William Kelly Major Works 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 Chapter 10
At the close of the previous chapter our Lord, in looking upon the lost sheep of the house of Israel, speaks of them in deep pity as sheep without a shepherd. What the Pharisees really were had fully come out: 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 and died for our sin. But we do want sympathy with us in our ignorance, weakness, trembling, liability to anxieties, cares, troubles: 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 labourers into His harvest. It was His harvest, and His labourers 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 labourers The next chapter illustrates this, and beautifully evinces the scope of 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. Matthew 8 gives us the people, and Matthew 9 their guides, thus severally manifesting themselves.
Now chapter 10 shows that Jesus, as Lord of the harvest, sends forth labourers and this too with full authority and power given to them. But observe, 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 if 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 Saviour. We Gentiles were not sheep at all, but dogs, in our Evangelist's point of view. (See Matt. 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 sickness, and all manner of disease" (ver. 1). This 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 bodily diseases, as a testimony to Israel. They were to declare the kingdom of heaven. "As ye go," said our Lord, "preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand" (ver. 7). 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, who was able Himself not only 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 in due order - 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 had died, and risen, and 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 at this time the twelve apostles were to be (what Paul was not) the ministers to Israel in testimony 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: a 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. 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 His death had come in. "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me." Christ upon the cross becomes the attractive centre 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 - the Church. There was the waiting for still further rejection before this could be disclosed, as in Matthew 16.
But here the Lord Jesus sends forth the twelve, and commands 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" (vers. 5-10). 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 their 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, in outward establishment, remains in suspension. The calling of God now to the Gentiles comes in as a vast parenthesis between this message to the lost sheep in Israel and its full accomplishment in the last days. Whatever the Lord commands must be accomplished, but nothing is perfectly fulfilled till the Lord takes all in hand Himself.
Everything that is to be taken up by Christ in power and glory by and by is first committed to man. But man fails everywhere, Israel as a nation breaks down, the Church has become worldly and scattered. All will yet be to the praise of Christ Himself. Thus, no matter what you look at in the ways of God, there is, as a rule, first presenting it to man; 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, and will shine out in more than pristine brightness, and redound to His glory.
The twelve were sent out on this mission, and instructed to depend 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 human means of acting upon 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 marked. 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" (ver. 11). Is a man going out with the gospel now to ask who is worthy? He seeks the unworthy. But this was a mission to Israel; and Jehovah wanted the excellent in the earth, those whose hearts really desired the Messiah. "And when ye come into a house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you." This is not at all the way of the gospel now. On the contrary, it is peace with God that the servant of Christ is entitled to proclaim to His enemies. The direct bearing of the gospel is toward those who are in misery - the vile and forlorn; because the gospel is the fulness of God's grace to man who has nothing whatever to give to God. If they are but broken down, feel that they are utterly unfit for God, and that God has provided such a Saviour as His word declares, then we cannot trust Him too fully or too simply. The essence of the gospel is this: That God does not ask me to give, but to receive. This is the gospel of God - the gospel of His Son; but here, in Matthew, it is the gospel of the kingdom. You will constantly find this phrase in Matthew. This gospel goes out to those that are worthy. If the house were worthy, the messenger's peace 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" - judgment would be upon them. "Verily, I say unto you, It shall be more 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 coining to them with a gracious message, and they would not receive them.
From verse 16 the Lord warns them 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. There was to be entire holiness in the object and character of the prudence, and free from any 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. The Jews 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." While hating the Gentile yoke, they would be quite willing to invoke Gentile authority where it became a question of Christ's followers. The Jews 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."
Thus God turns the weapons of the adversary against himself. "Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee: the remainder of wrath Thou wilt restrain." One cannot but feel that such a truth as this, though it has special application to apostles setting out on this mission, most surely remains for us. "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 what 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 most heartless conduct toward them, even from 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 for My name's sake; but he that endureth to the end shall be saved" (vers. 19-22). "But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel," or, as the margin has it, "finished the cities of Israel, till the Son of Man be come" - a remarkable statement. It 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 afterwards for a while, but it was terminated completely by the destruction of Jerusalem: the whole thing was ended for the time being, but not for ever. The calling of the Church was then taken up; and when the Lord has taken the Church out of the world to heaven, God will again raise up witnesses to the Messiah upon earth, when the Jew shall be converted. God has declared that He would give His land to His people, and He will do so, for His gifts and calling are without repentance. God's faithfulness is involved in it, that the Jewish people must be restored to their own land when the fulness of the Gentiles is come in. The calling of the fulness 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 again be taken up until the Son of Man will come. Then "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 which broke down through man's weak or wicked hand. Then everything under the Branch of Israel shall be glorious. This, I conceive, is what goes along with the remarkable expression that they should not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of Man came. The whole period of the Lord's turning aside to call in the Gentiles is passed over in silence. He speaks of what was going out then, and of what will be resumed in Israel - passing over what is being done meanwhile.
In the latter part of the chapter the Lord 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?" (vers. 24, 25).
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; do not be afraid. "Fear them not . . . for there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, and hid that shall not be known." As much as to say: 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 persevere 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" (ver. 27). He encourages them to the greatest openness and boldness. A second admonition not to fear is on another ground: And what harm can they do? They cannot touch the soul; nor can they even touch the body unless your heavenly Father allows 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." A fearful thing 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" (vers. 29-31). The special, the minute care of our Father for His own children is drawn from this, that 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 said, Your Father - a father's love is concerned for his children.
From verse 32 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 we know 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 that the result of their testimony may be very painful - households getting into confusion, members of a family at variance one with another. Be not surprised. "Think not," He says, "that I am come to send peace on earth." We know that the Lord can give 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 some of its members reject Him.
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; but such is not the effect of His first coming. It is the badge of war now, 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 it sets child against parent. Now this becomes 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 for 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" (vers. 37-39). He shows that His coming would bring the opposite to a path of ease in this world. Yea, we must make up our minds to suffer trial, rejection and scorn. 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 he 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, not as a mere man or friend, but as righteous, and he "shall receive a righteous man's reward." He proves that his own heart is right with God. We 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. We 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" (ver. 42). It would be the evidence that the Spirit was at work in his soul - his heart drawn out in mercy to, and sympathy with, those who are of God in this world. He should in nowise 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 we thus get the true character of the chapter and the place it occupies in this Gospel.
The point of view in this whole chapter is, the Lord, as Lord of the harvest, not only bidding them to pray that labourers be sent into the harvest (Matthew 9:38), but Himself anticipating the prayer. "Before they call, I will answer;" and 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 labourers.
In Luke 22:35, referring to this very mission, the Lord asks, "When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye anything? And they said, Nothing." Then the Lord tells them now 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 before 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.
Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The 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 publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus;
Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.
These twelve Jesus sent forth, 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.
And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence.
And when ye come into an house, salute it.
And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.
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.
Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
But 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 for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.
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 what ye shall speak.
For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
But when they persecute 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.
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?
Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.
What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both 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.
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.
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
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.
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 that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.
He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward.
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.