MATTHEW

The Crucifixion
Gustave Doré

Author

Matthew Levi (Apostle)

Date

50 – 60 A.D.


Introduction by Kretzmann

The Gospel according to Saint Matthew

The apostle and evangelist Matthew, the author of the first synoptic Gospel, had been a publican, bearing the name of Levi, the son of Alphaeus, in or near the city of Capernaum, before his conversion, Matthew 10:3. He was sitting at the receipt of custom when Jesus called him, Matthew 9:9; Mark 2:14-15; Luke 5:27-29. There can be no doubt as to the identity of the former publican Levi and the later apostle Matthew, from a comparison of the parallel passages as well as from the established custom of the Jews to adopt a new name upon the occasion of some important happening in their lives. Cp. Acts 4:36; Acts 12:12; Acts 13:9. It is evident throughout the Gospel that the author was a Jewish Christian of Palestine, whose familiarity with the Roman method of tax collection indicates an intimate knowledge of the publican’s work. Within the circle of the apostles, Matthew was never conspicuous. His was the quiet, unostentatious content of the disciple happy in the companionship of his Lord. Of his activity after the ascension of Christ only so much is recorded that he was engaged as missionary among the Jews of Palestine. Tradition has it that he spent the last years of his life in proclaiming the Gospel in Ethiopia and other heathen countries and died at an advanced age.

Purpose

The purpose of the Gospel according to Matthew is indicated in almost every section of the book. He wrote for his fellow-countrymen, not, indeed, in the Hebrew or Aramaic language, as some have thought, [cf. Schaller, Book of Books, 180] but in Greek, the common language of the Orient in those days. His object was to show the glorious culmination of Old Testament type and prophecy, to prove that Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Rod out of the stem of Jesse, is the promised Messiah, that His entire life, passion, death, and resurrection is the fulfilment of the Old Covenant. The genealogical table establishing the claim that Jesus is the Son of David, the continual reference to the Old Testament, the frequent repetition of the phrase “That it might be fulfilled,” furnish abundant evidence for this. It is the principal fact which the author wishes to impress upon his hearers.

Date

So far as the date of the Gospel is concerned, it appears from Matthew 27:8; Matthew 28:15 that it was written some time after the events there recorded. It seems evident, also, that it was composed before the final destruction of Jerusalem, since the author, in that event, would undoubtedly have referred to the fulfilment of Christ’s prophecy concerning the fate of that city. Ancient reports have it that Matthew’s Gospel was the first to be written, and the date 60 A.D. has been suggested with some degree of plausibility. The fact that the later extensive missionary labors of Matthew precluded the leisure required for literary work makes it probable that he wrote while still living in Palestine and composed the Gospel at Jerusalem.

Authenticity

The authenticity of our Gospel cannot be called into question. Historical and textual considerations consistently uphold not only Matthew’s authorship, but also the fact that this book is a part of the sacred canon and belongs to the inspired writings of the Bible. We may rest assured that we have to-day the Gospel as written by Matthew, one of the apostles of the Lord, in the same form in which he penned it by inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

Contents

The contents of the Gospel may be briefly summarized as follows. Matthew presents, first of all, a brief narrative of the nativity and the earliest childhood of Jesus. Then comes an account of the ministry of the Lord, which was ushered in with His baptism by John. The evangelist devotes the greater part of his Gospel to the work of the Savior in Galilee, in the course of which He also trained His disciples for the work of preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, but which finally brought upon Him the increasing hatred of the Jews, and especially of their leaders. In the second part of the Gospel there is a detailed account of the Savior’s last journey to Jerusalem, of His last sermons and miracles, of His sufferings, death, and resurrection. The Gospel closes with the great missionary command of the Lord and His comforting assurance: “Behold, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world!”


Outline

Chapter 1

  • The legal genealogical table of Christ (1-17)
  • The annunciation to Joseph and the birth of Jesus (18-25)

Jesus Christ, the son and legal heir of David, beyond whom His genealogy can be traced to Abraham, the father of the faithful of all times, was conceived and born of Mary, the virgin mother, after Joseph, His foster-father, had been instructed through a wonderful angelic vision as to God’s interposition.

Chapter 2

  • The wise men from the east (Verses 1-12)
  • The flight into Egypt and the return to Nazareth (13-23)

The Magi having been directed to Bethlehem by a special star and by prophetic direction, give to the Christ-child divine adoration, while the life of the Savior is preserved from the cruelty of Herod by divine interposition, which directs Joseph first to Egypt, then to Galilee.

Chapter 3

  • The ministry of John the Baptist (1-12)
  • The Baptism of Jesus (13-17)

In the course of John the Baptist’s ministry, during which he had occasion to administer a sharp rebuke to the Pharisees and Sadducees, Jesus also received Baptism at his hands, whereupon there occurred a marvelous revelation of the Triune God.

Chapter 4

  • The temptation in the wilderness (1-11)
  • The beginning of the Galilean ministry and the call of the four (12-25)

Jesus, having successfully withstood the temptation of the devil after His forty-day fast, entered upon His Galilean ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing, Peter, Andrew, James, and John being His first disciples.

Chapter 5

  • The beatitudes (1-12)
  • The chief functions of the disciples in the world (13-16)
  • Christ confirms and expounds the Law of Moses (17-37)
  • The law of love toward the enemy (38-48)

Christ opens the Sermon on the Mount with the beatitudes, gives a short outline of the call of the disciples in the world, shows the spiritual understanding of the Law by a number of examples, and teaches love toward one’s enemy and true altruism.

Chapter 6

  • Almsgiving, praying, and fasting (1-18)
  • Warning against covetousness and care (19-34)

The Lord gives instructions concerning the giving of alms, and on prayer and fasting, and warns against avarice, covetousness, and care, pointing out, incidentally, the seeking of the kingdom of God as the prime duty of every Christian.

Chapter 7

  • Warning against unauthorized judging and admonition to persevere in prayer (1-12)
  • The conclusion of the sermon (13-25)

Jesus warns against uncharitable judging, urges perseverance in prayer, points out the safe way to heaven, shows how to distinguish false prophets and guard against false discipleship, and concludes His powerful sermon with an admonition to keep His sayings.

Chapter 8

  • The healing of the leper (1-4)
  • The centurion of Capernaum (5-13)
  • Various miracles of healing (14-17)
  • The discipleship of Christ (18-22)
  • The storm on the lake (23-27)
  • Jesus and the Gadarenes (28-34)

Christ heals a leper, restores the sick servant of the centurion whose faith amazed Him, performs a number of other miracles, gives a lesson in discipleship, stills the tempest, and drives out the devils from two Gadarene demoniacs.

Chapter 9

  • The healing of the palsied man (1-8)
  • The call of Matthew and his feast (9-17)
  • The daughter of Jarius (18-26)
  • Further miracles on that day (27-34)
  • Continuation of Christ’s teaching and healing ministry (35-38)

Jesus heals a paralytic, calls Matthew, takes dinner with him, and gives a lesson on humility and fasting, raises the daughter of Jairus, heals the woman with the issue of blood, gives sight to two blind men, drives out a dumb demon, and draws a lesson from His ministry.

Chapter 10

  • The commission to the twelve (1-15)
  • The perils of apostleship (16-25)
  • Fearless confession of Christ demanded (26-36)
  • Perfect consecration to Christ (37-42)

Christ commissions twelve of His disciples as apostles by transmitting to them miraculous powers, by giving them instructions as to dress, equipment, content of preaching, manner of entry, reception, and rejection of the Gospel, and demanding perfect consecration to Him.

Chapter 11

  • John the Baptist’s deputation to Jesus (1-6)
  • Christ’s testimony concerning John (7-19)
  • The woe upon the Galilean cities (20-24)
  • The Gospel call (25-30)

John sends a delegation to Christ, which gives the latter an opportunity to testify concerning the Baptist and His own work. Jesus also pronounces a woe upon the chief Galilean cities and issues a majestic Gospel invitation.

Chapter 12

  • The Lord of the Sabbath (1-13)
  • The enmity of the Pharisees and Christ’s answer (14-30)
  • The sin against the Holy Ghost (31-37)
  • The sign from heaven and a warning (38-45)
  • Christ’s relatives (46-50)

Christ proclaims Himself Lord of the Sabbath, performs a miracle in support of this principle, defends Himself against the accusation of being in league with the devil, warns against the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost and hardening of the heart, refers to the final sign of His resurrection, and teaches what relationship with Him implies.

Chapter 13

  • The parable of the sower (1-23)
  • The parable of the tares, and others (24-52)
  • A visit to Nazareth (53-58)

Christ teaches the people, but especially His disciples, by means of the parables of the fourfold soil, of the wheat and the tares, of the grain of mustard seed, of the hidden treasure, of the pearl of great price, of the net with fish, and of the householder, and makes a visit to Nazareth, where He is rejected.

Chapter 14

  • The death of John the Baptist (1-12)
  • The feeding of the five thousand (13-21)
  • Christ walks on the sea (22-36)

Jesus, after hearing of the execution of John the Baptist, which the evangelist relates, crosses the Sea of Galilee, feeds five thousand, spends a large part of the night in prayer, walks on the sea, and performs miracles of healing in the district of Gennesaret.

Chapter 15

  • A lesson concerning defilement (1-20)
  • The Syrophenician woman (21-28)
  • Christ teaches and feeds four thousand (29-39)

Jesus gives a lesson concerning defilement, heals the daughter of the Syrophenician woman, performs other acts of healing, and feeds four thousand men.

Chapter 16

  • The demand for a sign (1-4)
  • The leaven of the Pharisees (5-12)
  • Christ the Son of the living God (13-20)
  • Christ’s first prophecy concerning His passion (21-28)

Christ refuses the demand of the Pharisees for a sign, warns against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, hears the confession of His disciples, and rebukes Peter for interfering with His Messianic ministry.

Chapter 17

  • The transfiguration of Christ (1-13)
  • The healing of a lunatic (14-21)
  • Christ foretells His passion and pays the temple-tax (22-27)

Jesus is miraculously transfigured on a mountain, gives His disciples a lesson on the coming of Elijah, heals a lunatic demoniac, chides the apostles for the smallness of their faith, again foretells His passion, and pays the Temple-tax.

Chapter 18

  • The greatest in the kingdom of heaven (1-14)
  • How to deal with an erring brother (15-22)
  • Parable of the unmerciful servant (23-35)

Christ warns against giving offense to children and to the lowly in His kingdom, illustrating His discourse with the parable of the lost sheep, teaches how to deal with an erring brother, and gives a lesson on forgiveness, illustrated with the parable of the unmerciful servant.

Chapter 19

  • Marriage and divorce (1-12)
  • Christ blessing little children (13-15)
  • The dangers of riches (16-26)
  • The reward of the apostles (27-30)

Christ gives a lesson on marriage and divorce, blesses little children, shows the danger of placing trust in riches, and assures the apostles and all Christians of their reward of grace in heaven.

Chapter 20

  • Parable of the laborers in the vineyard (1-16)
  • Christ again foretells His passion (17-19)
  • The requests of the sons of Zebedee (20-28)
  • Healing of two blind men (29-34)

Christ teaches the meaning of the reward of grace by the parable of the hours, foretells His Passion in greater detail, gives His disciples a lesson in true humility, and heals two blind men.

Chapter 21

  • Christ’s entry into Jerusalem (1-11)
  • Christ visits the temple (12-16)
  • The cursing of the fig-tree (17-22)
  • The authority of Christ (23-27)
  • The parable of the two sons (28-32)
  • The parable of the wicked husbandmen (33-46)

Jesus makes a triumphant entry into Jerusalem, drives out the merchants and money-changers from the Temple, accepts the praise of the children, curses the fig-tree, upholds His authority, and tells the parables of the two sons and of the wicked husbandmen.

Chapter 22

  • The parable of the marriage feast (1-14)
  • The question concerning tribute (15-22)
  • The question of the Sadducees (23-33)
  • The silencing of the Pharisees (34-46)

Jesus tells the parable of the marriage-feast, answers the question of the Herodians regarding tribute-money, convicts the Sadducees with their denial of the resurrection, gives the Pharisees the proper information as to the greatest commandment, and proposes a question concerning the twofold nature of the Messiah which they are unable to answer.

Chapter 23

  • The inordinate ambition of the Pharisees (1-12)
  • The woes upon the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (13-33)
  • The peroration and the lament over Jerusalem (34-39)

Jesus exposes the inordinate ambition of the Pharisees, rebukes their hypocrisy in a series of eight woes, predicts the coming of the punishment, and laments the stubbornness of the Jewish nation.

Chapter 24

  • The judgment of God upon Jerusalem and upon the world (1-41)
  • The need of watchfulness (42-51)

Jesus foretells the destruction of the Temple and of the city of Jerusalem, with all the signs that are intended as a warning to believers; He makes this a type of the coming to Judgment, which He briefly describes, adding an earnest admonition to be watchful and faithful.

Chapter 25

  • The parable of the ten virgins (1-13)
  • The parable of the talents (14-30)
  • The last judgment (31-46)

In order to emphasize the need of watchfulness and faithfulness, Jesus tells the parables of the ten virgins and of the talents, and gives a detailed description of the Last Judgment.

Chapter 26

  • Events preceding the last Passover (1-19)
  • The Passover meal and the institution of the Lord’s Supper (20-29)
  • Events at Gethsemane (30-46)
  • The betrayal and arrest (47-56)
  • The trial before Caiaphas and the denial of Peter (57-75)

The Jews complete their conspiracy, and Judas makes ready to betray his Lord, but Jesus accepts the anointing of Mary at Bethany, celebrates the Passover for the last time, institutes the Eucharist, suffers the agony of death in Gethsemane, is betrayed, taken captive, brought before Caiaphas for trial, sentenced, and reveiled, while Peter denies his Lord three times.

Chapter 27

  • The end of Judas (1-10)
  • The trial before Pilate (11-30)
  • The crucifixion and death (31-56)
  • The burial of Christ (57-66)

Judas, in false remorse over his betrayal of Christ, commits suicide when the Lord is delivered to Pilate, while Jesus Himself is tried before the Roman court, sees Barabbas preferred to Him by the mob, is condemned to death by crucifixion by the court, though no guilt is found in Him, suffers the pains of crucifixion, dies on the cross, and is buried by His friends.

Chapter 28

  • The resurrection of Christ (1-15)
  • The Great Commission (16-20)

Jesus arises from the dead amidst the quaking of the earth, the angel shows the women the empty tomb and bids them bring the tidings to the disciples; Christ, appearing to the same women, confirms the message, while the chief priests and elders take steps to spread lies about the resurrection. Christ finally appears to His disciples in a body on a mountain in Galilee and gives them the great missionary command.


Chapter 1

Verses 1-17

The legal genealogical table of Christ

Matthew 1:1

1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.


Cross-references

Genesis 2:4; Genesis 5:1-32; Luke 3:23-38; Romans 9:5; 2 Samuel 7:13, 16; Isaiah 9:6; Jeremiah 33:15-17; John 7:42; Matthew 22:41-46; Matthew 9:27; Luke 1:31-32; Revelation 22:16; Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 22:14-18; Genesis 26:1-5; Genesis 28:13-14; Galatians 3:16; Romans 4:13; Galatians 3:7-9

This is the title, or caption, which Matthew places at the head of his book. The entire Gospel is a book of the generation of Jesus Christ in the sense which the Jews usually attached to the expression in similar connections, meaning an account of the chief events in a person’s life, more or less briefly related, Genesis 5:1; Genesis 6:9; Genesis 37:2; Genesis 2:4; Numbers 3:1. The evangelist offers a history of the birth, acts, suffering, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. But the first verses are a genealogy in the most restricted sense of the term, as presenting a table of Christ’s legal forefathers through His foster-father Joseph, rightful heir of the kingdom, the thought most interesting to Jewish Christians. Matthew calls Jesus the Son of David, the king of the Golden Age of the Jewish people, to whose family the promise of the Savior was at last restricted, 2 Samuel 7:12-13; Psalms 89:3-4; Psalms 132:11; Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5. Christ was prophesied under the very name of “David,” Ezekiel 34:23-24; Ezekiel 37:24-25. “Son of David” was the official title which the Jews applied to the expected Messiah, Matthew 9:27; Matthew 12:23; Matthew 21:9; under this designation they had been led, by prophetic authority, to expect Him. But it would also arouse the attention and hold the interest of Christians of Jewish descent to know that the Christ whom Matthew proclaimed was the son of Abraham, for they knew that the father of their race had received the promise of the Lord: “In thee and thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed,” Genesis 12:3; Genesis 18:18; Genesis 22:18. “For this reason he refers only to those two fathers, Abraham and David, since to these two alone the promise of Christ was made in these people. Therefore Matthew emphasizes the promises to Abraham and David, because he has a definite intention with regard to this nation, in order that he might influence them, as heirs of the promise, in a charming manner, to accept the Christ prophesied to them and to believe that this man was Jesus whom they had crucified.” [Luther, St. Louis Edition, 7, 6].

The evangelist now offers the genealogy proper:

Matthew 1:2-16

Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren; And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram; And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon; And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; And Jesse begat David the king;

and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias; And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa; And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias; And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias; 10 And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias; 11 And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon: 12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel; 13 And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor; 14 And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud; 15 And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob; 16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.


Cross-references

Luke 3:23-38; Acts 7:8; Genesis 5:1-32; Genesis 10:1-32; Genesis 11:11-32; Genesis 21:1-7; Genesis 25:19-26; Genesis 46:8-27; 1 Samuel 17:12; Matthew 1:18-25

In three sections of fourteen members each the progenitors of Joseph are tabulated, reaching back to Abraham, the father of the faithful. No person ever born into this world could boast, in a direct line, a more elevated or illustrious ancestry than Jesus Christ. The kingly, the priestly, the prophetic offices were represented in this list in all their glory and splendor. “The holy Matthew writes his Gospel in a most masterly manner and makes three distinctions of the fathers of whom Christ sprang forth, fourteen patriarchs, fourteen kings, and fourteen princes. … There are three times fourteen persons, as Matthew himself names them; from Abraham to David, both included, are fourteen persons or members; from David to the Babylonian captivity, again fourteen members; … and from the Babylonian captivity to Christ there are also fourteen members.” [Luther, 11, 2344].

A careful comparison of the list as here given and the account found in the Old Testament, 2 Chronicles 22-26, shows a slight discrepancy, since Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah followed after Joram, before Uzziah. The explanation for this difficulty is found in the fact that Matthew took up the genealogies just as he found them in the public Jewish repositories, which, though in the main parts correct, were yet deficient in some respects. But the omission of the three kings was of no consequence to the evangelist’s argument, which was to show the legal descent of Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus, and therefore of Jesus Himself, in an uninterrupted line from David, and consequently from Abraham. “What need is there of many words? Matthew himself shows sufficiently that he did not want to enumerate the generations with Jewish strictness, and so excite doubtfulness. For almost after the manner of a Jew he makes three times fourteen members of fathers, kings, and princes, but with deliberate knowledge he omits three members of the second section, as though he would say: The genealogical tables are indeed not to be despised, but herein lies the chief thing that Christ is promised through the generations of Abraham and David.” [Luther, 7, 7].

Another difficulty is in Matthew 1:11, where Josias is named as the father of Jechonias, whereas he was the grandfather, 1 Chronicles 3:14-16. The solution is found either by reference to the explanation above, showing that Matthew made use of a deliberate contraction, since the Jews were in the habit of extending the appellation “father” also to the grandparent; or we may adopt the marginal reading, which is based upon some Greek manuscripts: “Josias begat Jakim, and Jakim begat Jechonias.” This would also yield the fourteenth member of this section, unless we include Jesus in this group. In a similar manner, though Jechonias had no brethren mentioned in Scriptures, his father had, and it is by no means unusual to find more remote relatives spoken of in this manner, Genesis 28:13; Genesis 31:42; Genesis 14:14; Genesis 24:27; Genesis 29:15. “It is not to be supposed that the evangelist was at all concerned to make sure that no link in the line was omitted. His one concern would be to make sure that no name appeared that did not belong to the line.” [Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1, 63].

Another significant fact: Only four women are mentioned in the tables, and of these two were originally members of Gentile nations, Rachab and Ruth, and two were adulteresses, Thamar and Bathsheba. Note, also, that the last is not mentioned by name, the reference being both delicate and reproachful. “Of the kings and princes which Matthew enumerates, there were a few very bad knaves, as we read in the Book of Kings; yet God permits them to be entered as though they were so worthy that He should have wanted to be born of them. He also has no pious woman described: the four women that are mentioned here were all considered knaves and impious by the people, and regarded as evil women, as Thamar, who with Judas, her husband’s father, begat Phares and Zara, as is written Genesis 38:18; Rachab is called a knave or harlot, Joshua 2:1; Ruth was a Gentile woman, Ruth 1:4: though she was pious in honor, since one reads nothing evil of her, yet because she was a heathen, she was despised as a dog by the Jews and regarded as unworthy before the world; Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, was an adulteress before David took her in marriage and begat Solomon with her, 2 Samuel 11:4. All of which, beyond doubt, is enumerated for the reason that we should see how God desired to present to all sinners a mirror that Christ was sent to sinners and wanted to be born of sinners; yea, the greater the sinners, the greater the refuge they should have with the merciful God, Priest, and King, who is our Brother, in whom, and in none other besides, we may fulfil the Law and receive God’s grace. For this He came from heaven and desires no more from us but only this, that we let Him be our God, Priest, and King. Then all shall be right and plain; through Him alone we become children of God and heirs of heaven.” [Luther, 11, 2346].

The table of Matthew ends with the words, Matthew 1:16a: “And Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary.” This fact, and the further circumstance that Luke 3, has an altogether different list of ancestors of Jesus, must be considered proof positive that we have in Matthew the genealogy of Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus. The aim of the evangelist therefore undoubtedly was to set forth Jesus as the legal son of Joseph, Mary’s husband, at His birth, and as such the proper heir of David’s throne. Joseph was, before the law, father of Jesus. All his rights and privileges, by reason of his birth and ancestry, were by law transferred to his son. As long as he lived, Joseph continued in his role as the legal paternal ancestor of Jesus, Matthew 13:35; John 6:42. In this way the name and position of Jesus, especially during His ministry, were put above reproach, Deuteronomy 23:2, and His claim as to being the heir of David’s line was placed on a sound basis, even in the eyes of the sticklers for legal form.

Note the careful phraseology used by Matthew in this sentence, Matthew 1:16b: “Mary, of whom was born Jesus.” Not from them both, as natural parents, after the usual manner of procreation, was the Savior begotten, but of Mary only, thus placing the event which Matthew is about to relate entirely outside of the course of nature, beyond the plane of human understanding. Jesus is her son’s name, after the great work which He came into the world to perform, the salvation of mankind. And He is called the Christ, which has precisely the same meaning as the Hebrew Messiah: the Anointed of God. It was His official title according to His threefold office, as the legitimate descendant of David, which the genealogy showed Him to be. He alone is rightly, above all His fellows after the flesh, called the Christ; He is King of kings and Lord of lords: the great King, who governs the entire universe with His almighty power and reigns in the hearts of His followers with His benign mercy; He is the Prophet greater than Moses, with a message of truth and love and grace divine for all men; He is the great High Priest, who in His own body and by the shedding of His holy, precious blood made full atonement for the sins of the entire world.

Such is Matthew’s introduction to his Gospel. And in concluding this genealogy, which immediately places Jesus the Christ into the center before the minds and hearts of his readers, he gives a brief summary according to the divisions of Jewish history:

Matthew 1:17

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.


Cross-references

2 Kings 24:1-2, 13; 2 Chronicles 36:5-7; Daniel 1:1-7

The three periods represent, respectively, the three forms of government which the Jews had: theocracy, monarchy, hierarchy, with judges, kings, and priests at their head. But, incidentally, the same division sums up Israel’s fortunes. First came the age of slow and steady growth, with all the manifestations of the first love’s zeal and fervor toward God, culminating in the reign of David. Then came the period of slow decline and gradual disintegration, ushered in with the luxurious reign of Solomon and characterized by the continuous and losing conflict with idolatry. And lastly came the period of a restored Church with internal ruin, of a dead orthodoxy, of an insipid ritualism. If any fact stands out clearly from this contrast, it is this, that redemption was most sorely and urgently needed.


Verses 18-25

The annunciation to Joseph and the birth of Jesus

Matthew 1:18

18a Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise:


Cross-references

Luke 1:26-38

The reference is not so much to the actual process of generation, but expresses the general idea of origin. It was in this way that the Messiah assumed human nature, took upon Himself the form of our sinful flesh. As the Son of God He had no beginning, but is in the bosom of the Father from eternity, John 1:18. As a human being He had a beginning, and this origin the evangelist relates:

Matthew 1:18

18b When as His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.


Cross-references

Genesis 3:15; Galatians 4:4-5; Luke 1:35

Mary had entered into a betrothal, into a contract of espousal, with Joseph. She had agreed to a marriage, she had pledged her word to Joseph, just as he was bound to her by his promise of betrothment. While Mary was in this relation to Joseph, and after she had given him her pledge as his promised bride, she still lived at her own or at her father’s house. As a rule, some time elapsed before a betrothed virgin was formally given in marriage and taken to her husband’s house, Deuteronomy 20:7; Judges 14:7-8; Judges 15:1-2. During this time, cohabitation did not take place, though the marriage contract was legal and binding. And it was then, before the celebration of the nuptials, that Mary was found with child. Her situation was not only delicate, but the most distressing and humiliating which could fall to the lot of a pure maiden. Knowing herself to be innocent of even the slightest transgression in deed, and fully convinced of the fact that her condition was due only to the supernatural working of the Holy Ghost, she nevertheless could expect no one to believe her defense, should she attempt one. “Nothing but the fullest consciousness of her own integrity and the strongest confidence in God could have supported her in such circumstances, where her reputation, her honor, and her life were at stake.” [Clarke, Commentary, 5, 39].

At this critical juncture, Joseph proved himself all that a true Christian should be:

Matthew 1:19

19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.


Cross-references

Deuteronomy 22:23-24; Deuteronomy 24:1-4; Proverbs 12:5; Mark 10:2-12

Unable to believe her innocent, which in the face of the evidence must have been beyond the average man’s strength, he nevertheless found a way out of the difficult dilemma. As the betrothed husband he had the husband’s rights and responsibilities. And he was a just man, righteous, a respecter of the Law, which was especially strict and uncompromising on the subject of infidelity in the woman, Deuteronomy 22:22-24. Yet he did not wish to expose Mary publicly and thus heap ignominy and shame upon her, for she was the woman to whom he had given the love of a husband. His humaneness and benevolence, his affection, were put to a severe test. But the result of his weighing the matter was that he did not choose strict measures, resolving rather upon a quiet cancelation of the bond of betrothal, without assigning a cause, in order that her life might be saved. Justice was tempered by mercy.

It was here that God interfered in behalf of the mother of His Son, according to His humanity:

Matthew 1:20

20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.


Cross-references

Proverbs 3:5-6; Luke 1:26-38

Joseph’s mind was still busily engaged with the perplexing problem; he was wrestling with painful, distressing, distracting thoughts, and even his kind expedient may have seemed harsh to him. But, behold! — a vivid introduction of the angelic appearance to emphasize the intervention of God. In a dream the vision came to Joseph to save him and his betrothed from an act which would result in disastrous consequences. The appearance of an angel in a dream was one of the methods which God used to make known His will, or to reveal the future in special cases. The angel addresses Joseph, “Thou son of David,” not to awaken the heroic mood, as has been suggested, but to emphasize the thought of the legal acknowledgment and adoption of the child. He should not fear to take home, publicly to accept, Mary as his wife. This simple acceptance of the angel’s words meant for Joseph an act of faith similar to those performed by the great heroes of the Old Testament, to believe the Lord absolutely, in spite of all the evidences of the senses. This public recognition would save the honor of Mary and also that of her child. For instead of being the fruit of adulterous and licentious intercourse, the product of a most unholy cohabitation, the child which was to be born of her was of the Holy Ghost, begotten by deliberate intervention of God, against the course of nature.

The climax of the angel’s message:

Matthew 1:21

21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins.


Cross-references

Acts 4:12; Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23; John 1:29

It was thus ordained in God’s counsel: She will give birth to a son, she is to become a mother, not only by supernatural interposition, not merely by God’s giving new life to organs that were past the age of bearing, as was true in the case of Sarah and Elizabeth, Genesis 18:10-14; Luke 1:7-18, but by a miraculous suspension of the usual process of nature, according to which men are born of the will of the flesh and of the will of man, both sexes being active. And this son of Mary he, Joseph, was to call Jesus. This is a command in the form of a prediction. By giving to the child His name, Joseph would publicly recognize and formally adopt Him as his legal son. Jesus is to be the child’s name, not indeed as a mere appellation to distinguish Him from other people, as in the case of the Hebrew synonym Joshua, Numbers 13:17; Zechariah 3:1, but as an expression of the very essence of the divine personality, through which the salvation of men would be gained. For the angel explains the name: He shall save His people from their sins. That, in a sentence, is the end and object of His coming, that alone is His errand and mission: He, and no other, He alone, and He completely, saves. He brings full pardon, free salvation, complete deliverance, not only from the pollution and power, but also from the guilt of sin. To His people He brings this priceless boon, not merely to the members of His nation according to the flesh, to the Jewish people, but to all that are in need of a Savior, Matthew 18:11. This is the Gospel-message, not that Jesus makes allowances for sin, but that He has made atonement for it; not that He tolerates sin, but that He destroys it.

Matthew now adds an explanatory note to show the fulfilment of the Old Testament types and prophecies in the person and work of Christ:

Matthew 1:22-23

22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.


Cross-references

Isaiah 7:14; Jeremiah 23:6; Matthew 5:17; Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 9:6

It was not an incident that just happened that way which the evangelist records, but an occurrence definitely decided upon and fully planned by the Lord centuries before. For it was He that spoke the prophecy through Isaiah 7:14. The words as written by the prophet referred to a sign or miracle which the Lord promised King Ahaz in order to assure him that the counsels of the enemies of Israel should not stand, but that the latter should finally be utterly discomfited. In giving this sign, the Lord had in mind the spiritual Israel and its enemies, the deliverance being the redemption wrought by the Messiah. Before the eternal God, the space of seven hundred years is as a watch in the night. This sign was now to be given and the prophecy fulfilled. The virgin, not any virgin, but the one designated and chosen by God, being with child, was now about to bear a son. And they, not only His parents, but men and people that would know Him, especially those that would accept His salvation, would call His name Emmanuel: God with us. In the son of Mary these words were fulfilled, her son is God Himself; in His person the strong God, the almighty Lord, is with us, not according to His condemning justice, but according to His loving-kindness and tender mercies, Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1-14; 1 Timothy 3:16.

The result of the angelic vision:

Matthew 1:24

24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife.


Cross-references

Genesis 1:27-28; Genesis 2:24

As soon as he awoke from sleep, he was immediately, energetically active and set about to act upon the divine instructions. He took Mary home as his wife, he celebrated the betrothal with all customary Jewish ceremonies. She who was his wife by betrothal now was given this position in the eyes of the whole world. But the marriage was not consummated at that time:

Matthew 1:25

25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called His name JESUS.


Cross-references

Exodus 13:2; Luke 2:7, 21; Romans 8:29

Joseph did not enter into the natural relations of marriage with Mary until her son, the promised Messiah, had been born. It is a moot question whether Mary and Joseph ever lived together in the usual matrimonial intercourse and begot children. The Roman Catholic theologians and a great many Protestant commentators argue with much spirit that the firstborn son of Mary was her only son. Some have held with one of the early Church Fathers that the “brethren” of Jesus mentioned in various passages, Matthew 12:46; Matthew 13:55; Mark 3:31; Luke 8:19; John 2:12; Luke 7:5; Acts 1:14; Galatians 1:19, were the cousins of the Lord, the sons of Alphaeus, Joseph’s brother, and of Mary, the wife of Alphaeus, the sister-in-law (not sister) of the mother of the Lord. Others have held that they were the stepbrothers of Jesus, by a former marriage of Joseph. As a matter of fact, the question is of little import and can have no doctrinal significance. It is not for historical, exegetical, or dogmatic reasons, but only for motives of reverence that men have been prompted to insist upon the alleged fact of Mary’s perpetual virginity. [See Schaller, Book of Books, 276].

The evangelist concludes the narrative by stating that he, Joseph, called the name of Mary’s son Jesus, thus following the divine command, assuming the legal paternity of the child, and incidentally expressing his hopeful belief in the Savior of mankind.

Summary

Jesus Christ, the son and legal heir of David, beyond whom His genealogy can be traced to Abraham, the father of the faithful of all times, was conceived and born of Mary, the virgin mother, after Joseph, His foster-father, had been instructed through a wonderful angelic vision as to God’s interposition.


Related Kretzmann Articles


Chapter 2

Verses 1-12

The wise men from the east

Matthew 2:1

1a Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king,


Cross-references

Luke 1:5; Luke 2:4-7; 2 Samuel 7:8,12-13; Psalm 110:1; Micah 5:2; Luke 2:11,15; John 7:42

The transition which the evangelist employs fitly connects the narrative of the circumstances surrounding the birth of the Savior with the story of the adoration of the Magi. It is an account of the “reception given by the world to the new-born Messianic king. Homage from afar, hostility at home; foreshadowing the fortunes of the new faith: acceptance by the Gentiles, rejection by the Jews.” [Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1, 69]. While Matthew does not fix the time of the nativity so exactly as Luke 2:1-2, he nevertheless mentions a very important point which corroborates the Old Testament prophecy in a most remarkable manner. For Herod was king at this time. History calls him Herod the Great, since he was great in political sagacity, great in diplomatic shrewdness, great in energy which expended itself in works of external beauty and grandeur, but also great, almost incredibly so, in wickedness. He was the son of the Idumean Antipater, Roman procurator of Judea. His ambition succeeded in winning for him the governorship of Galilee when he was but twenty-five years of age. He next became governor of Coele-Syria, the fertile valley between the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountain ranges, including southern Syria and Decapolis, and later was made tetrarch by the Roman triumvir Antony. Driven from his province, where his standing with the people had always been insecure, by the Maccabean Antigonus, Herod fled to Rome, gained the help of Antony and Augustus, and was declared king of Judea by the Roman senate, 714 years after the founding of Rome, 37 B.C. It was necessary for him to win his kingdom by force of arms, but once in possession of it, he proceeded to use his power in a cruel and ruthless manner for his own aggrandizement. He flattered the influential party of the Pharisees by the erection of the magnificent Temple and by other feigned tokens of religious zeal; he courted the favor of Rome by a fawning servility, by various concessions to heathenism, and by the introduction of Grecian customs. Of his ten wives, he executed the Asmonean Mariamne, daughter of Hircanus, and he caused three of his sons, Antipater, Alexander, and Aristobulus, to be put to death, not to mention a multitude of other executions which were as cruel as they were unjustified. By such a degree of bloodthirstiness was his reign characterized that the slaughter of the innocents at Bethlehem is omitted by secular historians as an insignificant episode. Such was the character of Herod the Great. And by the final definite establishment of his kingdom the word of the Lord was fulfilled: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah … until Shiloh come,” Genesis 49:10. Cp. Genesis 27:40. “In the first place, the evangelist cites Herod the king to remind of the prophecy of Jacob the patriarch, who had said, Genesis 49:10: The scepter shall not be taken from Judah, nor a teacher out of his loins, until He comes that should come. From this prophecy it is evident that Christ must put in His appearance when the kingdom or government was taken from the Jews, that no king or ruler out of the tribe of Judah occupied it. That was done through this Herod, who was not from the tribe of Judah nor from the blood of the Jews, but of Edom, a stranger, established as a king of the Jews by the Romans; however, with great indignation of the Jews, so that he ground himself against them for thirty years, shed very much blood, and killed the best of the Jews, until he stunned and vanquished them. When this stranger, then, had ruled for thirty years and brought the government into his power, so that he sat in tranquillity, and the Jews had yielded, since there was no more hope to get rid of him and therefore the prophecy of Jacob was fulfilled, then the time had come, then Christ came and was born under the first stranger, and appeared according to the prophecy. As though He would say: The scepter has ceased from Judah, a stranger is sitting over My people; now is the time that I enter and also become king, the government now pertains to Me.” [Luther, 11, 296].

In Bethlehem of Judea, Jesus was born, in accordance with prophetic utterance. This Bethlehem is distinguished from another village of the same name in Galilee, in the former tribe of Zebulun, Joshua 19:15. The town of Christ’s birth is called Bethlehem-Judah, 1 Samuel 17:12, and Ephrath or Ephratah, Genesis 48:7; Micah 5:2. It is situated on a small ridge or declivity overlooking a fertile farming country, whence its name, which signifies “house of bread,” may have been suggested. It was a fitting name for the village which produced as its greatest son Him who is properly called the “Bread of Life,” John 6:35,48.

Place and time of the nativity having been indicated, the evangelist now proceeds:

Matthew 2:1

1b Behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.


Cross-references

Matthew 2:7,16; Genesis 25:6

He introduces the new theme in a lively manner, also for the purpose of bringing out the contrast between the reigning king of Judea and these strangers from heathen lands. Wise men, or, more literally, Magi, he calls them, not kings, as the medieval legend has it, but the scientists of those days who, at many a court, formed the king’s privy council, Jeremiah 39:3; Daniel 2:48. They cultivated chiefly medicine, natural science, especially in its occult applications, the interpretation of dreams, astronomy, and astrology. “Therefore the Magi, or wise men, were not kings, but learned and expert people in natural science. … The Magi were nothing else than what the philosophers were in Greece and the priests in Egypt, and such men as are with us the learned men of the universities; in short, they were the theologians and the learned men of Arabia Felix, just as if ecclesiastics and learned men from universities would now be sent to a prince.” [Luther, 11, 299]. Magi from the East they were, and Matthew probably used the vague indication of the locality intentionally. It matters little whether the men were from Arabia, or from Persia, or from Media, or from Babylon, or from Parthia. A tradition among the Jews has it that there were prophets in the kingdom of Saba and Arabia that were of the posterity of Abraham by Keturah, who transmitted the promise of God given to Abraham from one generation to the next. All this signifies nothing. But all the more important is the fact that these strangers from a far country come to Jerusalem on such an extraordinary errand. “Him whom His own would not seek or acknowledge, nor the inhabitants and citizens, this strange, foreign people sought in so many days’ journeying. To Him to whom the learned men and priests would not come and worship, to Him the soothsayers and astronomers come. That was truly a great disgrace for the entire Jewish land and people that Christ was born in the midst of them and they should first learn of it from strange, heathen, foreign people.” [Luther, 11, 300].

The message of the Magi was brief:

Matthew 2:2

2 Saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him.


Cross-references

Isaiah 9:6-7; Jeremiah 23:5, Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:5; John 12:13; John 19:19; John 20:28

There was an assertion contained in their question. Their knowledge was definite as to His having been born. It was a fact beyond question or discussion. A Child has been born that is King of the Jews; His kingship is even now established beyond a doubt. The evidence which the Magi adduce for their belief is sensational. They had seen a star in its rising, just as soon as the phenomenon became visible; not any star, not a meteor provided for the occasion, not a comet of peculiar brilliance, not an extraordinary conjunction of planets, but His star, a star which was set in the firmament, or which flashed forth at just this time with unusual brightness. The appearance and, according to Matthew 2:9, also the guidance of this star was to them a definite sign, an unmistakable token of the fulfilment of a prophecy, tradition, or revelation which was known to them. It may have been that the prophecy of Balaam, Numbers 24:17, had been explained by their teachers as referring to an actual, physical star, or it may be, as the medieval legend, which is embodied in the Old Saxon poem of The Heliand, has it, that Daniel transmitted to the learned men of the East a tradition concerning this particular star. At any rate, they had come to worship Him whose coming the star indicated, to give Him divine homage and adoration by a gesture or ceremony of abject submission, placing themselves and all their possessions at His disposal.

The effect of this startling announcement:

Matthew 2:3

3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.


Cross-references

John 11:48; Proverbs 16:18; Matthew 23:37

The consternation of Herod may be explained in two ways. As king, because of his position as king, Herod was troubled. Having himself reached his position of ruling sovereign by methods which were not at all unobjectionable, the foreigner and usurper feared a rival, and the tyrant feared the joyful acceptance of the rival by the people. At the same time, Herod felt a dread since it was freely predicted that a great personage, the Messiah, the King of the Jews, should judge both the nation and the world, — and Herod’s conscience was not clean. On the other hand, the people were excited for different reasons. Their alarm was due to a bad conscience and the feeling of guilt because of their hypocrisy and selfishness which was sure to be found out by the Messiah, but mingled with this was the excitement of expecting a deliverer from the yoke of Rome, a hope which had been carefully cherished by the Pharisees.

Herod’s measures to meet the emergency:

Matthew 2:4

4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.


Cross-references

Matthew 21:15; Matthew 27:1

Not the entire Sanhedrin, or Great Council of the Jewish people, — for that included also the elders, many of whom Herod had put to death, — but the chief priests, the present incumbent of the office as well as former high priests; and the scribes, who were also political officers, assisting the civil magistrates in the role of confidential secretaries and statisticians. All of these were men of letters. Here again was a political move planned to strengthen Herod’s tottering prestige: to be summoned to a secret meeting might be thought a rare distinction by the Jewish leaders. And Herod, accustomed as he was to commanding, in this instance was very careful about couching his request in polite, though urgent, terms. The question he submitted was a theological one: Where, according to the transmitted records, according to the accepted tradition, is the birth-place of the Christ?

The answer of the Jewish theologians savors of a hidden satisfaction:

Matthew 2:5-6

5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6a And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda.


Cross-references

Micah 5:2; 2 Samuel 5:2; John 7:42; Genesis 49:10

Their opinion was given without hesitation; it reflected the current opinion and agreed with Talmudic tradition. In their Scriptural proof they do not quote the Old Testament passage literally, but combine the words of the prophet, Micah 5:2, with 2 Samuel 5:2. Incidentally, their answer was shaped by some interpretation due to rabbinical teaching. “Art not thou the least?” the text inquires. Bethlehem may be little in size and influence, especially as compared with its metropolitan neighbor, but it is by no means the least in dignity and distinction. It may have been considered small and insignificant among the thousands of Judah, the cities that could boast a population of a thousand or more families, but it still had the best-founded claim for excellence among the princes of Judah. Here is indisputable evidence:

Matthew 2:6

6b For out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule My people Israel.


Cross-references

Ezekiel 34:23; Isaiah 9:6-7; Matthew 28:18

Out of the despised village One should come forth, should regard it as His native town, who would combine the qualities of a Ruler with those of a tender, loving Friend and watchful Guardian. He whose birth was to distinguish Bethlehem-Judah, would be a Prince and Leader, who would make the shepherd’s sleepless devotion for those entrusted to him His life’s object.

Herod was convinced that the information he received was reliable. He resolved, therefore, to remove a possible rival by a speedy and thorough, though cruel method. But he must have more information:

Matthew 2:7

7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.


Cross-references

Proverbs 6:12-17; Psalm 2:1-7

It was a secret conference, just fitting in with his political trickery. Had he made his inquiries in a public reception, his own courtiers might have become suspicious, but the unsuspecting visitors could be coaxed to talk freely in a private interview and would not become alarmed. The exact time of the star’s first appearance was what Herod wanted, assuming probably that the birth of the child had occurred at the same time. All of which was an especially loathsome form of hypocrisy, an affectation of a kind interest in all that related to the Child in whose destinies the very stars seemed involved.

Herod carried out his scheme:

Matthew 2:8

8a And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, Go and search diligently for the young Child; and when ye have found Him, bring me word again.


Cross-references

Psalm 55:21; Psalm 37:12-13

Eager for the success of his plans, he nevertheless manages to make his guileless visitors feel that he has nothing but the favorable outcome of their quest at heart. The text implies the idea of great haste. He sent them off at once with the urgent entreaty, almost command: Go and search. Leave nothing undone, make your search most thorough, in order that the Child may be found. And not only that:

Matthew 2:8

8b That I may come and worship Him also.


Cross-references

Proverbs 19:9; 1 John 2:22-23

He crowns his hypocrisy with a final base lie. For it was not that he wanted to bow down to the Child in adoring worship, but he intended to bow down the Child’s soul into the dust of death.

In simple trustfulness, the Magi proceed to act according to the king’s words:

Matthew 2:9

9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star which they saw in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.


Cross-references

Hebrews 2:3-4

They left Jerusalem, apparently all alone and with only general directions to guide them. Herod wanted no talebearers from among those that patterned after him. But the Magi, looking up to heaven, once more see their guide in the sky; they recognize the heavenly sign which had first called their attention to the miracle. And this star kept going before them all the way until, as they came to Bethlehem, it took up its definite position right over the house where the Child was, for He was the object of their search, to Him they were directed. Another proof that the star here referred to was made for just this purpose: it traveled from north to south. It must have stood much lower than other stars, since it indicated exactly in which house the Child was. “But this star, since it goes with them from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, went from north to south; which therefore establishes clearly that it was of a different kind, course, and place than the stars in the sky. It was not an attached star, as the astronomers call the stars, but a free star that could rise and sink, turn to all places.” [Luther, 11, 331. 2105].

The effect of its appearance upon the Magi:

Matthew 2:10

10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.


Cross-references

Psalm 67:4; Psalm 117

They were overjoyed. Their long journey was successful, their arduous quest was ended. The most intense gladness, a fairly ecstatic delight, took possession of them, as the evangelist expresses it. At once they carried out the purpose of their journey:

Matthew 2:11

11a And when they were come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary, His mother, and fell down, and worshiped Him.


Cross-references

Psalm 95:6-7; Luke 2:29-32

So vivid is Matthew’s description that the words fairly gush forth in a joyful stream. The Magi saw with their own eyes Him whom they had longed to behold, the Child, the Messiah, the promised Star of Judah. His mother Mary and His foster-father, who is intentionally omitted, had now found shelter in one of the houses of the village. The Magi worshiped the Child after the Oriental fashion of falling down on the knees and touching the forehead to the earth, in complete surrender.

Matthew 2:11

11b And when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.


Cross-references

Psalm 72:10; Isaiah 60:6; Leviticus 2:1; John 19:39-40

With full hands they come, as befits such as would enter into the presence of royalty. They open their treasure-chests; they bring forth gold, the most precious metal, frankincense and myrrh, costly aromatic gums distilled from trees, much used in religious ceremonies, Psalm 72:10; Isaiah 60:6. Whether there is any special significance, a mystical meaning, in the gifts, is an idle speculation which has engaged many commentators. It was commonly stated: Gold, as to the King; incense, as to God; myrrh, as to one destined to die; or, as a medieval rhyme has it: “The first was gold, as most mighty King; the second was myrrh, as Priest of priests being; the third was incense in tokening of burying.” Luther’s explanation is simple: “Although they [the Magi] enter a poor house, find a poor young woman, with a poor child, and also there is an appearance so unlike a king that their servant is more honorable and reputable, yet they are not troubled, but in great, strong, full faith they put everything out of their eyes and mind which nature with its arrogance might adduce and bring into play; they simply follow the verse of the prophet and the testimony of the star and believe Him to be King, fall down, worship Him, and give presents to Him.” [Luther, 11, 355. 2113].

Matthew concludes the narrative of the adoration:

Matthew 2:12

12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.


Cross-references

Numbers 12:6; Matthew 2:22; Matthew 1:20

Here is another instance of divine intervention to frustrate the bloodthirsty designs of Herod toward the Savior. It does not appear from the text that the simple trustfulness of the wise men had given way to suspicion as to the king’s intention, and that they had asked God for a sign. It is simply narrated that by command of God they received an earnest admonition, an emphatic warning, not to turn back on their steps over Jerusalem. Whether each individual member of the party had the vision, or whether their leader alone received God’s command, is immaterial. Enough that they complied with the request. They departed, they withdrew, and thus escaped into their own country by taking a different caravan route, away from the dangerous neighborhood of Herod. Their object had been gained, they had seen the light of the Gentiles; their hearts were filled with the content of the believing soul that has seen the salvation of the Lord.


Verses 13-23

The flight into Egypt and the return to Nazareth

One part of Herod’s plan had not worked out: the Magi did not return to reveal the exact whereabouts of the Child. Now the Lord also foiled the design against the Child’s life.

Matthew 2:13

13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young Child and His mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.


Cross-references

Numbers 12:6; Matthew 1:20; Matthew 2:19-20

God again makes use of an angelic vision to protect His Son, by giving the necessary instructions to Joseph. Cp. Matthew 1:20. The need of haste is expressed: Having arisen, take at once; lose no time. The Child is again named first, everything revolves about His well-being. “And His mother,” the angel says. The phraseology is very careful and once more definitely points to the virgin birth. The reason for the command is also stated, in order to prevent delay. Herod has the intention, he has planned, he is about to search for the Child with the purpose of putting Him to death. Even the place of refuge is named in the divine message. Egypt should be their temporary home until such a time as a further command or communication to Joseph would permit their return to their native land. It is probable that Egypt was chosen because many Jews had settled in that country. The holy family would therefore be among fellow-countrymen and in a Roman province, where the rage of Herod could not pursue them.

Joseph again was obedient to the angel’s word:

Matthew 2:14-15

14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night, and departed into Egypt: 15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called My Son.


Cross-references

Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:19-20

Matthew relates the carrying out of the command in the very words in which the angel had spoken them in order to show the obedient spirit of Joseph. That very night he quietly made his escape with those entrusted to his care. He made Egypt his home until after the death of Herod, which, by the nearest historical calculation, occurred in the same year. He died of a peculiar, loathsome disease, which caused his flesh to decay upon his bones, rendering him an abhorrent carcass before his soul finally left the body. It may be remarked, in passing, that all accounts of Christ’s stay in Egypt, as found in apocryphal sources, are entirely fanciful and gross pieces of superstition. But it is of interest to find even here a fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy, Hosea 11:1. Though the deliverance of Israel out of the serfdom of Egypt is there referred to, the Holy Ghost here gives us another true explanation, showing that the prophecy relates to the infant Jesus, in His sheltered sojourn in, and safe return from, the country where His ancestors had been held in bondage. Note the reference to the divine inspiration of the prophecy!

Matthew 2:16

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.


Cross-references

Exodus 20:13; Genesis 4:10; Matthew 5:21; 1 John 3:15; Exodus 1:15-6

The evangelist, after his brief digression, returns to his story proper. Herod saw that, from his standpoint, he had been outwitted, made a fool of, by the Magi. And when he was certain that they were not going to retrace their steps to Jerusalem, to report what they had found at Bethlehem, he was enraged, extremely incensed with an unreasonable rage. This wrath demanded an outlet, it could be quenched only in blood. Herod sent executioners to Bethlehem with the command to kill all children that were to be found in the village proper and in its entire vicinity, the rural district surrounding the town. Not one was spared, not even, according to an ancient report, his own son. In fixing the age of his victims, he made use of the information given him by the Magi, probably extending the time either way in order to make sure that none escaped. Herod would not be too scrupulous: from one hour to two years old, it mattered not; if anything, it insured him an ample margin either way.

Here again there is the fulfilment, not of a literal, but of a typical prophecy:

Matthew 2:17-18

17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, 18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.


Cross-references

Jeremiah 31:15; Genesis 29:18; Genesis 35:16-20

The passage as penned by the prophet, Jeremiah 31:15, is the narration of a vision with reference to the deportation of Israel into captivity, Rachel being the representative mother of the nation, and Ramah having been a fortress of Israel on the frontier where the captives were collected. This prophetic passage Matthew applies to the slaughter of the innocents. Rachel is represented as the mother of Bethlehem and its environs, because it was here that she died, in childbirth, Genesis 35:16-20. Her sympathy for her children’s misfortunes would cause her to indulge in such bitter weeping and mourning as the mothers of Bethlehem doubtless gave themselves to at this exhibition of revolting and senseless cruelty on the part of Herod. Consolation and comfort could avail but little when they were obliged to witness the murder of their children before their very eyes and could only wring their hands in helpless sorrow and agony.

The evangelist now returns to the story of the Savior:

Matthew 2:19-20

19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 Saying, Arise, and take the young Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young Child’s life.


Cross-references

Matthew 2:13; Exodus 4:19

Herod died at Jericho in the year 750 after the founding of Rome. And his son Antipater, heir apparent to the throne, who had inherited his father’s cruel disposition, had been put to death at the tyrant’s command, five days before he himself yielded up his soul. So they whose murderous designs were most apparent were no longer living. The angel therefore gave Joseph the command to return to the land of Israel. No immediate danger threatened the Savior’s life. No apprehension need be felt regarding His safety. There is nothing, no person to fear: Go! Note again that Matthew always gives to the Christ-child the prominent position to which His divinity entitles Him. He is to be kept foremost in the minds and hearts of all readers.

Joseph lost no time in obeying the command:

Matthew 2:21-22

21 And he arose, and took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22a But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither:


Cross-references

Psalm 32:7-8

Herod, indeed, was dead, but Augustus had divided his kingdom among his three sons. Archelaus obtained Judea, Idumea, and Samaria, with the designation of ethnarch; Herod Antipas, Galilee and Perea; and Philip, Batanea, Trachonitis, and Auranitis, the latter two receiving the title tetrarch (ruler over a fourth part). Like his father, Archelaus was a suspicious and cruel tyrant. It is related of him that, at one of the passovers, he caused three thousand people to be put to death in the Temple and city. No wonder that Joseph was filled with apprehension as to the safety of his charges. To settle in Judea was the most natural course to follow, and he probably had Jerusalem in mind. But once more God Himself, through the agency of an angel, solved the difficulty and indicated to him a place of security. And so he turned aside, made the journey up to Galilee, the northern part of Palestine, formerly divided into Upper and Lower Galilee, the former being Galilee proper, Matthew 4:12; John 4:43, the latter occupying the ancient territory of Zebulon. It was to Lower Galilee that Joseph journeyed with the Child and His mother:

Matthew 2:22-23

22b notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.


Cross-references

Luke 2:39; Matthew 3:13; John 7:40-52; John 1:45; Psalm 22:6-8; Isaiah 53:2-3

So Joseph returned to his former city, which had also been Mary’s home, Luke 1:26; Luke 2:4. Nazareth was a small city southwest of the Sea of Galilee, not far from Cana, on the one side, and from Mount Tabor, on the west. It was situated on the slope of a hill, and was surrounded by beautiful and grand scenery. It was here that Jesus lived until He entered upon His ministry, Luke 2:51; Luke 4:16; Matthew 3:13.

This reference of the evangelist to a fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy has ever caused difficulties, since there is no individual passage, with the exact contents as given, in the writings referred to. It is significant, however, that Matthew writes: “Which was spoken by the prophets,” thus indicating a general type rather than an explicit text. The most plausible explanation: “Nazarene” or “man of Nazareth” contains the reference. For the name Nazareth is derived from a Hebrew root meaning a branch or tender offshoot. Thus the Messiah is called in Isaiah 11:1. And this passage is analogous to the expressions used in Isaiah 53:2; Isaiah 4:2; Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12, and to other descriptions of the humble appearance of the Messiah. Cp. John 1:46. Others have suggested that the reference is to Judges 13:7. “It is with the prophetic references in the gospels as with songs without words. The composer has a certain scene or state of mind in his view, and writes under its inspiration. But you are not in his secret, and cannot tell when you hear the music what it means. But let the key be given, and immediately you find new meaning in the music. The prophecies are the music; the key is the history.” [Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1, 78].

Summary

The Magi having been directed to Bethlehem by a special star and by prophetic direction, give to the Christ-child divine adoration, while the life of the Savior is preserved from the cruelty of Herod by divine interposition, which directs Joseph first to Egypt, then to Galilee.


