Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 10:34-11:1

Mat 10:34  Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword.
Mat 10:35  For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
Mat 10:36  And a man’s enemies shall be they of his own household.

Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth. c. Conditions of faithful discipleship, 34–39. The conditions of discipleship consist first in one’s readiness to battle for the sake of Christ against even the members of one’s family; secondly, in a high degree of self-denial.

α. Domestic struggles. These are predicted by our Lord that the apostles may not be disturbed by their occurrence in consequence of their message, especially since they will be apt to believe that such a state of things contradicts the Messianic peace [Chrysostom]. The disturbance thus caused is not owing to the doctrine of Christ, but to the bad disposition of the men of the world; for the sword of Christ disturbs only a peace that is founded on false moral principles. This disturbance had been foreseen even by the prophets of the Old Testament, cf. Michah 7:6; Ex 32:27; Num 25:5; Deut 13:16; Deut 33:9. The expressions “I came not to send peace” and “I came to set …” do not state the purpose of the coming of our Lord, but rather its inevitable consequence; for, according to the language of Scripture, purpose and consequence are often interchanged.

Mat 10:37  He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me.
Mat 10:38  And he that taketh not up his cross, and followeth me, is not worthy of me.
Mat 10:39  He that findeth his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for me, shall find it.

He that loveth father or mother more than me. β. Self-denial. The self-denial required by our Lord demands first that he be loved more than any relative or friend, so that even the love of parents for their children and of children for their parents has to yield to that for our divine Master [cf. Chrysostom, Lam. Cajetan, Jerome, Opus Imperfectum]; secondly, the love of Christ implies not merely death to all affection, but also readiness to suffer the greatest pain, whether in body or mind, for the sake of Jesus; thirdly, for the sake of Jesus his disciple must be ready to renounce his earthly life. As the earthly affection that must yield to the love for Jesus is represented by the purest and strongest, so is the pain that we must be prepared to suffer for Jesus represented by the most intense and disgraceful of torments. For crucifixion was not only the most painful but also the most ignominious of deaths [cf. Chrysostom, Paschasius, Jansenius]. In the phrase “and followeth me” Jesus implicitly predicts the manner of his own death [Maldonado, Jansenius, Lapide, Bisping, Schegg, Schanz, Fillion, Knabenbauer]. Though the apostles may not have fully understood the prophecy contained in this clause, they surely understood the intensity of the suffering for which they were called to be prepared, since the Romans inflicted the punishment of crucifixion in Palestine [Ed. i. p. 651; Targ. ad Ruth 1:17]. That Jesus did not intend merely the greatest sufferings, but death itself, by what he had said about carrying one’s cross is implied in the relation he establishes between the life of the body and that of the soul; for he that saves his life of the body by refusing to carry the cross loses the eternal life of the soul, while the loss of one’s temporal life for the sake of the Master brings the eternal life of the soul with it [cf. Mt 16:25; Mk 8:35; Lk 9:24; Lk 17:33; Jn 12:25]. We need not insist on the efficacy of these exhortations, since we see their result in Acts 7:54, 56 f.; Acts 12:1–3.

Mat 10:40  He that receiveth you, receiveth me: and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me.
Mat 10:41  He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive the reward of a prophet: and he that receiveth a just man in the name of a just man, shall receive the reward of a just man.
Mat 10:42  And whosoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, amen I say to you he shall not lose his reward.

He that receiveth you, receiveth me. d. Reward of benefactors. The general contempt in which the apostles will be held will have its counterpart: hospitality shown to them will be regarded as hospitality extended to our Lord himself or to his heavenly Father. While these words manifest the dignity of the apostles, they also show God’s love for them, and are calculated to open every Christian home for their reception [cf. Jerome, Maldonado, Lam. Chrysostom, Euthymius]. Jesus now proceeds to enumerate various degrees of remuneration for Christian charity: since reward and merit naturally correspond with one another, the different kinds of charity are first enumerated.

