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An Exposition Of The Gospels by The Most Rev. John Macevilly D.D.

Anticipating the prayer of His disciples, our Lord sends workmen into the harvest, His twelve Apostles, on whom He bestows miraculous powers, as the credentials of their Divine commission. As it is important to know who these workmen are, the names of the twelve are given (1–4). He gives them certain instructions, and enjoins certain precepts on them, as to their mode of proceeding on their mission. He tells them, where and what they are to preach, and how to confirm their teaching (5–8). To avoid every appearance of avarice, to make no unnecessary provision for their journey, and give an example of disinterestedness (9–10). To be select as to the character of their hosts, and to treat them with Christian urbanity, and address to them on entrance, a Christian salutation; He describes the rewards of such as receive them hospitably, and the punishment in store for such as refuse to receive them or their ministrations, and how they are to act in regard to such obstinate unbelievers (11–15). He warns them beforehand of the perils they were to encounter, and tells them how they were to act in difficult circumstances (16). He predicts the persecution they were to suffer from Jews and Gentiles. He assigns motives to inspire them with courage and confidence in God in such trying circumstances (17–20). He forewarns them of another painful kind of persecution, viz., domestic persecution, and exhorts them to endure such with patience and perseverance (21–22). He instructs them to fly in cases of persecution (23). He stimulates them to the courageous endurance of persecutions and sufferings by several motives. 1st. His own example; who endured worse things from the Jews (24–25). 2ndly. Because, in due time, their true character shall be made known, and themselves duly honoured (26–27). 3rdly. Because God alone is to be feared, who exercises a special providence in their regard (29–31). 4thly. Because such as act intrepidly, and boldly confess the faith, shall be rewarded and publicly honoured hereafter; whereas the fainthearted shall be dishonoured publicly and punished eternally (32–33). He describes the peace which He came to establish, not a worldly peace, arising from self-indulgence, but a spiritual peace, which shall be the accidental cause of sowing divisions in religious matters between the nearest and dearest friends, who may range themselves under opposite banners in this spiritual warfare (35–36). He shows that the love and service of God is to be preferred to every other love that may be opposed to it, whether of near relatives (37), or even of oneself, or our own corrupt self-love (38). He points out the reward of bearing every cross patiently for Christ’s sake (39). He conseles them by pointing to the merit of those who shall receive them hospitably on His account, and the merit of any charitable work, be it ever so insignificant, done from the pure motive of Christian charity, for any of His humblest followers (40–42).

1. “And having called His twelve disciples together.” This is connected with (c. 9:37, 38), and has immediate reference to the subject there treated of. Our Redeemer Himself, does by anticipation, what He told His disciples to pray for, viz., He of Himself sends labourers to gather in the harvest, “His twelve disciples,” afterwards called “Apostles” (v. 2), thus showing, that He Himself was “Lord of the harvest.” The other Evangelists (Mark 3:13; Luke 6:13), inform us, that our Lord had chosen His twelve Apostles before He delivered the Sermon on the Mount, in order that they might be constantly in His society, as witnesses of His doctrine and miracles, to be sent in due time to preach, vested with miraculous powers and authority required for the efficacious discharge of their exalted functions. St. Matthew, in recording the Sermon on the Mount (c. 5, &c.), omits all allusion to the election of the twelve Apostles from among His disciples, or, the circumstances of the time and place in which this first occurred, as is circumstantially narrated by St. Luke. (6:13, &c.) He merely briefly alludes to it here immediately in connexion with the first public mission on which they were sent as Apostles, with miraculous powers to confirm their teaching. The mission referred to here is recorded (Mark 6:7; Luke 9:2).

Most likely, the account of this mission should be inserted between chapters 13 and 14 of St. Matthew. For, St. Mark interposes the account of the mission recorded here, between the history of our Lord’s arrival in Nazareth, and that of the Baptist’s death; and both Mark (6) and Luke (9) relate, that the Apostles returned to our Lord to render an account of their mission, after Herod had expressed his belief that John had been resuscitated in the person of our Lord, and, that then, our Lord and the Apostles retired into a desert place. The order, then, in which things occurred, is this: The Apostles are sent to teach the Jews; John is beheaded; Herod hearing of Jesus, is perplexed who He is; the Apostles return from their mission; our Redeemer retires with them beyond the lake to a desert place; He satiates, with five loaves and two fishes, the vast multitude, who, on the near approach of the Pasch, flocked around Him, &c.

He gave them power over unclean spirits.” The devils, or evil spirits, are called “unclean,” because, they delight in unclean, sinful acts, and impel men to the commission of such acts. Before the coming of Christ, the devil had greater power over the world than he has at present. His power, which he so much abused, was crippled by the death of Christ (Heb. 2:14), and by the benign influence and spread of the Gospel. The power given to the Apostles over devils, was, “to cast them out,” and expel them from the bodies of the possessed.

All manner of diseases,” i.e., of a chronic description; “and infirmities,” of an incipient, less aggravated kind (see c. 9:35; c. 4:23). These miraculous powers were to be the seal of their Divine mission, “the fruits by which they were to be known” and they were to be acknowledged as vested with such. (c. 7) He gives these powers, lest the Scribes and Pharisees should be preferred to them. Moreover, as Messiah sending His legates, it was but fitting He should give them the credentials of their authorized commission. Our Redeemer shows how far He surpassed the Prophets of old. These possessed and themselves exercised miraculous powers in several instances, but in no case could they (nor indeed did they ever attempt it), communicate them permanently, as is done here, to others.

2. “The twelve Apostles.” The word, “Apostle,” like the word, “Angel,” is expressive, not of nature or person, but of office. In the Scriptures of the New Testament, it denotes one sent as a legate, either in a general sense; hence, applied to our Redeemer Himself (Heb. 3:2), or, in a special sense, as in the case of Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25), or, Doctors of the Church (Acts 14:4–14; 1 Cor. 4:9), or, those specially sent by our Redeemer Himself, as occupying the highest and most exalted rank in the Church, referred to here, and Eph. 4:11; 1 Cor. 12:28. In this last and most exalted meaning of the term, which is now attached to it by ecclesiastical usage, the word, “Apostle,” is confined exclusively to “the twelve,” whom our Redeemer Himself marked out as such (although, for a long period, ecclesiastical usage extended the title to others besides, as St. Jerome remarks on the Epistle to the Galatians).

For an Apostle, several conditions are required—1. To have seen our Lord in person (1 Cor. 9:1; Acts 1:21, 22; 22:14; 1 Cor. 15:8). 2. An immediate vocation, or to be immediately sent by God Himself. 3. An universal commission, both as to place, and persons; and also in regard to functions, embracing teaching, loosing, and binding, establishing churches, and propagating the ministry. 4. The power of miracles (Mark 16:20; Acts 2:43), this being the most necessary of Divine credentials, to prove their extraordinary mission from God, and thus beget “reasonable service” in their hearers. Hence, in preaching, the Apostles exhibited the seal of their Divine mission by working miracles, speaking unknown tongues, &c. 5. Personal infallibility and inerrancy in preaching the doctrine and precepts of Christ.