Chapter 3

Verses 1-12

The ministry of John the Baptist

Matthew 3:1

1a In those days came John the Baptist,


Cross-references

Luke 3:1-2; John 1:6-7

The method here used by Matthew to introduce a new section in his history of the Savior is one employed by the holy writers to refer to a preceding date or occurrence, Exodus 2:11, 23; Isaiah 38:1. It was during the residence of Jesus in Nazareth, during the period of His obscurity, when He was quietly growing in wisdom and age, and in favor with God and man, Luke 2:52. Luke’s narrative is here characterized by a most careful fixing of time, Luke 3:1-2, as befits so exact an historian, but our present passage is dramatically most effective. Those were memorable days and years to which our wistful, reverent gaze turns back, which the eyes of our spirit do not tire to behold. John, surnamed the Baptist, came in those days; he entered upon his ministry, for which he had been intended and prepared even before his birth, Luke 1:15-17; Luke 1:42-44; Luke 1:76-77. He is distinguished from John the Apostle and bears the name Baptist from the outstanding feature of his public work, since he baptized those that confessed their sins. It was necessary, to this end, that the hearts of the people be properly prepared, and therefore John came,

Matthew 3:1

1b preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,


Cross-references

Joshua 15:61; Judges 1:16; Matthew 11:7; Isaiah 40:3-6

Not primarily as a teacher, but as a preacher and exhorter he came, solemnly proclaiming, heralding the approach of the kingdom of heaven. And this with all the greater impressiveness, since his abode was in the wilderness of Judea, away from the usual haunts of men, in the mountainous, rugged country toward the Dead Sea, and in the steppes, or pasture lands, sloping down from there to the valley of the Jordan. Interesting, because different!

The emphasis of John was on one fact:

Matthew 3:2

2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.


Cross-references

Mark 1:14-15; Matthew 4:12-17; Matthew 11:20; John 1:11-13

That was the chief content, the matter, the burden, of his heralding, the admonition to repentance, the watchword which characterized his preaching. He deemed a complete change of mind and heart necessary as preparation for the advent of the Messiah. For His kingdom, the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, has come near; it is about to be revealed in all its glory. It is a kingdom of the heavens in opposition to an earthly kingdom of which the Jews dreamed, since Jesus, the Lord of heaven, is its Ruler, and since this kingdom, whose beauty is here often hidden by the misery of this present life, will be fully revealed in the light of the future glory above. There all those that with sorrowful and contrite hearts accepted the Savior in His lowliness and humility will be partakers of His kingdom with its eternal splendor and majesty. Sincere repentance, followed by simple faith, opens the way to all this grandeur. “But this is repentance, if I believe God’s Word, which reveals to me and accuses me of being a sinner and condemned before God, and am terrified with all my heart because I have ever been disobedient to my God, have not rightly looked upon and considered His commandments, much less kept the greatest or the least, and yet do not despair, but let myself be directed to Jesus, to seek mercy and help with Him, and also firmly believe I shall find it. For He is the Lamb of God, destined from eternity for this purpose that He shall bear the sins of the whole world and pay for them by His death.” [Luther, 7, 689].

Matthew’s manner of adducing the prophetic passage in this instance is peculiar:

Matthew 3:3

3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.


Cross-references

Isaiah 40:3-6; John 1:19,23

He sets him apart from others concerning whom there was a prophecy. This is the man whom Isaiah had in mind when he wrote his words of comfort for Jerusalem, Isaiah 40:3. We have here an allusion to the well-known Oriental custom of heralding the coming of, and preparing the way for, princes in their travels. The typical prophecy of Isaiah became a distinct announcement in Malachi 3:1. Cp. Malachi 4:6; Luke 1:17; Matthew 11:10, 14; Matthew 17:11. John was the herald of Jesus. The purpose of his ministry was by preaching and by baptizing to prepare the hearts and minds of the people for the coming of the great King of Mercy. The King’s highway must be straight, without deviations of hypocrisy, without twists and turns of selfishness. That is the burden of the cry in the wilderness.

The appearance and habits of the Baptist should also be noted:

Matthew 3:4

4 And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.


Cross-references

Malachi 4:5-6; 2 Kings 1:8; 1 Kings 19:10; Hebrews 11:37; Leviticus 11:22; 1 Samuel 14:25-27

John was an antitype of Elijah, the great prophet and preacher of Israel, both as to his personal appearance and bearing and as to the peculiar difficulties under which his message went forth, 2 Kings 1:8; 1 Kings 19:10. His raiment, his usual clothing, was not a complete dress or cloak, but a covering or garment thrown over the shoulder, woven out of camel’s hair, a rough, uncomfortable protection against the elements. It was held together at the loins by a leathern girdle, without ornamentation. His main article of food was locusts, an edible species as named in Leviticus 11:22, still used as meat in the East: legs and wings stripped off, and the remainder boiled and roasted. To give at least some variety to the diet, or to serve for sustaining life when locusts were scarce, John used wild honey, such as was deposited by bees in trees and holes in the rocks, or the tree honey which exudes from fig-trees, palms, and other trees. The austere, ascetic appearance and mode of life of John corresponded with his message, which enjoined renunciation of the world and repentance.

The effect of his preaching:

Matthew 3:5

5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,


Cross-references

Matthew 11:7-11

If not instantaneous, the success was rapid. The news traveled swiftly. First came those from the surrounding country, people from either side of the Jordan, whose homes were in or near the wilderness. Then the great movement spread in ever-widening circles into Judea. And finally, haughty, disdainful Jerusalem is drawn into the excitement. This the evangelist intimates by placing the capital city first; even conservative Jerusalem goes into the wilderness, a penitent at the call of John. A remarkable testimony for the power of the Word when openly and fearlessly proclaimed!

John performed his ministry to all:

Matthew 3:6

6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.


Cross-references

Mark 1:4-5; Psalm 32:1-5; Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21; Mark 16:16

His powerful, appealing call to repentance had its effect. In ever-increasing numbers they came. The guilt-burdened men and women, whose lives had been lived in sham and deceit, made a frank, explicit, public confession of their sins, voluntarily, now general, now special, as they came under the influence of John’s personality and message. “This confession of sins by individuals was a new thing in Israel. There was a collective confession on the great Day of Atonement, and individual confession in certain specified cases (Numbers 5:7), but no great spontaneous self-unburdenment of penitent souls — every man apart. It must have been a stirring sight.” [Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1, 81]. And as they came and made confession of their sins, in a practically unbroken stream, they were baptized by John in the river Jordan. It was an awakening such as the land had not witnessed since the time of the ancient prophets.

A perplexing, disagreeable situation:

Matthew 3:7

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?


Cross-references

Matthew 23:13; Acts 23:8; Matthew 12:34; Matthew 23:33; Psalm 140:1-3; Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 Romans 8:1

Matthew includes the members of both sects in one and the same category of unworthy intruders. The Pharisees excelled especially in their insistence upon outward observance of the Law and the traditions of the elders, and the Sadducees were rationalists that rejected all the inspired writings but the books of Moses. In either case their religion was nothing but a thin veneer of form and show of pomp, without the assent of the heart. All the more reprehensible, then, is their affront in appearing at John’s baptism, where repentance, change of heart, was the primary demand. It may have been partly curiosity, partly fascination, since they could not remain indifferent to a movement which had assumed such proportions, that brought them to John. At any rate, they came upon the scene, they appeared at the place where John was baptizing. But their reception at his hands was anything but pleasant. “Generation of vipers” is the epithet he applies to them, offspring of serpents, imbued with the nature of the slimy, stinging reptiles. It is an outburst of intense moral aversion that causes him to shrink from, and openly denounce, these visitors as both deceitful and malicious, Psalm 140:3; Isaiah 14:29; Isaiah 59:5; Psalm 58:4. It seemed indeed as though they were fleeing from the wrath to come by making application for entrance into the Kingdom, but there is every reason for distrusting their sincerity. It is impossible to escape from the wrath which will bring upon hypocrites the holy, penal justice of God, and thus the punishment itself, Romans 1:18; Ephesians 2:3.

Having thus unmasked them, the Baptist makes his demand:

Matthew 3:8

8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:


Cross-references

Acts 26:20; Matthew 23:27; Galatians 5:22-25; Philippians 1:9-11

An entire change of heart must precede the performing of truly good works, such as measure up to the standard of an honest repentance, as conform to a real amendment of life. John insists upon their producing proper, suitable, sufficient evidence of a true repentance, fruits of a divine flavor, before he can consent to administer Baptism to them. And his further warning is peculiarly fitting in the case of the Pharisees:

Matthew 3:9

9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.


Cross-references

John 8:39-40; John 8:56-58; Romans 9:6-8; Romans 4:15-17; Romans 3:29

The fact that they were members, according to the flesh, of God’s chosen people, the fact that they were descendants of Abraham, in a direct line, had ever been the boast of the Pharisees, John 8:33, 39. But a mere external membership in God’s Church is of no avail. He is a Judge of the hearts and minds and may, on that score, at any time reject them as spurious children. Besides, it would be a small thing for God, out of the very stones of the wilderness, to create for Himself new children, more genuine as to faith than the Pharisees and Sadducees. “We are (said they) God’s people whom He has chosen before all nations on earth, and to whom He has given circumcision; so we have and observe the Law, visit God’s Temple at Jerusalem, and exercise ourselves in the holy service which God Himself has ordered. In short, we go our way in the spiritual and worldly government, as both have been fixed and ordered through Moses by God’s command; are also of the blood and tribe of the holy patriarchs: Abraham is our father, etc. What do we lack that we should not be pious and holy, dear and pleasing to God, and be saved? All this, he says, does not concern the matter. For God is not interested in knowing that you are proficient in boasting much and high concerning the Law, the Temple, the fathers, etc. He wants you to fear Him and to believe His promise, to obey and accept Him whom He has promised to you and now sends. The alternative is that He will reject and exterminate you with all your glory, with which He Himself has endowed and ornamented you before all nations.” [Luther, 7, 682].

And this is not all:

Matthew 3:10

10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.


Cross-references

Matthew 7:19; Luke 13:6-7; John 15:6; Malachi 4:1; Revelation 20:14-15; Revelation 14:11; Mark 9:43

The ax has been placed, it is even now ready to begin its work of just retribution, of stern justice upon every spurious descendant of Abraham. Every tree which proves itself hopelessly barren cannot escape the near inevitable doom. And John makes use of careful phrasing. Not only is fruit demanded, which may, under circumstances, be unpalatable and even poisonous, but his condition is that the tree produce good fruit. Unless this demand is met, there is no other alternative: The useless tree is condemned to be firewood; the unbelieving Jew will be excluded from the kingdom of the Messiah.

John’s sermon would have been incomplete without a reference to Him whose way he was sent to prepare:

Matthew 3:11

11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:


Cross-references

John 1:26-27; Acts 1:4-5; John 14:26; Acts 2:1-4; Acts 2:38; Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:16; Galatians 3:26-27

His was merely a temporary and a symbolical mission. He was only the forerunner, the herald, and he was fully satisfied with this secondary and subordinate position. His baptism was merely preparatory. By inducing men to repent and by administering the washing of Baptism, he was getting them ready for the understanding of the higher mission of the Messiah. But He who is just coming, who follows immediately after me in point of time, who will shortly make His appearance, is stronger than I; to Him pertains almighty power. And with this power is combined divine dignity. So great, so august, so exalted is His personage that John does not feel himself worthy even to take off His sandals, the work of the lowest slaves in the Orient. The ministry of this man will stand out in wonderful contrast. Himself will baptize you, will give you a peculiar baptism, with the Holy Ghost and with fire. A twofold effect of Christ’s work is here predicted: To those who with penitent hearts accept Him as Savior, He will give the precious boon of the Holy Spirit, with all His glorious gifts and powers, John 1:33; Mark 1:8; Acts 1:5; but those whose impenitent hearts would reject the purchased salvation He will immerse in fire. They have refused to accept the Spirit with His invigorating and illuminating power, and therefore the omnipotence of His outraged holiness will submerge and devour them. [The expression “with the Holy Ghost and with fire” may also be taken as a hendiadyoin and understood of the purging power of the Holy Ghost, by means of which He searches and purifies the hearts, Malachi 4:1].

This thought is carried out still further:

Matthew 3:12

12 Whose fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.


Cross-references

Isaiah 30:27; Malachi 3:2; Mark 9:47-48

The picture is that of a threshing-floor in the Orient, a flat, open space paved with stones. The husbandman has driven his oxen across the floor to tread out the grain from the hulls, or his workmen have beaten it out with flails. Now comes the purging of the floor to separate the stalks and the hulls from the grain, and the winnowing of the loose matter with a fan to blow away the lighter chaff and leave the heavier kernels. God’s great threshing-floor is the earth. The test by which He decides the fate of every person in the world, by which He separates the wheat from the chaff, is the relation toward Jesus and His salvation. Those that are found secure in His redemption through faith are gathered safely into the garner of heaven. But those that are found too light, either on account of their reliance upon their own self-righteousness or because they esteem a mere external church-membership a sufficient guarantee of the joys of heaven, will find themselves subjected to the violent, inextinguishable fire, not only of the judgment, Malachi 4:1, but of hell, Matthew 25:41.


Verses 13-17

The Baptism of Jesus

The time had now come for Jesus to enter upon His ministry, to be inducted into His office by a public ceremony:

Matthew 3:13

13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.


Cross-references

Matthew 2:22; Luke 1:36-45

He now came forth from His concealment, while John was at the very height of his evangelistic career. He came down to John, not like the Pharisees and Sadducees, who really all the while rejected God’s counsel against themselves, Luke 7:30, but in an open, friendly manner, to enter into amicable relations with him, and incidentally to receive Baptism at his hands. So far as His coming in itself was concerned, there was no difference between His desire for Baptism and that of the multitudes.

And yet Matthew writes:

Matthew 3:14

14 But John forbad Him, saying, I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?


Cross-references

Matthew 3:11; Psalm 14:2-3; Psalm 51:5,2; Isaiah 6:1-5

This passage is not out of harmony with John 1:31, 33, where John says that he did not know Jesus. The apparent contradiction is in the translation only. In the original the word used signifies “to recognize beyond the possibility of a doubt, to be sure of the identity.” John had known of the existence of the Messiah, either from his mother or by direct revelation, but he did not know Him personally. When Jesus came, the majesty and dignity of His bearing caused John to surmise His identity, hence his hesitancy. But the actual identifying sign, which removed all doubts and made the recognition absolute, did not happen until after the baptism, as John relates in his gospel. In the mean time, John, impressed by the moral exaltation which emanated from the person of his visitor, sought, with some persistence, to dissuade and thus hinder Him from carrying out His intention. He cannot throw off the impression that this man is greater than he, and it behooves the smaller to receive Baptism at the hands of the greater. Well might John wonder as to the reason that actuates Christ in coming and seeking Baptism. “Why does He come and seek Baptism, as there is no sin and uncleanness in Him which Baptism would remove? That will be a blessed baptism. John here is getting a sinner who in His own person has no sin, and yet is the greatest sinner, that has and bears the sin of the whole world. For this reason He permits Himself to be baptized and confesses with this action that He is a sinner. However, not for Himself, but for us. For He here takes my place and thy place and stands in our stead who are sinners, and since all, especially the arrogant saints, do not want to be sinners, He must become a sinner for all; He assumes the form of our sinful flesh and complains, as many psalms testify, on the cross and in His passion, of the weight of the sins which He bears.” [Luther, 7, 691; 11, 2130].

So Jesus overrules John’s objection:

Matthew 3:15

15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered Him.


Cross-references

2 Corinthians 5:21; Matthew 5:17

Obedience and fulfilment were the outstanding traits of the Messiah’s vicarious work. In applying these, He could brook no opposition. Every righteous ordinance, all religious usages that were enjoined upon the people, He wanted to fulfil. This Jesus gently, but firmly urged. It was the proper, the right, and the expedient thing to do. And so John acquiesced.

From ancient times the teachers of the Church have found here a wider, larger reference. “Jesus says: … If that shall be performed that the poor sinners may come to righteousness and be saved, you must baptize Me. Because for the sake of sinners I have become a sinner, must therefore do what God has charged the sinners to do, in order that they may become just through Me.” [Luther, 13, 1575; 11, 2139].

The occasion must needs be marked by preternatural accompaniments:

Matthew 3:16

16 And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him: 17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.


Cross-references

Ezekiel 1:1; Acts 7:56; Revelation 4:1; Psalm 45:7; John 1:33; Luke 4:18; Matthew 17:5; 2 Peter 1:17; Colossians 1:13

Here was a revelation of the divine essence. As soon as Jesus had been baptized, He at once walked up the bank away from the river. His baptism had been necessary, but the miracle which was now to take place was even more important as manifesting the relationship obtaining between Him and the other persons of the Godhead. In a wonderful manner, causing a surprised exclamation in the evangelist’s narrative, the heavens were opened, a most glorious apparition, since it was an actual happening and not a vision, as in the case of Jacob, Stephen, and others, Genesis 28:12; Acts 7:55-56; Acts 10:11. And he, John, saw the Spirit of God descending in a bodily shape like a dove upon Jesus, John 1:32-34; Luke 3:22. It is an idle speculation to inquire why the dove was chosen, and to find the comparison in the perfect gentleness, purity, and fulness of life of this bird. Let us rather emphasize the fact that God wanted to convey the idea of an unlimited imparting of the Holy Spirit to His Son, according to His human nature, Psalm 45:8; Hebrews 1:9; Acts 10:38. And the marvels were not yet ended. Once more Matthew calls out: Behold! God the Father is now also manifested by a voice from heaven, identifying both Him and the Son. Cp. Isaiah 42:1; Psalm 2:7. This man that was thus plainly distinguished and set apart from all the rest of the people there present is the true Son of God, beloved of Him in a unique sense. It is an eternal act of loving contemplation with which the Father regards the Son. It is with the consciousness of the Father’s good pleasure, His full and unequivocal consent and blessing, that Christ enters upon His ministry. The Triune God, at the baptism of Jesus, set the seal of His approval upon the work of redemption.

Summary

In the course of John the Baptist’s ministry, during which he had occasion to administer a sharp rebuke to the Pharisees and Sadducees, Jesus also received Baptism at his hands, whereupon there occurred a marvelous revelation of the Triune God.


Related Kretzmann Article


Chapter 4

Verses 1-11

The temptation in the wilderness

Jesus, by His baptism and the accompanying supernatural manifestations, had been formally and publicly inaugurated into His ministry. But He was not to begin His preaching at once:

Matthew 4:1

1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.


Cross-references

Deuteronomy 8:2; Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15

“Then,” immediately after His baptism, as soon as He had received the extraordinary communication of the Spirit. This same Spirit now filled His humanity and directed His actions, leading Him up, first of all, into the wilderness, causing Him to make the journey into the solitude of the desert, the haunt of wild beasts rather than the abode of men, Mark 1:13. It was a voluntary trip on the part of Jesus, His single concern being to fulfil, in all things, the will of His heavenly Father, Psalm 40:7-8; Hebrews 10:7-9, though the weakness of His human nature may have required some urging, Mark 1:12. For the object of this retirement was not merely to afford an opportunity for blessed rest and joy, nor to offer a chance for weighty contemplation as to the methods of revealing Himself to His people after the manner of a Buddha or a Mohammed, but to be tempted of the devil. The entire period of solitary living was occupied with this temptation, Mark 1:13; Luke 4:2. This combating of the devil was a part of the office and work for which He was sent by God and anointed with the Spirit. As the arch-enemy of mankind had tempted and overcome the first Adam, thus plunging the entire human race into condemnation, so he now proposed to vanquish the second Adam by hindering or frustrating the work of redemption. “Led up of the Spirit”: “tempted of the devil” — a powerful contrast!

A severe test, even from the standpoint of Christ’s physical nature:

Matthew 4:2

2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward an hungred.


Cross-references

Exodus 24:18; Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 18:18; 1 Kings 19:8; Matthew 21:18; John 4:6-7

The expression indicates that it was a spontaneous, voluntary desisting from food, the severity of the trials, the mental preoccupation caused by the temptations, stifling the ordinary desire for nourishment, somewhat after the manner of Moses, Exodus 34:28, and Elijah, 1 Kings 19:8. But this entire abstinence from food, which possibly included also drink, was not in the nature of an ascetic exercise. “That is also the reason why the evangelist at the beginning with great care sets down and says: He was driven into the wilderness by the Spirit that He fast and be tempted there, in order that no one may follow the example from his own choice and make a selfish, self-willed, and assumed fasting out of it, but wait for the Spirit; He will send him enough of fasting and temptation.” [Luther, 11, 534].

Of the many and various assaults which the devil employed during the forty days, Matthew and also Luke mention three incidents which took place at the end of this period. Note that the chronological sequence of the events here narrated is a minor consideration. The evangelist’s chief aim is to picture the cunning manner of the temptation:

Matthew 4:3

3 And when the tempter came to Him, he said, If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.


Cross-references

Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5

The word tempter applied to the devil fittingly describes his evil work, his constant occupation, his ceaseless attacks, Luke 22:31; 1 Thessalonians 3:5. The time and the form of this temptation were chosen with crafty calculation. Hunger naturally diminishes the resistance of the body, both physically and mentally; it enfeebles and irritates the mind and interferes with sound judgment. The wily suggestion might therefore easily find a favorable reception. Even the phrasing of the devil’s insinuation should be noted: in harmony with his character, couched in the form of a question, implying a doubt, both as to the divine sonship of the Savior and as to His ability to provide food for Himself by miraculous means. As though he were saying: “I cannot believe that Thou art the Son of God; give me some proof. Speak, in order that these stones lying about on the desert floor may be turned, by a miracle, into loaves.” To yield to the request would have meant: giving up to the spirit of evil and darkness, lack of trust in the divine Providence and support, letting selfishness rule rather than practising self-sacrifice.

The Savior equal to the occasion:

Matthew 4:4

4 But He answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.


Cross-references

Ephesians 6:17; Deuteronomy 8:2-3

The most powerful and effective weapon: a simple statement of Scripture truth, Deuteronomy 8:3. Jesus readily concedes the usual order of things, the dependence of man upon food for the ordinary means to live. But He declares that God is not bound by these means, but may support life by a word of His mouth. He thus frankly puts His trust in His Father, depending for the keeping of His earthly life, not on any foolish intermeddling with God’s ways, nor on satanic device and agency, but on the power of His Word alone. And this is true in general. “All creatures are God’s masks and mummeries, whom He will permit to work with Him and help carry out various things, which He otherwise, without their assistance, can do and actually does, in order that we may depend upon His Word alone, thus: If bread be there, that we do not have the more trust; or if none be there, that we on that account do not despair the more; but use it when it is there, and do without when it is not there, in full assurance that we yet live and are nourished at either time through the Word of God, whether there be bread or no bread. With such faith avarice, gluttony, and temporal worry concerning food is vanquished.” [Luther, 11, 539]. “He who would guard himself against such temptation may learn here from Christ that a person has two kinds of bread. The first and best bread, which comes down from heaven, is the Word of God; the other and more unimportant is the earthly bread which grows out of the ground. If, now, I have the first and best, the bread from heaven, and do not permit myself to be diverted therefrom, then the earthly bread will also not fail or remain away, the stones must rather turn to bread.” [Luther, 13, 1687].

Repulsed, but not routed, the devil seeks a new line of attack:

Matthew 4:5-6

5 Then the devil taketh Him up into the holy city, and setteth Him on a pinnacle of the temple, 6a And saith unto Him, If thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down:


Cross-references

Nehemiah 11:1; Luke 4:9; Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5

His attempt to produce distrust in God’s ability to sustain life under unusual conditions having failed, Satan tries to plant the seed of self-glorification and presumption in the heart of Jesus. He shows greater boldness, taking the Lord to himself as his companion, practically seizing hold of Him, and carrying Him along to Jerusalem, called by the evangelist, as with affection, the Holy City. Here he set Him on the pinnacle of the Temple. This refers either to the southwest corner of the Temple court, where Herod had erected a gallery of great height, from whose dizzy top the depth of the Kidron Valley below was intensified to the eye, in which case the dangerousness of a leap would have given added force to the devil’s urging; or Matthew has in mind the high roof of the Most Holy Place, the highest elevation of the Temple proper. A daring jump, an ostentatious miracle it would have been if Jesus, in the presence of the assembled multitude, had cast Himself down from this prominent point and reached the ground unharmed. By yielding to the devil at this suggestion, He might in an hour have gained more followers than the entire number of disciples amounted to whom He gathered by the laborious method of teaching.

Having been rendered cautious by his first experience, the enemy determined to ward off a second quotation from Scriptures by quoting a passage in his own favor:

Matthew 4:6

6b for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee: and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone.


Cross-references

Psalm 91:11-12; Genesis 3:1

The devil truly can quote Scriptures to his purpose, in the manner peculiar to him, with the omission of an essential part. For in the text referred to, Psalm 91:11-12, the words, “To keep Thee in all Thy ways,” are indispensable for a correct interpretation. It is not in the ways of a man’s own choosing that the protecting hand of God is assured him, but in the ways which agree with the rational order and the laws of the universe.

This is implied in the answer of the Lord. Note that He does not even take the trouble of rebuking Satan for misquoting Scriptures:

Matthew 4:7

7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.


Cross-references

Ephesians 6:16-17; Deuteronomy 6:16

He offers, not a contradiction, but a qualification, to emphasize the necessity of explaining Scripture through Scripture. A significant fact: Jesus quotes the passage to which He refers, Deuteronomy 6:16, in the singular, thus making application of its truth to Himself in this instance. The leap from the pinnacle just then would not only have meant seeking escape from the cross at the cost of duty, but it would have been a bold challenge of Providence upon false understanding of the Bible, and so sinful in itself. The Lord’s method of handling the situation must be that of every Christian. “Now, this is such a temptation as no one understands unless he has tried it. For just as the first drives to despair, so this one drives to presumption and to such works as surely do not have God’s word and command. There a Christian should choose the golden mean that he neither despair nor be bold, but remain simply with the Word in true trust and faith. Then shall the good angels be with him; otherwise not.” [Luther, 13, 1690].

And still the devil is not overcome:

Matthew 4:8

8 Again, the devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;


Cross-references

Luke 4:5

Once more the tempter attacks; there is no ceasing in his efforts to destroy God’s work, 1 Peter 5:8. And he has great power, he controls, to some extent, the forces and the wealth of the earth, as a prince of the power of the air, Ephesians 2:2. Cp. John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11; Ephesians 6:12. A stratagem of magic the devil here employed, to conjure up the wealth and the glories of all earth’s kingdoms in an alluring, almost irresistibly appealing picture, all in a moment of time, Luke 4:5. The location of the exceeding high mountain here referred to is immaterial, also the question whether the picture was a physical demonstration or a mental suggestion. The main fact in Matthew’s narrative is the refined subtlety, but also the extreme denseness of the tempter:

Matthew 4:9

9 And saith unto Him, All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me.


Cross-references

1 John 5:19; John 8:44; John 1:1-5; Exodus 3:14; Isaiah 40:28; 1 Samuel 2:7

For an ordinary human being no proposition, in itself, could have been more attractive. What a dazzling picture of absolute sway over the world and possession of its glory was here offered to the lowly and rejected descendant of David! But what folly to presume upon the unlimited disposition of the wealth and grandeur of the world in the presence of Him who of right holds all the nations of the earth as His inheritance and the utmost ends of the world as His possession! The condition of Satan demanding homage to him as the superior was therefore almost naively awkward. But he staked all on this last powerful appeal to worldly ambition, involving the wilful yielding to the most heinous form of idolatry.

Jesus meets the insult with proper dignity:

Matthew 4:10

10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.


Cross-references

1 Chronicles 21:1; Ephesians 6:16-17; Deuteronomy 6:13; Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7

Here Jesus rises in the power of His supreme authority, and passionately repels the Satanic suggestion. In the Greek we have here a single word: Begone! Out of My sight! It is a peremptory command. It terminates the disagreeable companionship which the devil had thrust upon the Lord. He applies the epithet “Satan” to the tempter, that is, adversary, enemy, 1 Kings 11:14; Psalm 109:6, since he not only interferes with Christ’s Messianic work, but is, from the beginning, the arch-enemy of all mankind. Yet He condescends to support His majestic dismissal with a Scripture text, Deuteronomy 6:13, adapting it to the present circumstances. Jehovah alone is worthy of honor and glory and adoration; to Him only shall the ministering of divine service, of religious veneration, be made.

This last demonstration of almighty authority decided the day:

Matthew 4:11

11 Then the devil leaveth Him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto Him.


Cross-references

Mark 1:13; James 4:7; Matthew 26:53; Luke 22:43; Hebrews 1:6-7; Hebrews 1:13-14

The enemy’s rout was complete, the glorious supremacy of the Lord, not only over man, but also over the spiritual world, had been established. For a season, at least, the devil departed from Him, Luke 4:13. And angels came and acted as His servants, not primarily in bringing Him food, but in giving Him the assurance of the sympathetic understanding and the heavenly support which He now enjoyed on the part of all good spirits, thus ministering to Him with a comfort destined to sustain Him in the days to come. All Christians should take note: “This, however, is written for our consolation, that we know many angels serve us, whereas only one devil tempts us; if we but fight gallantly and stand, God will not let us suffer want. Rather must the angels come from heaven and become our bakers, waiters, and cooks, and serve us in every necessity. It is not written for the sake of Christ, who is not in need of it. If the angels have ministered unto Him, let them also serve us. … We should therefore be well equipped with God’s Word, in order that we may defend and sustain ourselves with it. Our dear Lord Jesus Christ, who Himself conquered these temptations for our sakes, give us strength that through Him we may overcome and be saved.” [Luther, 11, 545; 13, 1693].


Verses 12-25

The beginning of the Galilean ministry and the call of the four

With a few rapid strokes the evangelist now sketches the opening of the Messianic work of Christ in Galilee. He is not so much concerned about offering a chronological sequence of events as about grouping the incidents so as to present a continuous narrative. He here omits the return of Jesus to the Jordan, John 1:35, His journey to Galilee, John 1:41, the marriage at Cana, the trip to Capernaum and that to Jerusalem before the imprisonment of John, and His ministry in Samaria, John 3-4. He gives a summary of Christ’s varied activities in the North by way of introduction:

Matthew 4:12

12 Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, He departed into Galilee;


Cross-references

Matthew 14:3-4; Luke 4:14-15

In his usual fearless manner, John the Baptist had felt no hesitation about reproving Herod Antipas, the ethnarch of Galilee and Perea, for his adulterous union with Herodias, his niece and already the wife of his half-brother, Herod Philip. The consequence was that the enraged princess caused his imprisonment, Luke 3:19-20; Mark 6:17. John’s last field of activity had been in Aenon, John 3:23, and he probably had extended his labors into Galilee. When the mouth of this faithful witness had been silenced, Jesus knew that the time had come for Him openly to enter upon His work as prophet. His ministry in Galilee began when the Baptist’s came to an end, John 3:30.

His home town naturally came first:

Matthew 4:13

13 And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim:


Cross-references

Matthew 2:23; Matthew 9:1; Joshua 19:32-34

The unpleasant reception which was accorded Him at Nazareth, Luke 4:16-30, caused Him to make His stay there very brief. He went to settle, to make His home, in Capernaum, which appears throughout the gospel accounts as the center of the Lord’s Galilean ministry. It was a thriving city on the Sea of Galilee, on the great road from Damascus to the Mediterranean Sea. In fulfilment of Christ’s prophecy, Matthew 11:23, this commercial metropolis was later so utterly destroyed that its very site in a region of ruined towns is doubtful, Tell Hum being now commonly conceded to have been the ancient location. [Barton, Archeology and the Bible, 98].

The evangelist locates the city only sufficiently exactly to pave the way for another prophetic reference:

Matthew 4:14-16

14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, 15 The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; 16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.


Cross-references

Isaiah 8:22; Isaiah 9:1-2; Isaiah 42:7

What Isaiah had written, Isaiah 8:22; Isaiah 9:1-2, found its fulfilment in the ministry of Jesus in this region. Here the tribes Zebulun and Naphthali had formerly had their homes; their country lay towards or alongside of the sea; it was a place where races mix, a border population, mainly on this side, the west side of the Jordan, according to Hebrew usage of the word, or beyond Jordan, according to the Greek usage, containing a reference to Perea, which was also a scene of Christ’s activity. Of this mixed population of Jews and Gentiles, in whose midst the Greek rulers had founded new cities with heathen customs and institutions, the evangelist says, in applying the words of the prophet, that they sat in darkness. The spiritual condition of the people was such as to represent an increase in religious blindness even over the time of Isaiah, nearly 700 years before. And the evangelist repeats the verb “sat.” Theirs was an indifferent, sluggish attitude. The shadow of spiritual death had enveloped them. It effectually shut out the light of life streaming from the Old Testament prophecies. But now “Jesus Christ, the true Light, shone forth in the beauty of holiness and truth. Christ began His ministry in Galilee and frequented this uncultivated place more than He did Jerusalem and other parts of Judea. Here His preaching was peculiarly needful; and by this was the prophecy fulfilled.” [Clarke, Commentary, 5, 60].

The form of Christ’s message was familiar to the people:

Matthew 4:17

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.


Cross-references

Mark 1:14-15; Matthew 3:1-3; Luke 15:10; Psalm 51:1-5,17; Psalm 32:1-2,11

It had been uttered by John the Baptist in his urgent appeal for a change of heart. But with Jesus it had a greater significance. He must needs preach repentance in order to prepare the way for the proclamation of salvation. He acted, not as a guide to a distant and coming salvation, but as the herald of the kingdom of grace now at hand in Himself. His plea was for a change from the old to the new, from the prophecy and type to the fulfilment. In this way the day-star arose in Christ and His Gospel, and had now begun to shine upon those that were covered with darkness, in order that they might see this light and rejoice in its merciful illumination and warmth.

The calling of disciples one of Christ’s first official acts:

Matthew 4:18

18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.


Cross-references

Mark 1:16; Luke 5:1-2; John 6:1; John 21:1

The Sea of Galilee, also called Lake Gennesaret, Luke 5:1, and Sea of Tiberias, John 21:1, is a small body of water formed by the river Jordan, having an average length of thirteen and an average width of about seven miles. Its water is fresh and clear, and contains an abundance of fish. The hills on its western shore are low and calcareous in nature; the mountains rising along the eastern shore are much more prominent. Jesus deliberately followed the path along the shore out from Capernaum, attended by a great multitude that insisted upon His preaching to them, Luke 5:1. It was then that He saw Simon, whom He had called Cephas at the first meeting, John 1:42, the Aramaic equivalent of Peter, and his brother Andrew, of Bethsaida, plying their trade as fishermen. Both of these men were not unknown to the Lord, having been with Him in the plains of the Jordan, John 1:40-42, and later at Cana. Having come with Jesus into the neighborhood of their home, they had returned to their old occupation. At His word also they cast their nets into the sea for the miraculous draft, Luke 5:4-6.

But the Lord had need of them:

Matthew 4:19-20

19 And He saith unto them, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. 20 And they straightway left their nets, and followed Him.


Cross-references

Mark 1:16-18; Luke 5:1-11; Matthew 8:22; Matthew 9:9; Matthew 10:38; Matthew 16:24; Matthew 19:21; Mark 2:14; Mark 8:34; Mark 10:21; Luke 5:27; Luke 9:23; Luke 9:59; Luke 9:61; Luke 18:22; John 1:43; John 10:27; John 12:26; John 13:36; John 21:19; Matthew 19:27-30

This was not a request for mere companionship, but an authoritative, though genial call to apostleship, couched in language which would appeal to their unlearned minds. They had been His disciples, but without special obligation as to attending Him; they were now chosen as His steady followers, to be trained for their great and high calling. “That was the beginning and the first call, namely, to hear the Gospel of Christ the Lord. For should they preach to others, they must first hear and learn it. Afterward, when they should preach to others, the Lord calls them by another call and gives them command how and wherein they should comport themselves, Matthew 10.” [Luther, 11, 1910]. Jesus calls them, most appropriately, “fishers of men,” since He wanted to train them to gain immortal souls for heaven, though they were but simple, unlearned men, “in order that the power and strength of God be indicated in this that He began such a great work with such lowly, simple people, and also performs it; in order that every one should understand that this is not done out of human power, but out of divine power and might.” [Luther, 11, 1917]. In this way their secular employment served as the emblem of their spiritual calling. How deeply the presence and teaching of Christ had impressed these poor Galilean fishermen appears from the fact that there was no hesitation, no conferring with flesh and blood. At once they left their nets, gave up their earthly calling, forsook all, and followed Him, became His disciples and theological students.

Others joined them on the same day:

Matthew 4:21-22

21 And going on from thence, He saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. 22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed Him.


Cross-references

Mark 1:19-20; Luke 5:8-11; Matthew 10:37-38; Matthew 19:27-30; Matthew 10:2; Matthew 17:1; Matthew 20:20-28; Matthew 26:36-46; Acts 12:1-3

This occurred in the same neighborhood as the event just recorded and in immediate conjunction with it, Luke 5:10. John had probably been among those that followed Jesus at the Jordan, John 1:35-40, and had, in the mean time, also told his older brother James of his wonderful experience. Therefore, although they were busily engaged with the routine of their calling, and although the call of Jesus implied the severing of family ties, there was just as little hesitation on their part. The honor of serving their Lord, even in poverty and humility, outweighs any and all temporal considerations.

With these men, as the nucleus of a loyal band of disciples, Jesus now entered upon His Galilean ministry, of which Matthew here gives a summary, in the form of an introduction to the succeeding chapters:

Matthew 4:23

23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.


Cross-references

Mark 1:38-39; Mark 1:21-22; Luke 4:14-15; Matthew 9:35-38; Matthew 8:14-17; Matthew 13:53-58; John 18:19-20

All of Galilee was His field of activity, not only Upper Galilee with its fertile valleys, but also Lower Galilee with its many prosperous villages dotting the landscape. In His journeyings back and forth Jesus was busily engaged, continually active, in the three functions of His ministry. He taught in the synagogs, or schools, of the Jews, principally by expounding the Old Testament; He preached the Gospel of the kingdom, the glorious news of the Messianic redemption; He healed the sick, not merely by mental suggestion, as many would have it, but by deliberate application of His divine power, for every form of disease and ailment was represented.

The result was natural:

Matthew 4:24

24 And His fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto Him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and He healed them.


Cross-references

Luke 2:2; Acts 15:22-23; Acts 15:39-41; Matthew 8:14-17; Matthew 8:6; Matthew 12:22-23; Matthew 17:14-18; Matthew 9:2

Throughout the Syrian country, most likely along the road frequented by caravans, the accounts of the Lord’s miraculous powers were spread. And so all those that were tormented or afflicted with any kind of ailment were brought to Christ by their relatives or friends. There is a formal catalog of diseases. There were minor painful disorders that required the touch of His healing hand. There were demoniacs, such as were subject to disease through the influence of unclean spirits; there were lunatics, or epileptics, upon whom changes in the sidereal bodies, especially the phases of the moon, had an ill effect; there were paralytics, those that were palsied as the result of nervous disorders and atmospheric changes. And of them all the evangelist has the same to say, telling it in just three words: “He healed them.” The power of the sickness had to yield before the omnipotence of the divine Healer.

With His fame grew the number of His followers:

Matthew 4:25

25 And there followed Him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.


Cross-references

Mark 3:7-8; Luke 6:17-19; Mark 5:18-20; Mark 7:31; Psalm 117

The extraordinary impression which this Prophet of Nazareth created was not confined to Galilee. People came from Decapolis, the southern part of Gaulanitis, southeast of Lake Gennesaret, whose population was predominantly Grecian. They thought nothing of the long journey from the extreme South, from haughty Judea, from exclusive Jerusalem, from far-distant Perea, beyond the Jordan from Judea. All wanted to see and hear the man whose miracles were astounding the nation.

Summary

Jesus, having successfully withstood the temptation of the devil after His forty-day fast, entered upon His Galilean ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing, Peter, Andrew, James, and John being His first disciples.


Related Kretzmann Article


Chapter 5

Verses 1-12

The beatitudes

The section of Matthew’s Gospel included in chapters 5-7 is one of the most beautiful and impressive in the entire New Testament. In the simplest language, but with singular force and pertinency Jesus here gave a summary of His moral teaching, the doctrine “of the fruits and good works of a Christian,” as Luther writes. For the Sermon on the Mount is not the proclamation of the Gospel, but preaching of the Law. To awaken and promote the realization and the sense, not only of comparative weakness and insufficiency in spiritual matters, but of a total and utter inability to think and speak and act in conformity with the holy will of God; to bring about the humiliating, but incidentally the most blessed conviction as to one’s being wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked in spiritual things, Revelation 3:17; and to teach the regenerated that without Him we can do nothing, and thus lead them on the way of true sanctification: that was the object of Christ in delivering this wonderful sermon.

The time and place for this great lesson were chosen by Jesus with particular care. He had spent the night in prayer on a mountain and had then separated twelve of His disciples to be apostles, Luke 6:12-16. He was now on His way to the valley:

Matthew 5:1

1a And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain:


Cross-references

Matthew 4:25; Matthew 15:29

The people were crowding to Him in increasing numbers. They came to hear Him, they insisted upon touching Him, to be healed of various diseases, Luke 6:17-19. To get away from the crowds below, whose eagerness threatened to overwhelm Him, Jesus ascended the mountain once more. Its name and location would be interesting for sentimental reasons only. On the higher slopes of the hill the people had no chance to throng Him:

Matthew 5:1

1b and when He was set, His disciples came unto Him:


Cross-references

Luke 4:20; Luke 6:12-16; Luke 10:1-2

Not only the apostles, though they were surely in the front ranks, but His disciples in general, now become a considerable band, gathered about Him. To them His discourse was chiefly addressed, though the others were by no means excluded. Here was an ideal location to give instruction without distraction, far from the din of the jostling crowd, above the bustle and the sultry heat of the region below.

A solemn and dramatic description of the beginning of a weighty discourse:

Matthew 5:2

2 And He opened His mouth, and taught them, saying,


Cross-references

Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5; Psalm 78:1-2; Matthew 13:35

It was a confidential, awe-inspiring communication of the great Teacher which the evangelist records, Job 3:1; Daniel 10:16; Psalm 78:2. A well-prepared, carefully outlined discourse is given, in which reference to existing deplorable conditions was made with utter fearlessness. “That also, as stated above, belongs to a preacher that he does not keep his mouth closed, and not only publicly performs his office that every one must keep silence and permit him to come forth as one that has divine right and command, but also opens his mouth cheerfully and confidently, that is, to preach the truth and what is committed to him; not keep silence or speak indistinctly, but without dread and terror confess and speak plainly, without regarding or sparing any one’s person, let it strike whom or what it will.” [Luther, 11, 353. 354. cf. 7, 350-677] Jesus taught them, not only His disciples, but all whom His voice would reach. It was teaching that He gave them, not preaching; Jesus is here the Master and Teacher, not the Evangelist and Prophet.

His first words strike the key-note of the entire discourse:

Matthew 5:3

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.


Cross-references

Luke 6:20; Matthew 11:5,28; Isaiah 61:1; Isaiah 62:2; Isaiah 66:2; Psalm 70:5; Luke 12:32; Psalm 2:12

The reference of Jesus here is not primarily to temporal poverty, to earthly misery, as in other passages of the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 1:26-28; James 2:5. He is speaking of the poor and miserable “in spirit,” those that shrink and cower with fear and dread, that are tremblingly alive to the wants and needs of their soul, that feel in their own heart, so far as spiritual riches are concerned, nothing but a great void, a despair of their own abilities, Matthew 11:5, 28; Isaiah 61:1; Isaiah 62:2; Psalm 70:5. Such as these, who are conscious, painfully aware, of their moral deficiencies, the Lord calls blessed, happy. If they were still under the mistaken impression that they were spiritually rich and wanted nothing, they might deceive themselves into a false security which would prevent their gaining the true riches, the only abiding happiness. But as conditions are, no false pride will keep them from accepting the unsearchable riches of the kingdom of heaven, which are theirs by grace. For the kingdom of heaven is the sum total of all the gifts of God in Christ Jesus as they are enjoyed here on earth in the Christian Church and finally above, in the kingdom of glory. This being true, and the riches of the kingdom being even now in their possession, the disciples should strive all the more diligently to cultivate the poverty which the Lord here praises, and to exercise themselves in it daily.

Closely connected with this thought is the next:

Matthew 5:4

4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.


Cross-references

Luke 6:21; Isaiah 61:2; Psalm 30:7-11; 2 Corinthians 7:10; John 16:20; Revelation 21:3-4

The disciples are subject to conditions and circumstances which cause, which bring about, mourning, Luke 6:21, 25; John 16:20; Acts 14:22. But the chief reason for their lamenting lies in the fact that they feel their spiritual poverty, grieving over the barrenness of their carnal nature, that separates them from the fountain of blessedness. This grief on account of the absence, because of the loss of spiritual possessions, is a deep and burdensome sorrow. It realizes, in keen repentance, sin and its results, both in him who grieves and in others. Its evil effects, however, shall be prevented lest they lead into despair. “As also Christ places just these words, and promises the consolation that they do not despair in their grief, nor let their heart’s joy be taken entirely and extinguished, but mingle such mourning with the comfort and refreshment; otherwise, if they never had any comfort or joy, they would have to become faint and withered.” [Luther, 7, 368] And therefore they will be comforted. Their bitter sorrow will be converted into ultimate, abounding consolation and gladness, Romans 14:17. The very Messianic kingdom with its message of hope is called the comfort of Israel, Luke 2:25.

These two conditions form the prerequisite for the third beatitude:

Matthew 5:5

5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.


Cross-references

Psalm 37:11; Psalm 25:8-9,20

Their heart is not filled with self-righteousness, pride, and conceit. They are bowed down with grief, and therefore are ready and willing to endure with a meek spirit, Psalm 37:11. To suffer and to bear uncomplainingly is their characteristic; there is no obstinate arrogance in their behavior. “For it will not fail to be forthcoming: thy neighbor will sometimes maltreat thee or otherwise overstep the bounds, either inadvertently or deliberately. If it be inadvertently, thou on thy part wilt not make it good by thy refusal or inability to bear it. But if it be malice, thou wilt but make him worse by hostile pawing and stamping; while he laughs and satisfies his desire to provoke thee to anger and do thee harm, in order that thou mayest have no peace nor enjoy what is thine with quietness.” [Luther, 7, 372]. The disciples of Christ, however, with meek and tender hearts, will be blessed and happy, since they have the promise of the earth as their inheritance. This statement, in its paradoxical form, is most startling. The expression, as the Lord uses it, cannot be referred to spiritual gifts only, though these doubtless are included. Jesus emphasizes the fact that meekness, by God’s will, is a “world-conquering principle.” As rightful lords of creation those whom the promise of Christ here concerns shall use God’s temporal gifts with a good conscience, 1 Corinthians 3:22, and be sure that God’s bounty will provide. “The expression ‘inherit the earth’ here means to possess all manner of goods here on earth. Not that each one should occupy a whole country, otherwise God would have to create more worlds, but the goods which God confers upon every one, that He gives him wife, children, cattle, house, home, and what belongs thereto, that he may remain definitely in the land where he lives and be master of his possessions, as Scripture commonly says.” [Luther, 7, 369].

Having named a few negative virtues, the Lord next mentions some positive qualifications which should characterize His disciples:

Matthew 5:6

6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.


Cross-references

Luke 6:21; Psalm 42:1-6; Isaiah 51:5-8; Isaiah 55:1; Matthew 6:33; 2 Timothy 2:22

This righteousness is not that of Christ, imputed by faith, in which case this one sentence of Gospel would be out of place in the admonitions concerning the life and behavior of His followers. It is the external righteousness before the world, the piety of life which He here urges. “Therefore understand here the external righteousness before the world, as we comport ourselves one toward another. That this, briefly and simply, is the meaning of these words: That is a truly blessed person that always continues and with all his might strives after this, that all things everywhere be in proper order and every person do right, and helps to hold and further such a condition with words and deeds, with counsel and action.” [Luther, 7, 373]. The disciples of Christ should hunger and thirst, be extremely eager for the possession of such piety, in order to receive the blessing of a full and complete satisfaction. This is God’s reward of mercy for virtue, not only the happy conviction of things well done, but, according to His will, also temporal recompense, Psalm 37:25; Isaiah 3:10; Proverbs 11:18-19; Proverbs 14:34, and finally an acknowledgment of the virtue in heaven, Psalm 36:9; Revelation 7:16; Psalm 17:15.

One of the chief proofs of the Christian’s piety is mercy:

Matthew 5:7

7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.


Cross-references

Proverbs 14:21; Matthew 6:14-15; Matthew 18:33; Luke 6:36; Daniel 9:9

A heart filled with deep sympathy and sincere compassion for the temporal and spiritual need of the neighbor, that is deeply concerned for, and earnestly endeavors to do good to, all men, especially such as are of the household of faith, is well-pleasing to the Lord. And all the efforts thus made, insignificant as they may seem even in the Christian’s own estimation, will receive, as a reward of mercy, the compassion of God Himself.

But hypocritical behavior will not stand the test of His scrutiny:

Matthew 5:8

8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.


Cross-references

Psalm 24:3-5; 2 Timothy 2:22; 1 Peter 1:22-23; Jeremiah 17:9; Hebrews 10:22; Psalm 9:1; Psalm 51:9-12; 1 John 3:2

A mere outward purity in keeping the ceremonial injunctions of the Law is not sufficient in the economy of God. He desires such hearts as keep themselves pure, unsullied with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, Isaiah 1:16; James 4:8; 2 Corinthians 6:17. But this purity finds its expression also in single-mindedness of purpose which throws off every restraining, distracting thought and seeks the Lord and His kingdom with undivided heart, Philippians 2:12. Happy, blessed are they that are found practising such purity, for their reward again outstrips their fondest hopes. Even in this life they shall see God with the eyes of the spirit, lifting them up, in joyful confidence, to the God of their salvation, Isaiah 17:7; Micah 7:7; Psalm 25:15. But the very essence of heavenly bliss will be the seeing of God face to face in the life to come, Psalm 17:15; Psalm 42:3; Job 19:27.

A third positive Christian virtue, reflecting the perfection of Christ Himself:

Matthew 5:9

9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.


Cross-references

Psalm 34:14; Psalm 85:10; Proverbs 12:20; James 3:18; Romans 12:18; Hebrews 12:14; James 1:19-20; Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:18-23

The disciples of Jesus are children of peace: they not merely have peace in their own souls through purity, they are not merely peace-loving, but they are active, strenuous promoters of peace in the midst of a world torn asunder by hatred, party interest, and every form of alienation, Romans 12:18; Psalm 34:15; Mark 9:50; 2 Timothy 2:22; Hebrews 12:14. In using their best offices in the interest of assuaging passions, of settling sectional strife, they prove themselves true children of God, who has only thoughts of peace toward all men. This is their reward of grace: God is their Father, Christ is their Brother, heaven is their heritage, their home, 1 Peter 3:10-11; Isaiah 57:2.

It is inevitable that the reproach of Christ will strike the disciples in their endeavor to follow these rules, and so Jesus adds:

Matthew 5:10

10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.


Cross-references

Psalm 37:12-13,34; Philippians 1:29; 2 Timothy 2:10-13; 1 Peter 3:13-16; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 12:32

In living these principles of Jesus and thus confessing Christ before men, the righteousness of the Christians’ lives tends to make them conspicuous before men, to make them seem different from, morally cleaner than, the others. And therefore the children of the world will resent this aloofness, construing their attitude as a criticism of their own behavior. The hatred of the world because of this belief results in persecution, John 15:19. The consolation of the followers of Christ, in that case, is that the various evidences of hatred which they must endure will be more than outweighed by their heritage, the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus applies this to His immediate disciples:

Matthew 5:11

11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake.


Cross-references

Luke 6:22; Hebrews 11:24-26; 1 Peter 4:14; John 15:20-21; Mark 8:34-38; Revelation 2:7

These are a few of the forms in which the hatred of the enemies will be likely to manifest itself. It is a persistent, continuous persecution by word and deed, especially hard to bear because of malicious lies which implied, and accused the disciples of, all manner of evil. There are two facts that serve to console them. The statements thus made are deliberate lies due entirely to violent prejudice. And the hatred of men strikes them for His name’s sake. It is a distinction, an honor, to suffer in His interest, because they bear His name.

In spite of the persecutions, then:

Matthew 5:12

12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.


Cross-references

Luke 6:23-26; Romans 5:1-5; James 1:2-3; 2 Corinthians 4:16-17; 2 Corinthians 12:10; Colossians 1:9-14; Acts 5:41; Hebrews 11:32-40; Revelation 21:3-8

Joy, gladness in the highest measure is possible, an irrepressible exhibition of exultation is expected of Christ’s followers. For all the hatred that can be poured out by the enemies cannot be measured against, cannot come into consideration in comparison with, the reward of grace in heaven. They will be more than amply repaid for all the disagreeable show of hatred which they were compelled to endure here, Romans 8:17-18; 2 Corinthians 4:17. Another comfort which upholds them in their trial: they thereby become, in that respect at least, the equals of the prophets. It cannot be a source of lasting sorrow to endure for a time, knowing that the prophets of old were martyred in the same way, and yet endured the afflictions gladly for His name’s sake, 2 Chronicles 36:16; Hebrews 11:33-40. Therefore, take up the work and endure the suffering of those that were before you, knowing that their reward will be yours also. [Cp. Lehre und Wehre, 1913, Mai-Juli].


Verses 13-16

The chief functions of the disciples in the world

The Lord continues to address His disciples directly:

Matthew 5:13

13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.


Cross-references

Mark 9:50; Luke 14:34-35; Colossians 4:5-6; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Leviticus 19:2; 1 Peter 1:14-16; 2 Peter 2:20-22; Hebrews 6:4-6; Romans 11:20

Having experienced the sanctifying power of the Word and Spirit of Jesus, the disciples are a salt. Note the four main qualities of salt: It is white and pure, it prevents rapid decay, it preserves nutriment and flavor, it renders the food palatable and healthy. The Christians are the salt of the earth; their business is to prevent its decay and putrefaction, to use every effort that the moral rottenness of the children of the world does not become excessive and render every class and age of society putrid by its infection, 1 Corinthians 15:33. This is not an easy task. But “our defiance, when things go badly, and when the world and the devil give us evil looks, and are as angry as they wish, is this, that He says to us: Ye are the salt of the earth. Where this word shines into the heart that it puts its trust in that and glories without doubting that we are God’s salt, then let every one be thoroughly angry that will not laugh. I can and may put more defiance and boasting upon a single word of His than they upon their might, swords, and guns.” [Luther, 7, 406]. If this salt now loses its flavor, it becomes insipid. This is true only of salt that undergoes a chemical process, either by being exposed to rain or by being stored for some length of time, as travelers from the Holy Land report. The figure of Christ is thus particularly apt. Insipid, saltless salt is really a contradiction in itself, and Christians that have lost their distinctive properties have ceased to influence their surroundings for good, have also lost their discipleship. As savorless salt has no value whatever and is treated as refuse; as a certain species of bituminous salt found in Judea which very rapidly became flat and tasteless was spread out in a court of the Temple to prevent slipping in wet weather, so the Christians that have ceased to apply themselves to their business of acting as a moral power in the world, will partake of the judgment of the world. Luther probably is right in saying: “Therefore I have always admonished, as Christ also does here, that salt remain salt and not become insipid, that is, that the chief article of faith be urged. For if that ceases, then not one piece can remain, and everything is lost; there is neither faith nor understanding, and no one can teach or counsel properly any more.” [Luther, 7, 413].

The same admonition under a different figure:

Matthew 5:14-15

14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.


Cross-references

Mark 4:21; Luke 8:16; Luke 11:33; John 1:1-5; John 8:12; Psalm 27:1; Proverbs 4:18-19; 1 Thessalonians 5:5

Christ is, strictly speaking, the only true light of the world, John 8:12; John 9:5; John 12:35. But His disciples partake of His nature; they are a light in and through Him; they receive their illumination as well as their power to give light to others from Him, 1 Thessalonians 5:5; Philippians 2:15; Ephesians 5:8. Their illumination, like His, is therefore not confined to their immediate neighborhood, but is supposed to extend to the ends of the world. So self-evident is this thought that Christ merely refers to a fact well known to His hearers. Many cities of the Holy Land, probably some of the smaller ones visible from the hill where they were assembled, were located on prominent elevations, and all Jews were familiar with Mount Zion. Cities thus situated could not be hid, they were the most conspicuous objects in the entire landscape. The Christians, by virtue of their discipleship, are like such a light, like such a city. Their very difference makes them marked people. That is as it should be, that agrees with the nature and with the object of their calling. To light a candle or a light, one of the small lamps used in Palestine, and then to place it under an overturned measure, a modius, an earthenware grain measure holding a little more than a peck, might be done occasionally for special reasons. But the purpose of such kindling was evidently another. The lamp should be placed on a stand, a small projecting stone in the wall in the cottages of the poor, or a lamp-stand in the form of a tripod, which could easily be moved about in the house. Then only can a lamp serve its purpose, namely, to illumine the house.

