DISCIPLESHIP INVOLVES CONFESSION, CONFLICT, COST BUT ALSO REWARD
Grant Osborne: Jesus finalizes his Mission Discourse by demanding fearless confession in the midst of conflict. As such it acts as a concluding summary of the themes in the rest of this passage. Confessing Jesus is not an option; every believer who refuses to acknowledge Jesus before the world will be disowned by Christ, with judgment the result (vv. 32–33). Since the presence of the final kingdom in Christ will drive a sword even between family relationships (vv. 34–36), the only solution is to place Christ even above family in your life and to lose all for him (vv. 37–39). But at the same time, you are now identified completely with Christ, and whatever people do to you they are doing to Christ (vv. 40–42).
Matthew McCraw: One fishing trip that I’ve really enjoyed is an inshore fishing trip I went on near the 10,000 islands off the coast of Collier County, Florida. I went on that fishing trip with a friend of mine from a previous church in order to catch some species of fish that I had not caught that were the prized fish for inshore fishing. On that trip, we caught trout, sharks, tarpon, snook, and redfish. It was a great trip.
I said to my friend, that I wish I could find and catch fish like he did. He said that it was easy to do so. All you had to do was be a third generation Collier County fisherman, purchase a $60,000 boat, and fish there your whole life, and then you could fish like he did.
You see, my friend was committed to being a great fisherman. He had put in the work, he was passionate, and he had spent the money. He had really given himself to that work.
All the greats in this world are committed to whatever it is that makes them great. Great athletes practice thousands of hours in order to achieve a high level in their sport. Great doctors have done hundreds of surgeries and seen thousands of patients. They’ve studied and consulted hours upon hours. To be the best at something, that something has to have priority in your life.
Today, we’re going to learn that if we want to be great at faithfully following the Father, Jesus must have absolute priority in our lives.
John Heil: Like the disciples, the members of the audience are to publicly confess Jesus before people, including in their communal worship, so that Jesus will confess them before his Father in heaven in the final judgment (10:32–33). They must endure opposition to Jesus even in their families, and be more devoted to Jesus than to their family members (10:34–37). They are to follow Jesus to the point of performing the ethical self-sacrificial worship of taking up their cross and losing their lives for his sake in order to find them (10:38–39). Those who receive and extend merciful care (“a cup of cold water,” 10:42) for them as disciples, who are to be like prophets and righteous people, are actually receiving Jesus and the God who sent him. This adds another dimension to the way that Jesus is present and an object of worship as “God with us” (1:23). Those who extend merciful care to disciples of Jesus are thus performing ethical worship (“I desire mercy, not [simply] sacrifice” [9:13; cf. Hos 6:6]) for which they will receive a heavenly reward (10:40–42).
I. (:32-38) DISCIPLESHIP INVOLVES CONFESSION, CONFLICT AND COST
A. (:32-33) Confessing the Messiah as Lord
- (:32) Confession
“Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men,
I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.”
John Nolland: Perhaps the basis for vv. 32-33 is to be found in the prospect of persecution of v. 25 coupled with the calls not to fear it in vv. 26-31.
Grant Osborne: The term “confesses” (ὁμολογέω) is used of confessing Jesus as Messiah (John 9:22) or Lord (Rom 10:9) and here has the idea of public proclamation of allegiance to Jesus.
Charles Swindoll: Loyal disciples openly acknowledge Christ before the world.
R. T. France: The context of judgment before God gives added urgency to the choice which this saying demands, between the short-term advantage of preserving human approval and the humanly risky but ultimately sound course of maintaining a prior loyalty to Jesus in the face of human opposition. The use of the broad term “people” (see on v. 17) here has the effect of contrasting human with divine approval. The issue is not merely obedience to Jesus’ teaching, but the explicit “acknowledgement” of him as Lord before a hostile world. The saying, which Matthew introduces with an inferential “So,” thus appropriately follows on not only from vv. 26–31 about fearing God rather than people, but also from vv. 17–22 about the need to maintain a faithful witness to Jesus even when it means suffering “because of me.” It provides the ultimate basis for the disciple’s willingness to proclaim Jesus from the rooftops (v. 27). What ultimately decides a person’s destiny is what Jesus himself will have to say about them “before my Father who is in heaven.” Cf. 7:21–23 for a similar statement of Jesus’ personal role in final judgment; the christological implications are as startling here as there. His verdict will be on a reciprocal basis: acknowledgement or denial depending on whether they have acknowledged or denied him. The later experience of Peter (26:69–75) is an object-lesson in denying Jesus under the pressure of public opinion, but Peter’s subsequent rehabilitation adds a reassuring suggestion that the stark verdict of this saying may be understood to refer to a settled course of acknowledgment or denial rather than to every temporary lapse under pressure.
