The real focus of the passage needs to be on the concept of Christ as the head of the household (the household here being the church). Jesus is giving his disciples a warning that, because he himself has been maligned by political and theological opponents (again, see 9:34 for the charge about casting out demons with the power of demons), the disciples will face the same criticism as they travel out into the world to minister. Ultimately, the figure of Beelzebul is completely irrelevant, and the focus is really on how Christians should interact with the world: though they go out as members of the household of Christ, they will face criticism and will have to persevere in those situations. People will always misunderstand and misrepresent Christianity (even in countries where it is supposedly the dominant religion), and it is the job of Christians to stand up to those criticisms in a Christ-like manner, keeping always in mind the will and instructions of the true head of the household.
When you enter public office or military service there is a swearing in, a losing of your life to serve your country "So help you God." When you come to Jesus, you are doing the same - surrendering your life to Him and allowing Him to rule, you are willing to lose your life for Him. But many of us hide behind "Christianity," and are not actually willing to pick up our cross and follow Him, not willing to die for Him as He did for us.
Living this life is not about attaining power, financial security and comfort. The true reaility is that we can only begin to enjoy the benefits of this life by following Christ because He said He came to give us abundant life, eternally. Moreover, this surrendering to Him is about being prepared for His return. It is only when you've become sick and tired of being sick and tired that you willingly give up who you think you are and come to know who you really are in Him, and begin walking into your blessing knowing that He restores all, as He did for Job.
As Paul wrote in Galatians, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me (v. 20).
- First, the apostles are to give and receive without payment (v.8). Ministering within the context of the Kingdom of God is not a profession. Unlike the professional ministers and miracle workers we saw throughout Acts, those serving the Kingdom of God should not expect monetary reward for their service.
- As a corollary to this, these ministers are not to carry around money or extra clothing or even sandals or a staff (v.9f). (The household of God is apparently a friary.) This puts ministers of the Kingdom of God at opposition with any kind of luxury, and in opposition to commercial systems. Instead, the ministers are to earn their keep day-to-day through work ("for the worker is worth his keep", v.10 NIV). This reminds me of the manna in Exodus 16:16-21(-ish): God provided just enough for the day, but if you kept any extra over it grew worms and rotted (except on the Sabbath).
- The apostles are also to only go among their own nation (v. 5f), and not to go among the nations beyond. This is because the harvest is plentiful (9:37f) thanks to the work Jesus has already done in the synagogues (9:35).
- The Kingdom of God is not a mystery religion: it is not a secret set of initiations, but rather a kingdom that is publicly proclaimed (v.26f). This is particularly notable as an antidote to the conspiracy theories (*coughHolyBloodHolyGrailcoughDaVinciCodecough*) that portray early Christianity as simply reworked Mithrasism or otherwise containing secret, hidden knowledge.
- The ministers of the Kingdom of God are not to worry about how they speak (vv. 19-20), "for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you". Despite such uneducated and unconcerned speech, the apostles will be "a testimony to them and the Gentiles" (v. 18). So the Kingdom of God does not have time of day for sophists.
maybe the Church in the western world doesn't get it-what the apostolic calling doesn't call us to (Jeanne)
In a seeming contradiction, Matthew 10 highlights the apostolic witness of the Kingdom of God as a path that counters physical comforts and safety, as well as fear. VV. 9-10 instructs the disciples to not include items of economic security, such as gold, silver, or copper, or physical addendums, such as a bag, tunic, sandals, or even staff. Luz maintains that by instructing the apostles to leave behind a staff, Matthew 10 asserts the Kingdom of God is one of defenselessness and peace despite violent resistance. Luz writes, “a person who has made arrangements in advance for food, is on the road in good shoes, strides along in normal clothing, and is armed with a staff against attacks, cannot proclaim the kingdom of God” (76-77). Not only are the apostles called to bear no items of economic security or physical addendums, but their witness is to be one as “sheep among wolves” (v.16), in which they will be flogged (v17), arrested (v.18), betrayed and put to death (v21), hated (v22), and persecuted (v23). Matthew 10 commissions the apostles’ witness to be as Jesus’ witness “a student is not above his teacher now a servant above his master” (v.24). Despite, or maybe because, Matthew 10 commissions the apostles to take up their crosses and lose their lives (vv.38-39), the Kingdom of God distinguishes itself from the expected fear that would come with pending persecution and possible death. Instead, Matthew 10 instructs the apostles not to worry (v19)) and not to be afraid (vv. 26, 28, 31) and discusses God’s supreme value and concern for them (vv 29-31). Like Jesus who prayed for God’s will to be done (26: 39, 42, 44), which resulted in his torture and death, the apostles’ are called to bear the lifestyle of Jesus by picking up their crosses and losing their lives so that they may find them (v. 38-39).
