Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Sermon / Homily on Matthew 10:34-11:1

Second Sunday After Pentecost

Sermon Briefs On Matthew 10:40-42

by Timothy F. Simpson

In the whole of the three-year cycle this present text is only narrowly surpassed in brevity by one other passage. When looking for models of sermon treatments of the passage in English, the preacher will find it more alluded to than preached by itself.

Using the theme of "priorities," J. Estill Jones looks back to v. 34 as the beginning of an ordering process, in which the disciples are directed to subordinate concern for themselves and their families beneath their vocation that Christ has given them. Not wanting to cut vv. 40-42 off from the surrounding context, Jones highlights the importance of balancing the "call to arms" of v. 34 with the "disarming kindness" of v. 42. It is the call to arms and the placing of relationships that create the conditions for the graciousness of the cup of water. The act of giving the water, he points out, is the sign that the principle of sacrifice is contagious, that once the disciple's lives are characterized by such cross-bearing activity, the lives of others who act in the disciple's names will also be marked by such behavior. (1)

Taking up the theme of "receiving the prophet," John Jay Hughes translates the concept into the concerns of contemporary folks whose reception of the prophet comes at a house of worship each Lord's Day. Hughes points out that while preachers have a great responsibility in fulfilling their task, hearers have such responsibilities as well. He gets right to the point in laying out his exhortation to the congregation as to how they might discharge their duty: arrive early enough to review and reflect on sermon texts; pray for the blessing of the Spirit upon preacher and hearer alike; be active in the rest of the liturgy in preparation for the hearing of God's word; find some point in the homily upon which to pray and reflect throughout the week; give the preacher feedback about the sermon; and lastly, discuss with others what was heard. (2)

A similar treatment of this text can be found in a sermon entitled How may Private Christians Best Produce the Entertainment of the Gospel? by the Puritan pastor George Hamond. Hamond cites as examples a number of characters who appear at the margins of the New Testament story but who nonetheless play a significant role in sharing the gospel: those persons who aided Jesus in his ministry with food and shelter; the Philippian church, whom Paul claims assisted his material needs for some time and which made it possible for his important work to continue; and one Gaius, who seems to have functioned in the same way for the author of 3 John. By contrast, Hamond uses as a negative example the church at Corinth, a bustling center of commerce, concerning which Paul says he did not take a thing from them while in their midst. Hamond laments with a comment as apt as when he uttered it three centuries ago: "It is a sad, but too frequently experienced, that a faithful minister of Christ may labour, and yet in want, in a wealthy city." (3)

That great light of the eighteenth century, Jonathan Edwards, in a sermon None Are Saved by Their Own Righteousness, is concerned to fend off the suggestion that our text promotes salvation by works, as if the cup of proffered water was the way to salvation. He responds that God, though saving humanity through the righteousness of Christ, is nonetheless sovereign in dispensing happiness, though there is a threshold below which those who are in Christ never fall: "[God] has been pleased to fix the degree of capacity, and so of glory, to the proportionalale degree of grace and fruitfulness. 'Tis his free and sovereign act that he doth so: he gives higher degrees of glory as a reward to the higher degree of good works, not because it deserves it, but because it pleases him." Thus the text is a window for Edwards on the character of God, and not just an explanation of a system of rewards. (4)


1. J. Estill Jones, "Priorities," The Ministers Manual for 1987, ed. by James W. Cox (Harper & Row, 1987), pp. 38-39.

2. John Jay Hughes, "Receiving God's Messengers," Proclaiming the Good News: Homilies for the `A' Cycle (Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 1983), pp. 134-136.

3. George Hamond, "How may Private Christians Best Promote the Entertainment of the Gospel?" Puritan Sermons: 1659-1689, vol. 4 (Wheaton, IL: Richard Robert Owens, 1981), pp. 410-436.

4. Jonathan Edwards, "None Are Saved By Their Own Righteousness," Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 14, Sermons and Discourses, ed. by Keith Minkema (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1997), pp. 332-356.

Source: The Sermon Mall, June 2011, Published by Theological Web Publishing, LLC.

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