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MATTHEW - Chapter 10

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Matthew 10

Supplemental Commentary:

I.  PUBLIC MINISTRY OF JESUS   3-25 (continued)

3.  Second Period of the Ministry in Galilee and Across its Lake  5, 1 -- 15, 20 (continued)

9, 35 -- 10, 15:  The Mission of the Apostles (continued).    10, 1.  The bestowal upon the Apostles of the power to work miraculous cures.  Parallels in Mark 6, 7 and Luke 9, 1 f.  Christ allowed them to share in this divine power of His in order that they might thereby attract the people more easily and render their preaching more efficacious.  Having summoned his twelve disciples: Matthew takes for granted that the Twelve already form a distinct group among the more general disciples of Jesus.  They were in fact chosen much earlier in the ministry, immediately before the Sermon on the Mount, as we know from Mark 3, 13-15 and Luke 6, 12 f.    2-4.  The list of the Apostles.  Parallels in Mark 3, 16-19; Luke 6, 14-16; Acts 1, 13.  These four lists are substantially the same but have several minor differences both in the order of the Twelve and in their names and titles.  In all the lists except Marks's the Apostles are grouped in pairs, probably because Christ "sent them forth two by two" (Mark 6, 7), but possibly also as a mere memory-aid in the oral catechesis.  Brothers are not always grouped together in the same pair.  The order of the names is largely based on the relative importance of each of the Twelve.  The order of the names of the Apostles in the Canon of the Mass differs somewhat from all the lists in the New Testament, not only by inserting Paul immediately after Peter but also by placing Thomas and James the Less much higher on the list.

2.  The number twelve corresponds intentionally with the number of the tribes of Israel (cf. Matt. 19, 28).  The word apostles comes from the Greek and signifies literally "they who are sent," i.e., delegates, ambassadors, messengers.  In the New Testament there are a few passages where the title is not restricted to the Twelve (e.g., Acts 14, 13).  First, not only in all the lists but also in importance because Christ bestowed on him the primacy, is Simon, who is called Peter.  Simon is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Simeon, the name by which James the Less calls him in Acts 15, 14 (according to the Greek and Vulgate manuscripts).  For being the first to acknowledge the divinity of Jesus he received from Him the appellation of "the Rock," in Aramaic, Kepha.  However, during the mortal life of Jesus no one ever addressed him by any other name than Simon.  (For the sole exception in Luke 22, 34 see Commentary on that passage.)  After the Ascension people commonly spoke of him as "the Rock" (Kepha) or "Simon, the Rock."  But by the time of St. Paul this word had already lost its appellative force and was considered merely as another personal name of the Prince of the Apostles, receiving a Greek case-ending as Kephas or being translated into Greek as Petros.  The translation however was not quite felicitous, for this Greek word with its masculine ending signifies merely a "stone," not the "bedrock" (petra).  The Evangelists call him more or less indifferently "Simon," "Simon Peter," or simply "Peter."  Andrew, a Greek word meaning "manly," is put in the fourth place in the lists of Mark and Acts in order to keep the three leading Apostles together.    3.  James always precedes his brother John in the Gospels, probably because he is older.  Only in the list of Acts is the order reversed.  On the call of these four Apostles, see Matt. 4, 18-22 and parallels.  Philip, a Greek name meaning "lover of horses," occurs in the fifth place in all the lists.  The Fourth Gospel alone gives us some further information about him.  (cf. John 1, 43-46; 6, 5-7; 12, 21 f; 14, 8 f).  Bartholomew follows Philip in all the lists except Acts where Thomas is placed between them.  For this reason he is usually identified with Nathanael (cf. John 1, 43 ff).  Bartholomew, literally in Aramaic, "son of Tolmai," is a sort of "family name."  Thomas, the Aramaic for "twin" as the Fourth Gospel correctly translates it (cf. John 11, 16; 20, 24; 21, 2), is associated with Matthew in the lists of all three Synoptic Gospels.  Only in the First Gospel is Matthew place after Thomas and only here in all four lists is he called the publican: an act of humility which affords us a valuable confirmation of the authorship of this Gospel.  James, the son of Alpheus: thus and in the ninth place in all four lists.  He is very probably the same as "James the Less" of Mark 15, 40 (cf. Matt. 13, 55; Mark 6, 3) and "James, the brother of the Lord" (Gal. 1, 19), an important figure in the early Church at Jerusalem.  Mark agrees with Matthew in the order of the last three names, but Luke, both in his Gospel and in the Acts, places Simon immediately after James and has "Jude the brother of James" instead of Thaddeus.  Jude is therefore the same as Thaddeus; the latter name is really an epithet, "stout-hearted," from the Aramaic word for "breast."  Instead of Thaddeus some Greek manuscripts have "Lebbeus" in the same sense, from the Hebrew and Aramaic word for "heart."    4.  The appellation the Cananean or "the zealot" is added to Simon's name to distinguish him from Simon Peter.  James, Jude and Simon were relatives of Jesus (cf. Matt. 13, 55).  Iscariot is usually explained as "man of Carioth" (a village in the extreme south of Juda, cf. Jos. 15, 25) but this derivation is not entirely certain.  In John 6, 72 according to the best Greek and Latin manuscripts his father Simon is called Iscariot.  Who also betrayed him is said by way of anticipation.