Perhaps Christians, such as those in North Africa, Southeast Asia, China, and the Middle East, understand the apostolic commissioning of Matthew 10 more than Western Christians are capable. For example, our Christian brother, Arshed Masih was burned to death in Pakistan yesterday for “refusing to convert,” leaving behind a wife, whose rape he was likely forced to watch, and three children. (http://www.crosswalk.com/news/religiontoday/11627931/). Perhaps Luz is correct in in stating that the central point of Matthew 10 is that following Jesus makes suffering necessary (94). Yet, what does this mean if our apostolic calling costs us, as members of Christ’s Church in the West, so relatively little, than the rest of many of the members of Christ’s body worldwide?
The apostolic witness is not to be a thaumaturge-for-pay service (vv 8-9); the apostles are not to take normal prudential preparations for their livelihood as life normally and ubiquitously requires (vv 9-10); they are to be itinerant, not stationary (5-6, 16); they are to avoid the company of the unworthy (who are the 'unworthy'??--literally a 'house', but what does this mean if not household? v 13); they are not to be gullible (16); their message ought to provoke rulers (18); they are not to be afraid (19, 26, 31)
An issue that I might include in Part III of the text analysis concerns the first verse in the text. This verse shows Jesus giving his disciples authority over unclean spirits, disease, and sickness. We learn from this text that such authority must be given from God in order for one to possess it. In light of this verse, what type of authority do pastors have as Christian leaders? It is obvious that every pastor is not able to drive out sickness from every person over whom they pray; however, do ministers receive any kind of authority over certain evil forces just because of their calling and anointing to minister to the Gospel? Is God willing to give such authority to anyone today as was given to the first disciples?
2. Davies and Allison mention that “perhaps Matthew wanted his readers to recall the encouraging words of the Lord to Moses [in Exod. 4:12]. They also mention other biblical texts where “people are given words to speak” (Ps 119:41-6; Jer 1:6-10; Eph 6:19) (D&A, 185). Beyond that, they don’t explore the implications of this possible parallel. Luz believes that v. 19 portrays the disciples receiving the prophetic gift. He does not key into the potential parallel between this text and Ex. 4. Interestingly, Luz observes that Matthew rarely speaks about the Spirit, and that when he does, it is usually with respect to Jesus (Luz, 90).
3. My preliminary judgment is that 10:19 contains an intentional reference to YHWH’s discourse with Moses at the burning bush in Ex. 4. Elsewhere in his gospel, especially in the Sermon on the Mount in ch. 5-7, Matthew appears to make a concerted effort to place Jesus within the Mosaic tradition (even if Jesus’ message somehow alters Moses’ teachings). It would appear impossible for Matthew to overlook this connection, given his familiarity with and concern for the Mosaic tradition.
Considering the powers that Jesus gives to the disciples, such as the authority to cast out unclean spirits and cure every disease and every sickness, what tools are the modern disciples left with? Is it possible that the powers mentioned in chapter 10 are not intended to be taken the way that modern readers do? Do disciples still have the same powers? The commentators I read haven't really addressed this possibility yet. But, it seems possible that the promise of the Gospel is just the cure referenced by these miraculous powers. Salvation removes unclean sprits and heals all illness, though not in the way typically thought of.
Stanley Hauerwas is fond of saying that "the Church's job is not to make the world look like the Church; the Church's job is to make the world look like the world." Like Israel, the Church has been called to be different from the world through our worship and lives. And like Israel, this unique calling should make God clear to the world. However, when the Church fails to live into this unique calling, it is usually for one of two different reasons.
