Matthew 10 consists of two significant events: Jesus’ selection of His twelve apostles and His commissioning them to preach exclusively to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel”. This commission included instructions of what they were both to teach and the reaction they should expect from that teaching. Of that reaction Jesus warned, “Think not that I am come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother and the daughter-in-law against the mother-in-law: and a man’s foes shall be those of his own household” (Matthew 10:34-36). In v. 21 Jesus warned, “And brother shall deliver up a brother to death and the father his child; and children shall rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death”.
Jesus knew whereof He spoke. At one point his own brothers did not even believe in Him. In John 7, the feast of tabernacles was at hand and His brethren planned to go. They said to Him, “Depart hence and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may behold thy works which thou doest. For no man doeth anything in secret and himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou doest these things, manifest thyself to the world. For even his brethren did not believe in him” (vv. 3-5).
Jesus then told His brothers, “My time is not yet come … Go ye up unto the feast, I go not (yet) up unto this feast; because my time is not yet fulfilled” (John 7:6). However, Jesus did go to the feast later (John 7:10-13). Some translations (KJV and others) read, “I go not up yet unto this feast”. Other versions (ASV) translate it, “I go not up unto this feast”. Many early manuscripts leave out the word “yet”, but earlier papyri have the word in them. However, Jesus was not saying He was not going to the feast. He was saying that right then (as when He turned water to wine), His time or hour had not yet come.
Jesus’ brethren did not know what He knew. Jesus had already preached in Jerusalem and met stiff resistance there. Jewish rulers were already plotting to kill Him. John 7 begins with these words: “And after these things Jesus walked in Galilee for he would not walk in Judaea because the Jews sought to kill him”. For Jesus to manifest Himself openly at this time would give Jewish authorities opportunity both to seize and crucify Him (which they did do less than a year later). But, He still had teaching to do and He was going to openly give His nation miracles to believe, such as sight to a man born blind (John 9) and raising Lazarus from the dead after four days (John 11). In this way, they would be forced to deny what their own eyes told them was true.
Jesus does not want anyone to not believe in Him. He came to a world which had diverse attitudes and hearts. His word does not have the same effect on all who hear it. People on Pentecost heard Peter’s sermon and in aguish some of them asked, “Brethren what shall we do?” When Peter told them to “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins”, 3,000 of them responded (Acts 2:38, 41). On the other hand, when Stephen preached the same word to another audience, the people were cut to the heart and infuriated, causing them to stone him. And while 3,000 were baptized on Pentecost, that was very likely only a small minority of those who heard Peter that day. Just as it was in Jerusalem, so it was — and is — all over the world. Some hear, some won’t. And those who won’t hear, do so because their own heart is dull of hearing because of what they allow to be in their heart.
Each man determines what kind of heart he has. Solomon wrote, “Keep thy heart with all diligence. For out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Most will not keep their heart because the world has a stranglehold on them. We are warned, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If a man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vainglory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15-17).
When Paul preached to the Macedonians, he preached first to the synagogue in Thessalonica where the people tried to kill him. He went to Berea (a short distance away) and preached in the synagogue there and met an entirely different audience: “Now these were more noble than those of Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, examining the scriptures daily whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Jesus chose 12 men to be His apostles, 11 of whom were willing to die for Him. But one of them was willing to sell Him for 30 pieces of silver. When Paul preached in the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia, they rejected him. He said “Lo, we turn to the Gentiles”. That message was received with joy by the Gentiles (Acts 13:46). When he preached on the stairs to a crowd of Jews in Jerusalem and told them how God had said to him, “Depart, I will send far hence to the Gentiles” (Acts 22:21-22), the crowd erupted with anger, saying, “Away with such a fellow. He is not fit to live”. It is only in an honest and good heart that the Word will take root and grow (Luke 8:15).
Remember, it is possible for a believing heart to turn into an unbelieving one. When Jesus fed the 5,000, many who saw the miracle were persuaded, “This is of a truth the prophet that cometh into the world” (John 6:14). But when Jesus said God had sent Him, the same ones said, “Who can believe him?” and many turned and walked no more with Him (John 6:66).
On the other hand, unbelief can turn into belief. The brothers of Jesus “who did not believe” had hearts that were not stony. They were willing to hear their brother and weigh what He said. It was to one of them (James) whom Jesus revealed Himself after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7). After His ascension His disciples waited, as they were told to, in Jerusalem. His mother and brothers were among them (Acts 1:14). And two of His brothers (James and Jude) were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write letters for the edification of Christians then and for all future time. The same word can cause some to believe and obey (Acts 2:41) and yet cause others to stone the one who preached that word (Acts 7:58-59). Sometimes both reactions are found in one family.
There is an old adage which says, “The same sun will melt butter and harden concrete”. We are guardians of our heart. Let’s be certain we diligently keep it.