Please turn with me in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 10 as we continue our study in the gospel of Matthew, and in this particular passage. As we have reviewed Jesus' exhortation to His disciples in Matthew 10, before He sent them out into the surrounding villages and towns to preach the gospel of the kingdom, we have commented that in that exhortation, He very much tells them what it means to be a disciple. And He attempts to prepare them for some of the opposition that they are faced. And in particular, He desires to correct misapprehensions, to correct misunderstandings, to correct misinformation that the disciples may have about the mission that they are about to go out on. We have already said that the disciples expected Jesus’ kingdom to come immediately. They expected His kingdom to come in triumph so that perhaps all of Israel would come to Him, and they would rule with Him, and judge with Him. They expected Him to establish peace, even as the prophets of old had said would occur when the Messiah came. Isaiah had told of the time when the lamb would lie down with the wolf, and there would be universal peace as the kingdom came in with the rule of the Messiah. And Jesus wants to correct His disciples in terms of what their expectations are. And He does so in this passage.
In the passage we are going to look at today in Matthew chapter 10, Jesus warns the disciples that the kind of peace that He is bringing is a peace that comes with both rest and strife. Furthermore, He reminds them that they are to show loyalty to Him above everyone else. There is to be no relation in life, there is to be no possession, no status in life which takes precedence over Him. And finally, He is going to remind His disciples that no matter where they go, He is constantly going to be looking out for their own best interest. All of those things He gives to His disciples to prepare them for the mission that they are going out on. So let's hear the word of God beginning in Matthew chapter 10, verse 34.
Our Father, we ask for spiritual discernment as we contemplate the truth of Your word. Speak to us, we pray, that we might not only understand this truth, but that it might be brought home in our own particular circumstances. All of us are faced with living with the Lord in a strange land. Between Christ and the world, we live. We pray, O Lord, that You would teach us the grace of staying close to Christ and bearing His image in the world without defecting to that world because of the love of it. Teach us in this passage this day. Apply its truth to our own hearts and circumstances by the Holy Spirit. We ask it all in Jesus name. Amen.
The Lord Jesus continues here at the conclusion of this exhortation to give instructions to His disciples. Last week we saw some of the things that He saw were essential to being a disciple. This week, now, His exhortations turn to their own heart attitudes and to their expectations about the response of the people to their ministry. We have already said that the disciples perhaps expected the response to the gospel of the kingdom that they were going to be preaching to be a little rosier than they ought to have expected. They perhaps expected Israel to respond in mass to the proclamation of the kingdom, and to embrace Jesus as the Messiah, and to embrace the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to be restored to righteousness, and perhaps for the enemies of God’s people to be driven from the land, and the kingdom to be established as had been prophesied by Isaiah and the other latter-day prophets. And the Lord Jesus wants them to be aware that that's not going to be how it goes. But the fact that it doesn’t happen that way is not going to be an example of the failure of prophecy, nor the failure of the gospel, nor the failure of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact it is going to be a fulfillment of prophecy, a fulfillment of what the Lord Jesus had told them, a fulfillment of who He is and of the gospel that He had taught them.
I. The gospel of Christ brings both peace and conflict.
The first thing we learn in this passage, the Lord Jesus exhorts His disciples to a realization that His gospel, the gospel of Christ, brings both peace and strife. The gospel of Christ brings both peace and strife. In verses 34 through 36, He makes it clear that though the gospel brings about reconciliation, it also brings about division. The disciples are given here a paradoxical saying by Christ. The Hebrews call it a mashal. It's a saying designed to provoke the hearers into being startled, to think very hard about what has been asserted. I mean, Jesus is the Prince of Peace, He is the Messiah who is come to bring peace between God and man, and here is the Prince of Peace saying, ‘Now, under no circumstances think that I came to bring peace. I didn’t. I came to bring war.’ And so the Lord Jesus is trying to shock His disciples into thinking about the significance of what He is about to assert. He wants them to understand that it is very true that He came to bring peace, but the kind of peace that He brings does not mean that the Christian is going to experience a cessation of hostilities to the world, or that the world is not going to oppose the Christian. He wants His disciples to know that though they will experience the peace which passes understanding, and though they will see many come to Christ, and though they will see the church built up, and though they will see people who are very different brought together and reconciled in the church because of their connection, because of the fact that they are united to Christ, still there will be those who oppose the gospel; still there will be those who oppose Christ. The disciples were going to see with their own eyes the Gentiles and the Jews united in the body of Christ. What a glorious example of gospel peace. But they were also going to see both Jews and Gentiles oppose those Jews and Gentiles who had been brought together in the body of Christ. They were going to see men and women persecuted even unto death. It was vital that they understand that the peace that Christ was bringing and that the gospel of peace which they were going to proclaim was going to be met with stern opposition from the world.
Jesus’ point is twofold. First of all, He wants His disciples to know that though He is the Prince of Peace, and though He preaches the gospel of peace, they are going to face opposition. The disciples still were not clear about this. The disciples still were not certain as to the type of opposition that their message was going to meet. And Christ doesn't want them to be surprised. He wants them to be very realistic about the kind of response that the world was going to give to the message that He was entrusting to them.