First of all, we tend to crush the rest of the world with the burdens that we in the Church do not bear. As we rail and wail on the topics of social justice, many of us actively contribute to economic oppression. I know that I do-- my shoes are made by Nike, a company whose practices regularly rank among the worst by human rights watchdogs. Until last year, my meager Roth IRA was not invested in socially responsible funds. It was quite a hassle, but through multiple meetings with my financial planner, I was able to invest my savings in companies who displayed a (marginally) better ethic. Of course it will be impossible for the Church to completely escape the structures of sin into which we are so deeply bound up as people who share space with the Earthly City. But we must try-- the Church must be the Church! How dare we preach Kingdom Ethics to the world when we do not embody them ourselves.
There is another, bigger way in which the Church fails to live according to her calling, and that is by not even knowing what a Kingdom Ethic is! If the first problem was one of hypocrisy (knowing the truth, but not doing it), then this is a much more dangerous problem-- not even knowing the truth! I recently found myself in a discussion with a Christian friend regarding the topic of Health Care Reform. To say that we disagreed on the matter is an understatement. In fact, it was not simply that we disagreed as to the mechanics or provisions of the recently-passed bill. Rather, we could not even see eye-to-eye on the fundamental commitments that ought to inform a Christian's views on such policies. She asserted-- this is a quote from an email-- that, "No one is given anything, they must achieve it." When I pressed her to explain that comment in light of 1 Cor 4:7, she accused me of misinterpreting Scripture. ("Who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?) My hunch is that for as long as this woman clings to such a disgusting notion of self-sufficiency, she will have a very difficult time embracing words of truth from the mouths of beggars (vv 8-10).
The Church's words and actions will, if they are pure, eventually fail to make sense to the world. We may practice apologetics and give reasons for our faith-- but at some point the Church's fundamental commitment to her crucified Lord will be utterly nonsensical to the world. But the Church's words should never be nonsense to the Church! Just as Jesus sent the Disciples to Israel so that they might BE Israel, so too are we pastors-in-training, sent to the Church so that we may BE the Church.
Lord have mercy on us and spare us on the day of judgment (v15) for the times we have failed to heed your words and those of and your disciples.
We are Christians of comfort. We enjoy supporting those who would dedicate their lives to the ministry of others, but we ourselves fear becoming too involved lest we step outside the boundaries of comfort. Whatever dictates our boundaries, we each have our own reasons for them. Ease of lifestyle, financial security, safety—these are some of my own, selfish boundaries that I place before what I perceive to be the daunting task of ministry. Jesus’ disciples surely had boundaries of their own. Jesus, however, does not address these boundaries before he orders the disciples into full time ministry. Jesus only addresses the disciples’ boundaries after ordering them to begin their work amongst their people. This past summer, I was blessed with the opportunity to work with a missionary family from my home church for several weeks in Nepal. During our last week in Nepal, a radical group of another religion gave an ultimatum to foreign Christians working in the country: “Leave or be killed.” We talked with our missionary friends about this message and how they would respond to it. Without hesitation, our friends told us that they would remain in Nepal. To them, safety is a comfort. It is a desired comfort, but it is not a necessity for ministry. Jesus never promised safety in ministry but quite the opposite. We are sheep amidst the wolves. Whether we serve as missionaries in foreign lands or at a church in downtown Durham—safety remains only a comfort. Safety from failure, safety from persecution, safety from the unknown—these are all comforts that the first disciples were told to do without, and these are comforts that we must remember are only comforts and not predicates of ministry.
