Matthew

10:26-31

5. Extending the kingdom, 9:35-10:42

iii] The one to fear

Synopsis

Matthew continues with Jesus' mission-charge to the apostles. So far the charge has consisted of difficult commands and ominous prophecies, but now he has a positive word for the twelve.

 
Teaching

God is a sovereign Lord; nothing falls outside his will, nothing disrupts his plan. For this reason a disciple of Jesus need have no fear since they serve a loving Father who will vindicate their cause and protect their eternal standing.

 
Issues

i] Context: See 9:35-10:15.

 

ii] Structure: This passage, Ministering the gospel without fear, presents as follows:

Have no fear, v26-7:

Imperative, 26a;

Saying:

"there is nothing concealed that will not be exposed."

Saying:

the one to fear, v28.

Parabolic sayings, v29-30:

Ill-informed fear is foolish.

sparrows, v29;

the hairs of the head, v30.

Have no fear, v31:

Imperative, v31a;

Saying, v31b;

"you are of more value than many sparrows."

 

The source material for this pericope / episode is held together between two exhortations: mh oun fobhqhte autouV "do no be afraid of them", v26a; and mh oun fobeisqe "therefore do not be afraid", v31b.

 

iii] Interpretation:

Having warned his disciples to expect persecution, Jesus now comments on handling fear. This passage, again consisting of sayings etc., is nicely crafted by Matthew (usually held to come from Q, cf. Lk.12:2-9). Within the frame of two imperatives, "do not be afraid", there consists material which supports this exhortation: a saying concerning the revelation of the divine secret, v26b-27; a saying concerning the proper source of fear, v28; two parabolic illustrations which serve to reinforce the foolishness of ill-informed fear, v29-30; A concluding saying which concerns a disciples' eternal worth, v31b.

 

iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

 
Text - 10:26

Do not be afraid, v26-31: i] A saying concerning the revelation of the divine secret, v26-27. As Jesus was persecuted so disciples will be persecuted. Yet, a disciple should not be afraid of "them", ie., the persecutors, eg., the Pharisees. The persecutor must face the day of judgment, a day when their evil will be evident, and dealt with. Unlike the persecutors who mask their evil, a disciple must openly proclaim the hidden mysteries of the kingdom of God. It may seem that both satanic and secular powers are able to frustrate the gospel by affronting Jesus' disciples, but nothing can restrict the gospel, for it is God's will that his message of salvation be available to all who seek him. The disciples can confidently look for opportunities to proclaim the gospel knowing that it will find its mark. So, they should be pro-active in the business of gospelling - proclaim it on the roof tops (the typical flat-topped Palestinian home makes for an effective pulpit).

oun "so" - therefore. It is not clear how we should treat this conjunction here. It is sometimes translated as if Jesus is now providing a reason / logical conclusion to be drawn from his previous words, although the logic is by no means evident; "therefore / well then, do not be afraid of them", Cassirer. It seems more likely that it is transitional / resumptive, "now" (introducing a new point), so best left untranslated, so Barclay.

mh ... fobhqhte (fobeomai) aor. subj. "do not be afraid of" - A subjunctive of prohibition.

autouV pro. "them" - Accusative object of the verb "to be afraid." Do not be afraid of whom? Within the context obviously the religious authorities, the Pharisees, etc.

gar "for" - for. Usually taken as introducing a causal clause explaining why there is no need to fear "them". The reason why a disciple has no need to fear rejection / persecution is because "none of the things people do in secret will remain secret", Morris. Possibly the implication is that evil will inevitably be exposed and dealt with, so reducing the perceived power of the persecutor, or even possibly touching on the idea that when evil is made public it loses much of its power. Given that the causal link is somewhat tenuous, it is possible that gar is simply serving to stitch the first saying, in a series of saying, to the thematic head, "have no fear." Carson suggests that the truth of the gospel, hidden but for a moment, is even now being realized in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ; "nothing will remain hidden forever. If the truth will emerge in the End, how wise to declare it fully and boldly now." "Don't be afraid of them. What is veiled must be unveiled, and what is hidden must be made known", Barclay.

