Matthew

10:32-39

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

iv] The characteristics of discipleship

Synopsis

Matthew continues with Jesus' mission-charge to the apostles. So far, in the mission instructions to the twelve, Jesus has warned of the difficulties facing the disciples. He now outlines some of the qualities required of those undertake gospel ministry.

 
Teaching

A disciple of the cross will always acknowledge Jesus, will accept the cost of discipleship and will give preference to the gospel over the world.

 
Issues

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

 

ii] Structure: This passage, The characteristics of discipleship, presents as follows:

Saying, v32-33:

acknowledging Christ.

Saying, v34-36:

"I have not come to bring peace but a sword. ...."

Two part saying, v37-39:

cross-bearing discipleship, v37-38;

dying to self, v39.

 

iii] Interpretation:

In this passage Matthew draws together some of Jesus' teachings on discipleship, particularly its characteristics. Carson heads these characteristics: acknowledging Jesus, v32-33; recognizing the gospel, 34-36; and preferring Jesus, v37-39. So, this pericope presents in three parts:

a) A saying on the reward of confession and the penalty of denial, v32-33. This saying is formed by balanced parallel sentences;

b) A complex saying on division, v34-35. This saying is formed by a contrasting opening sentence, followed by a sentence corresponding to the negative element of the contrast in v34b;

c) A complex two-part saying: First, cross-bearing discipleship, v37-38. This saying is formed by three parallel sentences; Second, the importance of dying to self, v39. This saying is formed by a balanced two-clause sentence. See Hagner.

 

Cross-bearing discipleship: The problem we face with cross-bearing discipleship is that it demands a level of commitment that few of us reach. Consequently, we are somewhat affected by guilt and this often forces us to get into a bit of pharisaical reductionism where we lighten the demand so that we can keep it. Jesus' ethical teaching is rarely practical in that his presentation of the law / ethical instruction is usually idealistic. This serves two purposes, first, it exposes sin and thus the need for grace, and second, it provides a guide, rather than a rule, for the Christian life, a guide for the fruit of faith. This interpretive approach particularly applies to v37 - who can claim to put service to Christ above service to family. See the introduction to v37-39 below.

It seems likely that this same intention lies behind v38-39, namely, to dispel our nomistic / legalistic tendencies by emphasizing our inadequacies (the cross we bear is never worthy of Christ) and thus the need to rely on divine grace, while at the same time providing direction in the Christian life. I am often reminded of the church I attended in my youth. There displayed before us was the Ten Commandments, giving weight to the response "Lord have mercy on us", but at the same time encouraging us to do better in the week ahead. Yet, Jesus' saying on cross-bearing, v38, may not serve the purpose of exposing sin / lawlessness in order to encourage a reliance on grace, rather, it may well be somewhat lateral. It is possible that the business of lambanw, "to take, receive", ton stauron autou, "his / their cross", entails taking / receiving Christ's cross / Christ's sacrifice, a sacrifice which we can take to ourselves such that his righteousness then becomes ours, a righteousness which proclaims us "worthy" of him. Only such a person can actually akolouqei opisw, "follow after" Christ, and this because our cross-bearing is far too compromised. So, it may well be that cross-bearing entails commitment, not so much in the way we use our resources, but in the way Christ has used his resources, giving his life as a common criminal for our salvation. So, we find glory, not in our cross-bearing, but in his. The person who loses their life eneken, "because of [Christ]", who gives themselves to Christ because of what he has done, will find life eternal, v39.

 

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

 
Text - 10:32

Characteristics of discipleship, v32-39: i] A person's relationship with God is wholly determined by their relationship with Jesus, v32-33. Mark's parallel saying in 8:38 uses the title "Son of Man" rather than the personal pronoun "I". cf also Luke 12:8-9. When speaking with the crowds, Jesus often uses the mysterious messianic title "Son of Man", but when speaking with his disciples he is more explicit. The believer "acknowledges", or "confesses" Jesus, rather than "disowns" or "is ashamed of" Jesus. Calvin made the point that the public acknowledgment of Jesus will vary in boldness, fluency, wisdom, sensitivity and frequency, from believer to believer. It is the person who disowns Christ who is disowned, not the person whose witness is weak and feeble. Although this passage is often interpreted in evangelistic terms, it more rightly teaches that a person's share in eternity is wholly determined by their relationship and attitude toward Jesus in this present age.

oun "-" - therefore. Possibly inferential, establishing a logical sequence from the previous saying; given that the Father cares for us, reciprocal allegiance is expected. Yet, the conjunction here may just be serving as a stitching device, indicating a move to the next subject, so best left untranslated, as NIV.

oJmologhsei (oJmologew) fut. "acknowledges" - [everyone who] confesses, acknowledges / promises, agrees, praises. Commentators tend to strengthen this word eg., "affirm solidarity", "publicly declare allegiance", although the word allows for the possibility of something softer, "if anyone declares himself for me", JB. Given the context, the situation may be the "acknowledgement of Christ" in a court case, and/or in the face of a hostile evangelistic opportunity. A soft "acceptance" of Christ cannot be ruled out.