What will it mean for the missional church to hear this passage addressed to it today? We are not part of the original apostolic audience, and the differences between our hearing of the discourse and theirs are extensive (to name one small example, “we” as Gentiles are not even strictly included within its scope!), yet we as Christians today do confess ourselves to be caught up within the mission to “all nations” on which the book concludes, and which we intuit must bear some meaningful relation to this earlier discourse. If the C/commission which we profess is in some way a expansion of or development out of this mission discourse, how do we discern and inhabit well the movement between the two? If we are meant, for example, to appropriate the command to “proclaim the good news” (v. 7a), what about the immediately succeeding charge to “cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons” (v. 8)? (This is to say nothing of the change that may come to the content of the proclamation itself (“the kingdom of heaven has come near,” v. 7b) itself in light of the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus!) Are we supposed to show up in the mission field without a bank balance or a change of clothes, since “laborers deserve their food” (v. 10)? And does v. 14 (“shake the dust off your feet”) commend a ‘one-shot’ approach to evangelism? If we think that we ought to nuance our appropriation of these texts in some way, what are the hermeneutical guides that we are or ought to be using to guide and govern this process? How might it help in this regard, finally, to trace the development of mission in Matthew within the all-important context of the “house of Israel” and its “lost sheep” (v. 6)?
If we view poverty as a legitimate command, how can we reconcile this with modern Christendom? Is there "literally not a single honest priest," as Kierkegaard believed? I think that the command to poverty of verses 8-10 is intimately connected with the latter verses 33, 38, 39, etc. Here we are presented with a Christianity that is inherently offensive--that cannot be rationalized or mediated. Verse 32's statement on acknowledgment is further illuminated by Matt 11:6. Is there then something inherent in wealth/security that suggests a lack of trust in God or a being offended by God? And if so, how is the Church to deal with the implications?
*informal note- what does poverty and offense say about Christianity--about Christ? If we could sweep the offense under the carpet and gain more converts would it be worth it? So, although we are not 1st c. Jews or Greeks, but rather 21st c. westerners, it would seem that there still has to be something innescapable about the offense. It is so weird--almost surreal to me how we Christians, so immersed in and formed by modern, rational thought, find a way to believe in Christ....to fit him in to our lives.--Because, when you think about it, we shouldnt--If we thought about it, most probably wouldnt. (vv 38-39) We are, as Hauerwas points out, "to be like the teacher" (v 25), a likeness that "insures that we will be maligned" (Hauerwas 111). I am reminded of the Kierkegaard quote, "to be a Christian...is hell in this life." Compare this to much of Christendom...
Matthew 10.39- “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” (RSV)
Although this verse may seem straightforward, I suggest Matt 10.39 illustrates the precarious nature of the Kingdom of God and conundrum of those willing to live in its rule. Without noticing, we probably synthesize Mt 10.39 with Luke’s cleaner version: “Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Lk 17.33). Now, both versions may lead to a similar conclusion, but in Matthew, the emphasis focuses on the means of finding life. In finding life, one will lose it, and in losing one’s life, one will find it. One can find life in two ways. While Luke seems to clean up this rather circular idea, the repetition we find in Matthew, however, deals with the utter precarious journey of life within the Kingdom of God. To find life, one must first lose it. One can find life only by relinquishing the lust to secure the foundations of one’s life. The means by which the Christian finds life, therefore, comes through the forfeiture of a security that accompanies our greed to make things come out right.
2. The commentators are unhelpful in answering questions related to this issue. Witherington (217-8) and Davies & Allison (150) emphasize that the disciples' sharing in the authority of Jesus makes possible a kind of Imitatio Christi; Carter stresses that the disciples authority gives them the ability to proclaim in acts of healing "God's liberating reign" in squalid, miserable places (233); Luz notes that the miracles the disciples' are empowered to perform are "eminently important for the formation of the church" (67); Hauerwas simply notes the fact that the disciples were given the authority to cast out demons and to heal (105). None of these commentators explicitly note any relation between the casting out of demons and the healing of disease.
Helpfully, Davies and Allison note that the phrase "healing every disease and every infirmity" also occurs at Mt. 4:23 and 9:35 (153). In both of these passages, the healer is Jesus. At 4:24 a list is given of the sorts of people brought to Jesus to be healed: "all the sick, those afflicted with various disease and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics..." (RSV). Notably, this list includes among what would be considered purely "medical" afflictions the category of "demoniac."