estin kekalummenon (kaluptw) perf. pas. part. "concealed" - [nothing] is having been veiled, covered. The present tense of the verb to-be with the perfect participle, forms a periphrastic perfect construction, possibly used to emphasize aspect, as NIV. "there is nothing, however carefully hidden away, that will not be revealed", Cassirer.

ouk apokalufqhsetai (apokaluptw) fut. pas. "[that] will not be disclosed" -[and hidden which] will not be revealed, made known. A theological passive, indicating that God is the one who will reveal. To make sense of the proverb many translations move it from a negative to a positive; "what is hidden must be made known", Barclay.

 
v27

o} pro. "what" - [I say to you], what [in the darkness you hear speak in the light], what [in your ear you hear preach on the housetops]. Introducing two relative clauses which serve as object clauses / dependent statements of indirect speech, expressing what Jesus says.

uJmin dat. pro. "[what I tell] you" - to you. Dative of indirect object.

en + dat. "in [the dark]" - in [the darkness, night]. Probably adverbial, expressing manner, "in secret"; "privately".

tw/ fwti (wV wtoV) "[in] the daylight" - [say in] the light. Again the preposition en is probably being used adverbially, expressing manner, "publicly".

eiV to ouV "in our ear" - into the ear . Local, expressing space, or adverbial, modal, expressing manner. What is whispered in your ear" = "what you have heard in private", TEV = "privately"

epi + gen. "from [the roofs]" - [preach] on [the housetops]. Spacial; "upon". Unlike the persecutors who hide their evil motivations behind a cloak of self-righteousness, the disciples must proclaim the master's message "on the roof", ie., from a public pulpit (adverbial? = "proclaim publicly ")

 
v28

ii] A saying concerning the proper source of fear - who to fear and who not to fear, v28. Continuing with the theme of fear, a second independent saying from Jesus reminds us that fear can be misplaced. There is only so much damage that evil people can do to us. Even Satan has limited powers with which to damage us. Satan is the great deceiver, but that's about the end of it. The real power lies with God; He is the one who can cast us from his presence and hand us over to eternal damnation. Rather than fearing the limited powers of evil people, we would do better to fear (respect) the one who possesses all power. Note Jesus' mention of "hell". The word "hell" derives from "gehenna", a smoldering rubbish tip outside of Jerusalem, and serves to image the place of divine punishment. The context may imply that this place involves eternal torment, but hell is more a state of being, namely, being lost to God. Annihilation is probably a better way to understand a person's end without God, although the matter is one of ongoing debate.

apo + gen. "[do not be afraid] of" - Given that this preposition would normally express separation, "away from", it is possible that "fear" here is a fear that prompts a person "to flee from what is feared", Lanski. So, "don't run in fear from those who ...." None-the-less, it may serve as a partitive genitive, or even possibly causal.

twn apoktennontwn (apokteinw) gen. part. "those who kill" - the ones killing [the body]. The participle serves as a substantive; "those who can have you executed."

de "but" - but, and. Here adversative, as NIV.

mh dunamenwn "cannot" - [the ones] not being able. The participle serves as a substantive, genitive following the preposition apo.

apokteinai (apokteinw) aor. inf. "kill" - to kill [the soul]. The infinitive is complementary, completing the verbal sense of the participle "being able."

de mallon "rather" - [but] instead. Introducing an alternative that is to be preferred; "but rather".

ton dunamenon (dunamai) "the One who can" - the one being able. The participle serves as a substantive. God (Son of Man??? cf. 25:31-46) is probably the intended subject, so Carson, Hagner, Morris, Davies & Allison, Nolland, France, Luz, Hendriksen, Patte, Keener, Hill, Fenton, Gundry ..... "It is thus God, the final judge of all, and not human beings, who alone is to be feared, that is, to be obeyed (respected?) and trusted", Hagner; "you should fear God who can ....", CEV. Bruce suggests "Satan" - an interesting lateral idea, cf. 6:13, 24:22.

apolesai (apollumi) aor. inf. "destroy" - to destroy. The infinitive is complementary, completing the verbal sense of the participle "being able." "Destroy" in the sense of "cast into hell", an authority possessed only by God, McNeile. Possibly destroy by casting the soul into hell although the separation of the body from the soul is more a Greek idea than a Jewish one.

