Final encouragement. The evangelist takes the main idea of these verses from our Lord's words to the seventy ( Luke 10:16 ), but moulds it in the form of his later saying, Matthew 18:5 . He further adds (verse 42) other words also spoken later. In these verses the discourse returns to the immediate occasion, the mission of the disciples. Christ shows his personal interest in their work; his messengers' cause is his. He says, "I reckon treatment of you as treatment of me; ay, and he that sent me reckons it as treatment of himself" (verse 40). This principle as to the treatment of representatives holds good throughout. Not every one can be a prophet, but those who help him shall share his reward. Not every one shall acquire the technical name of "righteous," but those who help such a man shall share his reward (verse 41); even the smallest kindnesses shall not be unrewarded (verse 42).
He that receiveth you receiveth me . "A man's messenger is as himself" (Mishna, 'Berach.,' Matthew 5:5 ). Yet, as Bengel says, "Non mode tantundem est, ac si me reciperet.'sed severn me recipit. " Ford quotes from Tertullian ('De Orat.,' § 26), "A brother that hath entered into thine house, dismiss not without prayer. 'Thou hast seen,'saith he, 'thy brother; thou hast seen thy Lord.'" The same legion is found twice in Clem. Alex.. (For an extension of the thought to bishops, cf. Ign., ' Ephesians,' § 6.)
General rules for all the Lord's disciples.
I. THE CONFLICT .
1 . They must be patient , looking unto Jesus. He is our Example, our Master, our Lord. He is in all things above us immeasurably and beyond comparison—in his Divine power and majesty, in his transcendent holiness, in his perfect love. "He was despised and rejected of men." His people must expect the like. We are his disciples, his servants. The great aim of our life should be to be like him; to draw nearer and nearer, though always at an infinite distance, to that Pattern of exalted goodness. We must not look for the high places of the world, when the Lord endured the cross. We must not look for praise, when he was so cruelly insulted. We must expect our best deeds to be misrepresented. Men ascribed the Lord's miracles of love to the agency of Satan. It is enough for the disciple that lie be as his Master. It is good for Christians to be blamed, to be despised, to be slandered. It is a discipline of meekness; it leads them to look into their hearts, to see their own sins and shortcomings; above all things, it makes them like their Master; it brings them, if they take it patiently, into nearer relations with their suffering Lord.
2 . The duty of holy boldness. Suffering becomes a blessing if it makes men like their Lord; therefore they must not fear. "Fear not" is the Lord's commandment, his word of gracious encouragement.
3 . The duty of trustfulness. God's mercy is over all his works. He cares for all his creatures, even the smallest, the most insignificant. Much more does he care for those precious souls for which the Redeemer gave himself to die. The smallest circumstances of our lives are not beneath his notice. The very hairs of our head are all numbered. All the little trials, difficulties, vexations, of our daily lives are known to him. Therefore let us trust in that almighty Protector who notes the fall of every little sparrow. "Fear not," saith the Lord. Fear not persecutions; fear not sickness, pain, death; none of these things can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Right dear in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
II. THE END OF THE CONFLICT .
1 . The recognition of the conquerors. It cost much to confess Christ before men in the days of fiery trial; even now it is not always easy. It is to own him as our Master and our Lord; not as the many who say to him, "Lord, Lord," but as the few who confess him in their lives. The whole life—both the outward life of word and deed, and the inward life of thought and motive—must be ordered by the obedience of Christ. Both are alike open to the searching eye of God; both must evince the confession of the heart that Christ alone is Lord. The whole life must draw round him as its Centre; it must own him by ready, cheerful submission to him as its only King. The reward is great; such men he will confess before his Father. In the glory of the great day, before the assembled universe, the almighty Judge, the most holy Saviour, will own them as his true sheep, his chosen, his redeemed. It is a lofty hope; may it be ours!
2 . The rejection of the disobedient. Those who deny him, he will deny; not those who, like Peter, having once denied, have repented in true contrition, but those who deny him in their lives, though they may profess that they know him; those who show no obedience, no love, no self-denial—those he will deny. Their profession may be loud, their display of religion may be great, but he will deny them before his Father. He knoweth their hearts; they are not his.