3. I think we should be careful of making too much of this last bit, but it seems fair to say that, for Matthew, there is no categorical distinction between someone who suffers from a purely physical disease and someone who is possessed by a demon; these afflictions are distinct, yet insofar as they create a kind of brokenness, they are one. Interestingly enough, in 4:23 and 9:35 the phrase about healing is preceded by another phrase: "preaching the gospel of the kingdom" (RSV). This tells us that the gospel and healing are intimately connected. The gospel cannot be heard by a broken person; wherever the gospel is proclaimed there is healing force. Where there has not been healing, physical or spiritual--where those who are broken have not been made whole--the gospel has not truly been preached.
In verse 26 Jesus states, “So do not be afraid of them.” This verse works well in the context of 17-25, and 28-31; however, 26b-27 states, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ears proclaim from the roofs” (NIV). So, verses 26-31 create ambiguity on the subject of why the disciples might fear. Verses 17-25 clearly demonstrate that declaring the Kingdom of Heaven will result in personal affliction and loss. Then, 26b-27 seems to indicate some fear other than personal antagonists who denounce the Kingdom of Heaven message. Finally, verses 28-31 shift the focus back to personal assurance of perseverance in the face of suffering. The options for fear seem to be: loss of personal safety (based on what will happen in 17-25), potential failure of the message (26b-27 seems much more concerned with the promulgation of their proclamation), or perhaps they would fear that their tormentors’ actions may go unnoticed, and therefore unpunished?
Matt. 10:32-33, “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.”
Jesus is speaking to His disciples, so what does it mean to “acknowledge” Jesus as His servant? Is Jesus concerned that His disciples will cure sickness, feed the poor, and cast out demons (verse 8) and then take all the credit for themselves? Why do we need Jesus to acknowledge us before God in heaven? Does how we live deserve to be acknowledged or denied by God? If we are ashamed of God and what He has done, what on earth could we possibly take pride in?
It is a shame to be ashamed of Him.
Through Matthew 10 (vv. 1&8), there should come for the community of faith a deeper realization of the physical and spiritual needs of all God’s children who suffer, the neglected and ostracized victims of numerous diseases of physical body, mind and soul; suffering social and even legal disabilities because of their disease, and often regarded with revulsion and fear. There should be a comprehension of God revealing the injustice, which must be put right through God’s servants. The injustice of the injunctions of approaching and touching and talking with those inflicted by defilement, the weak, the dead, the lepers and the demon infected as stated in Matthew 10:8. Defilement is not necessarily a physical or physiological impairment but rather simply a human being in need, an outcast, the underprivileged, all who suffer because of society’s attitudes. Sickness and weakness is not just physical and mental suffering, but being neglected by fellow humanity and the discrimination of society. Christ commands the ‘Twelve’ to ignore the sanctions placed upon those deemed ‘unclean’ and to heal, cast out, raise and cleanse. There is no supernatural mystery to what Christ authorizes. Matthew 10:1,8 recognizes that Jesus shows concern and deep compassion for those who are sick, weak and afflicted. Simply, Christ treated the ‘unclean’ as human beings in need.
Sources: Browne, Stanley Leprosy in the Bible, (Christian Medical Fellowship: London, 1970)
Cochrane, R.G. Biblical Leprosy: A Suggested Interpretation, (The Tyndale Press, Lowestoft, 1961).
1) At the risk of missing the forest for one or two particularly fascinating trees, I was intrigued by the mention of the name “Beelzebul” in verse 25. The passage mentions the one “who can destroy both soul and body in hell” in verse 28, but this is the only other reference to any sort of demonic activity in the passage. According to the footnotes in the New Oxford, the name Beelzebul originally refers to the god Baal and appears in 2 Kings 1 (even though the NRSV translates it here as “Baal-zebub”), but the name also appears as an alternate title for Satan in the Gospels (such as Matthew 11:24). Given Jesus’ proclivity for Hebrew Bible references in the Gospel of Matthew (in this discourse, he also references Sodom and Gomorrah in verse 15), could it be that Jesus is intentionally invoking the image of Baal in these verses, and if so, why?