yuchn (h) "soul" - [both] soul [and body]. Accusative direct object of the infinitive "to destroy." The word can mean the inner life, but obviously here referring to the eternal divine spark which only God can extinguish. Note the correlative construction, kai .... kai..., "both ..... and."

en + dat. "in" - Local, expressing space / sphere.

geennh/ (a) "hell" - Gehenna. Gehenna is the name of the valley outside of Jerusalem which served as the city dump. The rubbish, including dead bodies, was constantly burning and so serves as an effective image of hell; "the fires of destruction", Phillips.

 
v29

iii] Two parabolic illustrations which serve to reinforce the foolishness of ill-informed fear, ie., response-behavior which fails to recognize the will and plan of God, v29-30. Jesus now gives the final reason why we should not fear confrontation with the world. God cares for the totality of our lives, from big things to small things. God knows the fate of a sparrow and even the number of hairs on our head, so he is totally aware of all our circumstances. This passage is sometimes used to teach that God provides for our practical welfare, but it is more likely saying that he is totally aware of our circumstances, that we are not alone when bad things happen, and that therefore, we should not be afraid. Nothing will happen to you "without your Father knowing", JB. This passage aligns with Jesus' promise to walk with us in life's journey, to laugh when we laugh, and cry when we cry.

ouci "[are] not" - not. Used for a question expecting a positive answer.

pwleitai (pwlew) pres. pas. "sold" - [two sparrows] offered for sale.

assariou (on) gen. "for a penny / cent" - Adverbial genitive of measure / price. The Roman as was one sixteenth of a drachma. A drachma represented the normal daily pay for a laborer.

kai "yet" - and. Here adversative / contrastive; "and yet."

ex (ek) + gen. "of [them]" - [one] of [them]. Serving instead of a partitive genitive.

epi + acc. "to [the ground]" - [will not fall] upon [the earth]. Spacial; "down upon."

aneu + gen. "apart from [the will of your Father] / outside [your Father's care]" - without [the will of the Father of you]. Expressing separation; "apart from, without, independent of"; "apart from the knowledge or consent of ...", with persons, as here. Without the Father's consent, or will, but probably in a less direct sense, ie., "will" = "knowledge". The sparrow is the cheapest bird sold in the market, serving as poultry for the poor. If God's power is over even a sparrow, then obviously it is over his people; "without your Father knowing", JB.

 
v30

de "and" - but, and. Probably just serving as a connective, but possibly adversative; "but even the hairs of your head", ESV.

uJmwn gen. pro. "-" - of you. Emphatic by use and position, while the genitive is probably best read as adverbial, reference / respect; "and with respect to you" = "as for you", REB. A person is of more value to God than a sparrow.

kai "even" - Ascensive.

thV kefalhV (h) gen. "[hairs] of your head" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

hriqmhmenai (ariqmew) perf. pas. part. "[are all] numbered" - [are] having been numbered, counted. The perfect participle with the verb to-be eisin forms a perfect periphrastic construction. The perfect possibly serves to underline the continuation of the number, while the passive is probably theological; "by God." God retains even the most insignificant information about us, information we would discard.

 
v31

iv] A concluding saying concerning a disciples' eternal worth, v31. The final imperative encloses the unit, introduced by a logical oun, "therefore". The final saying confirms the argument, "you are worth more than many sparrows." The "many", pollwn, may be "all", so "all the sparrows."

oun "so" - therefore. Inferential, drawing a logical conclusion from the examples of God's care, ie., "So, don't be afraid"

fobeisqe (fobew) imp. "don't be afraid" - No object is supplied, but can be assumed, eg., "of anything", NAB.

diaferete (diaferw) pres. "worth more" - you are spread, carry over / differ, one thing different from another. The meaning "different" sometimes carries the sense "better/worth more than" + gen., as here.

strouqiwn (on) gen. "than [many] sparrows" - of [many/much] sparrows. The genitive is ablative, expressing comparison, "worth more than many sparrows"; "hundreds of sparrows", JB.

 

Matthew Introduction

Exposition

 

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