Jesus Himself applies the parable:

Matthew 5:16

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.


Cross-references

Luke 11:33; John 15:8-9; Philippians 1:9-11; Matthew 6:1-4; John 15:5; Romans 13:11-14; Philippians 2:14-16; Ephesians 2:8-10

The policy of obscuration, of hiding beliefs and convictions, is often urged by lukewarm Christians, so-called “reasons of prudence and wisdom: gradual accustoming of men to new ideas; deferences to the prejudices of good men; avoidance of rupture by premature outspokenness; but generally the true reason is fear of unpleasant consequences to oneself.” [Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1, 103]. To think and act thus is deliberate disloyalty to Christ. Your light, given to you from above, not to be used according to expediency, but to shine; your light, not you, the object being not to make your person prominent, but your Christianity. The Christians, individually and collectively, should perform this task as their steady work. For the light which shall be thrown out from them in every direction, before all men, consists in their good works, the fruits of their regeneration, the proof of their being illuminated by Jesus. These should be seen by the people for a definite reason. All men that come in contact with their works shall be forced to draw conclusions as to the power that inspires them. And so the glory, the honor will be placed where it properly and exclusively belongs, will be given to the Father in heaven. This fact renders the admonition urgent by giving to it its real basis. Faith is the lamp; love is the light; the good works are the illumination. As little as the lamp can pride itself upon its light, so little can the Christians glory in their good works; all glory must be God’s.


Verses 17-37

Christ confirms and expounds the Law of Moses

Good works Jesus has just urged. He now proceeds to give a definition of good works from the Law. He makes clear His position with regard to the Law:

Matthew 5:17

17 Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.


Cross-references

Genesis 3:15; Deuteronomy 18:15; Isaiah 40:3; Luke 24:44; Luke 24:25-27; Matthew 3:15; Galatians 4:4-7; John 19:30

The teaching of the Kingdom, the Gospel which He came to proclaim, is a doctrine radically different from the teaching of Moses. But it does not invalidate the demands of the moral law as taught by Moses, it does not substitute a new moral law. Jesus rather emphasizes its proper understanding, and for that reason takes great pains to explain its spiritual content. He wants to fulfil, to bring out fully, the real import, to counteract the influence of the shallow, superficial explanation then in common use; and then to render a perfect obedience to the Law. He who might abrogate all its demands, who has power to modify any of its injunctions, places Himself under the Law, Galatians 4:4, and, by fulfilling its every letter, cancels the law of the letter. And He fulfils the prophets. Whatever, in the revelation of the Old Testament, is type and prophecy, finds its completion, its realization in Christ the Redeemer, Colossians 2:17.

Note the emphasis of His assertion:

Matthew 5:18

18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the Law, till all be fulfilled.


Cross-references

Luke 16:17; Matthew 24:35

With a solemn oath Christ here affirms that the Law shall be retained also in the Church of the New Testament in the unabridged exercise of its strength. The whole Old Testament is a divine revelation, and so its minutest precept has religious significance which should find recognition and proper understanding in the New. So long as the earth shall stand, the sacredness of the Scripture of olden times shall remain so absolutely unimpaired that not even an iota, the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet, nor a tittle, the slight projecting point on some of its letters, shall fall to the ground. There is here a gleam of Gospel glory in the midst of the proclamation of the Law, implying a fulfilment which was to be made, and was in fact made, in and through the person of Jesus Christ.

In the mean time all men should know:

Matthew 5:19

19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.


Cross-references

Deuteronomy 12:32; Galatians 3:10-13; James 2:10; Matthew 28:18-20; Matthew 11:11; Matthew 18:1-7; Matthew 20:25-28

Here is a conclusion. Since the above is Christ’s view, He is bound to take His stand with reference to the transgressors of that rule. He that dissolves, abrogates, sets aside even those commandments that seem small and of little import, he that disregards as much as one of the little horns or hooks, whose presence or absence may, indeed, change the meaning of an entire passage, falls under Christ’s sentence of condemnation, he is declared to be the least in the kingdom of heaven. The sincerity of his convictions will not be accepted as an excuse, and his fault will only be made greater by his extending the false opinion he holds by means of teaching. He shall be called the least, he shall be rejected in this kingdom, he shall be excluded from its glories. On the other hand, he that teaches in entire conformity with the Old Testament, that preaches not only the Gospel, but the Law in its great purpose of preparing the hearts, that keeps silence with regard to nothing, that does not add thereto nor take therefrom, he shall have a great name in the kingdom of heaven, he shall receive the reward of faithfulness. For this teaching is essential in educating men as to the true righteousness of life, in holding up before the Christians a proper rule of conduct.

How strongly this feature is brought out by the contrast:

Matthew 5:20

20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.


Cross-references

Matthew 23:1-7; Romans 10:3-4; Philippians 3:8-9; John 3:5

Not in the teachers of the people as they were then acknowledged, but only in Himself there would be the perfect realization of teaching and doing. The scribes were the accepted teachers of the Law, and many of them were members of the sect, or party, of the Pharisees. The chief accusation which Christ brought against these people is recorded in many passages of the Gospels; cp. Matthew 23. The feature of their doctrine and life was this, that they set aside the great for the little, the divine for the sake of the traditional. The result was a slavish observing of externals, which gave them a great show of piety before the people, an impression which they were very careful to nourish. So far as the great majority of these sectarians was concerned, their hearts were far from true piety and righteousness of the heart, which seeks, in true love of one’s neighbor, to do the will of God in word and deed. Wherever such is the case, there is no faith, and therefore no idea of entering into the kingdom of heaven.

The Lord now proceeds to prove His condemning statement by expounding a few of the commandments of the Law according to their full spiritual significance:

Matthew 5:21

21 Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:


Cross-references

Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17; Genesis 9:5-6; Romans 13:3-4

They were accustomed to hear this in the regular synagog services, where the reading of the Law was never omitted. It was said both to them of old time, Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17; Genesis 9:5-6, and by them of old time, in the precepts delivered by tradition from father to son as well as by the teachers of the people, 2 Chronicles 17:7-9, but the addition, fixing the penalty, was made in the interpretation of the rabbis. But by this explanation the meaning of “kill” was restricted to actual murder, and the commandment of God became a mere external legal enactment. The end of the transgression was penalized, but the beginning, in desires, in thoughts, in words, was not restrained. “Behold, that is the beautiful holiness of the Pharisees, which can cleanse itself, and remain pious, so long as it does not kill with the hand, though the heart be filled with anger, hatred, and envy, the tongue also with cursing and blaspheming.” [Luther, 7, 429].

Christ’s exposition is not so narrow:

Matthew 5:22

22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.


Cross-references

Leviticus 19:17; 1 John 3:15; Isaiah 66:16; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 2:16; Matthew 25:41,46

The statement of the Lord is very general: Every one, none excepted; it is a universal prohibition of angry passion. He that gives way to such wrath is guilty of judgment, of condemnation. Anger against a brother, any member of the human family, is a deadly sin. It should properly come under the jurisdiction of the council or court, Deuteronomy 16:18; 2 Chronicles 19:5. This is speaking relatively. The person that gives way to anger is as great an offender in God’s sight as the one that slays his brother in cold blood, Galatians 5:20; Colossians 3:8; James 1:19-20. The same condemnation, but with greater emphasis, falls upon him that cannot control his anger, permitting it to burst forth in maledictions. Raca is an Aramaic word meaning an empty head, a stupid. The one using angry epithets of this nature is guilty of the Sanhedrin, the supreme council of the Jews that tried the worst offenses and inflicted the severest penalties. Anger that is not quickly controlled will become hatred combined with contempt, and freely indulge in railing, 1 Peter 3:9. A still greater insult lies in the epithet, “Thou fool,” which was used to denote a good-for-nothing, hopeless, helpless, morally worthless fool, and expressed contempt for a man’s heart and character. This expression of utter disregard of the fellow-man’s position in the eyes of God is an offense equal to that of murder, it is a damnable sin, 1 John 3:15; Revelation 21:8. It is punishable by the fire of Hinnom, the valley where the refuse of Jerusalem was burned — a figure often used by Jesus in speaking of the punishment of hell-fire.

Jesus presents the positive side of His exposition:

Matthew 5:23-24

23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.


Cross-references

Deuteronomy 16:16-17; Exodus 35:29; Psalm 54:6-7; Matthew 8:4; Psalm 4:5; Psalm 116:17; Psalm 141:2; Hebrews 13:15; Matthew 6:14-15; Mark 11:25; John 13:35; 2 Corinthians 13:11

The forgiving attitude is pictured from a happening which was very frequent among the Jews, with which they were thoroughly familiar. A Jew might bring his Corban, his gift, used of every kind of bloody and unbloody sacrifice which was brought to the Temple, Matthew 8:4; Matthew 15:5; Matthew 23:8. But in the very act of handing it to the officiating priest at the altar there comes the remembrance. It suddenly flashes into his mind that he has been guilty of an act or a word which might have provoked a brother. The natural way of dealing with the situation might seem to be to keep on with the worship, get through as quickly as possible, and then hurry to make peace with the offended. But Christ tells us to interrupt our worship and go on the errand of seeking forgiveness first, though it may seem profane to do so. It is more important that the heart be free from anxiety for a brother’s peace of mind than that an external rite be performed: mercy before sacrifice. There will be plenty of time for sacrificing afterward. Cp. Isaiah 58:4-7.

The same truth in a different parable:

Matthew 5:25-26

25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. 26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.


Cross-references

Luke 12:58-59; Matthew 18:34-35; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Luke 16:26; 1 Corinthians 6:1-8; John 17:20-21

The picture is that of a debtor on the way to court with his creditor, Deuteronomy 21:18; Deuteronomy 25:1, who is his adversary, but probably might be found willing to come to terms outside of court. The advice is that the debtor be in a very conciliatory mood, ready and eager to straighten out the difficulty without litigation. In case a settlement would not be effected in this manner, the danger would be that the adversary, losing all patience, would deliver and even forcibly drag the debtor before the judge, secure a favorable decision, have this carried out by the officer of the court, and have the satisfaction of seeing him taken to prison. All hopes of obtaining mercy would then be shattered. For even the last quadrans, the fourth part of a Roman assarion, which was worth not quite two cents [Luco note: About three dollars in 2023 according to US Inflation Calculator. One quadrans was worth about 1/64 of a Denarius which was an average daily wage], would be demanded of him. Payment would be exacted to the last fraction of a penny. A very earnest admonition not to wait or hesitate about coming to terms with our adversary, with any one whom we owe reconciliation. The brief period of life is soon behind us, and the implacable that refused to agree will find in the Lord an equally implacable Judge.

A lesson from the Sixth Commandment:

Matthew 5:27-28

27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.


Cross-references

Genesis 1:27; Genesis 2:24; Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18; Proverbs 5:3-5; Proverbs 6:32-33; Genesis 34:1-2; Genesis 39:11-12; 2 Samuel 11:2-4; Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21; Jeremiah 17:9; Matthew 15:19

The Sixth Commandment had indeed been given to “them of old time,” Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18. But it was understood by the Jewish teachers of the sin in deed only, of the deliberate unfaithfulness of those joined in wedlock, or the carnal intercourse of the unmarried. Many rabbis expressly stated that the evil thought should not be regarded on a level with the sinful act [Tholuck, Bergrede Christi, on v.27]. Christ’s explanation opens the deeper meaning of the commandment. He finds the beginning of adultery in the deliberate nourishing of the awakening lust of the heart. A woman may be seen, come within the range of vision of a man, and there is no wrong in the act. Ordinary human intercourse would be impossible without it. But when the look turned upon any woman, married or unmarried, is deliberate and intentional, conscious and persistent, as on a person of the opposite sex, and this is followed by an impure desire of coveting her for immoral purposes, then adultery has in fact been committed, although the sin is hidden deeply in the heart.

Christ’s advice to the tempted:

Matthew 5:29-30

29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.


Cross-references

Matthew 18:8-9; Mark 9:43-48; James 1:14; Romans 8:12-14; 1 Corinthians 7:2,8-9; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Isaiah 66:16; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 2:16; Matthew 25:41,46

The right eye and the right hand are named as prominent members in the actual committing of sin, through which the evil desire of the heart finds its expression. They are represented as the organs of temptation. According to popular view, they are the members that offend, that incite to the actual commission of sin. Therefore, symbolically speaking, these members and all the members of the body must be controlled, if necessary, by an absolute and painful renunciation. Better to be without individual organs and members of the body than have the whole body condemned. Christ speaks figuratively, and His words must be understood in the spiritual sense; for mutilation evidently may prevent the outward act, but will not kill the desire. Every member of the body shall be so controlled and governed by the sanctified will that it will not yield to sin, thus bringing the whole body into condemnation. Jesus again uses the figure of the perpetual fires of the valley of Hinnom, where the waste and refuse of the city of Jerusalem was burned, for the punishment of hell. “This, then, is the meaning: If you feel that you look upon a woman with evil lust, then pluck that eye or vision out as being contrary to God’s commandment, not of the body, but of the heart from which the burning and desire proceeds, then have you torn it out rightly. For when the evil lust is out of the heart, then the eye will also not sin nor offend you, and you will look upon the same woman with the same eyes of your body, but without desire, and it will be as though you had not seen her. For no longer is that eye there which was there before, which is called an eye of burning or desire, although the eye of the body remains uninjured.” [Luther, 7, 448].

A further illustration:

Matthew 5:31-32

31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.


Cross-references

Deuteronomy 24:1-4; Jeremiah 3:1; Matthew 19:3-9; Mark 10:11; Luke 16:18; Romans 7:3

The form in which Jesus here speaks indicates that He disapproves of their literal interpretation of the permission granted by Moses, Deuteronomy 24:1. The Mosaic law was given in the interest of the woman, to give her at least some show of right. But the Jewish doctors, concerned only about the outward form and about getting the bill of separation into due legal shape, permitted a license which was soon carried to scandalous and criminal excesses. Pouncing upon the phrase: “She find no favor in his eyes,” they permitted divorces when a man found a handsomer woman, when he was displeased with his wife’s cooking, when he did not find her manners agreeable. Only the bill or letter of separation must be made out, that formality was insisted upon. But such a deliberate breaking of the marriage-tie, though it be sanctioned by the civil courts, has no validity before God. The Lord recognizes only one reason for divorce, when there is a plain case of unfaithfulness, of adultery, of any unlawful intercourse of a married person with any other person but the lawful spouse. In this case a divorce may be secured, but is not commanded. “We neither command nor hinder such divorce, but leave it to the government to act. … But to give advice to such as want to be Christians, it would be far better to admonish and urge both parties to stay together, and that the innocent spouse be reconciled to the guilty one (if this one were humble and willing to amend) and forgive in Christian love.” [Luther, 7, 452]. If any other reason is alleged and the divorce brought about, adultery is committed, both by the complainant, in severing the marriage-tie, and by the accused that permits the frivolous dissolution. In the same way he that marries a woman divorced from her lawful husband, to whom she still belongs before God, is an adulterer in the eyes of the Lord.

An illustration from the Second Commandment:

Matthew 5:33-37

33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: 34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: 35 Nor by the earth; for it is His footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. 36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. 37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.


Cross-references

Leviticus 19:12; Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11; Deuteronomy 23:22; Isaiah 66:1; Psalm 48:1-2; Matthew 23:22; James 5:12

Jesus introduces the subject as before, referring to the customary reading of the Law and the accompanying teaching. The implication of Christ is that the people were really kept under a false impression, by being permitted to draw the conclusion that they were listening to the exact words of Moses. The words as stated are indeed found in the Law, Leviticus 19:12; Numbers 30:3; Deuteronomy 23:22. But the interpretation left much to be desired. It placed no emphasis upon the inner truthfulness of the heart. If that is missing, what object have all oaths? All the careful distinctions as to degrees of oaths, and therefore of perjury, were a yoke on the necks of the Jews that did not affect their hearts. And it was a matter of mere sophistical quibbling that permitted all manner of affirmations in which the divine name was not mentioned directly, Deuteronomy 6:13, and thus evaded the obligation of the oath. There is not the slightest difference between an oath in the name of God and such asseverations as substitute the names of holy things, heaven, or such over which God alone has control: His city, Jerusalem, the earth, His footstool, a man’s head or life. All these oaths involve a reference to God. And all of them, as He distinctly specifies them, one after the other, are superfluous where the heart is pure and truthful. The Lord distinctly condemns the incessant, frivolous calling upon the Deity in all kinds of garbled forms. He does not imply that oaths, under circumstances, are not altogether lawful and right. “In civil life the most truthful man has to take an oath because of the untruth and consequent distrust prevailing in the world, and in so doing he does not sin against Christ’s teaching. Christ Himself took an oath before the high priest.” [Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1, 111]. His demand is absolute truthfulness and straightforwardness in the dealing of people with one another. There the affirmation shall have the full value and force of the Yea, and the denial the simple power of the Nay, that there may be an unhesitating dependence upon all statements, without the support of an oath. Anything that goes beyond this simple definition is of evil, even savors of the influence of the evil one, the devil, the father of lies. Jesus expressed Himself mildly with a purpose, and did not deny the necessity of oaths in a world full of falsehood. “I know, He means to say, that in certain circumstances something beyond yea and nay will be required of you. But it comes of evil, the evil of untruthfulness. See that the evil be not in you.”


Verses 38-48

The law of love toward the enemy

Matthew 5:38

38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:


Cross-references

Exodus 21:23-25; Leviticus 24:19-20; Deuteronomy 19:15-21

Jesus here refers to the law of retribution, or compensation, as contained in the Levitical ordinances, Exodus 21:24. This is said to the government, and is a sound principle for the instruction of the judge: Fair compensation should be granted for injuries received. But the scribes and Pharisees applied the statement to the relation of every person toward his neighbor. They taught and declared that every one had the right to take revenge and to exact compensation for himself. Christ goes on record as differing from this explanation:

Matthew 5:39

39a But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil:


Cross-references

1 Peter 2:23; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 3:8-9

Either by trying to prevent injury or by demanding revenge for it, by repelling one outrage with another. He had excellent authority for His explanation, Leviticus 19:18; Proverbs 24:29. Christian love must be willing to bear and to forbear, though a defense of right is permitted, John 18:23; Acts 23:3; Acts 22:25. If this were not true, it would follow that all outrages would go unchallenged, and a Christian would lose house and home, wife and children, as Luther says. But a disciple of Christ should be willing and patient in suffering, even wrongfully, and not seek revenge nor return evil for evil.

Christ brings out this fact by a few examples:

Matthew 5:39-41

39b But whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.


Cross-references

Luke 6:29; 1 Peter 2:23; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 3:8-9; Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26

There is a climax in the examples chosen by Christ; injury goes from bad to worse. There will be times and circumstances when love will be ready patiently to suffer the repetition of the same injury: the disgrace of being struck with the palm of the open hand, the humiliation of giving up the more costly mantle or toga together with the tunic or undergarment, the demand and even the compulsion, coming probably from a soldier, to accompany him for some distance and assist him with his baggage. A Christian will, so far as his person alone is concerned, render such exacted service cheerfully and do more than is asked, rather than submit to the inevitable in a sullen manner. On the other hand, of course, such passive behavior must cease as soon as it comes into conflict with the law of love. A disciple of Christ has duties toward his family, his community, his country, which will sometimes compel him to protect and defend them against injustice and insult. But for the individual it is true: he that magnanimously bears, overcomes. Rather than harbor evil, vengeful thoughts and desires, the Christian will be ready to render assistance whenever this is needed:

Matthew 5:42

42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.


Cross-references

Luke 6:30; Deuteronomy 15:7-11; Psalm 37:21; Proverbs 21:25-26; Psalm 112:5-6; James 2:15-16; Matthew 25:31-40; 2 Thessalonians 3:10

To give and to lend are two duties of charity which Christ puts on a level, both guided by prudence and the interest of the neighbor, 2 Thessalonians 3:10; Proverbs 20:4. Stewards of God’s bounty will have to give an account at the last day, and their sentence may depend largely upon the manner in which they appreciated the trust of God. All such assistance rendered to the needy neighbor should be given cheerfully, without a thought of reward.

Final illustration, from the general law of love:

Matthew 5:43

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.


Cross-references

Leviticus 19:18; Mark 12:29-31; Luke 10:25-29; Matthew 19:19; Matthew 22:37-40; Psalm 139:21-22

The first injunction is found in the Law, Leviticus 19:18. The second part of the sentence is an addition made by the rabbis. They understood the word “neighbor” of the members of their own nation only, arguing from the many passages of the Law in which God had commanded the children of Israel to destroy the heathen nations. But in all those instances the children of Israel were merely carrying out God’s penal justice. Their argument would therefore not stand, especially in view of Exodus 22:21; Exodus 23:9; Leviticus 19:33; Deuteronomy 10:18-19; Deuteronomy 24:17; Deuteronomy 27:19. Jesus insists that all hatred is contrary to humaneness, opposed to the spirit which He was striving to foster. His is a different law:

Matthew 5:44

44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;


Cross-references

Luke 6:27-28; Exodus 23:4; Romans 12:14; Romans 12:19-21; Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; Exodus 20:12-17; Deuteronomy 5:16-21

The injunction receives its application at all times and in all places. The impressiveness of the passage is heightened by the contrast presented in each member of the saying. Cursing is met with blessing; hatred, which leads to injuries, with well-doing; and abuse of all kinds, culminating in persecution arising from religious hatred, with prayer and intercession. Whatever meanness the enemies may devise, love’s ingenuity will find a way of overwhelming them with goodness. For its object is always to find ways and means of winning the adversary, and, above all, of gaining him for the Lord.

Such behavior is in agreement with the true nature of Christians:

Matthew 5:45

45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.


Cross-references

Luke 6:35; John 13:34-35; Ephesians 5:1-2; Philippians 2:14-16; Psalm 145:8-10; Acts 14:15-18; Romans 1:19-20

To become and to be indeed the children of God, to possess and exhibit the likeness of the heavenly Father. Because His heart is filled with goodness toward all His creatures, because He makes no distinction between righteous and unrighteous, between good and evil in His providence, they shall partake of their Father’s nature. For with absolute impartiality, and with no reference to individual character, whether niggardliness or generousness is more in evidence, He causes His sun to rise and sends His rain. Just so there should be neither indifference nor ignorance, but earnest concern and kind benevolence in the hearts of those who are striving sincerely to resemble the great Friend and Benefactor above.

And there is also the moral distinction:

Matthew 5:46-47

46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?


Cross-references

Luke 6:32-36; 1 Peter 2:20-25; James 2:1; Genesis 1:27; Psalm 139:13

That is the usual, the customary way of dealing in the world: Kind deeds are rewarded with kind deeds, friendly words are given in return for friendly words. That is the height of human morality. The word “salute” may be taken in its literal sense, as a mere greeting, for even so much the Jews denied the Gentiles. Or it may imply friendly relations and a readiness to serve, as became those that were united in the same confession. Outside of that they knew nothing, more they refused to do, John 4:9b. Such a low moral level is not for the disciples of Christ. He expects them to distinguish themselves above the average morality, to carry out the ambition to excel, actually to be superior to a spirit characterized by smallness and meanness. The latter spirit might be expected in the publicans, the tax-collectors of Palestine, who were heartily disliked as being the representatives of the Roman power, and for their cheating and exactions. It is not a Pharisaic pride and arrogance that the Lord wishes to awaken, but the earnest desire to be elevated above a mere customary etiquet, which may become the most refined form of cruelty. A significant fact: Jesus finds something good even in the social outcasts!

A summary of this section:

Matthew 5:48

48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.


Cross-references

Luke 6:36; Genesis 17:1; Leviticus 11:44-45; Leviticus 19:1-2; 1 Peter 1:14-16; 1 John 2:1-6

Since all these arguments must be accepted, and since love is the fulfilment of the Law, the Lord draws His conclusion. Ye who wish to be counted as My disciples shall stand out in contrast with those whose idea of altruism is modeled after conventional standards. Nothing short of the great ideal shall satisfy you. With a single-mindedness of purpose that forgets all else they shall strive after perfection in accordance with their great model, their Father in heaven. God is perfect, the fulness, the consummation, of all good. And the perfection of the Christians consists in striving after those ideals which God has set before them in His holy will. Thus they are daily and continually renewed in knowledge, and in holiness and righteousness, after the image of Him that made and redeemed them, until the day of their final perfection will dawn in heaven.

Summary

Christ opens the Sermon on the Mount with the beatitudes, gives a short outline of the call of the disciples in the world, shows the spiritual understanding of the Law by a number of examples, and teaches love toward one’s enemy and true altruism.


Chapter 6

Verses 1-18

Almsgiving, praying, and fasting

The first part of Christ’s sermon had treated of the right interpretation of the Law, shown by many examples. From scribe law He now passes to Pharisaic practise, holding up the false righteousness in its hollow mockery. A very prominent feature in the religious life of the Pharisees:

Matthew 6:1

1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.


Cross-references

Ephesians 2:8-10; Matthew 7:21; Galatians 2:15-16; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Matthew 23:1-12

The reference to a universal practise would be understood at once by all. It is a warning against the common form of showing probity, of practising charity in the sight of all men, with the intention of bringing one’s own person into prominence. Christ’s idea is that the good works shall be seen and speak for themselves, but that the person of the doer be kept entirely in the background. The Pharisees took great pains that they should be seen while performing works which they falsely thought good. Theirs was a theatrical virtue; they sought only their own honor, a reputation as saints. Any one thinking himself a disciple of Christ, but guilty of such hypocritical ostentation, can expect no reward from the heavenly Father, and is foolish for indulging in a hope based upon such a false foundation. He has nothing in common with the disposition of the Lord.

The false way to give alms:

Matthew 6:2

2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.


Cross-references

Matthew 23:27; 1 Corinthians 13:3; Luke 6:24; Hebrews 13:16; Matthew 5:16

Christ mentions no names, but with one word characterizes those that make a show of their charity. Hypocrites they are, actors; they are acting for effect, there is nothing real and sound about the righteousness they affect. The sounding of trumpets, the attracting of attention was their object, not the helping of the poor. When the collection was made in the synagogs, they were most prominent in the act, though not in the gift. When beggars stopped them on the street, they were sure to attract the attention of all passers-by before making a show at almsgiving. They want the glory which properly belongs to God alone, Matthew 5:16. In bitter irony, Christ says of them that they have their reward. The word is taken from the language of the banks. “They can sign the receipt of their reward: their right to receive the reward is realized, precisely as if they already had given a receipt for it.” [Deissmann, Bibelstudien, 229]. They have nothing more to expect, they will get nothing from God.

The right way to practise charity:

Matthew 6:3-4

3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: 4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret Himself shall reward thee openly.


Cross-references

1 Corinthians 13:4; Hebrews 4:12-13; Proverbs 11:2

Not the act of almsgiving was condemned by Christ, but only the manner. The work was well-pleasing to Him. Give with simplicity of heart, with so little show of self-glorification that even the left hand, so to speak, shall not be admitted into the secret, lest the satisfaction which one may feel on account of having done another good work detract from God’s glory. The works shall shine brightly, but the donor shall remain hidden to all but God, who knows the secrets of men’s hearts and actions. He knows all the sacrifices that are made, and at the proper time He will give the reward of mercy; He will make public announcement on the day when He will reveal everything.

The wrong manner of praying:

Matthew 6:5

5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.


Cross-references

Luke 18:10-14

Prayer is the communion of the soul with God, a confidential imparting of all needs, desires, and conditions of feeling to the heavenly Father. The faithful Israelites had the custom of observing the hours of prayer, either in their own homes or in some secluded spot in the Temple, Daniel 6:10; Acts 3:1. But the Pharisees proved themselves true actors also here. They love to stand, it is dear to their hearts, they make a practise of it which is pleasing to their vanity and conceit. Standing in the most conspicuous places, in the synagog before the assembled congregation, at the corners of the streets, at cross-roads, where they might expect a great number of loungers and passers-by to watch them in gaping admiration, they made their prayers. Their real object was, of course, to be observed of men, to attract attention, for which purpose their very standing posture was an ostentation. Strange that the hour of prayer always overtook them in the most public places!

The true manner of praying:

Matthew 6:6

6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.


Cross-references

Matthew 14:23; Daniel 6:10; Matthew 5:44; Matthew 7:7-8; Matthew 9:37-38; Matthew 21:22; Romans 12:12; Ephesians 1:15-23; Philippians 4:6-7

An emphatic contrast, “But thou.” Be as different from these hypocrites as possible, lest thy manner of praying savor of their hypocrisy. Christ does not restrict the praying to fixed hours. Whenever you feel the need of communing with God, as often as you wish to be undisturbed with Him alone. For such a purpose a room in the interior of the house or on the housetop, secluded from all interference and intrusion, will be found most appropriate. Christ advises even the shutting of the door to emphasize the intimacy which such a prayer implies. Here, with no one to disturb you, with no one present but Him who is in the secret places, whose omnipresence invites you freely to confide in Him, you may open your heart freely, even in regard to matters which may fitly be hidden before the eyes of the whole world. Every one accustomed to private prayer after this description of the Lord will receive full edification also from the public prayer in home devotions and in congregational worship. His heart has been trained to be centered in the Lord alone and to banish all distracting thoughts. Note especially that the Lord emphasizes “thy Father,” which tenderly invites and urges childlike trust and confidence. “Though I be a sinner and unworthy, still I have here God’s command, which commands me to pray, and His promise that He will mercifully hear me, not on account of my worthiness, but for the sake of the Lord Christ. With this trust thou canst put away all thoughts and doubts, and kneel down cheerfully and pray, not regarding thy worthiness or unworthiness, but thy trouble and His word, in which He commands you to put confidence.” [Luther, 7, 503].

A lesson in regard to the form of prayer:

Matthew 6:7

7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.


Cross-references

1 Kings 18:26; Acts 19:34; Proverbs 10:19; Luke 11:5-9

The chief characteristic of the prayers in heathen worship is a gabbling or babbling, a repetition without end of the same forms of words, 1 Kings 18:26; Acts 19:34. Such customs were familiar to the Jews as well as to the Galileans, on account of the mixed population and the presence of strangers in their midst. The idea supporting such meaningless repetitions seems to have been that the very flood of words should argue for the sincerity of the worshiper and practically weary the gods into complying with their wishes.

Warning against such absurd practises:

Matthew 6:8

8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him.


Cross-references

Matthew 6:32; Luke 12:30; Isaiah 65:24

The Christians should differ from the heathen by a sharp distinction. They shall not be like the heathen; there shall be no point of resemblance between their worship and that of the heathen. Their idea of prayer is essentially unlike that of the Gentiles. “Prayer requires more of the heart than of the tongue. The eloquence of prayer consists in the fervency of desire and the simplicity of faith. The abundance of fine thoughts, studied and vehement motions, and the order and politeness of the expressions, are things which compose a mere human harangue, not a humble and Christian prayer. Our trust and confidence ought to proceed from that which God is able to do in us, and not from that which we can say to Him.” [Clarke, Commentary, 5, 84]. Another point bringing out the absurdity of babbling prayers: our needs are known to God before we make them known in our prayers. As a true Father He is concerned about the wants and troubles of His children, and gets His information often before they are aware of their lack, Isaiah 65:24. “God commands us to pray, not indeed that we with our prayer should teach Him what He should give, but rather that we should realize and confess what kind of goods He gives to us, and will and can give much more; so that by our prayer we instruct our selves more than Him.” [Luther, 7, 506].

A model prayer to show that an infinite variety of wants and requests can be compressed into a few humble petitions:

Matthew 6:9

9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.


Cross-references

Luke 11:1-4; Isaiah 64:8; Ephesians 1:2; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:38-39; Romans 8:14-17; Leviticus 19:2; Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11; Psalm 9:1-2; Luke 11:9-13

It does not detract from the value of the prayer that many of its words and thoughts are found in the Old Testament and in the formulas in use among the Jews at that time. The marvel of its beauty lies rather in this, that the Lord arranged the petitions with reference to the importance of human wants and imbued them with His spirit, thus making the brief formula the most perfect prayer in the world. Note how He brings out this point. Thus, after this manner, not after that of the heathen, shall be your habitual prayer, for you are people who stand in a different relation to the Deity, you know the one, true God, to whom all prayers should be addressed. Father, He calls Him, to bring out the sonship of the believers. Their confidence and trust in Him is that of children sure of the father’s love. He is our Father, in the fullest sense, by His work of creation as well as by that of redemption. He is the almighty God and Lord, who reigns in heaven over all the universe and thus possesses the willing power to hear our prayer, Ephesians 3:14-15; Ephesians 4:6; Isaiah 66:1; Acts 7:55-56. His name, the entire manifestation of His essence, the revelation of His being, which distinguishes Him and gives an idea of His greatness, Psalm 48:11; Malachi 1:11, shall be hallowed, praised, glorified. This is done not only by holding Him in all esteem and reverence, by yielding to Him the position which is His by eternal right, by making Him the one object of worship the world over, but by leading such lives that every desire, thought, word, and deed will redound to His glory, Matthew 5:16.

His majesty, power and might, omnipresence, and omniscience having been confessed, the thought follows:

Matthew 6:10

10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.


Cross-references

Luke 11:2; Exodus 15:18; 2 Samuel 7:12,16; Isaiah 9:7; Mark 1:14-15; Matthew 3:2; Colossians 1:13-14; Luke 17:20-21; Luke 12:31-32; John 3:5; Ezekiel 18:23; John 6:40; 1 Timothy 2:3-6; Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8; Galatians 5:19-25; Psalm 103:20-22

The kingdom of heaven, the sum total of the gifts and mercies of God in Jesus, which God has intended for all men and which is realized as the kingdom of grace in the believers, shall come. God must grant faith and keep us in faith and thus in His kingdom, John 15:1-5. But our prayer is also for others, that God may open their hearts and minds to the glorious news of their salvation by sending faithful pastors and missionaries, and that he would soon merge the Church militant into the Church triumphant. This petition implies that such is the good and gracious will of God. It follows, then, that this will of God should be perfectly, ideally done and fulfilled, and that all opposing forces should be broken and hindered. Incidentally, His will and allowance in our own lives should be carried out. Whatever of suffering and trials He is pleased to put upon us shall be borne willingly, since the angels themselves are models in the doing of God’s will. At all times, in all places, in all things we pray that His will be done.

Temporal gifts are also included:

Matthew 6:11

11 Give us this day our daily bread.


Cross-references

Luke 11:3; Psalm 145:15-16; Proverbs 30:7-9; Acts 17:26-28; Matthew 6:25-34

In putting the petition in this form, Christ teaches humility and frugality. For this day we pray, taking no thought for the morrow, not yielding to anxious care. And the daily bread we are to ask for, that which is sufficient for the present day, enough to nourish us from day to day [Cp. Potwin, Here and There in the Greek New Testament, 182-193; Theol. Quart., 22, 25-43]. God, in His infinite goodness, includes much more than the things which are necessary for our bare existence, as Luther shows in his explanation of this petition.

One of the greatest spiritual and temporal needs:

Matthew 6:12

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.


Cross-references

Luke 11:4; Romans 3:23-24; Psalm 51:1-12; Psalm 130:3-4; Psalm 19:12; 1 John 2:1-2; 1 John 1:8-10; Matthew 6:14-15; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12-17

We daily contract an enormous, an unbelievable amount of debts before God. And the more we desire the fulfilment of the first petitions, the more conscious we shall be of our shortcomings. This debt, in its nature, being an account of God against us, whether the sin is committed directly against Him, or whether it harms the neighbor and thus transgresses His Law, must stand charged against us forever, rendering us subject to the debtor’s damnation, Matthew 18:24-25, unless we receive forgiveness, a full and free pardon from the free mercy of God in Jesus, which we here plead for. Revenge and hatred can, of course, not be in any man’s heart when he prays this petition. The more conscious a person is of his own mistakes and shortcomings, the more indulgent his heart will be toward the faults of others, even when committed against himself. It would condemn him to everlasting damnation if his forgiveness would not be patterned after that of his heavenly Father, Matthew 6:14-15.

A final plea for help:

Matthew 6:13

13a And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil


Cross-references

Luke 11:4; James 1:13-15; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; 1 Peter 5:8-9; 1 Corinthians 10:12-13; Mark 14:38; James 1:2-3; Psalm 121:7-8; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; Colossians 1:9-14

There are not many that reach the heights of moral heroism by which they welcome persecutions, Matthew 5:10; James 1:2. For the average Christian the thought of temptation and trial is in itself depressing. The petition not to be exposed to moral trial, to violent assaults of Satan, to such circumstances as are extremely hard to bear for mere flesh and blood, is therefore very necessary. God sometimes, for reasons of His own, suffers or permits a temptation to come near a Christian, in order to test and strengthen his faith, 1 Corinthians 10:13. We ask that He would so lead us and cause us to walk circumspectly that no evil results of the temptation may strike us, that the final outcome may ever be beneficent. This is included in the “deliver” of the last sentence. Since trials and temptations are sure to come, therefore we turn to God to draw us out of their snares, out of their bondage, and especially to deliver us from the evil one, the devil, who makes use of every occasion to bring us into his power. Thus every possible contingency in the life of the average human being is provided for. And so the doxology is most appropriate:

Matthew 6:13 (Not in the ESV)

13b For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.


Cross-references

1 Chronicles 29:11; 2 Chronicles 20:6; Psalm 63:2; Ephesians 3:14-21; Revelation 7:9-12

He is our great King and Ruler, who has our well-being at heart; He is the almighty God, in whose power lies the fulfilment of our every need; to Him we therefore intend to give all honor and glory for all the gifts and benefits which He showers upon us so freely. Of this we are so sure that we close the Lord’s Prayer with a fervent Amen, to indicate our faith and trust in our Father. [On the authenticity of the doxology, see Lehre und Wehre, 1918, 408. 409; Hom. Mag., 1919, Dec., 567. 568].

A necessary warning:

Matthew 6:14-15

14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.


Cross-references

Mark 11:25; Luke 6:37; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12-17; Matthew 18:21-35; John 13:35; Mark 8:38

The hearing of our prayer, the granting of the benefits asked for, hinges upon our being in the right relation toward God, which is brought about by the assurance and the certainty of the forgiveness of sins. And this, in turn, depends upon the manner in which we show proofs of the right condition of our hearts toward the neighbor. Our sins toward God were called debts, and these are piled up with horrible swiftness. Our neighbor’s sins toward us are described as mere stumblings or faults in performing his duty. To be vindictive under such circumstances is folly in itself, and argues that the mercy of God is not appreciated. If we really desire the forgiveness of God, we must first show that we realize our own sinfulness and its damnableness by forgiving our neighbor his faults.

A lesson on fasting:

Matthew 6:16

16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.


Cross-references

Leviticus 16:29; Jonah 3:5; Daniel 9:3; Nehemiah 1:4-11; Esther 4:16; Matthew 9:14-15; Luke 2:36-38; Luke 18:9-14; Psalm 119:169-176; Colossians 2:16; James 1:25-27

Fasting was a part of the religious rites of the Jews, intended to show repentance and humility, in itself an unobjectionable custom. But the hypocrites, acting out their part in all lines, made their fasting another form of self-glorification, not only by observing additional days of fasting, besides those prescribed in the Jewish law, but also by affecting a gloomy face, inviting sympathy and praise. They neglected the daily care of the face, to make the effect of the semiweekly fast appear all the more harrowing. It was an empty show in order that they might play a more important figure and get the reputation of greater holiness. They have all the reward they will ever get. They need expect nothing from the Lord.

The proper method of fasting:

Matthew 6:17-18

17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.


Cross-references

Jeremiah 17:10; Leviticus 16:29; Jonah 3:5; Daniel 9:3; Nehemiah 1:4-11; Esther 4:16; Matthew 9:14-15; Luke 2:36-38; Psalm 119:169-176; Colossians 2:16; James 1:25-27; Matthew 6:3-4; Ruth 3:3

Again the Lord emphasizes the contrast. A mere outward show of repentance without change of heart does not befit the followers of Jesus. Fasting they may practise indeed; that is a laudable custom and may be productive of good. But in doing so, all ostentation must be avoided. It is the heart that should feel the sorrow and humility, not the body. Therefore the usual daily washing and anointing should not be omitted, in order that men might not even know the conditions. God, their heavenly Father, that lives in the secret places, whose omniscience searches minds and hearts, will know. At the proper time He will make the necessary revelations and grant the reward of mercy.


Verses 19-34

Warning against covetousness and care

A new topic, introducing an exposition of the first table of the Law:

Matthew 6:19

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:


Cross-references

Proverbs 30:7-9; Luke 12:15-21; Ecclesiastes 5:15; 1 Timothy 6:6-10; Matthew 13:22

The question of hoarding, the service of Mammon, demanded discussion in connection with righteousness of works and self-righteousness. For it is the self-conceited that is liable to become addicted to covetousness. How foolish such hoarding! The Lord scourges the sin in bitter scorn: to hoard up hoards, treasures of this earth, tainted with the curse of this earth, subject to the corruption of the earth. Whether it be garments, tapestry, and carpets, moths would destroy them, rust, mildew, canker would eat them; and whether it be gold and silver and jewels, thieves would find a way to steal them, even if they must dig through the wall of the house. What uncertain treasures to place your trust upon!

The only safe treasures:

Matthew 6:20-21

20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.


Cross-references

Matthew 19:21; Luke 12:32-34; 1 Timothy 6:17-19; 1 Peter 1:3-9

The repetition of the same words serves for emphasis. Treasures you may and shall have, of the right kind. Treasure the treasures of the only lasting kind, in heaven, heavenly treasures, the gift and possession donated by God through grace. Value these above all the jewels and riches of the whole world. “But you, who are not of the world, but belong in heaven and are bought through My blood for this purpose that you should have another, eternal possession which is ready and ordered for you, — you should not permit your hearts to be taken captive here, but, though you be in an office and station in which you must deal with it, do not hanker after or serve it. On the contrary, strive to get those treasures which are kept for you in heaven. For those are true treasures, which moths and rust cannot approach, and safe against all that may eat and steal. For they are so placed that they always remain whole and fresh, and so secured that no one can dig after them.” [Luther, 7, 539]. The treasures of the Christians are even now safely included in the Word of Mercy, and their fulness and eternal enjoyment will be realized in heaven, 1 Peter 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:12,14. And therefore their minds and hearts are centered in heaven, upon their greatest treasure, secure for them in the hands of God.

The parable of the eye:

Matthew 6:22-23

22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!


Cross-references

Luke 11:34-35; Matthew 7:15-20

The absurdity and dangerousness of covetousness is here illustrated, probably with reference to the Pharisees, whose attention and affections were divided between temporal and spiritual things, and who therefore became spiritually blind. The eye is the organ of vision and incidentally the seat of expression. To perform its function properly, it should be the light of the body, give light for the body’s movement and labor. The candid, open, healthy eye will give this service properly; the bad, diseased eye will cause the whole body to be in darkness, though the person stand in the midst of light. In other words: The light of the body is the eye, because the eye lets light into the body and makes it available to the body. When the eye of the soul is in proper condition, free from the desire to hoard, then true Christian knowledge can control and direct the person unto every good work. But when sordid passions take hold of the soul, Christian knowledge suffers, heart and mind are blinded, judgment is perverted, and nothing but evil results. There is spiritual darkness without a single ray of light, just as the extinguishing of a lamp in a dark room intensifies the darkness greatly.

Warning against Mammon:

Matthew 6:24

24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.


Cross-references

Luke 16:13; Romans 6:16; Proverbs 11:28; 1 Timothy 6:6-10; Matthew 13:22

It is a general truth, commonly accepted: For a slave to serve two masters is impossible. True, undivided service presupposes love and attachment, or at least a strong interest. He will regard the one with devotion, the other with aversion; he will take the part of the one, or at least put up with him, the other he will disregard. The conclusion: It is impossible to be faithful to God and at the same time be a servant of riches, making an idol of them. Christ does not condemn the possession, but the service of riches. Man can have only one highest good and principle of life. The service of heaven cannot be combined with the earthly inclinations, the two cannot be reconciled. If he chooses filthy lucre as his highest good, the service of God is out of the question, and he loses substantial and eternal blessedness. The disciples of Christ will shun covetousness with all their hearts and give their life’s devotion to their God and Savior.

Counsel against worry about food and clothing:

Matthew 6:25

25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?


Cross-references

Luke 12:22-23; Philippians 4:4-7

The connection of thought is this: Avarice flows out of distrust of God, and this distrust shows itself in anxious care. Avoid the one, and you are more likely to withstand the other. Incidentally, the warnings here given are more suitable to the circumstances of the disciples, whose concern would oftener be regarding the necessaries of life than the amassing of treasures. Take no thought, have no concern about, do not let it worry you. Food, even that necessary to sustain life, and clothing, even that demanded for warmth, shall not be objects for worry. Care divides and distracts the mind, causing that distrust which goes before denial. The argument of Christ is from the more to the less important: The natural life is more than the food which sustains it; and the body containing this life is more than the clothing which protects it. Can He therefore that gave the greater, the more important, not be trusted to give the less? Solicitous concern for food and clothing, then, not only forgets the Giver of all good gifts, but weakens the members of the body, so that they cannot properly perform the work of the daily calling.

A further consideration for those of little faith:

Matthew 6:26

26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?


Cross-references

Luke 12:24; Psalm 145:15-16; Proverbs 30:7-9; Acts 17:26-28

Examples of perfect trust in God who has always provided for them: the birds do even less than that expected of human beings in the matter of providing for the future, Proverbs 6:6; Proverbs 20:4. For them there is neither seed-time nor harvest; they have no barns and granaries to store food against the coming of famine. And yet, behold them! Fix your eyes upon them and think who keeps them alive, who cares for them. Their table is always set, sometimes with the choicest of foods, sometimes with just enough to sustain life, but — He feedeth them. If He cares for these humble creatures and provides for them, is there not reason to believe that His children will not want bread?

How unprofitable is worry:

Matthew 6:27

27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?


Cross-references

Luke 12:25-26; Matthew 5:36; Psalm 8

In whose case will the fact that he worries about the question continually be of any aid in increasing his height, or rather, in lengthening his life? Psalm 39:5. It is simply impossible for a person, by taking thought of the matter, both to produce the growth that comes from food and to extend the days of his life. Why, then, not leave these matters to Providence? Christ even points to the inanimate creatures as examples of God’s loving care:

Matthew 6:28-29

28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.


Cross-references

Luke 12:27; 1 Kings 10:4-7; 2 Chronicles 9:20-22

To worry about clothing to cover one’s nakedness must seem strange in view of the thousand miracles surrounding us. Consider, observe well, take a lesson from the lilies, He says, including in this term all flowers, since those of Palestine are very beautiful. They grow, they become large; and yet they do nothing to provide a suitable dress for themselves; neither heavy nor light work is on their daily program. The situation demands a strong statement, and Jesus deliberately gives it. Solomon, whose riches and luxury were proverbial among the Jews as the climax and pinnacle of gorgeousness, in the very height of his glory and wealth and magnificence, could not be compared, in the splendor of his attire, with one of these flowers. Nothing on earth can equal the rich blending of colors, the velvety texture of the petals of some of the commonest blossoms that are overlooked as weeds by the heedless.

Application of the argument:

Matthew 6:30

30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?


Cross-references

Luke 12:28; Isaiah 40:6-8

The lilies, whose blossoms teach such a great lesson, belong to the grasses; they may even be classed as weeds, if their number and persistence interferes with the tilling of the soil. They belong to the creatures with little value, comparatively speaking. The natives of Palestine, to this day, make use of hay, stubble, and withered herbs to heat their clay ovens, round pots, narrow at the top. These plants of the field, then, which stand so low in the estimation of men that they are used for fuel, are yet so highly esteemed by the Lord that He clothes them in splendid garments, more wonderful than the most gorgeous apparel of Israel’s richest king. And children of God should permit themselves to be harassed by anxious care as to the clothing that they need? Such conduct must surely be a sign of little faith.

Christ renews His exhortation against worry:

Matthew 6:31-32

31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.


Cross-references

Luke 12:29-30; 1 Peter 5:6-7; Acts 14:17

It is in the form of an impassioned peroration that the Lord pleads with His hearers. All the care and worry of providing food and clothing, the continual harping on that one theme, so that it makes up the burden of your conversation, that it is the one subject which engages all your time and energy, is sinful and heathenish. For bread, raiment, wealth, all the gifts which this world has to offer, are eagerly sought as the supreme, the most important things in life, by the heathen. They have no thought beyond the gratification of their bodily desires. As for you: Your Father above knows, He is fully aware of the conditions, He is acquainted with all your needs. His fatherly heart, filled with love toward you, is willing to do what is best for you; so drive all dull care far away from you, lest your worry lead to distrust and your distrust to the worship of Mammon. “That is not sin nor service of Mammon that a person eats and drinks and clothes himself, as the need of life and body demands that he have his food and covering; also not this that he seek and earn his food, but that he worries, that is, that he places his heart’s comfort and trust therein. For care is not enclosed in the dress or in the food, but right in the heart; which cannot refrain, it must needs want to cling to it, as it is said: Possessions bring confidence. To take thought, then, means as much as to cling to it with the heart. For what my heart does not dearly love, for that I have no care; and again, that for which I care, my heart must desire.” [Luther, 7, 561].

The care which God demands:

Matthew 6:33

33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.


Cross-references

Luke 12:31; 1 Peter 5:6-7

To seek, earnestly to covet, to put the whole heart to the gaining of, the kingdom of God, is a most necessary care for the disciples of Christ, for the children of God. For this kingdom is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, Romans 14:17. To possess this righteousness, which is well-pleasing to God, to be filled with the fruits of this righteousness, to become rich in truly good works, that is a goal worthy of the Christian’s ambition. Such a constant seeking after purity of heart and holiness of life will incidentally stifle all care and worry of this life. And the little things of this earthly body and life will then come as a matter of course, the main object of the quest having been secured. They will be cast into our laps as an overplus, as an addition to the great bargain which our seeking has gained. Therefore, once more:

Matthew 6:34

34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.


Cross-references

Matthew 6:11; Jeremiah 17:7-8; Proverbs 27:1; James 4:13-17

Each day brings its own evil, for it is an evil world, and the enemies without and within are ever busy devising schemes to beset the heart with care. These conditions must be met with patient cheerfulness, and each problem taken care of as it comes. To add to the difficulties and troubles of the present day by worrying about what the morrow might bring will not ease the situation confronting you now. To restrict all care to the moment when it begins to nag is to conquer it absolutely. It is only the future that brings anxiety. Put each successive day into the hands of God, and it will bring its own help and deliverance from the love of the heavenly Father, Lamentations 3:23.

Summary

The Lord gives instructions concerning the giving of alms, and on prayer and fasting, and warns against avarice, covetousness, and care, pointing out, incidentally, the seeking of the kingdom of God as the prime duty of every Christian.


Chapter 7

Verses 1-12

Warning against unauthorized judging and admonition to persevere in prayer

A lesson from the Eighth Commandment:

Matthew 7:1-2

1 Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.


Cross-references

Luke 6:37-38; Romans 2:1,3; James 2:12-13; James 4:11-12; Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 5:11-13; 1 Corinthians 6:1-11

The Lord’s words, in this connection, do not exclude all judging. According to God’s own creation and order, those whom He has placed as superiors have the right and duty to watch over those placed in their care and correct any wrong disposition and behavior. The executive and judicial officers of a country or a city, the heads of every household, the teachers in the schools, the officers of the church and the whole congregation, Matthew 18:15; Galatians 6:1, the voters in all democratic forms of government, — all these have the power and the duty to exercise judgment in their particular sphere. The word used by the Lord implies personal, unkind, uncharitable, unauthorized, condemnatory judgment. It was and is a common habit, “especially in religious circles of the Pharisaic type.” Even an official expression of our opinion may run into a sinful extreme. And so far as the common slandering is concerned, what ignorance, haste, levity, prejudice, vanity, and egotism is often revealed in the sentences it pronounces; what an utter disregard of the law of love! How easily even permissible criticism is entangled with personalities! Therefore the warning: Lest ye be judged in the same manner. Uncharitable, unauthorized judgment will be punished here as well as hereafter. It usually pronounces its own condemnation, Romans 2:1. And this condemnation will measure up to the severity of the original transgression: Judgment for judgment; measure for measure. Many an ill report about us may be a just reward for an uncharitable criticism uttered by us, either in thoughtlessness or in spite. An unjust blow will recoil on him who has dealt it.

The proverb of the mote and the beam:

Matthew 7:3-5

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.


Cross-references

Luke 6:41-42; Luke 18:9-14

This example or parable is an excellent comparison to bring out with the proper emphasis the warning against uncharitable judging. The mote, the tiny particle of dust, of wood, or of chaff, in the eye of another, is readily seen and commented upon, with many offers of assistance to remove the disagreeable object. But at the same time, the wooden beam, the log or joist, in one’s own eye causes no discomfort, is, in fact, not even noticed. The Lord purposely uses an exaggeration to impress His admonition on the minds of His hearers, and we cannot weaken His picture by substituting “splinter” for “beam.” [Cp. Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary, against Cobern, The New Archeological Discoveries, 130]. The contrast is essential for the success of His teaching. A petty theft is widely advertised, but commercial dishonesty and grafting is overlooked for reasons of policy; a single unguarded expression is severely blamed, but the continual use of blasphemous epithets goes without a rebuke. And the hypocrisy stands out all the more glaringly on account of the feigned sympathy: Permit me, hold still a minute! — as though the most disinterested, charitable motives were behind the question. In righteous indignation Christ calls such an offender a hypocrite, Psalm 50:16, a base pretender at sanctification, and bids him above all remove the greater obstruction out of his own eye. After that he may consider, set himself the task, make a careful survey as to the need and possibility of, removing the mote out of the neighbor’s eye. Let everyone first watch over the reformation of his own life. Then his tendency toward uncharitable criticism will be reduced considerably, and he will be in better position to be of assistance, kindly and carefully, to a brother that may be guilty of a fault.

An additional counsel:

Matthew 7:6

6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.


Cross-references

Matthew 15:21-28; Proverbs 9:7-10; Proverbs 23:9; Proverbs 26:11-12; 1 Corinthians 11:23-27

Moral criticism is necessary, religious teaching cannot be discarded. But it would be the height of folly and the very contrary of unauthorized judging to unload one’s religious beliefs and experiences, tender sentiments, moral convictions, on any one that comes along, no matter in what condition he might be. For Christians especially the sacred doctrines of Christ are the precious pearls on the ring of His mercy. To cast these before dogs and swine, before people to whom nothing is sacred, that blaspheme everything holy, is to expose the most sacred beauty to coarseness. And the result is that those very people are encouraged to profane the holy name of God, to think it a proper subject of blasphemous attacks. And it cannot fail: some of the mud will spatter on him that lacked judgment; he will be responsible for the desecration, and therefore also guilty before God. Note the figure of speech used by the Lord, the second verb referring to the first subject, and the first verb to the second subject.

An admonition to prayer:

Matthew 7:7-8

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.


Cross-references

Luke 11:9-10; John 14:1,13-14

The Lord’s entire sermon had dealt with the righteousness of life as expected from men by God. A great and hard lesson, demanding more strength than any man, even the most earnest Christian, possesses by nature and after conversion. But He from whom all spiritual strength must come is willing to help our infirmities, if we but approach Him with persistent supplication. Jesus piles up the verbs for the sake of emphasis; He builds up a double climax in order to teach men always to pray and not to grow faint, to be importunate in pleading, Luke 18:1; Luke 11:5-10. To the mere asking must be added an eager seeking, and this must be supplemented with a persistent knocking. Such methods cannot fail; the promises of God are too plain. God will hear, He will give, He will let us find, He will open unto us. It may not always be at just the time and in just the manner which we think best, but it will, in the end, always prove the best. Only, note the repetition: “Ask,” in all humility, but with firm confidence; “seek,” with untiring application, but also with painstaking care; “knock,” with both earnestness and perseverance. Every one, He says, shall receive if he will but come as a child to its father.