The third condition was to be exercised with a due subjection to the supreme jurisdiction of him to whom all were subjected, “lambs and sheep,” pastors and people. In regard to the Apostles, who were each specially guided and directed by the Holy Spirit, there was no danger of collision or confusion in the discharge of this universal commission. There was no need for the exercise of the supreme authority of Peter. But, still, the supreme authority over the rest was given by our Sovereign Lord to Peter. It was, per accidens, that, its exercise was unnecessary. These qualities were extraordinary and personal in the other Apostles, granted to them as Divine legates immediately sent by God, whose office of legates was to cease with themselves; and, therefore, these characteristics were not transmitted to their successors, the bishops. But, Peter’s was not only the extraordinary Apostolic commission granted to him in common with the others, as Divine legate, in which respect his Apostolic power would not be transmissible; but, also, the ordinary commission given to him, and to him alone, as universal pastor, “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep” (John 21:15–17); and hence, the Apostolic power being in Peter, a real as well as a personal quality, was meant to be transmitted to his successors in the Holy Roman See, which is, therefore, justly styled, the Apostolic See, in which the plenitude of Peter’s power and Apostolic authority resides; which alone is the centre and source of all Apostolicity throughout the earth, and which, therefore, can alone claim all the privileges conferred on the Apostles. (See admirable Dissertation on Supremacy of Peter, “Annual Miscellany,” vol. iv., Very Rev. Dr. Murray.)

Of the twelve Apostles.” Our Redeemer, it is commonly supposed, fixes on the number “twelve,” in order that the heads or fathers of spiritual Israel, from whom the whole Christian family, the “duodecim millia signati,” out of the several tribes of the spiritual Israel of the New Law are descended, would correspond with the twelve Fathers or Patriarchs of the Jewish nation, who prefigured these twelve chosen Fathers of the spiritual Israel of the New Law.

The FIRST, Simon who is called Peter.” This seems to corroborate the undoubted proof contained in other leading texts, of the primacy, not alone of honour, but of jurisdiction also, divinely conferred on St. Peter. St. Mark (3:16), and St. Luke (6:14), also give him the first place on their catalogue, although they vary from St. Matthew as to the place given to the other Apostles. Hence, it is not casually, but by design, he is placed first. Four times are the Apostles referred to, collectively, in the New Testament. Besides, the catalogues of the Apostles, found in the passages from the three first Evangelists here referred to, another is found in the Acts of the Apostles (1:13), and on all these is he placed first. Nay, St. Matthew calls him πρωτος, the first (such is the definite force of the ordinal). If he were called so from mere order, the others should be called second; St. Matthew pointedly not only places him first, but calls him “first,” without any ordinal reference to the others. The form, “Simon, who is called Peter,” would seem to be the reason for placing Peter “first,” implying that the change of name from “Simon” to “Peter” was the cause of this preference, and of the dignity and primacy connected with it. The Holy Fathers remark, that in all the catalogues of the Apostles, St. Peter is placed first, just as Judas is invariably placed last. This cannot arise from Peter having been called first to the Apostleship; for, Andrew, his brother, was known to our Lord before him (John 1:41), and both were called when together in the same boat (Matt. 4:18; Mark 1:16, 17). In point of years, St. Epiphanius tells us (Heresi 51), that it was well-known from tradition, that Andrew was his senior. In Acts of the Apostles, and in St. Mark, Andrew is placed fourth on the list. It was not on account of our Lord’s greater affection for him; for John was the well beloved disciple, who alone was permitted to lean on His breast at the Last Supper.

St. Matthew here, and St. Luke (6:14), show why Peter occupied the first place. “Who is called Peter”—“whom He surnamed Peter” (Luke 6:14), which is allusive to, his primacy. “First,” means highest in dignity, in which sense the word is used elsewhere, “qui vult fieri primus,” i.e., princeps or præcipuus. Whenever the Apostles are mentioned collectively, or two or three of them, he is always first. Mark (1:36), says, “Simon and they that were with him.” Whenever they act together, Simon acts and speaks in their name. The order varies in the lists of the Evangelists regarding the other Apostles, to show their equality in regard to each other, subject to Peter, the head of them all.

3. “James,” the greater, brother of John the Evangelist. He was put to death by Herod (Acts 12:2). “Matthew, the publican.” The mention of what was humiliating to him, shows the admirable humility of St. Matthew. The other sacred writers make no allusion to his former position, or rather, odious occupation in life. “Thaddeus,” also called Jude, brother of James the lesser, and writer of the Catholic Epistle of St. Jude.

4. “Simon the Cananean.” The epithet, “Cananean,” which distinguishes him from the other Simon Peter, does not mean that he was from Chanaan. All the Apostles were from Judea. He was from Cana of Galilee. Some writers assert that he was the bridegroom at the marriage of Cana, at which our Lord performed His first public miracle. The Hebrew word, cana, means, zeal. Hence, Simon is termed zelotes (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13).

Iscariot,” according to some, means, of the tribe of Issachar; others, say, it refers to the town where he was born, “a man from Carioth,” a town well known in SS. Scripture (Josue 15:25; Amos 2:2, &c.); others give different etymologies of the word, such as, a mercenary man, or, one who was strangled. The Hebrew root will admit these meanings, which are quite applicable to Judas the traitor. St. Jerome (Isaias 28), says, he was from the town of Iscarioth, in the tribe of Ephraim, to which tribe Judas belonged. This town of Iscarioth was, probably, of recent growth, built after the captivity, as we find no mention of it in the Old Testament (Calmet).

5. “These twelve Jesus sent,” as His legates, vested with His power; probably “two and two” (Mark 6:7), in the order in which they are joined together here, by St. Matthew and Mark (3:16), for mutual consolation and support, and to show the blessing of fraternal concord. “A brother that is helped by a brother is like a strong city.” Proverbs (18:19).

Go ye not into the way of the Gentiles,” for the purpose of preaching. This is our Lord’s first precept to them, which was only of a temporary nature, to cease after His death, which broke down the middle wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles, and made them one fold under one shepherd. “The way of the Gentiles,” a Hebrew form of expression, denoting “among the Gentiles,” like the phrase, “What hast thou to do IN THE WAY OF EGYPT?” (Jer. 2:18), i.e., what brings thee into Egypt?

And into the cities of the Samaritans enter ye not,” i.e., into any of their cities to preach the Gospel. In order to know who these Samaritans were, it is to be borne in mind, that after the ten tribes of Israel seceded from Juda and Benjamin, under Jeroboam, Amri, one of Jeroboam’s successors, built Samaria, which was to be the capital of the kingdom of Israel (3 Kings 16:24). Salmanasar, king of Assyria, carried the ten tribes captive into Assyria (4 Kings 17), and sent in their place, to colonize the country, people from Babylon and Cutha, &c. On the arrival of these latter, who carried with them their idolatrous worship, Samaria was infested with lions, which destroyed the country, and killed its inhabitants. This scourge was attributed to their neglect of the worship of the Deity of the land. Hence, in order to appease him, the king of Assyria had one of the captive priests sent back from Babylon, to instruct the new colonists in the ordinances and worship of the God of Israel.