- (:33) Denial
“But whoever shall deny Me before men,
I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”
Grant Osborne: It is clear that our status before God is completely tied to our relationship with Christ. Our eternal destiny depends on our acceptance or renunciation of Christ. Further, he along with God will be the Judge at the final judgment (cf. 7:21–23), and his witness about us will be the determining factor in where we spend eternity. At the same time, this is not just speaking of the apostate but also of the weak Christian who tries to remain anonymous, i.e., refuses to stand up for Christ at school or in the workplace. Such a one is, in effect, “ashamed” of Christ, and in another saying of Jesus on this same topic, he will be “ashamed” of that person (Mark 8:38) on the day of judgment.
Donald Hagner: Jesus stands at the center of the message of the kingdom, not only announcing it but bringing it through his ministry of word and deed. In the final analysis, therefore, one’s relation to Jesus is all important. Relation to God is only possible through relation to him, and to reject him is in effect to reject God (cf. v 40). The importance of Christology for Matthew is plainly evident in this passage. Jesus is both the object of commitment and the sole mediating subject on behalf of others to the Father. No middle ground or “neutrality” is envisioned here. One is either for Jesus or against him. The boundaries of Judaism are broken here, for no prophet, teacher, or rabbi is capable of such words. Matthew continually keeps before us the uniqueness of Jesus.
William Barclay: It is still possible to deny Jesus Christ.
(1) We may deny him with our words.
As Christians, we can never escape the duty of being different from the world. It is not our duty to conform to the world; it is our duty to be transformed out of it.
(2) We can deny him by our silence.
There can be a menace of things unsaid in the Christian life. Again and again, life brings us the opportunity to speak some word for Christ, to utter some protest against evil, to take some stand, and to show what side we are on. Again and again on such occasions, it is easier to keep silence than to speak. But such a silence is a denial of Jesus Christ. It is probably true that far more people deny Jesus Christ by cowardly silence than by deliberate words.
(3) We can deny him by our actions.
We can live in such a way that our life is a continuous denial of the faith which we profess. Those who have given their allegiance to the gospel of purity may be guilty of all kinds of small-scale dishonesties and breaches of strict honour. Those who have undertaken to follow the Master who bade us take up a cross can live a life which is dominated by attention to their own ease and comfort. Those who have entered the service of him who himself forgave and who bade his followers to forgive can live a life of bitterness and resentment and variance with others. Those whose eyes are meant to be on that Christ who died for love of men and women can live a life in which the idea of Christian service and Christian charity and Christian generosity are conspicuous by their absence.
John MacArthur: The negative side of Jesus’ warning is sobering: But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. This warning applies to a person who makes an outward profession of Christianity but turns away when hard testing comes. It is possible to deny Christ before men by silence, by failing to witness for Him and trying to be an unnoticed Christian—whose friends and neighbors, and perhaps even family, would never suspect of being a believer. It is also possible to deny Christ by actions, living like the rest of the world lives, with no higher standards or values. It is possible to deny Christ by words, using the world’s profanity, vulgarity, and blasphemy. It is possible to deny Christ in many ways that are short of verbally and publicly renouncing Him. The future tenses in verses 32-33 tell us that Jesus is speaking of future judgment. In that day, those who confess Him, He will also confess, and those who deny Him, He will also deny. The difference between true and false discipleship is a much-repeated theme in Matthew. Near the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (5:20). Later during the sermon He distinguished between false disciples, who go in the wide gate and travel the broad way, and true disciples, who enter by the narrow gate and walk in the narrow way (7:13-14). He spoke of those who bear good fruit and those who bear bad fruit (7:16-20) and then said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (vv. 21-23). Immediately after that He distinguished between the person who builds his religious house on the sand of man’s wisdom and is destroyed and the person who builds on the rock of His Word and is saved (vv. 24-27).