α. The first consists in giving hospitality to a prophet, simply because he is a prophet [cf. Chrysostom, Jerome, Opus Imperfectum, Dionysius, Cajetan etc.]; the second, in extending hospitality to a just man, again because he is a just man, not merely because he appears to be just [Jansenius]; the third, in showing any kindness to Christ’s “little ones,” i. e. to Christ’s apostles or disciples [cf. Mk 9:39, 40; 1 Cor 1:27; Euthymius], or to those of little Christian virtue [Sylveira], or finally to sinful persons [Hilary]. Since “a cup of cold water” is a great help to a weary traveller, we cannot infer from this passage that Jesus supposes the benefit to be of minor importance [cf. Schegg, Schanz, Knabenbauer], though several patristic writers insist on the facility of such a good work [Jerome, Chrysostom, Euthymius]. The good intention in the performance of the work is in each case insisted upon [cf. Rom 2:7].

β. In the second place we may consider the reward promised for these three kinds of good works: it is the reward of a prophet, of a just man, and a reward expressed without further addition. The reward of a prophet is either the reward due to a prophet whose coöperator the benefactor becomes [Paschasius, Thomas Aquinas, Faber Stapulensis, Jansenius, Barradas, Cajetan; cf. 1 Kings 30:24; Mald.], or the reward due to a benefactor of a prophet [Chrysostom, Alb.], or again the reward which a prophet gives by announcing the word of God and praying for his benefactors [cf. Sylveira, Lapide, Calmet, Bisping, Arnoldi, Schegg, Schanz, Fillion, Weiss]. We must note what is added by Lapide and Sylveira that the reward will be proportionate to the degree of coöperation in the good of the Christian world and to the charity of the coöperators.

Mat 11:1  And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he passed from thence, to teach and to preach in their cities.

Father Maas offers no comment on this transitional verse. He does, however, at the beginning of his treatment of chapter 11, offer the following overview of 11:1-6:.

Testimony of the Baptist and the Obstinacy of the People

In this section the evangelist narrates first John’s embassy to Jesus, vv. 1–6; secondly, Christ’s testimony to John, vv. 7–15; thirdly, the rebuke of the people, vv. 16–24; fourthly, our Lord’s call of the citizens of the kingdom, vv. 25–30.

1. The Baptist’s embassy 11:1-6. The gospel gives first the circumstances of the embassy; secondly, the event itself; thirdly, the answer of our Lord.

α. Circumstances of John’s embassy. These are on the part of our Lord contained in the statement that he had made an end of commanding [an expression which according to its Greek original may comprise strict commands, councils, forewarnings, and promises] his disciples, and was preaching and teaching in the cities of Galilee; on the part of the Baptist, we are told that he heard in prison the works of Christ.

[1] On the part of Jesus. The third gospel, which professes to follow a chronological order, states that Jesus sent out his Twelve [Lk. 9:1–6] some time after the Baptist’s embassy [Lk. 7:18 f.]. As the first evangelist confirms the doctrine of our Lord contained in the sermon on the mount [chapters 5–7] by the miracles of chapters 8, 9, so he corroborates the beginnings of the foundation of the kingdom [chapter 10.] by the testimony of the Baptist [c. 11.]. “From thence” may therefore be referred to the place in Galilee determined in 9:35. “Teach” and “preach” are expressed by two Greek words meaning the exercise of a master and a herald respectively; the former explains and instructs [cf. lxx. in Gen. 41:43; 2 Chron 36:22; Esth. 6:9, 11], the latter proclaims publicly and solemnly [Ex. 32:5; 36:6; 2 Kings 10:20; 2 Chron 20:3]. “In their cities” refers either to the cities of the apostles [Euthymius, Alb. Fritzsche, etc.], or to those of the inhabitants of Judea and Galilee [Bede, Rabanus Paschasius, Maldonado].

