Jesus is sending His apostles (missionaries) on their first short-term mission trip. He finishes His instruction in the final portion of Matthew 10. In this portion of Christ’s instruction, He warns His apostles about the world’s state of affairs and the nature of preaching the true Gospel in such a world. Though the explicit context involves Christ twelve apostles and their short-term mission trip, the principle carries over to all Christians who partake in Christ’s work on this earth prior to the New Earth’s establishment.
Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 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; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. 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. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.
He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. 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.
Loving God (v. 36-39)
Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 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; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. 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. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.
This revelation from Christ is one of the more difficult for us to accept because it entails that Christ wages war against some. His dream is not world-peace; it is peace on earth with whom the Father wills (Luke 2:14). Jesus has made this clear in His instruction to the apostles. When we studied verse 21, we saw that because there is such hatred against God and His people in the world, Christ predicts that people will respond to His gospel in such a way that even families will divide and murder. They will do this in response Christians’ good work and message of grace and forgiveness to the nations. It doesn’t make much sense that people would respond in this way, but we witness it in our own time. Jesus is predicting that the Gospel of grace will be more like a sword in this world and people will respond with persecution, hatred, and accusation rather than by repenting. This is what we are to expect when we take up God’s mission on this earth. It truly is a miracle that anyone comes to Christ and that any healthy local church experiences any growth at all. The normative response to Christ’s true gospel is hatred and disdain. Yet, we are charged to present the testimony of Christ, not responding in kind.
Jesus’s teaching becomes fuller in this passage. Remember, Jesus has declared His commitment to exposit the Old Testament Scriptures (see notes on Matthew 5:13-20). Here, He alludes to Micah 7:6 and Deuteronomy 33:9
For son treats father contemptuously, Daughter rises up against her mother, Daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; A man’s enemies are the men of his own household. But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.
Of Levi he said, “Let Your Thummim and Your Urim belong to Your godly man, Whom You proved at Massah, With whom You contended at the waters of Meribah; Who said of his father and his mother, ‘I did not consider them’; And he did not acknowledge his brothers, Nor did he regard his own sons, For they observed Your word, And kept Your covenant. They shall teach Your ordinances to Jacob, And Your law to Israel. They shall put incense before You, And whole burnt offerings on Your altar.”
In Deuteronomy, Moses is referencing a part of Israel’s history from Exodus 32:27-35, during which time Israel sinned against God by creating a golden calf as an idol for herself instead of trusting in God’s providence, sovereignty, and goodness. God’s order to the Levites was to carry the sword against the Israel’s self-centered religion. In both of these instances, hostility resulted as people reacted to God’s grace, salvation, and freedom. Why? Hostility resulted because people preferred self-centered, works-based, religiosity to God’s sovereignty, providence, and will. Put simply, people would rather be self-willed than God-willed. People love their benefits instead of God. This is the idea that Jesus gets at as He instructs His apostles.
The person who loves son, daughter, mother, or father more than Christ is not worthy of Christ. In light of the Law and Prophets, Jesus is teaching that anyone, referring to the recipients of the Gospel during the apostles’ short term mission trip, who chooses cultural religiosity, self-centered religion, preference regarding morals or methods, or even family relationships instead of Him are not His people. Jesus continues to explain this idea:
He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.
In our day, we experience the worst identity crisis in history. We assume that religion, including Christianity, is about our convictions, our preferences, our overcoming, our working, our seeking, our finding, our morality, our worship, our praises, our positions, our families, our friendships, our being accepted, our being served, our doing good, or our [insert thing here]. Following Christ is not about any of this. Christ’s teaching is simple to understand but difficult to accept. He who finds his life will lose it. If we make our lives about our identity, our preferences, our relationships, our work, our being served, or our doing good—we will lose our lives. Jesus, here, is referring to everlasting death, condemnation, and Hellfire (cf. 7:21-23).