A parable to bring home this truth:

Matthew 7:9-11

Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? 10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?


Cross-references

Luke 11:11-13; Genesis 6:5; Psalm 14; Psalm 53; Psalm 51:3-5; Romans 5:12; 1 John 1:8-10; Romans 3:9-26; 1 Timothy 5:8

He appeals to their love as parents. It is unthinkable that a father who is worthy of the name would substitute a stone for the bread, or a serpent for the fish, which his children ask of him. There is a resemblance, purposely. A father might find it necessary to refuse a child’s petition outright, but he surely would not demean himself by mocking him. The grammatical construction is purposely made difficult in order to set the parent over against and yet beside the son. Such a selfish, grudging, mean spirit is considered unnatural even among men, from whom one might, according to the natural depravity of their heart, possibly expect a behavior of that kind. Natural affection is so strong in the average mother and father that it will not let harshness and heartlessness gain the upper hand; they have the knowledge and the common sense to give only good gifts to their children, if they give any at all. The word here used refers not only to the quality of goodness, but also to the measure in which they are given, generously, in larger amount than the children ask. Now he argues from the less important to the more important. That heavenly Father, whose benevolent power and beneficent kindness, has been declared to you, that model of goodness and love toward all His children, will surely not do less! In bountiful measure, above all that we ask and think, Ephesians 3:20, He will give good gifts. Surely no vestige of doubt can remain with such an assurance.

The Golden Rule:

Matthew 7:12

12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the Law and the Prophets.


Cross-references

Luke 6:31; Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:37-40; 1 John 4:21

Here is a summary which embraces in one short sentence all the admonitions to charity that are found in the entire sermon, all that is laid down in the sacred writings with regard to the behavior of men toward each other. As God’s goodness is bountiful toward all men, so shall men pattern their conduct after this example, applying it in all their dealings, brother toward brother, in a full measure of generosity. If this rule were always followed, perfect peace, love, and harmony would obtain in the world. “With these words He closes His teaching, done in these three chapters, and gathers it in a small bundle, in which any one may surely find it, and every one put it into his bosom and keep it well. And it is surely a fine manner of doing which Christ here affects that He uses no other example than ourselves. He thus brings His commandment so near to us that it could not be brought any nearer, that is, into our heart, body, and life and into all our members, that no one need run far after it, but thou thyself art thy Bible, master, doctor, and preacher. Thou hast so many preachers, many a business, ware, tool, and other instrument in thy house and yard. That cries loudly against thee: My friend, deal with me toward thy neighbor as thou wouldest have thy neighbor act toward thee with his possessions. And the best thing in this passage is that He does not say: Other people shall do it to you, but: You shall do it to other people. For every one likes that, when others do good to him. But some say: I would surely also do what I should, if other people would first do so to me. But this verse says thus: Thou shalt begin and be the first one, if thou wilt have other people act thus to thee; and if they will not, yet do thou do it. He that wishes to be pious may not be hindered by other people’s example. Thou mayest, then, by thine example, move people to do thee good in return, also those that formerly did evil to thee.” [Luther, 7, 609-616].


Verses 13-25

The conclusion of the sermon

The two ways:

Matthew 7:13-14

13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.


Cross-references

Luke 13:22-30; Proverbs 4:18-19; Isaiah 9:2; John 8:12; John 14:6-7

The Lord has finished the sermon proper, but He here adds, as a conclusion, a few warnings and gives a few hints with regard to various offenses in doctrine and life which His disciples are apt to meet with. Two ways are briefly sketched, leading from the present life to that beyond the grave. And the two ways are contrasted, either one being described by its distinctive marks and by its end. The one way is indeed a common road, no one is excluded from it. But it is narrow, with no room for frivolous liberties on either side. And it finally leads through a strait and narrow gate, which has nothing to commend it outwardly. Only comparatively few find this way. It is so untrodden that it may easily be missed. On the other hand there is a wide, broad, spacious, roomy road, with many factors that invite, that lead forward on that road. And at its end is a wide, welcoming gate. But this way and this gate, with all the qualities that commend them, with all the invitation to indulge in the free, unfettered life of the world, leads to destruction; its end is everlasting condemnation. There is no special warning necessary for the disciples of Christ. They shun that broad, inviting way as the way of the flesh, of the world, and of the devil. But the other way, which in itself offers no alluring promises, on which no noisy, jostling crowd beguiles the tediousness, nevertheless is the Lord’s choice. For it leads to life, to the true life, to the only life worth living, to the life everlasting with Him whose way was just as much a narrow pass, a rocky defile, but who has entered into the glory of His Father. Enter in at this gate, is His loving call. Conquer, in His strength, all weakness of the flesh. Overcome through Him all assaults of the world and Satan, no matter in what guise they may appear. The end is worth a thousand battles, Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:11.

Warning against false prophets:

Matthew 7:15

15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.


Cross-references

Matthew 24:10-13; Matthew 24:23-25; Exodus 20:2-7; Deuteronomy 5:6-11; Deuteronomy 13:1-3; Jeremiah 14:14; Acts 20:26-32; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; 2 Peter 2:1-3; Jude 3-4; Revelation 2:19-23; Revelation 16:13-14

This shows one of the ways in which the disciples of Christ may be enticed from the narrow way to heaven, a fact which makes the warning necessary. Beware, take yourselves away from, have nothing to do with, pseudo-prophets, with false teachers. It is foolish even to stop and argue with them. For they are false prophets; they deliberately falsify God’s Word, they substitute their own lies and the wisdom of fallible men for the eternal truth. They come, without invitation, without call; they make a practise of going to such people as are members of a church with the deliberate intention of coaxing them away from the truth. They are wise in their own conceit and in the forms of deceit; they come in a very inconspicuous manner, in the garment of innocence and harmlessness. They profess to have a commission from God Himself, and are adepts at pretending gentleness. But their real character will show itself afterward, since they are by inclination and training ravening wolves. Their nature is to devour; they are greedy for money, ambitious for power, but anxious, above all, to destroy the soul. They are murderers of the souls of men.

The principle of testing false teachers and all frauds:

Matthew 7:16-18

16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.


Cross-references

Matthew 12:33-37; Luke 6:43-45; Matthew 6:22-23; 2 Peter 2; Galatians 5:16-26; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; 1 John 4:1-6; James 2:18-19; Titus 1:16; 1 John 2:4; John 15:4-5

A significant point: Not only may the disciples of Christ distinguish these false teachers for themselves, but the Lord expects them to know them thoroughly, to understand them by making a study of their methods and their way of life. Christians are able, they have the sacred duty, to try the spirits, to examine and test the doctrine which is offered to them. They have an infallible rule, the teaching of Christ, the Word of Truth. According to this criterion, this standard, they should judge not only the doctrine, but also the works of the false teachers, which are here called their fruits. Men never think of collecting grapes from thorns or figs from thistles. They are not deceived by false resemblances, just as the botanist will tell at a glance the poisonous variety of berry or mushroom from the good. But even where so much botanical knowledge is not found, the good, the sound, healthy tree is readily distinguished from the unhealthy, the degenerate tree, standing in bad soil, or no longer fruitful on account of age. All these trees and plants bear in accordance with their nature, this test never fails. “As we perfectly know that a good tree will not produce bad fruit, and the bad tree will not, cannot produce good fruit, so we know that the profession of godliness, while the life is ungodly, is imposture, hypocrisy, and deceit.” [Clarke, Commentary, 5, 97].

The end of the impostors:

Matthew 7:19-20

19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.


Cross-references

2 Peter 2:1-3; Titus 1:5-11; John 15:6; Matthew 3:7-12; Hebrews 6:7-8; Jude 3-13; Matthew 22:11-14; Matthew 25:41-46; Revelation 20:9-10; Isaiah 66:24; Mark 9:42-48

So far as the test of trees is concerned, men’s judgment in their case is so definite and absolute that they do not hesitate to cut down and burn a bad tree, knowing very well that it is beyond all possibility for that tree to bring forth good fruit the next year. But this judgment will strike also those that are guilty of false teaching and living, whose fruits must finally reveal the condition of their hearts. Theirs will be the punishment of the fire of hell. In the mean time the Christians must not forget their duty to test and examine the doctrine and the works of the false teachers, lest they become guilty of laxness in spiritual matters. “No false doctrine or heresy has ever originated without having had this sign which He here indicates, that they have produced other works than those commanded and ordained by God. … Let him that wants to judge correctly do as Christ here teaches him, and take their works and fruits, holding them beside God’s Word and commandments; then he will soon see how well they agree. … Thus thou hast a sure judgment which cannot fail, as Christ teaches thee to know them by their fruits. For I also have read up about all heretics and sects, and have found that they always made and brought forth something different from that which God commanded and enjoined, the one in this, the other in that article. The one has prohibited eating all things; a second, marriage; a third has condemned all government, every one choosing his own; and I conclude that they all walk on this path.” [Luther, 7, 640, 641].

False discipleship:

Matthew 7:21

21 Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven.


Cross-references

Luke 6:46-49; John 15:1-11; James 1:22; Romans 3:28-31

False teachers have been characterized, spurious disciples are here described. Not all of those that make a practise of public confession are in truth confessors. They may try to cover their hypocrisy by publicly acknowledging and professing Jesus as the Lord, thus apparently giving Him divine honor and glory [Cobern, The New Archeological Discoveries, 127], which is implied in this appellation. But a mouth-Christianity can never be a valid substitute for heart-Christianity. The fact that the lips readily form the name of Christ the Lord, make a practise of repeating it, will bring no one into the kingdom of heaven nor let him enter into the blessed communion of those that are one with Christ. Even a mere listening to His teaching with admiration and appreciation will avail nothing. But among those that profess Christ there are also others, such as have received Christ in faith and have by Him been renewed in heart and mind. They receive spiritual power from Him continually and are thus enabled to carry out the will of the heavenly Father in their lives. The performing of the will of God thus becomes the criterion by which the sincerity of their discipleship is tested. Christ calls God “My Father.” In His deep humility He is not seeking His own glory. He has the right to bear the name Lord and to demand obedience to His will. But He impresses upon His hearers the sacredness of the revealed will of God; that should find expression in their lives.

Christ’s warning of Judgment:

Matthew 7:22-23

22 Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.


Cross-references

Luke 13:22-30; Matthew 25:1-13; Matthew 24:36-39; Matthew 13:18-23

In that day, in the great, dread Day of Judgment, when the thoughts and desires of mind and heart will be revealed, there will be many, a large number, that will make a plea in their behalf. They will point to all kinds of notable deeds that have the appearance of miracles. But whether this be prophecy, or whether it be the casting out of devils, or whether it be some other wonderful work; also whether the miracles were expressly made in His name and ostensibly in His power, — all this will avail them nothing. Though they repeat the phrase “in Thy name,” clinging to it as to a forlorn hope that might soften the heart of the Judge, that very expression will prove their undoing. For He, on His part, also has a profession to make. Perhaps they are sincere in thinking that He ought to own them, acknowledge them, but He is of a different opinion. He finds it necessary to expose the hollowness of their confession. Never, during their whole career, while they were deluding themselves and leading others into delusion, while they were using His name in vain in the attempt to promote their gain, has He known them. They have never become His intimates, their hearts were always far from Him, they had no faith. To Him, therefore, all their works prove them to be workers of iniquity, having used His name without right or warrant in carrying out something which He had neither commanded nor sanctioned. Their sentence is brief, but terrible. “Depart from Me,” Matthew 25:41; be separated forever from the salvation, the glory and beauty which intimacy with Me implies. For in blessed union with Christ all is heaven; in separation from Him there is nothing but damnation.

A concluding parable:

Matthew 7:24-27

24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. 26 And every one that heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.


Cross-references

Luke 6:46-49; 1 Corinthians 3:10-11; Matthew 21:42-44; 1 Peter 2:1-10; Matthew 12:30

A majestic utterance referring to the entire discourse with all its lessons, intended, as they were, to teach wisdom and understanding in the lives of His disciples, as an outflow of the intimacy with Him and the power of faith. Jesus distinguishes only two classes of men, as in other parables and sayings, Matthew 12:30. He here makes the distinction, the comparison which holds true even in this life, with regard to the foundation which men select for the structure of their faith and life. He bases His statement on the maxim that a proper hearing implies the obedience in life, James 1:22-25. There is the wise, the prudent, the thoughtful, the long-headed man, that uses his reason properly, that carefully weighs all propositions and selects judiciously what is suited to his purpose. When he builds a house, he lays the foundation firmly in solid ground, if possible, on rocky soil. Note the eloquence of the description, to denote the suddenness and the fury of the enraged elements: rain on the roof, river against the foundation, wind against the walls, — but the house stood, its foundation was laid in the heart of the mighty rock. But there is also the foolish man, whom Christ mentions only in deep sorrow, the man who neglects prudence and common sense. He may build a house whose outward appearance differs in no way from that of the wise man. But he neglects to look to the proper foundation; he chooses a place with loose sand, near the bed of a mountain torrent. And again the elements were unleashed. Down came the vehement rain; down rushed the mighty river; fiercely blew the winds. And in this case they not merely fell upon, like an enemy or a wild beast which may yet be put to flight, but they struck down that house, and the ruin of it was complete. Nothing was left of its proud beauty. Prudent is he that does, that fulfils, the sayings of Christ, and thus lays the foundation of his spiritual life in a rock. He will stand firm in the midst of all assaults of the enemies. Not that his doing, his obedience, make him firm. But his life is rooted in his faith in Christ; from Him he daily gains new strength; by faith he conquers and is more than conqueror, Romans 8:37. But foolish is he that hears the words of Christ with his ears only, but presents no evidence of the works that flow out of Christian obedience. He thereby furnishes proof that faith either never gained a foothold in his life or has died out of his heart. Tribulation and temptation will find such a one unprepared. Without faith in Christ he has no hold and will perish most miserably.

The impression made by Christ’s sermon:

Matthew 7:28-29

28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at His doctrine: 29 For He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.


Cross-references

Luke 2:41-52; Matthew 13:53-54; Matthew 22:23-33; Mark 1:21-22; Mark 6:1-2; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 4:31-32; John 7:40-46; Romans 11:33-36

Christ’s manner of teaching differed from that of the scribes, for they taught by authority only, droning out the traditions and precepts and injunctions of a Law which was, in effect, dead in their own life. Christ spoke with authority, His was the authority to teach all men to the end of time. Therefore this power also became evident in His teaching, carrying His hearers along with the force of a conviction greater than that of the polished orator. He spoke the words of eternal truth. Small wonder that the people were filled with surprise and admiration, and that they voiced their astonishment at once. Here was a teacher with a message. Not only were His statements clear, His examples apt, His arguments strong, His presence compelling, but He had a mission as teacher and must be heard: He preached the Word of God as His own.

Summary

Jesus warns against uncharitable judging, urges perseverance in prayer, points out the safe way to heaven, shows how to distinguish false prophets and guard against false discipleship, and concludes His powerful sermon with an admonition to keep His sayings.


Related Kretzmann Article


Chapter 8

Verses 1-4

The healing of the leper

Matthew 8:1

1 When He was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him.


Cross-references

Matthew 5:1; Matthew 4:23-25; Luke 5:12

While He was coming down from the mountain, where He had delivered His great sermon, and especially when He had fully descended into the plain, when He had, in fact, reached one of the cities of the neighborhood, Luke 5:12, the multitudes that had been swarming after Him from near and far, and who were more than ever impressed on account of His teaching, again followed after Him. Jesus at once performed a miracle:

Matthew 8:2

And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped Him, saying, Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.


Cross-references

Mark 1:40; Luke 5:12; Leviticus 13:1-8; Leviticus 13:45-46

The evangelist uses the formula for introducing a narrative, for stimulating interest. A leper came to Him, transgressing, in his eagerness and his earnest desire for help, the rules which had been made with regard to those afflicted with this disease. Leprosy is a particularly malignant contagious (not infectious) sickness, though it is not hereditary. It is wide-spread over the world, but it occurs frequently only in the East and along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Several varieties of the disease are recognized, since the germ that causes it has been found. In all cases, however, the sickness follows the same general course. Spots of various colors appear on the body, later on also blisters and tubercles. The face soon assumes a stupid appearance. Ulceration, atrophy, wasting away of the bone sets in, which may cause deep holes and even the loss of entire members. In some fortunate cases, death occurs within a short time, in others the disease lasts for many years. Among the Jews, lepers were considered unclean, Leviticus 13:44-46, had to rend their garments, cover their faces, go without the usual attention to cleanliness, and, upon the approach of people, utter the cry, “Unclean, unclean!” They were obliged to live outside of the camp or city, had a special section of the synagog reserved for them, and anything they touched, or any house into which they entered, was declared unclean. For their cleansing, a very elaborate ceremonial was prescribed in the Jewish law, Leviticus 19. No wonder this poor man was so anxious to be healed. He hurries up to Jesus; he throws himself to the ground in the gesture of abject pleading, fully aware of his own unworthiness and of the great superiority of Him of whom he asks the favor; he calls Him Lord, giving Him divine honor as the promised Messiah. His prayer is short, but comprehensive, a model in form and content. “If Thou wilt”; he had no doubt about the power or ability of Christ, but he is not sure as to His willingness. The humility of his faith leaves the decision to Christ. But if there is to be a cleansing by healing, let it be at once. Insistent, yet humble; willing to leave manner and time of the fulfilment of his prayer to the love and mercy of the Lord. “That means, not only to believe right, but also to pray right; as these two are always together: he that has the right faith has the right form of prayer; he that does not believe rightly cannot pray rightly. For with prayer it must first be thus that the heart be certain; God is so merciful and gracious that He will gladly take away our trouble and help us. … That the leper here moderates his prayer and says: ‘Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean,’ is not to be understood as though he had doubts in regard to Christ’s goodness and mercy. For faith would be nothing, though he believed that Christ is almighty, could perform, and knows all things. For that is the living faith which does not doubt: God has the good and gracious will to do what we pray. But it is to be understood thus: Faith does not doubt that God has a good will toward the person, does not begrudge him all that is good for him, but rather desires him to have it. Whether, however, that which faith begs and pleads for is good and useful, of that we have no knowledge; that God alone knows. Therefore faith prays thus that it leaves everything to the gracious will of God, whether it will be conducive to His honor and our need, and does not doubt that God will give it, or, if it is not to be given, that His divine will out of great mercy does not give it, since He sees it is best not given. But for all that the faith in God’s gracious will remains certain and sure, whether He grants it or does not grant it.” [Luther, 13, 167; 11, 482, 483].

The miracle:

Matthew 8:3-4

And Jesus put forth His hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.


Cross-references

Mark 1:41-45; Luke 5:13-16; Matthew 4:23; Matthew 9:27-31; John 20:30-31; Matthew 11:2-6; John 1:1-5; John 5:19-21; Leviticus 14:2-32

Jesus was touched with compassion, Mark 1:41. His sympathy and willingness to help cause Him to stretch forth His hand and touch the leper, an intimate gesture showing complete understanding and begetting confidence. And His almighty “I will” quietly assumed the sovereign authority for a clear demonstration of unlimited power. Not a mere pronouncing clean, as the rationalists will have it, but a miracle: The leprosy that had even now rendered the leper a hideous, misshapen travesty of God’s creature disappeared at once, without delay. He was clean. Christ had reasons for avoiding a false popularity at this time. The people were wrought up to such a pitch of excitement on account of His teaching and because of His many miracles that they might have been prompted to hail Him, according to their false understanding of the Messianic kingdom, as their earthly king. This would have excited the hatred of the Jewish leaders too early and caused suspicion and jealousy on the part of the government, all of which would have hindered His ministry. Besides, a premature spreading of the news might reach the ears of the priests before the leper actually presented himself, and their enmity might cause them to refuse a recognition of cleanness. And Jesus wanted to observe the precepts of the official religion, Matthew 3:15. See to it, look you! He says: a prompt, decisive, though cordial command. Lose no time in unnecessary and useless conversation by the way; hurry is essential. Fulfil the injunctions prescribed in your case, Leviticus 14:10-32; sacrifice the gift which the Law demands, get a clean bill of health from the constituted authorities. This would be a testimony, not only for the legalists, but also for all men. In this way might the former leper spread the news of the miracle properly, as he probably also did, Mark 1:45.


Verses 5-13

The centurion of Capernaum

Matthew 8:5-6

And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto Him a centurion, beseeching Him, And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.


Cross-references

Luke 7:1-5; Matthew 4:12-17; Mark 2:1-2; Matthew 11:20-24

The incident here narrated may have taken place immediately after the cleansing of the leper or after some time, when Jesus had made one of His Galilean journeys. Jesus had entered into Capernaum, the city which He chose for His home during His ministry in that region. Here He comes into contact with a centurion. It is immaterial whether the centurion attended to the matter here related personally, or whether he made use of the good services of others, the latter being the more probable, Luke 7:1-10. “Therefore he sends a message to Him on account of his servant, whom he loved, a delegation of the most learned and respected in the city. … And as they go and present their message in a fine manner that He should come, since the centurion is well worthy of it, and Christ is willing to come and goes with them: when he hears that Christ Himself is coming, he sends other messengers on the way, pleads and wards off: O no! Who am I that He troubles to come Himself? It is sufficient that He but say some word, then I am fully satisfied.” [Luther, 12, 1184]. It was a centurion with whom Jesus dealt, the captain of one hundred men, very likely the Roman garrison in the city. He was a foreigner, not a member of the Jewish nation or church. But he had learned to know the true God and had undoubtedly studied the Scriptures, thus gaining a knowledge of the coming of the Messiah. In his earnest devotion, he had even built the synagog for the Jews, Luke 7:4-5. He had an urgent, pleading message to the Lord for his servant, his house-boy, who had been lying now for some time and thus been reduced to a state of great weakness, ill with a sickness which caused grievous torments, a form of paralysis. The disease of the nerves was, in this case, accompanied with unusual pains, which even hindered the sick man’s being carried out on a stretcher.

The offer of Jesus and the centurion’s answer:

Matthew 8:7-8

And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.


Cross-references

Luke 7:6-7; Mark 1:7; Luke 5:4-8; Exodus 3:1-6; Isaiah 6:5; Psalm 107:19-20; James 5:11

Christ’s sympathy is aroused, though an actual prayer for help has not been made, a mere statement of need and trouble being sufficient. He expressly declares His willingness to come and help: Coming I shall heal him. Christ’s sovereignty decides sickness and health, death and life. An astonishing answer: I am not worthy, I am not fit; not merely on account of his being a Gentile, but because his humility forbade his receiving the Lord on terms of equality. Cp. Matthew 3:11. Deprecatingly he speaks of his roof, a mere hut when the Lord is coming. A bare word will suffice. He both acknowledges the necessity of Christ’s mercy and his own total unworthiness. A sublime faith: My body-servant will be healed, a conviction born of absolute trust in His almighty and merciful power. On the other hand, unbelief, presumption, ignorance will hinder any kind of communion between God and man.

An argument from his own experience:

Matthew 8:9

For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.


Cross-references

Luke 7:8; Acts 10:1-8; Acts 23:23

No self-important boasting here, but a modesty which makes his argument all the stronger, since it gives to Christ the honor which fitly belongs to Him. The centurion, for his own person, held a subordinate position, he was bound by his oath to the government and by all that this implied. And yet he had enough authority, in his official position, to give commands to his men, and in his station as head of the household, to demand work from his slave. “The argument of the centurion seems to run thus: If I, who am a person subject to the control of others, yet have some so completely subject to myself, that I can say to one, Come, and he cometh; to another, Go, and he goeth; and to my slave, Do this, and he doeth it, how much more, then, canst Thou accomplish whatsoever Thou willest, being subject to no one, and having all things under Thy command.” [Clarke, Commentary, 5,100]. Always there is the reference to the almighty power of Christ’s word.

The astonishment of Jesus:

Matthew 8:10-12

10 When Jesus heard it, He marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. 11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.


Cross-references

Luke 7:9; Mark 6:1-6; Luke 13:22-30; Galatians 3:7-9; Galatians 3:27-29

Any evidence of implicit, trusting faith always affected Jesus very deeply, Matthew 15:28. He was here filled with great surprise and wonder. Not even in Israel, where such faith, such remarkable trust in His power, ought to be the rule, Romans 3:2; Romans 9:5, had He found such belief. This extraordinary situation causes Him to utter a prophecy concerning the conversion of the Gentiles, which reflected in a very uncomplimentary way upon His own countrymen. In the form of a parable He represents the kingdom of God as a great festival, or feast, where the riches of God’s mercy would be dispensed with a full hand. The heathen centurion represents, as it were, the first-fruits of the great multitudes whom the Lord would call from all kindreds, and tongues, and peoples, and nations, to recline at His tables and partake of His gifts, with the patriarchs, the fathers of the faithful of all times. In the mean time, the children of the Kingdom, the sons of those to whom the promises were made, the Jews that were depending upon their earthly relationship to the fathers without their faith, would lose their heritage, because they will not accept Jesus as their Savior. Outer darkness instead of the light of heaven, weeping in a repentance that came too late, gnashing the teeth in impotent rage, that would be their lot. That is, to this day, the expectancy of all unbelievers.

The reward of faith:

Matthew 8:13

13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.


Cross-references

Luke 7:10; Matthew 15:28; John 4:50-54

As was the faith, so was the cure. The trust in the power of the word brought the word with power to heal. Christ speaks under great emotion, granting the boon to which the captain’s belief clung, bidding his messengers and himself go to witness the fulfilment of his prayer. In the self-same hour, at the identical time, the miracle was performed. Thus faith receives from Christ, to whom it clings, help, comfort, mercy, and every good thing.


Verses 14-17

Various miracles of healing

Cure of a fever:

Matthew 8:14-15

14 And when Jesus was come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother laid, and sick of a fever. 15 And He touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them.


Cross-references

Mark 1:29-31; Luke 4:38-39; 1 Corinthians 9:5; Matthew 9:23-26

Jesus had, on a certain Sabbath-day, attended the synagog. Returning from there, and coming into the house of Peter, who here bears his name as disciple, Jesus saw a sad condition of affairs, Mark 1:29-31; Luke 4:38-39. Peter’s mother-in-law lay bedridden with a fever. Note: Peter had a home at Capernaum, having moved there from Bethsaida, probably on account of the better market for fish, but still more probably because the Lord had chosen this city for His sojourn. And Peter was married; he was not given to a false holiness, a dangerous asceticism, as the Roman Catholic Church demands of its clergy, but made use of his right to have a sister as his wife, 1 Corinthians 9:5. Jesus was touched with sympathy. He rebuked the fever, He took hold of the sick woman’s hand to raise her up, and at His miraculous touch the sickness vanished, with all its after-effects. She arose from her bed without a sign of weakness or unsteadiness. She could wait at the table and render all manner of services, singling out, in her gratitude, especially Him to whom she owed her perfect recovery. Any gift received from the Lord should prompt us to the most active individual service.

Events of that Sabbath-evening:

Matthew 8:16-17

16 When the even was come, they brought unto Him many that were possessed with devils: and He cast out the spirits with His word, and healed all that were sick: 17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.


Cross-references

Mark 1:32-34; Luke 4:40-41; Matthew 4:23-25; Isaiah 53:4

All Galilee was filled with the report concerning Christ, and a steady stream of sick people with their relatives was usually pouring in from every direction. It was after the close of the Sabbath-day, Leviticus 23:32; they need hesitate no longer for fear of transgressing the Law. The fame of the Lord’s having cured a demoniac in the morning had spread like wild-fire. The majority of those brought to Him were afflicted with the same terrible disease, that of being possessed of evil spirits. With a word He cast out the demons who, like the entire spirit world, are subject to Him; with tender kindness He healed all the other sicknesses; there was none that could withstand His almighty mercy. The reference of Matthew to the prophecy, Isaiah 53:4, is very appropriate. The prophet’s reference is to griefs and sorrows, to diseases and pains of the soul, due to sin and its curse. But the evangelist rightly argues: He that bears the greater is master of the smaller. The diseases of man are connected with sin, on the one hand, and with death, on the other. And so our High Priest, touched with the feeling of our infirmities, had sympathy with the results and consequences of sin, knowing its curse, its destructive influence, upon body and soul, Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 5:2. He bare, He took away, our sins and infirmities; they are no longer a curse for the believers.


Verses 18-22

The discipleship of Christ

Preparations for departure:

Matthew 8:18

18 Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave commandment to depart unto the other side.


Cross-references

Mark 1:35-39; Luke 4:42-44; John 6:10-15; John 18:33-37

It was getting late in the evening. Jesus had spent a very busy day teaching and healing. And still great multitudes pressed about Him. He was now on the shore of Lake Gennesaret. To escape the importunity of the crowd and to avoid an outburst of false enthusiasm which might spoil the work of His ministry, John 6:3,15, He ordered departure unto the other side. An interruption:

Matthew 8:19-20

19 And a certain scribe came, and said unto Him, Master, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest. 20 And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head.


Cross-references

Luke 9:57-58; Ezra 7:6; Mark 12:28-34

There were others besides His disciples in His immediate vicinity. One of these, a scribe, plucked up enough courage to speak to Him. A strong testimony for the power of Christ’s preaching and of the magnetism of His personality that one of the scribes, who, as a class, were utterly opposed to the ways of Jesus, could be carried away by his enthusiasm and ask to be admitted to the inner circle of the apostles. But it is ignorant presumption to think of being able to follow Christ in any way which he should choose or be obliged to go. He had no conception of the cost of being a disciple of Christ. So the Lord shows him the true meaning of discipleship, what it implies and what it demands. The foxes have dens, where they may rest in safety, the birds of the heaven have roosts, most of them resorting to the same tree night after night for shelter, but the Son of Man, Jesus, in His state of humiliation, is burdened with a poverty, with a homelessness, which to Him is a willing burden, but which might become a galling irritation to one that does not realize what might be demanded of the followers of the lowly Nazarene. Under certain circumstances poverty, privations, persecutions may, by God’s permission, be the lot of the Christians. “So all true Christians do: They use their goods, they have nests and dens; but when necessity demands leaving them for the sake of Christ, they do it, and gladly even move from the place where they may lay their head, as on their possession. And they are glad to be foreigners in the world and say: I am a guest upon earth; and again: I am a pilgrim, as were all my fathers.” [Luther, quoted in Stoeckhardt, Biblische Geschichte des Neuen Testaments, 69].

Another lesson:

Matthew 8:21-22

21 And another of His disciples said unto Him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. 22 But Jesus said unto him, Follow Me; and let the dead bury their dead.


Cross-references

Luke 9:59-62; Ephesians 2:1-10; Luke 15:32; 1 Timothy 5:5-6; John 5:25-29

Here was a man that had belonged to the larger circle of disciples, that had made it a point to remain in the neighborhood of Christ. But his was a vacillating nature, he was still undecided. Jesus called him, Luke 9:59. Hesitatingly he asks for leave to bury his father, which may have been a mere pretense in order to gain time. Jesus gives him what sounds like a harsh answer. If Christ was here merely quoting a Jewish proverb, His meaning may have been: Let the spiritually dead, those that are dead to the call of the Kingdom, bury the naturally dead. But without such a supposition the words of Christ refer to an Aramaic use of the word “dead,” a play on words, meaning to say: Let the dead be taken care of by those whose business it is to inter the earthly remains; do not concern yourself about the mortal shell of your father, that is the business of the undertaker; let your concern be the kingdom of God. The discipleship of Christ is far more important than all duties toward even the nearest relatives; if there is a conflict of interests, there can be but one choice, Matthew 10:35-39.


Verses 23-27

The storm on the lake

Matthew 8:23-24

23 And when He was entered into a ship, His disciples followed Him. 24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but He was asleep.


Cross-references

Mark 4:35-38; Luke 8:22-23; John 6:16-21

The ship had been prepared by the disciples in accordance with previous instructions, and when He now entered, the men that stood nearest to Him, the inner circle of His followers, embarked with Him. Worn out by the intensity of the bodily and mental strain of a hard day’s work, Jesus went off to sleep, soothed by the gliding motion of the vessel. All unexpectedly, with great suddenness, there burst down upon the little lake one of the storms which are so dreaded on account of their extreme violence. There was literally an earthquake of the sea, a hurricane with tornado-like force, before which the experienced fishermen were absolutely helpless. The waves lifted up on every side, rising high above the ship, hiding it, breaking over it, gradually filling it with water, whose amount defied all efforts at bailing out. All nature was in an uproar, wind and sea had conspired to destroy both vessel and travelers. Note the contrast: Christ was quietly sleeping, in the midst of all the turmoil, unaffected by an excitement which caused the strongest men to quake with fear. “But, now, natural sleep is the certain indication of a true, natural man. Since, then, the gospel says Christ slept in the ship, the evangelist wants to show us Christ as a real, natural man that has body and soul, and therefore had need of eating, drinking, sleeping, and other natural works that are done without sin, just as we have. In order that we do not fall into the error of the Manichaeans, who believed Christ to be a spirit, not a true man. [Luther, 13, 1627].

The terror of the disciples and Christ’s rebuke:

Matthew 8:25-27

25 And His disciples came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. 26 And He saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. 27 But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him!


Cross-references

Mark 4:38-41; Luke 8:24-25; Matthew 14:22-33; Jonah 1:4-6; Psalm 104:5-7; Psalm 89:8-9; Exodus 15; 1 John 1:1-4

Coming to Him, the disciples woke Him. They may have hesitated for some time out of respect for their beloved Teacher. But their fear becomes so great that they are unable to control themselves; it is a cry rather than a report which they utter. In their last extremity He is their one thought. An important point: Christ’s first thought is for the faith of the disciples, not for the alleviation of their fear. Why be filled with fear, why so little faith? The rebuke was harsh in tone, purposely, but with a hidden kindness. His own absolute fearlessness should calm their panic. Lack of faith always renders timid; trust in God, in His power and in His help, makes bold. This most important matter having been settled, He arose from His pillow and uttered a second rebuke, directed to the fierce winds, to the tumultuous waves. “Peace, be still!” He bade them, Mark 4:39. With the sound of His voice an obedient hush fell upon the turbulence of the winds and the waves. The almighty Ruler of the universe had spoken. His human voice, by virtue of the divine power and majesty given to His humanity, controlled the forces of nature, Proverbs 30:4. “But that He rebukes the sea and the wind, and that the sea and the wind are obedient, therewith He proves His almighty deity, that He is a lord over wind and sea. For to be able with one word to quiet the sea and cause the wind to cease, that is not the work of a man; a divine power is necessary to stop the turbulence of the sea with one word. Therefore Christ is not only natural man, but also true God.” [Luther, 13, 1628]. The effect of this miracle upon the disciples and upon all that afterwards heard of the story, since the sudden quieting of the sea must have been noticed from the shore, was to fill them with amazement: What kind of man and whence is He? They had further evidence for His divinity, as well as for His loving care for those whom He has enrolled as His disciples, whose every fear He is glad to dispel, whose every prayer, even in little faith, finds careful consideration before Him.


Verses 28-34

Jesus and the Gadarenes

Matthew 8:28

28 And when He was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met Him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.


Cross-references

Mark 5:1-5; Luke 8:26-27; Matthew 8:16; Matthew 9:32; Matthew 12:22; Matthew 15:22; Matthew 17:18

On the east side of the Sea of Galilee was the territory of the Gadarenes, the Gerasenes, and the Gergesenes, the southern part of Gaulanitis, so named after the chief cities of the region, one of which, Gergesa, was located on the lake shore. Two demoniacs here ran to meet the Lord. As an eye-witness, Matthew states the number, although only one of the sick men was so exceptionally violent that he drew the attention of all, and is therefore mentioned in the other accounts, Mark 1:23-27; Luke 4:31-37. Their home was in the limestone caves along the eastern shore, which were also used for tombs. A terrible picture: The naked, filthy, raving maniacs terrorizing the neighborhood, too strong to be bound with ropes or chains, associated with darkness and death, with grave and destruction, a fitting setting for the devil’s power, under God’s permission.

Their cry and confession:

Matthew 8:29

29 And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God? art Thou come hither to torment us before the time?


Cross-references

Mark 5:6-9; Luke 8:28-31; Mark 1:21-28; Luke 4:31-37; Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:12

Jesus, having come to destroy the works of the devil, to redeem men from his sinister influence, from his destructive power, 1 John 3:8, immediately commanded the evil spirits to leave the men, Luke 8:29. But they, speaking with the tongue of one of the demoniacs, pleaded with Him not to torment them. Note: The devil knows the man Jesus to be the Son of God; the evil spirits recognize in Him the future Judge; they fear the last judgment with its condemnation. Even now hell is for them a place of torture, excruciating, incessant. But until the last day, and especially during the days preceding the final judgment, they have, in a measure, the power and the might to destroy and to torture God’s creatures. But even so they are excluded from blessed communion with God. On the Day of Judgment they will be condemned into the abyss of hell, to be chained there forever with fetters of darkness. So they plead not to be tortured before that time.

The expulsion of the evil spirits:

Matthew 8:30-32

30 And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding. 31 So the devils besought Him, saying, If Thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. 32 And He said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.


Cross-references

Mark 5:11-13; Luke 8:31-33; Mark 1:21-28; Luke 4:31-37; Job 1:6-12

In the same neighborhood, at some distance from the place where Jesus was standing, and yet within sight. A great herd of swine, animals that were unclean to the Jewish people, by the Old Testament Law. It was a neighborhood in which the heathen element of the population predominated, where the strictness of the Law was no longer recognized. Knowing that their power over these two men was at an end, the evil spirits begged to be permitted to wreak their fiendishness on the swine, always with the purpose of destruction in mind. And having obtained the permission, their advent into the herd deprived the animals of even the instinct of self-preservation. Rushing down the declivity, they were drowned in the sea. The devil is a murderer from the beginning. If God hinders his work of destruction against human beings, he kills dumb animals. But he can do nothing without the permission of God. And this permission is granted sometimes in order to carry out some punishment of God.

The result:

Matthew 8:33-34

33 And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils. 34 And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw Him, they besought Him that He would depart out of their coasts.


Cross-references

Mark 5:14-20; Job 21:7-14; Deuteronomy 5:24-29

The swineherds fled. The disaster that befell their herds sent them back to the city in haste, superstitious terror filling their hearts. As much as they had seen and the conclusions they had drawn while they were out on the hills: their account may have been fanciful and garbled enough. All those that heard the story and were foot-loose turned out, probably with the idea of taking summary vengeance on whatever person proved guilty of the loss of their swine. They learned the truth. They were awed by the presence of Him whose power over the demons had been demonstrated beyond a doubt. And so their vindictive attitude gave way to a respectful pleading. They besought Him to go away from their coasts, to leave their country. They feared that they might be compelled to sustain still greater damage. The loss of the swine was to them a calamity. And they felt uncomfortable in the presence of the Holy One of God. They much preferred their swine and their sinful life to His pure presence. They repudiated this opportunity for grace.

Summary

Christ heals a leper, restores the sick servant of the centurion whose faith amazed Him, performs a number of other miracles, gives a lesson in discipleship, stills the tempest, and drives out the devils from two Gadarene demoniacs.


Related Kretzmann Article


Chapter 9

Verses 1-8

The healing of the palsied man

Matthew 9:1

1 And He entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into His own city.


Cross-references

Matthew 4:12-17; Mark 2:1

Jesus complied with the request of the Gerasenes to depart out of their neighborhood. Entering into the boat in which He had come over with His disciples, He crossed back to the western side of the Sea of Gennesaret, to the city of Capernaum, where He made His headquarters during His Galilean ministry. No sooner had He arrived there than the fact became known, and multitudes of people began to gather in the house and on the street. It was a day of grace for the whole city: Jesus was teaching, and His power went out to heal the sick, Luke 5:17. An important incident:

Matthew 9:2

And, behold, they brought to Him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.


Cross-references

Mark 2:1-5; Luke 5:17-20; Matthew 4:24; Matthew 8:16; Matthew 9:22; Psalm 32:1,11; Psalm 103:1-4

Matthew implies that there was a long process connected with the bringing of the sick man, which is told in detail by the other evangelists: The four friends bearing their burden, the impossibility of making headway through the crowds, the ascent to the flat roof, the uncovering of the tiles. Finally, the paralytic, bedridden and helpless as he was, was deposited in a cleared space before Jesus. A notable point: the Lord looks, above all, for faith. In this case He found their faith, that of the paralytic as well as that of his friends, by virtue of His omniscience. So satisfied was He with the result of His scrutiny that He addresses words of comfort to the sick man. The Savior’s intuition read in his eye the need of an assurance involving more than mere bodily recovery. The consolation of the soul was what he aspired for; the despondence, due probably to a bad conscience, must be removed. An infinite tenderness in Christ’s words: Take courage, cheer up, son! There is no reason to fear that the heavenly Father and I, His Representative, will condemn. He deals first with the disease of the soul, announcing, with absolute authority, the fact of the forgiveness of sins, applying it to this individual man. As sin is the greatest evil on earth and draws after it all the other evils that flesh is heir to, so forgiveness, pardon, is the greatest good that God can give to man, Psalm 103:3. “This is the voice of the Gospel: Be of good cheer, live, be preserved. The entire rhetoric of the Gospel is connected with this word: Son, be of good cheer. For it indicates that the heart must be driven to confidence with all arguments and examples that praise God’s mercy, against all arguments and examples that tell of God’s wrath. … That is the kingdom of Christ; who has it thus has it right. There is no work, but only the acknowledgment of all our misfortune and acceptance of all the gifts of God; there is nothing but just consolation; there these words go without ceasing: Be glad, do not be terrified in thy conscience on account of thy sins, that thou hast not done much good; I will forgive all that. Therefore there is no merit, but all pure donation. That is the Gospel: That demands faith, wherewith thou receive and hold these words, that it be not said in vain. For we have no other defiance with which He bids us boast than that God says: Be in high spirits, be cheerful, for I forgive the sin; boast of My forgiving, of that make a show. Then hast thou cause to boast and to glory, not on account of thy works.” [Luther, 12, 1920; 11, 1716].

The condemnation of the scribes:

Matthew 9:3-5

And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?


Cross-references

Mark 2:6-9; Luke 5:21-23; Matthew 23:13; John 10:31-38; Matthew 26:63-68

As usual, the enemies of Christ had their representatives in the people surrounding Jesus, to counteract, if possible, the influence of His teaching and of His miracles. It was not a rude interruption which they tried here, but their objection, to the omniscient mind of Christ, was as open as though they had shouted it at the top of their voice. They bring the accusation of blasphemy against the Lord, of an impious assumption of divine rights and powers. They challenge His prerogative, correctly stating that it was God’s office to pardon sins, Luke 5:21. Jesus read their thoughts as He read the mental state of the paralytic. His very searching and knowing of their hearts reproved their wickedness, and to this He adds the spoken rebuke: To what end, with the expectation of what, — what do you propose to accomplish with the evil thoughts that are in your hearts? His question to them: Both being equally easy to say, which takes the greater power and authority, which would prove the stronger argument as to divine omnipotence, the healing of the body or the healing of the soul?

The argument in deed:

Matthew 9:6-7

But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith He to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. And he arose, and departed to his house.


Cross-references

Mark 2:10-12; Luke 5:24-25

Far from admitting a pretension on His part which would amount to a blasphemy, He, the Son of Man, deliberately assumes a divine prerogative also in healing the body. The greater includes the smaller: the right and the authority to pardon sins implies the power and the ability to heal mere bodily ailments. If He had been guilty of blasphemy, He could not have had the authority to cure the sick man by a peremptory command. He, the true human being, is nevertheless not a mere man, but can command the sickness and restore the sick to complete health by a word of His almighty power. The man that had been chained to his cot in utter helplessness could now shoulder this same cot and walk out in the fulness of perfect vitality.

The effect upon the people:

Matthew 9:8

But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.


Cross-references

Mark 2:12; Luke 5:26; Luke 7:11-17; Luke 8:34-37; Matthew 28:18-20; Matthew 18:15-20; John 20:19-23

They were not interested in the scruples of the scribes and Pharisees; the miracle settled the matter so far as they were concerned. They were filled with the fear of amazement and reverence: A Healer in their midst that assumed and exercised divine rights, that manifested an authority over the soul as well as over the body! It may also be that the spirit of Christ was struggling in many of the hearts there present with the unbelief of the scribes. But finally they glorified, they praised God for giving such power to men, not only to the one man, Jesus, but through Him, to men that are His followers. “This power, which hitherto had been enthroned in the Most Holy Place as the prerogative of Jehovah, now stood embodied before them. Hence their joyous expression: He has given it to the Son of Man, and therefore to men.” [Schaff, Commentary, Matthew, 167]. God, through Christ, has given to men the power to forgive sins. It is the peculiar church power, by which the sins of the penitent sinners are remitted to them. “This power all men have that are Christians and are baptized, for therewith they praise Christ and have the word forgiveness in their mouth, that they can and may say when they want to and as often as it is needed: Behold, man, God offers thee His grace, presents to thee all thy sins, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven, only believe, then it is certain, or what other words one would use. This voice shall not cease among the Christians until the last day: Thy sins are forgiven thee, be full of gladness and comfort! … Learn, then, that you can say and instruct others concerning the forgiveness of sins, that God in Baptism, in Absolution, on the pulpit, and in the Sacrament speaks to us, through the servant of the Church and through other Christians; them we shall believe, and we find forgiveness of sins.” [Luther, 11, 1722; 13, 2442].


Verses 9-17

The call of Matthew and his feast

Matthew 9:9

And as Jesus passed forth from thence, He saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and He saith unto him, Follow Me. And he arose, and followed Him.


Cross-references

Mark 2:13-14; Luke 5:27-28; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16; Acts 1:12-14

After Christ had performed the healing of the palsied man, He left the house in order to go down to the seaside, Mark 2:13. On His way He passed the custom-house of Capernaum, which was in charge of Levi, the son of Alphaeus, who was after this called Matthew, and who proudly records the fact in his account of his call. This toll-house was a busy place, since the caravan road between Egypt and Damascus passed through the city. But at Christ’s characteristic invitation Matthew promptly complies. He may have known Jesus before, he could hardly have missed hearing of Him. The call was more than a mere invitation, it was a direct enrolling of the publican among those that stood nearest to the Lord.

The publican feast:

Matthew 9:10

10 And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples.


Cross-references

Mark 2:15; Luke 5:29

Matthew, either upon his own initiative or at the suggestion of Jesus, caused a feast to be prepared, Mark 2:15; Luke 5:29. But here is a significant fact: publicans and sinners were the guests beside Jesus and His disciples. They were reclining, after the Oriental fashion, on special sofas, resting on pillows; scores, possibly hundreds, were present, all of the lowly, the social outcasts of the city, those whom the Pharisees had excommunicated from the synagogs. The latter took offense:

Matthew 9:11

11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto His disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?


Cross-references

Mark 2:16; Luke 5:30; Luke 15:1-2; Acts 11:1-18; Galatians 2:11-14; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13

They regarded the whole festival as a scandalous affair, but lacked the courage to address Christ directly on this matter, hoping incidentally thus to alienate the disciples from the Master. Jesus, the Friend of the sinners, is a rock of offense to all self-righteous, proud hearts. They find His behavior savoring of the gutter, and criticize severely such as follow His directions in seeking sinners.

Christ’s defense:

Matthew 9:12-13

12 But when Jesus heard that, He said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. 13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.


Cross-references

Hosea 6:6; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31-32; 2 Peter 3:9; Luke 15:3-7; John 9:39-41

Jesus heard the murmuring and took the fault-finders to task. He quotes a proverb in explanation of His own conduct, implying, at the same time, a criticism of their position. A physician naturally finds his field of activity among the sick, such as feel the need of his services. Those that are well, or deceive themselves into the belief that they are in perfect health, resent the suggestion of a physician in their case. Christ is the true Physician of the soul. He that is spiritually well, that is righteous and perfect, without sin, feels no need of the Savior of sinners. Though there are no just persons in the world that would honestly belong to this class, the great majority claim perfection, a complete righteousness, for themselves. They want nothing of Jesus, the Redeemer. Only the meek and lowly in heart, that feel their sin and the curse of sin, they come to the Friend of sinners and accept healing at His hands. Jesus reminds the Pharisees, who might have felt the inference, of the word of the prophet, Hosea 6:6. Mercy goes before sacrifice. All service of the lips and sacrifices of the hands, all mere outward worship, all dead orthodoxy, is an abomination before the Lord. A merciful heart manifesting its sympathy in deeds of mercy pleases Him. But the Pharisees of all times have never felt the need of the mercy of God, and therefore have never tasted its sublime sweetness. For that reason they feel no mercy towards their fellow-creatures. All those that are called after the name of Christ must be filled with the enthusiasm of the mission of Jesus.

A question regarding fasting:

Matthew 9:14-15

14 Then came to Him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but Thy disciples fast not? 15 And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.


Cross-references

John 1:6-8; John 3:25-30; Matthew 11:2-19; Matthew 6:16-18

Silenced on one point, the Pharisees attack on another, aided, in this case, by some disciples of John the Baptist. They were all of them rigorous in their asceticism, keeping all the prescribed fasts, as well as many of their own choosing, with painful regularity. They resented the absence of this legal tendency in the circle of disciples about Jesus, even while they felt themselves superior to the Galilean fishermen, and asked for an explanation. Jesus enlightens them: Friends of the Bridegroom, that belong to the inner circle, to the intimates, could not possibly think of fasting and mourning, indulging in all manner of sorrowful performances, while the Bridegroom is yet with them. But when the Bridegroom is taken from them, when Jesus shall fulfil His destiny in His passion and death, there will be a great difference. Then, in those days, they will grieve, John 16:20a. In the mean time, their whole life in His companionship was like a continual wedding-feast, with nothing but joy and happiness.

Further parabolic sayings:

Matthew 9:16-17

16 No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. 17 Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.


Cross-references

Matthew 23:1-3; Matthew 5:17-20; Psalm 96; Psalm 98; Revelation 5:6-14

Just as Christ had emphasized the fitness of things in His apology for the disciples, He here insists upon proper congruity in religion, especially in external forms. To put a patch of unscoured, new and strong, cloth upon an old garment will usually result in disaster, since the patch, being stronger, will tear out at the edges, thus making the rent worse. The piety of the Pharisees, the religion of works which they flaunted before the eyes of the people, on the one hand, and the doctrine of Jesus, the preaching of the free grace of God through His blood, on the other, will never agree. If one insists on wearing his old garment of self-righteousness and works, and then believes it possible to cover an occasional revealing sin with the Gospel, he will find but poor comfort. His heart is still bound up in the old garment, and his miserable subterfuge will only make the incongruity appear the more glaring. It is just as foolish to keep new wine, grape-juice in the early stage of fermentation, in old skins that have lost their elasticity. The result is disastrous: The skins burst, the wine is spilled. But new skins and new wine are perfectly suited to each other. The sweet Gospel of the forgiveness of sins by the mercy of God does not fit into carnal, Pharisaic hearts. If the Gospel is preached to those that believe in works only, its richness is squandered. Such hearts cannot understand or keep it; they only take offense at the preaching of the Gospel, and are lost in spite of the Gospel. Only meek and lowly, believing hearts will accept the Gospel just as it reads, and will be kept by the power of God unto salvation.


Verses 18-26

The daughter of Jarius

Matthew 9:18-19

18 While He spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped Him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay Thy hand upon her, and she shall live. 19 And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did His disciples.


Cross-references

Mark 5:21-24; Luke 8:40-42; John 11:17-27

Jesus was still in earnest conversation with the Pharisees and the disciples of John, when there was an interruption. A ruler, or elder, of the synagog at Capernaum, a man of some influence, coming in, threw himself down before the Lord in the attitude of supplication. Matthew here, for the sake of brevity, mentions the cry of the ruler after he had received the actual report of his daughter’s death, Mark 5:35. His faith in the ability of Christ to heal, and even to bring back from death, is absolute. Even now she surely must be dead, but the touch of the great Healer’s hand could restore her to life. Jesus, ever full of loving sympathy, ready, for the sake of a soul, to go also to the bedsides, went with the distracted father.

An interlude:

Matthew 9:20-22

20 And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind Him, and touched the hem of His garment: 21 For she said within herself, If I may but touch His garment, I shall be whole. 22 But Jesus turned Him about, and when He saw her, He said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.


Cross-references

Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48; Leviticus 15:25-31; Numbers 5:1-4

Another applicant for help, a woman that had a bloody flux, a disagreeable, weakening disease, rendering Levitically unclean, Leviticus 15, having spent all her substance in the fruitless quest of health. From behind she came, partly from shame on account of her uncleanness and morbid sensitiveness due to her condition, partly from humility. Only the fringe of His coat she wanted to touch, the outer of the four tassels which Jesus, in accordance with the commandment, Numbers 15:38, wore to remind of the commandments. She had the firm conviction, based on her simple faith in His almighty power, that such a mere touching would suffice to render her whole. There was no cunning and superstition in her action. Only a living, strong faith could have such certainty that a mere touch of the garment’s hem would restore to health. She hoped, incidentally, to remain undetected in the dense crowd which was pressing about the Lord, Mark 5:30-32. But Jesus felt the touch, just as He knew of her presence and her eager desire. He turned around, and seeing her, He added His comforting assurance to the miracle which had even then taken place. All fear must vanish at His kind words, at His cheering tone of voice, in rhythmic cadence. She has entered, by her faith, into the close and honoring relation of a daughter to Him, and that same faith has gained from Him the fulfilment of her wish. She is a healed woman. He sets forth her faith as an example before the people, just as He found it necessary, about this time, to encourage the ruler with the words: Fear not, only believe, Mark 5:36. “Thus thou seest what faith is and does, when it clings to the person of Christ, namely, such a heart as deems Him its Lord and Savior, the Son of God, through whom God reveals Himself and has promised us His grace, that for His sake and through Him He wants to hear and help us. That is the true spiritual, internal worship, when the heart deals with Christ and calls upon Him, though it speak not a word, and gives Him the right honor, believes Him to be the true Savior, who knows and hears also the secret desires of the heart, and proves His help and power, though He does not at once and externally permit Himself to be felt and handled in such a manner as we think.” [Luther, 11, 1857].

At the house of Jairus:

Matthew 9:23-26

23 And when Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, 24 He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed Him to scorn. 25 But when the people were put forth, He went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose. 26 And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land.


Cross-references

Mark 5:35-43; Luke 8:49-56; John 11:38-53; John 12:9-11; Matthew 27:45-54

Jesus had purposely tarried and spent some time with the woman on the way over to the ruler’s house. But now, coming into the house and seeing the flute-players and the noisy crowd of professional mourners which had even then gathered, mainly in the desire to share in the meat and drink which was forthcoming at such occasions, and hearing the confused din which arose from the motley assembly, He sternly bids them: Retire, move away, do not stay here. Not dead is the young girl, but she sleeps. Before Christ she was not in the final power of death, to Him her lifeless form presented only a sleeping maiden. The death of all the faithful is merely a sleep for some little time in the bed of the grave, from which there will be a glorious awakening when God will reunite soul and body. “Thus we also shall learn to look upon our death in the right way that we do not become frightened before it as unbelief does: That it is truly in Christ not a death, but a fine, sweet, short sleep, in which we, delivered from this present misery, from sin and from the true death’s trouble and fear, safe and without all care, may rest a short moment as on a couch, until the time comes when He will wake and call us with all His dear children to eternal glory and joys.” [Luther, 11, 1865].

The scornful laughter, the derisive jeering of the crowd did not deter the Lord. After the house had been cleared of their distasteful presence, He went into the chamber of death with the parents and with His three favorite disciples, Peter, James, and John, took hold of the little girl’s hand, and commanded her to arise. Here a body which had been claimed by death as its own was restored to life with all its manifestations. The maid could arise, she could walk, eat, and drink, perform all the usual acts of a living person. Christ, as the Fountain of life, can bring back to life even such as have submitted to the grim reaper. With His human voice He aroused the child from the sleep of death. Even in the state of humiliation the human nature of Christ is the source and the fountain of life.

