RAF: It is important to see that what they were given was authority, not innate power. We often seek for ability that is bestowed upon us to use as we see fit. Instead, He gives permission to act on His behalf – in His name. How careful then we must be. For what is done under such circumstances must be done so as to say we are acting as He would under the same circumstances. To act as His agents accomplishing His will, and not as free agents to accomplish ours.
2 – “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.” (Matthew 10:8, ESV)
RAF: Sin infects the whole being. Sin, has killed us, separating us from the spiritual life we were created with in Adam. Sin incurably defiles. Sin leaves us slaves to the influence of Satan and this world. The Gospel is God’s declaration of the healing, life restoring, cleansing, liberating work of Jesus at Calvary – and is free to all who believe. Don’t be stingy with it.
3 – “ “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” (Matthew 10:16-23, ESV)
RAF: It is interesting Jesus moves to this in His instructions here. In fact, none of these happened on their present tour, nor did when He sent out the seventy later. These words are looking froward to the time after He is gone. It is in this context then that we understand verse 23. It is a simple announcement that they will not be able to exhaust their mission before He returns. There is never a time when the Church can say: “We’ve gathered in all that are ever to come, we can stop evangelizing now.”
4 – “It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.” (Matthew 10:25, ESV)
RAF: How unseemly it is then for Christians to complain of ill words from the world in our day.
5 – “ “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” (Matthew 10:26, ESV)
RAF: The world may lie about us, misrepresent us, obscure our message – but vindication day will come. Do not faint.
6 – “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven,” (Matthew 10:32, ESV)
RAF: Do you want to know what it is have real value as a human being? To stand before the throne of God on the final day, and have Jesus stand beside you and say to the Father “This one is MINE!”
7 – “Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”” (Matthew 11:2-6, ESV)
RAF: It seems to me this is not about John having doubts. He was the one who declared Jesus as the Lamb of God. Rather, this is John weaning his disciples away from himself, and getting them to go to Jesus. He is wanting to expose them to Him and His ministry. And see then how Jesus asks them to consider what they see. If God has been pleased to allow us to be involved in bringing men to Christ, they often develop an attachment to us where they are somewhat our disciples. This is fine at very early stages. But soon enough the time will come when we must help them walk with Christ without us, and on their own.
8 – ““But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, “ ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’” (Matthew 11:16-17, ESV)
RAF: Those who serve Christ will always be out of step with the world. We will rejoice in things they cannot rejoice over, and will mourn over things they can have no sadness over. And vice versa.
9 – “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,” (Matthew 12:36, ESV)
RAF: While this admonition certainly can be taken in the broad sense, it is particularly here aimed at making pronouncements and judgments regarding men and their actions – and being judged as either good or bad. We must be exceedingly careful here, not to justify the wicked, nor to condemn the innocent. Our tendency to rush to judgment carries with it very great consequences.
10 – “ Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (Matthew 12:38-39, ESV)
RAF: Nothing keeps men bound in their sins more than requiring God to give them “signs” rather than simply believing the truth. We try to force God’s hand. Internally, thinking to blame Him for not giving us enough proof. But what proof does the truth need? It ought to be obvious. How very fallen we are indeed. Forgive us Father for being so hard of heart, and slow to believe the Law and the prophets. Slow to believe your Word. The men of Nineveh saw no sign – but they believed Jonah’s preaching.
11 – ““ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”” (Matthew 15:8-9, ESV)
RAF: No place is Phariseeism more explicitly exposed and denominated. It rests in this one thing: “Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” We are never to make our commandments binding on the consciences of other men – or to treat our opinions as on par with the doctrines of Scripture. And what does it do when we enter into such activity? It renders our worship vain – empty. We move that moment into a place where we say we are serving God, but our hearts are very far from being submitted. Instead, we want the desires of our hearts to rule over others. Father God – this is such a great evil, and we fall into it so carelessly and easily. Please guard us here. Please keep us from needing to exercise any kind of authority over men which emerges from ourselves. Keep us from trying to usurp your throne under any mistaken or self-deceived notion whatever. Keep us back from presumptuous sins.
12 – “And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”” (Matthew 16:22-23, ESV)
RAF: One flash of insight or revelation, does not make one an authority on all truth. We can know great things, and still be very much in the dark.
13 – “And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”” (Matthew 17:3-5, ESV)
RAF: Moses represents the Law. Elijah represents the Prophets. Jesus transcends them all. He explains them. He is the substance of which they were but the types and the shadows. All must be seen, heard and interpreted through Him.
14 – “ “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.” (Matthew 18:7-9, ESV)
RAF: No matter how dear, close, useful or valuable your sin may appear to be to you – do violence to it.
15 – “ Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22, ESV)
RAF: Though failure to repent on another’s part, may preclude them from living in the joy and freedom of our forgiveness, we are never permitted to have an unforgiving spirit. Forgiveness must always be in the ready to be poured out.
16 – “Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”” (Matthew 18:32-35, ESV)
RAF: Forgiveness of sin is to be freely proclaimed to all men, on the basis of Christ’s atonement. But should that proclamation bring no change of heart – grace refused, will at last prove to be grace removed. Men may imagine they can have forgiveness and not follow Christ, but it will prove to be a false hope.
17 – “And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”” (Matthew 19:23-24, ESV)
RAF: This has nothing to do with quantity of money or goods. Whatever we find too valuable in our eyes to part with that we might have Christ is what we think makes us “rich”. Whatever, or whoever, we cannot do without if it in any way hinders our following after Him – that is what will keep us out of Heaven. In the words of the commercial “What (or who) is in your wallet?”
18 – “So the last will be first, and the first last.”” (Matthew 20:16, ESV)
RAF: Imagine the great generosity toward us a 21st century American Christians. We’ve labored so little compared to some who have gone before us. Their blood preserved God’s Word and teaching. Their battles, their martyrdoms, their complete and utter devotion to Christ at the cost of their livelihoods, homes, families and lives have made us recipients of 2000 years more labor than we will give. May we pass on all we can to those who come after if Christ should tarry. And may we not begrudge them the smallest bit they inherit without our labors. May we rather celebrate the incomparable generosity of our God.
19 – “But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”” (Matthew 20:25-28, ESV)
RAF: Elders in the Church must not as much ask themselves how they can rule well or lead well, as much as they need to ask: “how can we best serve this people?”
20 – “ And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.” (Matthew 20:29-34, ESV)
RAF: Note first that Jesus was not the initiator. Often, people with needs imagine everyone should simply recognize them and respond as they might desire. Second, He did not presume to announce their need Himself, but asked what it was they desired. The obvious to one (especially the one in need) may not be to another. Those in need are responsible to articulate the need, and not to assume. Many a person leaves a good body of believers behind, hurt over the fact their needs were unperceived by others, and thus unmet. But note too – He responded when approached. So must Church leadership.
21 – “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”” (Matthew 22:37-40, ESV)
RAF: In other words, the Law and the Prophets hang on Christ. For He alone loved the Lord His God with all His heart, soul and mind, and, His neighbor as Himself.