3 . The conflict will be bitter. The Lord is the Prince of Peace; the angel-anthem that celebrated his incarnation dwelt on the gift of peace. But "glory to God" came first. "Glory to God in the highest," says Slier, "necessarily precedes ' peace upon earth.' The second cannot be attained but through the first, and the conflict which secures it." Peace on earth was the object of the Lord's coming; but the sword was to come first. "The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable." The purity of Christ's holy teaching, its absolute originality, its utter difference from the established modes of faith and worship, would excite a violent opposition. The zeal of Christians would arouse the zeal of persecutors; there would be sharp divisions even in the family circle. Sometimes it is so now; it is a bitter trial.
4 . Christ must be first in our love , whatever the cost. He set nothing above our salvation; we must set nothing above his love. Human love is very precious, but not so precious as the love of Christ; all other loves must be subordinated to that one highest love. In truth, they love their earthly friends the best, who, loving Christ above all, love mother, or wife, or child in Christ and for Christ according to his will. But the whole heart must be given to Christ, who gave himself for us. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart." It is the first of all the commandments, the deepest and the holiest.
5 . The cross. For the first time we meet with that great word—that word once so hateful, now so sweet and holy. The Lord looks forward in prophetic vision; he sees himself bearing the cross; he sees his faithful followers, each with his cross, moving onwards in long procession to the glory-crown. His words must have seemed very dark and strange. The apostles looked up to him with the utmost reverence; and now he, their King, spoke of the cross, that thing so utterly loathsome. He said that they must take it up; he called it their cross. He implied that he himself would bear it. They could not have understood him then; they knew afterwards. We know his meaning. There is no crown without the cross; no heaven without self-denial for Christ's sake.
6 . The true life. This life is dear to us; the life to come should be dearer far. Our present life is continued in the life beyond the grave. Our personality is one; our life here and hereafter is one life under two very different forms. Here is the Christian paradox: he who finds loses, he who loses finds. He who sets his love upon this earthly life and takes not up his cross loses that higher life. His life continues itself, but it becomes death, utter death, to all that makes life worth living. He who loses finds; he who counts all things else as dross that he may win Christ, finds Christ, and finds in him the true life, the life that dieth not.
III. CONCLUSION .
1 . The dignity of the apostolic office.
2 . The dignity of all Christians. All belong to Christ—not only apostles and prophets and righteous men, but also the little children whom the Lord Jesus loved so well, whom he took up in his arms and blessed, whom he bade us bring to him. They are his; therefore the gift of love given to them because they belong to Christ shall not lose its reward. The smallest deed of holy love is precious in the sight of him who is love. Let us care for the little children; let us tend the sick and forsaken; let us teach the ignorant. Orphanages, children's hospitals, Sunday schools, are good- and Christian institutions. They who help the little ones because they belong to Christ shall not, the Lord hath said it, lose their reward.
1 . We must be content to be despised as the Master was despised; the disciple is not above his Master.
2 . Fear God; fear nothing else; be bold in bearing witness for the truth.
3 . God cares for us all in our little trials; we should bring them all before him in trustful prayer.
4 . What must be the unutterable blessedness of those whom Christ will confess in the last day? Confess Christ now.
5 . The cross is the very emblem of our religion; we must take it up, looking unto Jesus.
Jesus concludes his charge to the twelve on the eve of their mission with words that have more reference to others, with a promise of blessing to those who shall give a good reception to the apostles. Earlier he said that if any rejected the messengers of Christ they were to shake off the very dust of their feet as a testimony against the inhospitable people; and now he concludes his address by cheering words on the other side, generously recognizing a friendly reception of his disciples. Local and temporal as was the immediate occasion of our Lord's remarks, they are evidently of lasting application.
I. THE BROTHERHOOD OF CHRIST LEADS HIM TO REGARD KINDNESS TO HIS DISCIPLES EXACTLY AS THOUGH IT WERE OFFERED TO HIMSELF . He is not the Oriental monarch treating his subjects as a race of slaves. He is completely one with his people. Whatever hurts them hurts him; whatever cheers them pleases him. There is a Christian solidarity. The benefit or injury of one member affects the whole body ( 1 Corinthians 12:26 ). But if other members of the body are thus affected, much more will the Head, which is in direct communication with the whole, be affected.