B. (:34-36) Considering the Conflict in Family Relationships
- (:34) Principle
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth;
I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
Donald Hagner: The form of the statement not to expect Jesus to bring peace (μὴ νομίσητε, “do not imagine”; cf. 5:17) suggests that this would have been the natural inclination of the disciples. Was not the gospel a message of peace (cf. 5:9; 10:13)? Would not the age of the kingdom of God bring peace (εἰρήνη) with it (cf. Luke 1:79b; Isa 9:6; 11:9)? The answer must clearly be yes in its final realization and even in some sense in the present (cf. John 14:27). But in the peculiar and unexpected interim period of the proclamation of the kingdom, as has already been shown, strange things may be expected by the disciples and later messengers of the kingdom. The hostility now in view—that between otherwise close family members—is described with the metaphor of a “sword” (μάχαιραν; cf. Luke’s διαμερισμόν, “division”).
Norman Geisler: We must distinguish between the purpose of Christ’s coming to earth and the result of it. His design was to bring peace—peace with God for unbelievers (Rom. 5:1) and eventually, the peace of God for believers (Phil. 4:7). However, the immediate consequence of Christ’s coming was to divide those who were for Him and those who were against Him—the children of God from the children of this world. But, just as the goal of an amputation is to relieve pain, so the immediate effect is to inflict pain. Likewise, Christ’s ultimate mission is to bring peace, both to the human heart and to earth. Nonetheless, the immediate effect of His message was to divide those in the kingdom of God from those in the kingdom of Satan.
R. T. France: Already in 5:11–12 Jesus has made it clear that the good life will indeed result in hostility and persecution, and now he is in no mood to compromise. These are not just some unfortunate side-effects of a basically acceptable mission. The very purpose of Jesus’ coming is “not peace but a sword,” because the message of God’s kingship is one which always has and always will lead to violent response from those who are threatened by it (11:12). As 5:11–12 has already reminded them, this has been true in the experience of God’s prophets even before Jesus came, and a sobering quotation from Micah 7:6 underlines the point. To represent Jesus is to accept their share in the way he is treated by a hostile world (vv. 24–25), and now the lethal nature of that opposition is made explicit by the first reference in this gospel to the “cross.” And it comes on the scene, startlingly, not only as his eventual fate, but as theirs. To follow Jesus is to embrace martyrdom. . .
The “mission statement” here is meant to shock. Not only is peace a basic human aspiration, but it was understood to be the purpose of the Messiah’s coming (e.g. Isa 9:6–7; Zech 9:10) and the defining characteristic of God’s eschatological rule (e.g. Isa 11:6–9). Matthew will draw attention in 21:4–5 to how Jesus presented himself as the messianic king who brings peace, and his non-confrontational style will be commented on in 12:15–21 and demonstrated in chs. 26–27 in the story of his quiet acceptance of unjust accusation and condemnation. His coming was proclaimed as the dawn of “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14), and it is “peace” which the disciples are being sent out to offer (v. 13). Peace-making is an essential part of the good life (5:9). But the way to peace is not the way of avoidance of conflict, and Jesus will be continuously engaged in robust controversy especially in chs. 21–23, while his whole experience will be the opposite of a “peaceful” way of life. His followers can expect no less, and their mission to establish God’s peaceful rule can be accomplished only by sharing his experience of conflict. The “sword” can hardly be understood literally, as the literal use of the sword is explicitly forbidden in 26:51–52; it is a metaphor for conflict and suffering, as in Luke 2:35.
John Nolland: The ‘sword’ stands as an image of destructive hostility. Though the sword is quite a common image for divine judgment, that does not appear to be how it is used here.