And secondly, He wanted them to know that when they were opposed, that was not a mark of failure. It was working out just like He planned it. How important that is for us today. We live in a nation whose society was once broadly characterized by embracing Christianity. Christianity permeated many aspects of our society. Today its influence is very evidently waning, and as it does many Christians of many different traditions have begun to band together to make a unified profession of our Lord against a pagan world, a pagan society. That's good. We need to stand, and stand under the lordship of Christ publicly. And if we are working together in ways that we have never worked together before, that may be a very good thing. But we must not expect the response to our reconciliation to be everyone waving flags, and cheering, and saying, “This is wonderful.” It may be that precisely as the Lord reconciles us, the world will become even more intractably opposed to the gospel, to Christ'’ disciples, and to the church itself. And we must not think, “Oh no. We shouldn’t have reconciled because the world hates us more now.” No. We do what's right, and we recognize that even when gospel peace dwells in reality in our midst, that won’t mean that the world will love us. Yes, there will be many who will embrace Christ and be called to Him, and they will be moved by the testimony of the unity of the church. But there will be many others that hate the church and hate Christ all the more. Is something wrong there? Yes. Is something wrong in God’s plan there? No. It’s something wrong in the hearts of men. Because of their hardness, because of the hardness of their hearts, they oppose the gospel. But the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ must know. “Don't be surprised by that.
And don’t think that the gospel has failed just because men oppose you,” J. C. Ryle says, “The object of Jesus’ first coming was not to set up a millennial kingdom in which all would be of one mind, but to bring in the gospel which would lead to strife and divisions. We have no right to be surprised if we see this continually fulfilled. We are not to think it strange if the gospel rends asunder families and even estrangement between the nearest relations. Jesus is warning us here to expect, both individually and corporately, the gospel to bring about opposition when it is embraced truly.”
These words really hit home to Southerners. We believe in strong extended networks of families, and we know what it is to oppose those networks or to stray from the will of those who are strong in those family networks. We are a people that very much care about family just like the disciples were of old. But the Lord Jesus is not telling His disciples, “Don't care about your family network.’ He’s not saying, ‘Once you are converted, make sure and go back and be as offensive and as obnoxious as possible towards your unsaved parents.’
He is not saying, “Break off all relations with those pagan brothers and sisters and despise them every hour of the day.” He's saying, “Disciples, look. If you love Me and you become My disciple, you may well face the opposition of your family. And when you face that opposition, and you are forced with a choice, ‘It's either us or the Lord Jesus.’ When that choice is put to you by your family, the Lord Jesus is saying, ‘Your loyalty must be with Me. You must be prepared to embrace me despite even the opposition of your family.” The Lord Jesus is preparing His disciples for the opposition that is going to come. The gospel of peace which He brings sometimes means warfare with those who hate Him and those who hate the gospel. And so, we ourselves must be prepared for that warfare.
There are many in this room who know exactly what I am talking about from painful experience. I’m thinking of a young woman right now who grew up in a Protestant church. She went to church all her life. She never heard the gospel preached. She went off to college. In God’s good providence there was a wonderful, evangelical campus organization where she heard the gospel. She came to Christ. She realized for the first time that she was a sinner. She realized for the first time that she needed to embrace Christ by faith for salvation. She did so. She professed faith in Christ. She came back home with great excitement and told her parents and pastor about this. They were horrified: “What do you mean you are a Christian now? You grew up in this church. What do you mean?” She was ridiculed. She was ostracized.
I'm thinking of a young man that I met on the corner of the pavement near the Tower of London where the taxis tend to pull up and wait for passengers to come by. He was handing out gospel tracts. He had grown up in Germany in the home of atheists. He had heard a Lutheran minister preach the gospel. He came to Christ at the age of 14 or 15. He went home and told his parents. They said, “That's fine. You're out.” He was kicked out of the home, found his way to London, worked as a janitor in a Baptist church in London, and years later I bumped into him, and he was studying for the ministry. But he had served Christ, and his love for Christ had cost him his relationship with his family.
There are many here this day who know that kind of opposition. And the Lord Jesus is saying, “Don't be surprised by that.” The kind of peace that I bring doesn't mean that there will not be those who oppose you, oppose me, and oppose My gospel. Ryle again says, “So long as one man believes and another man remains unbelieving, so long as one is resolved to keep his sins and another is desirous to give them up, the result of the preaching of the gospel will mean division. He brings peace, but that peace divides the world between those who have embraced that peace and those who have rejected it and opposed it.”