After this, they united the worship of God with that of idols. (4 Kings 17) In this state did the Samaritans live under the kings of Assyria, having little or no intercourse with the Jews. When the Jews were permitted to rebuild the city and temple of Jerusalem, the Samaritans offered to assist them in their undertaking (1 Esdras 4:2). The rejection of this offer by the Jews, sowed the seeds of the undying hostility which ever after existed between both peoples. The breach was rendered irreparable, when, after the return of the Jews from captivity, and the rebuilding of the temple, the Samaritans had a rival temple built on Mount Garazim, near Samaria, where victims were offered up, as at Jerusalem, and served as a place also of resort for some malcontent Jews. From this period, the Samaritans, forgetful of their Pagan origin, wished to be considered as true Israelites, who preserved in all its purity the observance of the law, with an unbroken succession of high priests, who now ministered on Mount Garazim, the seat of their religion. For a long period, before the time of our Redeemer, they gave up the worship of idols; otherwise, they could have no pretensions to be considered true Israelites, rivals of the Jews, in regard to the observance of the law, and the purity of Divine worship.

The temple of Garazim and city of Samaria were demolished by John Hyrcanus, 120 years before the time of our Redeemer. Lest the Apostles might suppose that the Samaritans, who held a sort of intermediate place between the Jews and Gentiles, were to be confounded with the Jews, our Lord specially mentions them in connexion with the Gentiles. His object in prohibiting the Apostles from preaching to the Gentiles on this first mission was, to take away all excuse from the Jews, who might justify their incredulity and resistance on the ground, that, according to the ordination of God, and His promises through the predictions of the Prophets, the message of salvation was first promised to the Jews, “the children of the kingdom,” “the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” to whom these promises were specially made (Acts 13:46). To the Jews the Gospel was given, according to promise and mercy; to the Gentiles, out of pure mercy, without a promise. (Rom. 15)

Lost sheep.” The Jews were “the sheep of His pasture.” (Psa. 73) They belonged specially to His fold; the objects of His special care and predilection. They were spiritually “lost,” having gone astray from God. (Rom. 3) Hence, compared, in the preceding chapter, to “sheep without a shepherd.” This first precept was to be observed only during our Redeemer’s mortal life. For, after His glorious resurrection, He gave the Apostles an unlimited, universal commission. “Euntes docete OMNES gentes.” (Matthew 28) “Eritis mihi testes … usque ad ultimum terræ” (Acts 1:8).

7. (The second Precept.) “The kingdom of heaven” (see c. 3:2), i.e., the Church of Christ is shortly to be established, which is the threshold or entrance into the kingdom of God’s glory. This kingdom of bliss, so long closed against mankind, is soon to be thrown open by the blood of Christ. Prepare, by penance, faith, and good works, to obtain admission into it. The theme of the preaching of the Apostles was the same as His own (Matt. 4:17); of the Baptist (3:2). It is clear, the preaching of penance, was also included and inculcated in the commission given the Apostles. For, the Apostles preached penance (Mark 6:12).

The form, “kingdom of heaven,” is peculiar to St. Matthew. The other Evangelists for it use the form, “the kingdom of God,” “heavenly kingdom,” “the kingdom of Christ.” The words, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” is a summary of the things preached; and convey an exhortation to perform the good works that may lead to it, and avoid the evils, that may prove an obstacle to our admittance, into that kingdom of everlasting bliss; in a word, “to avoid evil and do good.” St. Luke informs us (10:9), that this precept of “preaching the kingdom of God,” was given to the seventy-two disciples. He insinuates that it was also given to the twelve Apostles (9:2).

8. (The third Precept). “Heal the sick,” &c. The operation of mighty and stupendous miracles was to form the credentials of their Divine mission, necessary to beget belief in a new and unheard of doctrine; otherwise, the proud and haughty would pay no attention to the teaching of ignorant, illiterate fishermen, “these weak and foolish things of the world,” whom God employed “to confound the wise and the strong.” (1 Cor. 1) He gave the like power to Moses, so that the opposing magicians exclaimed, “Digitus Dei est hic” (Exod. 8:19). The miracles they were to perform were works of beneficence, calculated to win the people to embrace the faith. Doubtless, this power was not allowed to be idle or inoperative, although we have hardly any record of its exercise left us in the Gospels.

(Fourth Precept.) “Freely have you received,” i.e., these powers they received without labour, and irrespective of merit, solely from God’s gratuitous concession. This represses every feeling of pride, and begets humility. All they have is “received.” “Freely give,” gratuitously, and generously bestow it on the people, without price or payment; since, it is priceless. Thus is repressed every feeling of simony and sordid avarice. This may refer to the two preceding powers—of preaching (v. 7), and of working miracles (v. 8); or, rather, to the one immediately preceding, viz., the working of cures, &c. The injunction is put in so general a form, that it will apply to the selling of all kinds of spiritual gifts, which, being far beyond all price, would be undervalued, were they sold for money. What is given gratuitously by God, should not be made the subject of traffic, but be made subservient to God’s glory alone. Moreover, they are not the masters of them; but only the dispensers. There are three reasons generally assigned why spiritual things cannot be sold—1st. Because a spiritual thing is above all earthly price. It is “more precious than all riches” (Prov. 3:15). St. Peter tells Simon Magus, “thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money” (Acts 8:20). 2ndly. Because no one is master of such gifts; but only the dispenser (1 Cor. 3). 3rdly. Because, as they come gratuitously from God, one acts irreverently towards God, whenever he exacts a price for what God wishes to be dispensed gratuitously. These two latter reasons are involved in the words, “freely, or gratis, give.” A. Lapide observes here, that the reason why spiritual gifts cannot be sold, is not precisely because they are gratuitously given by God; for, God may bestow a gratuitous gift, as He bestowed science and all knowledge of art on Beseleel, the builder of the Tabernacle (Exodus 31); and this he could sell and teach others for price, like any other master of an art—but, because, spiritual gifts are so exalted and sublime, so incomparably exceeding all human skill and exertions, that to self them for money, would be treating the Author of them, God, with indignity, and would constitute the crime of sacrilege and simony.

9. (Fifth Precept.) Our Redeemer here points out how they should proceed on their mission, and what provision they should make for their journey. According to some commentators, the prohibition contained in this verse is not confined to the present mission of the Apostles among the Jews; it applies also to their final mission among the Gentiles. Our Redeemer, they say, here draws a true and perfect picture of an Apostolic man in every age, whose chief characteristic should be detachment from earthly goods. Unencumbered with worldly possessions, wholly devoted to his duties, he should cast all his care on God’s merciful providence.

