9:18 PM

10:8b-10 by Tim Kumfer

Why are the disciples told to take no gold, silver, or copper in their belts; no bag for their journey; no extra tunic and sandals; and forbidden to carry a staff? How could such restrictions possibly lead to a successful completion of their task? Ultimately, what kind of mission is Jesus sending them on?

Warren Carter (235) holds that the disciples are told to receive no payment both to ensure the access of the poor to their mission and in order that they might embrace the margins of poverty and powerlessness. Jesus instructs them to travel light so as to be inconspicuous, to minimize the expected opposition from political and religious elites (cf. 10:16-17). Not carrying bags and staffs serves to minimize signs they are on a journey and increase their safety on an already perilous endeavor.

W.D. Davies and Dale Allison Jr. (170-174) hold that they are not to receive payment for healing acts because God freely gave them the power to heal. The travel prohibitions they are given demonstrate that ‘they have unloosed their ties to the present age.” By going without possessions they “put themselves beyond suspicion” and “become examples of trust in God’s providential care.” The lack of a staff can be interpreted as a sign of pacifism, as they were often used to ward off attackers.

Although I am quite sympathetic to Carter’s concerns and overall project, I think Davies and Allison are correct that these prohibitions ultimately serve more to dramatize than minimize the difference between Jesus’ disciples and ‘the world.’ Neither of the commentators, though, note an interesting connection between the Mission discourse in ch. 10 and The Judgment of the Nations discourse in ch. 25 (which Douglas Harink mentioned almost off-handedly in his recent lectures on 1 and 2 Peter; http://www.inhabitatiodei.com/2010/03/01/audio-of-harinks-ekklesia-lectures/). In 10:11-15, Jesus says the towns and villages will be judged by how they receive his disciples. In 25:31-46, the Son of Man judges the nations based on how they have treated his brothers who were hungry, thirsty, strangers, sick, naked, and/or imprisoned. Harink points out how this is precisely the state of disciples sent on mission. In other words, the precarity of Jesus’ disciples is a central and indispensable part of mission; it is the ‘pre-existing condition’ for the evangelization of the world and its standing before apocalyptic judgment.

Comment (1)

Nice, T. The relation b/w the discourse here in 10 and the discourse of 24-25 is important. I don't think you can understand the impending judgment of ch. 10 independently of the judgment coming according to chapters 24-25.

I think you're right that the apostles' conditions dramatize the distinctiveness of their mission and the Kingdom they proclaim. It is important to contrast their mode of mission with that of the Hasmoneans, Herod, and Rome (or the mode of presence of the dignitaries of our time). The conditions in which the apostles proclaim the Kingdom is constitutive of the Kingdom they proclaim. The power/rule/sovereignty of the Kingdom of the God of Israel obtains in the vulnerability of the apostles to their hosts. That kind of presence is the presence of the God of Israel to rule/hold sway, the same presence that raises the dead, heals the sick, cleanses the lepers, and casts out demons. The alternative is relative, short-term security but no power over death and corruption.

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