- (:35-36) Particulars
a. (:35) Specific Examples
“For I came to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;”
Charles Swindoll: Loyal disciples willingly accept rejection, even from their own families. When we openly acknowledge our identity as Christ followers through words and actions (10:32-33), we shouldn’t be surprised when social conflict ensues. When Christ returns and sets everything right, peace will reign across the globe. All nations will acknowledge the kingship of Jesus. But until then, our expressed commitment to Christ will not result in increasing peace and harmony. Instead, it will bring division, disharmony, misunderstanding, and the harshest kinds of rejection and persecution. In His first coming, Christ did not come to immediately usher in the messianic age of peace and prosperity (10:34). Rather, during His time on earth – and during the subsequent age of the church – spiritual warfare would ensue, manifested in godless cultures and in conflict among those in even the closest relationships.
b. (:36) Summary
“and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”
William Barclay: He offers a choice; and we have to choose sometimes between the closest ties of earth and loyalty to Jesus Christ.
John Bunyan knew all about that choice. The thing which troubled him most about his imprisonment was the effect it would have upon his wife and children. What was to happen to them, bereft of his support? ‘The parting with my wife and poor children hath often been to me in this place, as the pulling the flesh from my bones; and that not only because I am somewhat too fond of these great mercies, but also because I should have often brought to my mind the many hardships, miseries, and wants that my poor family was like to meet with, should I be taken from them, especially my poor blind child, who lay nearer my heart than all I had besides. O the thought of the hardship I thought my blind one might go under, would break up my heart to pieces … But yet, recalling myself, thought I, I must venture you all with God, though it goeth to the quick to leave you; O I saw in this condition, I was a man who was pulling down his house upon the head of his wife and children; yet thought I, I must do it, I must do it.’
Once again, this terrible choice will come very seldom, in God’s mercy to many of us it may never come; but the fact remains that all loyalties must give place to loyalty to God.
C. (:37-39) Counting the Cost of Following Jesus
- (:37) In Terms of Relationships
“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.”
Charles Swindoll: Loyal disciples sacrificially choose their essential priorities. Fidelity to Christ will be neither easy nor popular. In Matthew 10:37-39, we see that it calls for a complete reversal of the world’s priorities, passions, and pursuits. The world tells us to be concerned about ourselves, our own lives, our own interests, our own identities, our own families, our own peace and security, and our own possessions.
Grant Osborne: In one sense the family disowns the believer (vv. 35–36) and in another sense the believer sets aside allegiance to the family (v. 37). The key term is “worthy” (ἄξιος, discussed in 10:10–11); one is “worthy” or “deserving” of Jesus only if he is placed ahead of all earthly attachments, even family ties. The use of “loves” (φιλῶν) points to both affection and loyalty. Jesus, of course, recognizes the deep love between parents and children (15:4–6; 19:19), but he demands the deeper commitment. This is the core of discipleship; if Jesus is not first, we do not “deserve” to be his disciple.
- (:38) In Terms of Life Itself
“And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”
Grant Osborne: True discipleship involves both a death to self and a willingness to die for Jesus (cf. also Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23, 14:27; John 12:26).
Donald Hagner: The radical statement of v 37, with its stress on uncompromising loyalty to Jesus, is now exceeded by two remarkable descriptions of the nature of discipleship in absolute terms. The attachment and loyalty to Jesus referred to in the preceding verse are now seen to involve even greater demands: absolute obedience and thus self-denial. . .
Taking up one’s cross refers not to the personal problems or difficulties of life that one must bear, as it is sometimes used in common parlance, but to a radical obedience that entails self-denial and, indeed, a dying to self. To take up one’s cross is to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, who is the model of such radical obedience and self-denial (cf. 4:1–11). Thus in a real sense v 39 is a kind of exegesis of v 38.
John MacArthur: Committing your life to follow Jesus Christ means you would not only forsake your family, if need be, the people closest to you that you love the most; you’d lose your life.
That’s the mark of genuineness. And you’re never to be intimidated by the world; you’d confess Christ in the most hostile environment. It’s the mark of your genuineness.
And they understood that He meant death. They understood that to take up the cross means abandoning myself to the lordship of Christ if it means I pay with my life. You see, the love of Christ has to overrule the normality of family love. And the love of Christ has to overrule the instinct of self-preservation.