2) According to the article on Beelzebul in the New Interpreter’s, the name originates from the term Ba’al-zevuv (translated “Baal of the Flies”), which was used a pejorative for other gods in biblical texts. In the New Testament, the name takes on slightly different significance since “be’el” means a prince or ruler in Aramaic, and the name was connected to Satan. Also, in Hebrew, “zevul” means a residence, so in a conflation of Hebrew and Aramaic, the term might become “ruler of the household” and might refer to Satan as a ruler of a household of demons.
Carter divides this discourse into four sections on page 232:
10:1-4- Call and Commission of an Alternative Community
10:5-15- Four Aspects of the Mission
10:16-23- The Hardship of the Mission: Inevitable Persecution
10:24-42- The Courage, Impact, and Reward of Faithful Mission
According to Carter, verses 1-23 all carry the theme of disciples imitating their master, and this verse extends that theme. Rather than being a reference to the specific character of Beelzebul/Baal, the use of the title here is meant to recall the accusations against Jesus (that he receives his powers from Beelzebul) by the Pharisees in 9:34. Carter focuses quite a bit on the idea of the household, and elsewhere, in the parables, “the head of the household” usually represents Jesus (e.g. 13:27, 52; 20:1, 11; 21:33’ 24:43), so it is possible that Jesus is merely using these verses to repeat the accusations that have been leveled against him. (Carter, 239) I hadn’t made the connection to the Pharisees’ earlier accusations and found this to be a pretty reasonable assessment of what’s really going on here. Rats, I wanted an excuse to delve into Canaanite religion and early Christian demonology. Oh well, that’s what explanatory footnotes are for.
Witherington omits an explanation of the term Beelzebul and focuses instead on the household, noting that servant and master are interchangeable with disciple and teacher in these verses. Witherington also suggests that Jesus’ use of household language is similar to the language used by Jewish rabbis to describe students who came to study with them. (How does the possible meaning of Beelzebul as “ruler of the household” affect this interpretation?) The use of the name Beelzebul here is mostly just to indicate that Jesus’ students will be persecuted along with him. (Witherington, 224) Of course, if I were really determined to get my fire and brimstone kick, Witherington does provide a more lengthy explanation of Satan and Gehenna from verse 28, but I think I’ll stick to the Beelzebul stuff for now. (Witherington 224-225)
3) Although the term fascinates me, it almost seems that Jesus’ mention of the name Beelzebul is more a matter of convenience or a reference to an earlier accusation by the Pharisees than it is a direct reference to the figure of Beelzebul. As much as I want to make this an allusion to Baal or some strange invocation of the Old Testament, that element might be absent from this passage. The later mentions of Hell/Gehenna in verse 28 might allow comparison to demons or Satan in this verse, but I think I agree with Carter and Witherington that Jesus is largely just answering an accusation and preparing his disciples to face the same charges when they are sent out. Still, I think there is a strange interplay here between the name Beelzebul and the concept of a head of the household, and this merits further exploration.
Verse 34 seems like a contradiction to much of Christian teaching, especially as found in the New Testament. Is Christ speaking here solely to the difficulty facing his disciples? This affects the way we live out our lives as we attempt to follow Christ.
The HarperCollins Bible Commentary argues that Christ refers here to the divisions that will emerge as people choose between him and others. It notes that it cannot in any way advocate violence since it is the “most pacifist book in the Bible” (882). Chrysostom came to a far different conclusion. He argued that the peace of Christ comes only “when the cancer is cut away” (Ancient Christian Commentary, 210). Christ must preserve peace the same way a military commander does, “by cutting off those in rebellion” (210).
It seems unlikely that Christ here would be advocating some sort of violent revolution. However, I am aware that at least some of his disciples wanted such a revolution so I think it is possible that the original author of this passage intended something along these lines. However, if we look at it within the context of the canon I do not think that this is the proper reading any longer.
Tying in with our study of Ephesians 2 and being saved by grace through faith, verse 22b caught my eye with Jesus addressing who will be saved. I was surprised that the point of who will be saved is not addressed more, especially with a comparison to Paul’s extensive discussion on being saved. Jesus seems to emphasize a remaining faithful until the end, whereas at times Paul addresses being saved based on belief and confession, which he does not clarify as continuing until the end as Jesus does here.