Against the wishes of Jesus, who desired no notoriety for Himself, but wanted the parents of the maiden to contemplate the miracle in quiet thankfulness, the fame, the report of this resurrection spread through that entire region. It was a matter unheard of till now that a dead person was raised to life again. Jesus feared enthusiastic demonstrations.


Verses 27-34

Further miracles of that day

Matthew 9:27

27 And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed Him, crying, and saying, Thou son of David, have mercy on us.


Cross-references

Matthew 1:1; John 7:42; Luke 1:31-32; Revelation 22:16; Psalm 51:1; Daniel 9:9

There was no respite for the Lord since His power over diseases was now generally known. Waiting at the door were two unfortunates with an affliction very common in the East, especially in Egypt, Palestine, and Arabia. They were blind from disease. The stories they had heard of the healing power of Jesus and the words which they had had occasion to listen to from His own mouth, had given them the conviction that this man must be the promised Messiah. For while they followed after Him, they cried loudly, calling Him the Son of David, and beseeching Him for help. Note: The opinion was generally held in Judea at that time, that the Messiah should be the Son of David, John 7:42. Jesus was openly acknowledged as coming from this family, Matthew 12:23; Matthew 15:22; Matthew 20:30-31; Matthew 21:9,15; Matthew 22:41-45. The fact that these blind men thus publicly invoked Him amounted to a distinct profession of the Messiahship of Jesus. For that reason also the pleading cry: Have mercy on us! No grumbling against fate, no demanding of a just alleviation of an unmerited punishment; only mercy they beg.

The healing and its effect:

Matthew 9:28-31

28 And when He was come into the house, the blind men came to Him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto Him, Yea, Lord. 29 Then touched He their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. 30 And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it. 31 But they, when they were departed, spread abroad His fame in all that country.


Cross-references

Matthew 20:29-34; Exodus 34:6; Matthew 9:13; Matthew 11:2-6; John 9

Jesus had taken no notice of the cries of the men on the street, either for fear of awakening false expectations, or in order to test their faith. But they were persistent with that importunity which usually conquered Jesus. When He reached His house, His lodgings, they went directly to Him. The Lord has only one question to address to them, whether they have faith in His power to help, to which they assented with a glad Yes, Lord, thus both confessing faith in His ability and giving Him the honor due Him as the Lord of heaven. Then, without further hesitation, overcome by the force of their pleading in faith, He touched their eyes and thus opened and gave sight to them. As was their faith, so was their reward. Faith is the hand which takes what God offers, the spiritual organ of appropriation, the connecting link between our emptiness and God’s fulness. It is faith which opens the heart of Jesus and storms the very gates of heaven. But this trusting faith is always an outgrowth of redeeming faith, of the firm reliance in the blood and merits of Jesus the Redeemer. The Lord, in dismissing the men that had thus received His bounty, sternly enjoined them, very emphatically charged them, on pain of His displeasure, not to spread the news abroad, to let no one know of the healing. The danger of a carnal movement, by which the people of Galilee would be roused into rebellion against the Romans, made it necessary for Him to impose silence upon them. But they, believing, probably, that it was only humility that prompted the Lord to make such a demand, and full of joy over the help which they had experienced, were most active in relating their glad news in that entire country, far beyond the boundaries of Capernaum.

The dumb demoniac:

Matthew 9:32-34

32 As they went out, behold, they brought to Him a dumb man possessed with a devil. 33 And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake: and the multitudes marvelled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel. 34 But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils.


Cross-references

Matthew 12:22-32; Luke 11:14-23; Mark 1:21-28

Hardly had the men of the last miracle gone from the room, in fact, while they were leaving the house, another sufferer was brought to the great Healer. In this case the evil spirits had blunted the faculty of speech. There was no apparent physical defect, but the devil’s power held the tongue and took from the man the ability to speak. No sooner, therefore, was the evil spirit cast out than the dumb could speak in connected discourse. Again the crowd present was filled with wonder, which found its expression in the saying: The like was never seen in Israel. It was unheard of that a man should have such unlimited power, even over demons. Never before, also, had the appearance of the final deliverance been so fully realized. The Messianic revelation was gradually entering into the consciousness of the people. The Pharisees tried to weaken the impression of the miracle by a theory which they had formed: In and through the prince of demons He casts out demons. They insinuate that there is intimate relation and fellowship between Christ and the powers of evil, that He is in league with Satan and can therefore command them at will. Christ purposely ignored the remark in this case, though He might easily have put them to silence, Matthew 12:24-28.


Verses 35-38

Continuation of Christ’s teaching and healing ministry

A ministry of the Gospel:

Matthew 9:35

35 And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.


Cross-references

Matthew 4:23-25; Matthew 11:2-6; Matthew 10:1-4

Another summary of Christ’s prophetical work, like Matthew 4:23-25. Repeatedly, without becoming weary, Jesus makes His trips through the Galilean country. The people of the country had full opportunity, not only to know the truth, but to become established in the truth. He visited not only all the cities, but also the villages, teaching in preparation for the acceptance of the message which He brought, preaching the Gospel-news itself, and giving proof of its divine character by the miracles of healing which He performed. The Gospel of the Kingdom He proclaimed, not of a kingdom of this world, neither a temporal principality nor a social reformation, but a communion of believers in union with Him as their Head. “That means to be in the kingdom of heaven, if I am a living member of Christianity, and not only hear the Gospel, but also believe.” [Luther, 11, 490].

Christ’s compassion:

Matthew 9:36-38

36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then saith He unto His disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; 38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into His harvest.


Cross-references

Matthew 14:14; Mark 6:34; Psalm 23; John 10:1-21; Matthew 6:9-10; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2; Colossians 1:9-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Romans 3:29; Psalm 117; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-16; 1 Corinthians 3:5-11

Christ’s ministry brought Him into the most intimate touch with the people, gave Him the clearest insight into their moral and religious condition. Two pictures were suggested to His mind: A flock of sheep neglected in the desert, and a harvest going to waste for lack of reapers. The people whom He met were faint, overdriven, afflicted, beaten down, exhausted by long, aimless driving, completely worn out and scattered about. They had no faithful shepherds. The Pharisees and scribes vexed, worried their souls with their legal flaying, gave them thousands of precepts regulating the very minutest details of their lives, but neither taught them where to get the strength nor gave them the comfort of the Gospel. Most of the people were in the direst spiritual distress. A pitiful spectacle! But this is to arouse them to action. The harvest of God is always great, since He wants all men to be saved. When the souls have grown weary and surfeited with the husks of human doctrines and traditions of men, they are more apt to feel and realize their need of the Gospel of Jesus, as in the case of many of the Jewish nation. The laborers, that are in full sympathy with the Gospel-teachings, that are willing to work for Christ, are few. At that time only the Lord and here and there a true Israelite were laboring for the Kingdom. There is needed some of Christ’s compassion, some of that divine commiseration which moved the heart of Christ; there is needed some of that willingness to work and, if need be, to suffer, which characterized the ministry of Christ; and there is needed, lastly, the force of heaven-storming prayers to the Lord of the harvest, to the great Lord of the Kingdom, that He Himself would thrust out, that He will urge and make willing the hearts of the laborers as He sends them forth to reap the souls for His eternal kingdom.

Summary

Jesus heals a paralytic, calls Matthew, takes dinner with him, and gives a lesson on humility and fasting, raises the daughter of Jairus, heals the woman with the issue of blood, gives sight to two blind men, drives out a dumb demon, and draws a lesson from His ministry.


Related Kretzmann Article


Chapter 10

Verses 1-15

The commission to the twelve

Laborers for the harvest:

Matthew 10:1

1 And when He had called unto Him His twelve disciples, He gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.


Cross-references

Mark 3:13-15; Luke 6:13; Luke 9:1-2; Mark 6:7; Matthew 19:23-30; Galatians 1-2; Ephesians 2:11-22; Acts 2:42; Revelation 21:14

The first part of Christ’s Galilean ministry was over. He had spread the Gospel-message by His personal preaching in all parts of the northern country. But the conditions, as He had just told His disciples, demanded at the same time more general and more intensive work. And so He commissioned His twelve disciples, the twelve that were later distinguished by that name, whose relation to the Lord had been unusually intimate from the first. He had many other disciples or adherents. His Word had not returned void. Most of those that had experienced His healing power had accepted His Gospel and were His true believers. Many of these stayed in their own homes, testifying for the Lord upon occasion. Others, and among them these twelve as the most prominent, accompanied the Lord on all or most of His journeys. The twelve He here called for a special mission. The sum of His charge to them: Power over unclean spirits and power of healing both the severer sicknesses and the infirmities or weaknesses of the people. The authority to heal was especially necessary for the work in Galilee, since the fame of Jesus rested largely upon His miracles, and the populace would naturally demand some proof of their commission, if they claimed to have been sent by Christ.

The apostles enumerated:

Matthew 10:2-4

Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.


Cross-references

Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16; Acts 1:13-26; John 1:35-42; Matthew 9:9; Matthew 4:21-22; John 1:43-51; John 20:24; Mark 15:40; John 14:22; Matthew 26:14-16

Apostles they are called as the special witnesses of Christ and as His representatives in extending His Church, Acts 1:8; Acts 1:21, sent by Him with extraordinary authority. Note: At the head of the list is Peter, because he was called into actual discipleship first, Matthew 4:18. His name, Peter, given to him by the Lord Himself, here distinguishes him from the other Simon of the list. Bartholomew is commonly identified with Nathanael, John 1:46. Matthew expressly adds his epithet “the publican,” in modest self-abasement, and yet with a certain pride that Christ’s mercy had selected even a tax-gatherer of the lower class as His intimate friend. Simon the Canaanite, or Simon of Cana, was sometimes also called the Zealot, probably with reference to his most marked characteristic. In the last place stands the name of Judas, the traitor. His home town was Kerioth, in Judah, and he was the only non-Galilean disciple. The call of Jesus to this man was just as sincere as that to the other apostles. But Judas, by his own malice and by the temptation of Satan, thrust the mercy of the Lord from him. From petty thieving he fell to the lowest depths possible for a redeemed creature — he betrayed his Savior.

Instructions as to the place to preach:

Matthew 10:5-6

These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.


Cross-references

Matthew 9:36-38; Matthew 15:21-28; Luke 24:44-49; Acts 13:44-49; Romans 1:16-17; Romans 11:11-24

These, twelve in all, known ever after by that designation, Jesus sent away with a definite charge as to the place and sphere of their work. They should stay away from the country of the heathens and from the cities of the Samaritans. With great solemnity, in rhythmic cadence, the emphasis is brought out. The first offer of salvation, by God’s intention, was to be made to the Jewish people. As they had been His chosen nation in the Old Testament, so He now confined His own work, through His disciples, chiefly to Israel, though He was not averse to the Gentiles’ having occasional crumbs, Matthew 15; John 4. The chief regard of the disciples was to be for the lost sheep of the house of Israel, those that were going astray without their knowledge and intention, having been worried and flayed and deliberately misled by hirelings. Neglected they were and in great danger of final perdition, but probably to be won for salvation by careful and thorough Gospel-work, preaching, not healing, being the more important.

The message itself and the accompanying signs:

Matthew 10:7-8

And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.


Cross-references

Matthew 3:1-3; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 10:9; Acts 2:36-39

While on your missionary journey, preach; preaching the first and foremost duty and necessity. Its subject: The kingdom of the heavens is even now at hand. In the person of the lowly Nazarene, Jesus Christ, all the types and prophecies are fulfilled. He that accepts Him in faith has the Kingdom, is a member of the Kingdom. So perform your work as heralds, from house to house. And whenever it was necessary, they were empowered to confirm the Word with signs following, Mark 16:20. Not only should ordinary sicknesses yield to their authority, but even the uncleanness of the lepers. Even the power to call the dead back to life and to control evil spirits was entrusted to them. Circumstances may not have required the use of all these miracles in any one city or town, and it is likely that the apostles did not raise any people from the dead before Christ Himself arose from the dead. There is also some probability that, at that time, their faith was not yet strong enough to perform the greatest miracle, Matthew 17:20. But so far as Christ’s commission to them was concerned, they received all the authority necessary to back up their preaching with such works as must be accepted as proof positive for their divine mission. But this power was not to be for hire, not to be sold for money.

Instructions as to dress and baggage:

Matthew 10:9-10

Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, 10 Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.


Cross-references

Mark 6:8-9; Luke 9:3; Matthew 6:11; Luke 10:1-4; Luke 22:35-38; 1 Timothy 5:17-18; 1 Corinthians 9:7-11; 1 Corinthians 4:8-16; 1 Timothy 6:6-10; Hebrews 13:5-8

Neither provide nor acquire on your trip; your mission is to be without material reward. Avarice and hoarding would prejudice your work. Money of any kind should not be taken, lest the gift and the benefit of miracles and of the Gospel seem for sale, least of all gold, not even silver, yea, not a single copper. The girdle of the upper garment was used not only for gathering up the loose mantle, but also for holding the purses or the loose change. In the same way a bag or wallet for provisions was not permitted, nor a second shirt or undergarment, nor traveling shoes, nor heavy staves, all of which would be a hindrance to you on your present journey. You should be like men in great haste, eager to begin and to carry on the great work. “Even the least profit from their office was prohibited; but implying neither a vow of poverty nor of mendicancy, in the popish sense. They were to introduce the great principle that the messengers of the Gospel had claim on daily support and free hospitality.” [Schaff, Commentary, Matthew, 185]. Worthy is the laborer of his maintenance, Mark 6:8; Luke 9:3. This is an axiom which contains, in the mouth of Christ, also a deep comfort. The workman that follows the other injunctions of the Lord need have no concern about his food and clothing; He will provide.

The form of approach:

Matthew 10:11-12

11 And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. 12 And when ye come into an house, salute it.


Cross-references

Mark 6:10; Luke 9:4; Luke 10:5; 1 Samuel 25:6; 1 Chronicles 12:18; Galatians 1:3-5

This shall be a standing rule; no matter what city or village it may be, the same procedure shall be followed. They shall earnestly, accurately examine and inquire as to the moral worthiness of the probable host, for a wrong choice might seriously harm the work. But when the choice has once been made, abide by the decision. Seek no better fare or more congenial company, lest you be marked as self-seeking men. It is always best to establish a center of activity rather than depend upon a transient and broken activity. There is here also a hint for the idle chatterer, the gadabout, the busybody, that frequents the streets and the company of those that may be able to further his ambition, instead of finding time for prayer and study at home. Such a home, the worthy abiding-place, shall be distinguished by the salutation of peace, as shall all the houses that are open to the servants of the Lord. Such a salutation is not an empty formula, but a blessing in the name of the Lord, granting the blessing of the Lord. He abides where His servant abides.

Reception and rejection:

Matthew 10:13-15

13 And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. 15 Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.


Cross-references

Mark 6:10-11; Luke 9:4-5; Luke 10:5-12; Matthew 8:8; Acts 16:14-15; Acts 13:44-52; Genesis 18:20; Genesis 19:24; 2 Peter 2:4-9; Matthew 11:20-24; Matthew 25:31-32

If, after your salutation, the house be worthy of the honor that a servant of the Lord remain there, then your peace, which implies the blessing of the Lord, shall come and rest upon that house. But after all the pains you have taken, your judgment and the information of others may still be at fault; yet your greeting of peace will not have been spoken in vain, rather it shall be returned to you, to bless the speaker coming with the Lord’s good will. The unkind treatment, however, shall in no case provoke you. Nevertheless, the mode of action in such a case, when both the house selected for a center of work and the entire community concur in rejecting the Lord’s apostles is prescribed. He speaks with great emotion, as the form of the sentence shows. There is an absolute cutting-off reserved for people guilty of such rejection. The symbolical act of shaking off the dust from the feet or shoes to signify utter rejection of the unclean, to be done, not in the spirit of irritation nor of vindictiveness, but in the sorrow which undoubtedly filled the Lord’s heart at the thought of such blindness. The vengeance upon such a city will be taken over by the Lord Himself. Even Sodom and Gomorrah, types and examples of the punitive justice of God, would not be so utterly rejected at the final judgment as will be the inhabitants of a city or village that refuse admittance to the servants of Christ and deliberately cast away the offered grace of the Redeemer. So highly Christ values the good tidings, the Gospel-message He commissioned the twelve to preach. Unbelief is the sin of sins.


Verses 16-25

The perils of apostleship

The basis of the apostles’ conduct:

Matthew 10:16

16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.


Cross-references

Luke 10:3; John 17; John 10:14-16; Acts 20:26-32; Genesis 3:1; Romans 16:19-20; Genesis 8:6-12

Their attention is called to the importance of His instructions. I send you, emphatic; He, the promised Prophet, makes use of His power in commissioning them as His assistants; in the midst of dangerous circumstances His gracious protection would attend them. Due to the natural depravity of men and the hatred of redemption, their position would be that of sheep surrounded by wolves, — but not in the power of the wolves! Danger might ever be lurking near, and vigilance untiring is demanded. Here nothing but weakness and natural timidity: there nothing but fierceness and rapacity; yet the mission must go on. The situation requires the wisdom, the prudence, the cunning of serpents, Genesis 3:1; Psalm 58:5; but, incidentally, the guilelessness, the innocence, the simplicity of doves, Hosea 7:11. “Though Christ commands His disciples to be harmless as the doves, that is, they should be upright and without bitterness, yet He also admonishes them that they be prudent as the serpents, that is, they should diligently beware of false and deceitful people and be careful, as it is said that serpents in battle with special cunning and art watch and shelter their head.” [Luther, 1, 624].

The enmity of men:

Matthew 10:17-18

17 But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; 18 And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for My sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.


Cross-references

Mark 13:9-10; Acts 7:51-60; Acts 12:1-5; Acts 14:1-7; 2 Corinthians 11:24-28; Philippians 1:29

Be on your guard against such men as might turn out to be wolves in disguise. Do not, in general, trust yourselves to men, beware of confiding trustfulness, which delivers you into their power, John 2:24. A cordial aloofness may sound like a paradox, but describes the proper attitude. Upon occasion and with the slightest excuse, the enmity of men, directed in reality against the Word, will find its outlet in persecution of the bearers of the Word. Both the higher tribunals of justice, where the punishment might take a very serious form, and the synagogs, whose assemblies, as lower courts, exercised discipline and inflicted penalties, such as scourging, would be used by the enemies, Acts 22:19; 2 Corinthians 11:24. In the present instance even the civil courts may be called upon to pronounce judgment against the servants of Christ on all kinds of trumped-up charges. The Lord refers not only to the provincial governors of Palestine, but, by His omniscience, He looks far forward into the future, where He sees His confessors cited to appear before the mightiest rulers of the world. A tribulation, indeed, but also an honor, since it is for His sake, on His account. And theirs will be the glorious opportunity of witnessing for the Master, of declaring His testimony in the midst of such adverse circumstances to the enemies, who, in the earlier period, were Jews, and to the Gentiles, such as the governors and the court officers and attendants would usually be. This testimony would, as always, have the purpose of calling the sinners to repentance and of hardening the deliberately obstinate to their own damnation.

Counsel against anxiety:

Matthew 10:19-20

19 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. 20 For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.


Cross-references

Mark 13:11; Luke 12:8-12; Luke 21:10-15; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; John 20:30-31; 1 Corinthians 14:37; 2 Peter 3:14-16; Revelation 22:18-19

Since such persecutions, such trials, will come, since that fact is established, make your preparations accordingly, put your heart and mind in a condition which will enable you to stand the ordeal. Anxious, worrying thoughts argue distrust in God, and tend to produce confusion. It is no personal defense which they are undertaking, but that of a cause. Since it is Christ’s and God’s cause, He will provide a lawyer at the critical hour. Man’s speech is at best imperfect, even in matters concerning this world only; how much greater the cause of the eternal Word! Set apologetic speeches, when the veracity and the power of the Gospel are on trial, may have their value. But so far as the apostles were concerned, they could at such times depend implicitly upon inspiration from on high; the Holy Spirit would give them the very words which they were to speak in their defense, Acts 26. And the promise holds true, in a measure, for all times. “Some of the greatest, most inspired utterances have been speeches made by men on trial for religious convictions. A good conscience, tranquillity of spirit, and a sense of the greatness of the issue involved, make human speech at such times touch the sublime.” [Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1, 163].

Persecution in the family circle:

Matthew 10:21-22

21 And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. 22 And ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.


Cross-references

Mark 13:12-13; Luke 21:16-19; John 15:18-21; Matthew 24:9-14

The indescribable depravity of man’s heart, causing such hatred of the purity of the Gospel, severing the closest natural ties, turning the members of the same household into mortal enemies: brother against brother, father against child; actual insurrection of children against parental authority leading to murder; all natural and family affections forgotten. The world as such has always hated the servants of Christ, and the generality of the hatred toward them has in no wise been modified, even though there is a good deal of prating about toleration. In times of unusual stress, even now, hatred of the pure Gospel and its heralds will spread over the earth like an infectious fever and will readily burst forth in persecution at the slightest apparent provocation. But again: It is for His sake, and therefore a privilege rather than a trial. And Christ holds out the promise of a reward of mercy to stimulate a cheerful courage. He that perseveres, that has enduring patience to the end when the deliverance will come (for the trial will be neither momentary nor perpetual), shall find salvation awaiting him, James 1:12; Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:11-12.

Advice and comfort during persecutions:

Matthew 10:23-25

23 But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. 24 The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. 25 It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?


Cross-references

Matthew 23:34; Matthew 2:13-15; Matthew 4:12; Matthew 12:11-15; Acts 8:1; Acts 9:23-25; Luke 6:40; John 13:16; John 15:18-21; Hebrews 12:3-6; Matthew 9:34; Matthew 12:24; John 8:48-59; 2 Kings 1:2-4

If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of His household! There is a far cry from shunning martyrdom to abandoning prudence and inviting the enemies to wreak their vengeance. Self-appointed martyrs often seek self-glory. Where flight during persecution is possible without a denial of truth, without abandoning a flock of souls to the wolf, it should be chosen. It will be in the interest of the cause, if the work is stopped by persecution in one city, to flee to another, where the reception is likely to be different and the cause of Christ thus furthered. Christ here makes a solemn declaration. The “coming of the Son of Man” is a term referring to the founding and propagating of the kingdom of Christ after His glorification, beginning with the Pentecostal miracle. Ye shall not have finished or completed the cities, there will be abundant room for your labors till the time of My entering into glory and the beginning of My work as the almighty Head of My Church, according to My divinity and humanity. The time is short and the work is great. Energy and courage are sorely needed. In the form of a proverb, Jesus adds another comforting admonition. They should not expect to be better off than their Lord and Master, the Head of the Christian household. To endure the same persecutions, to suffer the same injuries, to be heaped with the same maledictions, is their natural as well as their honorable lot. The enemies had gone so far as to apply the epithet Beelzebub, lord of idolatry, prince of devils, to Christ. It would be presumption for His followers to expect less. “When a person accepts the Word of God, the Gospel, let him think nothing else than that he in that hour comes into peril with reference to all his goods, his house, home, farms, and meadows, his wife, children, father, and mother, also his own life. When danger and misfortune then strike him, it will be so much easier for him, since he thinks: I knew very well before that it would happen thus.” [Luther, 3, 1079].


Verses 26-36

Fearless confession of Christ demanded

Matthew 10:26-27

26 Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. 27 What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.


Cross-references

Mark 4:21-25; Luke 8:16-18; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 1:13-25

Have no fear, is the key-note of this section. Do not let fear, which is natural under the circumstances, overpower you, since they that are your enemies and try to harm you, are human beings. Take the risks of your high calling. Two proverbial sayings are offered by Christ in support of His urgent admonition. The covered things will be revealed, the secret things will be made known. The hatred and persecution of the world are often disguised under the form of patriotism and humanity, necessity of unification, etc.; but God will, on the Day of Judgment, set everything in the proper light and render to every man his dues. In the mean time His work must go on. Its beginnings had of necessity been obscure, done, as it were, in darkness. But the disciples are to give it the proper publicity, set it forth in the light before the whole world. In the same way His confidential communications, His private teaching to them, was to be made common property. The learned doctors of the Jews had the custom of delivering their discourses in the synagogs to one of the elders, who then served as an interpreter in giving the people the sum of the dissertation in a popular form. In a similar manner, the work of the apostles should be carried on. The doctrine which they had received from Christ they are to proclaim with a loud voice from the roofs, since those of the Orient were flat and permitted such a use. Even to-day, and to-day perhaps more than ever, the disciples of Christ should make use of all legitimate ways to spread the Gospel-truths as widely as possible, never forgetting, however, that means to attract the people to the Gospel can never be made an end in themselves, lest the chief thing be made a matter of secondary importance. They shall be used to serve the Gospel only.

Further consolation:

Matthew 10:28-31

28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.


Cross-references

Romans 3:10-18; 1 John 4:15-19; 1 Peter 2:17; Proverbs 9:10; 1 Peter 3:13-22; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12

Why harbor fear? All that the persecuting enemies can destroy or injure is the body, if God should so permit. Only one fear can and should live in the hearts of Christ’s disciples, a deep-seated fear, an awe and reverence which fears not the punishment, but stands in holy dread of Him that judges and condemns both soul and body in everlasting destruction. For this is not a mere human tempter, who tries to harm his neighbor’s soul by leading him into sin, nor is it Satan, for he has no absolute power over body and soul. It is the great God, the divine Judge Himself. Fear of human enemies implies lack of faith in Him, which may in turn lead to denial and thus to damnation. And again: Why fear? So little is the sparrow valued that one will be sold for one half an assarion, less than one cent [Luco note: About a dollar in 2023 according to US Inflation Calculator]; so small is the loss of a single hair that it is not even noticed. And yet: Not a single one of the lowest of birds falls to the ground without God’s consent; the very individual hairs of our head are numbered. Will He whose care embraces the smallest details of every-day life permit harm to befall those that put their unwavering trust in Him? Will He who gives the assurance that we are preferred above many sparrows permit the enemies to harm our bodies?

The conclusion:

Matthew 10:32-33

32 Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven. 33 But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven.


Cross-references

Luke 9:26; Luke 12:8-10; Mark 8:38; Luke 11:23; Romans 10:9-11; Romans 9:33; Mark 16:16

A solemn reference to the final judgment. A confession of Christ in word and deed, an open proclamation of the truth and a steadfast defense of the truth, is demanded for every follower of Christ. This is all the more necessary, since we confess by the grace of Christ, and He wants to give every one that believes in Him this grace. In denying Him, therefore, we prove ourselves destitute of all grace and lacking faith entirely. As He will stand by those with an open confession and defense that cheerfully confess Him here, so will He turn from those who by their denial of Him cut themselves off from the grace of God. There is no neutral ground: for every one the choice is only between confession and denial.

The result of such uncompromising demands:

Matthew 10:34-36

34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35 For I am come 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. 36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.


Cross-references

Luke 12:49-53; Micah 7:5-7

The same thought as in Matthew 10:21. Peace on earth was promised at the birth of Jesus, Luke 2:14. And peace on earth was earned by the Redeemer, Isaiah 53:5; Romans 5:1; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19. But here is where the Lord refers to the second, terrible effect of Gospel-preaching, in the case of those that persistently refuse to accept the redemption through the blood of Jesus, 2 Corinthians 2:16. Christ foresaw this hostile opposition to His message; He knew, also, that the spiritual conflict which would be brought on by carnal enmity would find its expression in actual physical persecution. His disciples should not then imagine, as they were likely to do, that there would now be a reign of earthly quietness and peace, with all the blessings which the word implies. Division, contention, war, sudden, fierce calamities would follow the introduction of the Gospel. There is no more bitter hatred and strife than that due to religious differences. It estranges the closest of friends, it disrupts families, it causes lasting enmity between members of the same household. These features will accompany the propagation of the new religion. To stand firm on the side of Christ demands the utmost fearlessness.


Verses 37-42

Perfect consecration to Christ

Matthew 10:37-39

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. 38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me. 39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it.


Cross-references

Luke 14:26-33; Luke 16:13; Matthew 22:34-40; Matthew 22:1-14; Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; Luke 17:33; John 12:25-26

The facts, as just stated by Christ, may, under circumstances, make a very painful choice necessary, that between relatives and truth. In case of dissension in a family, policy and expediency suggest compromises, and this is the form of settlement usually adopted at the present time. Too often this means yielding on the part of the believers amounting to a denial of Jesus. It implies that earthly ties, the love of parents, the affection between brothers and sisters, are stronger, have a firmer hold upon the heart, than the express commands of Jesus. If there is any yielding of principle, of the reading of Scriptures, of praying in private, of attending church services, of resenting blasphemy, then there is an express or implied denial of Christ by one who is not worthy of Him. It is a peremptory demand for preference above all earthly interests. Of course, conscientious confessing of Christ will result in unpleasantness, will lay many a cross on the earnest Christian, just as the Romans forced those that were condemned to the accursed tree to carry their own cross. There is here also a prophetic reference. The Lord by expressions of this kind was preparing His disciples for the fate which was awaiting Him. He suffered all, even death on the cross, in confessing us. Crucifixion, terrible death; but horrible though it be, it means salvation for us. Shall His disciples prove themselves unworthy by refusing to follow after Him on the way of suffering, when a few years’ tribulation will bring them eternal joy? The life of a disciple of Christ is not his to use for selfish ends. Jesus uses the word “life” here alternately for the bodily life and for eternal life, the salvation of the soul. He that seeks and apparently finds his life here in this world, in the pursuit of temporal interests, and forgets the care of his soul, will lose the salvation of his soul. But if any one, for the sake of Christ and in staunch confession of Him, loses this earthly life with all it has to offer, he will find more than full and satisfying compensation in the reward of mercy at the hand of his Lord, the glories of eternal life.

A cheering saying:

Matthew 10:40-42

40 He that receiveth you receiveth Me, and he that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me. 41 He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.


Cross-references

John 10:30; Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 10:16; John 13:20; Galatians 4:12-14; Mark 9:33-37; Luke 9:46-48; John 12:44-45; Matthew 25:31-46

The apostles, the messengers of Christ, are His representatives. The treatment accorded them is, in them, given to Christ, and thus to God Himself, for the Master and God are one. But He makes the statement more general. He who receives, shows any kindness to, a prophet, one commissioned by God to teach the truth of eternal life, always keeping that fact in mind, will receive the reward of the prophet from God. The same holds true of him that shows a similar favor to any Christian brother, to any of the righteous. He also shall have a reward of mercy. And were it, under circumstances, only so much as a drink of cold water, as a welcome boon to a thirsty traveler, to refresh a brother, a fellow-disciple, or another sufferer, Christ affirms with great emphasis that such a person will not be without his reward. Christ speaks with great emotion, it is a question which affects Him very deeply, since the men whom He is sending out are His own messengers, who shall be consecrated wholly to Him. Any attention which may aid them in doing the great work of proclaiming the Gospel more cheerfully not only meets with His approval, but will, in the end, at least on the great day of reckoning, find such acknowledgment as will fully repay the kindness, and with thousandfold interest.

Summary

Christ commissions twelve of His disciples as apostles by transmitting to them miraculous powers, by giving them instructions as to dress, equipment, content of preaching, manner of entry, reception, and rejection of the Gospel, and demanding perfect consecration to Him.


Related Kretzmann Article


Chapter 11

Verses 1-6

John the Baptist’s deputation to Jesus

Jesus returns to His prophetical work:

Matthew 11:1

1 And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding His twelve disciples, He departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.


Cross-references

Matthew 10:1-15; John 15:10

The Lord had commissioned the twelve apostles, giving them complete instructions as to every part of their ministry. But while they were engaged in this important work, Luke 9:6, Jesus Himself was not idle. When He had ceased giving His orders, He went away from that place, most likely to some place of retirement, where He had had the opportunity of being undisturbed with His disciples, and began a new preaching and teaching tour among the towns of Galilee, accompanied, as before, by temporary and permanent followers, the Twelve apparently returning to Him from time to time.

John’s second attempt to lead his disciples to Christ:

Matthew 11:2-3

Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto Him, Art Thou He that should come, or do we look for another?


Cross-references

Luke 7:18-20; Matthew 3:1-3; John 1:6-8; Matthew 14:3-5; Matthew 9:14-17; Genesis 3:15; Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 49:10; Deuteronomy 18:15; Psalm 2; Psalm 110; Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6-7; Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38; John 20:30-31

When John, in his capacity as herald of Christ, had pointed Him out to his disciples the first time, two of those that heard him speak, followed Jesus, John 1:37. Upon a later occasion, John again bore witness of Christ, John 3:27-36, which might have been taken as sufficient invitation to all that heard him to become His disciples. In the mean time, John had been imprisoned in the fortress Machaerus, in southern Perea, near the boundary of Moabitis, which, after Jerusalem, was the strongest fortress of the Jews, Matthew 14:3. He had now been in prison for some time, but seems to have received the attention and the services of his disciples as before. These men had as yet no full understanding of their master’s message, but looked upon Jesus and His work with rather jealous and disapproving eyes, Matthew 9:14; John 3:28; Luke 7:18. They brought to John an account of Christ’s work, of His preaching and its effect, of His miracles of healing and the astonishment of the people. John himself, filled with the Holy Ghost from his birth, having been a witness of the revelation of God and being thoroughly convinced of Christ’s Messiahship, Luke 3:15; John 1:15; John 1:26; John 1:33; John 3:28, had no doubts concerning Christ and His mission. But the few disciples that were still clinging to him showed no inclination to leave him and follow the greater Teacher. Therefore he sent them as a delegation with a definitely worded question: Art Thou the Coming One, or shall we expect another? The reference was clear to every one that knew the Old Testament, Psalm 40:7, and was intended to open the eyes of the questioners. “It is certain that John proposes the question for the sake of his disciples; for they did not yet deem Christ to be He whom they should believe Him to be. And John had not come to draw disciples and the people to himself, but to prepare the way for Christ and bring all men to Christ, making them subject to Him. … But when Jesus began to perform miracles and was widely spoken of, then John thought he would dismiss his disciples from him and bring them to Christ, in order that they might not after his death organize a hereditary sect and become Johannites, but all cling to Christ and become Christians; and he sent them that they might learn, not henceforth from his testimony only, but from Christ’s words and works themselves, that He was the right man of whom John had spoken.” [Luther, 11, 74. 75; 12, 1019].

The reply of Jesus:

Matthew 11:4-6

Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me.


Cross-references

Luke 7:22; Matthew 4:23-25; Matthew 15:29-31; Luke 4:16-21; John 11:23-27; John 11:38-44; Matthew 10:8; John 20:30-31; 1 Corinthians 1:22-24

Jesus shows a tactful kindness in dealing with the questioners: No sharp rebuke for their tardiness in acknowledging Him, no dogmatic reply to cause resentment. He appeals to their and their master’s knowledge of the Old Testament prophecy concerning the characteristic work of the Messiah. They could believe the evidence of their eyes and ears: The blind were receiving sight, the lame were cheerfully walking about, the deaf were enabled to hear, the dead were being awakened, the poor were being gospeled, were receiving the glad message of their salvation through the preaching of Jesus, Isaiah 35:4-6; Isaiah 61:1-2; Ezekiel 36-37. This was literally true and was being demonstrated before the people from day to day. But it was true also in the spiritual sense, as becoming the spiritual kingdom of the Messiah: The blind were having the eyes of their understanding opened, Ephesians 1:18-19; the limping and halting were taking certain steps with their feet, Hebrews 12:12-13; those infected with the uncleanness of sin and every spiritual evil felt the healing power of the Gospel, Acts 15:8; 1 John 1:9; those whose ears had been stopped up by the traditions of men were being healed of this spiritual malady, Matthew 13:16; the dead in trespasses and sins were realizing the fulness of life, Ephesians 2:1-5; Colossians 2:13. And all this is summarized in the last sentence. Note: The disciples of Christ are recruited mainly from the poor and weak and base in this world, 1 Corinthians 1:26-29. But their most indispensable quality is poverty of the soul, that they despair of all their own riches in spiritual matters and rely entirely upon the free grace and the unsearchable riches of Christ, Revelation 3:17; Revelation 2:9; Ephesians 3:8. “To the poor is proclaimed the divine promise of all grace and comfort, offered and brought forward in Christ and through Christ, that whosoever believes shall have all sins forgiven, the law fulfilled, his conscience delivered, and finally have eternal life donated to him. What happier news may a poor, wretched heart and afflicted conscience hear? How could a heart become more defiant and courageous than by such comforting, rich words and promises? Sin, death, hell, world, and devil, and all evil is despised when a poor heart receives and believes such comfort of divine promise; to make the blind see and to raise the dead is rather a simple thing beside preaching the Gospel to the poor, therefore He places it last, as the greatest and best of all these works.” [Luther, 11, 85; 12, 1026]. There is a distinct warning in Christ’s final sentence, against taking offense in Him and His work, for him that expected a temporal kingdom as well as for him that was not satisfied with His patience, tolerance, gentleness, and sympathy, as shown in His words and deeds. “Natural man said: Should this be the Christ of whom the Scripture speaks? Should this be He whose shoes John did not think himself worthy to unlace, since I hardly deem Him worthy of wiping my shoes? Truly it is a great mercy not to take offense in Christ; and there is no other counsel nor help here but that one look upon the works and compare these with Scripture; otherwise it is impossible to hinder the offense. The form, the appearance, the behavior are all too lowly and contemptible.” [Luther, 11, 88].


Verses 7-19

Christ’s testimony concerning John

Matthew 11:7-10

And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. 10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, which shall prepare Thy way before Thee.


Cross-references

Luke 7:24-27; Luke 1:57,80; Ephesians 4:11-16; Luke 1:76-79; Malachi 3:1; Mark 1:1-3

The purpose of this instruction was not to restore the authority of John the Baptist, which he himself is supposed to have endangered by his embassy to Christ, but to convince the people and especially the scribes and Pharisees of their inconsistency in accepting John the Baptist as a divinely appointed preacher and at the same time rejecting Christ, to whom he had always pointed. An important point: The excellencies of John’s character as herald should even now serve to make his message emphatic. For John had not been a reed shaken by the wind, after the manner of preachers that temper the truth to the sensitive fastidiousness of fashionable hearers, 2 Timothy 4:3, whom Luther calls reed-preachers, that do not risk life, honor, favor, but are guided by the demands of the people. Neither was John clothed in soft raiment, he did not use his influence, as he might easily have done, in his own interest, for his own benefit. That is the privilege of those that live in kings’ houses. In their case it is not objectionable, their station may even be said to demand it. But refinement, luxury, a life of ease is not the object of the true servant of God, he is not accustomed to wear such fine garments. But if your answer, speaking seriously, is that the object of your quest was a prophet, then you were right. For John is a prophet and more. All the Old Testament prophets pointed far into the future and sang of a Messiah whose coming was still afar off. But John was the herald of One who was standing in the midst of the people, in regard to whose person he could bear witness. He was the second great Elijah, whose life-work consisted in preparing the way for the Lord, Malachi 3:1; he was the angel, whose message was to make ready the hearts of men for the Savior.

The application of these truths:

Matthew 11:11

11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.


Cross-references

Luke 7:28-30; John 1:29-34; John 3:25-36

In solemn terms Christ gives His own valuation of the worth of John the Baptist. Not only has no greater prophet than John arisen, but among all mankind there is none that approaches him in capacity to render effective service to the kingdom of God. And yet, “he who is comparatively less in the kingdom of heaven, according to the standard of that kingdom, or who occupies a lower place in it, is greater than John, in respect of the development of his faith and spiritual life.” [Schaff, Commentary, Matthew, 206]. Every lowly disciple of the new dispensation is greater than John the Baptist. For John did not see the day of Christ; his career came to an end before Jesus entered into His glory. And so the children of the present covenant that have the entire fulfillment of the prophecy, Christ crucified and resurrected, before their eyes, have a still more perfect revelation and a more powerful light than John.

The conclusion:

Matthew 11:12-15

12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. 15 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.


Cross-references

Luke 16:16-17; Malachi 4:5; Luke 1:13-17; Mark 9:11-13;

Since the time that John preached his message of preparation, it is possible to get possession of the kingdom of heaven; yea, and the violent actually take hold of it with a stormy hand, with a sure grip. The whole movement was a convincing argument for the earnestness and power of John’s message. “The tax-gatherers and heathens, whom the scribes and Pharisees think have no right to the kingdom of the Messiah, filled with holy zeal and earnestness, seize at once the proffered mercy of the Gospel, and so take the kingdom as by force from those learned doctors who claimed for themselves the chiefest places in that kingdom.” [Clarke, Commentary, 5, 129]. The fact that the new era has actually begun with John the Baptist is set forth once more. The prophecy preached of a kingdom which was to come, John’s preaching referred to a kingdom realized in the coming of Jesus. Here was no more prophecy, but fulfilment: The Christ now stood revealed, all predictions and types are found in the life of Jesus, Luke 16:16. Up till John the Law ruled; he stands on the threshold between the old and the new. Since John the Gospel is in power; he is the antitype of Elijah. This fact may seem rather hard to understand, but they should make an attempt, nevertheless, to receive it. For it is a truth demanding intelligent and attentive ears, such as are ready to learn and to believe as well as to hear.

An earnest censure for the Jews:

Matthew 11:16-17

16 But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, 17 And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.


Cross-references

Luke 7:31-32; Matthew 16:1-4; Luke 11:29-32

With whom shall I compare this race, especially the Pharisees and those people that follow their leadership, that permit themselves to be influenced by their mode of thinking? Jesus points to the capricious, wilful children of the streets and the market-place, whose selfishness prevents their entering into the spirit of any game with proper energy. If the others play on the flute, they refuse to be merry; if the others tried to please them by imitating the mourning wail of funeral dirges, they would not beat their breasts nor show signs of mourning. The irony with which Christ describes the characteristic spoil-sport is brought out still more strongly in the original language which He used, where it includes a play on the words “danced” and “lamented.”

The direct application:

Matthew 11:18-19

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. 19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.


Cross-references

Luke 7:33-35; Mark 1:6; Luke 1:13-15; Matthew 9:9-13; Luke 7:36-50

The proof for the accusation of childishness. When John the Baptist led an austere life, not eating nor drinking, confining his food to the articles most necessary to sustain life, the suspicion was raised that he must surely be mad. The Pharisee loved to play at fasting and act the rôle of an abstemious holy person, but he could not endure the earnest, sincere preacher. The contrast is very strong in the language of Christ: Came John neither eating nor drinking, — Came the Son of Man eating and drinking. Jesus, in His outward behavior, purposely did not distinguish Himself from ordinary men. He neither advocated nor practised false asceticism, works for mere show before men. And the result: In horrified outrage they point the finger of scorn at Him. What a glutton, what a wine-bibber, what a toper! The criticism is harsh, unjust, childish, but in total harmony with the character of the Pharisees. “They play at religion; with all their seeming earnestness in reality triflers. They are also fickle, fastidious, given to peevish fault-finding, easily offended. These are recognizable features of the Pharisees. They were great zealots and precisians, yet not in earnest, rather haters of earnestness, as seen in different ways in John and Jesus. They were hard to please: equally dissatisfied with John and with Jesus; satisfied with nothing but their own artificial formalism.” [Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1, 175]. This perverse generation has its representatives on earth even to-day. The world wants nothing either of John or of Jesus. The preaching of the Law, of repentance, hurts their fine sensibilities, but the Gospel of free grace and mercy in Christ Jesus is still less to their liking. The comfort of Christ under such circumstances is that wisdom is justified of her children, of her works, or fruits. This proverb, as it stands, may mean: Christ, the personal Wisdom, Proverbs 8-9, was obliged to justify Himself against the judicial verdict of those who should be His children, but refused to accept Him; or: The wisdom of God, present in the preaching of John, and embodied in the person of Jesus, was justified, acknowledged, given its right by the children of wisdom, who accepted its teachings. Thus the heavenly Wisdom always finds some disciples and children that receive Him gladly and are, in turn, instructed in the way of salvation by grace.


Verses 20-24

The woe upon the Galilean cities

Matthew 11:20

20 Then began He to upbraid the cities wherein most of His mighty works were done, because they repented not:


Cross-references

Matthew 3:1-3; Mark 1:14-15; Psalm 81:11-13; Matthew 12:38-42

The historical occasion upon which Jesus said these words is not known. He may have used the same words here, in connection with His censure of the Pharisees, and also in His instructions to the seventy disciples, Luke 10:13-15. In order to avoid useless difficulties, it is a simple matter to remember that Jesus more than once found need and occasion to say the same things twice and oftener. He found Himself here obliged to objurgate, earnestly to scold the Galilean cities whose inhabitants had seen so many evidences of His divine power, in whose midst the majority of His signs and wonders in the northern country had been performed. They had marveled, they had been filled with astonishment, with amazement, they had praised the manifest glory of God, they had proclaimed Him a wonder, they had eagerly sought His help for their diseases, and welcomed Him as the Savior of the body. But — they had not repented, there was no change of mind and heart. They were just as far from the kingdom of God as they had been before the coming of Christ.

The curse upon Chorazin and Bethsaida:

Matthew 11:21-22

21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.


Cross-references

Luke 10:13-14; Isaiah 23

It is not a mere personal opinion which Christ here utters, but a judgment which is fully equivalent to a curse. They had rejected Him and His Gospel, and so He is compelled to pronounce sentence upon them: Woe, judgment, condemnation! Chorazin was a town on the western side, on the road from Capernaum to Tyre, not far from the seashore. Bethsaida was on the other side of Capernaum, on the lake, Mark 6:45; Mark 8:22. Tyre and Sidon were heathen cities, and had often been the subject of prophetic curses, Isaiah 23:1; Ezekiel 26:2-3; Ezekiel 27:2; Zechariah 9:2; Jeremiah 25:22; Jeremiah 27:3; Joel 3:9. They are taken as representatives of the entire heathen world in their opposition to the true God, in their moral corruptness and idolatry. The contrast is purposely glaring: The Galilean cities signally blessed both temporally and spiritually from olden times, their inhabitants members of the chosen people of God, now distinguished more than ever by the sojourn of Christ in their midst with the revelation of His glory, with opportunities such as no other cities ever had; and the heathen cities that were visited only occasionally by a prophet of the Lord. The greater the grace, the greater the responsibility. On the Day of Judgment all these things will be taken into account and sentence rendered accordingly, Luke 12:47-48; Luke 13:34-35. Only the deepest and most sincere repentance, in black sackcloth, with ashes on the head, in token of penitence, is acceptable to Christ.

The curse upon Capernaum:

Matthew 11:23-24

23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.


Cross-references

Luke 10:15; Isaiah 14:13-15; Genesis 18:20; Genesis 19:24; Revelation 20:11-15

Capernaum, the commercial metropolis of northern Palestine, had been signally marked and blessed by Christ in that He made His home there during the Galilean ministry, and had performed some notable miracles there, and because its inhabitants heard some of His mightiest sermons: Most prosperous, with the greatest spiritual privileges, but the people, as a whole, most unsympathetic toward Christ. Exalted most high, degraded most deeply! Such is its curse. For even Sodom, representing the essence of bestial filth and immorality, would have responded to such evidences of special divine love and mercy. On the Day of Judgment, therefore, Sodom also will be preferred above Capernaum. It is a terrible thing to despise God’s visitation of grace. All those that have had an opportunity to learn about Christ and His work, but refuse repentance and faith, will receive a severer judgment on the last day and will be condemned to greater damnation than other sinners that were not so signally blessed with the revelation of truth.


Verses 25-30

The Gospel call

A most devout prayer of thanksgiving:

Matthew 11:25-26

25 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. 26 Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in Thy sight.


Cross-references

Luke 10:21; Acts 17:24-25; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Psalm 8:2; Matthew 21:15-16; Matthew 18:1-6

The final purpose of the entire work of salvation, in all its various branches, is the glorification of God. These things, the mysteries of the kingdom of God, are hidden from those that are wise in their own conceit, that believe themselves to be above the eternal revelations of God’s wisdom in His Word. The scribes and Pharisees of Israel deemed themselves the custodians of the wisdom and understanding of the Law in all its applications. To them the Gospel is hidden, because they deliberately close their hearts and minds against its beauties. But to babes, those that are as ignorant of this world’s wisdom as little children, God has revealed the glory of the Gospel. It is necessary for him that would know the beauties of God’s message of salvation to men and of the entire Bible which contains this message that he rid himself of all preconceived ideas on moral and religious subjects, and be ready and eager to give unqualified assent to all that God says in His Word, 2 Corinthians 10:5-6. For such a condition of heart on the part of believers Christ glorifies His heavenly Father, through whose power the hearts are made ready to receive the Scriptures with all humility. That is the Father’s good pleasure, although it also redounds to His glory if the proud and wise of this world reject the Word of grace. So far as the Bible with its glorious and saving truths is concerned, especially that truth that a man is saved, not by works, but by grace through faith alone, it must always be the anxious endeavor of every Christian, aided by the strength from above, to avoid the doubting and doubt-instilling wisdom of this world, and present evermore such a heart that has a childlike trust and faith in Jesus and His merits, and in all the revealed truths of Holy Writ. “There are two things over which Jesus here is glad. The first, that God has hidden such mystery from the wise and understanding. The other, that He has revealed it to the little ones, the simple, the babes. Those are the children and babes that do not talk against the Word of God, that do not murmur against God’s will, but, as He deals with them, they are well pleased with it. This includes all those that are not wise and understanding in their own conceit, nor fall into God’s work and Word with their reason.” [Luther, 7, 829].

A majestic assertion:

Matthew 11:27

27 All things are delivered unto Me of My Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.


Cross-references

Luke 10:22; John 1:1-18; 1 John 1:1-4; John 6:44-46; John 7:28-29; John 8:19; John 10:14-18; John 14:6-11; John 10:30; 1 John 2:22-23

A most sweeping assertion: to Christ, according to His human nature, all things are given into His power. He is the sovereign dispenser of all things, all good things and gifts come from Him, Matthew 28:18. And the relation between Him, even according to His human nature, and the heavenly Father, is a most intimate one. He alone thoroughly knows the Father, just as the Father thoroughly knows the Son. There is full comprehension, perfect understanding between the two persons of the Godhead, because they are one in essence. Whosoever acknowledges, knows, believes in the Father and the Son and in their counsel of salvation through the Son, receives this knowledge and belief from the Son, who reveals God and His love to the world. He wishes and He wills the salvation of men.

The gracious invitation:

Matthew 11:28-30

28 Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.


Cross-references

Isaiah 55; John 7:37-39; Matthew 23:1-4; Luke 11:46; Philippians 4:4-7; Acts 15:22-29; Ephesians 2:1-10; 1 John 5:1-5; Revelation 21:5-7

No mere man could have spoken these words, so full of heavenly majesty and divine comfort. Christ purposely makes use of many Old Testament phrases, but He applies them all to Himself, thus showing that all the types are realized and fulfilled in Him. Full of both authority and kindness is His call, going out to the fatigued and the burdened, to the poor sinners whose weight of transgressions is bowing them down to earth, who can find no solace or relief in all the wide world. In Him they all find rest, relief, new life, new strength, whether their burden be one placed upon them by others or foolishly taken up by themselves. Instead of this load, which is bound to drag them down to everlasting damnation, Christ will supply another, far different burden, one which, by a paradox, is rather a privilege. For it is His yoke, the yoke of the cross, which the Christians must bear in this world, as followers of Him that bore His cross for our sake. His example will be a steady reminder that we must learn in all things, in the midst of the sorrows and tribulations of the world, to follow His meekness and lowliness, which was not outward, assumed, but a meekness of the heart. This burden of Christian obligation is kindly to bear, it is light to stand up under; there is nothing grievous and oppressive about it, because, in the final analysis, He bears both us and our burdens in love: He gives rest unto our souls, such rest, such complete satisfaction as comes through the knowledge of the Savior and His complete redemption, 2 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Corinthians 7:4; Romans 8:35. Far from separating us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, the tribulation of this present life, the cross which we bear for the sake of our Lord, binds us more closely to Him with bands of everlasting strength. “The believers look upon the invisible only and not upon the visible, they adhere with simple, pure faith to the Word. And it is true also in regard to temporal things, as we said above, that the goods which we have from God are more important and more excellent than temporal misfortune can be. But how much more is this true in the Church, where this word is sounded: My burden is light, namely, for those that believe My words; and My yoke is easy, namely, if we look upon Christ, who has promised to give us rest, as He Himself says there: And ye shall find rest unto your souls. For these words: Ye shall find, indicate that the pious are without rest for a time. But such turbulent time is short; the rest of the souls, however, which the believers will find, will be important and eternal.” [Luther, 1, 1343, 1344]. That is the final comfort of the Gospel-promise: There remaineth a rest to the people of God, Hebrews 4:9.

Summary

John sends a delegation to Christ, which gives the latter an opportunity to testify concerning the Baptist and His own work. Jesus also pronounces a woe upon the chief Galilean cities and issues a majestic Gospel invitation.


Chapter 12

Verses 1-13

The Lord of the Sabbath

The hungry disciples:

Matthew 12:1

1 At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath day through the corn; and His disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat.


Cross-references

Mark 2:23; Luke 6:1; Deuteronomy 23:25

While Jesus was engaged in the work of His ministry in Galilee, He came into conflict with the Sabbath observance of the Pharisees. His disciples, who accompanied Him on His walk, became hungry. Now they were on a path leading through a field of grain, which was ready for harvest. “These paths are often exceedingly rough. They were never surveyed and never repaired. They were simply devoted to public use by immemorial custom. If a landowner wished to raise grain in a field through which one of these paths ran, he plowed up to the very edge of the narrow path and put in his seed. There were neither fences nor ditches to separate the road from the field. Fields traversed by such roads are still very common in Palestine. It was along such a road that Jesus and the disciples were traveling when they plucked the ears of wheat on the Sabbath.” [Barton, Archeology and the Bible, 132]. Note: The Law permitted a hungry man to pluck ears from the field of another, in order to still the pangs of his hunger, Deuteronomy 23:25. But this was on a Sabbath, or, as Luke says, on the second Sabbath after the first, Luke 6:1, that is, the first Sabbath after the second day of the Passover, when the sheaf of first-fruits was offered, Leviticus 23:10-11; for in this way, and from this day, did the Jews reckon the time until the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost. Hardly, however, had the disciples begun to pluck ears when fault was found.

The objection of the Pharisees:

Matthew 12:2

But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto Him, Behold, Thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the Sabbath day.


Cross-references

Mark 2:24; Luke 6:2; Exodus 31:13-15; Exodus 34:21; Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Luke 6:6-11; Luke 13:14-16; Luke 14:1-6; John 5:1-17; John 7:19-24; John 9:13-16; Hebrews 4:4-13; Colossians 2:16-17; Acts 15:22-29

The malicious faultfinders deliberately made a mountain out of a mole-hill and construed the action with their usual intolerance. The plucking to them became reaping, and the rubbing with the hands to remove the hulls in their eyes became threshing. There was no wrong done even from the standpoint of the strictest interpretation of the Jewish Law. But the Pharisees so construed it and took offense, incidentally accusing Christ as an accomplice for permitting the sacrilege. Christ’s answer:

Matthew 12:3-5

But He said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the Law, how that on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?


Cross-references

Luke 6:3-4; 1 Samuel 21:1-6; Exodus 25:30; Leviticus 24:5-9; Exodus 29:32-34; Numbers 28:9-10

Jesus had a most disconcerting way of quoting Scripture to His enemies, which usually resulted in their chagrin and shameful rout. He has two examples for them: David, in fleeing before the wrath of Saul, came to the sanctuary of the Lord at Nob, 1 Samuel 21:1-6, where Ahimelech, the priest, gave him the show-bread, the bread of the countenance of God, from the table in the Holy Place. These consecrated bread-cakes were to be eaten by the priests only, Leviticus 24:8-9, and yet David, the great model of Jewish piety, ate of this hallowed bread with his men. And again: The priests, in the regular discharge of their duties, in sacrificing the burnt offerings in the morning and evening services of the Sabbath day, were technically transgressing the Sabbath law, with its absolute prohibition of work, thus, if one would argue from the standpoint of the Pharisees, actually profaning the Sabbath.