Bruce Barton: Death on a cross was a form of execution used by Rome for dangerous criminals. A prisoner carried his own cross to the place of execution, signifying submission to Rome’s power. Following Jesus, therefore, meant identifying with Jesus and his followers, facing social and political oppression and ostracism, and no turning back. Christians follow their Lord by imitating his life and obeying his commands. To take up the cross meant to carry your own cross to the place where you would be killed. Many Galileans had been killed that way by the Romans. Applied to the disciples, to take up the cross meant to identify completely with Christ’s message, even if death were to result. We must deny our selfish desires to use our time and money our own way and to choose our own direction in life without regard to Christ. Following Christ is costly now, but we are promised true victory and eternal rewards.
Adrian Rogers: Somebody asked Tozer, “What does it mean to take up your cross?” and Tozer told a story of an old man, and here’s what he said. “One time, a young man came to an old saint who taught the deeper life, the crucified life, and said, ‘Father, what does it mean to be crucified?’ The old man thought for a moment and said, ‘Well, to be crucified means three things.'” Now, listen to this, folks. Here’s what it means to take up a cross. “First, the man who is crucified is facing only one direction.” That’s good. When you’re crucified, you’re only facing one direction. “The old man scratched his scraggily head and said, ‘One thing more, son, about the man on the cross. He is not going back. He has said his final goodbyes. Thirdly, he said, the man on the cross has no further plans of his own.'” Did you get that? He’s facing one direction. He’s not going back. He said goodbye. And he has no further plans of his own.
- (:39) In Terms of Self-Actualization
“He who has found his life shall lose it,
and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it.”
Donald Hagner: The way of the world—well illustrated in the incessant quest for “self-actualization” in contemporary pop psychology—leads only to a shallow and temporary fulfillment. The seeking of “life” at this level has left many in frustration and disappointment. On the other hand, and strangely, those who give up this useless quest, who instead yield themselves fully to the service of God and the kingdom—who willingly follow in the steps of Jesus—these are the ones who paradoxically find life, i.e., fulfillment and deep, abiding joy. And though the best of this fulfillment awaits the eschaton, it is already experienced proleptically in the present. Thus those who do not seek self-actualization as understood by the world, who love Jesus and the kingdom more than themselves (and in that sense alone “hate” their own life [Luke 14:26]), are alone the ones who realize true and lasting self-actualization and obtain personal fulfillment and the goal of their existence.
William Barclay: There is no place for a policy of safety first in the Christian life. Those who seek first ease and comfort and security and the fulfilment of personal ambition may well get all these things – but they will not be happy; for we were sent into this world to serve God and one another. It is possible to hoard life if we wish to do so. But that way, we will lose all that makes life valuable to others and worth living for ourselves. The way to serve others, the way to fulfil God’s purpose for us, the way to true happiness is to spend life selflessly, for only thus will we find life, here and hereafter.
William Hendriksen: Christ’s words may be paraphrased as follows: “The person who, when the issue is between me and what he considers his own interests, chooses the latter, thinking that by so doing he is going to ‘find’ himself, that is, secure a firmer hold on the full life, will be bitterly disappointed. He will lose rather than gain. His happiness and usefulness will shrink and shrivel rather than increase. At last he will perish everlastingly. On the other hand, the one who, confronted with the choice, give himself away, that is, denies himself out of loyalty to me, being willing if need be to pay the supreme sacrifice, will attain to complete self-realization. He will have life and will have it more abundantly until at last he will share with me the glory of my return and of the new heaven and earth.” Among the passages in which the same or at least a similar thought is expressed, and which shed light on the meaning of Matt. 10:39, are (in addition to Luke 9:23, 24): Matt. 16:26; Mark 8:34-38; Luke 17:32, 33; and John 12:25, 26.
II. (:40-42) DISCIPLESHIP ALSO INVOLVES REWARD
William Barclay: The Jews always felt that to receive a person’s envoy or messenger was the same as to receive that person. To pay respect to an ambassador was the same as to pay respect to the king who had sent him. To welcome with love the messenger of a friend was the same as to welcome the friend. The Jews always felt that to honour a person’s representative was the same as to honour the person who had sent the representative. This was particularly so in regard to wise men and to those who taught God’s truth. The Rabbis said: “He who shows hospitality to the wise is as if he brought the first fruits of his produce unto God.” “He who greets the learned is as if he greeted God.” If people are truly of God, to receive them is to receive the God who sent them.