5-42.  Instructions to the Apostles concerning their ministry.  This is the second of the five great discourses of the First Gospel.  It is intended in part for this present mission and in part for all their future ministry.  As recorded in the First Gospel this instruction serves as a sort of early Canon Law for apostolic laborers.  That Christ gave some such instruction on one certain occasion is placed beyond dispute by the partial parallels in Mark 6, 8-11 and Luke 9, 3-5.  But Matthew's instruction is much longer than that of the other two Gospels.  It incorporates almost all of the instructions to the Seventy-two Disciples as given in Luke 10, 1-16 and in the section entitled "Opposition Foretold" duplicates many of the sayings of Christ on persecution as given in the so-called Eschatological Discourse or in other parts of the Synoptic Gospels.

5b-6.  Only in Matthew.  According to the plan of God in keeping with His promises to the Patriarchs, the Kingdom of God was to be preached first to the Jews alone.  Therefore Jesus Himself limited His ministry to them (cf. Matt. 15, 24).  But after His resurrection He instructed His Apostles to preach the gospel to all nations (cf. Matt. 28, 19; Mark 16, 15).  Consequently these words of Christ, forbidding the Apostles to preach to the Samaritans or the Gentiles, applied only to the period of our Lord's public ministry.  Still, even after the Ascension the Apostles always endeavored to announce the glad tidings first to the Jews and only after these had heard the gospel did they preach directly to the Gentiles (cf. Acts 13, 46; Rom. 1, 16).

7 f.  Christ instructs the Apostles to preach and to cure the sick.  Parallels in Luke 9, 2; 10, 9.  The summary of their preaching is to be the same as that of the Baptist and that of Christ Himself at the beginning of His ministry (cf. Matt. 3, 2; 4, 17).  The purpose is to prepare the people for the Master Himself.  Freely you have received, freely give: only in Matthew.  Freely means "without cost."  These words may rightly be used as an argument against simony.    9 f.  Parallels in Mark 6, 8 f and Luke 9, 3; 10, 4.7b.  Apostolic poverty is inculcated in the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount, according to which the disciples of Christ are not to worry about future provisions (cf. 6, 19-34).  God will see to it that the people for whom they labor will supply them from day to day.  Therefore they are not to acquire for themselves before the journey an extra tunic or an extra pair of sandals or an extra staff.  This seems to be the sense of Christ's words in Matthew and Luke if they are to be harmonized with His words in Mark where He allows the Apostles one staff and one pair of sandals.  By a wallet is here meant the cloth bag or knapsack in which travelers used to carry their provisions; the Apostles have no need of one for they are not to supply themselves with provisions for their journey.

