Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 31: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
MATTHEW 10:21-25; LUKE 6:40
21. And the brother will deliver up the brother to death, and the father the son, and the children will rise up against the parents, and will put them to death. 22. And you will be hated by all on account of my name: but he who shall endure to the end 588 will be saved. 23. And when they shall persecute you in this city, flee into another: for verily I say unto you, You will not have gone over 589 all the cities of Israel, till the Son of man bec ome. 24. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. 25. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and that the servant be as his lord: if they have called the master of the house himself Beelzebub, how much more his household servants?
40. The disciple is not above his master, but every one shall be to his master.
Matthew 10:21. And the brother will deliver up the brother to death. He first gives warning what heavy calamities await them, and then adds a remarkable consideration, which sweetens all their bitterness. First, he announces that those circumstances which other men find to be the means of protection, or from which they obtain some relief, will prove to the disciples a fresh addition to their misery. Brothers, who ought to assist them when oppressed, to stretch out their hand to them amidst their distresses, and to watch over their safety, will be their mortal enemies.
It is a mistake however, to suppose that it happens to none but believers to be delivered up to death by their brethren: for it is possible that a father may pursue his son with holy zeal, 590 if he perceives him to have apostatized from the true worship of God; nay, the Lord enjoins us in such a case (De 13:9) to forget flesh and blood, and to bestow all our care on vindicating the glory of his name. 591 Whoever has fear and reverence for God will not spare his own relatives, but will rather choose that all of them should perish, if it be found necessary, than that the kingdom of Christ should be scattered, the doctrine of salvation extinguished, and the worship of God abolished. If our affections were properly regulated, there would be no other cause of just hatred among us.
On the other hand, as Christ not only restores the kingdom of God, and raises godliness to its full vigor, but even brings men back from ruin to salvation, nothing can be more unreasonable than that the ministers of so lovely a doctrine should be hated on his account. A thing so monstrous, and so contrary to nature, might greatly distress the minds of simple men: 592 but Christ foretells that it will actually take place.
22. But he who endured to the end shall be saved This single promise ought sufficiently to support the minds of the godly, though the whole world should rise against them: for they are assured that the result will be prosperous and happy. If those who fight under earthly commanders, and are uncertain as to the issue of the battle, are carried forward even to death by steadiness of purpose, shall those who are certain of victory hesitate to abide by the cause of Christ to the very last?
23. And when they shall persecute you. He anticipates an objection that might arise. If we must encounter the resentments of the whole world, what shall be the end of all this? 593 Though it may not be safe for them to remain in any place, yet Christ warns them not to despair, but, on the contrary, when they have been driven from one place, to try whether their labors in some other place may be of any avail. It is a mistake, however, to suppose that this is a bare permission: for it is rather a command given to the disciples, what it is the will of Christ that they should do. He who has sustained one persecution would willingly withdraw as a soldier who has served his time. But no such exemption is granted to the followers of Christ, who commands them to fulfill their whole course with unabated zeal. In short, the apostles are enjoined to enter into fresh contests, and not to imagine that, when they have succeeded in one or two cases, they have fully discharged their duty. No permission is granted to them to flee to a retired spot, where they may remain unemployed, but though their labor may have been unsuccessful in one place, the Lord exhorts them to persevere.
And yet the command implies also a permission. As to avoiding persecution, it ought to be understood in this manner: we must not condemn without distinction all who flee, and yet it is not every kind of flight that is lawful. Some of the ancients carried their zeal in this matter to an extreme and condemned flight as a species of disavowal. Were this true, some part of the disgrace would fall on Christ and his apostles. Again, if all without distinction are at liberty to flee, a good pastor could not be distinguished from a hireling during a season of persecution. We must abide by the moderation which Augustine recommends, when writing to Honoratus: No man must quit his station through timidity, either by betraying the flock through cowardice, or by giving an example of slothfulness; and yet no man must expose himself precipitately, or at random. If a whole church is attacked, or if a part of them is pursued to death, the pastor, whose duty it is to expose his life in place of any individual among them, would do wrong in withdrawing. But sometimes it may happen, that by his absence he will quell the rage of enemies, and thus promote the advantage of the church. In such cases, the harmlessness of the dove must be his guide, that effeminate persons may not seize on his conduct as an excuse for their timidity: for the flesh is always too ingenious in avoiding what is troublesome.
