He Who Finds His Life Will Lose It

Ordinary 13A

Matthew 10: 37 42


Our Lord has been briefing his chosen apostles; we might even say "drilling" them. He has called them and they have responded. Now they need to be taken a step further in their overall preparation for service.

Some Notes On the Text

Verses 37 to 39

The first three verses seem hard-hitting. They are! Jesus required a tough resolve in those involved in his field outreach.

The Good News Bible (TEV version) has each of the three verses beginning with "whoever", and outlining a not-negotiable requirement if the disciple is to enter into a truly close relationship with the Lord.

The three demands laid down are:

First: Jesus does not require his disciples to love their parents and family any less than totally, but they are to love him even more. He is here calling them into a very special relationship, which they must be entirely free to enter into.

Secondly: The follower must be ready to share in the fate of Jesus, to be persecuted and to die. This is the first mention (in this Gospel) of crucifixion. Only by coming to terms with this very real possibility of cruel and torturous execution could the disciple be free to proclaim the message of Jesus.

Thirdly: The follower will spend the rest of his life exploring the strange paradox of gaining and losing life. Different translations can help us get the impact a little more directly:

Lamsa: He who is concerned about his life…………

Knox: He who secures* his own life will lose it; it is the man who loses his life for my sake that will secure it.

Williams: Anybody who gains his lower life will lose the higher life and anybody who loses his lower life for my sake will gain the higher life.

Taylor: If you cling to your life you will lose it, but if you give it up for me, you will save it.

*A footnote in Knox's translation explains: "Secures his life", by denying his faith under persecution, or otherwise making terms with the world at the expense of his own conscience.

The meaning is thus a little clearer for us.

Those who lose their "psyche" (traditionally soul, life best thought of as one's "self") whether by disciplined self-denial or in an act of, martyrdom will find it restored in the age to come (D Carson).

Verses 40 42

The second set of three verses also has each commencing with "Anyone who", the last having an added emphasis with a "verily" (KJV) or "I tell you the truth", clause. The previous set of 3 verses orientated the disciples towards being prepared to reflect in their lives the Master's way of thinking and seeing things. In this set of verses Jesus indicates that the treatment meted out to his followers is accepted by him as meted out to himself. (F.Bruce).

First: Those who receive the Messiah's representatives, the Apostles, and then those whom they appoint and authorise, receive him, and with him, his Father.

Secondly: Those who receive the Apostles because they recognise them to be prophets (the word here means teachers) and righteous men and disciples, will receive the same reward as they, namely eternal life.

Thirdly: Even those who only help the disciples down through the ages on their mission, by offering a cup of water (the smallest possible action) as they journey, will be rewarded. (Dummelow)

R.T.France sums up these few verses with a helpful comment:

"Thus these verses place the disciple in the privileged position of the one who, representing Jesus, also represents God, and whose reception is therefore the test of a man's attitude to God himself, leading to either reward or loss of it. This is solid comfort for those who find the world against them because they belong to Jesus."


Our notes began recognising that Jesus seemed to be talking tough. Yet we find once again that whenever he confronts his key workers in this way, he always has something more than compensating, about to be shared. In this case who would have thought he was about to express such a close and elevated relationship with his disciples as stated here!

We close with a comment from Adam Clarke:

Love heightens the smallest actions, and gives a worth to them, which they cannot possess without it. Under a just and merciful God every sin is either punished or pardoned, and every good action rewarded. The most indigent may exercise the works of mercy and charity; seeing even a cup of cold water, given in the name of Jesus, shall not lose its reward. How astonishing is God's kindness! It is not the rich merely whom he calls on to be charitable; but even the poor, and the most impoverished of the poor! God gives the power and inclination to be charitable, and then rewards the work, which, it may be truly said, "God himself hath wrought". It is the name of Jesus that sanctifies every thing, and renders services, in themselves comparatively contemptible, of high worth in the sight of God.

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