What does Matthew 10:18 mean?
ESV: and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.
NIV: On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.
NASB: and you will even be brought before governors and kings on My account, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.
CSB: You will even be brought before governors and kings because of me, to bear witness to them and to the Gentiles.
NLT: You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me.
KJV: And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.
Jesus is preparing His hand-picked group of twelve disciples to go out on their own into the world and preach His message about the coming of His kingdom (Matthew 10:1). He is warning them that it will be dangerous. They may not know it yet, but Jesus is pointing forward to a time of great persecution of Christians after His death, resurrection, and return to heaven. He said in the previous verse that persecution will include being flogged in the synagogues by the Jewish religious leaders after being tried before a Jewish court (Matthew 10:17).
Now Jesus adds that substantial persecution will come from the Gentiles, as well. His followers will be "dragged" before governors and kings for His sake. These would include Jewish religious leaders (Acts 4:1–22), but also secular Jewish government authorities (Acts 12:1–4) and, eventually, Roman rulers (Acts 14:5).
This persecution before these authorities would serve a specific purpose, however. When standing trial, Jesus said His followers would continue to represent Him. In this way, they would have the opportunity to tell the message of Jesus to those at the highest levels of power, both Jews and Gentiles. The coming persecution would allow the good news of salvation through faith in Christ to reach even those who were doing the persecuting.
Matthew 10:16–25 follows Jesus' instructions to His twelve apostles, giving them guidance for their impending missionary journey. Here, He begins to describe events that will follow His own resurrection and return to heaven. When that time comes, the apostles will be arrested and dragged before various courts and officials because they represent Christ and insist that He is the Son of God. The Holy Spirit will speak through them about Jesus. They will run from one town to another to avoid persecution, spreading the good news about Christ as they go. Jesus was persecuted, so they will be, as well. Much as Jesus will do during the Last Supper (John 16:25–33), He will encourage these men to stand firm in their faith.
Jesus gives His authority over disease, demons, and even death to His twelve hand-picked apostles. He gives them instructions in preparation both for a short-term trip to the towns of Galilee and their ministry after He has left the earth. First, they will preach His message of the kingdom in Israelite towns as they heal and cast out demons to demonstrate His power. Later, they will suffer great persecution as they represent Him before both Jews and Gentiles. They should not be afraid, though, and trust their Father to be with them and to reward them.
Jesus has recently expressed compassion for the people of Israel, who are spiritually lost. Matthew 10 is a record of Jesus' instructions to His twelve core apostles, as He sends them on a short-term trip to the towns of Galilee. He also includes warnings and encouragements about the persecution they will eventually experience. In chapter 11, Jesus will continue to proclaim truth to the people of Israel, leading to further conflict with local religious leaders.
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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