Others maintain, and it would seem with greater probability, that the prohibition conveyed in this verse is not only of a personal, but also of a temporary character, confined to this mission of the Apostles among the Jews, to which it is immediately subjoined. No such mandate is attached to their last solemn commission (“euntes docete omnes gentes,” &c.), similar to the injunction regarding the place and subjects of their preaching on this first mission. This our Redeemer would Himself seem to insinuate (Luke 22:35), “When I sent you without purse … but now he that hath a purse,” &c., leaving it to be inferred, that the period for observing the precept conveyed here was past—we find that St. Paul had a cloak in reserve (2 Tim. 4:13). Again, such a precept would be impracticable among the barbarous Gentiles, who would give no support to those who preached down their gods. And the Apostles, in the course of their preaching, had to provide for catechists, by whom they were accompanied. They allowed certain persons to accompany them and provide for their temporal wants (1 Cor. 9:5). Our Redeemer Himself permitted Judas to be purse-bearer to his companions. (A. Lapide, Jansenius Gandav., c. 45, &c.) At the same time, these latter authors admit, that the spirit of these precepts, which were meant to inspire a feeling of disinterestedness and detachment from earthly possessions, and an unbounded reliance in God’s providence, on the part of the ministers of the Gospel, extends to all times. We find that after the descent of the Holy Ghost, the Apostles, in the course of their preaching among the Gentiles, literally adhered to them; and, no doubt, the spirit of these precepts has reference, as far as circumstances will permit, to all future ministers of the Gospel.

Do not possess,” &c. Following St. Mark (c. 6:8), and St. Luke (9:3), this means: Do not provide anything unnecessary, even for journeying purposes, as the words, “for your journey,” here imply.

Nor money.” The Greek, χαλκον, means, “brass,” as if He said: Nor any other description of money. Neither money nor any other valuables, equivalent to money, should be carried by them as a store, or to be held as a reserve for their journey.

In your purses.” The original word, ζωνας, means girdles, which is the same as purses. It is allusive to the custom among travellers of old, to carry their purses attached to their belts or girdles, or to make their girdles serve as purses—a custom still prevalent in the East. Hence, the well known phrase, “perdidit zonam,” when there was question of losing one’s money.

10. “Nor scrip.” In Mark and Luke is added, “nor bread.” The idea is conveyed here by St. Matthew. In prohibiting them the use of a scrip for carrying meat or drink, he prohibits them to carry provisions of any kind.

Two coats,” any stock of duplicate clothes in reserve, or for the purposes of change. The wearing of two coats or two garments is not prohibited, if necessary. Our Redeemer Himself at the time of His sacred Passion (John 19:23), were more than one garment. He only prohibits duplicates of the same.

Nor shoes.” St. Mark (6:9) says, our Redeemer permitted them to be “shod with sandals.” To reconcile this with St. Matthew here, some say, our Lord here prohibits them to have two pairs of shoes, to be kept in reserve, as in the case of the coats, &c. Against this solution it may be urged, that our Redeemer says (Luke 22:35), “I sent you without scrip and shoes.” Hence, others reconcile the passages in this way: He prohibits the use of shoes which covered the entire foot, as such might retard them in their journey, and betray a concern for bodily comforts; that they were to go forth as they stood at that moment in His presence, “shod with sandals” only (Mark 6:9), which merely protected the soles of the feet against the roughness of the roads, and were very necessary for this purpose in a stony country like Judea. This was the description of shoes worn by the poorer classes, and our Redeemer, most likely, Himself used them against the roughness of the roads. The history of the sinful woman bathing His feet with her tears, would render it probable, that He did not use shoes, the upper part of His feet being exposed.

Nor a staff.” St. Mark (6:8) says, He allowed them a staff, “but a staff only.” Some expositors (among the rest Euthymius) say, that our Redeemer having, in the first instance, prohibited it, afterwards dispensed in the precept (Victor of Antioch), in accommodation to the weakness of His Apostles, and allowed them to carry a staff, as is stated by St. Mark, who, writing after St. Matthew, records this dispensation. These apply the same solution to the former question regarding the sandals. The more probable solution, however, seems to be that St. Matthew and St. Mark speak of a different description of staff. St. Matthew of a weapon, for the purposes of offence or defence; St. Mark, of a staff for support, for leaning on. This is implied in the words of St. Mark, “but a staff only,” as if allowed only for the purpose of support or propping up. Moreover, our Redeemer’s object is to render them less encumbered with care or anxiety in regard to their future provision and protection—with which a walking staff did not interfere—and to cast aside all superfluities. Our Redeemer opposes the “rod,” which He prohibits here, to a sword (Luke 22:36), where He would seem to revoke the precept given to the Apostles at their first mission here. At their first mission, He prohibited offensive weapons. In St. Luke (22) He allows them, which would show it is of a rod as a weapon of offence, and not as a means of support, He speaks here.

Some expositors, among them Patrizzi (Mark 6:8), reconcile both readings by saying, that the reading in most of the old Greek MSS. in the Coptic, Armenian, and later Syriac versions, is in the plural, ραβδους; that our Lord prohibits more than one staff, but in St. Mark, He allows one. But there are as good authorities for the reading in the singular. There would seem to be no reason for preventing a change of staffs, as in the case of clothes.

For the workman,” &c. As the Apostles might allege that they could not help providing the necessaries for their journey and support, our Redeemer here meets that plea, by saying, they need not trouble themselves, as they shall be provided with everything. St. Luke has, “his hire” (10:7), to convey to us, that support is due to the Evangelical labourer, as his “hire” is due to the workman; but, it by no means signifies, that it is the price of the labour done, or an equivalent for it; since the spiritual work of preaching and of the ministry transcends all price; or that the spiritual work of the Gospel ministers should be performed with the view or end of gaining temporal remuneration. It is more properly termed by St. Paul, “a stipend,” such as is given to the soldier, who serves, not for the pay—his small pay would be no price for his life or labours—but to serve his country. The stipend, however, is given to him, as it also is to the Evangelical labourer, to enable him to perform the service assigned to him. Support is to be given the Evangelical workman, by the people; the reward by God. “Accipiant prædicatores,” says St. Chrysostom, “SUSTENTATIONEM a populo, MERCEDEM a Deo.” The word, “workman,” shows, that, in order to be entitled to his support, the minister of religion must work, must labour, for the spiritual good of his people. “His meat,” shows he should be contented with the necessary support, and must not seek to become rich by the Gospel.

11. (Sixth Precept.) Lest the Apostles should imagine they were free to receive food, hospitality, &c., from every description of persons indiscriminately, our Lord gives them instructions regarding the lodgings they were to choose on their mission, and the prudent precautions and discrimination they were to use in this matter.

Town,” a smaller place than a “city.” “You shall enter,” for the purposes of preaching. “Who is worthy,” distinguished for a good and edifying life, and willing to exercise hospitality towards pious strangers. Were they to seek hospitality from an enemy of the Gospel and lodge with him, they might be maltreated and forced to change; if with any infamous character, their ministry might be brought into disrepute, and the cause of the Gospel might thus suffer. Our Lord does not tell them to ask, who is wealthy, or who could afford the most comfortable accommodation, but, “who is worthy.”

And there abide,” &c. The same is expressed more clearly by St. Luke (10:7); “remove not from house to house.” As they should be careful as to their lodgings, and should avoid all precipitancy in choosing them, so having chosen a worthy abode, they should also be still more cautious to avoid all precipitancy in leaving it, lest they might be liable to the reproach of inconstancy, or a desire for better cheer; or, perhaps, give offence and pain to their former host.