11-15.  Rules concerning the acceptance of hospitality.  Parallels in Mark 6, 10-11 and Luke 9, 4 f; 10, 5 f.10-12.  These words presume that during the time the Apostles are engaged in their ministry in any town they accept free board and lodging in one of the houses of the town.  This was probably our Lord's own method during His ministry.  Hospitality has always been one of the most highly cherished virtues in the Near East.  Having found a respectable home where their good name will not suffer injury, the Apostles are to accept hospitality there and make this their headquarters until they leave the town.  To change residences would only lead to jealousies and contentions among the townsfolk.  They are to be polite and use the ordinary greetings of all Semitic peoples, "Peace."  For them this is not to be an empty salutation, as the world gives its greeting "Peace" (cf. John 14, 27), but a heart-felt blessing.  If the person thus greeted is kind and good, their peace will come upon him, i.e., their good wishes will be efficacious; but if the person is unkind and unresponsive to their preaching, their peace will return to them, i.e., their good wishes will not be effective.  According to the Hebrew idiom a word "returns" to the speaker when it does not have its intended effect (cf. Isa. 45, 23).  The symbolic act of shaking the dust from one's feet to signify that one absolves oneself of all further responsibility toward an unreceptive community was actually carried out by Paul and Barnabas at Antioch in Pisidia (cf. Acts 13, 51).  The wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (cf. Gen. 13, 13; 19, 1-26) had at this time become proverbial (cf. Rom. 9, 29; Jude 7; Apoc. 11, 8), yet here and in Matt. 11, 23 f Christ compares these cities favorably with the towns that reject His teaching.

10, 16-42:  Opposition Foretold.    16a.  Parallel in Luke 10, 3.  These words, like all the following, refer to the persecution of the Apostles and disciples of Christ after the Ascension.    16b.  Only in Matthew.  These words are not to be understood in too general a sense, but directly in regard to persecution, as the context demands.  The disciples of Christ are to use all possible prudence to avoid being slaughtered as sheep are by wolves, but at the same time they must never use duplicity or compromising trickery in order to avoid persecution.  Therefore they must be as wise, i.e., prudent as serpents, but as guileless as doves, i.e., entirely free from the craftiness and trickery of serpents.  Serpents and doves have always been considered proverbial examples of such traits.    17 f.  A description of the future persecution of Christ's disciples.  Parallels in Mark 13, 9 and Luke 21, 12 f.    17.  But beware of men: "But be on your guard" (Mark) lest you fall into the snares of wicked men.  By councils, literally "sanhedrins," are here meant the local tribunals; these courts had the power of condemning a culprit to be scourged in the synagogue, i.e., to "receive forty lashes less one" (2 Cor. 11, 24).    18.  For a witness to them, i.e., the Jews (17), and to the Gentiles: in presenting their defense in these courts the disciples of Christ shall give testimony to Him and to His teachings, as Stephen did before the Sanhedrin (cf. Act 7) and Paul before the Roman governors Felix and Festus, before King Agrippa (cf. Acts 24-26) and even before the Roman Emperor (cf. Acts 27, 24).    19 f.  Parallels in Mark 13, 11 and Luke 12, 11 f; 21, 14 f.  While using all prudence in defending themselves, the disciples are not to be worried by their lack of worldly eloquence, for the Holy Spirit will inspire their defense (cf. Acts 4, 8).  This reference to the bestowal of Christ's Spirit upon His disciples shows that the first three Evangelists presume a knowledge of this doctrine on the part of their readers.    21 f.  Parallels in Matt. 24, 9 f.13; Mark 13, 12 f; Luke 21, 16 f.  The disciples of Christ must expect persecution from all who do not believe in Him, even from their unconverted relatives.    21.  The teaching of Christ concerning the conduct of His disciples towards their relatives (cf. 35-37) should be understood in the light of these words.    23.  Only in Matthew.  Cf. also 23, 34.  Christ never exhorted His followers to expose themselves rashly to martyrdom.  The Apostles understood this teaching very well and escaped several times from their persecutors (cf. Acts 9, 23-25.29 f; 12, 5 f; 17, 10; 20, 1 f).  On the other hand one who has a fixed charge of souls in a definite locality should not leave his flock and flee (cf. John 10, 11 f).  V.23b may be interpreted in two ways: (a) you will not have converted all of Israel before the Second Coming of Christ; (b) you will not have preached the gospel in all the towns of Palestine before the destruction of Jerusalem, which is a type of the end of the world.    24 f.  Similar words in Luke 6, 40, but in a different context and with a somewhat different meaning.  Here the sense is: the disciples of Christ cannot expect an easier fate than the Master has suffered.  Cf. also John 13, 16; 15, 20.  On the meaning of Beelzebub, see Commentary on 12, 24.

