guides, thus severally manifesting themselves.
Now, chapter 10 shows that Jesus, as Lord of the harvest, sends forth laborers, and this too with full authority and power given to them. But mark, it is still in special connection with Israel; and the Lord is conscious from the beginning of rejection by Israel. Meanwhile it is a Jewish mission of the twelve Jewish apostles to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. I take this quite literally, and not as it were said of the Church, which is never spoken of as lost sheep; but the sheep of Israel in their desolate condition are most aptly so described. Before the Church is gathered, what we want is a Savior. We Gentiles were not sheep at all, but dogs, in our evangelist's point of view. (See chap. 15.) And after we have been brought into the Church, we are not and cannot be lost sheep. Whereas, these poor of the flock are spoken of as lost sheep of the house of Israel. For up to this time, the work was not done by which they could be put in the known position of salvation.
Again, when our Lord is sending them forth, it is said, “He called unto him his twelve disciples, and gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of disease, and all manner of sickness.” That was peculiarly their mission. Not a word is said about preaching what we call the gospel, or teaching the whole counsel of God; but they were to go with Messianic power against Satan, and against bodily diseases, as a testimony to Israel. No doubt they were to declare the kingdom of heaven. “As ye go,” said our Lord, “preach, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” But the great characteristic feature of the mission, was the conferring upon them power against demons and diseases. The appropriateness of this, in connection with Israel, is manifest. It was a bright evidence that the true king, Jehovah, was there; One who was not only able Himself to cast out devils, but to confer that power upon His servants. Who but the King, the Lord of hosts, could do this? It was a testimony much greater than if the power had been confined to His own person. The ability to impart power to others, which was what Simon Magus, hoping to profit by it, so earnestly coveted, God here shows to be in His own Son. Now, the servants were to be sent out, and that in due order. There were twelve of them, in relation to the twelve tribes of the house of Israel. We find afterward the promise that they should sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. There need be no question, therefore, that this was a Jewish mission. When the Church was called, God broke in upon the mere Jewish order, by calling an extraordinary apostle, with a special view to the Gentiles; one who was called after Christ, dead and risen, had taken His place at the right hand of God. Then came in this new work in the calling of the Church, and the Apostle Paul became the characteristic minister of the Church, though the twelve had their place too. But in this case, the twelve apostles were, (what Paul was not) the ministers of the testimony to Israel of the kingdom of heaven. For, observe, the strictest injunction was given them that they were not to go outside the limits of Israel; not even to visit the Samaritans, nor to enter into the cities of the Gentiles. Their business was solely with the lost sheep of the house of Israel: the most positive proof that it means those of the Jews who had a sense of sin, and who were willing to receive the testimony of the true Messiah. With them, their business was exclusively. The calling of the Church was not referred to. This one thing is diligently kept in view by our Lord, It is the more remarkable, because in this gospel we are told that, after He had died and was risen, the Lord sent them out to the Gentiles; but, then, it was on the evident ground that death had come in. “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.” Christ upon the cross becomes the attractive center for man, as well as the foundation of all the counsels of God. Now, in this case we have nothing of the sort. The Lord's death is not even referred to. His rejection is brought out, but nothing is said as to the building of a new structure. There was the waiting for still further rejection before this could be disclosed.
But here the Lord Jesus sends forth the twelve, and commanded them, saying, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils; freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses; nor scrip for your journey; neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.” That is, they were to go just as they were, with the coat they had upon them, with the shoes they had then on their feet. They were not to provide anything, or to lay up any store as a means of support during the mission. This is not a universal rule for the servants of God at all times. It was a peculiar mission, for a special time, and with reference to Israel only. It was not the gospel of God's grace, but of the kingdom. The two go together now; but then it was not so. Israel did not receive the testimony of the kingdom an entire change comes in, and the kingdom of heaven, as an actual fact, remains in suspension. The whole calling of God, going out now to the Gentiles, comes in as a vast parenthesis, between the sending out of this mission and its full accomplishment in the last days. Whatever the Lord sends out must be accomplished, but nothing is perfectly fulfilled till the Lord takes it in hand Himself.
Everything that is to be taken up by Christ in power and glory by and by, is first committed to man; and man fails, Israel as a nation breaks down, the Church has become worldly and scattered. All this will be to the praise of Christ Himself. Thus, no matter what you look at in the ways of God there is, as a rule, the first presenting of the thing to man, and it is made to rest upon him, to see if he can bear the responsibility and the glory; and he cannot. But whatever man has failed in, is destined to rest upon the shoulders of Christ in the day of glory, and all will then come to perfection. Not one of these things but what will shine out in far more than pristine brightness when Jesus appears in glory.