12. (Seventh Precept.) Our Lord here gives instructions to the Apostles, as to how they are to treat the house to which they may be directed, and next verse, He also indicates a means for ascertaining if the parties so represented be really worthy. “Salute it,” that is, its inmates. Our Lord wishes the Apostles to anticipate their host in urbanity and humility, by “saluting” him, so as to conciliate his good will. The Syriac version is, “precamini pacem illi,” which is, probably, the form of words employed by our Redeemer, in the Syro-Chaldaic language. For, the following words, “Peace be to this house,” are wanting in the Greek and many Latin copies. Neither are they found in St. Jerome’s text in his Commentary of this passage. They are read, however, in Luke (10:5). The words, “peace be to you,” was quite a common form of salutation among the Jews, who referred to temporal things; but, our Lord includes spiritual blessings, which He came on earth to bestow, “pax hominibus,” &c. It conveyed, that the ingress of a man was peaceful, the act of a friend, and not of an enemy. “Peace,” meant the quiet, undisturbed possession of the fulness of all blessings, spiritual and temporal. In the case of the Apostles, referred to here, it implied the fulness of Gospel blessings.

13. “And if that house be worthy” of the peace you pray for it, which St. Luke (10:6), more clearly expresses, “if the Son of peace be there,” i.e., if the host deserves the blessings you pray for on his behalf, and show a worthy disposition to receive the blessings of the Gospel, by hospitably harbouring its first heralds and ministers.

Your peace shall come upon it.” Your prayer shall be not without due effect. God will give due efficacy to your prayers.

Your peace shall return to you.” Some understand this to mean: You shall have the merit of your peaceful salutation still, even though it suffered a repulse from others. Similar are the words (Psa. 34:13), “oratio mea in sinu meo convertetur.” (St. Jerome, &c.) Against this interpretation, the word, “return,” would seem to militate, because the merit and reward of the blessing given, always remained with the Apostles who bestowed it. Others understand it thus: the peace prayed for, notwithstanding its repulse by others, shall still return to you as you gave it, uninjured; so that it shall accompany and conduct you to others, who will co-operate and correspond with your good wishes. Peace is here personified, and represented as coming back to the Apostles, and accompanying them until it finds a host worthy of it.

The Greek for “shall come”—“shall return,” is in the imperative form, “may it come”—“may it return.” But, the imperative form is commonly employed by the Hebrews for the future indicative, so that the Vulgate and our English version, give the sense of the passage, and it is read in the future in Luke (10:6); or, it may be, that the imperative form was used for the purpose of expressing the Divine power. “I wish, and therefore, shall take care, that your peace would come upon it.… I wish that your peace would return to yourselves.”

14. (Eighth Precept.) “Shake the dust,” &c. That this precept was meant literally, seems clear, from the fact, that Paul and Barnabas literally observed it (Acts 13:51). The reason of this usage among the Jews may have been, to express, that they had nothing in common with the Gentiles, or a certain description of persons, just as in hearing of blasphemy, it was usual with them to rend their garments (Mark 6:11; Luke 9:5).

Our Redeemer’s reason for enjoining it here, probably, was, to signify, that the labour undergone by the Apostles, and their long toilsome journeys, indicated by “the dust of their feet,” had no effect on these people, which would aggravate their sin of incredulity; or, it may denote, that they would have nothing in common with a race execrable for having rejected the Gospel preached with so much toil; not even the very worthless dust of their streets, which partook of the general Anathema they incurred; or, to show they took nothing from those incredulous men, not even the very dust. St. Mark (6:11); Luke (9:5) adds, “for a testimony against them,” which Origen (Gen. 8, Homil. 4); Hilary (Matth. 10), interpret thus: The dust thus contracted by toilsome journeys, would be “a testimony” on the Day of Judgment, against the incredulity and obstinacy of these cities, and a proof that they perished through their own fault alone, “signo pulveris pedibus excussi æterna maledictio relinquitur.” (St. Hilary, in Matth. 10) It was customary with the Jews to perpetuate the recollection of any notable event, by some material monument (Josue 24:27; Gen. 31:51, 52, &c.) Hence, he adds, v. 15—

15. “Amen, I say to you, it shall be more tolerable,” &c., i.e., the incredulous, who refuse your ministry, shall be treated with more rigour on the day of judgment, than the Sodomites, &c., whom fire and brimstone from heaven sunk alive into hell; because, the former resisted greater graces and neglected greater aids, than had been offered to the sinful Sodomites, &c., among whom no such preaching took place; moreover, they had longer time for penance. Some maintain, that their sin was more grievous; that Infidelity, Heresy, Schism, are more grievous sins than Sodomy, which is the most grievous among carnal sins. The inhospitable rejection of the Apostles, may be allusive to the inhumanity and inhospitality of the Sodomites, which is reckoned among the other sins with which Sodom is charged by Ezechiel (16:49). It is in this latter respect only, they are compared here according to some. However, as the comparison is general and absolute, the former interpretation seems preferable.

16. He forewarns and guards them against the dangers that were awaiting them. “Behold,” arrests their attention. “I send you,” “I,” who am God, the Almighty, whom no power can resist; I, who heretofore commissioned the Prophets, Moses, Elias, Isaias, &c.; I, who am “the Lord of the harvest” (Luke 10:2); I send you—therefore, have courage, and display magnanimity—“as sheep in the midst of wolves,” shows their great peril. It is not the case of one wolf attacking a flock of sheep; but, a number of wolves, “in the midst of wolves,” surrounding them on all sides, so as render their escape, humanly speaking, impossible. But in their case, “the power (of God) is perfected in infirmity” (2 Cor. 12:9). “Sheep” are, of all animals, the most timid and harmless, most easily destroyed. This more clearly explains the sending of them without “staff,” &c., without any weapons, offensive or defensive. Their defenceless state is the more liable to danger, in consequence of being surrounded by “wolves.” He explains, next verse, who the “wolves” are, viz., men who give obstinate resistance to the Gospel, and use violence besides. Some interpreters maintain, that the following portion of this chapter was not spoken by our Redeemer on this occasion; and that St. Matthew records here, on account of the connexion of the subjects, things spoken by our Redeemer on several distinct occasions, which, according to those interpreters, is also true of the Sermon on the Mount, as given by St. Matthew. So that he gives a connected narrative of what was spoken in detached portions. For, Mark and Luke record them as spoken on separate occasions. They give, as a reason for this opinion, that the persecutions, on the part of Jews and Gentiles, could not apply to the first mission of the Apostles, which was confined to the Jews. From this, the seventy-two returned, far from suffering persecution, rejoicing rather in their success. However, we find the words of this verse (16), also given in St. Luke (10:3, &c.), in connexion with the mission of the Seventy-two; and it might be said, also, in reply to the foregoing, that some of the things addressed to the Apostles on the occasion of this first mission, had reference to what was in reserve for them, and what did actually befall them on their future mission among the Gentiles.