Luz points out that the end is referring to the end of the world, and even possibly Matthew is referring to the near anticipated end, which will be experienced in the lifetime of some of these disciples when read with verse 23 (p.90-91)
Davies and Allison point out the surprising outcome that the disciples who seem to struggle are actually the ones who are saved. (p.187)
Hauerwas references the disciples’ reward of living in the kingdom of God (p.107). When Hauerwas refers to the kingdom later, he refers to “the kingdom brought by Jesus” and “has come near,” currently, by Jesus, therefore, he is likely not referring to “the end” here (p.108). Hauerwas also addresses the disciples’ reward in being saved (p.112).
It is possible that this issue of being saved is not addressed more because the passage here in Matthew 10 is focused much more on the missionary journey of the disciple and not on the requirements of being saved. Also, given verse 39’s attention to us losing and saving our lives, merely asking the question of who will be saved after looking at verse 39 seems somewhat irrelevant.
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
Luz (111-2) rejects these verses as revealing a crypto-zealot Christ. Rather, they point to the character of the result that Christ's mission will bring about. Acceptance of the Gospel (this is inferred as the 'sword') will cut down the otherwise most intimate ties of family. Davies & Allison (217) read it is as eschatologically-oriented suffering in store for the disciples, including suffering and martyrdom. He claims that Jesus here fulfills the eschatological prophecy of Micah 7:6.
Luz's account makes sense especially in light of v 37, in which Jesus demands that he be loved more than family. He has told his disciples that the Gospel will instigate a crisis of loyalty and obedience between Jesus and family, and he is emphasizing that the choice must be in his favor. The Davies & Allison reading, on the other hand, fits better with what has gone before in vv 16-24: the disciples will face persecution; also the 'cross' of v 38. I don't think that it is necessary to choose between these readings--if one must, however, Luz's might be preferable because its exegetical account works internal to the verses examined. But note that it is crucial for both of these readings that 'peace' NOT be read eschatologically--it must be used here in a 'common', 'loose and popular' sense. Not, say, the peace in John 27:14 as explicitly and uniquely Jesus' to give to his own.
This sentiment of bringing the sword and dividing family members appears also in Luke 12:51, 53 as well as in the story of the second horse in Revelation 6. Similar language appears in the OT in Micah 7:6. This striking language, then, is not unique to Matthew. Davies and Allison speak of v. 34-36 in an eschatological fashion. Jesus is making it clear that his presence on the earth does not immediately usher in the promised time of eschatological peace. Rather, his coming exacerbates tensions and drives a time of intense tribulation (218-19). Jesus comes and divides the faithful from the unbelieving in shocking ways, as if familial ties were being destroyed with a sword. Luz focuses again on this dividing of family members. The image presented in v. 34-36 is one of the most radical love, in which home, family, possessions are counted as nothing in comparison with Christ (111). The most intimate of human bonds will be strained and must be counted as secondary in importance to the Lord.
These interpretations certainly shed light on the intensity of these verses for me, the absolute primacy of Christ above all things. However, I still find the image of the sword and the tossing aside of peace troubling. Earlier in this very chapter (v. 13), Jesus was speaking of the disciples' peace during their travels! If the author of Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience who has been waiting for a military Messiah, to what degree must we look at this passage in that light? Could such an image of sword have been incorporated into Jesus' discourse in order to appeal to these Jews?
Matthew 10.16a illustrates Jesus sending out his disciples as sheep in the midst of wolves. Alone, such a notion seems innocent, yet frightening, enough; however, in 7.15 we read about false prophets parading around in sheep’s clothing. Both Jesus’ disciples and the false prophets seem to have the appearance of sheep. What, ultimately, differentiates the true from the false sheep?
Davies and Allison offer no significant help in solving this issue, only stating that the false prophets are truly wolves, while the disciples are the authentic sheep (180). For Luz, the repetition of sheep and wolves signifies the fact that violence had been a factor in the area ever since Jesus began to preach (87-8). Stanley Hauerwas does not make a connection to 7.15, but referring to 10.16a, states that Jesus calls the disciples to embody the innocence found in the beatitudes of Mt. 5 (107).