en emoi "me" - in me. This construction, with the use of the preposition en, is an Aramaism, forming a dative of interest, advantage, "whoever declares themselves for me".

emprosqen + gen. "before [men / others]" - in front of. Spacial; "before". In the sense of a confession before legal authorities.

kagw "I" - I also.

tou " gen. article. [my Father in heaven]" - [will confess him before the Father of me] the one [in the heavens]. The article serves as adjectivizer, turning the prepositional phrase "in the heavens" into an attributive modifier limiting "the Father"; "my Father who is in heaven", ESV. It could also be viewed as a nominalizer, in which case "the one in the heavens" serves as a substantive standing in apposition to "the Father"; "my Father, namely, the one residing in the heavens." The en, "in", is local; expressing space / sphere. Giving weight to the reciprocal "acknowledgment" that Jesus makes. It is in the presence of the Father who resides in the heavenly throne-room. The designation "in heaven" serves to identify the "Father" Jesus is talking about. This "Father in heaven" is for Jesus "my Father", a statement indicating that Jesus has a particular relationship with the Father God that is not open to the rest of humanity, except through union with Christ.

 
v33

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

arnhshtai (arneomai) aor. subj. "disowns" - to deny. A claim that we don't know a person or have nothing to do with them, "rejects", TEV.

 
v34

ii] "The Prince of Peace though Jesus is, the world will so violently reject him and his reign that men and women will divide over him", Carson, v34-36. Jesus often claimed that his coming would bring division rather than peace. He is the Prince of Peace, but in a sinful world, divine peace prompts violence; the darkness reacts to the light. Here Jesus uses the language of Micah to describe the division caused by the gospel. Disciples are aligned with the prophets who suffered under King Ahaz. Jesus suffered as messiah and his disciples cannot expect anything less. In the face of the coming kingdom, Israel's false prophets proclaimed peace when there was no peace. Jesus, on the other hand, says it how it is; in the face of the coming kingdom there will be strife and division.

mh nomishte (nomizw) aor. subj. "do not suppose" - do not think, suppose. Subjunctive of prohibition.

oJti "that" - that. Here introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what should not be supposed.

hlqon (ercomai) aor. "I have come" - I came. An interesting use of the word here, possibly carrying idea that Jesus came to this world from another place.

balein (ballw) aor. inf. "bring [peace]" - to throw, cast, put, place. The infinitive here expresses purpose; "in order to bring." The context defines the meaning, given that the word doesn't really mean "bring". Note Anchor "impose", although unlikely. In the second use of the phrase in this verse, "bring" may be a bit light when applied to "sword". So, "I did not come to bring peace, but to wield a sword".

epi + acc. "to [the earth]" - [peace] on [the earth]. Spacial; "upon, on."

alla "but" - but, and. Here adversative, serving in a counterpoint construction; "not ....... but ....."

macairan (a) "sword" - a dagger, knife, sword. Illustrating "strife", "division". Accusative direct object of the assumed infinitive "to bring"; "I came to bring a sword." Allegiance to Christ, of its very nature, brings division and strife.

 
v35

gar "for" - for [I came]. More reason than cause, explanatory; "Indeed, this has been the purpose of my coming ....", Cassirer.

dicasai (dicazw) aor. inf. "to turn" - to cut into two parts, divide in two [a man]. The meaning here is possibly "make hostile", "set one against another", "to set .... against", TEV, cf. NIV. Yet, the more common meaning of the word "divide / separate", should not be ignored. The infinitive may produce a final clause, expressing purpose, "in order to turn against", and most translations give this sense with a literal translation of the infinitive. Yet, a consecutive clause expressing consequence / result seems more likely, cf. Moule. Division is a consequence of Jesus' coming.

kata + gen. "against" - against [the father of him, and a daughter] against [the mother of her, and the daughter-in-law] against [the mother-in-law of her]. Here expressing opposition. In Jewish society, a daughter-in-law is subject to her mother-in-law, as is a daughter to her mother. It is interesting to note that in Rabbinic tradition division was an evil that served as a sign of the coming messiah.

 
v36

tou anqrwpou (oV) gen. "a man's" - [and the enemies] of the man. The genitive is adjectival, relational; "and a person's enemies", ESV.

ecqroi (oV) "enemies" - enemies, hostiles will be. Nominative subject of an assumed verb to-be, unless the noun has been fronted for emphatic effect, in which case it is a predicate nominative. Used of being at odds with someone, which may be expressed strongly, "enemy", or more softly, "opponent". "Worst enemies", TEV, is bit over the top.

oi oikiakoi (oV) "will be the members of [his own] household" - the members of the household [of him]. Predicate nominative of an assumed verb to-be. "The extended household."