This inspires an interesting question. Is anyone worthy of Christ? The answer is no. The starting point for every person, including the elect individual, is self-centered religiosity. One of the problems we have in our day is that local churches the world over are doing everything they can to cater to this self-centered outlook rather than working for people’s good. That is what people expect, and they complain when a pastor’s life and ministry or the church meeting is not centered on them. This is why we see pastors centering their ministries on people rather than Christ, music leaders catering to people rather than honoring God’s preferences, church calendars and bulletins and events and outreach and ministries and so on all catered to the worldly, self-centered outlook that is not worthy of Christ. We are not generally interested in people’s good—only their attendance. This is despicable. The truth for God’s chosen people is that we are being sanctified beyond self-centered worldly religiosity. God is conforming us to His Son’s image. So, the elect who are in self-centered churches or religions will eventually be sanctified to the point that they cannot stand it. God will move them so that they can be an active part of Christ’s body, for His exaltation and the Father’s glory alone. There is freedom when we reach this point in our walks with Christ. If, however, we are in a Christ-centered church and do not love Christ, we will find things to complain about and either find a local church that meets our preferences or stop participating with the local church altogether because we can get what we want while sitting at home.
To love God is to count all else as loss—including our own religiosity, relationships, hobbies, athletics, education, and ritual. Christ wants to be the very first thing. He is worthy. Nothing else can compete against Him in the lives of those who truly love Him. That is a difficult truth. No one can accept it unless God has regenerated his or her heart and sanctified him or her into Christ-centered living. He who has lost his life for Christ’s sake will find it.
Honoring God (v. 40-42)
He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.
Even though most of the world, most Jews in context, will reject Christ’s message through His apostles and even though the apostles will mostly be hated and maligned because of their testimony about Christ, there will be some who receive God’s message of grace through faith. Those who accept Christ’s missionaries also accept Christ. Those who accept Christ also accept the Father. Those who reject people who bring God’s message of repentance unto salvation (cf. 4:17) also reject Christ and the Father. There is no distinction in the text. Jesus says this three different ways. He first refers directly to the acceptance of His twelve apostles, then to anyone who professes His word accurately and applies it rightly, and then to anyone who is righteous. Jesus is building on what He taught previously, “If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust of your feet” (10:13-14).
I have been rejected by more people than I care to count because I simply try to teach what Jesus taught. I have discovered that people really don’t like it when my goal is to actually practice church like it is by grace through faith like I teach. People are mostly unwilling to listen to God’s word preached verse-by-verse even though that is God’s desire—He gave His words in their specific order so that they might be presented in their specific order. I have been a punching bag for this reason. I have been run out of churches for this reason. I have had my life threatened for this reason. This is common for those who really work hard at preaching and teaching Christ’s Gospel of grace. Jesus said it would be.
There is a promise from Christ, here. Christ formulates his statement positively. Those who accept His messengers also accept Him. The negative is that those who reject Christ’s messengers also reject Him. This is a serious charge. Things are this way because people who love Christ bear as fruit a love for Christ’s explicit word. Those who do not love Christ reject Christ’s word in favor of preference in some form. So, the missionary, the messenger, and the righteous person do not act according to people’s preference or cater to self-centered religion. They cannot. They preach Christ alone the way that Christ desires to be preached. If the message is accepted, God is accepted. If it is not, God is not. Our simple responsibility is to testify about Christ with grace and peace. People will leave or force the righteous person away if they don’t love Him and stay or keep the righteous person if they do. That is Christ’s teaching, and it’s a difficult one. We remember Jesus’s teaching earlier in His instruction to His apostles, “Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city” (10:14-15). If someone leaves because we choose to preach Scripture alone or strive to be doers of Christ’s word, we let them go. If we are forced out, we go in peace. God’s word has been a testimony against those who don’t love Christ.
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.
If, because we love Christ, we honor Him by accepting His messengers and righteous people, we will also be stimulated unto good works. Those works, not required but coming naturally as a result of our regenerate hearts and the following sanctification, are evidence of our salvation. We cannot muster them. They result from the love we have for Christ. The love we have for Christ is only caused by His first having loved us (1 John 4:19).
These are difficult words. There will be two types of responses to Christ’s teaching, here. Either people will hear and repent or will reject Christ and His true church—justifying their own religion, belief, preferences, and practice. We do not help people by coddling self-centered living. Let us repent, love Christ because He first loved us, and be free from the self-centered religiosity which so binds us to hypocrisy, fear, and condemnation.
- Why do you think the Gospel is so surrounded by controversy?
- Why do you think worldly people and self-centered religious practice is so militant against Christ’s Gospel of grace and peace?
- What do you think it means for us to profess Christ sincerely, respectably, and peacefully despite the great degree of hatred coming toward us? Is this difficult to do?