Charles Swindoll: Loyal disciples experience the blessing of union with Christ.
Stanley Saunders: Jesus began this sermon by sending the disciples out, vulnerable and dependent on hospitality, which he equated with “worthiness” (10:11–15). He closes by returning to the theme of “welcoming.” Welcoming others in the name of Jesus is both the foundational practice of discipleship and a primary means of discovering and maintaining familial bonds with the members of God’s household (10:40–42).
William Hendriksen: “He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet.…” The meaning, then, is this: He who welcomes a prophet—not necessarily one of The Twelve but anyone who has the right to proclaim God’s truth—and does this not merely out of considerations of politeness or cordiality but very definitely because he regards this messenger to be a prophet indeed, and therefore in welcoming him wishes to welcome his Sender, shall receive the same reward as if he, the welcomer, were himself a prophet. Lest there be any misunderstanding, as if the reward of grace and glory would be granted only to those who welcomed a specially commissioned messenger, Jesus adds, and he who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person shall receive a righteous person’s reward. Here again for “because he is” the original has “in the name of.” The explanation is similar. The reward is promised because in the man who knocks at his door the welcomer recognizes “a righteous person,” that is, one who practices the true religion. The man who devotes his life to the performance of the urgently necessary and eminently noble task of providing lodging for, cooperating with, and encouraging God’s traveling children is promised the same reward as are those whom he befriends.
Homer Kent: To conclude this charge Jesus shows that those who risk persecution shall be appropriately rewarded.
A. (:40) General Principle of Representation Based on Union of Ambassador with Sender
“He who receives you receives Me,
and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”
Look at how close the connection is between the Father and the Son (whom He has sent). Then consider how close the connection is between Christ and His disciples (whom He has sent).
R. T. France: Underlying such sayings, with their repeated reference to being “sent”, is the principle later enshrined in the Jewish legal institution of the šälîaḥ, the “one sent,” an ambassador or representative who was understood to have the full authority of the one who sent them. It is those who recognize such authority in the disciples who will welcome them, just as it is those who recognize Jesus as God’s representative who will welcome him. The unspoken corollary (but spelled out in Luke 10:16) is that those who reject the disciples on their mission are guilty of a far graver fault than merely lack of hospitality to a fellow human being; they are rejecting God.
John Nolland: The role here of equivalence between Jesus and the missionary links back to the expectation of equivalent treatment established in the beginning of the unit at v. 24, while the role of welcome here refreshes the focus on being sent out, which was strong in the opening two units of the discourse but has lost visibility thus far in this final part of the mission charge. The verse provides assurance that no ‘dilution’ is involved in encountering at one step removed what Jesus stands for and brings, but, more than that, it probably extends the recognised range of the presence of God anticipated in 1:23. In a mission charge such a statement offers great confidence of empowerment, and assurance of the significance of the task undertaken. A tie is generally claimed here with Jewish notions of the ‘authorised representative’ (šāliaḥ) whose presence is to be treated as equivalent to that of the one who has sent him or her. A connection is certainly possible, but issues of legal authorisation are not particularly in focus here. In light of 10:11 and vv. 41-42 to come it is likely that receiving is intended to embrace welcoming and accepting for oneself the ministry of the disciple, and also supporting the ministry of the disciple.
B. (:41-42) Specific References to Various Rewards
- (:41a) Reward of a Prophet
“He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet
shall receive a prophet’s reward;”
- (:41b) Reward of a Righteous man
“and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man
shall receive a righteous man’s reward.”
Daniel Doriani: But Jesus continues down a line to people who are ever less prominent:
- To receive an apostle is to receive Christ.
- To receive a prophet is to receive Christ.
- To receive a righteous man is to receive Christ.
- To receive a little one—the smallest member of the kingdom—is to receive Christ.
Tasker: Levertoff’s understanding of these verses would seem most probable. “The passage”, he writes, “seems to imply that as of old kindness shown to a prophet because he represented God (e.g. Elisha and the widow), and to a righteous man because he was righteous, was rewarded by God according to the measure of the merit of the prophet or the righteous man; so now even the simplest kindness shown to the most insignificant disciple of Christ, because he is a disciple of His, will be rewarded according to the merit of Christ himself.” It is unlikely that there is any reference to a class of Christian prophets or any group of Christians known as “righteous men.”