(Ninth Precept). “Be ye, therefore,” &c. “Therefore,” is a practical conclusion, derived from the foregoing account of the danger they were to undergo. “Wise as serpents,” in order to avoid the dangers they were exposed to. As the “wolves” are the natural enemies of the “sheep,” so, also, were those who opposed the Gospel, enemies of the Apostles, ready to devour them. Hence, the Apostles, in dealing with these, should imitate the caution of the serpent in avoiding men, by whom he is naturally hated. The Scriptures elsewhere refer us to the industrious ant (Prov. 6:6). St. Paul employed the “cunning of the serpent” (Acts 9:25), when he was let down in a basket from the walls at Damascus; when (Acts 23:6), he raised a dispute among the Jews, while professing himself a Pharisee; when (Acts 16:37), he proclaimed himself to be a Roman citizen. At the same time, his whole life exhibited the meekness, gentleness, and “simplicity of the dove.” They are not, however, to imitate the malice of the serpent, in transfusing his poison when attacked. With the serpent’s cunning, they should combine “the simplicity,” the candid, unoffending harmlessness “of doves.”

The Greek for “simple” (ακεραιοι), conveys an allusion to unhorned animals, destitute of the natural means of self-defence, so that, when attacked or injured, they should not retaliate or inflict injury. There are various reasons assigned for this allusion to the serpent. Some say, the example of the serpent is allusive to the serpent that tempted Eve; as, with the delusive promise that sue would become “like unto God,” he tempted the weaker sex, and watched his opportunity, so ought the Apostles adopt prudent means, and watch every befitting occasion to withdraw men from evil, and bring them to God by the promises and hopes of immortal glory. They should do in the interests of truth, what the old serpent did for the purposes of evil and deception (St. Hilary).

Others say, that there is reference made to the natural serpent, whose cunning is proposed as a model of imitation to the Apostles in their dealing with the world; and this, according to some commentators, in some particular points—1st. The serpent exposes his entire body for the protection of his head; the Apostles should likewise submit to every hardship, even to death itself, to guard their Head, who is Christ, and to keep His faith pure and incorrupt. (SS. Jerome, Chrysostom, Augustine, Hilary, &c.) 2ndly. We are told by naturalists (Aristotle, Lib. 8, Histor. Animal, c. 17; Pliny, Lib. 8, c. 27) that the serpent, in spring and autumn, lays aside his old and puts on a new skin; and some writers say, although Aristotle makes no allusion to it, that he does so by forcing himself through narrow chinks; so ought Apostolic men, by putting off the old man put on the new, by treading in the narrow way, which alone leads to life. Again, the serpent watches an opportunity for communicating his virus; so ought Apostolic men, on the other hand, watch every opportunity of imparting true doctrine. The chief scope, however, of our Redeemer is, that the prudence of the serpent should be imitated in the avoidance of injuries and snares on the part of men, and the simplicity of the dove, in not retaliating for injuries received. Also, that by “prudence,” they would seasonably avail themselves of every opportunity of gaining over others to the cause of truth; and by “simplicity,” they would avoid all fraud or deceit in so doing.

17. (Tenth Precept). “But, beware of men.” “But,” is the same as “therefore.” In this verse is assigned a reason why they should have the cunning of serpents; and from it is also seen who are the “wolves” (v. 16), viz., wicked men, enemies of the Gospel. The Apostles should observe the utmost caution in regard to placing any trust or confidence in such men, who would not fail to have recourse to threats of punishment and persecution, or to blandishments, to turn them aside from the right path of Gospel truth. They should avoid such men, as far as the public discharge of the Apostolic ministry would permit.

In councils”—(Greek), “INTO councils”—to be examined and tried.

And they will scourge you in their synagogues.” By “councils,” some understand the tribunals of the Gentiles; “synagogues,” meetings of the Jews. (The Jews were wont to scourge in their synagogues the transgressors against their laws.) The word, “synagogue,” which strictly signifies, a congregation or gathering, might be understood of Gentile assemblies also.

Others understand both words in this verse, of Jewish meetings. The “councils” (συνεδρια) of the greater council among the Jews, that took cognizance of graver offences (see c. 5:23); for, in the next verse (18), there is question of Gentile tribunals. SS. Peter and John were brought before “the council” (Acts 4:5–7); and so were all the Apostles (Acts 5:27); St. Stephen (Acts 6:12); Christ our Lord (Luke 22:26). In all these places, in which there is clearly reference to Jewish tribunals, the term used is, συνεδριον. “Scourge you” (Acts 5:40; 2 Cor. 11:24).

18. (Eleventh Precept). “Governors” of provinces, such as Pontius Pilate; Felix and Festus, before whom St. Paul was brought.

Kings.” Witness Paul before Agrippa. (Acts 25)

You shall be brought,” to be tried for your lives. Not content with the foregoing punishments, they shall also thirst for your lives.

For my sake,” for having preached the Gospel of salvation. Hence, we find them afterwards rejoicing for being deemed worthy to suffer reproach in the name of Jesus (Acts 5:11).

For a testimony to them,” the Jews, of whom He spoke (v. 17); “and to the Gentiles” (v. 18), of the truth of the Gospel. The preaching of the Gospel, under circumstances of such pressure, will furnish them with an opportunity of giving the strongest proof of the doctrine they preach, at the peril of their lives. Hence, the word, martyr, signifies a witness, who suffers for the faith; or, it may mean, a testimony of condemnation, rendered public on the day of judgment, to Jews and Gentiles, against the persecutors of the Apostles, for having rejected the truth confirmed by so many self-sacrificing evidences of meek suffering. The Apostles, at this first mission, were not to be brought before Gentile governors; but, our Lord here describes what was to occur on future occasions.

19. Poor, illiterate fishermen would naturally feel anxious and embarrassed what to say, when questioned in presence of the great ones of the earth. In these verses three things are expressed—1. The prohibition of all anxious thoughts and reliance on mere human erudition. 2. The promise of Divine assistance, “it shall be given to you.” 3. The reason, “For, it is not you that speak,” &c.

Our Lord does not here encourage sloth, nor does He dispense with all preparation, study, or ordinary diligence. He only wishes them to divest themselves of all excessive anxiety, all timorous, excessive, corroding solicitude (which the Greek word, μεριμνησητε, means (see c. 6:25) beforehand, as to the result. When they shall be actually in the hands of their enemies, they must confidently rely on God’s providence, to give them, then, the necessary strength and power (Mark 13:4; Luke 21:14).

For, it shall he given to you,” by the whole blessed Trinity, to speak, in such circumstances, in a befitting manner. Here, it is said, “the Spirit of your Father.” In St. Luke (21:15), it is said, “I will give a mouth,” i.e., eloquence, “and wisdom,” &c., in regard to what and how you shall speak. “In that hour,” i.e., in the hour of need and actual danger, on account of God’s truth.

20. “For, it is not you that speak,” &c. This is comparative. It is not so much you that shall speak, as “the Spirit of your Father.” Elsewhere (Luke 21:15), He says, He Himself will supply them with eloquence. He is the chief agent; they, the subordinate instruments—His mere organs.

Not but they too will speak. He, however, shall be the principal agent. Thus, we find it said, “neque currentis, neque volentis; sed Dei miserentis” (Rom. 9:16), referring to God as principal, although not the only cause. The cause or the defence is not theirs, so much as the Holy Ghost’s. While, therefore, they do their part, and employ due diligence, they should leave the rest to the Holy Ghost, who shall Himself speak, by suggesting to them what they are to say, and how to say it, as it is His own interests chiefly that are in question. He will do for them what He did for the Prophets of old. He will speak in them, as the Angel spoke through the dumb beast (Num. 22:28), and as the Holy Ghost spoke through Peter and the Apostles in presence of the Jewish pontiffs. (Acts 4:29, &c.)

