Bishop MacEvily’s Commentary on Matthew 10:34-11:1
Posted by Dim Bulb on July 10, 2011
Mat 10:34 Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword.
St. Thomas, and others, connect this with the preceding, thus: having told His Apostles not to give up preaching, from fear of death or reproach. He now warns them not to desist from preaching out of any love or ajffection for relatives. For, from the preaching of the Gospel, and the observance of His precepts, divisions would come, even between the nearest relatives (vs 21). Between them, a separation in religious matters must sometimes intervene, and now He forewarns them of it; so that when it takes place, they may not be taken by surprise, or scandalized, as if the oracles of the Prophets (Isaiah 9:6; Micah 4:3), regarding the peaceful reign of the Messiah, were not verified in His case. For, the consequence of His coming is not a worldly peace, nor a worldly external concord among men. As “Prince of peace,” whose first advent into the world proclaimed peace on earth. He came to announce a holy, spiritual peace, which leads to glory and everlasting rest, and not such concord, as might be found amongst robbers, and which should be termed unpunished wickedness, rather than true peace. The result of His coming was not a false peace, such as that, nor peace consisting in the enjoyment of worldly cheer, riches, and pleasure. “But the sword,” i.e., separation (Luke 12:51), as is explained in the following verses.
Mat 10:35 For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
“I came,” i.e., the consequence of My coming is; or, if there bo question of the act whereby the faithful party separates himself from the unbeliever, and differs from him in the profession of the true faith; then, He came directly for this purpose. But as regards the unbelieving party, and the dissensions caused by him, this was not directly intended in the coming of Christ; He was only the occasional cause of it, and He permitted it to occur, just as it is said of Him, that “He delivers men over to a reprobate sense;” that He “was set for the ruin and resurrection of many ” (Luke 2:34).
“To set a man at variance,” i.e., a son, ” against his father.” Our Redeemer mentions three pairs of people, including five persons most intimately connected—son, father, daughter, mother—including also mother-in-law, and daughter-in-law, “These five in one household shall he divided,” says St. Luke 12:52.
Mat 10:36 And a man’s enemies shall be they of his own household.
“And a man’s enemies,” &c. These words are quoted from Michah 5, and with the Prophet, they immediately and directly refer to the siege of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, and express the unnatural intestine differences which would then take place, when every one, forgetting the closest ties of kindred and blood, would forsake all, and betray them in order to secure personal safety. These words of the Prophet are accommodated by our Redeemer to His present purpose, although, having reference to a different matter, and used in different circumstances. The Gospel shall sever and snap asunder, the closest and most intimate family ties. The case supposes, that some members of the same family believe, and others refuse to believe, who will persecute and try to seduce the others. The dissensions are supposed to be on the side of the unbelievers; for, as regards the believers, their faith teaches them to cultivate, as far as possible, peace with all men. If, however, the words refer to the believer, the separation and enmity referred to, only regard the difference of religious belief, and the separation from the unbelieving party, which the preservation of his faith would imperatively demand; this plucking out of the right eye, this cutting off of the right hand, that might prove the occasion of scandal (Matt 5:29, 30).
Mat 10:37 He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me.
Lest it might be alleged against what He had said, about sending the sword (vs 34), and setting at variance, in the sense explained, the members of the same family, that piety towards parents would stand in the way. He says, that our love for God should be stronger than our affection for parents; so, that whenever they oppose themselves to the will of God, we must, in the conflict of duties, not regard them, but adhere closely to God. The love of our parents should yield to our love of God, so that, if necessary, and in case of conflict, we should give them up for Him. “He that loveth father or mother more than Me,” when the love for parents and the love for God are opposed, ” is not worthy of Me.” As St. Luke explains it (Lk 14:26), “He cannot be My disciple.” He is unworthy to bear My name; or, to be reckoned among My followers.
“And he that loveth son or daughter,” which is more intense than the love of children for parents. This is also explained of conflict or opposition.
Mat 10:38 And he that taketh not up his cross, and followeth me, is not worthy of me.
Still more, love of self must yield to our love for God. ” Taketh not,” cheerfully and willingly, and patiently, from the hands of God, “His cross,” trials and sufferings, nay, even a cruel death, if necessary. “His cross,” the trials marked out for him by God’s special providence, who knows best what cross to send each individual, as He may destine it for him. In this, He alludes to the cross He Himself was, one day, to carry on His shoulders for our sakes.