The application of the argument:

Matthew 12:6-8

But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day.


Cross-references

Mark 2:27-28; Luke 6:5; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8; John 1:1-5; James 1:27; 1 Peter 4:7-8; 1 Corinthians 13

Christ’s argument itself could not be challenged, but He now brings out the principles involved to reveal the smallness and the uncharitableness of their hearts. In the first place: He is greater than the Jewish Law and the Temple. What was permitted to the priests that served in the Temple must surely be conceded as a right to His disciples. Then also: The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. The greatest law finding its application here is the law of charity, Hosea 6:6. All the sacrifices made in punctilious observance of the letter of the Law cannot be placed on a level with the mercy, with the love, which is the fulfilment of the Law. A heart that realizes the need of the neighbor and cheerfully helps in obtaining all that is needed, is engaged in a higher form of worship than that which upholds a rigorous legalism. And finally: Christ openly declares that He is the Lord of the Sabbath. He is the founder of the New Covenant. All the Old Testament precepts concerning sacrifices, Sabbath, festivals, were only shadows of things to come. They have lost their force since Christ has now been revealed. The Word of God and the law of love alone rule in the New Testament.

The application of these principles:

Matthew 12:9-13

And when He was departed thence, He went into their synagogue: 10 And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked Him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath days? that they might accuse Him. 11 And He said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the Sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? 12 How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days. 13 Then saith He to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.


Cross-references

Mark 3:1-5; Luke 6:6-10; Exodus 23:4-5; Deuteronomy 22:1-4; Exodus 31:13-15; Exodus 34:21; Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Luke 13:14-16; Luke 14:1-6; John 5:1-17; John 7:19-24; John 9:13-16; Hebrews 4:4-13; Colossians 2:16-17; Acts 15:22-29

The hatred of the Pharisees was intensified with each new defeat. They had received a well-deserved rebuke based upon Scriptural grounds, but they were determined to turn the admiration of the people into suspicion and then into opposition. And so they laid their plans for another Sabbath, Mark 3:2; Luke 6:6. Jesus, according to His custom, went into the synagog to teach. And there, evidently by design, was a man with a dried-up, shriveled hand. Here was a case which could bear postponement till the morrow. But so eager are the Pharisees to provoke the Lord that they put a question with reference to the lawfulness of healing on the Sabbath day. Christ’s reply, two counter-questions and an irresistible conclusion. A man with any feelings at all, seeing the misery of a dumb beast, aside from the fact that it is his one possession, will draw the sheep out of the cistern. Their own rabbis, at that time, made provision for such cases. And a man should not receive as much consideration as an animal? Their own canons permitted the doing well on the Sabbath. It is, therefore, right to heal. Christ defied the authority of the Pharisees, and challenged them to bring accusation against Him. And the sick man, in obeying the command of Christ, acknowledged His authority and set aside that of the Jewish leaders. A signal manifestation of faith, on the one hand, an instance of divine power, on the other: the best fulfilment of the Sabbath.


Verses 14-30

The enmity of the Pharisees and Christ’s answer

Matthew 12:14

14 Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him.


Cross-references

Mark 3:6; Luke 6:11; John 5:18; Matthew 27:1-2; Psalm 2

Overawed for the moment, and unable to formulate an answer, their envy and malice soon leads them from finding fault to plotting against the Lord’s life. They came together and conferred with one another with the express object of finding ways and means to put Him to death. So far can hypocrisy debase a person that the most outrageous uncharitableness and lack of mercy, even deadly hatred and enmity, are covered over with pious customs and a sanctimonious behavior.

Jesus retires:

Matthew 12:15-21

15 But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew Himself from thence: and great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all; 16 And charged them that they should not make Him known: 17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, 18 Behold My Servant, whom I have chosen; My beloved, in whom My soul is well pleased: I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. 19 He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear His voice in the streets. 20 A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench, till He send forth judgment unto victory. 21 And in His name shall the Gentiles trust.


Cross-references

Mark 3:7-12; Isaiah 42:1-3; Isaiah 61:1; Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 4:14-19; Romans 15:8-13; Galatians 3:27-29

The hour of Jesus had not yet come in which He would be delivered into the hands of His enemies, so He left the city in which He had had the encounter with the Pharisees. The spell of His personality and of His words was still upon the people, who followed Him in crowds. And His Savior sympathy went out to them in the same miraculous manifestations, in works of healing. But more than ever He disliked and discouraged publicity, since it was bound to do harm to His work at this stage. He therefore begged them with an almost threatening attitude not to reveal Him. He wanted to perform His ministry, for the present, almost in concealment. And herein was the prophecy Isaiah 42:1-4 fulfilled. The servant of Jehovah is the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who, according to His human nature, had received the Spirit of God at His baptism, who, at the same time, had been acknowledged as the Son of God, whose Gospel-message was to be the light of the Gentiles till the ends of the earth. His spirit would be neither that of contention nor of blatant self-advertising after the manner of preachers that bring their names to the front, but forget the Gospel they were sent to preach. So gentle, sympathetic, and kind would His spiritual ministry be that those that are weak, whose faith was at the point of extinction, could depend upon His help. The bruised reed is carefully bound up until the contusion is healed: the weak Christian receives strength from above. The lamp of faith which is at the point of expiring will receive fresh oil from the Gospel. By this manner of working in and through the Gospel the Messiah will lead His Gospel to victory over all the forces of Satan and man’s pride, and the Gentiles themselves, at present still far from the testimonies of promise, will learn to trust in His name. A short, but comprehensive statement concerning the Messianic work of Christ, the miracles of His prophetic office.

A demoniac healed:

Matthew 12:22

22 Then was brought unto Him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and He healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw.


Cross-references

Luke 11:14; Matthew 4:23-25; Matthew 9:35

This narrative fittingly illustrates the gradual growth of opposition, hatred, enmity, malice, and calumny on the part of the Pharisees. A man was brought to Christ whom the Evil Spirit had deprived of both sight and speech, thus torturing him by the loss of these senses.

Matthew 12:23

23 And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the Son of David?


Cross-references

Luke 11:14; Matthew 1:1; John 7:42; Luke 1:31-32; Revelation 22:16

Their minds had not yet been saturated with the poison of enmity toward Christ; they were frankly overwhelmed by this new evidence of divine power, and openly declared their conviction that this man must be the Son of David in the absolute sense, the promised Messiah, in whom the prophets had bid them trust. They still express themselves somewhat doubtfully, however: Can this possibly be He? There can surely no longer be any doubt. The Pharisees, ever present, immediately harbored bitter thoughts:

Matthew 12:24

24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.


Cross-references

Luke 11:15; Mark 3:22; Matthew 9:34; John 7:14-31; John 6:41-42; John 8:48-59; 2 Kings 1:2-4

This thought was provoked by the frank expression of amazement on the part of the people. Apparently, they did not voice their sentiments outside of their own circle, because they feared the multitude; but, after the manner of their kind, they murmured and grumbled among themselves, accusing Christ of being in league with the devil, as once before, Matthew 9:34. Beelzebub, which means god of flies, and Beelzebul, god of dung, had originally been names of idols, and were by the Jews applied to the devil. It was an insult without parallel which they thus heaped upon the Lord.

Christ takes them to task:

Matthew 12:25-28

25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: 26 And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? 27 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. 28 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.


Cross-references

Luke 11:17-20; Mark 3:23-26; Hebrews 4:12-13; Jeremiah 17:10; Romans 8:26-27

Christ not only knew of the efforts of the Pharisees to discredit Him, but as He that searches hearts and minds He knew their very words, and therefore immediately shows the foolishness of such talk, the absurdity of the accusation and its implication. Just as it is proverbially true that lack of unity and harmony disrupts a nation, and that the same condition in a household or in a community will sever the relations which make for growth and prosperity, so it is true of the kingdom of Satan. There seems to be a lurking implication in the expression of Christ: Such follies are sometimes committed by communities, civil wars being by no means unknown, although history shows the fatal consequences in scores of cases. But Satan, wicked as he is, is not such a fool. The thought that Satan would try to evict Satan or any of the devils is the height of absurdity. Give him credit for greater sharpness of wit. And Jesus strengthens His argument by showing how their accusation against Him condemns themselves. The Pharisees had children, or disciples, whom they trained to be exorcists, Acts 9:13-14, who made a practise to journey through the country and attempt to drive out demons from those possessed. They used certain medicines, but depended mainly upon magical formulas, in which the name of Jehovah was freely used. The reference to these performances effectually blocked the Pharisees. To answer now meant to condemn themselves and their own practises. They were silenced, judged, and condemned by their own criticism. Jesus, however, in His extraordinary success in expelling demons, demonstrated beyond doubt that the Spirit of God was on His side, the same Spirit who, in and through Him, had brought the kingdom of God to them and sought to work faith in their hearts.

Another illustration:

Matthew 12:29-30

29 Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. 30 He that is not with Me is against Me; and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth abroad.


Cross-references

Luke 11:21-23; Mark 3:27; Isaiah 49:25; Matthew 4:1-11; Matthew 27:50-54; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 5-6; Revelation 20:1-3; Revelation 12:7-12; 1 John 3:8; Colossians 1:13-14

In case they were not yet convinced, He will attempt to establish His position by another parabolic saying. Every demoniac is a captive of Satan, bound, body and soul, in his power, to do his will. But Christ has come to destroy the works of the devil, 1 John 3:8. He wants to take the stronghold of the enemy and wrest his prey from him. This Jesus did, not only in the individual cases when He cured demoniacs, but by His entire life, suffering, and death, by His active and passive obedience in behalf of all men. He has gained a complete deliverance from the bondage of the devil. On His side, in His strength is victory, and there alone. This fact gives emphasis to the warning statement as to the alternative: either for or against Christ. There is no middle ground in this decision, there is no neutrality in this fight. This referred not only to the Pharisees, whose enmity was growing more evident every day, but especially to those among the people that were still undecided. The so-called neutral people that do not wish to oppose Christ outright, but also do not wish to antagonize the children of the world, the wise blasphemers, are, in the last analysis, enemies of the work of Christ and hinder the coming of the Kingdom. Instead of gathering with the Lord of the harvest, their hesitancy, their vacillating policy, harms His cause.


Verses 31-37

The sin against the Holy Ghost

A solemn warning:

Matthew 12:31-32

31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. 32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.


Cross-references

Mark 3:28-30; Luke 23:34; Mark 16:16; John 3:18; Romans 11:20-22; Isaiah 5:20-21; Romans 1:18-23

The Jews were having their day of grace with manifestations of God’s mercy such as had never been granted to any nation before. The Spirit was making a most gracious effort to reach their hearts and minds through the Word as preached by Christ and His disciples. But their leaders and many of the common people were deliberately hardening their hearts against the influence of Christ’s work and message. As long as the opposition and even the blasphemy would flow mainly from ignorance and be directed chiefly against the person of Christ, there would be opportunity and probability of repentance. Just as soon, however, as there is blaspheming against the Holy Ghost, then all this is changed. For this implies that a person has, indeed, conceded and acknowledged Jesus as the Redeemer of the world, that he has had the conviction of faith, that he was unable to deny the evidence; but in the face of evidence and conviction he deliberately, blasphemously rejects the work of the Holy Ghost for his salvation. The phrase: Neither in this world nor in the world to come, emphatically declares that the peculiar nature of this sin precludes all forgiveness; there is absolutely no hope.

Kindred warnings:

Matthew 12:33-37

33 Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. 34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. 36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.


Cross-references

Matthew 7:13-20; Luke 6:43-45; Mark 16:16; John 3:18; Romans 10:10-11; John 3:5-6

These words no longer describe the sin against the Holy Ghost, but they characterize the conduct of such as may be in danger of hardening their hearts against the benign influences of Christ and His Gospel-message. It is the nature of a good tree to yield good fruit; it is the nature of a putrid, rotten tree to have rotten, bad fruit. All depends upon the relation to Christ, whether a person does good or evil works. As for those that followed the Pharisees in their hatred and its consequences: generation of vipers, He calls them. The malice, the hypocrisy, the deceit of serpents is their outstanding trait, Matthew 3:7; Psalm 140:3. John the Baptist and Christ agree in their judgment of them. Satanic evil is all that one may expect from a morally hopeless brood. The poison of their nature must come out in the filthiness, in the malevolence, in the enmity of their tongue. A significant fact: In the midst of His scathing denunciation Jesus uses a proverb that has a good interpretation as well as an evil. The heart, filled to the brim with certain thoughts, naturally overflows in the words expressing the condition of the heart. If the heart be a treasure-house of good, edifying thoughts and desires, they strive to come out in kind, edifying speech. But if sinful desires have taken possession of the heart, there will be passionate outbursts in words directed against all the commandments, Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21. And this is no small matter: Every idle, vain, empty, superfluous word, spoken without need or the purpose of edifying, is a matter of record before God, and must be answered for at the final Judgment. For the word, as the ancient Greeks were wont to say, is the revelation of the soul. Words are the index of a good or a bad heart, of a heart firm in the faith in Christ and full of love toward Him, or of a heart that has never taken thought of the will of the Lord, and is bad out of pure inertness toward that which Christ has declared to be good — the poorest species of unbelief.


Verses 38-45

The sign from heaven and a warning

A request:

Matthew 12:38

38 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from Thee.


Cross-references

Matthew 16:1; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:16; Luke 23:8; John 2:18; John 4:48; 1 Corinthians 1:22-24

The emphatic manner of speaking which Christ had been employing may not have been without influence upon some of His hearers. Some of those that were not yet open blasphemers may have been sincere enough in asking for some proof of Messianic authority in making such statements. On the other hand, the connection will hardly permit such a charitable interpretation. No, those that had just cast the suspicion of Satanic influence upon Christ resented the fact that He was assuming royal and judicial authority before them. They rejected His claims. Probably in open derision they ask for a sign from heaven to substantiate the claims which they believed absurd.

The refusal:

Matthew 12:39-40

39 But He answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: 40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.


Cross-references

Jonah 1:17; Matthew 16:2-4; Mark 8:12; Luke 11:29; Genesis 6:5; Psalm 53:3; Luke 11:11-13; Mark 8:38; James 4:4

An evil brood and adulterous He calls them. He saw into their hearts and judged them accordingly. He knew what their purpose in asking a miracle was, since they were not earnest seekers after truth. In a spiritual sense they were adulterers, Isaiah 23:17; they were idolaters, since they rejected Him, the Messiah of the world. They would join with the heathens in the act of His condemnation and crucifixion. One sign, one great miracle, indeed, would be given to them and to the world: His resurrection, typified in the history of the prophet Jonas. The belief in His resurrection will for this generation and for all the generations to come be the touchstone by which the followers of Christ will be distinguished from His enemies. Jesus refers to the time between His burial and resurrection according to the Jewish manner of reckoning time, any part of a day being counted as a full day.

A warning call:

Matthew 12:41-42

41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. 42 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.


Cross-references

Jonah 3:6-10; 1 Kings 10:1-5; Matthew 16:2-4; Luke 11:30-32; Matthew 12:6; John 8:53-59

The mention of Jonas brings on the further thought. The Ninevites heard and heeded the call to repentance as it was made by Jonas, Jonah 3:10. He was only a prophet called by God to bring this message, whereas here was the Author of the message Himself in the midst of the Jews, and both His person and His message were unheeded. On the Day of Judgment, therefore, these heathen people will rise in accusation against the Jewish nation and their leaders. They will bring a formal charge and complaint, and show them to be guilty in their rejection of Christ. In the same way the great queen that came to see Solomon and hear his wisdom, 1 Kings 10, will appear before the tribunal of God on the last day and add her testimony to that of the Ninevites for the condemnation of the Jews. From a far country, from Arabia Felix, she came to hear the wisdom of a mere man. But here the eternal Wisdom from on high was expounding the counsel of God from eternity, and yet that generation rejected Man and message.

A comparison:

Matthew 12:43-45

43 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. 44 Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. 45 Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.


Cross-references

Luke 11:24-26; Matthew 8:28-32; Isaiah 34:14; Revelation 17:3; Revelation 18:2

The last words give the key to the entire passage. The people of that generation were like demoniacs, from whom the evil spirits have been driven. They had their opportunity now to be rid of the Evil One’s influence forever. If they would continue to despise His message, their experience would be like that of the man whom He describes. The deserts were represented as the habitation of the devils, Job 30:3; [Luco note: Kretzmann writes “Rev. 28, 2”. He likely refers to Revelation 18:2. Cf. Revelation 17:3]; Leviticus 16:21, Banished into the wilderness of desolation, but continually moving in search of a resting-place, and failing to find relief from the tediousness and monotony, the evil spirit resolves to return to his former habitation. The recital is dramatic: Coming, he finds it empty, swept, and garnished; no good spirit has been permitted to make his home there; all love, meekness, and every good impulse has been thrust out, and vain, showy trifles of fashion and folly are decorating the heart. With so much encouragement the result is easily seen. Seven associates the evil spirit chooses, all of them morally even lower than himself; and all of the devils together make such a person their lasting home. Such is the damnable self-surrender of such as deliberately harden their heart in rejection of Christ and in voluntary unbelief. Theirs is the sin of sins. The fate here pictured by Christ is the one which will overtake all that despise the merciful visitation of Christ in and through His Gospel, that have heard His message of love, but have forgotten and despised His gifts. They are children of destruction in a twofold sense, by nature and by choice. And their end is damnation.


Verses 46-50

Christ’s relatives

Matthew 12:46-50

46 While He yet talked to the people, behold, His mother and His brethren stood without, desiring to speak with Him. 47 Then one said unto Him, Behold, Thy mother and Thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with Thee. 48 But He answered and said unto him that told Him, Who is My mother? and who are My brethren? 49 And He stretched forth His hand toward His disciples, and said, Behold My mother and My brethren! 50 For whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother.


Cross-references

Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21; Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; John 7:1-5; Galatians 1:19; Acts 15:13; Isaiah 9:6; Hebrews 2:11-15; John 15:12-17

This interruption is not to be explained as vanity or a desire to interfere with the Lord’s work. Mary had not learned her lesson in vain, Luke 2:49; John 2:4. And His other relatives, whether they were His cousins, or stepbrothers, or true brothers, were guided by Mary. It was rather tender solicitude on the part of Mary. It may have happened more than once that the friends of Jesus were afraid He might become distraught on account of too constant application to preaching and healing, Mark 3:21. Jesus makes use of the opportunity to give a lesson to at least a part of the assembled multitude. Natural affection and relationship cannot interfere with the sovereign claims of duty. It may be necessary, under circumstances, for the sake of Christ and the Kingdom, to deny all human ties, as Christ did here. With an eloquent, sweeping gesture, which included His disciples standing near Him, He gave His definition. They whose hearts are bound up in Christ’s, they whose faith in Christ causes them to acknowledge the true Fatherhood of God, and makes them eager to live a life of service in doing His will, are knit together with Him in the closest possible union. To them Christ is in deed and truth their brother, and they are, in the fullest sense of the word, brothers, and sisters, and mothers of Christ. This spiritual relationship is the most wonderful and the most valuable in the world, it is often the one thing which upholds the Christian in the midst of the opposition and the trials of these last days, since the full acknowledgment will be made in heaven.

Summary

Christ proclaims Himself Lord of the Sabbath, performs a miracle in support of this principle, defends Himself against the accusation of being in league with the devil, warns against the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost and hardening of the heart, refers to the final sign of His resurrection, and teaches what relationship with Him implies.


Related Kretzmann Article


Chapter 13

Verses 1-23

The parable of the sower

Matthew 13:1-2

1 The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. And great multitudes were gathered together unto Him, so that He went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.


Cross-references

Mark 4:1-2; Luke 8:4; Matthew 4:23-25

Though the shadow of unbelief and of spiritual hostility is evident even in this chapter, it nevertheless affords a welcome relief from the strained condition of Christ’s last encounter with the Pharisees. It was on the same day, indeed, but under entirely different conditions. Note: Christ hardly ever is represented as having become weary; He was untiring in His labors for the salvation of men; He never permitted an opportunity to do good to escape His tender solicitude. Leaving the house where He was staying in Capernaum, He went out to the shore of the lake and sat down, probably for a confidential talk with His disciples. But the usual crowds came together and surrounded Him, making it necessary for Him to enter into a boat, where He sat down, while the people occupied the space between the sea and the rise of land toward the west as a natural amphitheater. His power and popularity as a teacher had not yet diminished, in spite of all the efforts of the Pharisees, but Christ Himself was preparing for a change of sentiment, as His parables indicate.

The parable story:

Matthew 13:3-8

And He spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.


Cross-references

Mark 4:2-8; Luke 8:4-8

Parables are stories of comparison, and as Jesus employed them, He made use of the familiar in nature and in human life and experience to teach and bring home the great facts of His kingdom in its real and in its apparent form. Even ordinarily the Orientals were fond of parables, but Jesus had, besides, a remarkably effective way of catching the attention of His hearers, and emphasizing the important points in the comparison. The parable of the fourfold soil is an example. There is a farmer, a husbandman, such as the people of Galilee were accustomed to see, engaged in sowing his grain, broadcast. It cannot be avoided that some of the seed falls upon the pathway leading through the field, such as were common in Palestine. The result: The grains are trodden under foot; the birds, all manner of birds, pick them up as welcome food. Some of the seeds find lodgment in the stony soil, where the rock was close to the surface, with only a thin covering of earth. The result: The rock holds the heat, there is a quick sprouting and shooting up into the air, but a still quicker scorching by the sun, since the roots have no chance to enter deeply into the ground. Other grains fell among the thorns, where the plow had indeed been used, but had not succeeded in clearing away all the thorn roots. The result: The hardier weeds with their heavy foliage cut off air, light, and moisture from the tender stalks of grain, thus suffocating them. But other seed fell upon good soil, rich, loamy, soft, deep, clean, where it had moisture and sunlight in the right proportion, and could grow up and fulfil the hopes of the husbandman, bringing a rich return for his labor. Jesus cries out in conclusion:

Matthew 13:9

Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.


Cross-references

Mark 4:9; Luke 8:8; Matthew 11:11-15

A hint that there is a hidden meaning in the story, and that every hearer should find this meaning and apply it properly. Where is there a similar experience in the spiritual life?

The request for an explanation:

Matthew 13:10

10 And the disciples came, and said unto Him, Why speakest Thou unto them in parables?


Cross-references

Mark 4:10; Luke 8:9; James 1:5

The disciples who were present with Jesus, including probably even some of the twelve apostles, were still remarkably dense in spiritual matters. They had little understanding of the kingdom of God and of the real reason and end of Christ’s mission. They were not mainly concerned about the method of teaching, but about the explanation of the story. — The reason for speaking in parables:

Matthew 13:11-15

11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. 13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. 14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: 15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.


Cross-references

Mark 4:11-12; Luke 8:9-10

Christ divides His hearers into two classes; but far from expounding a Calvinistic double decree in God, He makes a very careful distinction in explanation of the different positions toward Him and His message. To you it is given, He tells the disciples. It is not a matter of greater intelligence or of greater moral worth, but only of God’s gracious gift through the Holy Ghost. The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven they are to know through His agency, the truths once hidden, but now revealed and made known in order to add souls to the Kingdom, to His Church. The disciples had been given, and they had received, this knowledge for the salvation of their souls. The Spirit gave it to them that they not only heard and saw, but also understood with the heart and believed, as Luther says. And these mercies were to be multiplied upon them. Their understanding and their possession of the wonderful mysteries of God should grow from day to day, giving them, finally, a rich abundance of God’s mercies. But the other class did not receive Christ’s message, therefore to them nothing more is given. He that lacks understanding in spiritual matters will become more and more impoverished from day to day. It is the judgment of God upon a perverse people, due entirely to their own guilt and rejection of Him and His mercy. Isaiah had been obliged to take them to task for this refusal to bow under the hand of God, Isaiah 6:9-10. He had announced to them the judgment of God. Their physical eyes and ears may be in commission, but the understanding of their soul would become duller with the passage of time. Their heart would become stupid, they would have ever greater difficulty in hearing the voice of God, their eyes would become closed to the offering of His mercy. That is the judgment of God upon those that harden their hearts against the Gospel of mercy, whose prime purpose is to save souls. This judgment upon Israel began in the days of the Prophet Isaiah, and was completed in the days of Christ and the apostles. The great mass of the people of Palestine, both in Judea and Galilee, hardened their hearts against Christ’s Word and work. And so the preaching of Christ finally became unto them a savor of death unto death, 2 Corinthians 2:16.

The blessedness of Christ’s followers:

Matthew 13:16-17

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. 17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.


Cross-references

Luke 10:21-24; John 8:56; 1 Peter 1:3-12; 1 Corinthians 2:6-16

The full and true happiness is that of having eyes and ears opened by the benign mercy of Jesus. Not only were the outward members of the disciples’ bodies blessed for being witnesses of the fulfilment of the Old Testament, of seeing Him and being in constant, intimate communion with Him, to whom the whole ancient covenant pointed forward, whom the prophets and the righteous people from Eve and Jacob to Malachi and Simeon had longed to behold, but the eyes of their understanding were enlightened by His power. They knew Jesus as their Savior, and were happy in this knowledge.

The interpretation of the parable:

Matthew 13:18-23

18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. 19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. 20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. 22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. 23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.


Cross-references

Mark 4:13-20; Luke 8:11-15; John 15:5; John 3:16-21; 1 John 2:15-17; 1 Peter 5:6-11

He sets His disciples apart: Ye therefore hear, and, in hearing, learn the lesson. The seed that is sown in the Kingdom and for the purpose of winning for the Kingdom, is always the same, the Word of God, just as He is the same that does the sowing, either personally, as in the days of His earthly career, or through His servants, as at the present time. But there are also four different kinds of soil in spiritual matters. Some there are (and it is true of all that act in the same way) that pay fleeting attention to the Message of the Kingdom. They have somehow come into contact with the Church, some phase of church-work has struck their fancy. But there is no understanding, they literally do not take it into their hearts and minds, the Word never becomes a real factor in their lives. In this case the Evil One, Satan, has little difficulty in snatching away the truth which they have just barely grasped with their intellect, 2 Timothy 4:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:11. “To us it does not seem a dangerous matter to hear the Word of God, and yet not keep it; those that do it we regard as bad, inattentive people and think it is natural that they hear the sermon and still forget it. But Christ judges differently here and says: The devil takes the Word out of the heart of the people. … Therefore, if thou seest a person who permits himself to be talked to and preached to as to a log, and the whole matter amounts to as much as if one strikes into water, … then think nothing else than that the devil has sat down in his heart and snatches the seed, the Word of God, away, that he does not believe and is not saved.” [Luther, 13, 204. 205].

Another class of people that are temporary Christians are characterized by the eagerness and apparent joy with which they accept the Word. Their avidity for instruction is sometimes almost embarrassing. But they are quick, emotional, shallow natures. Their faith, though genuine, is not rooted deeply enough to withstand disappointment, especially tribulation, suspicion, hatred, enmity, and the resulting open or hidden persecution on account of the Word. Their rapid acceptance of the Word is equaled only by their hasty offense when they are asked to suffer for the sake of Christ. They want the crown, but not the cross. Not much different is the case of another class, whose members are said to hear the Word, probably with at least an intellectual acceptance. Their hearts have not properly been cleared of the roots of worldly cares and desires. They are not sincere toward the Word, do not use it to purify their hearts. The cares and worries of this world, the love and the desire of riches, fill their hearts and engross their attention. There is no real Christianity in their souls.

Only the fourth class of hearers present soil ready for a crop and fruit that is well-pleasing to the Lord. They are they who hear and heed the Word in fine and good hearts. In this instance the soil of the hearts has been well prepared by the plowing of the Law, which incidentally weeded out all earthly love and care of this world, all selfishness and self-righteousness. Then the Master has sowed His good seed, the Gospel of His mercy. He also sends the fountains of His grace and the sun of His righteousness. And, behold, there is good fruit, though the measure depends upon differences of gifts, of disposition, and of the capacity for receiving and spreading the kingdom of God.


Verses 24-52

The parable of the tares, and others

Matthew 13:24-25

24 Another parable put He forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: 25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.


Cross-references

Matthew 21:33-46; Luke 17:20-21; John 10:10

An important point: The parable is set forth, is presented, as spiritual food, for instruction of the soul. The kingdom of heaven, the Church of Christ, strictly speaking, includes only such as are united under His leadership by the bonds of a common, sincere faith in Him. But the Lord here, as often, describes the Church as it appears in the world, as we deal with it in concrete form. His picture is again taken from the work of the farmer. A man will certainly sow only the best seed obtainable in his field if he wants a large and heavy crop. That was also the custom of this husbandman. But during the time when men, that is, the average honest man, usually slept, his enemy came with a certain malignant seed, a degenerate form of wheat, whose stalks and spikes closely resemble the true grain (bastard wheat, or darnel), and deliberately and maliciously sowed this weed-seed in the midst of the wheat as thickly as though there were nothing there. Having done his spiteful deed, he went his way. The damage, he knew, could hardly be discovered until it would be too late to remedy matters.

The result of the scheme:

Matthew 13:26-30

26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. 27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? 28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? 29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.


Cross-references

Matthew 3:11-12; Matthew 13:36-43; John 10:10

The enemy’s plan certainly proceeded from devilish ingenuity. For not until the field began to mature and form spikes did the spiteful trick become evident, since the false wheat branches out with ears on each twig. The surprise of the farm-laborers is due to the extent of the area infested with the weeds: surely not due to bad seed nor a case of volunteer growth. The householder knew the reason, some hostile man being the only one that could carry out such a thorough plan to work him harm. Moreover, he is opposed to the plan suggested by the workmen that they go out and pull up all the false wheat. The roots of the tares being intertwined with those of the wheat, the danger was that both would be uprooted together. His plan is rather to wait until the wheat is ripe, when the present objection no longer holds good. The reapers could easily make the proper selection, after which the tares could be tied into bundles to be burned, while the wheat could be brought into the granary. Aside from the Lord’s explanation below, there is a lesson in these words of the householder which should be carefully noted. “According to this example thou canst now also get the proper idea of the manner in which we should proceed against the tares, which are called false doctrine, or the heresies and false Christians of whom this Gospel speaks. For in the Church it happens just the same way: We cannot avoid having evil men in our midst, such as heretics and sectarians, for if one be rooted up, the evil spirit will awaken others. How then shall I proceed? I must eliminate and yet not destroy them. … How so? Why, do as the grain does here, let them grow a while. Only be sure to remain lord in thy dominion. Thou preacher, pastor, and hearer, hinder and prevent them, the heretics and rebellious teachers, from ruling and reigning. Let them indeed grumble in the corner, but do not, so far as in thee lies, permit them to come into the pulpit and to the altar. In no other way can one restrain them; for if I should want to eradicate one with force, two would grow in his stead. Therefore thou must act against them in this way, by restraining them through the Word and faith; and let no one take thy pure faith, confession, and Christian life; admonish and upbraid them as much as thou canst; if that has no results, excommunicate them publicly, that every one may regard and shun them as dangerous weeds.” [Luther, 12, 1248. 1249].

Parable of the mustard seed:

Matthew 13:31-32

31 Another parable put He forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: 32 Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.


Cross-references

Mark 4:30-34; Luke 13:18-19; Matthew 17:14-20; Luke 17:5-6; Daniel 4:20-37

He set before them choice spiritual food for their instruction and edification. The kingdom of Christ in its growth is like a grain of mustard seed, whose size and appearance give no intimation of the force of its sprouting nor of the size of the herb at its full maturity, whether one restricts the word to the garden herb or includes the mustard tree of the Orient, whose great size is often referred to by Jewish writers. So large does it become that the birds may make their roosts in its branches. It seems almost incredible that such a tiny seed can produce such a large, treelike plant. But even so, as Christ here predicts, the kingdom of Christ grows from small beginnings until it extends over the whole earth, and becomes a place of rest and of peace for all people. The few despised disciples whom Christ gathered about Him were the nucleus of the great Christian Church, which came into existence and is maintained through the power of the Gospel.

Parable of the leaven:

Matthew 13:33

33 Another parable spake He unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.


Cross-references

Luke 13:20-21; Genesis 18:1-8; Matthew 16:5-12; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8

A very small piece of leaven, or yeast, if set to flour or meal, under the proper conditions, will quickly impart its properties to the entire mass. Jesus purposely takes a large quantity, three satons or seahs being equal to about sixty pints. The yeast may be hidden by the process of kneading, but it will not be long before its strength will become apparent, and the whole mass be leavened. Thus the Word of God, which builds the Kingdom, also exerts its leavening power in case of individuals as well as in that of whole communities and nations. It has the inherent strength to change and to renew the heart and the life of men and to fit them ever more thoroughly to be true members of the kingdom of God.

An explanation by the evangelist:

Matthew 13:34-35

34 All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake He not unto them: 35 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.


Cross-references

Mark 4:33-34; Psalm 78:2; John 16:25-33; Romans 16:25-27; 1 Corinthians 2:6-16

It was at this time that Jesus made use of this form of teaching for reasons which Matthew had indicated above, Matthew 13:13. Here again was a prophecy fulfilled, Psalm 78:2. But, though the majority of the audience no longer had the true spiritual benefit from the beautiful stories which Jesus told them, yet there were a few that would understand His language. For them His teaching became in reality a revealing, a making known, of the wonderful things of God which had been hidden since the foundation of the world, known only within God’s council. The invisible, heavenly beauties are here unfolded before the eyes of the unlearned disciples in a simple, appealing manner, though Christ was obliged, especially at first, to open the eyes of their understanding.

Jesus explains the parable of the tares:

Matthew 13:36-43

36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and His disciples came unto Him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. 37 He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; 38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; 39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. 40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. 41 The Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.


Cross-references

Matthew 13:24-30; 1 Corinthians 3:5-9; Isaiah 66:16; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 2:16; Matthew 25:41,46

The narrative reveals a respectful intimacy on the part of the disciples. When Jesus had returned home, they did not hesitate to ask for an explanation, in order that the meaning of the parable might be altogether clear to them. He was patient with them. He interpreted to them one point after another. The wide world is the harvest-field of the Son of Man, who here represents Himself as the Lord of the Church. His seed are the believers; the unbelievers are the children of the devil. At the time of harvest their unbelief will become apparent, though they have skilfully hidden it under a semblance of piety. They are called offenders that hinder the development of the good grain; they are guilty of behavior contrary to law, of a deliberate ignoring of the law. These facts should not be a matter of surprise to the Christians. “Christ not only tells us about this, but also indicates the reason where such rubbish comes from, that in the Church where the true seed is sown, that is, the Word of God is preached in its truth and purity, there are still so many noxious weeds, so many hypocrites and false Christians. But He indicates the reason to warn us against the offense, which otherwise scandalizes the whole world and causes her to say that nothing good comes from the preaching of the Gospel. … Such is not the fault of the doctrine, which is pure and wholesome; neither is it the preachers’ fault, who would like to see, and apply all diligence to have, the people become more pious. But it is the enemy’s, the devil’s, fault; he does like a wicked farmer or neighbor: When people sleep and are not thinking of harm, he does not sleep, but comes and sows tares in the field. That is the point which is brought out also in the parable before this: He takes hold of the hearts that they pay no attention to the Word, and thus day by day are farther removed from it, and let the devil lead and drive them as he will, into all manner of sin and shame.” [Luther, quoted in Stoeckhardt, Biblische Geschichte des Neuen Testaments, 64].

On the Day of Judgment the sifting will take place: The false Christians will receive their sentence and be condemned to suffer the tortures of hell-fire, where wailing and gnashing of teeth will be their lot. But those whom Christ has declared righteous, who are righteous in His eyes through the merits of the Savior whom they have accepted, — they will receive the reward of mercy. Their glory will be a shining, visible brightness, as of the sun. And they will have the full realization that God is their true Father in Jesus Christ, through whom they are justified in His sight and have received the adoption of sons. It is a matter of earnest, prayerful anticipation.

Parable of the treasure:

Matthew 13:44

44 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.


Cross-references

Proverbs 2:1-5; Proverbs 23:23; Philippians 3:7-11; Revelation 3:18; Revelation 21:5-6

Jesus is here not concerned about the moral aspect of the act, if, indeed, this comes into consideration here. It is a story which finds its parallel often enough, as in the discovery of a vein of coal or of the ore of some precious metal. In this case the treasure had been deliberately hidden or buried. By chance or by design a man finds this treasure. Realizing its great value, he carefully covers over once more what he has discovered. Hardly able to contain himself for joy over his lucky find, he goes and sells all his property and buys that same piece of land. A lively effect in the telling! The salvation taught in the Gospel is like such a rich treasure, like a hidden mine whose veins run out in all directions in Holy Scriptures, a treasure of inestimable value. “The point of the parable is that the kingdom of heaven outweighs in value all else, and that the man who understands this will with pleasure part with all.” [Luco note: This unattributed quote appears to be from Expositor’s Greek Testament].

Parable of the pearl:

Matthew 13:45-46

45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: 46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.


Cross-references

Isaiah 55:1-6; Proverbs 23:23; Philippians 3:7-11; Revelation 3:18; Revelation 21:5-6

Knowing that a perfect pearl, of large size, of regular spherical shape, of even luster, would far surpass in value hundreds of small, imperfect pearls, this merchant, an expert in his line, set out to seek, and, if possible, to find, such a rare valuable. Having found one which seemed to him exceedingly precious, he risked his all, stripped himself of all his possessions in the one great venture of his life. The glory and beauty of God’s mercy in the Gospel is so great and precious that all else sinks into insignificance beside it. The pearl of the Christians is the greatest treasure in the kingdom of God, the salvation in Christ. He who has learned to know this priceless gift will gladly renounce all goods, joys, and delights of this world, and consider all human wisdom and righteousness as loss, in order to gain Christ.

Parable of the net:

Matthew 13:47-50

47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: 48 Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. 49 So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, 50 And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.


Cross-references

Matthew 4:18-19; Matthew 25:31-46; Isaiah 66:16; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 2:16

This parable offers a picture with which the disciples were very familiar. A large net, as used for deep-sea fishing, is cast into the sea and compasses a great number of fish of various kinds, good and bad, edible and unwholesome. Although the entire netful is drawn to the shore, the value of the catch is in the good fish, the rest being separated by a careful sorting and thrown away. They are not really counted as belonging to the catch. The kingdom of heaven, in the form in which it appears here on earth, is like such a net. The working of the Gospel-preaching results in an outward collection of such as are really members of the Kingdom and such as merely bear the semblance of such membership, but have not accepted the Gospel. The latter add to the bulk, but do not belong to the essence. On the last day the separation will take place, and the sorting will result in the eternal condemnation of those that were merely feigning membership, who care nothing for faith and salvation.

Conclusion of the parables:

Matthew 13:51-52

51 Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto Him, Yea, Lord. 52 Then said He unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.


Cross-references

John 10:1-6; Matthew 15:10-20; John 16:25-33; 2 Timothy 3:12-17

With the aid of the instruction which Christ had previously given them, the disciples were able to some extent to follow His parabolic sayings and draw the right conclusions, to realize the importance of their proper application. Pleased with this evidence of understanding on their part, He gives them some more instruction pertaining especially to their future work. Every transcriber and interpreter of the sacred Scriptures, in this connection every Christian teacher, taught of God in the mysteries of the Gospel of Christ, because he is a pupil of the kingdom of heaven and a disciple of Jesus, is able freely to distribute from the treasure entrusted to him. He will be able to use old, familiar facts, types, and doctrines to illustrate the truths of the Kingdom. He will present the old Gospel in a new dress, applying it to the conditions and times in which he is working, throwing the spotlight of a new understanding, of a more thorough interpretation on passages which may have become familiar by constant repetition. As he himself grows in knowledge, so he aids his hearers to grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ, their Savior.


Verses 53-58

A visit to Nazareth

Matthew 13:53-56

53 And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, He departed thence. 54 And when He was come into His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not His mother called Mary? and His brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? 56 And His sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?


Cross-references

Matthew 2:19-23; Mark 2:1; Luke 4:16-23; Mark 6:1-3

Jesus now closed this series of parables. For a time at least His disciples would be kept busy digesting the great spiritual truths which He had made known unto them. He went away from Capernaum; literally, removed Himself thence. Coming to His old home, Nazareth, He taught His former neighbors in their synagog. This was undoubtedly a second visit, different from that spoken of Luke 6:16-30. But the results differed little from that time. At first His hearers were almost stupefied with amazement; they wondered at His wisdom, at His powers, at His ability to perform miracles. But on second thought they remember His youth in their midst. He is nothing but the son of a carpenter, a worker in wood. We know all the members of His family. The text here points very strongly both to natural brothers and sisters of the Lord. “Whence, then”: an expression of contempt; they thought they knew His whole bringing-up. They evidently did not realize that they were condemning their own town and its schools in disparaging the worth of a native son: He certainly could not have gotten all that from us!

Christ’s behavior in this crisis:

Matthew 13:57-58

57 And they were offended in Him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. 58 And He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.


Cross-references

Mark 6:4-6; Luke 4:24-30; Matthew 11:2-6; John 7:1-5; Isaiah 53

The offense which they took discredited only themselves; their pride and their envy caused their own destruction. Christ therefore merely calls to their mind the proverbial saying as to a prophet’s being without honor in his own home. Their unbelief grieved Him very deeply. He had made every effort in their behalf, but their rejection made further endeavors useless. The number of His miracles was greatly reduced, restricted to the few exceptional cases in which belief was evident. The unbelief and contempt of the people of Nazareth drove Jesus out of their midst; they did not recognize God’s visitation of grace.

Summary

Christ teaches the people, but especially His disciples, by means of the parables of the fourfold soil, of the wheat and the tares, of the grain of mustard seed, of the hidden treasure, of the pearl of great price, of the net with fish, and of the householder, and makes a visit to Nazareth, where He is rejected.


Chapter 14

Verses 1-12

The death of John the Baptist

The fame of Jesus reaches Herod:

Matthew 14:1-2

1 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus, And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.


Cross-references

Mark 6:14-16; Luke 9:7-9; John 1:6-8; Luke 3:1-6; Matthew 3; Matthew 11:7-15; Matthew 21:25-26; Acts 1:15-26

Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, was tetrarch of Galilee and Perea until 39 A. D. In ambition, political sagacity, and love of splendor he equaled his father. The new city of Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee was a monument of his luxurious tastes. At that time the tidings of Jesus reached the royal palace. Herod had been so busy with his political schemes at Rome, with his adulterous pleasures, and with his ambitious plans in general, that he had paid little attention to his country. Just now, however, he seems to have made Tiberias his residence for some time, and so he heard of Jesus, about whom the whole country was speaking. He immediately draws the conclusion that it must be John the Baptist resurrected who was performing such extraordinary miracles. Evidently the conscience of Herod was bothering him on account of the murder of John the Baptist, of which he was guilty.

The story of John’s imprisonment:

Matthew 14:3-5

For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife. For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.


Cross-references

Mark 6:17-20; Luke 3:19-20; Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18; Leviticus 18:16; Leviticus 20:21; Matthew 21:25-26

A laconic account of sordid baseness! Herod had been legally married to the daughter of Aretas, king of Arabia. And Herodias, his niece, daughter of Aristobulus and Berenice, had been married to Philip, the brother of Herod Antipas. But Herod rejected his lawful wife and persuaded Herodias to leave her husband and live with him in an adulterous union, to which the ambitious libertine readily assented. She brought with her a daughter by legal marriage, Salome, who equaled her mother in shamelessness. John had not hesitated about taking Herod to task on account of his heinous sin. The adulterous ruler may have felt the justice of the rebuke, and might have been willing to overlook the frankness of the intrepid preacher. But Herodias resented the reflection upon her, all the more since she must admit the implication. For her sake Herod caused John to be seized, bound, and cast into prison. In the mean time, he was forced to meet the army of Aretas, who took bloody revenge upon Herod for the insult inflicted upon his daughter. If the Romans had not interfered, Herod might have paid dearly for his immoral indulgence. As it was, he was in a quandary, undecided whether he should put John to death, as Herodias urged, or set him free, because the people believed him to be a prophet, and Herod himself was rather deeply affected by John’s preaching, Mark 6:20. Whenever he came to Machaerus, the case came up anew to trouble him.

The birthday feast:

Matthew 14:6-8

But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod. Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger.


Cross-references

Mark 6:21-25; Esther 7; 1 Kings 18:13

There was a great birthday celebration, with much luxury and costly show, the highest military and civil authorities and the most prominent citizens of the country having been invited. There was much eating and drinking, and various forms of entertainment, after the Oriental custom. The feast was nearing its close, most of the guests were probably in a state of half-intoxication, the excitement of revelry had risen to the greatest height, when a feature not on the program was introduced by the cunning Herodias with the aim of carrying out her design. Her daughter Salome suddenly appeared in the midst of the festive assembly. Leaping into the middle of the hall, she performed a dance, a lascivious performance calculated to incite the passions. Herod and his guests broke out into wild rounds of applause. And, carried away by the sensual appeal of the dance, Herod made ready to reward the princess handsomely, backing up his first offer with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Then was the scheme revealed; for the girl had been instructed, or rather induced, instigated, impelled, brought up to that point by her mother’s precepts, and so made her appalling request. Here, in the very place of her recent indecent exhibition, she demanded, on a large serving-platter, the head of John the Baptist. Thus the vindictive persecution of Herodias reached its climax. “Thus the hypocrites in our days also do; they murder the innocent, pretending, meanwhile, that it must be done because the people refuse to remain with the Christian Church. Very well: Persecute thou the Word of God, blaspheme His holy name and kill the innocent, and adorn thyself afterwards and say, I have done this for the sake of God’s Word and name. Wilt thou know what thou art? Thou art a child of Herod; he is thy father.” [Luther, 13, 2730].

The reaction and its result:

Matthew 14:9-12

And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath’s sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her. 10 And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. 11 And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother. 12 And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus.


Cross-references

Mark 6:26-29; Matthew 16:21-23; Matthew 17:10-13; Matthew 27:15-26

Although Herod, here called king by courtesy, was sorry, touched for a moment with regret, and because, for the once, he realized that he had been tricked, yet his foolish, rash, repeated oaths had been heard by the guests, and the cowardly tyrant feared their criticism. He yielded, with something like a sigh of relief. The adulterer became a murderer. And Herodias, no less guilty, could celebrate her triumph when her daughter brought her the head of John on the platter, as it had been cut off the body in prison. A gruesome sight, no less in the private room of the mother than in the banquet-hall. The young woman truly was a match for her mother in depravity: Her indecent, sensual dance is paralleled by her cool acceptance of the horrible gift. The closing chapter of John’s career: His disciples took the dead body and buried it, after which they notified Jesus, probably with the intention of warning Him.

The lessons of the story are evident. “Now this is the most important point, that we learn two things from John. The first is for the preachers. Whoever is in the office of preacher should not esteem his life dearly, but do the work of his calling, and freely, without dread, rebuke whatever is offensive. That is well-pleasing to God, and therewith, as we read in the prophet Ezekiel, every one saves his own soul; for else he must give account for the sins of those whom he does not rebuke, as he should do by reason of his office. … The other point is not only for preachers, but for all Christians, that we may learn especially from this example that God is not evilly inclined toward us, even though He permits us to be persecuted, to come under the cross, and to suffer all distress. … He that wants to be in the kingdom of Christ dare not be afraid of cross and death. For such is the testament of the Lord Christ, and He, Christ Himself, has entered thus into the Kingdom.” [Luther, 13, 1164. 1165].


Verses 13-21

The feeding of the five thousand

Matthew 14:13

13 When Jesus heard of it, He departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed Him on foot out of the cities.


Cross-references

Mark 6:30-33; Luke 9:10; John 6:1

News of death and disaster travels quickly. Herod returned from Machaerus to Tiberias. But the news of his atrocious deed had reached Galilee even before him. His conscience gave him no rest. For that reason he believed John the Baptist risen from the dead, appearing in the person of this Jesus. So he told his courtiers. Jesus, in the mean time, felt it necessary, for various reasons, to withdraw from the neighborhood of Capernaum. His own safety was hardly to be considered. He had never come into personal contact, had never entered into personal relations with Herod. But Christ was deeply moved by the news of John’s death. He felt the need of being in a place by Himself for a while. The apostles also returned from their journey about this time, and they were in need of rest, Mark 6:30-31. And, finally, the excitement of the people over the death of John might easily have brought on a crisis, with disastrous results for His ministry. So He took ship with His disciples and escaped into a desert place in Gaulanitis, on the eastern shore of the lake, in the neighborhood of Bethsaida-Julias. But His rest was of short duration. His departure and the direction of His boat had been noticed. As the news spread, crowds gathered and followed along the seashore on foot, bearing the sick and infirm with them.

The kindness of Jesus:

Matthew 14:14

14 And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and He healed their sick.


Cross-references

Mark 6:34; Luke 9:11; John 6:2; Matthew 9:35-38

So eager were the crowds to come to Jesus that they actually outwent Him, Mark 6:33, arriving at the eastern shore before His boat came to that point. When He was ready to disembark, a great multitude was assembled. The sight moved Him deeply; He was filled with extreme tenderness and concern, not only for the physical infirmities of the sick people who were thrust forward by their friends and relatives, but by the spiritual misery and want of all the members of the great assembly, of which very few, if any, were aware. For the time being, He was busy with the many sick people, whom He healed. It might be the entering wedge for a few words of spiritual healing, of which the Galileans stood in great need.

The threatening necessity:

Matthew 14:15

15 And when it was evening, His disciples came to Him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.


Cross-references

Mark 6:35-36; Luke 9:12

In the excitement attending the healing, time sped away; late afternoon was there before they realized it, the sun was sinking over the lake when the disciples felt constrained to interfere. They were in an uninhabited country, not exactly a desert waste, but no towns in the immediate neighborhood. The time of day was far advanced, night even now was near. The people should be dismissed, summarily sent away into the nearest villages to buy food for themselves. The disciples seem more concerned about their own relief and rest for the Lord than about the needs of the multitude.

The miracle:

Matthew 14:16-21

16 But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat. 17 And they say unto Him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. 18 He said, Bring them hither to Me. 19 And He commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, He blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. 20 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. 21 And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.


Cross-references

Mark 6:37-44; Luke 9:13-17; John 6:3-15; Exodus 16:4; Psalm 78:21-25; John 6:22-35; Isaiah 25

Matthew has only a very brief account of the events leading up to the miracle. The other evangelists bring out the dramatic incidents with great vividness. The evident distress of the disciples stood out in such contrast to the calm dignity of the Lord. There were the people, standing and sitting about on the meadow-like expanse near the shore of the lake. There was the little band of disciples, with Christ in their center, arguing with great vehemence, telling Him what to do. And He coolly counters with the demand that they should provide the food for the multitude. He takes the opportunity of testing their faith in Himself and His power to help. They fail miserably. Philip, after some careful calculating, announces that they have not enough money to buy bread for all. Andrew supplies the information that there are but five loaves and two fishes available. Altogether, the helplessness of the disciples is almost ludicrous. But Christ now takes command of the situation. He gives the order that the multitude be seated on the grass of the meadow, in ranks, parties, or groups, by hundreds and fifties, to facilitate the distribution of the food.

Here the narrative becomes almost bare in its simplicity. Having taken the food and raised His eyes up to heaven, He pronounced the blessing upon the loaves and fishes. Then dividing them, He gave them to His disciples, who, in turn, distributed them to the multitude. Whether Jesus repeated the prayer of grace commonly used by the Jews: “Blessed art Thou, our God, King of the universe, who bringest bread out of the earth,” is immaterial. It is sufficient to know that His blessing caused or accompanied the miracle, that the food multiplied under His hand, that they all ate, that they all had their fill, yea, more, that the fragments remaining overfilled twelve baskets of a very large size commonly used by the Jews. And all this, when the number of those that sat down to supper totaled five thousand, not including women and children.

Note: Food conservation has always been practised where Christians were told of this miracle and heard how careful Christ was about saving the fragments. “When our Lord thus through His blessing appears to us, then we should, as He here commands the apostles, gather the fragments, and not permit them to perish. For just as our reason in time of want only wants to figure and not believe, thus, when the blessing of God is there in abundance, there the world cannot and will not accommodate itself to it. Some use the blessing for luxury. … But such is not the meaning. God’s blessing should be saved and not squandered, but kept for future want. … When the Lord bids us gather the fragments that remain, He does not want it understood as though we should be niggardly, but that thou shalt serve thy neighbor therewith in time of trouble, and that thou mayest the more easily help the poor people that are in need.” [Luther, 13, 284. 285].


Verses 22-36

Christ walks on the sea

The beginning of the return voyage:

Matthew 14:22

22 And straightway Jesus constrained His disciples to get into a ship, and to go before Him unto the other side, while He sent the multitudes away.


Cross-references

Mark 6:45; John 6:15

The narrative implies unwillingness on the part of the disciples and a very strong urgency on the part of Christ. He had His reasons why He wished to remain behind alone, even though the disciples were afraid to venture back into Galilee without His protection. But His command prevailed. The disciples embarked with the purpose of crossing over to the western shore, while He remained to dismiss the people. This in itself may have been a difficult feat, since the excitement of the last days, followed by this manifest miracle had wrought them up to a high pitch.

Christ in prayer:

Matthew 14:23

23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, He was there alone.


Cross-references

Mark 6:46; Luke 5:15-16; Luke 6:12-16; Luke 9:28-36

A significant fact: Jesus, in the midst of the most distracting work, always found time for prayer, for presenting the great work He had taken upon Himself to His heavenly Father, and, in earnest supplication, asking for sustaining strength. He was a true man, who felt the need of seeking comfort and strength in intimate intercourse with God. Note also: He had sent the multitudes away; He was all alone on the mountain in the night and the solitude and the quiet, the best conditions for opening the heart to the heavenly Father.

The distress of the disciples:

Matthew 14:24

24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.


Cross-references

John 6:16-18; Mark 6:47-48

While Jesus remained behind on the shore to pray, the boat had gradually traversed a part of the way toward Capernaum, which they should have reached in a few hours at the most. But the wind was directly against them, and its strength was such as to agitate the water violently, making successful navigation extremely difficult. And all this Jesus knew and saw from the mountain. The eye of His omniscience penetrated the darkness of the night and watched over their frail craft, Mark 6:48.

The miracle:

Matthew 14:25-27

25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. 26 And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. 27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.


Cross-references

Mark 6:48-52; John 6:19-21; Matthew 17:5-7; Matthew 8:28-29; John 18:3-6; Luke 24:36-39; Isaiah 41:13-14; Exodus 3:14; John 4:26; John 6:20; John 6:35; John 6:41; John 6:48; John 6:51; John 8:12; John 8:24; John 8:28; John 8:58; John 9:9; John 10:7; John 10:9; John 10:11; John 10:14; John 11:25; John 13:19; John 14:6; John 15:1; John 15:5; John 18:5-6; John 18:8

Almost the entire night Jesus had spent in prayer, almost the entire night had His disciples struggled to reach the opposite shore. It was in the fourth and last watch of the night, between three and six in the morning, when the extreme darkness was dissolving into a gray dawn, that Jesus went out to them, walking along over the sea, on the water, as the evangelist says twice. The disciples, who were given to superstition, as were most of the Jews, were filled with the most extravagant fear, the dread of phantoms, ghosts, or spirits being very strong. They screamed for fear. But the calm voice of Jesus assures them. Thus the believers, as Luther says, in the midst of their tribulation, do not believe that God is God, but think He is a ghost come to frighten them and to destroy them, surrounded, as they are, by their troubles. But He will always prove to be the gracious and merciful Lord.

Peter’s impetuousness:

Matthew 14:28-31

28 And Peter answered Him and said, Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water. 29 And He said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. 31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?