 
v37

iii] The cost of discipleship - undivided love, cross-bearing and death to self, v37-39. A disciple's love for Jesus (in the sense of commitment or allegiance) must stand above their love of family. In rabbinic literature, a disciple's personal interest, eg., family, can stand above the demands of their master, but Jesus sticks with his usual absolutism and demands complete allegiance. Pushing further with his hard sayings, Jesus uses the image of crucifixion to illustrate the ideal of self-sacrifice. The ideal of discipleship entails denial of self, even denial of ones very life. Jesus cuts even more deeply with the statement that when a disciple lives to preserve their life (in the sense of living for themselves rather than submitting to Christ) then they lose it in the age to come. The parallel hard sayings in Luke 14:25-35 places Jesus' absolutism within the context of justification. Even the disciple is a sinner, totally unable to live the "righteousness that exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees." Thankfully, the person "who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God" is the outcast who accepts the master's invitation, 14:15-24. Matthew, on the other hand, establishes the principle of justification in the Sermon on the Mount and expects his readers to apply the principle in the other teaching sections. It is those who "hunger and thirst for righteousness" who are "filled". So, as we look with dismay at the ideal of cross-bearing discipleship, we must remind ourselves again that only one person has truly gone the way of total denial unto death, and thankfully his cross-bearing denial is for us. When we lose our life in him / in his cross, we find it.

oJ filwn (filew) part. "anyone who loves" - the one loving [father or mother]. The participle serves as a substantive. A distinction is often drawn between the more common New Testament word agapaw "love" (to show compassion toward) and filew "love" (to show affection toward). Morris suggests there is little difference in meaning, although most commentators think that the difference does exist. "Cares for", NEB, draws out the sense of allegiance which may better express the point Jesus is making. Family relationships are very important, but they "must not be allowed to divert a disciple from loyalty to Jesus", Hagner.

h] "[father] or [mother" - Disjunctive, expressing an alternative.

uJper + acc. "more than" - more than [me]. Comparative use of the preposition; "more than, beyond".

axioV adj. "[is not] worthy [of me]" - [is not] worthy, show oneself to be fit [of me, and the one loving son or daughter more that me is not] worthy [of me]. Predicate adjective. "Does not deserve to be mine", Phillips; "my disciple", TEV.

 
v38

o}V "whoever" - who. Introducing an attributive relative clause limiting an assumed oJ, "the one"; "the person who does not take up / receive their cross ........"

ou lambanei (lambanw) pres. "does not take up" - does not take up, receive. Given our love of legalism / nomism we are inclined toward the sense take up rather than receive. As noted in Interpretation above, Jesus may be talking about "receiving" the cross, a light load provided by him, rather than taking up the cross, as in taking up the hard road of cross-bearing discipleship.

ton stauron (oV) "[his / their] cross" - the cross, pole = an upright pole with a horizontal cross-member. Accusative direct object of the verb "to take / receive." As indicated above, "the cross" is usually interpreted in the figurative sense of self-renunciation, denial, death of self. A very strong image, given that people at the time would have seen criminals picking up a timber cross-member and carrying it to the place of their execution. As such, it is an effective image of the road of self-denial - but whose denial, our's or Christ's?

autou gen. pro. "his / their [cross]" - of him. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, but if lambanei is understood in the terms of "receive", then "receives his / their cross" carries the idea of "the cross given him."

kai "and" - BDF suggests that this second "and" is actually equivalent to oude, "and yet", "and yet follows me", "following" in the sense of serving as a disciple. The disciple who doesn't take up their cross, but still performs the role of a disciple, is no disciple of Jesus. An interesting twist, although somewhat concerning!!!!

opisw + gen. "follow [me]" - [follow] after [me]. Local, expressing a position behind something / someone. "Follow in my footsteps", Barclay.

mou gen. pro. "[worthy of] me" - [is not worthy] of me. Genitive complement, of persons, after the adjective axioV, "worthy".

 
v39

This saying is too brief to know for certain what Jesus is saying. In a general sense, a person who lives to preserve their life ("whoever disowns me"), to find meaning and substance in existence itself ("anyone who loves father and mother more than me"), to pursue existence independent of Christ ("anyone who does not take his cross"), will end up with nothing, whereas, a person who seeks meaning and substance in Jesus ("for my sake"), will gain eternal life.

oJ euJrwn (euJriskw) aor. part. "whoever finds" - the one having found. The participle serves as a substantive. The aorist is probably futuristic (proleptic) which serves to indicate that the action has not yet occurred, "the one who will have found." "Gains his life", REB, "save your life", CEV.

yuchn (h) "life" - the life [of him]. Accusative direct object of the verb "to find." The word can refer to the inner life of a person, or to the eternal divine spark which only God can extinguish, namely, "the soul." Some commentators argue that, particularly here, it just means "the self." This "self" may be considered either in relation to "earthly existence, or life considered in terms of eternity", Morris. The best we can say is that the context seems to support the meaning "self", "lower life", Williams.

oJ opolesaV (apollumi) aor. part. "whoever loses" - will destroy, lose [it]. The participle serves as a substantive. The sense "destroy" best conveys the idea, so "you give it up for me", CEV. See note above regarding the futuristic aorist.

e{neken + gen. "for [my] sake" - [and the one having lost the life of him] because of [me will find it]. Causal, "because of"; "on my account", Berkeley.

 

Matthew Introduction

Exposition

 

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