“And followeth Me,” i.e., bearing it patiently and willingly for the cause of justice, after My example, and submitting to all evils and trials, in the cause of God, sooner than violate His laws. To “suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a railer,” &c. (1 Peter 4:15), would not be “following Him.” The word, ”cross” may, in a general sense, be understood of the patient endurance of all the evils which God Bends us in this life.
Mat 10:39 He that findeth his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for me, shall find it.
He shows the advantage of bearing the cross, even to the extent of undergoing an ignominious death, for Christ’s sake, and the detriment of avoiding the cross, and saving one’s life by the denial of Christ and abnegation of the faith.
“He that findeth his life,” i.e., rescues, preserves it when placed in such imminent
peril as to be equivalently lost, and thus virtually ”finds” as if lost, ”his life,” animam suam, i.e., in this world, by a denial of Me, and by a renunciation of My
(This, the antithesis in the next words, ”for Me,” requires), he that shall save and preserve his temporal life, at the expense of renouncing Me, “shall lose it”—shall forfeit life everlasting.
“And he that shall lose his life for Me,” to which St. Mark adds, “and the Gospel” (Mk 8:35), “shall find it,” i.e., shall enjoy everlasting life. The word, “life,” anima, is taken in different significations in both numbers, as is the word, “dead,” in the sentence, “Suffer the dead to bury their dead.” The words signify, whosoever shall sacrifice his temporal life in this world in My defence, and in defence of My Gospel and the cause of justice, sooner than commit sin, such a man may forfeit his temporal existence, and may lose the enjoyment of temporal life; but, he shall gain the happiness of eternal life. The word, “life,” is taken by some to denote the whole man, semetipsum. He that shall lose himself in this world, and shall sacrifice the perverse love of self, shall gain himself, his soul and body, the entire man, in the world to come.
Mat 10:40 He that receiveth you, receiveth me: and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me.
Having foretold the calamities and afflictions that were to await them, and the privations they were destined to undergo. He now, by way of consolation, shows them that they were not to be totally destitute; but, that He was to exercise a special care regarding them. And He points out the rewards of such as would show them hospitality, as being His own vicegerents and legates. He had already shown the punishment that would await such as would reject them (Matt 10:15).
Whosoever received them, received and gave hospitality to Jesus Christ Himself who sent them. The treatment shown an ambassador is equivalently shown to his Sovereign. Hence, He adds, “Him that sent Me,” as if to say: It is, because they received Him, in the quality of one sent by His Father, that they received His Father, which reason also holds in regard to the Apostles sent by Him. What an exalted honour to receive Jesus Christ and God the Father. He who receives the Apostles as His legates, receives Jesus Christ ; and he who receives Jesus Christ as His Father’s legate, receives the Heavenly Father Himself.
Mat 10:41 He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive the reward of a prophet: and he that receiveth a just man in the name of a just man, shall receive the reward of a just man.
“Receives,” hospitably entertains and treats beneficently, “a prophet,” a preacher of the Gospel, a teacher of the faith.
“In the name of a prophet.” On the grounds of being a prophet, or, because he is a prophet. “Because, he belongs to Christ” (Mark 9:40), not because of relationship, kindred, or country, he who receives a prophet, as such. And yet this is not so great an honour as to receive an Apostle. Our Redeemer proceeds here on a descending scale.
“Shall receive the reward of a prophet.” Some understand this of the reward such as the prophet or teacher shall receive for teaching; since, according to the terms of ancient warfare, “equal shall be the portion of him that went down to battle, and of him that abode at the baggage” (1 Sam 30:24). In the eyes of God, to administer to the support of a teacher of the Gospel, is the same as if one were himself actually to discharge the sublime office of teaching.
Others understand by it, the reward which the prophet can give, viz., the blessings and prayers, together with the benefit of instructions and good counsels given by the prophet.
“Just man,” a still less important personage than a prophet. Whosoever receives him, “in the name of,” because he is, “a just man,” that is to say, a man remarkable for piety and holiness of life ; he that shall receive him, because he is holy and pious; shall receive proportionately the reward in store for the prophet or just man. It may also mean, a reward of the same kind that the prophet or just man, shall receive, although, perhaps not to the same amount. His co-operation in the work of the prophet or just man, partakes of the nature of their work, and so is entitled to a proportionate share of the reward, according to the degree of co-operation. Thus, we find, on the other hand, the receivers of stolen goods and the co-operators with rebels punished in the same way as thieves or rebels, the principal actors, although not to the same extent (A. Lapide).