The twelve were sent out on this mission, and instructed that they were to be dependent upon Christ alone. He would provide for them. They were to announce the kingdom of heaven; and He, the king, would undertake all charges. They were to go with the fullest confidence in Him. Now, although His servants are not to look to the world, or to use means of acting upon men or saints; and although they may confidently look to God to provide for them, still they are not put in the same circumstances as these disciples. The difference is strongly shown. Let us take for instance, such a command as this, “Into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy and there abide till ye go thence.” Think of a man going out with the gospel now, and asking, Who is worthy? He wants the unworthy. It is a totally different mission from that which followed after the death and resurrection of Jesus. It was a mission to Israel: and Jehovah wanted the excellent in the earth, those whose hearts really desired the Messiah. Hence they were to ask who, in any city, were worthy, and there to abide. “And when ye come into an house, salute it; and if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it; and if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.” That is not at all the way in which the gospel goes out now. On the contrary, it is peace with God that the servant of Christ is entitled to proclaim to His enemies. It is on the wretched, the miserable, the base, the despised, on those who have got nothing at all, and whom God brings down to take the place of being nothing, that His peace now descends. The direct bearing of the gospel is towards those who are evidently wretched and vile, and outcast: because the gospel is the fullness of the grace of God where man has nothing whatever to give to God. Nothing can be more blessed. Whether old or young, if they are broken down to feel that they are utterly unfit for God, but that God has provided such a Savior as His word declares He has, then I cannot trust Him too fully or too simply. The essence of the gospel is this: it is what God gives to me, not what I owe to God. It is the gospel of God—the gospel of His Son: but here it is the gospel of the kingdom. You will constantly find that phrase in Matthew. This gospel goes out to those that are worthy. If the house were worthy, the peace of the messenger comes upon it; and if not, it returns. “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.” There was a spirit of judgment upon them— “Verily, I say unto you, it shall be snore tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city:” just because they had the messengers of the kingdom coming to them with a gracious message, and they would not receive them.
From verse 16 commences the Lord's warning of the circumstances in which the gospel of the kingdom was to be preached. “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” That is, He calls for prudence, heavenly prudence, that God's grace would make good—calls them to be wise as serpents, but at the same time simple as doves. There was to be the most entire holiness in the object and character of the prudence, and that also which would evidently be free of all just charge of being injurious to men. “But beware of men;” do not suppose that, although you go forth with love in your hearts, you will not meet with wolves.
“Beware of men.” The Jews themselves are plainly intimated. “Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings.” This shows their degradation; but although they were under the yoke of the Gentiles, they would scruple at nothing, where it was a question of Christ's apostles. They would be quite willing to invoke Gentile authority where it became a question of Christ's followers. They themselves would drag them before the Gentile kings and governors, abhorred as they were. But our Lord adds this gracious word—for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. This is the only way in which the Gentiles come in. Israel might thus summon the disciples of Christ before the Gentiles, but God is taking care that this should turn for a testimony for them and the Gentiles. Thus God turns the weapons of the adversary against himself. “Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee: the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain.” So that I feel that such a truth as this, though it has special application to apostles setting out on this mission, most surely remains living for us. The pith of it abides eternally true. “But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak; for it shall be given you in that same hour that ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” At the same time He prepares them for the most heartless conduct on the part even of relatives. The brother would know the habits of his brother, the father would know all about the child, and the child about the father: all this would be turned against the servants of Christ. “Ye shall be hated of all men” (it was a universal thing) “for my name's sake; but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” “But when they prosecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come” —a very remarkable statement, “Ye shall not have gone over,” or, as the margin has it, finished— “the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.” That exactly recalls the expression that I made use of before: the Church is a great parenthesis. The mission of the apostles was abruptly terminated by the death of Christ. They still carried it out afterward for awhile, but it was terminated completely by the destruction of Jerusalem: the whole thing was manifestly removed for the time being, but not forever. The calling of the Church was the only thing that remained. When the Lord has taken the Church out of the world to heaven, God will raise up witnesses to the Messiah upon earth. The earth is reserved for the Jew, when the Jew shall be converted; because God will never break His promise. God has declared that He would give His land to His people, and He will do so. God must give that land to that people, for This gifts and calling are without repentance. It is necessary consequence of God's faithfulness, that the Jewish people are not yet to be restored to their own land, when the fullness of the Gentiles is come in. The calling of the fullness of the Gentiles is the parenthesis that is going on now. When this is over, the Lord resumes His links with Israel. They will go back to the land in unbelief. The testimony of the kingdom, which was begun in the time of our Lord by the apostles, will be taken up in Jerusalem; and in the midst of their preaching, the Son of man will come, and then there will be a new means used: “He will send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. The Lord will accomplish fully in that day what was committed to man, and what broke down through man's wickedness. Then everything under the branch of Israel shall be glorious. That is what, I conceive, flows from the remarkable. expression that they should not go over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man were come. The whole period of the Lord's turning aside to call in the Gentiles now, is passed over in silence. He speaks of what was going out then, and of what will be resumed in glory, passing over what is being done meanwhile.