II. The Christian must choose Christ over everyone and everything else.
And so the Lord Jesus tells us that His gospel brings both peace and conflict. The second thing that we learn here we see in verses 37 through 39 where Christ calls His disciples to loyalty. Here He says that He is the one to whom they must be loyal at all costs. He teaches us that the Christian must choose Christ over everything and everyone. He says here, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than e is not worthy of Me.” The meaning of those solemn words is very simple. It is such a tremendous privilege to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, to be a friend of the Lord Jesus Christ, to be a brother or a sister of the Lord Jesus Christ, that there is no other relation on earth more sacred, and there is no other relation that takes precedence over it. And our willingness to sacrifice for Christ because of that relationship which we have with Him is to be total. We are to be ready to give everything for Him, and to love nothing above Him. And He calls us here in verses 38 and 39, because we are His, and He is ours. He calls us to be ready to bear the cross, and that is a symbol of a willingness to give up everything, to endure pain and shame and persecution and even death for His sake.
The professing Christian, He says in verses 38 and 39, who does not take these words to heart will in the end suffer total loss. William Hendriksen makes these words very plain when he says, “Jesus means here that the person who, when the issue is between Me (the Lord Jesus) and what that person considers his own interests, chooses his own interests. That person, thinking that he is going to find himself a firmer hold on life will be bitterly disappointed. He will lose rather than gain. His happiness and usefulness will shrink and shrivel rather than increase, and at last he will perish everlastingly.” Jesus is saying here that making terms with the world at the expense of our conscience will cost us. He is saying that we cannot have peace with the world at the expense of loyalty to Him.
And again, that applies to everything in our life. It applies to every relationship in life. It applies to every possession. It applies to every calling, to every circumstance, to every conduct. Nothing may preempt Christ. And it implies both individually and corporately. Young people know this. We live in a day where peer pressure among students is greater, perhaps, than it has ever been before. Have you ever been tempted in order to be included, in order to be considered to be a part of a particular crowd, to either deny or downplay your Christian profession because you know that it won't be considered to be cool to be a Christian in that particular crowd? Most of us face things like that in our student days. But you know, it doesn't stop there. It goes on the rest of your life. There are always going to be things that we desire to have which tempt us to compromise our loyalty to Christ. And Christ is here saying that there is nothing in this life which is more important than He is, and therefore, there is nothing in this life which we may gain at the cost of sacrificing our loyalty to Him.
This is a call to martyrdom ultimately, friends. Jesus is saying, “If you are going to be My disciple, you need to be ready to die for Me.” And if we're going to be able to die for Him, then we need to begin by dying to ourselves. And that will reflect in our priorities, in our desires, in our attitudes. What is most important to us when you die to self, when you die to yourself, to die to your own desires, the things that are most important, the things of Christ, they show in our own commitments, our own attitudes, our own behavior. Jesus is calling us to be ready to die for Him in this passage.
III. Christ will reward even the least kindness shown toward His disciples.
Finally, in verses 40 through 42, Jesus is calling us to realize His constant concern for us. Jesus knows that the task that He has entrusted to us and to His disciples here is hard. He’s saying, “You need to be prepared for the world to reject you, for the world to oppose you, for the world to hate you, and even for the world to kill you. But I want to remind you that I constantly care for you.” He teaches us in verses 40 through 42 that He will reward even the least kindness shown to His disciples for His sake. He says, “He who receives you receives Me. And even if a cup of cold water is given to you in My name, that person will not be without reward.”
Jesus is teaching us there that the eyes of the Master are on the disciples. He is saying that He takes notice of all those who oppose us, and He takes notice of all those who help us and are kind to us. He is reminding us that He never forgets His people. The butler may have forgotten Joseph in the prison after Joseph helped the butler out of His fix, but the Lord Jesus never forgets His people. ‘The smallest act of service,” Jesus is saying, “the smallest act of service to the most insignificant of My disciples will be rewarded as though it had been rendered to Me, Myself.’ The Lord Jesus is saying that He takes notice of everything under His providence that is done to His disciples, and He rewards those kindnesses done, and He will punish the opposition.
Remember when Paul was met by the Lord Jesus in Acts 9, verse 4, on the way to Damascus? Saul of Tarsus, there he was in all his persecuting zeal, and the Lord Jesus says to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” For Saul to persecute Christians was to persecute Christ. And the Lord Jesus was ready to bring judgment against those who persecute Him. By the same token, in Matthew 25:34-40, He makes it very clear that for those who minister to His disciples, to those who are His brothers and sisters, who are poor, or hungry, or naked, or in prison, as they minister to them, they minister to Him. And so He rewards everything.
The picture is of the Lord Jesus Christ watching over all His children, and being prepared to reward everyone who does a kindness to them. The point is not directed at those who would do kindnesses to us. It’s directed to us. Jesus is trying to assure us that even though He calls us to a costly discipleship, that everything that we give up for Him, He will reward us again one hundred fold. As we come to this table today, let’s remember that He is preeminent above every relationship in life; that as we come to this table, we are pledging our loyalty to Him and saying that He is our Lord. But let’s also remember when we come to this table, that He has promised to care for every need, and that whatever we give up, He will outgive us in the end. Let us look to the Lord now in prayer.
Our Father, we thank You for Your word, and we ask that You would bless it to our spiritual nourishment even as we come to the table. All these things we ask through Jesus. Amen.