Mat 10:42 And whosoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, amen I say to you he shall not lose his reward.
Our Redeemer advances farther and lower still, in the descending scale, both as to the qualities of the persons served, and the degree of service rendered. It is not every one that may enjoy the privilege of receiving a prophet; nor is it every one that can exercise hospitality. “Whosoever shall give,” to whom? not, to a prophet, nor to a man distinguished for sanctity, but, “to one of these little ones,” one of the humblest followers of Christ, who may either be living a good Christian life, or endeavouring to do so, whether he be just or unjust. “Shall give.” What? the most trifling thing, “to drink a cup of cold water only,” from the spring, out of hand, without the expense of heating it—the most trifling thing in nature, in the power of the poorest.
“In the name of a disciple,” or, as St. Mark has it (Mk 9:40), “because he belongs to Christ,” or is a follower of Christ, and, therefore, whatever is given him is given in honour of Christ. At this period the faithful were called “disciples” of their Heavenly Master, Some time after the Ascension, they were called, ” Christians,” at Antioch (Acts 11:26).
“Only,” may affect the preceding, as above, “only a cup of” &g.; or, the following: “In the name of a disciple.” Any thing, however trifling, shall He reward, provided only that it be done to a disciple as such. For, while benevolent to all, we should be particularly so, to “these little ones,” the domestics of the faith (Gal6:10). Some suppose our Eedeemer had little children near Him, and, as usual, pointed to them.
“Shall not lose,” i.e., shall receive, “his reward.” Such a reward as God, who regards the intention and affection with which a work is performed, more than the act itself, is pleaded, out of His boundless liberality, to attach to such an act done for His sake. God always rewards beyond what the works are of themselves entitled to. He rewards; and strict merit is involved, owing to the great liberality of God promising His rewards.
Eternal life is given to us on two grounds—1st. As an inheritance due to the sons of God. In this way it is given to infants. 2ndly. As a reward of merit due to us, because God has been pleased to promise eternal life to certain works, performed with certain conditions, principally, in a state of sanctifying grace. This applies to adults. When God crowns our merits, He only crowns His own gifts” (St. Augustine).
Mat 11:1 And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he passed from thence, to teach and to preach in their cities.
“Had made an end ofcommanding.” The Greek word for “commanding”” (διατασσων), means arranging, giving instructions; whether of precept or merely of counsel, as it is used (1 Cor 11:34). Here, the word refers to all the precepts, counsels, predictions of evil, and promises of good, included in the preceding chapter. The word “commanding,” might, however, be taken here in its strict signification, if we follow the opinion of some expositors, who hold, that, on occasion of the first mission of the Apostles, our Redeemer confined His instructions to the commands relating to that mission; and hence, St. Matthew employs the word “commanding” here. According to these, our Redeemer delivered on a different occasion, or rather on several occasions, many of the subjects recorded in the preceding chapter by St. Matthew; who, though remarkable for recording at full length, and in detail, our Redeemer’s words, is not so particular as the other Evangelists, about the order of events.
“He passedfrom thence.” He departed from His twelve Apostles, whom He left to themselves to preach without Him. St. Matthew omits all mention of what they did; but, this is recorded by Mark 6:12, 13; Luke 9:6.
“To teach and preach?” He did not remain idle in the meantime; nor did he commit these important functions to be vicariously discharged by others. Those who labour through others, shall be remunerated through the same. They shall forfeit all rewards, themselves. “Qui per vicarium operabitur per vicarium remunerabitur.”
“In their cities.” “Their,” according to some, refers to the cities of the Apostles, or of Galilee, the Apostles being Galileans; others understand them of the cities to which the Apostles were sent, two and two, before Him to preach (Luke 10:1); and therefore, He came after them. Others, most probably, understand them of the cities of the Jews, to whom our Lord had confined the preaching of His Apostles: “Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (cf.Matt 10:6).
“Their” is an example of a Hebrew idiom, according to which, the antecedent of a pronoun is not expressed. but understood, from the context and circumstances.