In the latter part of the chapter He gives sweet motives to encourage them. “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord: if they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?” He was proving this now, and they would have to feel it in their turn. “Fear them not therefore.” The first motive for not fearing is, I have traversed the same path; My path must be the right path through the world; do not be afraid. “Fear them not; for there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, and hid that shall not be known.” You will understand the reasons and motives of people's unbelief another day, if not now. Every one that knows the truth, and does not follow it, must have a dislike to those who do. As it was with Me, so will it be with you: but do not be alarmed. Be full of good courage, and persist in the testimony. “What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.” He encourages them to the greatest openness and boldness. And now comes in a second admonition not to fear, on another ground: after all, what harm can they do? They cannot touch the soul; nor can they even touch the body, unless your heavenly Father knows it. “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul.” They cannot injure you. There is nothing which a believer has to dread, except grieving and sinning against God. Therefore He immediately adds, “Rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” You may know your own deliverance; but it is a fearful thing to apprehend what is before God's enemies—the destruction of soul and body in hell! “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not, therefore; ye are of more value than many sparrows.” That is, the special care of our Father for His own children is drawn from this, that even the very sparrow, though so despised and trivial a bird among men, yet cannot fall to the ground “without your Father.” He might have said, Without God; but He preferred to say, Your Father. All belongs to Him. It is all measured by Him; everything even in the outward world.
From the 32nd verse to the end of the chapter, we have the importance of the confession of Christ and the effects of it in this world. The first great principle is this: “Whosoever, therefore, shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.” But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” We have had the Father's care; we have now the Son's confession by and by. The Father's care is known upon earth, whatever may be the trial. The Son's confession of us will be in heaven, when all the scene of trial is over.
Then He warns them they must not be surprised if they found the result of their testimony very painful—households getting into confusion, members of a family at variance one with another. Do not be surprised. “Think not,” He says, “that I am come to send peace on earth.” We know that the Lord gives us peace always by all means; but He is speaking here of the entrance of His testimony, through His disciples into a world that hates Him. Inevitably, then, the two principles come into collision. It is not that He desires confusion, but it is the natural effect of the knowledge of Christ entering a house where either the heads or the inferior members of it reject Christ. As it is in the world, so in the house. There are those that believe and those that believe not. “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” Dream not that everything is going to be triumphant. The day is coming when the Lord will cause peace to flow as a river; he shows that such is not the character nor the effect of His first coming. It will be so when He comes again. But meanwhile it is not peace, but a sword. It is the badge of war now, and must be so; because of the opposition which unbelief always creates against the truth. “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.” The Lord boldly meets the case. I am come to bring in my principle; and let it be a child, and he is against his father. Now this is the very thing, that turns out one of our severest trials—the effect that the testimony of God has upon families. People speak of households being broken up, and kindred disunited, The Lord already uses the same words, and strengthens us not to mind it. “He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life, shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake, shall find it.” He shows that He had come for anything but giving us a path of ease in this world. On the contrary, we must have trial, rejection, and scorn: we must make up our minds to suffer. But then He adds the other side, “He that receiveth you receiveth me; and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me.” There would be those that would receive, as well as those that would reject. “He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet,” (that is, as a prophet) if he knew it was a servant of God, and received him as such, in the face of shame and scorn, he should have the same reward as a prophet himself. “And he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man” —other people might call him unrighteous, but he receives him as a righteous man, and he “shall receive a righteous man's reward.” He proves that his own heart was right with God. We always show our real state of soul by the opinion we pronounce. Supposing I speak or act unwarrantably against a good man doing his duty, I show that I am not with God in that particular thing. On the other hand, if I have faith to discern what is of God, and to take my part with Him in the face of general desertion, happy am I indeed. God alone enables a man to do so. It thus remains true that we always show where our hearts are, by our judgments of, and conduct toward, others.
“And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.” It would be the evidence and proof that the Spirit was at work in his soul. The Lord was showing him mercy, and his own heart was drawn out in the path of mercy. He should in no wise lose his reward. It is the outward conduct springing from the inward principle. In all these cases it is clearly the Jewish mission of these disciples. I believe that we thus get the true character of the chapter and the place it occupies in the gospel. The point is, the Lord, as the Lord of the harvest, not only bidding them pray, but Himself anticipating the prayer. “Before they call, I will answer.” The Lord is acting in the very spirit of that which will be fully true in the last days. He is Himself sending forth the laborers. In Luke we are told that He refers to this very mission, and asks, “When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye anything? and they said, Nothing.” Then the Lord tells them they were to provide themselves with purse, and scrip, and sword: the very things which they were not to do before, they were to do from that time. The Lord abrogates what He had here enjoined-, as far as the special circumstances were concerned. His goodness and love to them, and their walking in wisdom and harmlessness would abide; but the peculiar character of this mission terminated at the death of Christ. It will, I conceive, be taken up again by others at a future day: but the disciples actually sent out were soon to be called to a new work, founded upon redemption and the resurrection of our Lord.