21. Our Redeemer forewarns; and thus, forearms His followers, against a most painful description of persecution, viz., domestic persecution. Those to whom they should naturally look for consolation in their sufferings and trials, will only help to aggravate their afflictions, and add to them. The nearest relatives, fathers and brothers, divesting themselves of all natural affection, shall persecute unto death their sons and brethren; and children, on the other hand, fogetting all ties of natural affection, shall treat their parents in a similar manner; for, as St. Jerome observes, “natural affection is lost in those who are of a different faith”—“nec ullus inter eos fidus affectus, quorum diversa est fides.” (St. Jerome, in chap. 6 Matth.)

22. “By all men,” i.e., “by all (wicked) men;” or, by many; or by every description of men, relatives and strangers, rich and poor, noble and lowly, Jew and Gentile.

Shall be hated,” although injuring no one, but doing good to all.

For My name’s sake.” Not through any fault of your own (1 Peter 4:15), but, solely on account of your professing My faith and worship.

Shall persevere,” &c. He now encourages them, with the prospect of the reward which shall be given them. “Persevere,” the Greek (ὑπομεινας), endure, bear up, in suffering and in faith to the end. St. Mark (13:13) has, “endure.”

Shall be saved.” This is the reward of merit, which is, however, founded on grace. Our Redeemer conveys two things here—1st. That we must suffer, as is clearly expressed elsewhere—“per multas tribulationes oportet nos intrare in regnum Dei;” 2ndly. That we must persevere in suffering; otherwise, it shall be of no avail to us. We must persevere in patient suffering “to the end,” to the final term of our existence in this life. Salvation is the crown of perseverance.

23. (Twelfth Precept). It might be said, or rather, objected, if we are hated by all men, and sought after to be persecuted, how, then, can we preach the Gospel? Our Redeemer, anticipating this objection, tells them, that when men will obstinately resist their preaching in one place, and seek their death, let them “flee,” thus exhibiting the prescribed cunning of the serpent, by avoiding the snares of men. They, however, are not merely to flee into solitudes or deserts, to remain inactive; they should “flee into another city,” and thus make their persecution, and the consequent flight, the occasion of extending the kingdom of Christ. For, it is not simply flight, to be made the occasion of indolence; but flight, to be made the occasion of the wider propagation of the faith, that is here enjoined. Hence, against Tertullian (Lib. de fuga, &c.), it is sometimes lawful to fly from persecution, when charity or justice do not require the contrary, as is sanctioned by the example of our Redeemer Himself flying into Egypt (c. 2:14), and when His enemies sought His life (Luke 4:30), “for His hour had not yet come;” and of St. Paul (Acts 9:25; 2 Cor. 11:33). It is sometimes a duty to fly, when the glory of God and the utility of the Church demand it, and when it is necessary for the cause of God, that a public, distinguished character, should not be prematurely cut off, and when no injury would result to others from such flight. It is sometimes permitted, and a matter of counsel; and sometimes unlawful, whenever either charity or justice may prevent it; as, for instance, in the case of a man charged with the care of others, and when it is not the pastor, but the flock, that is primarily and principally assailed, whose faith and morals would be seriously exposed and injured, owing to the absence of their pastor, who, moreover, would be deprived of the sacraments. To fly from his post in such circumstances, would be to act the part of a hireling. (John 10) Some commentators confine this to the first mission, on account of what follows.

Amen, I say to you, you shall not finish all the cities,” &c. Others, more probably, say, that, although these words were uttered on the occasion of the first mission, when the evils referred to did not occur; still, they had reference to the entire course of the Apostolic mission, and serve as a rule for the pastors of the Church, and all Apostolic men till the end of time.

You shall not finish” You shall always have places for flying to, and for extending the Gospel ministry. The words may mean: You shall not have overrun, in preaching, all the cities of Israel, in this your first mission, until the Son of man shall return to you in a glorious state, after His resurrection, when He shall give you another commission, and assign the world as the theatre of your labours. The coming of the “Son of man” is, however, more generally understood of His glorious coming to judgment. Hence, others understand it: You shall not have fully converted the Jewish people until the final coming of Jesus Christ to judgment; thus, taxing the incredulity of the Jews, whose total conversion is reserved till after the Gentile world is converted, or, till the final end of all things (Rom. 11:25). Others, by “Israel,” understand, spiritual Israel, consisting of converted Jews and Gentiles, the duodecim millia signati, of the several tribes of the entire earth, to whom the Apostles, whose second mission also is included here, shall have ample room to flee at all periods of the world. For, the fulness of the Gentiles shall not have entered the Church till the Day of Judgment (Rom. 11:25).

24. Having foretold persecutions, our Lord now adduces some considerations, for the purpose of animating them to bear the persecutions in store for them, with courage and patience. He first employs certain familiar adages, clearly understood, and, probably, in vogue among the Jews, such as, the disciple and servant cannot expect better treatment, or to be better off than their master and lord. This is applied to Himself, next verse. So, He adduces His own example, in the first instance, to animate and encourage them.

25. The servant and disciple should be content with being treated as well as their master and lord; nor should they refuse to submit to the same privations which their master had to undergo.

If they called the good-man of the house.” In this, as well as in the preceding verse, we cannot but admire and adore the wonderful modesty of our Lord, who speaks of Himself in the third person, “the good-man of the house,” Himself, who is the head and founder of God’s house, the Church, of which the Apostles were members and inmates.

Beelzebub,” which means, “Lord of flies,” dominus muscarum, an idol of the Accaronites, so called, either because he was invoked by these Pagans against the plague of flies, or because the blood of victims, with which he was besmeared, attracted the flies, and caused the idol to be covered all over with them. This filthy idol was such an object of horror and execration to the Jews, that they designated the devil by that name; just as they called Gehenna, hell, owing to the shocking and barbarous rites carried on there by the Chanaanites. This opprobious epithet, the Jews did not scruple, in the height of their fury and malevolence, to apply to our blessed Lord, as is expressly mentioned here, although we find no place in the Gospel where they call Him such. It is only said of Him, that He makes use of Beelzebub, “in principe Dæmoniorum, Beelzebub, ejicit dæmonia” (Matt. 12:24). But here it is expressly stated, they called Him Beelzebub, very likely, when their rage and malevolence had reached the highest pitch of excitement. If He, the Lord and Master of the house, was treated with such contumely, His disciples should be content, with His Divine example before their eyes, to bear reproaches and contumely with meekness and patience.

26. “Therefore,” as in suffering reproaches and calumnies, as well as in persecutions of all sorts, you are only enduring what your Lord and Master had to endure before you. “Fear them not.” Fear not their calumnies, nor any punishment they may desire to inflict on you.

For, nothing is covered,” &c. As a motive for consolation to the Apostles, these words may mean: That, although the private virtues of the Apostles, and their upright motives may now be hidden and unknown, in the Day of Judgment, and even in this life, their hidden virtues would be made known, and the hypocrisy and malignity of their persecutors publicly revealed or exposed, so that men would now honour them, in proportion to the contumelious treatment they were hitherto subjected to; or, that, although the Gospel was now regarded by men as hidden and obscure, the day would soon come, when it would be announced and believed all over the earth; and, hence, the Apostles should not be deterred by calumnies and opposition, from courageously announcing it. This accords well with the following.

27. “The dark,” and “the ear,” mean, privately; “the light,” and “the house-tops,” denote, publicly, OPENLY. “House-tops,” is allusive to the style of houses in Judea They had flat roofs, which served as a usual promenade for the people. What was said there might be overheard by others; and it might be regarded as spoken in public. There are two evils which cause men the greatest pain—the loss of honour, and the loss of life. Our Redeemer, in this and the preceding verses, fortifies His Apostles against any fear regarding the former. In time, their honour, their character, shall be publicly vindicated. In the following verse, He fortifies them against any timid fears regarding the latter; and although He had already spoken of the loss of life (v. 21), still, He here first treats of the loss of character; because, honour is held in the greatest estimation among men, and He had been treating of the contumelious, reproachful treatment they should endure immediately before (v. 25).

28. Having fortified them against the fear of infamy and calumnies, He now fortifies them against the fear of death. He wishes them to overcome, by the consideration of the fear of God, the inordinate fear of man, which might influence them to desert the proper line of duty, and offend God.

That kill the body,” by depriving it of temporal life, which, in any event, it is destined soon to lose. They can go no farther. They cannot kill the soul, by either depriving it of immortality, or, what is worse, of the life of grace or glory, which is the second death of the soul. But, if they fear at all, “but rather,” let them fear Him, who will not kill soul or body—for carnal men would wish for this—but by an eternal living death, or dying life, “can”—irrevocably—“destroy both soul and body in hell,” where their worm shall never die, and their fire shall never be extinguished (Isa. 66:24). This refers to God, to whom alone belongs the high prerogative of life and death. To demons, the Scripture never ascribes such a prerogative.

29. Our Lord here adduces another reason to fortify them against fear of persecution, and of the loss of life. Nothing happens in this world save by the will and superintending providence of God, who will not permit anything to befall them, except as far as He sees it will tend to their greater good. This He demonstrates, from the example of the most worthless and insignificant objects in nature.

Two sparrows,” worthless birds—one is hardly worth mentioning—“sold for a farthing.” “Farthing,” is put up for the smallest coin, “and not one of them,” which is hardly worth anything, “shall fall on the ground,” shall be killed by falling dead from the air to the earth. “Without your Father,” without His special providence and permission. The words, “your Father,” have a peculiar significance in the present matter. He is their Father, and can hardly be said to have this relation in regard to “sparrows.” When the Apostle says (1 Cor. 9:9), “Doth God take care for oxen?” there is no contradiction between these words and the words of our Redeemer. Our Redeemer speaks of God’s general providence, which extends to the minutest things, to the very brute animals, and provides for them according to the course of general laws (Gen. 8:1; Psa. 146:9; Job 38:41); whereas, the Apostle speaks of a special providence exerted by Him, as Father, towards man. He speaks of a law, suggesting humanity, which was chiefly intended for man, rather than for oxen (1 Cor. 9:10). In this passage there is question of this two-fold providence of God—of His general provision for all creatures, according to the operation of certain fixed laws, and of His special providence as Father, “your Father,” which makes special provision for man, and ordains His law, in regard to irrational creatures, for his special benefit, and has regard to all men, without exception of persons (Wisdom 6:8).

30. “But, the very hairs,” &c. “But” (δε, καὶ) signifies, nay more, the most insignificant and superfluous parts of your persons are under God’s special providence. Instead of inferring from the foregoing (v. 29)—as one would imagine—whereas the sparrows are not killed, save with God’s permission, with how much greater concern will your Father protect you from being killed; or, should death befall you, it will be arranged by Him for your greater good; our Redeemer goes farther, and says, that not only are their life, and the members of their bodies, a subject of concern to God, but so, also, are the very hairs of their head. It is an argumentum a minore ad majus.

Have been numbered.” The past tense is meant to show, that already are placed under God’s special care and protection, not alone, their life, their members; but the very minutest parts of them.

31. “Fear not, therefore,” &c. Proceed intrepidly and courageously in the holy work of preaching the Gospel, committing yourselves to God’s special providence. “Therefore,” expresses the practical conclusion from the foregoing.

You,” on whose account the sparrows and all animals exist—which is common to all men—and who are specially the sons of God, “are better,” &c. Although hated by all men, proceed, therefore, courageously to your work of preaching, casting yourselves on God’s providence, who will provide for you better than you could for yourselves, and will make your sufferings subserve to His own greater glory, and your final salvation.

32. Having animated His disciples already against persecutions, without fear of infamy or death, our Redeemer now animates them by placing before them the utility of confessing Him, and the misfortune entailed by the denial of Him.

Therefore,” may be an inference from the foregoing (16–22), or it may be regarded as a continuation of the preceding, as in Luke (12:28). “And I say to you,” &c. Here, is conveyed an additional reason to preach Christ intrepidly. “Every one that shall,” by word, or example, or by act, “confess Me before men,” in due circumstances, and shall persevere to the end in doing so, and, interrogated by tyrants regarding the faith, shall openly and ingenuously profess that he believes in Me, as the eternal Son of God, and shall also, sooner than violate My law, submit to death, thus honouring Me and My law, such a one, “HIM,” “will I also confess before my Father,” &c., i.e., I shall honour him before all mankind on the Day of Judgment (Mark 8:38), “cum venerit filius hominis,” &c. He here proposes a reward, to induce them to preach Him intrepidly; and He contrasts, the glory which they shall publicly receive, in presence of His Heavenly Father, and all mankind, with the honour they give Him before men. He compares His Father and the Angels (Luke 12) with men, and Himself with us, mortals.

33. If the hope of reward will not animate them, then let the fear of punishment do so. There are certain circumstances in which the open confession of our faith is a matter of precept, under pain of damnation. “He will deny them; He will know them not,” and so they shall be condemned, “discedite a me, &c.”

For “confess Me,” the Greek is, “confess in Me,” a Hebrew and Greek construction for “confess ME;” or, the words may mean, as with Maldonatus, “glory in Me,” make Me the subject of their glorying in due circumstances; in Him shall I glory, and make the subject of my boasting, in turn. Or, “in Me,” may mean, concerning Me.

34. 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 affection for relatives. For, from the preaching of the Gospel, and the observance of His precepts, divisions would come, even between the nearest relatives (v. 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 (Isaias 9:6; Micheas 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.

35. “I came,” i.e., the consequence of My coming is; or, if there be 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 be divided,” says St. Luke (12:52).

36. “And a man’s enemies,” &c. These words are quoted from Micheas (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 (c. 5:29, 30).

37. Lest it might be alleged against what He had said, about sending the sword (v. 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 (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.

38. 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 sends us in this life.

39. 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 faith.

(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” (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.

40. 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 (v. 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.

41. “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 Kings 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).

42. 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 (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 11:20).

Only,” may affect the preceding, as above, “only a cup of,” &c.; 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 (Gal. 6:10). Some suppose our Redeemer 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).








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