For verily I say to you. These words cannot be understood in the sense which some have given to them as relating to the first mission, 594 but embrace the whole course of their apostleship. But the difficulty lies in ascertaining what is meant by the coming of the Son of man Some explain it as denoting such a progress of the gospel, as may enable all to acknowledge that Christ is truly reigning, and that he may be expected to restore the kingdom of David. Others refer it to the destruction of Jerusalem, in which Christ appeared taking vengeance on the ingratitude of the nation. The former exposition is admissible: the latter is too far-fetched. I look upon the consolation here given as addressed peculiarly to the apostles. Christ is said to come, when matters are desperate, and he grants relief. The commission which they received was almost boundless: it was to spread the doctrine of the Gospel through the whole world. Christ promises that he will come before they have traveled through the whole of Judea: that is, by the power of his Spirit, he will shed around his reign such luster, that the apostles will be enabled to discern that glory and majesty which they had hitherto been unable to discover.
24. The disciple is not above his master By his own example he now exhorts them to perseverance; and, indeed, this consolation is enough to banish all sadness, if we consider that our lot is shared with the Son of God. To make us feel deeper shame, he borrows a twofold comparison from what is customary among men. The disciple reckons it honorable to be placed on a level with his master, and does not venture to wish a higher honor, and again, servants do not refuse to share that condition to which their masters willingly submit. In both respects, the Son of God is far above us: for the Father has given to him the highest authority, and has bestowed on him the office of a teacher. We ought, therefore, to be ashamed of declining what he did not scruple to undergo on our account. But there is more need to meditate on these words than to explain them: for, in themselves, they are sufficiently clear.
Luke 6:40. The disciple is not above his master, but every one shall be conformed to his master Luke gives this sentence without any connection, as if it had been spoken abruptly in the midst of other discourses; but as Matthew explains very clearly, in this passage, to what it relates, I have chosen not to insert it in any other place. With respect to the translation, I have chosen neither to follow Erasmus nor the old translator, and for the following reason: — The participle κατηρτισμένος, signifies perfect, but signifies also fit and suitable Now, as Christ is speaking, not about perfection, but about resemblance, and must therefore mean, that nothing is more suitable for a disciple than to be formed after the example of his master, the latter meaning appeared to me to be more appropriate.
25. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub This is equivalent to calling himself Lord of the Church, as the apostle, when comparing him to Moses and the prophets, (Heb 3:1,) says, that they were servants, but that he is the Son and heir. Though he bestows on them the honor of calling them brethren, (Heb 2:11,) yet he is the first-born (Ro 8:29) and head of the whole church; and, in short, he possesses supreme government and power. Nothing, therefore, can be more unreasonable than to wish to be accounted believers, and yet to murmur against God when he conforms us to the image of his Son, whom he has placed over all his family. To what sort of delicacy do we pretend, if we wish to hold a place in his house, and to be above the Lord himself? The general meaning is, that we carry our delicacy and tenderness to excess, if we account it a hardship to endure reproaches to which our Prince willingly submitted.
Beelzebub is a corrupted term, and would have been more correctly written Baalzebub. This was the name given to the chief of the false gods of the Philistines, who was worshipped by the inhabitants of Ekron, (2Ki 1:2.) Baalim was the name of the inferior deities, whom the Papists of our day call patrons. Now, as Baalzebub means the patron of the fly, or of the flies, some have thought that he was so called on account of the great multitude of flies in the temple, occasioned by the number of sacrifices; but I rather conjecture that the assistance of the idol was implored against the flies which infested that place. When Ahazlah, under the influence of superstition, applied to him to be informed about his recovery, he gave him this name, which would appear from that circumstance not to be a term of reproach. But as the name gehenna was applied by holy men to hell, in order to stamp that place with infamy, so, in order to express their hatred and detestation of the idol, they gave the name Beelzebub to the devil. Hence we infer that wicked men, for the purpose of rendering Christ detestable to the multitude, employed the most reproachful term which they could invent, by calling him the devil, or, in other words, the greatest enemy of religion. If we happen to be assailed by the same kind of reproach, we ought not to think it strange, that what began in the head should be completed in the members.
“Qui soustiendra, ou, tiendra bon, jusques k la fin;” — “he who shall endure, or hold out, even to the end.”
“Vous n'aurez point parachev, d'aller;” — “you will not have finished going.”
“Par un zele sainct et plaisant a Dieu;” — “by a zeal that is holy and pleasing to God.”
“De maintenir la gloire de son nom, a fin que punition soit faite de l'outrage commis contre sa majeste;” — “to maintam the glory of his name, that punishment may be inflicted on the outrage comnntted against his majesty.”
“Les gens simples, et d'esprit paisible;” — “simple people, and of peaceable dispositions.”
“Que sera ce a la fin, et que deviendrons-nous?” — “What shall be in the end, and what will become of us?”
“Touchant le premier voyage, ou la premiere commission qu ont eue les apostres;” — “respecting the first journey, or the first commission which the apostles had.”