26a.  Only in Matthew.    26b-27.  A favorite saying of our Lord, spoken on various occasions, each time in a somewhat different sense.  Here the meaning is: either (a) preach the gospel boldly and openly without fear, despite your persecutors; or (b) you may be reviled and persecuted now but on the Last Day you will be justified  before the whole world.  Luke 12, 2 f records very similar words but with a somewhat different sense in regard to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.  A similar saying of Christ given in Mark 4, 22 and Luke 8, 17 refers to the clear explanation of the hidden truths of the parables.    28-31.  Parallel in Luke 12, 4-7; 21, 18.  The thought of God should strengthen the disciples in time of persecution.  They should remember that on the one hand, if they are unfaithful to Him, He will inflict much worse punishment than the persecutors can, but on the other hand, if they are faithful to Him, not the slightest temporal evil will befall them without His permission.    28.  God does not destroy the existence of both soul and body in hell, but He does destroy their true life and happiness.    29-31.  An argument a fortiori from God's care of such unimportant creatures as the little birds; the same argument in the Sermon on the Mount (cf. 6, 26).  The relative unimportance of sparrows is shown by their cheapness: two sparrows for a farthing, in Greek, "an assarion," about one cent.  They are even cheaper when bought in larger quantities: "five sparrows sole for two farthings" (Luke 12, 6).

32 f.  Parallel in Luke 12, 8 f.  Similar words in Mark 8, 38; Luke 9, 26.  The danger of persecution is that the disciples may deny Christ.  In that case, when they appear before His Father in heaven, i.e., before the tribunal of Christ, He also will say that He does not know them (cf. 7, 23; 25, 12).    34-36.  Parallel in Luke 12, 51-53.  A prediction of the discord which His teaching will cause among men, even among the members of the same household.    34.  Christ is speaking here of the results of His teaching: some will not believe and will hate those who do.  But His intention was to bring peace to the world (cf. Luke 2, 14).  It would be an abuse of these words of Christ to quote them in favor of war.  The sword is here a figure of speech for persecution.    35 f.  His doctrine will cause division even in such natural pairs as father and son, mother and daughter, etc.  Both these verses are quoted from Mich. 7, 6.  It would be wrong to cite these words in the sense that normally in good Christian families the worst enemies of a man's salvation or of his religious vocation are the members of his own family.    37-39.  Parallel in Luke 14, 26 f; 17, 33.  Similar words on the doctrine of the Cross for the followers of Christ in Matt. 16, 24 f and parallels.    37.  That man would love his relatives more than Christ who would allow these to prevent him from following Christ.    38.  Every true disciple of Christ must be willing to suffer even as his Master suffered.  There is a clear reference here to the crucifixion of Christ, even though He meant the cross for His followers mostly in the figurative sense.  The Apostles should have understood His words without difficulty, for the Roman punishment of crucifixion, in which the condemned man had to carry his own cross to the place of execution, was only too well known to the Jews.    39.  Life: literally "soul," the principle of life, used here in a twofold sense: He who finds his life, i.e., he who saves his mortal life by being unfaithful to me and my doctrine, will lose it, i.e., his true eternal life; and vice versa.  Cf. John 12, 25.