[2] On the part of John. The history of John’s imprisonment is told in Mt. 14:3, 4; according to Josephus [Ant. XVIII. v. 2] he was shut up in the fortress Machærus, the modern Mkhaur, situated in the southern part of Perea, east of the Dead Sea, near the Arabian frontier. If the present text of Josephus [Ant. XVIII. v. 1] be accurate, this naturally strong and artfully fortified place [Joseph. B. J. VII. vi. 1, 2] belonged to the Arabian king Aretas at the time that Herod Antipas first put away his lawful wife, the daughter of Aretas, and married Herodias. Schürer [The Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, Div. I. vol. ii. p. 26; Engl. Transl. Edinburgh, 1890] mentions a number of conjectures concerning the manner in which the fortress might have come into the hands of Herod Antipas before the time of John’s imprisonment,—for it can hardly be supposed that the Baptist should have been detained in a foreign stronghold,—the most probable of which is that Tiberius ordered Aretas to surrender the place to Antipas [cf. Wieseler, Chronological Synopsis, pp. 216, 217; Beweis des Glaubens, 1870, p. 166]. The “works of Christ” which John heard in prison are his miracles [Jn. 5:36; Lk. 7:18]. That the confinement of the Baptist was not very strict may be inferred from the fact that he heard, probably through his disciples, of the events of the outer world; the same seems to follow from Mk. 6:20, 29.

β. John’s embassy. [1] The sending. The reading “sending two of his disciples” is less probable than “sending through his disciples.” The former reading owes its origin probably to the parallel passage in the third gospel [7:19], while it is hard to understand how such an easy and clear reading could have given room to the difficult reading “through:” the latter must therefore represent the earlier text. Again, the latter reading is based on a Hebrew idiom, which fully accords with the nature of the first gospel [cf. Ex. 4:13; Lev. 16:21; 1 Kings 16:20; 2 Kings 12:25; 15:36; etc.]. There is no necessity of transposing the words so as to read “sending, said to him by his disciples” [cf. Meyer], since it is self-evident that John did not speak to Jesus immediately. The third gospel [7:20], too, emphasizes the sending of the disciples rather than their instrumentality as speakers.

[2] The question. In the question, or rather its second part “or look we for another,” it is doubtful in the original Greek whether we have the indicative or the subjunctive. The Vulgate, Schegg, Fritzsche, etc. prefer the indicative, so that we may interpret, “or are the conditions such that we look for another?” Fillion and most Protestant writers prefer the subjunctive mood, which according to their view expresses a deliberation in the present question. Jesus is addressed, or at least asked, whether he be “he that is to come.” This expression is, according to the language of the Old Testament, a Messianic title: cf. Gen. 49:10; Ez. 21:27; Ps. 118:26; Ps 40:8; Deut. 18:15. It is for the same reason that in Rabbinic language the Messianic kingdom was named עֹלָם הַבָּא, δ αἰὼν ὁ ἐρχόμενος [cf. Mk. 10:30; Lk. 18:30; Jn. 6:14; Mt. 12:32]. Similar language we meet in the epistles of St. Paul: Eph. 1:21; Heb. 6:5; Heb 9:11, so that the question must have been quite clear to our Lord and his surrounding.

[3] Motive of the Baptist. Writers are very much at variance concerning the motive that impelled the Baptist to send his messengers and ask the foregoing question, [a] Many of the more recent Protestant commentators [cf. Edersheim i. p. 607; Meyer, Keil, Weiss] and some Catholic writers [cf. Schanz, Loisy, Evang. synopt. pp. 244 ff.] maintain that the Baptist sent his envoys and asked the foregoing question to settle his own doubts concerning the Messiasship of Jesus. They are of opinion that the lengthy imprisonment had a depressing effect upon John, so that he began to doubt about the true character of our Lord. It is true that Tertullian [De baptism, c. 10] believed the special assistance of the Holy Ghost had left the Baptist when Jesus had begun his public ministry, so that the former fell into a state of religious doubt concerning the very person whose precursor he had been [c. Marc. iv. 18]. While the latter opinion is singular, to say the least, the first-mentioned authors do not sufficiently distinguish between the time of spiritual desolation and that of actual transgression. Besides, a doubt in matters of faith after once possessing the light of faith, as John did, implies grievous sin.