- (:42) Reward for Any Work of Kindness
“And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones
even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward.”
Grant Osborne: So Jesus is speaking of the smallest of services to the weakest of people, yet an act noticed and rewarded by God.
Bob Utley: 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.. 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. “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’).”
Donald Hagner: The supreme importance of the messengers and their message is made very clear. Reception of the message and the messengers amounts to reception of Jesus and, in turn, the one who sent him, God. For Matthew, this applies not merely to the twelve but to the messengers of the kingdom in his community and thus to those of the Church in every era. Here is the beginning of the NT teaching concerning the mediatorship of Jesus, bridging between humanity and God (1 Tim 2:5; cf. Heb 9:15; 12:24). Thus the reception accorded the messengers of the kingdom is nothing short of the reception accorded God himself! If the messengers are that important, then the hospitality accorded the representatives of the kingdom will not go unrewarded. And one’s kind treatment of even a disciple will not be forgotten. Treatment of a disciple will later be described as equivalent to such treatment of Jesus, a point very much in accord with the present passage (cf. 25:40). All of this points finally to the extreme importance of the mission and therefore of the messengers themselves. The gospel must be proclaimed, and those who aid that proclamation, however indirectly, are performing an important, praiseworthy function.
Daniel Doriani: Why does God so notice? First, a small act—such as a timely word—can do great good. A timely word brings “healing to the bones.” An apt word is like “apples of gold in settings of silver” (Prov. 15:23; 16:24; 25:11; Eccl. 10:12; 12:11). A kind word is as small as a cup of cold water, yet it can change a life.
It isn’t the thing you do, dear,
It’s the thing you leave undone,
Which gives you the bitter heartache
At the setting of the sun;
The tender word unspoken,
The letter you did not write,
The flower you might have sent, dear,
Are your haunting ghosts at night.
The stone you might have lifted
Out of your brother’s way,
The bit of heartsome counsel
You were hurried too much to say;
The loving touch of the hand, dear,
The gentle and winsome tone,
That you had no time or thought for,
With troubles enough of your own.
These little acts of kindness,
So easily out of mind,
These chances to be angels,
Which even mortals find—
They come in night and silence,
Each chill reproachful wraith,
When hope is faint and flagging,
And a blight has dropped on faith.
For life is all too short, dear.
And sorrow is all too great,
To suffer our slow compassion
That tarries until too late.
And it’s not the thing you do, dear,
It’s the thing you leave undone,
Which gives you the bitter heartache,
At the setting of the sun.
(11:1) CONCLUSION TO MISSION DISCOURSE — TRANSITION
“When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples,
He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities.”
Grant Osborne: This verse concludes the Mission Discourse. Like the previous discourse, it ends with “it happened that when Jesus had finished” (see on 7:28; cf. 13:53; 19:1; 26:1), which provides a transition to the action narrative that follows in chs. 11–12.
R. T. France: “Teaching and preaching” summarizes the general nature of Jesus’ mission, which has been more fully described in 4:23; 9:35. The disciples’ role in this mission, which has been so carefully spelled out in ch. 10, is surprisingly not now mentioned. We are not told anything about what happened during their mission (nor even explicitly that they went at all, though 10:5 says they were “sent”), nor when they returned from it, and Matthew does not even include their report back to Jesus (contrast Mark 6:30; Luke 9:10; 10:17). In 12:1 we shall find the disciples still accompanying Jesus in his travelling ministry, and there is nothing in ch. 11 to indicate that they were not with Jesus during the events there recorded. Clearly Matthew is more interested in the principles underlying the disciples’ mission (and therefore that of his readers) than in any contribution it makes to his narrative of Jesus’ Galilean period; the only time we shall hear of any of the disciples operating independently of Jesus is in 17:16, where it was not a success. The mission which has been that of Jesus from the beginning continues in the same vein despite its theoretical extension to the disciples in ch. 10. It will be only after Jesus’ resurrection (28:19–20) that Matthew’s narrative will envisage the disciples actually going out on their own.