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Matthew 10:34-42

Matthew has recorded the words of Jesus to His newly-called apostles, as He sent them out on a short-term
mission in Galilee among the Jews. They were to go as His representatives, clothed in His power, to preach
the gospel of the kingdom to the Jews - the good news that the King was here, to gather subjects, into His

The problem was that not everyone would receive this as good news. We have seen that there would be
opposition to the message of the apostles, just as there was to Jesus.

And as Jesus was given to see into the future, to all those who would believe in Him down through the age,
He foretold of increasing animosity against the apostles and the church, culminating in the intense
persecution of Jewish believers, during the Tribulation. The believers reading Matthew’s gospel would
already have begun to experience this increased opposition.

But what about the apostles in the day that Jesus spoke these words? They would only have noted the first
indications of it, mainly between Jesus and the religious establishment. So the words of Jesus regarding the
severity of the persecution would have stunned the apostles - and they would have found it difficult to

But Jesus was determined to prepare His disciples, for what was to come; and to prepare those who would
believe in Him, in the future, as well. So Jesus continued to emphasize the opposition to Him - and to those
who choose to follow Him.

We’re continuing in verse 34.

[Matthew 10:34-42] We see the ideas of division and conflict; of allegiances and loyalties; and the idea of
rewards. Let’s consider what Jesus is saying more closely.

v. 34 Some of us find this statement of Jesus perplexing. We remember the purpose for Jesus coming to
the earth was to reconcile men to God, so that they have peace with Him. How could Jesus say that He did
not come to bring peace?

The apostles would have been equally perplexed. From their Scriptures, peace was understood to be the
purpose of Messiah’s coming.

Messiah would be the Prince of Peace; of the increase of His government and peace, there would be no end
(Isa 9:6-7). He would speak peace to the nations, and His dominion would be from sea to sea (Zech 9:10).

Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, stated the Jews’ expectation in Messiah very clearly: “to guide
our feet into the way of peace” (Lk 1:79).

Not only did Jesus say He didn’t come to bring peace on the earth; He said He came to bring a sword. Just
what did Jesus mean here?

A parallel passage in Luke’s gospel gives us our first clue. Turn to Luke chapter 12. Look down in verse

[Luke 12:51] So here, instead of Luke using the word “sword”, he speaks of what a sword can do; create
division. Jesus goes on to speak of the division in families, just as in Matthew.
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[Return to Matthew 10]

So Jesus is not speaking of a sword specifically here as a symbol of war, but more abstractly, to portray
conflict; division. His words become clear as we consider them in the context of what He has been
informing His disciples about: persecution.

Notice that Jesus said He did not come to bring peace to the earth. He can’t bring peace to the earth; why

What is built up on the face of God’s earth? Satan’s world system; that political, economic, religious
system which is opposed to God, and to His plans for men. The sons of Adam are born right into that
system, and until they walk out of it, they walk in it.

Turn to Ephesians chapter 2. Let’s remember what Paul said, about that system.

[Ephesians 2:1-3] Who is the prince of the power of the air? Satan. He is the spirit who now works in the
sons of disobedience. Satan does so through his system; men are in the system, and the system is in men’s
hearts (1 Jn 2:15-17).

Men who are still a part of that system are the children of wrath; they’re under God’s sentence of
condemnation, and slated for destruction. Men in that system cannot be reformed; they must be reborn;
they must die out of that system, and be born again.

Unless and until they do, men in the flesh are at enmity with God. Whether they are aware of it or not,
they’re allied with Satan, and they’re part of his system, which is opposed to God - they conduct
themselves according to the world system, and its ruler.

[Return to Matthew 10]

Jesus did not come to bring peace to the earth - to the entire world of men - in His first coming to the earth,
because many would reject God’s offer of peace through Jesus, and choose to remain in their enmity
against God.