Cross-references

Matthew 8:23-27; Matthew 17:14-20; James 1:5-8

Peter was always impetuous, quicker to act than to think. The voice of the Lord filled him with a courage that made him almost reckless. It was the joy of faith that made him cry out to the Lord. He wanted to be the first to grasp the Lord by the hand. And following the assuring invitation of Christ, he actually stepped out of the boat and walked on the water towards Jesus. As long as the eyes of his faith as well as his physical eyes were directed toward his Lord and Master, everything went well. But an unusually strong gust of wind, an exceptionally high wave, caused him to falter; his faith wavered; he began to sink. He no longer trusted in the word of assurance that had been given him. But in this emergency he cries to the Master, whom he still knows to be the Lord of the universe. And the patient kindness of Jesus saves him. He quickly caught him and held him above the water, not, however, without chiding him for his weakness of faith, which caused him to doubt at the critical moment. The Lord has patience with the weakness of those that are His own; He hears their crying; He holds them up even in the hour of death with His strong arm.

The effect of the miracle:

Matthew 14:32-33

32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. 33 Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped Him, saying, Of a truth Thou art the Son of God.


Cross-references

Matthew 16:13-20; Matthew 26:57-68; Matthew 27:32-54; John 1:1-5; 1 John 1:1-4; Colossians 2:8-15

Christ is the supreme, the absolute Lord of the elements. In this case the wind ceased as soon as they had stepped into the boat, not by gradually abating, but by a sudden calm. No wonder that all that were in the boat, not only the disciples, but all the passengers, worshiped Him, freely giving Him the glory and honor as the Son of God. Thus was their faith gradually becoming stronger, thus were they growing in the knowledge of their Lord. And thus will all those grow that are in daily, intimate contact and conversation with Him in His Word, Psalm 107:29-30.

Safe arrival:

Matthew 14:34-36

34 And when they were gone over, they came into the land of Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place had knowledge of Him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto Him all that were diseased; 36 And besought Him that they might only touch the hem of His garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.


Cross-references

Mark 6:53-56; John 6:22-29; Luke 5:1-11; Mark 3:9-12; Luke 6:17-19; Matthew 9:20-22

The distance from the shore still remaining was covered in a moment of time, John 6:21. Both space and time are in the control of this Man, to whom has been given the fulness of divine power. They landed in the district of Gennesaret, a rich plain about four miles long and two broad. As soon as Jesus was recognized by some of the natives, they spread the news in all directions, and there was a repetition of former days. From all sides came such as brought to Him patients with every form and in every stage of disease. So fully were they convinced of His power to work miracles that they begged leave merely to touch the hem, or fringe, of His garment, which He wore according to Jewish custom; cp. Matthew 9:20. A mere passing touch they felt to be sufficient as He hurried by. And they are not disappointed, since the touch of faith brings an immediate, complete cure. Even so all those that rely upon the power of God in the Word, though they thus touch merely His garment’s hem, shall find their sins forgiven through the merits of their Redeemer.

Summary

Jesus, after hearing of the execution of John the Baptist, which the evangelist relates, crosses the Sea of Galilee, feeds five thousand, spends a large part of the night in prayer, walks on the sea, and performs miracles of healing in the district of Gennesaret.


Chapter 15

Verses 1-20

A lesson concerning defilement

The Pharisees voice an objection:

Matthew 15:1-2

1 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do Thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.


Cross-references

Mark 7:1-5; Matthew 23:1-4; Mark 3:22; Matthew 9:10-13

Then, when the Pharisees were becoming so wrought up that they were holding councils to destroy Him. The movement was extending beyond their control, the popular enthusiasm was still growing. They were beginning to realize that they had no ordinary person to deal with. And so their hostility caused them to reenforce the Pharisees of Galilee with the learned men from the metropolis, for Jerusalem was the stronghold of the strictest legalism among the Jews. The purpose of the deputation was to discredit Jesus as being careless and lax toward His disciples in His insistence upon keeping the regulations of the Jewish elders. Even during the Babylonian captivity, but especially since the time of Ezra, the interpretation or explanation of the Law, as made by the great rabbis of the Jews, had gradually grown into a large body of precepts, additional to the books of the Old Testament. This Mishna, as it was called, in later years received further additions in the so-called Gemara, all of which were incorporated in the Talmud, the religious book of the present-day Jews. These additional laws and precepts governed even the minutest details of every-day life, thus laying upon the average Jew an intolerable burden. The local rabbis and elders of the synagogs were supposed to teach all these precepts and insist upon their being observed most rigidly. A breach of these rabbinical rules was placed on a level with breaking the greatest moral laws. The tradition was as yet unwritten, it was the “law upon the lip,” but its authority was the greater, the more remote in the past was the elder that had first spoken it. Note: Not the unhygienic or unesthetic feature of coming to meals with dirty hands is attacked. It is an act of monstrous impiety, a breaking of sacred religious traditions that the disciples were guilty of in the opinion of the Pharisees. For such an act they excommunicated people from the synagog. Their question implied also that Jesus was guilty for permitting such a sacrilege.

Christ’s reply:

Matthew 15:3-6

But He answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.


Cross-references

Mark 7:9-13; Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16; Exodus 21:17; Leviticus 20:9; Deuteronomy 27:16

The retort immediately places the issue in the proper light. Christ becomes the accuser, and the Pharisees and scribes the guilty. He says, in effect: Let your miserable charge stand, for the present; I cheerfully admit that the tradition of men is transgressed in our circle. But here is a far more serious matter. The choice is between the actual commands of God and the precepts of your teachers; your choice is the wrong one. The contrast is emphatic and clear-cut: The commandment of God — your tradition. God’s Law, to which Jesus refers, was clear and unmistakable, Exodus 21:17: Leviticus 20:9; Deuteronomy 27:16. Your demand is a mere saying of men. And it is to be condemned absolutely, since it results in setting aside the Law of God. The Pharisees permitted children in the home to say the word corban, Mark 7:11, whereby they were supposed to absolve themselves from filial duties. The words literally read: He that says to his father or to his mother, Let it be a sacrifice what thou desirest of me as a help or benefit. This, according to tradition, excused children from helping their parents with money, goods, earnings, or any other material assistance. It implied that the children wanted to give such money or gift to God as a sacrifice, though very often even that was omitted. Christ’s argument is: Even the honest pleading of previous obligation to God will not excuse a child for neglecting its duty to its parents, much less the ordinary careless, heartless, and profane manner in which this pretext was grasped. Thus were the Jewish teachers guilty before God, even according to the Old Testament, Proverbs 28:24. Thus were children dispensed from even the true works of love in this manner. “For the contention with the Pharisees really consisted in this, whether it be better to give presents to the parents or sacrifices to the priests. They said it was better to sacrifice. Thus they taught that the honor due to the parents was a mere ceremony, namely, to bow the head, to rise before them, and in outward behavior be respectful toward them. … Corban, that means a gift or sacrifice to God. As though a child would say: I should gladly give it to thee, but what shall I do? Even now it is not mine any more, but is given to God. Thus the name of God must be the cover for all shameful blasphemy and wickedness; as though God had taken from the father what the latter should receive from the son.” [Luther, 7, 244. 246]. The Pharisees and scribes surely had invalidated, and were in the constant habit of setting aside, the commandment of God for their miserable tradition.

Christ substantiates His attack:

Matthew 15:7-9

Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me. But in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.


Cross-references

Mark 7:6-8; Matthew 23:13; Isaiah 29:13; Colossians 2:20-23; Titus 1:5-16; Titus 2:1; Titus 3:9-11; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; Matthew 7:15-20

He does not mince words; their sham and deceit, their shallow acting at religion, must be branded as such. What the Lord had spoken of the hypocrisy of the Jews in the time of Isaiah 29:13; Ezekiel 33:31; Isaiah 1:1-5, applies, in fullest measure, to the scribes and Pharisees. Mere lip-service is an abomination to the Lord. There is no faith, no real love in their hearts. Their supposed orthodoxy is a hallucination, their entire religion is vain. The injunctions which they laid upon men without Scriptural warrant resulted only in their own condemnation, Psalm 4:2. “Out of these words of Christ thou mayest draw strong conclusions; first: Everything that is done without the Word of God is idolatry; secondly: Everything that is done according to the Word of God is true worship of God; also thirdly: All that is done without faith is sin; fourthly: All that is done in faith is a good work, for the Word and faith are indissolubly connected, as in holy marriage. … We say also that the Pharisees were hypocrites and false pupils of Moses, because they held, if they only fulfilled the ceremonies outwardly, they would, for the sake of the mere work, obtain righteousness before God. This Moses truly did not want, but the ceremonies should be exercises of the pious, who previously were just by faith, and who thus kept the First Commandment before all. Furthermore, the reprobate people should, by external discipline, be held back and separated from the heathen. That is the meaning of Moses, if one understands him correctly.” [Luther, 7, 248. 254].

Christ appeals to the people:

Matthew 15:10-11

10 And He called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: 11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.


Cross-references

Mark 7:14-15; Acts 10:9-16; Genesis 1:26-31; Genesis 2:15-17; Genesis 9:1-6; Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14:1-21; Leviticus 17:10-16; Mark 7:17-19; Acts 15:22-29; James 3:5-12; Jeremiah 17:9-10

Publicly had He been attacked by the Pharisees, publicly He defended Himself. There is a definite connection of this parabolic saying with the matter in dispute. This they should note carefully and try to understand. His reference is to moral defilement, to uncleanness of the soul. His distinction is that physical cleanness or uncleanness does not affect the heart, but that moral pollution will stain both heart and character. “This fine and pleasing contrast, ‘going in’ and ‘coming out,’ is attractive. As though He would say: Why, what do they bother themselves with eating and drinking, or with that which enters into the mouth? Let them rather pay attention to that which goes out of the mouth. This we ought to watch. What goes into the mouth, that does not defile; but what goes out of the mouth, that defiles. Oh, those are detestable hypocrites, that are careful not to be defiled by those things that go into the mouth (which are God’s creature); why do they not rather watch this which comes out of the mouth, which are works of the devil?” [Luther, 7, 252].

The Pharisees take offense:

Matthew 15:12-14

12 Then came His disciples, and said unto Him, Knowest Thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? 13 But He answered and said, Every plant, which My heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. 14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.


Cross-references

Luke 7:23; Jude 12-13; Amos 9:13-15; Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:16-21; Matthew 3:10; Matthew 13:36-43; Revelation 22:11; Matthew 23:16-17; Matthew 23:24; Luke 6:39; Deuteronomy 28:15,28-29; Proverbs 4:19; Romans 2:17-23; Isaiah 42:16; John 8:12

The disciples reported to the Lord the impression which His parable to the people had made on the Pharisees. The latter were highly scandalized and horrified, partly by the direct appeal to the multitude, partly by the point of the story, which they felt was directed against them. Jesus feels little concern about the state of their mind. All plants which God Himself has not planted, which are not growing in accordance with His will, with their roots in Him and living by faith in Him, are superfluous. They sink from the rank of cultivated plants to that of weeds that must be eradicated. God is most closely associated with them that are His own, but with them only. Every doctrine invented by man will not stand in His judgment. And every promoter of false doctrine will share in the uprooting and destroying of his false production. There is no compromise. Stay away from them, therefore, from the Pharisees and elders that attempt to force their man-made doctrines upon their hearers. They themselves are blind in spiritual matters. And they have blinded the majority of the people and will cause spiritual blindness in the case of all that follow their teaching. Thus the end of both will be destruction, moral, spiritual death.

Jesus explains the parable:

Matthew 15:15-20

15 Then answered Peter and said unto Him, Declare unto us this parable. 16 And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? 17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? 18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: 20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.


Cross-references

Mark 7:17-23; Matthew 12:33-37; James 3:5-12; Jeremiah 17:9-10; Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21

Peter, in his impulsive way, although he might have acted as spokesman for the Twelve, wants the saying explained, which has enough of the symbolical in it to cause some difficulty. But the occasion itself furnished a clue, and Peter’s plea for a clearing up of the dark saying is reproved by the Lord: Can it be that even ye are yet so dense in spiritual matters? after two years of instruction? He wants His disciples to use their enlightened intellect properly, and not make a mystery of a plain matter. It is a matter of common knowledge that the food which the body uses influences only the physical and mental life directly, and does not concern the heart and spirit. By the throwing out of the useless, the indigestible and undigested matter, the body is continually purged. This physical process does not defile a person, just as this result will not follow his eating with unwashed hands. But the opposite is true of the things, words, and deeds, which, coming out of the heart, pass from the body by way of the mouth. “The Savior implies that evil works first pass through the channel of an evil mouth, thus disclosing the evil state of the heart.” [Schaff, Commentary, Matthew, 278]. The words representing the thoughts and desires directed toward such sins, they are morally defiling, they reveal the pollution existing in the heart. The evil thoughts, the evil conversations and discussions of the heart, are made manifest in all kinds of actual sins, envyings, and murders, the breaking of the marriage tie and the unauthorized assuming of relations permissible within holy wedlock only, the acquiring of the neighbor’s property by wrong means, the defaming of the neighbor’s good name, the speaking evil of God and man, — those are the things which cause defilement and are stains on heart and character, not the omission of a mere ceremonial custom. “He that wishes to wash his hands, let him wash them; he that does not want to wash his hands, let him desist therefrom: those matters have nothing to do with righteousness and with sin; I do not want sin or righteousness to consist in them. Therefore you must separate righteousness and sin from such precepts of men. I do not object to any one’s washing himself; but I do object to it that some one for that reason should consider himself just and holy before God.” [Luther, 7, 259].


Verses 21-28

The Syrophenician woman

A journey to the North:

Matthew 15:21

21 Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.


Cross-references

Mark 7:24; Matthew 11:20-22; Jeremiah 25:22; Acts 12:20-23

The events of the last weeks and days had left Jesus weary in body and mind. The people were incessant in their attendance upon Him, expecting all manner of miracles of healing, though they cared little for the Gospel-message which He was preaching. The Pharisees were becoming more bitter in their hostility, stirring up hatred among the people and placing all manner of obstructions in His way. So Christ deliberately took a much-needed rest. He withdrew from the densely populated districts along the Sea of Galilee and journeyed into Upper Galilee, into the region of Phenicia near the large cities Tyre and Sidon. We have no information as to the duration and extent of this journey, and only one incident is narrated in the gospels.

The woman of Canaan:

Matthew 15:22

22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto Him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, Thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.


Cross-references

Mark 7:25-26; Genesis 10:15-19; Deuteronomy 20:16-18; Numbers 33:50-56; Psalm 106:34-38; Matthew 1:1; John 7:42; Luke 1:31-32; Revelation 22:16; Psalm 51:1; Daniel 9:9

Matthew calls her a woman of Canaan because she was an inhabitant of the ancient country of Canaan or a descendant of the former tribes of Canaan, Genesis 10:15. Mark calls her a Syrophenician, Mark 7:26, after the name of the country where she lived. This woman had heard of Jesus; for His fame had spread far beyond the boundaries of Galilee, especially along the caravan roads. She was acquainted also with the sacred books of the Jews, or at least with their hope of the Messiah. Under the Spirit’s guidance she formed the right conclusion, as shown in her address to the Lord. She calls Him both Lord, acknowledging Him to be the Lord from on high, and Son of David, which was the name of the Messiah. Her petition was a prayer of faith also because she cried for mercy, deeply conscious of the misery of her soul, and of the fact that whatever help she might expect would be her share only out of merciful sympathy on the part of Jesus. Note also: In one of the most terrible afflictions that may fall to the lot of a mother, she turns to the Lord alone; a shining example!

Jesus makes a trial of her faith:

Matthew 15:23-27

23 But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and besought Him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. 24 But He answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 25 Then came she and worshipped Him, saying, Lord, help me. 26 But He answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. 27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.


Cross-references

Mark 7:27-28; Matthew 7:6; Philippians 3:2; Matthew 10:5-7; Acts 10:44-48; Acts 13:44-48; Romans 11:11-24; Romans 1:16-17; Galatians 3:27-29; Proverbs 11:2; Isaiah 66:1-2

Here is an example of persistent, importunate pleading, not only in her own interest, to take away the anguish of her soul, but also for her daughter, who was suffering with a particularly severe form of demoniacal possession. But she received a decided shock of disappointment. At first the Lord paid absolutely no attention to her, but continued His journey as though He had not heard her. In the mean time she must have continued her clamoring without abating the least in fervor, for the disciples find themselves constrained to make intercession for her. Their tone is not exceptionally gracious. It implies that they would gladly be rid of her, that her persistent crying was annoying them. As usual, they did not come out of the test with flying colors. In a harsh manner, implying that they had better see to their own affairs, Jesus tells them that His special mission concerns the Jewish people only. That was the second rebuff. Of a truth, Luther says, Christ nowhere in all the gospels is painted as being so hard as here.

The disciples are discouraged and hold their peace, but the woman redoubles her efforts. She has set her faith on the word and works of this man, whom she steadfastly believes to be the Messiah; and she refuses to give up. With new courage she flings herself in His way, worshiping Him as the Lord from heaven, and insisting that He must help, that He must grant her prayer. If prayer fails, if intercession fails, she is ready to storm heaven itself. Christ delivers His last blow by saying roughly, with the full force of His assumed unkindness: It isn’t the proper thing, it shouldn’t be done, to take the bread of the children and to throw it to the dogs. The implication was that the Gentile woman and all her family and people were not on a level with the Israelites, that they could be considered in the eyes of God only as dogs, while the Jews were His children. That was a stern judgment which the Lord rendered, in which there surely was not a glimmer of hope for the harassed mother. But the eyes of faith will see light where others find only Egyptian darkness. As Luther writes, there is more yes than no in Christ’s speech; yea, nothing but yes, but very deep and hidden, and it seems nothing but no. There was not an absolute denial of her request, there was still room for an argument. And, besides, Christ had not compared her people and her family to the street-dogs, but to the house-dogs that live with their masters in the home. Instead, therefore, of turning away in hopeless discouragement, she turns to the attack: Yes, Lord, for also the house-dogs share in the meal of the children, though nothing but the crumbs fall to their lot. She had caught the Lord in His own argument, she had won a decided victory over Him. She is willing to be content with, yea, she demands as her right, the crumbs which the Jews were becoming tired of.

The victory of faith:

Matthew 15:28

28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.


Cross-references

Mark 7:29-30; Matthew 8:5-13

Regardless of her birth and nationality, this woman was a member of God’s people, Romans 9:7-8; Galatians 4:28. She was a child of God by faith in her Savior, the Son of David. Her faith had conquered the Lord. And as a reward of her faith her wish was granted. In that very hour her daughter was restored to complete health. “Thus God wants to do even now with us. When He has denied our prayer for so long a time, and has always answered us no, but we firmly cling to the yes, then it must finally be yes and not no. For His word will not lie: ‘Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you.’ … Thus this story is an especially fine example of true faith, that this must be exercised, and shall yet finally conquer and obtain all, if we follow this woman; for she will not let even the Lord take the yes out of her heart, that He be kind and would help.” [Luther, 13, 261. 262].


Verses 29-39

Christ teaches and feeds four thousand

The return to Galilee:

Matthew 15:29

29 And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee; and went up into a mountain, and sat down there.


Cross-references

Mark 7:31-37; Matthew 5:1

After the healing of the Greek girl, Jesus continued His journey northward, and then turned east, along the boundaries of Coele-Syria, and into Gaulanitis, into the northern section of the region of Decapolis. From the neighborhood of Caesarea Philippi He turned southward, and thus finally returned to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, in the middle of the region known as Decapolis. Here it was that He again ascended a mountain and sat down. It was His usual way of preparing for a long discussion with His disciples.

Healing the multitudes:

Matthew 15:30-31

30 And great multitudes came unto Him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus’ feet; and He healed them: 31 Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel.


Cross-references

Isaiah 53:4-6; Matthew 8:14-17; Matthew 11:1-6; John 20:30-31

No evidence of a hunger of the soul, no desire for spiritual enlightenment, only for healing the body. But Christ surely did not let this opportunity go by; He spoke to them of the one thing needful. But the multitudes came in endless procession, bearing their helpless relatives and friends, the lame, blind, dumb, maimed, or mutilated, whose members were dislocated or had been cut off, and a host of others. It was a repetition of previous occasions. They indicated their complete confidence in His power of healing by casting the sick people down at His feet. They had done their share, they knew He would do His. And His healing power went out once more upon those people of the border, half heathen, half Jewish, to their delighted wonder. All of the sick and crippled were restored to complete health, to the correct use of their members. And the multitudes gladly gave glory to the God of Israel, who had sent them this great Healer.

The great need of the people:

Matthew 15:32-34

32 Then Jesus called His disciples unto Him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with Me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way. 33 And His disciples say unto Him, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude? 34 And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes.


Cross-references

Mark 8:1-5; Matthew 14:13-17

There was a certain faithfulness about the multitudes which caused the people to remain in the uninhabited places along the eastern shore with the Lord. Their wonder as one miracle was followed by another kept them alive and expectant. But in the mean time all the supplies which they might have brought along had been consumed, and there were indications of real distress and suffering among them. Christ’s tender heart was again deeply touched. Calling His disciples together, He lays the matter before them, making them feel the responsibility for these hungry people. A beautiful word: And dismiss them hungry I will not. “Let us but learn to believe that we have the same Christ who takes an interest in us, even in our physical suffering, and always shows that these words: I have compassion on the poor people, are written in His heart with living letters; that He also would like us to know this and to hear the word of the Gospel in such a way as though He in this hour and daily were speaking to us, whenever we feel our trouble, yea, long before we ourselves begin to complain of it. For He is still, and will remain in eternity, the same Christ and has the same heart, thoughts, and words toward us that He was and had at that time, and has never, neither yesterday or ever, become different, nor will He to-day or to-morrow become a different Christ.” [Luther, quoted in Stoeckhardt, Biblische Geschichte des Neuen Testaments, 139. 140]

But the disciples had forgotten the miracles of a few short weeks before. In absolute helplessness they cast about for some way of meeting the emergency. They discuss ways and means of procuring and transporting a sufficient amount of food ’way out here into the meadows on the lake shore. The great size of the multitude appalls them. The Lord cuts the discussion short by His inquiry as to the amount of food available, and receives the answer.

The miracle:

Matthew 15:35-39

35 And He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. 36 And He took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. 37 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full. 38 And they that did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children. 39 And He sent away the multitude, and took ship, and came into the coasts of Magdala.


Cross-references

Mark 8:6-10; Matthew 14:18-21

Christ now took the situation wholly in hand, disgusted, probably, with the denseness of His disciples. He had the crowds sit down in an orderly manner to facilitate the distribution of the food; He took the bread and the fishes, pronounced the blessing upon them, broke them, gave them to His disciples, who, in turn, distributed both bread and fishes to the people. After all had been fully satisfied, the remaining fragments filled seven baskets. They bear a different name here than in Matthew 14:20, either because they were made by a different process, or because they were exceptionally large containers to be carried on the back, or because Matthew gives them the name by which they were known among the people of that region, whose characteristic was predominantly Gentile. The number of people in the multitude is again recorded: four thousand, without women and children. Jesus now dismissed them, and crossed over the sea into the region called Magdala, which, as far as can be determined, seems to have bordered on the region of Gennesaret on the south, having the town of Dalmanutha as its metropolis.

Summary

Jesus gives a lesson concerning defilement, heals the daughter of the Syrophenician woman, performs other acts of healing, and feeds four thousand men.


Related Kretzmann Article


Chapter 16

Verses 1-4

The demand for a sign

Matthew 16:1

1 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired Him that He would shew them a sign from heaven.


Cross-references

Mark 8:11; Matthew 16:6; Matthew 3:1-12; Acts 23:6-9; Matthew 23:1-4; 1 Corinthians 1:22-24

Here is a combination showing how far unionistic tendencies may lead if the object is opposition to Christ: the Pharisees, legalists, with their unceasing harping upon the details of Law and tradition; and the Sadducees, rationalists, with their denial of large parts of the Old Testament and all those doctrines that did not suit their reason. At other times these two Jewish sects were at sword’s points, but for the purpose of resisting Christ they gladly unite their forces. In order to tempt Him, they come, in a malicious, deceitful manner. In a haughty way they request, demand, a sign from heaven. In Matthew 12:38 they had not been so arrogant. Their bitterness toward Christ grew in the same measure as their inability to overcome Him. “Just as if the wonders which He had done hitherto were nothing at all, since they had been performed on earth only. As though they would say: Oh, these earthly miracles are nothing! If He would show that He was powerful in heaven, then one might believe Him. Not as though they had been willing even then to believe, but they in the mean time blaspheme these miracles in such a way, although they are far greater than those which they demanded from heaven. For to raise the dead, to give sight to the blind: that surpasses all signs which it is possible to show from heaven by as much as man, who is the likeness of God, surpasses heaven and all physical creatures, and eternal life the temporal creatures.” [Luther, 7, 270. 271].

Christ’s reply:

Matthew 16:2-3

He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?


Cross-references

Luke 12:54-56; Matthew 7:5; Matthew 15:1-9; Matthew 22:15-22; Matthew 23:13

Christ was deeply grieved over their duplicity, since they made their request sound reasonable before the people, as though they wanted to establish His Messiahship, whereas their real reason was blasphemy. Under no circumstances did they intend to believe on Him, Mark 8:12. The Jews were careful observers of the weather. They knew very well the common signs indicating fair and foul weather. Constant and careful watching had taught them to regard a murky and lowering morning sky as a sure sign of an approaching rainstorm, while a red sunset caused them to expect fine weather for the next day. But — skill in observing the signs of the weather; dulness and foolishness in spiritual matters! They knew not the times of their visitation, Luke 19:44. They did not recognize, and refused to accept, Jesus as the Messiah, in spite of the many signs and wonders He had done in their midst. And so the signs of His entire ministry, of His life and death, which were originally intended to invite them into the kingdom of God, would now serve to harden their hearts all the more, thus bringing about their damnation. The ability to judge, distinguish, in spiritual matters was blunted. A constant abuse of their spiritual powers and faculties had resulted in their being much like mechanical toys, or like actors that repeat their lines and make their proper gestures at the indicated places, without entering into the identity of the character whom they represent. “He says thus: Those signs of the sky ye understand; why understand ye not these signs which are done for your salvation, if ye believe, or for your perdition, if ye do not believe? For ye now have a pleasant evening, from which ye may have hope concerning a future salutary and bright day; upon this will follow a murky morning, on which ye may expect eternal damnation. For My signs, and this time of grace and the wrath to come, are not less plain, and shine as brightly as the sky itself with his evening and morning; if ye would but look into the prophets that prophesy of this time, and look at things properly which ye see. But ye permit yourselves to be moved neither through the promises of Scripture nor through things that have actually been done, and are only drowned in these temporal matters, whether happy or sad days will come. Therefore ye pay attention to nothing, and in the mean time ye still demand other signs.” [Luther, 7, 273].

The refusal:

Matthew 16:4

A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And He left them, and departed.


Cross-references

Mark 8:12-13; Matthew 12:38-41; Jonah 1:17

As in the previous case, Matthew 12:38-39, Christ does not mince matters. He calls them an evil and adulterous brood, one whose hearts have turned from justice, righteousness, and goodness, and from the worship of the true God to vain imaginations, meaningless traditions, a proud self-righteousness. They are eager in their demand for a sign, but when the greatest sign of all, the resurrection of Christ after the type of the Prophet Jonas, will be set before them, they will harden their hearts. Even so the present generation in the world is wise in the matters of this world, but the signs of the times it cannot discern. That the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Savior is the only agency that will set their hearts and minds aright is hidden from their eyes. The Lord realized the hopelessness of further argument in the case of these deceitful enemies. He pronounced judgment upon them by turning His back to them and abruptly departing, a very effective and, often, the only advisable way to deal with enemies of this type.


Verses 5-12

The leaven of the Pharisees

Matthew 16:5

And when His disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.


Cross-references

Mark 8:14,22

The departure of Jesus after His encounter with the Pharisees and Sadducees was hurried. From the neighborhood of Dalmanutha, on the western shore of the sea, He crossed over to the other side, probably into some section of Gaulanitis. His greatest concern was for His disciples, how they would behave under the present circumstances, how their faith would hold out against the schemes of the Pharisees. So absorbed was He in this problem that He paid no attention to the minor matters of the body. The fact that His disciples, in the excitement of the quick embarking, had forgotten, neglected, to take bread with them, did not enter His consciousness.

The warning and its understanding:

Matthew 16:6-7

Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.


Cross-references

Mark 8:14-16; Luke 12:1-3; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; Galatians 5:4-9

It was on the trip across the lake that Jesus spoke to them, Mark 8:14. They were worried on account of their neglect; the single loaf of bread in the boat was on their mind. The mention of leaven, therefore, was connected in their minds with bread, and it was bread which they lacked. They argued therefore that Jesus was reproaching them for not having a sufficient number of loaves with them in the boat. It was with them as with the Christians of all times: hard for them to get away from the care of the body! They neither marked that Jesus purposely used the word “leaven,” nor did they notice the emphasis upon the “Pharisees and Sadducees.” Christ’s object had been to warn them, in the form of a parabolic saying, against the doctrine of both sects, against the outward work-righteousness of the Pharisees and against the conventional, worldly bearing of the Sadducees.

The reproof and explanation:

Matthew 16:8-12

Which when Jesus perceived, He said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? 10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? 11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? 12 Then understood they how that He bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.


Cross-references

Mark 8:17-21; Luke 12:1-3; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; Galatians 5:4-9; Galatians 1:6-9; 1 Timothy 1:8-11; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; Titus 2:1; Psalm 119:169-170,105; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Romans 1:16

Jesus could not help but notice their lack of understanding. Even if their conversation was carried on in voices too low for Him to hear, He read what went on in their minds. His reproach is sad, almost stern: He charges them with little understanding, with hardness of heart, Mark 8:17-18, with little faith. That they are concerned about, and gravely discuss, a question of bodily food, when dangers are confronting their faith! He challenges their understanding, their memory, in the matter of the feeding of the five thousand and, shortly after that, of the four thousand. He wants them to recall how many baskets of fragments they picked up in either case: Are ye still too dull to draw conclusions? The question of a sufficient supply of bread had in no way entered into the situation. It was a matter solely of their imagination and their care for the body that prompted them to think as they had. “Here we see that Christ deals in a most loving manner with those that do not tempt Him, but are ready, absolutely and simply to be instructed of Him. For, behold, how much patience He has with the ignorance of the apostles in the Word and with their weakness in the faith. He did not go away and leave them, as He did the Pharisees; but He bears and heals their foolishness in a most kindly manner and is obliged to explain Himself over against them as against children with clear words in regard to that which He had said, and accommodate Himself to their ability. And they also do not cast away the love, the trust, and the respect toward Him, but they, as true disciples, gladly bear His reproof and become better through it.” [Luther, quoted in Stoeckhardt, Biblische Geschichte des Neuen Testaments, 141. 142]. Their understanding having thus been opened, they were no longer at a loss as to the meaning of the word “leaven.” As the yeast, or leaven, which is added to the meal, though it may be small in amount, yet exerts its power upon the whole mass, so it is with false doctrine. It may be an apparently small matter, a doubt as to the validity of a Scripture-passage, a false understanding of a fundamental truth; and the entire structure of faith is liable to be undermined. The disciples now understood that He warned them against the false doctrine of the Pharisees, including their hypocrisy, pride, envy, self-righteousness, and arrogance, and that of the Sadducees in denying the existence of the spiritual world, the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, and the providence of God. “He reminded them that they must hold the Word and faith firmly against the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees. As though He would say: Why are ye worried on account of the bread for the body? Strive to be concerned for the bread of the spirit, for the Word and faith, against false doctrine and faith. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, that ye may not, through false teachers, be misled into the kingdom of the devil and error. For this true bread ye must be concerned.” [Luther, 7, 276].


Verses 13-20

Christ the Son of the living God

Matthew 16:13-14

13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14 And they said, Some say that Thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.


Cross-references

Mark 8:27-28; John 1:6-8; Matthew 14:1-2; Mark 6:14-16; Luke 9:7-9; Matthew 17:10-13; Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:17-23

A second time Christ made an excursion northwards, to the very boundary of Palestine, into the territory of Herod Philip, who had practically rebuilt this city and made it his residence. It had formerly been called Paneas, and is probably the ancient Leshem or Laish, Joshua 19:47; Judges 18:7. The reasons for this journey were probably those of the preceding trip to the North, to get away, for a while, from the distractions of the active ministry, with its tedious and wearing vexations, and to gain time and opportunity for uninterrupted intercourse with the disciples. They needed a great deal of help in their faith, since the days of real temptations were drawing near. They must grow in Him and through Him in faith and firmness, lest the last great test find them unable to hold their own. While they were on their way into this region, Jesus, not so much for His own information as for the sake of testing the faith of His disciples, asks them the question: Whom do people take Me for? What do they find in Me? He applies the official title “Son of Man” to Himself, as distinguishing Him according to His person and His work. It appears that the bitter slanderings of the Pharisees had at least had so much effect that the belief in His Messiahship had gradually been suppressed among the common people. But they still held Him in high esteem. They either believed that one of the prophets, such as John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah, had been raised from the dead, or they held, according to Pharisaical example, that the soul and spirit of one of these prophets had come to new life in Jesus. Christ was indeed a prophet, Deuteronomy 18:15, and He was very properly called Elijah, Malachi 4:5; however, in a far higher sense than these ignorant people thought. But the Lord’s inquiry had a deeper purpose, namely, to get an express declaration of faith from His disciples, and to confirm and strengthen them in it.

The confession:

Matthew 16:15-18

15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.


Cross-references

Mark 8:29-30; Luke 9:20; Matthew 1:1; Matthew 1:16-18; Luke 1:39-43; Luke 2:25-32; Matthew 14:32-33; Matthew 26:57-68; Matthew 27:32-54; John 1:1-5; 1 John 1:1-4; Colossians 2:8-15; John 20:26-29; Ephesians 2:11-22; Matthew 7:24-27; Matthew 28:18-20

Here was the time of decision, for a declaration of personal faith. “This was the decisive moment in which the separation of the New Testament Church from the Old Testament theocracy was to be made. The hour had come for the utterance of a distinct Christian confession.” [Schaff, Commentary, Matthew, 294]. The disciples met this test of their understanding and faith in a splendid manner. Simon Peter, impetuous, emotional, energetic, outspoken, gave an answer in the name of the apostles, as their spokesman, voicing, in a short declaration, their opinion and unanimous agreement: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This was not the sense which the Jewish traditional idea connected with the word Messiah, a mere deliverer from earthly bondage, but a concise and still comprehensive confession of the Christhood, the divinity, the deity of Jesus. It expressed their faith in Him as the promised Redeemer. It was a reply and correlate to Christ’s “Son of Man” in Matthew 16:13. It was a decided, solemn, and deep declaration, spoken with emotion and a sense of the gravity of the circumstances. “Therefore the entire Apostolic Creed is included in these words: ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’; namely, that He is the Son of God, the almighty Father, the Creator of heaven and earth, and that our Lord Jesus Christ was conceived of the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, that He suffered for us, that He died and was raised from the dead, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father, because He is Son, Judge, and Lord over all; that He distributes forgiveness of sins through the Holy Ghost, unto the resurrection and to eternal life.” [Luther, 7, 281. 282].

Jesus was highly pleased with this confession which Peter had made in the name of the apostles. He calls him happy, blessed, in the sense of possessing happiness as a given glory. Jesus was satisfied as to the quality of Peter’s faith. He addresses him in a solemn manner: Simon, the son of Jona. But He explains the blessedness by placing the credit where it properly belongs. For what Peter here had confessed as his faith was no vain, human illusion which flesh and blood, his own nature and reason, had revealed to him. It was a revelation of God Himself. The right knowledge of Jesus Christ, true faith, is God’s work and gift. It is not a deceitful, human imagination, but divine certainty. Happy, blessed, is he that makes this confession the faith of his heart.

The Lord adds a promise which concerns the entire Church till the end of time. Solemnly addressing Peter, the spokesman of the Twelve, He tells him, with a fine play on words, that upon his rocklike confession He will build His Church. He does not say: On thee, but: “On this rock.” The gist of the passage is: Peter-like faith in Jesus, expressed in the same bold manner, by open confession of the mouth, admits into the kingdom of heaven, into the Church of Jesus Christ. Or, as Luther expresses it: “On this rock, understand, not which thou art; for thy person would be too weak for such foundation; but upon the confession of faith which makes thee a rock, I will build my Church. This foundation can hold and is strong enough; the devil will not be able to throw it over or throw it down.” [Stoeckhardt, Biblische Geschichte des Neuen Testaments, 144]. Against this Church, as it is built, and because it is built upon this rock, the gates of hell cannot prevail, all the powers of hell cannot conquer it. It is strong, enduring, so long as the faith in the Father and in Jesus Christ, His Son, our Redeemer, and in the Spirit, as giving this blessed certainty, reigns in it.

A special distinction:

Matthew 16:19-20

19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 20 Then charged He His disciples that they should tell no man that He was Jesus the Christ.


Cross-references

Isaiah 22:22; John 20:21-23; Matthew 18:15-20; Matthew 8:3-4; Matthew 12:15-21

In recognition of his faith, as expressed in his confession, Christ confers on Peter and on all that believe the keys of the kingdom of heaven. The keys are an emblem of the power which admits into, or prevents any unauthorized person from entering into, a house. Christ, the Son of God, has the key of David, the power to lock and unlock the house or kingdom of God, Revelation 3:7. He has earned for all sinners mercy and salvation. And this power and authority He gives to His believing disciples. Whosoever believes, has part in Christ and in all that Christ possesses. Whosoever believes is in the kingdom of heaven, has forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation, and may and shall impart also to others the treasures of the kingdom. “But this is their opinion, that the power of the keys, or the power of the bishops, according to the Gospel, is a power or commandment of God, to preach the Gospel, to remit and retain sins, and to administer Sacraments” [Augsburg Confession, Article XXVIII, Ecclesiastical Power: 5].

[Luco note: Kretzmann does not comment on Matthew 16:20. Cf. Matthew 8:3-4 and Matthew 12:15-21 with commentary]


Verses 21-28

Christ’s first prophecy concerning His passion

Matthew 16:21

21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.


Cross-references

Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22; Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 53:4-6; Luke 9:28-31; John 2:19-22

The disciples had made a splendid confession of their faith, proving conclusively that they had the right, saving knowledge concerning Jesus, their Redeemer. Christ therefore thought it the appropriate time to prepare them gradually for the great climax, the culmination of His work. They should now be able to bear the news. He began to show them, to give them explicit and detailed information. A very significant word: He must go to Jerusalem; a divine obligation was resting upon Him, it was a necessity which He had taken upon Himself to fulfil the will of His heavenly Father by His death for all mankind, Psalm 40:8. The elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, twenty-four of each class of these forming the great Sanhedrin, or chief council of the Jews. That these enemies of His would succeed in putting Him to death, but that He would be raised on the third day: that was the sum and substance that Jesus attempted to make clear to the disciples from the Scriptures of the Old Testament.

Peter interferes:

Matthew 16:22-23

22 Then Peter took Him, and began to rebuke Him, saying, Be it far from Thee, Lord: this shall not be unto Thee. 23 But He turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind Me, Satan: thou art an offence unto Me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.


Cross-references

Mark 8:32-33; Matthew 26:51-54; John 18:10-11; John 18:36; Luke 17:20-21; Romans 8:5; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Philippians 3:18-21; Colossians 3:1-4; Proverbs 3:5; Hebrews 11:17-19

Peter, the impulsive, probably filled with a feeling of satisfaction on account of the high praise which the Lord had bestowed upon him, laid his hand upon Jesus, or seized Him from behind, as though he would shelter Him by main force. At the same time, he began most emphatically to chide Christ: Far be it from Thee; may God avert it by all means! It was a well-meant, but altogether meddlesome interference with the business of Christ. He did not get very far, for Jesus, having turned around, gave him such a sharp rebuke as no other disciple ever got. A Satan, an adversary, He called him; He accused him of tempting Him to do wrong. Peter’s thoughts were not in a line with God’s will and work, but were solely the product of his own mind and heart. He was still concerned with his own problems only; he had not acquired the wider vision necessary in the kingdom of God; his thoughts were yet of the earth, earthly. “This is the meaning of Christ, in this serious matter, but directed against a dear apostle: Ah, Peter, thou didst answer correctly when I asked thee and all disciples, that I am Christ, the Son of the living God; but now, since thou hearest that I shall be crucified, thou understandest not the wonderful counsel of God, and art bothered with thy flesh and carnal thoughts, and speakest without the revelation of the Father only thy own ideas, that is, foolish and carnal things. Therefore get thee behind Me; far be it from Me that I should prefer thy carnal wisdom to the will of the Father: much rather would I lose thee and all than that I, upon thy objection, should not obey My Father. Here thou art altogether a fool and dost not understand what is carried out through the Son of the living God, whom thou hast confessed.” [Luther, 7, 298. 299].

Taking the cross:

Matthew 16:24-25

24 Then said Jesus unto His disciples, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it.


Cross-references

Mark 8:34-35; Luke 9:23-24; Matthew 10:34-39; Philippians 3:7-11; 2 Timothy 2:8-13; Revelation 21:5-8; Mark 16:16; Romans 6:1-4

This is practically a repetition of Matthew 10:38. What Christ had stated there He found necessary to emphasize here once more. Denial of self, of all self-righteousness, of all selfishness, is natural for a Christian that partakes of the spirit of Christ; taking up the cross, whatever of burden, whatever of trial and persecution and trouble and labor and peril and death the heavenly Father may see fit to impose — that is the cheerful burden of the Christian, because it means following Him. He who aims to find in this life, in this world, all that his heart desires, will, by that fact, lose the real life in and with Christ. But he who will cheerfully give up all that this life, this world, may offer and give him, for the sake of Jesus, his Savior, will find true, abounding, everlasting life in the Redeemer. “Therefore one must describe exactly what it means to take the cross upon one. To take the cross upon one means: for the sake of the Word and the faith voluntarily to take and to bear the hatred of the devil, of the world, of the flesh, of sin, and of death. Here it is not necessary to choose a cross. Just begin the first part of the life and deny thyself, that is, rebuke the righteousness of works, and confess the righteousness of faith, and immediately the other part will also be there, namely, the cross which thou then shalt take upon thyself, just as Christ took His upon Himself.” [Luther, 7, 304].

True gain:

Matthew 16:26-28

26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then He shall reward every man according to his works. 28 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in His kingdom.


Cross-references

Mark 8:36-38; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:25-27; Daniel 7:9-14; Zechariah 14:5; Matthew 13:36-43; Matthew 24:29-31; Matthew 25:31-46; Matthew 26:57-68; Acts 1:6-11; Revelation 1:4-8

Christ places the other alternative before His disciples. Supposing it to be possible that a man, by constant, unceasing labor, should gain the whole world; but, if in doing so, he forfeit his soul, his soul be made a forfeit, by the bargain, would it really be a gain? Could he take all his goods and give them as an exchange for his soul? Could he use them as a price to buy back the true life which he has lost with his soul? And there is not merely the negative disagreeable feature of losing the soul for this life, but there is the prospect of positive punishment. It will be, it is certain: The Son of Man will come, no longer in poverty and lowliness, as in the days of His earthly sojourn, but in the full glory of His Godhead, which He will exercise also according to His human nature. Accompanied by His angels, He will come to judgment, and He will give, give back, return, to every one according to his doing, as every person has given proof of the faith in his heart by the works of his hands. That will be the Judgment, which no one can escape, Matthew 25:31-46. In the manner peculiar to prophets, Christ makes no distinction between the events near at hand and those afar off; for the eternal God, who inspires prophecy, has no time. Before Him all things are happening in the great now, in the present. Christ gives His disciples the assurance that some of them will not die, will not taste of the cup which yields death, until they see Him coming in His kingdom. This refers either to the glorification of Jesus through His death and resurrection, which introduced the actual beginning of His Church on earth, with the festival of Pentecost, or it points to the day when God began His judgment upon Jerusalem. That was the dawn of the day which will finally bring Jesus back in all His glory. Some of the disciples of Christ actually lived until long after the destruction of Jerusalem, thus becoming further living examples and proofs for the truth of Christ’s words.

Summary

Christ refuses the demand of the Pharisees for a sign, warns against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, hears the confession of His disciples, and rebukes Peter for interfering with His Messianic ministry.


Related Kretzmann Article


Chapter 17

Verses 1-13

The transfiguration of Christ

Matthew 17:1-2

1 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light.


Cross-references

Mark 9:2-3; Luke 9:28-29; 2 Peter 1:16-18; Mark 5:35-43; Matthew 26:36-46; Matthew 28:1-3; Daniel 7:9; Revelation 1:12-18

Memorable, important days were those which Matthew fixes so carefully in the order of events, six days after the first specific announcement of Christ’s passion; a turning-point in the ministry of Jesus. That Luke mentions eight days, Luke 9:28, offers no difficulty. “That Luke says Jesus had taken those three apostles with Him after about eight days, but Matthew and Mark, that it happened after six days, that is not opposed to each other. For Matthew and Mark reckon the days that lie between, but Luke takes the last day as well, upon which Christ preached before these six days, as also the first day after the six days, on which the transfiguration took place, in addition.” [Luther, 7, 321]. For Matthew it was the exact recollection of a strictly historical incident. While all the disciples undoubtedly went with Christ to the foot of the mountain, — which various commentators have guessed to be either Mount Hermon, in the Anti-Lebanon range, just north of the boundary of Palestine, or Mount Panius, near Caesarea Philippi, or Mount Tabor, near Nazareth, — only the three men that were His favored disciples, Peter, James, and John, were taken along to the top of the mountain. They were probably those upon whose understanding and sympathy He could rely. They were to become the witnesses of His glory before the whole world, 2 Peter 1:16-18.

A most peculiar, miraculous phenomenon: While Jesus was praying, He was transfigured, transformed, before them, His physical body being transfused and glorified with spirituality, a foretaste of His future glorification. Not only did His face shine like the sun itself, with a luster not of this earth, but His raiment became as white-glistening as snow, as the essence of light itself, beyond the power of any fuller on earth to give them such pure spotlessness. All this was visible to them as they gazed in stupefied wonder. His divine glory, which He always bore in Himself, but which was usually hidden or manifested only occasionally in word and miracle, here transfused and shone through His outward form and person: an unsurpassed revelation of His glory before their eyes. It was an incontestable proof of the fact that He was truly the Son of God; it was visible evidence of His entering through suffering and death into His glory. “Therefore this appearance of Christ intends to show in deed and truth what Peter above, Matthew 16:16, has confessed: Jesus, the man born of the Virgin Mary, is Christ, the Son of the living God (Christ, however, signifies a king and priest, that is, a Lord over all things; and also a Mediator between God and men). Because He was destined to be preached through the whole world as such, for that reason He is shown to the three apostles as such, who should testify to what they had seen and heard.” [Luther, 7, 326].

A further revelation:

Matthew 17:3-4

And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with Him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if Thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.


Cross-references

Mark 9:4-6; Luke 9:30-33; Deuteronomy 34:1-12; 2 Kings 2:1-15; Malachi 4:4-6; Matthew 5:17; Matthew 11:7-15

The evangelist indicates with the usual “Behold!” that this was not the least remarkable part of the scene. Note: Any attempt at weakening the importance of this passage by trying to explain it as a mere vision in a sleep and by doubting the possibility of a recognition of these men on the part of the disciples interferes with the simple, objective narrative of Matthew. How they knew the prophets is immaterial; they recognized, they knew them at once. Though throughout in that peculiar state of half-waking and half-sleeping, their senses were able to grasp and retain all the points of the picture before them. Moses, who died before the Lord, whose grave God alone knew, Deuteronomy 34:5-6, and Elijah, whom God took up into heaven in a fiery chariot, 2 Kings 2:11, actually were seen by them as they conversed with Jesus on His death, which He was soon to accomplish. Both of these prophets had not seen corruption, and they were speaking to the Lord, whose body could not see corruption. They were witnesses and representatives of the Old Covenant, one having given the Law, the other having been zealous for the Law, but neither had been able to stop the transgression. Here was one greater than the Law who, by His perfect fulfilment of the Law, would redeem those that were under the Law. The glory of the phenomenon was too much for the disciples — they became dazed by its brilliance. Peter voiced the opinion of the others when he cried out: Lord, it is good for us to be in this place. He desired at once to build three tabernacles, one for Christ, one for Moses, one for Elijah, that they might continue there in glory. The underlying thought may have been that it would be so much more pleasant to stay here, where the glory of heaven had been brought down to them, than to go to Jerusalem and have Jesus enter upon the way of suffering.

The witness of the Father:

Matthew 17:5

While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.


Cross-references

Mark 9:7; Luke 9:34-35; Exodus 19:7-9; 2 Peter 1:16-18; Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:29-34; Psalm 2; Colossians 1:9-14; Ephesians 1:2-14; 1 John 3:1-2; Ephesians 5:1-2; Romans 8:12-17; John 1:1-18

While Peter was still filled with the ecstasy of the scene and describing the beauty of a continuance of the phenomenon, a bright cloud, a cloud of light, surrounded them. As at other times a dark cloud will obscure the light, so here the intense brightness of the cloud of glory hindered their vision; human eyes are not strong enough to endure the light from the throne of heaven. Here was the cloud of the New Testament covering both High Priest and altar of the New Covenant, Exodus 40:24. The disciples had at least, up to that moment, been able to observe a few things, though their vision had not been very clear, but at this climax they are overcome. For the voice of the Father uttered almost the same words as at the baptism of Jesus: This is My Son, the Beloved One, in whom is My delight. It was a most solemn attestation of Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God, destined to sink into their hearts and minds forever. Him they should hear, to Him, in His Word, they should render unquestioned obedience. The time of the reign of the Law, as represented in Moses, and the time of mere prophecy, as represented in Elijah, was past; grace and truth, the Gospel, the Gospel glory, have come in and with Jesus Christ. No need to look for further visions and revelations; we have the Word of Jesus, the Word of salvation.

The conclusion of the phenomenon:

Matthew 17:6-8

And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.


Cross-references

Mark 9:6-8; Luke 9:36; Ezekiel 1:26-28; Revelation 1:17-18; Matthew 14:26-27

The divine voice, the voice of the pure and just God, was too much for the poor, sinful mortals, who, as long as they are clothed with this earthly body, cannot stand in His sight. In the intensity of their terror they fell to the ground upon their faces to hide themselves before Him whose eyes are like flames of fire. Jesus, ever kind, gentle, and sympathetic, stepped forward. In His touch was a world of understanding and cheering assurance. He urged them to arise and cast aside their fears. Thus strengthened, they took courage to lift up their eyes, and saw no one but only Jesus, as they had known Him for several years, in His former appearance, in the form of His real body, with no visible signs of the glory which had just been manifested in Him. A vision so great and wonderful is not now vouchsafed to men; but there is one way in which all may see Jesus, namely, in His Gospel, where we both hear Him speak and see His glory. And seeing, we shall believe, John 6:40.

Christ’s charge:

Matthew 17:9

And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.


Cross-references

Mark 9:9; Luke 9:36-37; Mark 1:21-27; Mark 1:40-45; Mark 3:7-12; Mark 7:31-37; Mark 8:27-30; Matthew 16:20

On the way down, while they were still filled with the greatness of the manifestation, He gave them this emphatic injunction. To publish what they had seen, at this time, would only result in hindering the work of His ministry and thus of the Gospel. “As this transfiguration was intended to show forth the final abolition of the whole ceremonial law, it was necessary that a matter which could not fail to irritate the Jewish rulers and people should be kept secret, till Jesus had accomplished vision and prophecy by His death and resurrection.” [Clarke, Commentary, 5, 177].

The question of the disciples:

Matthew 17:10-13

10 And His disciples asked Him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? 11 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. 12 But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. 13 Then the disciples understood that He spake unto them of John the Baptist.


Cross-references

Mark 9:11-13; Malachi 4:4-6; Luke 1:13-17; Luke 1:67-79; John 1:6-8; Matthew 3:1-6; Matthew 11:7-15

The fact that they had seen the prophet Elijah in the vision on the mountain recalled to their minds the saying of the scribes, probably based on Malachi 4:5, as to the coming of Elijah. Their understanding was that Elijah would reappear in person, settle the quarrels between the various Jewish schools, bring back the pot of manna and Aaron’s rod, and sanctify the people by an extraordinary washing. Jesus concedes the correctness of the idea: Elijah, according to the prophecy, was indeed to come for the purpose of restoring everything among the Jews to its proper state, as the Lord wanted it to be. He was to prepare the way for the Lord Himself. But the Lord finds fault with the fact that the scribes and the Jewish people in general did not recognize the second Elijah as such, but did what they pleased with him. The leaders of the people rejected him, and the dissolute, adulterous tetrarch put him to death. He shared the fate of most prophets that place the fearless confession of truth above the concern for their own safety and welfare. From the rejection of His herald to the denial of the Messiah Himself is only a small step; and even in the same manner will they cause Him to suffer. This explanation was sufficient to open the eyes of the disciples; they understood that John the Baptist was the Elijah who was to come before the great and dreadful day of the Lord.


Verses 14-21

The healing of a lunatic

The return to the people:

Matthew 17:14-16

14 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to Him a certain man, kneeling down to Him, and saying, 15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. 16 And I brought him to Thy disciples, and they could not cure him.


Cross-references

Mark 9:14-18; Luke 9:37-40; Matthew 4:23-25; Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 10:1-12; Luke 10:17-20

While Jesus had been on the mountain with the three disciples overnight, a multitude had gathered at the foot of the mountain, where the other disciples were awaiting His return. The Lord found the people pressing about the center, where some of the scribes were disputing excitedly with His followers, Mark 9:14. The crowds received Him with all signs of respect, and His attention was immediately directed to a certain man who rushed forward with urgent desire, kneeling at His feet, falling on his knees, and almost carrying Jesus over with the impetuousness of his anxiety for his son. He confesses Jesus as the Lord; he earnestly begs mercy at His hands, realizing that he is not worthy to receive the gift. For his son he pleads, who was a demoniac of a peculiar kind, suffering with a form of lunacy or epilepsy which caused the boy to cast himself, often into the fire, and often into the water. And here was a complication: The disciples had been unable to help him. He had actually gone to the trouble of consulting them, but it had been in vain: they were not able to heal him.

The rebuke and the cure:

Matthew 17:17-18

17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to Me. 18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.


Cross-references

Mark 9:19-27; Luke 9:41-43; Matthew 12:38-39; Matthew 12:43-45; Matthew 16:1-4; Luke 11:9-13; Luke 4:31-41

A cry of the utmost weariness, almost of impatience. It includes all those present: the disciples, because of their lack of understanding and the smallness of their faith; all the people, because they were slow of heart to believe Him to be the Messiah. Faithless they are, having either too small a faith or no faith at all; and perverted, corrupt, turned the wrong way, unwilling to heed and to follow the way He was pointing out to them, the way of salvation and sanctification. They were permitting themselves to be led astray. He was weary of it all, He longed to be delivered of the dulness, the stupidity, the perverseness of this generation. But He was not unkind or ungracious. His words were a rebuke, not the peevish exclamation of a disappointed man. He had the boy brought to Him, He saw the evidence of the demon’s power, He made use of His divine power in earnestly rebuking the demon, and the result was a complete cure from that very hour. The devil may sometimes, by God’s permission, torture the body by some sickness, incurable before men, but the souls of them that put their trust in Jesus are in His hands, safe against all the Evil One’s attempts to possess them.

Christ explains the failure:

Matthew 17:19-20 (Verse 21 not in the ESV)

19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? 20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.


