What does Matthew 10:21 mean?
ESV: Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death,
NIV: Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.
NASB: Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.
CSB: "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
NLT: A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed.
KJV: And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.
A hand-picked group of twelve men are being sent by Jesus, into Galilee, to work miracles and preach His message (Matthew 10:5–8). He began by giving them specific instructions for an immediate mission to the towns of Israel (Matthew 10:9–15). Now, He is describing a future season after His own death, resurrection, and return to heaven. In that time, these twelve apostles will be arrested for speaking on His behalf. They will appear before courts and tribunals and kings and governors. This will give them the opportunity to tell Jesus' story and preach the gospel to people at every level of society (Matthew 10:16–20).
Now Jesus is emphasizing how fierce the opposition to Him and His message will become. It will not just create conflict with those in authority; the gospel message of Jesus will also bitterly divide families. In some places, men will turn over their own brothers to the authorities to carry out their death sentence against Christians. Fathers will do the same to their children. Children will do likewise to parents.
To be clear, it will not be the Jesus followers turning their family members over to be killed. It will be family members who are so deeply opposed to the teaching of Jesus' kingdom that they will turn on family members who express faith in Christ. This happened during the time of the apostles and the early church, and it continues to happen today in many parts of the world. Sadly, the unbelieving world will often respond to the gospel with hate and anger (John 15:18–20; 1 Peter 4:3–4; Matthew 5:11–12).
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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