Jesus brings peace to those individuals who are willing come out of the world, to receive His peace - one
soul at a time. Once they accept God’s peace terms, they lay down their arms, and join forces with their
Creator and Redeemer, receiving Him as their Lord.

This offering of peace with God, then, creates division within the world of men - conflict - between those
who are willing to believe into Jesus, and those who reject Him. The gospel is like a sword, dividing them;
causing them to take a side; setting them in opposition against one another.

The idea, then, is that in Jesus coming into the world, He has come into hostile, enemy territory, to wage
war for the souls of men. The captain of men’s salvation blazes the trail; and He will be perfected -
completed through His sufferings (Heb 2:10). But those who choose to follow Him as true disciples must
be prepared to experience those sufferings as well, as they engage in the conflict.

But what about those Scriptures in the OT which speak of Jesus as bringing peace? Those Scriptures speak
of Jesus in His Second Coming, to the earth.
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Then the world system will be destroyed; Satan will be bound; and Jesus will return and judge the world,
removing all the rebels. Those who remain will be required to submit themselves to Jesus, as their King, in
order to enter His kingdom - for His thousand year reign on the earth.

This is the Prince of Peace, whose dominion is from sea to sea, whose rule will be characterized by perfect
righteousness - and therefore, perfect peace.

But at this time, the world is hostile - and the disciples must understand that, to understand their mission.
The gospel makes its appeal to one individual soul at a time, but it is always doing so in the midst of

This is no less true in our day than it was in the day of the apostles. Sharing the gospel is never without
controversy, without conflict; and therefore never without cost, to us. Now as Jesus continues, He indicates
just how costly it can be.

v. 35-36 This is almost a verbatim quotation from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the OT. It is a
prophecy of Micah. Let’s go back and take a look at it, in that context. Turn to Micah chapter 7.

Micah’s prophecies extend to both Israel to the north, and Judah to the south, during the time of the divided
kingdom. Israel was about to fall to the Assyrians. Micah prophesied of this catastrophe, which would
make a heap of ruins out of the land (1:6).

But most of Micah’s prophecies were directed at Judah, to warn them of a similar judgment awaiting them
at the hand of the Babylonians. Micah indicates that the judgment will come upon the leaders of Judah,
who have oppressed and misled the people - but the people who have followed them come into the
judgment, as well. Ultimately, a remnant of the nation will return to the land and be gathered to her
Shepherd, Israel’s Messiah (2:12-13).

Micah speaks of a far-fulfillment of this, when Messiah will reign over the earth as its Lord and King (4:1-
3, 6-8).

In chapter 7, Micah decries the condition of Judah in his day - there was not an upright person to be found.
The leaders have conspired together to carry out their own agenda. No one can be trusted, not even in
one’s own family. We’ll begin in verse 5.

[Micah 7:5-9]

v. 5-6 Here we find the portion that Jesus quoted, to His disciples. In context, Micah’s prophecy pertains
to the current day, but it speaks most strongly to its far-fulfillment, during the Tribulation which we spoke
about last week.

In the middle of that seven year period, the man of sin, commonly called the Antichrist, will turn against
the Jews - for they will refuse to take his mark of allegiance. His policy of annihilation will be so swift and
so fierce that family members will begin to turn upon one another.

Unbelieving Jews will inform on those who believe in Jesus first and foremost, in order to save their own
skins. The animosity they feel toward them because of Jesus will help to allay their guilty consciences over
such a betrayal, to their common enemy.

As Micah continues, he is speaking as this believing remnant of Israel, during the Tribulation.
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v. 7-9 The remnant of Israel will repent of their sin, and turn to God for salvation; and the Son of Man will
come, and deliver them.

[Return to Matthew 10]

What’s important to glean from this is that Jesus still has His mind set on those future believing Jews, as
we’ve seen earlier in the passage. His words are for His apostles, and for all who will believe in Him; but
here, He especially has in mind when the persecution will be its fiercest, during the time of Jacob’s Trouble.

Jesus continues.

v. 37 Do you think that Jesus is saying everyone must leave their families, in order to follow Him? No, He
doesn’t mean that. This statement is contingent on the one that precedes it.

If one member of the family has begun to follow Jesus, and it causes the other family members to oppose
them, they have a choice. They can put their family first, and stop following Jesus. Or they can put Jesus
first, and continue to follow Him - if necessary, to the point of alienating their family members.

For Jewish believers in that day, this would soon become a matter of being excommunicated from the
synagogue, and therefore from Jewish society; and being correspondingly shunned by their families - cut
off from their closest earthly relationships. There is similar shunning that occurs in some religions and
cultures today, when someone chooses to believe in Jesus.

Following Jesus, then, can involve great personal cost. But notice that Jesus did not say that the disciples
are not to love those in their families; they are just to love Him more.

The word for love here is phileo, the love which speaks of shared interests. You can’t maintain the interests
of Jesus, and at the same time the interests of family members that are still engaged in the world system.

Loyalty to Jesus and His cause must come first and foremost, in the heart of a believer. To love Him any
less is not to be a true disciple at all; to have no genuine attachment to Him; and therefore, to be
undeserving of Him.

But now Jesus goes even further than this, in what He requires of His followers.

v. 38 This is the first mention of the cross in Matthew’s gospel, and it is in reference to those who follow
Jesus; His disciples. Notice that if a disciple is following Jesus, then Jesus must have to go that way first -
something that His immediate listeners may not have absorbed, at this time.

Just what does Jesus mean by the disciple taking “his cross”? Does He literally mean that a disciple might
be crucified, as we know Jesus would be? Yes; that would become a possibility.

The cross has become so familiar to us as believers that we lose the reality and the significance of it. We
sing about the cross; we make artistic renderings of it; we wear it as pretty jewelry and put it on our coffee
mugs and our car bumpers.

How would this statement about a disciple taking up his cross have affected the twelve apostles, to whom
Jesus was speaking? It would have caused them to shudder in horror.
This was that form of execution used by the Roman government, for slaves and political rebels. It was the
most cruel and revolting form of execution then in use, but it also carried the stigma of social scandal for
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anyone put to death in this manner. If a man was crucified, it was considered the ultimate shame; a blot on
his entire family. And it was public disgrace, as well.

The suffering began as the condemned man carried his cross-piece through the streets to the site of
execution, drawing a mob who jeered and insulted him, along the way. The death itself was dreadful;
prolonged torment as the body lingered in agony. The cross then is a symbol of suffering; suffering, and

So Jesus has indicated that a true disciple of His is willing to suffer for His sake; to suffer the loss of
family, friends; to suffer persecution; to suffer, even to the most horrific death. There is the prospect of
martyrdom, resulting from loyalty to Jesus.

This doesn’t mean that every believer will be called to suffer martyrdom, for Jesus’ sake. But they will be
called to suffer to some extent - being in the world, yet not of it. And… if the suffering of death is called
for, for Jesus’ sake - and one refuses to follow Him there? - Jesus once again indicates, that one is not
worthy of Me. They have no real attachment, to Jesus; they are undeserving of Him.

Now, at this time, there had been no cross in the thoughts of these disciples of Jesus. Their Master is alive
and well; He is healing and teaching; in fact, there are multitudes following Him. This talk of the cross
would have been shocking to them, in every respect.

But Jesus was seeking to prepare them for what lies ahead. He has indeed come bringing a sword to the
earth; the Word of Life; the gospel of the Kingdom.

There is an occupying force, on God’s earth; a powerful enemy, and his encampment. Jesus wants His
disciples to know that there will be casualties, in the war for the souls of men. And Jesus Himself will be
the first.

A true disciple must value Jesus above his very life. But it is well worth his while to do that - as Jesus
brings out next.

v. 39 I wonder if the twelve apostles were as perplexed as we are, when they first heard Jesus say this.
Matthew records Jesus saying it on another occasion to His disciples, and there, He elaborates - we’ll take a
look at that, in a moment.

But first, I want to point out to you a few things. The word for “life” in this verse is the Greek psuche,
which can also be translated “soul”. This is the life that Jesus is speaking about - the soul of spirit-life; the
real “you”.

Now, the soul of spirit-life is eternal; it goes on forever. Yet Jesus speaks of it being found - meaning
gained, or acquired; or lost, meaning destroyed, or perishing. We certainly have to think about what He is

Let’s remember the context. Jesus has just indicated that a genuine disciple will be willing to follow after
Him, into death. This corresponds to the one who loses his life for My sake; out of loyalty to Jesus. The
one who is unwilling to die for Jesus would then correspond to “He who finds his life”. But in what respect
does the one lose his soul; and the other find his soul?
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For that, we’ll take a look in chapter 16, where Matthew records the other occasion Jesus said this. Peter
had just professed his faith in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God (Matt 16:16). But when Jesus
told His disciples that He must suffer and be put to death, Peter rebuked Him. This was Jesus’ response.

[Matthew 16:23-26]

v. 23 Jesus calls Peter “Satan”, which means adversary; right now, Peter had the enemy’s thinking. Jesus
points out to Peter that what he has in mind is the thinking of men - that is, the world’s thinking, sourced in
the evil one; not God’s thinking.

v. 24-25 This is similar to what Jesus said, on the earlier occasion we are looking at in chapter 10. Again,
He uses the term “soul” here, speaking of saving or losing the soul of spirit-life. In this case, Jesus goes on
to explain what He means.

v. 26 So Jesus is speaking of a man who tries to save his soul in this life; who seeks gain through his life in
this world. You could say he invests himself here, in this life under the sun.

Jesus says, there will be no net profit to him in that, for ultimately, he will lose his soul, which is of
immeasurable value. All the things of this world are passing away; the soul goes on forever.

So let’s take this thought about life in this world back to Matthew 10 now.

[Return to Matthew 10]

All men are born sons of Adam, into this world - souls of spirit-life in flesh bodies. Some men go on to
discover their souls here - all of their gain is in their life in this world - and they try to hold on to this life.

But Jesus says, the one who does this will ultimately lose it - he will lose his soul. How so? Those
temporal things that he so valued, that he invested his soul in, will have to be left behind, at death. And he
will have failed to receive the one thing that he really needed for his soul - an ever-living body for it to
dwell in - through believing into Jesus. His soul will be lost - for all eternity, forever perishing in the Lake
of Fire.

But a true disciple is willing to lose his life, for the sake of Jesus - for Jesus is more to him than even his
own existence, in this world. If his soul is lost in this world - through the death of his body - here, being
put to death - Jesus assures him, he will certainly find it - he’ll find his soul in the ever-living, glorified
body that Jesus has secured for him, to fit him for his heavenly home - in the presence of his Father.

Jesus was showing the contrast between men in the flesh and their gain in this world, which is temporal,
and sons of God and their gain in heaven, which is eternal. And when viewed in this light, the loss of the
mortal body through death is seen to be small indeed.

The apostle Paul understood this, from his own experience. Turn to Philippians chapter 3. Paul was
encouraging the believers in Philippi to persevere in their faith - to the death. He wrote first of all the gain
that he had acquired, in this world, as a Jew - a Hebrew of Hebrews. But once Paul came to know the Lord,
he realized all of those things were not gain - but loss.

[Philippians 3:7-10] Once Paul came to know the Lord Jesus, he realized all the things of the world that he
previously valued had no value at all. In Christ, Paul had genuine righteousness, by which he had been
justified before the Father, in heaven.
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And Paul continued to gain Christ on earth, through his shared experiences with Him - the power to live
that righteousness, here and now; and the greater, deeper knowing of the Lord, through sharing in what
Jesus suffered - persecution - the reproach of Christ. In this way, Paul was becoming more and more like
his Lord - which was to his great gain, in heaven.

[Return to Matthew 10]

Reading these words of Jesus, many tend to wonder whether they would be faithful to Him, to the death.
Maybe you have even wondered that. The truth is, you may wonder, but you will never know that about
yourself unless you actually do have to face death, for the sake of Jesus. Only the Lord knows the heart.

So… what if you were to seek to preserve your life? What if you were to actually renounce Jesus? Does
that mean you don’t really believe in Him? Does it mean that you are not worthy of Jesus - that He will
reject you?

But we are reminded of Peter again. There is forgiveness with God, where there is genuine repentance -
even for one who denies Him. The Lord will reveal our heart to us, as needed - and we will then have the
opportunity to act upon that revelation.

We can’t live, based upon what might be, in the future. We need to live what is, today, following Jesus.
He’s the One who decides your course - and you must trust Him for that. And meanwhile, you simply need
to take the next step, in your obedience to Him. That becomes training, for harder things.

As Jesus concludes His words to the twelve apostles, He now returns to speak of those men who will
choose to gladly receive His apostles, and their message.

v. 40-42 Jesus is going back to what He told the apostles in verses 11-14 about those who are willing to
extend hospitality to them and welcome them into their homes - who are receptive to them, to receive them.

The repetition of the word “receive” in verses 40 and 41 signals that there is a connection, in these phrases
of Jesus. This is based on what He says in verse 40 - the person who receives the disciple receives Jesus,
and in doing so he receives the Father. The idea is that the disciple represents Jesus, and Jesus represents
the Father; the messenger bears the message of the one who sent him.

Verse 41 begins with “He who receives”; the same form that began verse 40. Jesus is now calling the
disciples “prophets” - “He who receives you” (v. 40); “He who receives a prophet” (v. 41).

What does a prophet speak? The Word of God; “Thus says the LORD”. To receive a prophet in the name of
a prophet means to receive the disciple as a genuine prophet; that he truly is what he shows himself to be.

If a person welcomes a disciple as a prophet of God, he will receive a prophet’s reward. What does a
prophet reward people with? The Word of God. That person will receive the gospel of the kingdom,
brought down from heaven by Jesus, from the Father.

As Jesus continues, he speaks of a person receiving the disciple also as a righteous man; he not only speaks
the Word of God, he lives it. This is the disciple’s witness to the gospel; the power of God to salvation, to
all who believe. The disciple has himself believed the message, and it bears the fruit of righteousness in his
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If a person welcomes a disciple, recognizing him to be a righteous man, it shows that this person recognizes
that this is the way to become righteous. Jesus says, such a person will receive a righteous man’s reward -
the same reward the disciple received, from the Righteous One; eternal life for the body, which Jesus has
brought to earth from His Father in heaven.

The gospel that the person heard has now been taken into his heart - he believes it - and it bears the fruit of
righteousness and eternal life, in him.

So the apostles will receive the hospitality they need, in the midst of a hostile world. And those who extend
that hospitality, welcoming them, will receive the words of Life.

But as Jesus continues in verse 42, He is once more looking down into that future time, when those who
believe in Him will be most severely persecuted. The “little ones” that He speaks of are believers - those
who will have been born again. Particularly in mind are the Jews who put their faith in Jesus, during the
Great Tribulation - the little believing remnant, of Israel.

In that day, these little ones will be fleeing for their lives, from city to city (10:23), with no place to call
their home. In that day, anyone who helps the Jews will be risking their own lives, with the authorities.
And in that day, anyone who is willing to extend even a cup of cold water to a little one, in recognition that
he is a disciple - a follower of Jesus - that single, minor act of kindness will earn him a reward.

And when we get to chapter 25 in Matthew’s gospel, we’ll find out just what that reward is!

Reading: Matthew 11:1-19; Luke 7:18-35; John 1:19-39; Isaiah 35; Isaiah 61:1-3; Malachi 4