1 . This is meant as a great encouragement for the servants of Christ. They are not deserted by Christ; he is in all their work, and he feels keenly every kindness or unkindness offered to them.
2 . This suggests how we may all have the unspeakable privilege of receiving Christ. Not only a prophet or an apostle, but a little child, may bring Christ to our home. Receiving the least of Christ's disciples for his sake, we receive him.
II. THE CONDITION OF RECEIVING CHRIST IS RECEIVING HIS DISCIPLES IN HIS NAME .
1 . Receiving Christ ' s disciples. He does not speak here of indiscriminate hospitality, nor of the neighbourly love which he elsewhere commends. Here is a specially Christian action. Much is made in the New Testament of brotherly love—love to fellow-Christians. It is a great privilege to be able to help one of Christ's own little ones.
2 . Receiving them in Christ ' s Name. Thrice does our Lord refer to the conditions of "the name"—"the name of a prophet," "the name of a righteous man," "the name of a disciple." This points to a set purpose in the hospitality. The prophet is received as a prophet because we wish to honour prophets; the righteous man as a righteous man because we desire to help the righteous; the Christian disciple as a disciple, for Christ's sake. This is more than mere kindness; it is a distinct recognition of the claim of Christ. We are encouraged to show kindness for Christ's sake, that we may please him—receiving the envoy for the sake of the King.
III. THEY WHO THUS RECEIVE CHRIST 'S DISCIPLES ARE DOUBLY REWARDED .
1 . In receiving , Christ. They are treated just as though they had shown hospitality to the Lord Jesus Christ himself. But the reward of such hospitality is in the very coming of Christ. When he entered the house of Zacchaeus salvation came there. To have Christ within us is to have a better blessing than could be got out of all the wealth of the Indies or all the joy of a Christless paradise.
2 . In receiving God. This thought is nearly akin to the teaching of the Fourth Gospel (see John 14:9 , John 14:10 ). We do not merely receive Christ as a brother-man. Beneath the veil of the humanity of Jesus the very glory of God enters the soul. Thus he who receives a child lop Christ's sake is blessed by having God in his heart, and then his heart becomes a heaven.—W.F.A.
The "commanding" of the twelve.
This was a grand historic occasion indeed. The honoured but ever-comparatively feeble and now dimmed, dying, or dead schools of the prophets are to be succeeded by a scion of Christianity that marks at one and the same time its noblest and most amazing human institution, and Heaven's most condescending gift and human trust. Now begins "the great company of preachers" of the New Testament. They began with twelve;. they very soon grew to seventy; and authorized provision was made by him who first called them , and first "gave them commandment" for their indefinite, "innumerable" increase, by the one method of prayer, their prayer to the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his "great" harvest. With what sublimest of simplicity is it said in the first verse of the following chapter, "When Jesus trod made an end of commanding his twelve disciples"! The commandments were not ten , and, whatever their number, neither were they like those ten master-instructions of the old covenant, and of all time, till time shall end. These commandments breathed the very breath of love, of sympathy, of help. They were charged with trust, and that trust nothing short of Heaven's own-confided trust. The endowments of mighty powers of gift and of grace were enshrined in them. A glorious honour gilded them with deep, rich light. But throughout them, without a break, there ran the "commandment" that meant caution, warning, an ever-present dangerous enemy , thick dangers through which to thread the way. For this necessity, protection and even the very essence of inspiration were the promises vouchsafed. In some analysis of this "commanding of his disciples" we notice—
I. FIRST OF ALL , CHRIST 'S PARAMOUNT AUTHORITY IN REGARD OF THE PERSONS WHOM HE COMMISSIONS . Once " he called" them; now " he calls them to him;" he "sends them forth;" and before they go, he " commands " them, and he gives them power. " Of this authority two things must be said, and unhesitatingly. First , that what it seemed and what it was to these original twelve disciples, such it ever has been since, and still is, toward those who are their true successors, whether they are the successors of such as Peter and John, or of such as Judas Iscariot. Secondly , that the authority in question is one unshared and undivided, except as it is shared and divided, in whatever mysterious way and in whatever unknown proportion, with those very persons themselves, who either first pushed in to volunteer the solemn responsibility, or put themselves in the way to court it and to consent to accept it. The ordination of Judas Iscariot is not less a fact than that of St. Peter; and so has it likewise travelled down the ages of Christendom to this hour. Before this phenomenon we justly quail, and just are we dumb; but we cannot deny it.
II. CHRIST 'S PARAMOUNT AUTHORITY IN RESPECT OF THE PRINCIPLES UPON WHICH THOSE HE COMMISSIONS ARE TO FULFIL THEIR ALLOTTED WORK . These are such as follow: Firstly , absolute independence of any supposed dictation on the part of those to whom their mission is. Secondly , absolute undoubting reliance on himself for guidance and protection, and in the last resort for all that is necessary for "life." Thirdly , the exclusive use and encouragement of moral influence over and among those who are to be visited and preached to, and whose spiritual and bodily sicknesses and diseases are to be ministered to. A most interesting and significant exemplification of this same principle is to be observed in the direction given to the disciples to accept hospitality; not only this, but to lay themselves open to the offer of it; nay, to inquire for it, but never to force it. And this exemplification is perhaps yet more powerfully established in the external symbolic, but still moral condemnation, directed to be expressed towards those who refused to "receive them," as also to " hear their words." Fourthly , throughout all that might seem to merely superficial observation special and artificial and supernatural—a religious and grateful obedience to what wise nature and true reason must dictate. They are sent forth "by two and two". This is
III. CHRIST 'S FOREKNOWLEDGE OF THE COURSE OF HIS CHURCH AND KINGDOM ; AND THE HOSTAGES HE GIVES HEREIN OF HIS OWN ABSOLUTE AND INTRINSIC AUTHORITY , BY THE BOLD AND FULL DESCRIPTION OF THAT COURSE , AS IN THE FULLEST SENSE THAT OF A DEEP REVOLUTION , A REVOLUTION THAT WOULD REND TO THEIR FOUNDATIONS Tile STRONGHOLDS OF HUMAN SOCIETIES , HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS , WITH ALL THEIR LONGEST CUSTOMS AND FIERCEST PREJUDICES .
IV. THE CALM , IMMOVABLE INTREPIDITY OF ATTITUDE AND OF SOUL THAT IS TO MARK THOSE WHO SHALL SEEM THE CHIEF ACTORS IN THIS MORAL REVOLUTION . This is to rest upon: Firstly , the forearmedness of forewarnedness. Knowledge of themselves, of the enemy, and of him who fights by them, in them, for his own grand works; and who will not fail to fight for them, by himself, and all necessary unseen power. Secondly , the confidence that the Spirit of the Father shall be with them, and speak in and for them at each time of need. Thirdly , in memory of that Master, who is "above the servant "—a memory that has often shown itself so omnipotent an impulse and source of strength, Fourthly , with ever-present memory of the infinite disparity between the ultimate sanctions involved, viz. that of those who can kill the body but can no more, and of him who indeed can kill both, but of whom it is in the same breath said—He notices the fall of a sparrow, and counts the hairs of the head of his servant. Fifthly , that noblest incentive of the safest ambition that was vouchsafed in the words of incredible condescension, "He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me." This for some and all. And sixthly , also for some and all the words of tenderest promise, "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." Thus forewarned, thus forearmed, thus taught, thus given to fear with godly fear, and stimulated thus with promise and present assurance, it might well be that human "weakness" should be, as it was, as it often is , " made perfect in strength."—B.
The mission of the gospel.
These verses conclude the charge which Christ gave to his disciples when he commissioned them as evangelists. Having instructed them how they were to behave ( Matthew 10:5-15 ), warned them of the hostility they should encounter ( Matthew 10:16-23 ), and encouraged them to be fearless ( Matthew 10:24-33 ), he now enlightens them concerning the mission of their message.
I. IT WAS DESTINED TO DISTURB THE OLD FOUNDATIONS OF SOCIETY .
1 . The family is the foundation of old Adam ' s kingdom.
2 . Sin has demoralized this institution.
3 . In grappling with these frightful evils the gospel stirs up new strifes.
II. IT WAS DESTINED TO RECONSTRUCT SOCIETY UPON ' A NEW ' AND PERMANENT BASIS .
1 . Of this new world Jesus is the Head.
2 . The principle of the new world is love to Christ.
3 . Hence the promises of the kingdom are to the loyal.