James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.Matthew 10:1-12:50
EXPANSION AND OPPOSITION
The King has come, the code of His Kingdom is set forth, His credentials presented, and He now expands the testimony concerning Himself, with the result of increasing opposition. This expansion is connected with the commission of the twelve disciples (chap. 10), and the opposition is revealed in various ways in the chapters following.
THE DISCIPLES COMMISSIONED (Matthew 10)
Here we find “apostles” for the first time (Matthew 10:2), which means “those sent forth,” an indispensable qualification for whose office was that of an eyewitness of the resurrection of Christ (Acts 1:22; 1 Corinthians 9:1). The apostles were endued with miraculous powers as credentials of their ministry, and their work at this time was to announce to Israel only, that the Kingdom was at hand (Matthew 10:6-7). The Kingdom is the one promised to Israel on this earth, and through Israel to the other nations. This explains things in the chapter, which if rightly understood, will keep us from reading into it that which does not belong there.
For example, the power granted in Matthew 10:1 and Matthew 10:8 was in connection with this preaching of the Kingdom, and withdrawn when the Kingdom was finally rejected by Israel; although it will be renewed when the faithful remnant of the Jews again go forth during the tribulation to preach the same Kingdom. In the meantime, the preaching of the gospel of grace, especially committed to Paul, who wasn’t of the twelve, is accompanied by gifts of another kind (Ephesians 4:10-12). Look at Matthew 10:11-15, where the “worthy” mean those looking for the Messiah promised by the Old Testament prophets. The gospel of grace is not offered to the “worthy,” but to “whomsoever” will accept it. Or, take Matthew 10:16-23, which speak of the way the apostles’ message would be received, and compare the prophecy they contain with the persecution in the Acts of the Apostles; or look at these verses in the light of the second coming of Christ, to which Matthew 10:23 refers. We learned in Daniel and elsewhere, that time is not counted in the history of Israel when she is not in her own land. Hence the testimony here begun by the apostles and continued up to Israel’s rejection of the Kingdom, is an unfinished testimony, and will be taken up again when the church is translated during the tribulation.
From this point to Matthew 10:33 we find encouragement. The disciples are identified with their Lord (Matthew 10:24-25); therefore, they need not fear (Matthew 10:26-28), for He cares for them (Matthew 10:29-33). Then follows a description of the age in which we live, a time of war rather than peace (34-36); of separation on the part of Christ’s followers (Matthew 10:37-38), and yet with the prospect of a bright recompense (Matthew 10:39-42).
Modern research throws light on a chapter like this. Take Matthew 10:9 and Matthew 10:20. Upon a monument at Kefr-Hanar in Syria, during this same period, one who calls himself a slave of the Syrian goddess tells of his begging journeys in her services, and uses the word for his collecting-bag here translated “scrip.” He boasts that “each journey brought in seventy bags.” The contrast with the followers of Christ is marked, who were neither to earn nor beg as they went forth with speed to herald His coming.
ANXIETY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST (Matthew 11)
We are not surprised that as the testimony of Christ thus expanded (Matthew 11:1), John the Baptist in his prison should wonder, “Why, if this be the Christ, does He not take the Kingdom, or why does He not deliver me? Have I been mistaken in my witness to Him?” John is told to reflect upon the evidence and to wait (Matthew 11:2-6).
How our Lord defends John, lest this act should reflect upon him (Matthew 11:7-15)! Matthew 11:11 has reference to John’s relation to the Kingdom. The least in the Kingdom of heaven when it shall be set up upon earth, shall be greater than John could be before that time. The words do not speak of John in the moral sense, in which he was as great as any man born of woman, but in this dispensational sense. Matthew 11:12 is capable of two interpretations, an external and an internal one. In the first, the enemies of Jesus and John are the violent who are rejecting the Kingdom by force; in the second, the violent are those who in face of the opposition are pressing into the Kingdom.
A description of that generation follows as a foolish one (Matthew 11:16-19), but there were some who believed and are referred to in the words “wisdom is justified of her children.”
As the judge of that generation our Lord now speaks (Matthew 11:20-27). “Woe,” is heard for the first time. In the coming day there will be different degrees of punishment (Matthew 11:22; Matthew 11:24), responsibility being gauged by privilege. From the “wise and prudent” in their own eyes, i.e., the self-righteous Pharisees, these things were hidden, but were revealed unto “babes,” the poor in spirit conscious of their need (Matthew 11:25). Our Lord now turns toward these in Matthew 11:28-30, in which he offers no longer the Kingdom, but rest and service to them that come to Him. Practically He has been rejected by the nation, and is approaching the turning point in His ministry, when the proclamation of the Kingdom shall cease.
OPPOSITION EXPRESSED (Matthew 12)
The enmity is coming to a head. In Matthew 12:1-8, the Lord of the Sabbath is unjustly accused of Sabbath-breaking, and answers His accusers by facts of Holy Writ. David, as the rejected king in his time, ate the shew-bread, and “Great David’s greater Son” in His rejection is correspondingly guiltless. Next comes the temptation of Matthew 12:9-14, with the result that the opposition now becomes organized (Matthew 11:14), and the Lord withdraws Himself for His hour is not yet come. As He is departing, the incident of Matthew 12:22-30 takes place, when He is again charged as the representative of Satan (Matthew 12:24, compared with Matthew 9:34). The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost consists in attributing His work to Satan (Matthew 12:31-32). “A word against the Son of Man” might be forgiven, for the Holy Spirit still remained to convict one of that sin by testifying to Christ. But when the testimony of the Holy Spirit to Christ was rejected as in this case, there was no hope left.
The opposition increases by the demand for a sign (Matthew 12:38-42). Had He not given sufficient signs? Jonah is a type of His own death and resurrection and He will give him as a sign. The Queen of Sheba is another sign. But Israel is like a man out of whom a demon had gone of his own accord, and comes back to find the place unoccupied and brings seven other worse spirits to fill the former abode. The nation, in other words, had been cured of idolatry by the Babylonian captivity, but now it was boasting of forms and ceremonies, traditions and self-righteousness. It was empty so far as the fear of Jehovah was concerned, and by and by the evil spirit would return, and the end of Israel, i.e., the period of the tribulation, would be worse than the beginning.
The Lord is rejected even by His family, as we judge by comparing the closing verses of this chapter with the reason in Mark 3:21. He declines to see them, and intimates the formation of a new family of faith.
1. What is an essential qualification for an apostle?
2. What is the limitation of the apostles’ commission at this time?
3. How does that limitation affect the teaching of chapter 10?
4. How may “violent” be interpreted in chapter 11?
5. On what principle will future retribution be rendered?
6. What is the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost?
7. How would you explain Matthew 12:43-45?
8. How would you explain Jesus’ reference to His mother and His brethren?