[b] The author of “Quæstion. et responsion. ad orthodox.” [qu. 38; cf. 87] contends that John sent his embassy, not indeed to learn whether the person concerning whom he had testified in his ministry was the Messias, but to establish the identity of the wonder-worker with the person in whose favor he had testified [cf. Lam. Mansel]. But the gospel shows that the ministry of the Baptist and of our Lord overlapped in such a manner that John could hardly be ignorant of the identity of our Lord’s person.

[c] Gams, Schegg, and other writers imagine that the Baptist sent his embassy in order to urge our Lord to hasten the manifestation of his royal power; some writers add that John himself hoped to regain his liberty by the manifestation of our Lord’s Messianic character. We need not state that this interpretation is wholly at variance with the humility of the Baptist manifested at the first public appearance of Jesus [cf. Mt. 3:11].

[d] Origen [hom. in lib. Reg. 2. c. xxviii; de engastrimytho], Jerome [ad Mt. xi. 3; ep. ad Algas. ep. 121, qu. 1], Gregory the Great [hom. in Ez. i. 1, n. 5; hom. vi. 1 in evang.], Bede, Paschasius, St Bruno, Gregory Nanzianzen, [or. xliii. n. 75], Euseb Emess. [or. i.], Ruffin. Toran. [expos. symb.] believe that John asked our Lord whether he was the one to come into Limbo,—whether in other words the Baptist, foreseeing his own death, might announce the coming of the Messias to the souls of the Old Testament detained in Limbo. Both the form of the question and of the answer show that this was not the meaning of the Baptist’s embassy. A similar view is mentioned in the works of Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius, Ambrose [in Luc. vii. 19; l. v. n. 98]. The Baptist is said not to have known the mystery of Christ’s death, or if he knew it, to have doubted whether the Word Incarnate must really subject himself to such shame and suffering. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius, Alb. Thomas Aquinas, Dionysius, reject this opinion. It is not probable that he who was more than a prophet understood the mystery of the redemption less than a prophet [cf. Is. 53; Ps. 21:17 ff.; 68:22; etc.]; nor can we suppose that he who uttered the words concerning the Lamb of God [Jn. 1:29] was ignorant of the manner in which the sins of the world were to be taken away.

[e] While the Fathers generally reject the opinion according to which the Baptist sent to Jesus in order to satisfy his own doubt concerning the Messiasship of our Lord [Hil. Theodor heracl. in cat. Orig. in cat. Ambr. in Luc. vii. 19; l. 5, n. 93–95, Jer. ep. ad Algas. 121, qu. 1, August. serm. 66, n. 4, Chrys. Theoph. Euth. Cyril Alex. ad h. l. in cat. Basil. or. 34, Euseb. Alex. op. imp.], they also agree for the most part with the greater number of later writers in maintaining that the Baptist intended to convince or confirm his own disciples and the multitudes at large in their faith of the Messiasship of Jesus [Bed. Pasch. Thom. Fab. Dion. Caj. Jans. Mald. Lap. Men. Tir. Gord. Calm. Arn. Bisp. Fil. Friedlieb, Knab. Tolet. in Luc. 7:20, Grimm, iii. 175 f.]. This opinion agrees not only with the character of the Baptist as a precursor of our Lord, but also with the gospel record concerning his lively faith in the person of Jesus on their meeting in the earlier part of our Lord’s public life [cf. John 1:26–36; 3:29], as well as with the Baptist’s zeal to lead his own followers to the faith in our Lord [cf. John 3:26 ff.; Mt. 9:14; Mk. 2:18; Lk. 1:17; etc.]. The circumstance that the Baptist asked the question in the first person, and seemingly in his own name, and that Jesus answered the question as if it had been asked by John for himself, loses its weight by the consideration that such an answer of our Lord directed to his faithful precursor must have been a boundless source of consolation to the latter.

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One Response to Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 10:34-11:1

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A | stjoeofoblog

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