Cross-references

Mark 9:28-29; Luke 17:5-6; Matthew 6:9-13,16; Matthew 9:14-15; Luke 2:36-38; Acts 2:42; Acts 13:1-3; Acts 14:23

After the healing of the demoniac, Jesus went into a house. And there, where they were by themselves, the disciples gain enough courage to ask Him in regard to their failure. The fact stood before them: They had not been able to cast him out. The question seems to imply that the experience was exceptional; in other cases they had not had this difficulty, Luke 10:17. Jesus very frankly tells them the trouble. Their faith, their trust in God, had not been equal to the occasion; it had been too small to effect a cure in this instance. Probably the disciples, who formerly had cast out devils in the Lord’s name and by His authority, had attempted to exorcise, trusting in their own strength. Not redeeming faith is meant here, of course, but a firm reliance in God’s power and promises. For if such trusting faith is present, though it be as small as a single grain of mustard-seed by comparison, though its quantity represent the minimum of such trust, yet it could perform miracles as yet undreamed of by them, such as the moving of mountains. Nothing is impossible to such faith. If we have God’s command and promise in our undertaking, then we should firmly rely upon His almighty strength, knowing that we shall be able to perform what He has given us to do. Cp. Matthew 21:21; Mark 11:23. Things that seem impossible before men, undertakings that are frankly jeered at as dreams of visionaries, works of mercy or other projects in the Church that seemed hopeless from the start, have been carried out successfully because of a firm reliance in the justness of the cause and in the help of the Lord above. — The Lord adds finally, for the information of His disciples in other cases of this kind, that fasting and prayer are helpful in bringing about the desired result. The more difficult the question that confronts the Christian, the more firmly must he cling to God’s promises. Whether Satan be actually present in the form of a very malignant and baffling disease, or whether he attempt to hinder the work of Christ in His Church by all manner of obstructions, earnest, devout prayer is an ally that can be depended upon to secure the needed help from above, to put the enemy to flight, and to gain the day for the cause of Christ.


Verses 22-27

Christ foretells His passion and pays the temple-tax

Matthew 17:22-23

22 And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: 23 And they shall kill Him, and the third day He shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.


Cross-references

Mark 9:30-32; Luke 9:43-45; Matthew 16:21-23; Matthew 20:17-19; Genesis 3:15; John 19:28-30; Luke 24:13-27; Acts 17:1-3

It appears that Jesus now returned to Galilee from the locality of the transfiguration. The apostles also gathered themselves together unto Him; the Teacher and all His pupils were reunited. This was done quietly, without public demonstrations. The time of God’s merciful visitation upon the people of Galilee was past. The great mass of them had not heard, had not been converted. But Jesus took all the more time for His disciples, to give them the information of which they stood in such sore need. Again He makes His announcement emphatic: It is surely coming to pass, it will happen without fail. He will be delivered up, according to the counsel of God, to be an atonement for the sins of the world. Into the hands of men He will be given, through them, as the representatives of all mankind, He will find His death. Thus it was written, and thus it must be done. It will not be an execution which will stand in the justice even of human courts, it will be deliberate murder. But He will not remain in death, He will not see corruption. He is the antitype of Jonah: on the third day He will be raised again from the grave; He will rise and show that the seal of God’s approval has been placed upon His finished work. The disciples were again too dull to grasp the significance of the instruction in Christ’s words. Above all was the comfort of the last words lost upon them. They were all greatly distressed and filled with much sorrow. They saw only death and darkness.

The question of the Temple-tax:

Matthew 17:24-26

24 And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your Master pay tribute? 25 He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? 26 Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.


Cross-references

Matthew 4:13-16; Matthew 11:23-24; Mark 2:1; Exodus 30:11-16; Exodus 38:21-31; Matthew 17:5; Colossians 1:9-14; Ephesians 1:2-14; 1 John 3:1-2; Ephesians 5:1-2; Romans 8:12-17; John 1:9-13; Revelation 21:6

Capernaum was still considered the home of Jesus, and here He returned for a brief visit. Here the receivers of the custom, the collectors of the Temple-tax, were making their rounds. In the Old Testament, Exodus 30:13-16, every Jew above twenty had been taxed a half shekel annually for the support of the Sanctuary. This tax was renewed in the time following the exile, the money being paid in the nearest equivalent of the coins then in circulation. The didrachma, or double Attic drachma, was now the commonly accepted tax for the Temple. The collectors did not approach Jesus directly, but, knowing Peter from former days, they address their request to him. Peter, familiar with his Master’s habits and certain that He had always paid His contribution as a member of the Jewish Church, answered in the affirmative. Jesus, according to His omniscience, knew of the conversation before Peter ever stepped into the house and before he had had an opportunity to speak of the matter. So He anticipated His disciple; literally, got ahead of him. He also has a question to propose by presenting a parallel case. He wants to know what is customary with the rulers of the world in demanding and accepting duties on merchandise and poll-tax. The question is put in a lively spirit: What think you? Are the children liable or strangers? From the answer of Peter, who naturally exempted the children, Jesus then drew His conclusion: Therefore free are the children. Jesus was a Son in His Father’s house, in the Jewish Church and its Temple, and not a servant in another’s, and therefore could claim, as His rightful property, the offerings of the Temple. God is King of the Temple-city, therefore His Son is free from Temple-tribute. “His meaning includes this: My dear Peter, I know that we are kings and children of kings. I am the King of kings, and no one has the right to exact the Temple-tax from us, but they should rather pay it to us. How is it, then, My dear Peter, that they demand the tax from thee, since thou art a king’s son? What thinkest thou? Do they do right that they demand the tax of thee? But since Christ proposes this question in a general way, Peter also answers in a general way in his simplicity, when he says: Not the children, but others usually pay the tax, not knowing that Christ in His words had called him a king’s son.” [Luther, 7, 336. 337]. This thought may be emphasized still more strongly. The children of God by faith in Christ, Galatians 3:26, the children of the New Testament, kings in their own right, Revelation 5:10, are free in the best sense of the word, John 8:36. They are no longer held in the yoke of any Old Testament ceremonial law, they, like their Master, are free from the precepts of Israel. Jesus thus makes a joyful declaration, which holds true for all times.

The miracle:

Matthew 17:27

27 Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for Me and thee.


Cross-references

Matthew 13:53-58; Matthew 12:6; Luke 5:1-11; Philippians 2:4-11

The miracle is taken so absolutely for granted that its fulfilment is not even noted. Matthew simply puts down the command of Christ. Peter took his hook and line, went out to the lake, threw out the line, drew up the fish with the stater in his mouth, and paid this coin, which was equal to about 60 cents [Luco note: About ten dollars in 2023 according to US Inflation Calculator], or twice the Temple-tax, for himself and for his Master. Thus was it the Lord’s will. Jesus might easily have obtained the small sum of money somewhere else. He might also have paid for them all, though the text does not indicate that they were all present. Jesus purposely wanted to gain the money for the payment of the Temple-tax by a striking miracle. He, the Lord of heaven and earth, who has the fishes in the sea, the silver and gold of the whole world, in His hand, humiliates Himself thus deeply and subjects Himself to the precepts of the Jews, in order not to give offense needlessly, and perhaps, to win some of the people for His kingdom. It is a lesson for all disciples of all times, that they do not give offense, that they do not abuse the power and the liberty which they have in Christ to the detriment of their neighbor, but be willing to accommodate themselves to the wishes, demands, customs, and precepts of men, wherever love dictates this course and it may be followed without offending against a command of God [Stoeckhardt, Biblische Geschichte des Neuen Testaments, 152]. It might seem a small thing that Jesus and His followers would seem to despise the Temple, and disallow its claims, but a proper desire to live peaceably with all men, if possible, dictated His course and became a lesson for all time.

Summary

Jesus is miraculously transfigured on a mountain, gives His disciples a lesson on the coming of Elijah, heals a lunatic demoniac, chides the apostles for the smallness of their faith, again foretells His passion, and pays the Temple-tax.


Chapter 18

Verses 1-14

The greatest in the kingdom of heaven

A question of rank:

Matthew 18:1

1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?


Cross-references

Mark 9:33-34; Luke 9:46; Matthew 11:11; Matthew 20:20-24

In the same hour in which the striking miracle with the Temple-tax had taken place. Only a small interval of time had elapsed since their return into the house. And on the way they had quarreled among themselves as to rank and degree in their own circle. Thus early was the devil of pride raising his ugly head in their midst. Although their discussion had been carried on secretly, Jesus knew of the quarrel and questioned them about it, Mark 9:33. They state their supposed difficulty in the form of a query: Who, then, who, in your opinion, ought to be considered the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Jesus had repeatedly tried to show them that His kingdom, strictly speaking, is not a visible, physical, temporal kingdom, but consists of His reigning in the hearts of His believers. But that idea was still too difficult for them to grasp. They want plain, concrete evidence.

The demonstration:

Matthew 18:2-5

And Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in My name receiveth Me.


Cross-references

Mark 9:35-37; Luke 9:47-48; John 3:3; Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17; Matthew 11:25-30; Matthew 25:37-40; Matthew 20:25-28; 1 Corinthians 14:20; 2 Corinthians 11:1-15

Christ determined to make His answer very plain, His demonstration very palpable. Calling to Him a little child, perhaps one of the household, He took him in His arms and embraced him, Mark 9:36, reassured him by these signs of loving regard, and then let him stand in the very midst of the disciples. The little child furnishes the subject for a very impressive lesson with a very solemn introduction. Most emphatically He declares that they must be converted, turn around and head in the opposite direction. They had indeed accepted and confessed Jesus, but the thoughts which they just now voiced showed that they were still far from possessing that condition of mind and heart which is indispensable in a servant of Christ. Their faith could never last at that rate. As children they must become, in simplicity of faith, in unqualified acceptance of Bible-truths, in trusting humility. In the proper relation of a child toward his parents, all self-consciousness, all forwardness, all arrogance is absent. Instead, there is a simple, unswerving belief in the truthfulness, in the ability, and in the care of the parents. This same condition of mind and heart is necessary in disciples of Christ if they wish to enter into the kingdom of heaven. There must be no considering of honor and glory before men, no false ambition, no scheming for power, all this being contrary to the spirit of Jesus Christ. Do not think, as Luther says, about becoming great, but about becoming small. The elevation will come in due time, if you but practise humiliation first. To become humble as a little child, that is true greatness in the kingdom of heaven, not only to feign humility by symbolic acts and dresses, whose very unusualness makes them doubly conspicuous, for the latter may be the very essence of pride. “As though He would say: I see that your carnal mind is not affected by mere words; therefore I present this child to you, in order that ye may afterward and always think of it. Behold, here is a child! Now tell Me whether it is prepared for a worldly or temporal kingdom, of which you undoubtedly dream. That would be a poor kingdom, yea, none at all, which would be ruled by this child. But now, as much as this child is prepared to rule a worldly kingdom, so foolish it is to think that My kingdom is of this world. For the kingdom which I begin is of such a nature that all worldly-wise understand much less of it than this child may understand of a worldly kingdom. Therefore the idea and the thought of a worldly kingdom must be laid aside entirely if ye want to speak of My kingdom. For My kingdom will be of such nature that ye must become children in it, that permit themselves to be ruled, but do not rule in their own person, just as this child in the worldly kingdom does not rule, but is ruled.” [Luther, 7, 340]. Jesus now turns the argument slightly, in order to emphasize the importance of properly appreciating the souls of children. Whosoever, every one that accepts, receives like a true father, with all the evidences of such regard, even a single little child of this kind in the name and for the sake of Jesus, receives the Lord Himself, in and with the child. Every one that, for love of Christ, shows such Christ-like kindness to poor, forsaken children, has the promise that he, in doing so, receives Christ Himself, and with Christ His Father in heaven, Mark 9:37.

A warning:

Matthew 18:6-7

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!


Cross-references

Mark 9:42; Luke 17:1-2; Luke 1:11-15; Luke 1:39-44

Christ is now fairly launched upon a subject which is very near and dear to Him, because of His love for all the lowly and humble. He has in mind not only the little children, though they are His first consideration, but all the lowly and unassuming, the small ones in the kingdom of heaven, that believe on Him. They may not excel in great intellectual accomplishments, they may not stand out before others in those matters which are commonly accounted great in this world; they are simple, unpretentious Christians. But woe unto him that should offend one of these, that should lay a temptation before them in any form, that should lead them into sin, that should replace their simple faith by doubts regarding the Scriptures and their Savior. Many a Christian has been offended, scandalized, been led into doubt, and thus to misbelief and despair by the bantering, frivolous tone employed by such as pretend great learning, whenever they refer to the Bible and the way of redemption. Christ speaks with great feeling. He suggests a punishment which would approximately fit the crime, a fate which would be preferable to the transgression of offending in the manner shown by Him. Let a large millstone, of the kind used in mills driven by animals, be hung about the neck of such a one as contemplates so heinous a transgression, rather than that the offense be done. [Cp. Luther, 7, 880-886] The entire subject of offenses is extremely distasteful to Jesus. He pronounces a woe upon the world because of them, for a large part of actual sins committed are due to suggestions, temptations, deliberate attempts at leading astray, coming from without. It is true, indeed, that offenses will come, on account of the perverted heart and mind of natural man. God is not responsible for the evil, but the evil lives in the world since the fall of Adam. Out of the evil hearts proceed the sinful desires, and these break forth in sinful deeds, and so scandals are inevitable. They find their way into the midst of the external Church of God, every heretic claiming for himself the support of Scriptures. “Therefore one should learn to know that scoundrel, the devil, who ornaments and sells himself under the name of God. For all false teachers and heretics claim for themselves the name of God, as you see in the case of the Pope, the sacrament-heretics, the Anabaptists, and all schismatics. But the Christians are not excused if they permit themselves to be led astray. For Christians should indeed be childlike, but in Christ, not outside of Christ. For Christ the Lord has warned them sufficiently against the false schismatics that would come and attempt to seduce them under the name of Christ.” [Luther, 7, 890]. Woe to that man through whom the scandal comes, that is guilty of causing other men to sin!

A further warning:

Matthew 18:8-9

Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.


Cross-references

Mark 9:43-48; Matthew 5:27-30; James 1:14; Romans 8:12-14; 1 Corinthians 7:2,8-9; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Isaiah 66:16; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 2:16; Matthew 25:41,46

The subject upon which He here touches affects Jesus so deeply that He repeats His warning of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:29-30. Offenses will come, not only from without, but also from within, from one’s own members. The hand, the foot, the eye present occasion for sinning. The law of sin is ever present in the organs of the body. To deny these members, to fight against every abuse of their God-given functions, to keep them in absolute control, that is the great concern of the disciple of Christ. That is not to be understood, as Luther says, that a person mutilate his body, but that he should keep his members in subjection with the help of the Holy Ghost, in true faith. The members must be cut off, that is, be subdued by the Spirit, in order that the hand, the eye, the feet do not perform what the sinful heart intends. For the end of him that yields to sin, that places his members into the willing service of sin, is everlasting fire, the fire of hell, where their worm will not die, neither will their fire be quenched, Mark 9:43-48. Only he who, through the power of the Holy Ghost within him, keeps his body in subjection, does not permit sin to gain the ascendancy, only he will retain faith and a good conscience, only he will save body and soul unto everlasting life.

Warning against arrogance:

Matthew 18:10-11

10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven. 11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.


Cross-references

Isaiah 5:20-21; Romans 14:10-13; Matthew 25:41-46; Psalm 34:7; Psalm 91:9-11; Hebrews 1:13-14; Matthew 28:18-20

The meek and lowly, including the children, are again His theme. See to it, He says, make it your business to watch, that you do not look down upon so much as one of these lowly, whose faith in Me is so simple, but sincere. The humbler the disciple, the surer his discipleship, the higher the value which God, the heavenly Father, places upon it. There are special angels delegated for their service, angels that are confirmed in the glory of heaven, that stand before God always, in the indescribable bliss of seeing His face. Note: There are good spirits, angels that continually taste the glories of heaven, that are confirmed in their possession of heaven. And these angels are delegated to the service of them that are God’s, especially of those that are lowly and humble, like children in their faith. This fact ought to be taught to the children from their earliest childhood. “Thus I should train a child from his earliest youth that I say to him: Dear child, thou hast thine own angel; when thou prayest in the morning and in the evening, that angel will be with thee, will sit by thy bed, has on a white garment, will nurse thee, will rock and protect thee that the Evil One, the devil, cannot come to thee. Also, when thou cheerfully sayest the Benedicite and the Gratias at the table, thy angel will be with thee at the table, serve thee, protect and watch that no evil strike thee, and that the food will agree well with thee. If one would picture this to the children, they would learn from their youth and become used to it that the angels are with them; and that would serve not only for this purpose that the children will rely upon the protection of the angels, but also that they would become chaste and learn to dread the evil when they are alone, that they would think: Though our parents are not with us, yet the angels are there; they look upon us, that the Evil Spirit may show us no malice. This may be a childish sermon, but still good and necessary; and so necessary and also childish that it serves also us adults; for the angels are not only with the children, but also with us older people.” [Luther, 10, 1047. 1048]. So highly does God value the children and the childlike in faith, so emphatically does He warn against contempt of them, which is sure to lead to offense of them. “Thus we let these words be a simple discourse, for we also are children and believers, if we remain in that, and then it is all the better. But if we be tempted with false doctrine, then it is said: Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for know ye that they belong to Me, therefore be sure not to despise them; as though He would say: Take heed, ye preachers, parents, … that ye do your share that the children learn to pray, believe, and know Christ. For that is your office, ye should educate these children for Me, I entrust them to you.” [Luther, 7, 907-909]. A final statement to bring home this truth: Everything that is lost, all people in the whole world that have incurred eternal damnation, none excepted, are embraced in His earnest intention and purpose of salvation. The desolate ruins of the fall of Adam are the place which the Redeemer visits with special love, for out of the ruins He wants to build for Himself a holy temple, out of living stones which have been made whole by the blood of His atonement.

Parable of the straying sheep:

Matthew 18:12-14

12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? 13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. 14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.


Cross-references

Luke 15:1-7; John 6:37-40; John 10:11; John 10:22-30; 2 Peter 3:9; Psalm 147:10-11

A most effective comparison! The picture is that of a mountain meadow, where the shepherd has taken his flock to give them the full benefit of the rich grass. But now it happens that one goes astray, leaving the richness of the meadow for an occasional hummock of bunch grass, exchanging the safety of the shepherd’s protecting care for the uncertainty of the gullies and canyons, with the danger of rock-slides and bloodthirsty animals. For the shepherd that one sheep then becomes an object of concern. Leaving the other sheep behind him, he climbs up into the pathless mountains, and searches for the stray. And if he has the good fortune to see his toil rewarded, his joy over that one sheep will be greater than that over the others that have not felt the temptation to leave the meadow in search of adventures. Most solemnly Jesus emphasizes, most solemnly He states the conclusion: In the same manner it is not the object of the heavenly Father’s will that even a single one of the lowly and humble disciples be lost, especially not on account of an offense given by a brother in the faith. The Father in heaven has only one will, the will to save; only one desire He has, to save by grace. The idea of a predestination to damnation is as ridiculous as it is blasphemous.


Verses 15-22

How to deal with an erring brother

Matthew 18:15-17

15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.


Cross-references

Luke 17:3; Matthew 6:12; Luke 10:16; John 8:17; Deuteronomy 17:6-7; Deuteronomy 19:15; 2 Corinthians 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:17-22; Hebrews 10:26-29; Galatians 2:11-14; Acts 15:22-29; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 1 Timothy 1:18-20

Note the connection: God does not want a single one to perish, to be lost, especially not the weak and erring, whose weakness might make them a comparatively easy prey in case they are tempted. The purpose of this entire passage is to show how a weak and erring brother or sister may be won back to Christ, even if it be a matter of some difficulty, of hard work. “Against thee”: not referring mainly to personal offenses, but rather to sins about which one has a first-hand knowledge, which have drawn attention and are sure to offend Christ and the Christian religion. Sins they must be, not personal peculiarities. The latter may make a person unfit for some office in the Church and come into consideration only in that connection. But the Lord is concerned about the former only in this passage. “Christ now says: ‘If thy brother sin against thee,’ that is, if he bears himself thus that he publicly lives against God and His Word. For that means to sin against thee and all Christians, which is done against God’s honor, or which is done and sinned against God, as when one despises God, blasphemes His Word, or sins against the Second Table, as in stealing, robbing, hurting, lying, and deceiving. Now if this comes to thee, if thou noticest it, then tell him his fault between him and thee. Thou shalt not publicly expose him on the market or where thou art, before everybody, but remember that he is still thy brother, therefore keep silence in the presence of others and go to him, take him alone before thee, in a kind manner admonish and rebuke him, say: This I have heard of thee, see that thou desist therefrom, lest God punish thee. Then it may well be that he will gladly hear thee and thou gain thy brother and bring him back to the right path.” [Luther, 7, 919. 920]. The entire manner of speaking and acting must be kindly, but emphatic, yet dignified. The hatred of sin, but the love of the sinner, must be evident. Note also: It must be a brother, a fellow-Christian, for whom this work of love is done, 1 Corinthians 5:10-11.

If this first attempt at serving the brother and gaining him back from his error should fail (and it may be a matter of Christian wisdom to repeat the private admonition several times), then the second measure must be adopted. A careful selection of these witnesses is also a matter of loving judgment. The injunction is based upon Deuteronomy 19:15. For a second time every effort should be made to have the erring one submit to the admonition. Patience and the object of gaining the erring brother must dictate every word, without, however, derogating from the dignity of the Word of God. Truth and righteousness must be upheld at all costs.

If, now, the full application of this measure also fail in spite of all efforts, in spite of all kindness and patience, then the last measure must be resorted to; there is no alternative. If the erring brother pays no attention to your admonition, if he shows no evidence of realizing his sin, if he refuses to be convinced in spite of clear passages of Scripture condemning his manner of acting, then the matter must be brought to the attention of the whole congregation. This is not the Church in its totality, but, according to common Jewish usage of the word, and also according to Christ’s own explanation, Matthew 18:19, the local, visible congregation. And again shall appeal and admonition be employed with the object of winning the brother. The length of time is not prescribed and may vary in different cases, if only the erring one may be brought back to knowledge. But finally, if all efforts are of no avail, the condition of facts must be stated. The former brother must be declared to be as an heathen man and a publican, as one that is outside of the Christian Church, by his own fault and in spite of the most painstaking care and loving search.

The power of the congregation:

Matthew 18:18-20

18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.


Cross-references

Isaiah 22:22; Revelation 3:7; Matthew 16:18-19; John 20:19-23; 2 Corinthians 2:10-11

Christ here fulfils the promise which He made to Peter and through him to all the apostles, Matthew 16:18. In a solemn declaration He gives to them the keys of heaven. The entire congregation, of which He has just spoken as exercising the power of declaring an excommunication, has the power to bind and to loose, to forgive the sins of the penitent sinners unto them, but to retain the sins of the impenitent, so long as they do not repent. If this power is exercised in accordance with Christ’s injunction and order, the sentence is valid before God in heaven. Every local congregation, even the smallest and poorest, has this peculiar church power. But it must never be forgotten that this power is given to edification and not to destruction, 2 Corinthians 13:10. It is intended to be a wonderful means for gaining poor sinners and for comforting the weak. “For when thy sins torment thee in thy conscience, thou mayest, in order to awaken a special joy, use the words of Christ, Matthew 18:18: ‘Whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’ If, therefore, thou hast been absolved by a servant of God or, if need be, by another pious Christian, and really art attentive to this promise of God, whereby He absolves thee from sins and receives thee into His grace, and if thou dost not run somewhere else: then thou hast found the safest haven of peace and of joy. For God does not lie and deceive; only believe thou steadfastly His promise.” [Luther, 12, 1952].

The fact that this power is actually vested in the Christian congregation, He explains: If two, the smallest number that can be considered a congregation, agree, consent together, come to a perfect agreement on any matter which they want to bring before God in prayer, their petition will receive the full attention of God. Such a full agreement can be wrought by the Holy Spirit only. “The Church may commence, continue, and be reformed with two individuals. The prayer of these two humble individuals on earth brings down the gracious answer of the Father who is in heaven, thereby attesting and confirming the character of the Church.” [Schaff, Commentary, Matthew, 330]. A significant hint: If at any time, it is especially necessary when the case of an erring brother is to be discussed that there be prayerful harmony among the brethren of the congregation, under the guidance of the Spirit. A last gracious promise: “Where,” namely, wherever, “two or three,” the minimum number composing a Christian society, are assembled, gathered as believers in Me, “there am I,” now and always, till the end of time, “in the midst of them.” This is true, above all, of the public profession of Christ and His Gospel, whether this be in church services or in other assemblies in which questions pertaining to His name and Word are discussed.

True forgiveness:

Matthew 18:21-22

21 Then came Peter to Him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.


Cross-references

Luke 17:3-4; Matthew 6:12; Colossians 3:12-17

The entire discourse had really concerned the question of dealing with an erring brother. The need of saving the brother, if there were any possibility of doing so without denying the truth and bringing dishonor upon God, had been emphasized. But Peter now wanted to know whether there is any limit to the number of times one should forgive a repentant brother. His question implies: Is there not reason for doubting the sincerity of repentance in such a case? Or is this not at least the final limit? Peter’s estimate, he thought, was generous. But Christ’s answer is staggering: “I say not unto thee, Until seven times.” He would not even begin with such an insignificant sum, nor would He want to be tied down to any definite sum. No number would begin to show the greatness of forgiving love that should be found in the hearts of Christians; there is no limit to the number of times that we should forgive an erring brother and reinstate him in our esteem after a transgression on his part. Christ here speaks of forgiveness of sins, and here He has no limit, the seventy times seven evidently being in place of a number beyond petty calculation. Nothing but love and forgiveness shall be in the hearts of Christians.


Verses 23-35

Parable of the unmerciful servant

Matthew 18:23

23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.


Cross-references

Mark 1:14-15; John 3:5; Isaiah 1:18; Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 16:1-13

“Therefore,” because unlimited forgiving in disposition and action is expected of disciples of Christ. This is an essential feature of the Church of Christ that this cheerful willingness be found. We have here an illustration both of the manner and of the extent of Christian forgiveness. A man, a king, a great monarch, one whose wealth and power seem limitless as measured by the standard of men, found it necessary, determined to hold a reckoning with his servants, with the men that were employed by him and had, in the course of time, contracted debts.

The staggering debt:

Matthew 18:24-27

24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.


Cross-references

Luke 7:36-50; Psalm 145:8; Daniel 9:9

With solemn emphasis the Lord says: Hardly had he begun to look over the accounts, the servants appearing before him one after the other with their certificates of debt, when a debtor of a thousand talents was brought forward. The exact sum of money represented by this weight of silver or gold cannot be accurately determined and is immaterial, since the text itself does not state whether the silver or the gold talent is meant. Figures varying from ten to more than three hundred million dollars have been given [Luco note: About 170 million to over 5 billion dollars in 2023 according to US Inflation Calculator]. The point of the story is that the sum was incalculably great, it staggered the imagination, and purposely so. The proceedings are simple: Since he had not to pay, the lord gave command that he and his wife and his children be sold as slaves, with all their possessions. Thus only could he hope to get a part of the debt paid. It was a hard, but just sentence, in full accord with the absolute power of an Oriental monarch over the lives and property of his subjects, Exodus 22:3; Leviticus 25:39; 2 Kings 4:1. The terror and distress of the condemned servant were naturally pitiful, the prospect of his being sold into slavery, perhaps to a hard and cruel master, seared his soul. Throwing himself down, therefore, crouching and almost groveling before the monarch in absolute submission and anxiety, he pleads for an extension of time; he promises to pay all. It was a promise beyond his ability to keep, but this fact did not even occur to him in the greatness of his distress. The king was deeply moved by this picture of terror and misery. He set that servant, whose pitiful plea had touched his heart, free from imprisonment, and the debt he canceled in its totality. The text implies also that he was continued in the service of the king, the latter assuming that the impression made would be a lasting one, that the lesson conveyed to him would never be forgotten.

The revolting lack of mercy:

Matthew 18:28-30

28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. 29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.


Cross-references

2 Timothy 3:1-5; Matthew 20:1-16; 1 Corinthians 6:1-11

Note the emphasis: Hardly had he left the presence of the king when this happened; it was the identical servant that had received such an immeasurable present of mercy. “He found,” not accidentally, but after deliberate search; the malice of the deed brought out. The fellow-servant owed him but a hundred Denarii, that is, at 16 2/3 cents per Denarius, less than seventeen dollars [Luco note: About 285 dollars in 2023 according to US Inflation Calculator. A Denarius was an average daily wage, so a manageable debt of a hundred working days], an insignificant sum, one that could not even come into consideration beside the immense debt which the king had just canceled for him. But here is the height of brutality: Seizing him by the throat, he choked him, after the manner permitted a creditor according to Roman law. In the harshest possible form he threatens to bring him before the tribunal unless immediate payment be made. Taken by surprise and filled with fear, the fellow-servant fell down and implored and begged for extension of time. The sum being so small, he could easily find ways and means of paying, if his creditor would but have patience. But the latter had no intention of doing so, he wanted to wreak his vengeance upon the poor fellow. Going away, he cast him into prison until such a time as he would be able to make payment of the debt. It was the climax of harshness.

The result:

Matthew 18:31-34

31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. 32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.


Cross-references

Matthew 22:1-14; Matthew 5:21-26

The treatment which had been accorded to their fellow-servant filled those that had witnessed the inhuman proceeding with deep sorrow and grief. Coming to their lord, they made a report of all that had happened. Cited into the presence of the king, the guilty one was speechless. He could not bring forth a single argument in defense of his action. But the lord characterizes him and his treatment of his fellow-servant: Having received such a large measure of mercy upon his imploring pleading, would it not have been a matter of obligation to pass on this mercy to his own debtor? And so, since the king’s wrath mounted high over such cruelty, the servant was delivered, not only to the keepers of the prison, but to the tormentors, with instructions that his life be made as miserable as possible, to atone, at least in part, for his total lack of humaneness, not to speak of decency and gratitude.

The application:

Matthew 18:35

35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.


Cross-references

Matthew 6:12; Matthew 6:14-15; John 13:34-35; 1 John 4:7-11; Ephesians 4:32

Christ here opens up the meaning of the entire parable. He pictures the average person in his treatment of his fellow-man. “Such is man, so harsh and hard, when he walks otherwise than in a constant sense of forgiveness received from God. Ignorance or forgetfulness of his own guilt make him harsh, unforgiving, and cruel to others; or, at least, he is only hindered from being such by those weak defenses of natural character which may at any moment be broken down.” [Trench, quoted in Schaff, Commentary, Matthew, 333]. God is merciless to the merciless. He wants every person without exception to be ready at all times to forgive from the heart, without sham or lip pardon, not with a cruel: Forgive, but not forget. For we Christians are all servants of God, the heavenly King. And by nature we are unprofitable servants. We are guilty before the Lord on account of our thousandfold transgressions of the Law. Our debt before Him is so great that it staggers the imagination, as Luther suggests, that we can never hope to pay it off. We are therefore guilty of hell and damnation before Him. But now God has had mercy upon us for the sake of Jesus, who paid the debt of our sin. He has loosed us from the imprisonment we deserve and forgiven the debt. Therefore we have the obligation of gratitude resting upon us that we gladly forgive our fellow-men what they have sinned against us. Even if such a transgression be great in the sight of men, it cannot come into consideration in comparison with the debt which God has mercifully forgiven us. Any man, therefore, that is unmerciful, hard-hearted, unforgiving toward his fellow-man, thereby denies and repudiates God’s grace and mercy. His former debt is again charged to his account. The just anger of God will deliver him into a merciless judgment, from which there is no salvation, no delivery. “It is a fine, comforting Gospel, and sweet for the saddened consciences, since it has nothing but forgiveness of sins. But on the other hand, to the hard heads and to the stubborn it is a terrible judgment, and, especially, since the servant is not a heathen, but belongs under the Gospel and had faith. For since the lord has mercy upon him and forgives what he has done, he must undoubtedly be a Christian. Therefore this is not a punishment for the heathen, nor for the great mass that do not hear the Word of God, but for those that hear the Gospel with the ears and have it on the tongue, but will not live in harmony with it.” [Luther, 11, 1801].

Summary

Christ warns against giving offense to children and to the lowly in His kingdom, illustrating His discourse with the parable of the lost sheep, teaches how to deal with an erring brother, and gives a lesson on forgiveness, illustrated with the parable of the unmerciful servant.


Chapter 19

Verses 1-12

Marriage and divorce

The final departure from Galilee:

Matthew 19:1-2

1 And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, He departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan; And great multitudes followed Him; and He healed them there.


Cross-references

Matthew 17:24; Matthew 4:13-16; Matthew 11:23-24; Mark 2:1; Matthew 16:21; Luke 9:51-56; Luke 17:11-19; John 10:40-42; Matthew 11:2-6

Galilee’s day of grace was at its end. Jesus had fulfilled all things that He had intended for the people of the northern country. Even the last lesson, with its impressive sayings, had been given to the disciples only. The time of Christ’s great Passion was near. He left Galilee to travel by easy stages into the country of Judea by way of Perea, along the eastern shore of the Jordan, opposite Samaria and Judea, including a large part of the former kingdom of the Edomites. He seems to have been in this country for some time, attending both to His teaching and healing ministry, Mark 10:1. As in Galilee, so here many people were attracted by His fame; great crowds followed Him, and many, no doubt, received the seed of the Gospel truths into their hearts.

The question of the Pharisees:

Matthew 19:3

The Pharisees also came unto Him, tempting Him, and saying unto Him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?


Cross-references

Luke 12:1-3; Matthew 22:15-22; John 7:53-8:11; Matthew 4:5-7; Psalm 31:13-14

Their persecution did not cease now that Jesus had deliberately turned His back to them and even left Galilee. They are in a class by themselves, distinct from the people that were following Jesus with no evil designs. With bitterness and hatred in their hearts they here again set a trap for the Lord by proposing an apparently innocent question. They wanted to know whether a man could divorce his wife “for every cause,” for any cause whatsoever, that is, whether a man might put away his wife at all, Mark 10:2. It was a catch question, either the positive or the negative answer intended to make enemies for Christ. “They purpose to catch Him. If He should answer: No, He would act contrary to Moses; but should He say: Yes, then He would tear marriage asunder, that people would reject each other and run apart, and the country be filled with adultery: they would therefore trip and catch Him. But He tears through all as a Master and Lord.” [Luther, 7, 966]. Or the connection may have been the following: “At this time there were two famous divinity and philosophical schools among the Jews, that of Shammai and that of Hillel. On the question of divorce the school of Shammai maintained that a man could not legally put away his wife, except for whoredom. The school of Hillel taught that a man might put away his wife for a multitude of other causes, and when she did not find grace in his sight, that is, when he saw any other woman that pleased him better.” [Clarke, Commentary, 5, 188].

The answer of Jesus:

Matthew 19:4-6

And He answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.


Cross-references

Genesis 1:27; Genesis 2:15-25; Matthew 5:31-32; Romans 7:1-3; Ephesians 5:22-33

The Pharisees, as usual, find the tables turned upon them. Christ is too firmly grounded in the truth of the Old Testament. They had been so sure that there was no way out of the dilemma, that Christ’s answer, either way, would be sure to give offense. He appeals, with fine irony, to the knowledge of the books of Moses which they ought to have. He that made at the beginning, the Creator, at the time when Adam and Eve were the only representatives of the human race, made them two sexes, male and female. Their being brought together by God constituted the type of marriage in its fullest meaning, as an indissoluble union. At that time God Himself said, speaking through the mouth of Adam, Genesis 2:24; cp. Genesis 1:27, that for this reason, because marriage was so instituted and so intended by God, a man would sever the ties which formerly held him to his mother and father, in his relation of son in the family, and would be joined in union with his wife. The two that were formerly separate and distinct would, by following the instinct of sex, controlled by the ordinance of God, become united in the most intimate, in the strongest relation, that of physical, fleshly unity. Where marriage has been entered into in this manner, in obedience to God’s natural and written laws, where there is unity of the two natures, of soul properly as well as body, of sympathy, interest, and purpose, there they can no more, nevermore, be two distinct, but they are and will remain, in the sight of God, one flesh. God has joined them together, yoked them together, as oxen before the plow, but not with a heavy, burdensome yoke, but with that of mutual affection, which will cause them cheerfully to share the inevitable difficulties of their joint estate, the man as shouldering the heaviest burdens, the wife as his faithful helpmate. Man shall not separate, is His plain statement, neither the persons that have thus been joined, thinking it a light matter to break the hallowed ties, nor any other person in the world, relatives, friends, the government. There is before God, strictly speaking, no such thing as granting a divorce. The Church or the government can merely state the fact, established by competent witnesses, that a marriage has been deliberately disrupted by one or both of the contracting parties, either by adultery or by malicious desertion; it cannot grant permission to break the marriage tie. Note: What the Lord here says represents the original, the primitive state of things with reference to marriage. He has never changed His ordinance. Only two persons, one man and one woman, shall be joined in holy wedlock; for if He had wished that the male dismiss one woman and marry another, He would have made more females at the beginning. Marriage is the natural, the logical relation for people to enter into at the proper time. The first two individuals of the male and female sex were not merely a man and a woman, but male and female, in the sense of being destined and intended exclusively for each other. Even now, in the normal human being, the presence of the sex instinct is the creation of God; for the two sexes are not created arbitrarily, or independently of, but for each other, suitable and adapted for each other, and should fulfil their destiny in accordance with God’s ordinance, in holy wedlock, the indissoluble union. “As though He would say: Thou, man, shalt not permit thyself to be separated from thy wife, for He that created thee man brought thee to the woman; and He that made thee woman gave thee to the man as helpmate, and wants no divorce. Since this is so that what God has joined together no man shall part asunder, that He brings man and wife together, that He makes thee to be a man and thee to be a woman, and by His order man and woman become one body: therefore no man shall break this ordinance of God, whether his name be Moses or anything else; but here it says: Hast thou taken me, then thou must be separated from me only by death. If you are angry with each other and disagree, then be reconciled again, as also St. Paul commands, but divorce shall not be among you.” [Luther, 7, 968].

An objection and its answer:

Matthew 19:7-9

They say unto Him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.


Cross-references

Matthew 5:31-32; Deuteronomy 24:1-4; 1 Corinthians 7:10-16; Malachi 2:13-16; Mark 16:14

The Pharisees’ reference is to Deuteronomy 24:1-4. But they understood neither the intention nor the words of Moses. The purpose of Moses had been to hinder the practise of wholesale and easy divorces, and to offer to the woman at least some show of justice, by subjecting the process of separation in vogue among the Jews to certain rules and restrictions, in order to place the relationship of holy wedlock on a higher plane. Another point: Moses did not command that divorces should be obtained. He only made proper provision to safeguard the woman in case the husband insisted upon a separation. “The Pharisees seem to have regarded Moses as a patron of the practise of putting away, rather than as one bent on mitigating its evil results.” [Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1, 246]. “That was the law of Moses concerning the letter of divorce, and the Jews made use of this law with a vengeance; took wives and chased them away, took others, and regarded the process of marrying and taking wives no differently than a horse-trade. If a man had taken a wife, and she did not please him, he rejected her; and when he had divorced the first wife, and the second one did not suit him (he was sorry on account of the change), he soon wanted another, or desired his first wife again; thus they multiplied divorces. There Moses had placed a bolt in the way, prohibited the remarrying of the first wife; intended to prevent easy divorces; and on account of this addition in the law many kept their first wives.” [Luther, 7, 964].

Jesus very frankly states the reason why Moses, as the lawgiver for the theocracy of the Old Testament, had included this provision, by inspiration of God. The hardness of their hearts, that condition of heart and mind which refuses to submit to the restraint of purity and holiness, and which will probably seek to vent its spite in acts of cruelty against the wife, made such a rule advisable. And permission was only implied, not commanded. It is true, in general, that it is dangerous to permit the least evil, though prudence may seem to require it, because such permission may soon be construed as command. The Lord knew that this method of dealing with the question would prevent greater evils. “Thus, in civil government, in a city, it may often be necessary to wink at the evil doings of a scoundrel and not punish him, though, properly speaking, he should lose his head. But there may be good cause for it, lest, in punishing him, twenty innocent people would be drawn into it and would suffer damage. … Because ye are such bad and desperate scoundrels, and cannot keep what God has commanded; in order, then, that no offense happen, nor that ye slay your wives, nor remove them with poison; therefore Moses has, not commanded, but permitted you to do this. Moses, then, has not given you that law on account of your righteousness, honor, and piety, but has suffered it and winked at it on account of the hardness of your hearts. It was not commanded by him, but Moses thought: This people is a proud and evil people, it might commit one murder after another. If they refuse to keep God’s command, let them be divorced, that murder and poison be omitted. Whoever will not keep his wife willingly, let him put her away, lest a worse offense follow.” [Luther, 7, 969]. But the argument from God’s institution of holy wedlock and from the original state of holy matrimony are entirely against such a condition of affairs. So far as Jesus is concerned, He repeats the declaration made in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:31-32. He that for any reason puts away, rejects, his wife, except that of marital unfaithfulness, in which case the marriage tie has already been torn asunder, is an adulterer before God; and, in the same way, he that marries a divorcee, one that has left her husband without Scriptural grounds, is guilty of adultery.

The dismay of the disciples:

Matthew 19:10-12

10 His disciples say unto Him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. 11 But He said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. 12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.


Cross-references

1 Corinthians 7:1-9; 1 Corinthians 7:25-40; Romans 12:3-8; 1 Timothy 4:1-5; Esther 2:3; Isaiah 56:4-5

The Jews of Christ’s time had a very low view of women, and therefore of marriage. And the disciples were not free from the national ideas and prejudices. They had never had the subject presented to them like this before. If such be the state of affairs so far as the relations between husband and wife are concerned, they say, if the husband must regard his wife so highly, and if both husband and wife must regard the marriage bond as indissoluble, if this recourse to quick and easy divorces is both against the original order of God’s institution and against His revealed will, then it is poor policy to get married. But Christ corrects their poor understanding, and shows distinctly that the estate of marriage is the normal state for normal adults, only such individuals being ordinarily exempt from this rule whose physical and spiritual condition renders them unfit for the duties peculiar to the physical side of marriage. Some people are naturally, from their birth, incapable of contracting marriage. Others have been rendered impotent, sterile, through deliberate mutilation by others, as was done in the case of the Oriental eunuchs. Still others purposely force themselves to chastity, to a life outside of marriage, keeping the natural desires in subjection, in order to be able to devote their entire time and life to the service of the kingdom of God. But all three classes are abnormal, even the last, except in cases of religious persecution or for some other extraordinary reason, 1 Corinthians 7:26. Herewith Christ neither commands nor recommends celibacy, but sets these people, as a class, in a separate category, and warns that it takes a great deal of spiritual and moral capacity to grasp His saying. The claims of the kingdom of heaven are paramount, but Christ expects no one to feign an asceticism to which he is not fully equal, since that would be setting aside the law for the propagation of the human race by the order of marriage, which Christ has, throughout His declaration, very warmly defended. Cp. 1 Corinthians 9:5-6. The last state described by Christ may, under circumstances, be preferable to the married state, but it takes an exceptional spiritual enlightenment to grasp it.


Verses 13-15

Christ blessing little children

Matthew 19:13

13 Then were there brought unto Him little children, that He should put His hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them.


Cross-references

Mark 10:13; Luke 18:15; Leviticus 1:1-4; Deuteronomy 34:9; Genesis 48:14-16; 1 Timothy 4:14; 1 Timothy 5:22; Acts 6:1-7; Mark 10:46-48

The ministry of Jesus was by no means limited to adults. He had only very recently used a little child to emphasize a very important truth in the kingdom of God, Matthew 18:1-14. And the child, on that occasion, had willingly submitted to His kind advances, Mark 9:36. That He was a friend of the children appears also from Matthew 21:15-16, where the little children sing His praises. In this case the mothers brought their little children to Him. Their request was suggested as much by their manner as by any words they may have spoken. They wanted Jesus to lay His hands upon them in token of kindly blessing. His prayer over them would be their fitting consecration to God. There is no question in the minds of the mothers as to the faith living in the hearts of the little ones, even as Christ had expressly stated that they could believe in Him, Matthew 18:3-6. All attempts to deny and disprove this must come to naught before the simplicity and directness of the statements. Reason must not rule Scriptures, but at all times, and in all matters, be directed by it [Cp. Luther, 7, 982-987]. The disciples had not taken the recent lesson to heart very seriously, or else they had managed to forget it very quickly, for they spoke to the mothers of the little ones in a very harsh way for disturbing their Master with trifles and for worrying Him, whose thoughts were engaged, as they supposed, with far too weighty matters to bear such an unwelcome interruption. A similar excuse is made by people for not presenting all their difficulties to the Lord in prayer.

Christ’s rebuke:

Matthew 19:14-15

14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto Me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. 15 And He laid His hands on them, and departed thence.


Cross-references

Mark 10:14-16; Luke 18:16-17; Matthew 18:1-6; Genesis 17:9-14; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:36-39; Acts 16:25-34

Jesus was openly displeased by the interference of the disciples. Let them alone, He says, do not bother them. To interfere with a child’s coming to Jesus is to put an obstruction in one’s own path to salvation. And hinder them not in their coming to Me. Every encouragement should be given the children that they may learn to know and love their Savior. For the kingdom of heaven is made up of such as they. The children themselves, with their simple trust and faith in Jesus, and all such as they, all that have the same confiding trust and spirit of faith, they make up the membership of the kingdom of God, they truly belong to His Church. All the blessings of His kingdom are theirs, even long before, yea, just because they have not come to the full use of their reason. A baptized child has just as full and complete a claim upon heaven as the most advanced Christian. This Jesus further stresses by giving outward evidence of His feeling toward the little children. He laid His hands upon them in blessing. He publicly acknowledged them as His own.


Verses 16-26

The dangers of riches

Matthew 19:16-19

16 And, behold, one came and said unto Him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And He said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. 18 He saith unto Him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.


Cross-references

Mark 10:17-19; Luke 18:18-20; Luke 10:25-37; Daniel 12:2-3; Matthew 25:31-46; Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:1-21; Leviticus 18:5; Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Genesis 6:5; Psalm 14:2-3; Psalm 51:3-5; Luke 11:11-13; Romans 3:9-18; Romans 3:21-31; Galatians 3:10-14; Ephesians 2:1-10

The evangelist introduces the story in a lively manner: Lo! Christ was on His journey through Perea, and the experience which Matthew had recorded in the first verses of this chapter may have been repeated often. People were always coming with various matters which they wanted to bring to Christ’s attention. In this case, one man came, a ruler, Luke 18:18, probably a rich young ruler of some small synagog, as some versions imply. Here was a frank, sincere, open heart, weary of the endless disputings of the scribes and Pharisees, earnestly seeking the truth. He is even now more than half convinced that he will find it with Jesus. Good Teacher, he calls out, what good shall I do that I may have eternal life? In order to lead him to the knowledge of all truth, Jesus, first of all, takes up the question as he has put it. He wants to test him as to his understanding of his own request: Why callest thou Me good? He does not mean to decline the title as not being applicable to Him, but to God only, nor as a mere appellation of courtesy. The accent and position of the word “Me” rather implies: Do you know that in calling Me good, you are placing Me on a level with God Himself, and rightly so? Far, therefore, from rejecting the honor, Christ rather joyfully takes up the word and emphasizes its full import and significance. He now proceeds with the second test: So far as your wish to enter eternal life is concerned, you, as a ruler of a school, ought to have the information; the way you yourself have taught is that of the fulfilment of the Law. The young man was sincere enough, but he was suffering with the same amount of self-righteousness that every other person does by nature. In such cases it is necessary to refer to the Law of God and preach complete fulfilment of every commandment. If a person then has his eyes opened and freely acknowledges his insufficiency and sinfulness, then there is a chance for the knowledge of the Savior and for the faith in this Redeemer which alone brings to heaven. Two significant facts: If it were not for man’s natural depravity and his blindness in spiritual things, he could, indeed, get to heaven by fulfilling the commandments. A complete keeping of the Law earns life everlasting, Luke 10:28. Keeping the commandments is also enjoined upon the Christians as an exercise in sanctification. “The commandments must be kept, or there is no life, but only death. For even faith is nothing, where love, that is, the fulfilment of the commandments, does not follow, 1 Corinthians 13:2. For Christ, God’s Son, has not come, nor did He die for that reason that we should freely be disobedient to the commandments, but that we might fulfil the commandments through His help and assistance. Therefore as it is said: Works without faith are nothing, so it is also true: Faith without fruit is also vain. For work without faith is idolatry. Faith without work is a lie, and no faith.” [Luther, 9, 1806].

In order to open the eyes of the young man, who again frankly asks, What kind? Which do you mean? Those of Moses or those of the elders? Jesus slowly recites the chief commandments of the second table of the Decalog, placing the summary of the entire table in the last place. He hoped that the mere hearing of the list from the lips of another might cause the man to think, to reflect, to apply the words to himself, to examine his heart properly. But even the last commandment did not so much as stir his conscience.

The test:

Matthew 19:20-22

20 The young man saith unto Him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? 21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow Me. 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.


Cross-references

Mark 10:20-22; Luke 18:21-23; Galatians 3:10; Matthew 5:48; Proverbs 30:7-9; Matthew 6:11; Luke 12:32-34; Acts 4:32-37; Matthew 13:22; Proverbs 11:4,28; Matthew 6:19-24

Christ’s recital of the second table had not so much as stirred a ripple in the self-righteous equanimity of the young man. He was so steeped in his good opinion of himself that it would take a strong wrench to wake him up out of his selfishness. So far as he was concerned, he felt satisfied that he had kept all the commandments from his youth, according to the Pharisaic standard of keeping the letter, but not the spirit. So Christ takes him at his word. If he is really anxious to be perfect before the Law of God, above all, if he wants to present concrete evidence of his fulfilment of the summary of the second table, let him give the proceeds of the sale of all his goods to the poor, thus showing that he loved them as himself. This was Christ’s test of the young man. He knew his heart and realized that his chief fault was his love of his goods and his unwillingness to make sacrifices. For it is true at all times: our love of God must go above all things. If it should therefore be necessary, for the sake of the kingdom of God, to sacrifice all earthly possessions and life itself for His sake in order to make our discipleship perfect, there can be but one answer, if we are sincere in our profession of Christianity: unconditional assent. In this case, the young man, like so many thousands since his time, “went away sorrowful,” deeply saddened and grieved, Mark 10:22. That one cross, which would not even have included personal affliction, physical suffering, was too much for him. He proved himself unfit to be a follower of Jesus. He loved his goods more than his Lord. The thorns of the love of money infested the rich soil of his heart and stifled the seed of the Word which had gotten a hopeful start; a lovable, otherwise noble nature lost for the sake of a few paltry dollars.

The lesson:

Matthew 19:23-26

23 Then said Jesus unto His disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 25 When His disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? 26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.


Cross-references

Mark 10:23-27; Luke 18:24-27; Luke 16:19-31; John 3:1-21; Mark 16:16; Ephesians 2:4-5; Jeremiah 32:27; Ephesians 3:14-21

The incident of the rich young man had made a deep impression also upon Jesus. As usual, He makes application of the lesson which He drew from the happening for His disciples. Solemnly He declares a profound, severe truth. So far as a rich man is concerned, with difficulty shall he enter into the kingdom of heaven. Wealth in itself is not a hindrance in the divine life, but its possession is attended with the greatest danger on account of the temptation of placing one’s trust in corruptible goods, Mark 10:24; 1 Timothy 6:9. Christ uses an Oriental figure to bring out strongly the truth which He wishes to impress upon His disciples. The picture of a camel passing through a needle’s eye was an Oriental proverb illustrating an extremely difficult feat. So is the case of those that place their trust in riches. To enter into the kingdom, it is necessary that a person renounce this world entirely.

The disciples had listened to the remarks of their Master with increasing consternation. This saying was a positive shock to them. Under such conditions the chance for salvation is slim indeed, since there is the love of something in this world in every man’s heart. But Jesus gave them a long look of kindly sympathy, of careful observation. His concluding words should sink deeply into their hearts. With men, with mere human beings, this is impossible; they cannot, by their reason and strength, tear their hearts away from the things of this world. But with God all things are possible, though they seem never so impossible to men. All things that are impossible according to the judgment of men, all things that are impossible according to the power of men: the working of salvation, the gaining of redemption, the obtaining of the glories of heaven, all these things have been made possible by God in and through Jesus Christ. And God has the power to convert and renew sinful men, to tear their hearts away from all earthly things and let them be wholly given to Him.


Verses 27-30

The reward of the apostles

Peter’s question:

Matthew 19:27

27 Then answered Peter and said unto Him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed Thee; what shall we have therefore?


Cross-references

Mark 10:28; Luke 18:28; Matthew 4:18-22; Matthew 10:1-4; 1 Corinthians 4:9-16

There may have been a trace of arrogance and self-satisfaction in Peter’s tone as he addressed this question to Jesus. He had heard the demand which Jesus addressed to the young man, also the promise of a treasure in heaven, if he would comply with the request to sell all his goods. Peter’s conclusion therefore is justified: We have done that, we have left behind all things, everything in the line of goods and wealth that we possessed; does the sequel apply to us? The presumption lies in the question: What then will our reward be? Surely we are entitled to a treasure in heaven, if that is all that Thou demandest.

The answer:

Matthew 19:28

28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.


Cross-references

Matthew 16:27; Matthew 24:30-31; Matthew 26:57-68; Daniel 7:13-14; Isaiah 65:17; Revelation 21:1-6; 2 Timothy 2:10-13; 1 Corinthians 6:1-3; Revelation 21:9-14; Revelation 22:1-5

Jesus does not take occasion here to explain once more what discipleship comprises; He merely makes a statement, a prophecy as to the future. In the regeneration, in the new birth of the world on Judgment Day, when the kingdom of heaven will be finally completed, when the kingdom of glory shall begin, when the Son of Man will Himself sit on His throne to judge the world in righteousness, then the apostles shall sit upon twelve thrones and take part in the administration of Christ’s justice and power upon all believers in Christ, who are the twelve tribes in fact, the true children of Abraham.

The application to all Christians:

Matthew 19:29-30

29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. 30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.


Cross-references

Mark 10:29-31; Luke 18:29-30; Luke 14:26-27; Matthew 12:46-50; John 19:26-27; Romans 16:13; 1 Timothy 1:2; 1 Timothy 5:1-2; Romans 8:14-17; Psalm 37:16; Proverbs 15:16; Proverbs 3:33-35; Exodus 15:1-21; Luke 1:46-55; Revelation 11:15-18

Most impressively Jesus details the persons and goods which usually claim the affection of people in this world. The recital serves to bring out all the more emphatically the denial of self, which is a demand of Christ. For the sake of Christ and in the confession of His name everything else must cheerfully be given up and sacrificed without a single regret, even if it means the breaking of all earthly ties. All the greater will be His reward of mercy. Manifoldly, in great fulness, shall they receive from Him in return. Not only shall the value of all be restored in richest abundance, but as the climax of all the reward of mercy will include eternal life. All this for those that suffered and denied for the sake of Christ, to bear His shame and to further His kingdom. But the Lord adds a warning for the sake of such as are inclined to be self-satisfied and proud of their own works. The earlier or later calling has no influence upon a person’s standing in the Judgment. But he that wants to depend upon his works and intends to urge those on the last day as meriting the bliss of heaven, he has denied the grace and atoning work of His Savior and will find no place in the kingdom of heaven. All poor sinners, however, that want to be saved by grace only, will find their place prepared in the heavenly mansions.

Summary

Christ gives a lesson on marriage and divorce, blesses little children, shows the danger of placing trust in riches, and assures the apostles and all Christians of their reward of grace in heaven.


Chapter 20

Verses 1-16

Parable of the laborers in the vineyard

Matthew 20:1

1 For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.


Cross-references

Matthew 19:27-30; Matthew 3:1-3; Matthew 4:12-17; John 3:5-6; Matthew 21:33-46; John 15:1-17; Matthew 9:35-38

This parable is often called the parable of the hours, since the length of the working-day is an important item in the lesson of the story as told by Jesus. He had been discussing the reward of mercy which was to be given to those that would be firm in the confession of His name, but had added the warning against a foolish depending upon personal merits before God, since this involved the danger of losing the reward. His Church as it appears before men, as its work is being carried out before them and for their salvation, is like unto the ruler of a house, either the housefather or the manager of an estate. Such a one might be found almost any morning, in the very earliest hours, as he was obliged to go out and hire laborers, in order that the ripe fruit might not spoil for want of grape-pickers. Similar cases can be found in great number just before the harvest season in any country.

The hiring:

Matthew 20:2-7

And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye he