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Matthew 10 - IVP New Testament Commentaries

Encouragement for the Persecuted

Too often we try to encourage people by hoping that sufferings will not come. Jesus instead warned us to get ready: evangelism is so important that we must be prepared to give our lives for it.

Like Master, like Disciple (10:24-25)

Since a disciple was expected to be like a servant, since a disciple could not be greater than the Master and since servants were considered part of the household, whatever accusers could call the head of the household, they would call the servants even more.

Preach Boldly (10:26-27)

In view of the impending end-time vindication (Mt 11:19), Jesus' followers should preach boldly, fearing no shame from their peers in this world. Because the flat housetops above the streets (24:17) provided easier hearing than the streets themselves, "shouting from the housetops" (10:27) underlines the boldness with which disciples must make God's message known.

Fear God Alone (10:28)

Because God is judge in the end, we should not fear even persecutors who threaten death (vv. 26, 28). Mortals can destroy only one's body, while God can resurrect the body for damnation and destroy the whole person (with eternal torture; compare 3:12; 25:46). The choice is not between courage and fear but has to do with whom we will fear more (Minear 1950:169). Jesus may here recall the Jewish martyr tradition, which exhorted its followers not to fear those who think they can kill, because eternal suffering awaits the soul that disobeys God's command (4 Macc 13:14-15).

God's Care (10:29-31)

Jesus assures his disciples that they can trust God's sovereignty in their protection or their death. Sparrows were the cheapest commodity sold in the markets (as food for the poor); an assarion was a small coin (one-sixteenth of a denarius, thus equivalent to less than an hour's wage; compare 5:26; Wheaton 1982:792). Yet as worthless as sparrows were to people, God watched over them. Jewish teachers agreed that God was sovereign over each bird's fate (Pes. Rab Kah. 11:16; Gen. Rab. 79:6; Eccl. Rab. 10:8, 1). "How much more" (following a standard line of Jewish reasoning) may we therefore be assured that nothing happens to us when God is "not looking" (Ps 121:4; compare 1 Kings 18:27-29). This teaching fits the biblical perspective of a God sovereign over history, who knows every hair on our heads (compare Acts 27:34; 1 Sam 14:45; 2 Sam 14:11; 1 Kings 1:52).

If we faithfully confess Jesus in our witness to others, including before earthly tribunals (Mt 10:17-20), he will also faithfully confess us before God's tribunal, justifying us before him (compare 12:36-37; Jn 12:42; 1 Tim 6:12-13; Rev 3:5). He will also deny those who deny or are ashamed to testify boldly of him (Mt 10:32-33; Mk 8:38; 2 Tim 2:12); we may all be grateful for his mercy on the repentant (Mt 26:34). Jewish people often spoke of "confessing," that is, proclaiming, God; Jesus thus probably calls for a confession of faith in himself here equivalent to confession of faith in God.

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Opposition Within Israel

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