40-42.  The reward of those who are hospitable to the disciples of Christ.  There is no close connection between this and the preceding; it is a return to the thought of hospitality in 11.    40.  Similar words of Christ in Matt. 18, 5 and parallels; Luke 10, 16; John 12, 44; 13, 20; cf. also Matt. 25, 40.45.  The thought is not merely that Christ will consider what is done to His disciples as if it were done to Him personally; it is done to Him and through Him to the Father because of the reality of the Mystical Body of Christ.    41.  Peculiar to Matthew; a further development of the preceding thought.  Receive a prophet's reward: i.e., have a share in the reward of the prophet whom he befriends.    42.  Similar words in Mark 9, 40.  In the heat of the long dry summer of Palestine a cup of cold water is a welcome, if inexpensive, gift.  It is not the material value but rather the spirit of kindness and above all the motive, "because you are Christ's" (Mark), that makes the act meritorious.

Confraternity Bible:

Names of the Apostles  1 Then having summoned his twelve disciples, he gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every kind of disease and infirmity.  2 Now these are the names of the twelve apostles: first Simon, who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew; 3 James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alpheus, and Thaddeus; 4 Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot, he who betrayed him.

5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, having instructed them thus: "Do not go in the direction of the Gentiles, nor enter the towns of Samaritans; 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  7 And as you go, preach the message, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand!'  8 Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils.  Freely you have received, freely give.  9* Do not keep gold, or silver, or money in your girdles, 10* no wallet for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staff; for the laborer deserves his living.

11 "And whatever town or village you enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and stay there until you leave.  12 As you enter the house, salute it.  13 If then that house be worthy, your peace will come upon it; but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.  14 And whoever does not receive you, or listen to your words--go forth outside that house or town, and shake off the dust from your feet.  15 Amen I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that town.

Opposition Foretold  16 "Behold, I am sending you forth like sheep in the midst of wolves.  Be therefore wise as serpents, and guileless as doves.  17 But beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and scourge you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a witness to them and to the Gentiles.  19 But when they deliver you up, do not be anxious how or what you are to speak; for what you are to speak will be given you in that hour.  20 For it is not you who are speaking, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks through you.  21 And brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and put them to death.  22 And you will be hated by all for my name's sake; but he who has persevered to the end will be saved.  23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to another.  Amen I say to you, you will not have gone through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24 "No disciple is above his teacher, nor is the servant above his master.  25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and for the servant to be like his master.  If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more those of his household!

Encouragement for the Apostles  26 "Therefore do not be afraid of them.  For there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, and nothing hidden that will not be made known.  27 What I tell you in darkness, speak it in the light; and what you hear whispered, preach it on the housetops.  28 And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  But rather be afraid of him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.  29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?  And yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father's leave.  30 But as for you, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  31 Therefore do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

32 "Therefore, everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.  33 But whoever disowns me before men, I in turn will disown him before my Father in heaven.

34 "Do not think that I have come to send peace upon the earth; I have come to bring a sword, not peace.  35 For I have come to set a man at variance with his father, and a daughter with her mother, and a daughter-in-law with her mother-in-law; 36 and a man's enemies will be those of his own household.  37 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.  38 And he who does not take up his cross and follow me, is not worthy of me.  39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake, will find it.

40 "He who receives you, receives me; and he who receives me, receives him who sent me.  41* He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet, shall receive a prophet's reward; and he who receives a just man because he is a just man, shall receive a just man's reward.  42 And whoever gives to one of these little ones but a cup of cold water to drink because he is a disciple, amen I say to you, he shall not lose his reward."


9: Money: in the Greek, "brass."

10: Staff: probably the cudgel used by shepherds for defense.

41: To do anything for one of Christ's disciples is to do it for Christ.  The union of Christ and the members of His mystical body is very close: in a way they are identified.