We may be able to put forth a couple of answers to the question. First, one might try to connect Hauerwas’ line of thought back to 7.15, stating the false prophets have not fully embodied the required innocence, and thus are not true disciples of the Kingdom of God as set forth in the beatitudes. Since they only appear as sheep, they do not maintain the vulnerability of true sheep (Hauerwas, 87-8). Second, we see in 10.1 that Jesus gives the disciples authority, which originates from God (7.29; 9.6, 8). As such,, they proceed with true authority, while embodying, with full sheep-ness, the Kingdom of God. Bleeding these two answers together, we may find that even though the disciples are the legitimate sheep, in possession of the authority of Jesus, such authority does not excuse them from the vulnerability of being sheep in the midst of wolves.
2). Luz, pointing out that "the formulation is harshly exclusive," concludes that the disciples are tasked with the mission of Jesus: Jesus has not left Israel--neither will the disciples. But following the resurrection Israel has rejected and the mission has changed (Luz 73-75). Similarly, Hauerwas suggests this shift from Israel to the nations, but does not make the assertion that this shift is based on rejection. Instead, the apostles are sent to Israel (God's promised people) to fulfill prophecy (Hauerwas 106).
3). I think that much may rest upon verse 23, and what it means for the Son of Man to come. If this were to refer to the resurrection then Luz's conclusion that Christ just moved on to the Gentiles would seem rather absurd. Although Hauerwas's article is more concerned with issues of authentic confrontation of the offense that is Christianity--his brief treatment of this issue points to a Church that is intimately connected to Israel, and a Christ inseparable from Israel.
Furthermore, even though this mission is restricted to Israel for the time, Hauerwas points out that the Gentiles who respond are "grafted into God's promise to Israel" (106)--perhaps referring in part to Matt 5-13?
This ostensibly harsh passage suggests a number of exegetical complications. Are we to understand that another’s proper reception of the words of Christ will be transparent to the those by whom they are brought? Is a failure to immediately respond a sign of a perpetually infertile heart? Weren’t the chosen twelve themselves at first resistant, even vigorously so, to Christ’s message? If these things are not intended, what might be meant by “words” and “receive”?
Hauerwas (106) reads this instruction as an abandonment of the missionary’s own judgment in favor of God’s: that is to say, they defer to the judgment given here by Christ, the judgment to shake the dust if they should not be well-received in a place. It is an injunction that encourages humility, in this sense. Acknowledging the frailty of human nature in acting deferentially, however, Hauerwas notes that it is all to easy to turn this passage into an occasion for self-righteousness. Moreover, he notes that the logic of the passage should turn us from a consideration of whether the receiver has adequately responded, to whether we have adequately witnessed. Our judgment should be of ourselves in the light of the one who sends, Hauerwas insists.
Luz (81, 82), taking a different approach, reads this passage as fundamentally descriptive rather than normative, as though to say “when they reject you, they have rejected eschatological peace.” The effect that follows upon such a rejection is a failure to have God’s peace, which, on the day of judgment, will be a salvific necessity. Thus, Luz insists, the passage does not encourage a pronouncement of judgment (with the missionary as the agent of pronouncement), but rather a judgment is enacted by the rejector upon himself. The missionary does not judge on God’s behalf, he simply proposes: the recipient of the message is judged concomitant with and according to his acceptance or rejection of the message.
Hauerwas and Luz similarly, and importantly, re-route the agency of the judger to the one being judged who receives or rejects, and to God who issues the command to the missionaries. Hauerwas is especially helpful in turning the question to one of the success of the missionary: judgment should be made of how one has witnessed to the recipient, rather than how the recipient receives. Of course, it can’t be the case that we are called to issue these kinds of judgments. And yet, there still seems to be an issue of prudential judgment. How is the missionary to know when to shake the dust of his sandal and to leave the town? How are we to know when we’ve been rejected? Assuming that we are to take this kind of action at times, how are we to judge when?
2) The commentators disagree as to whether or not vs.28-31 form a unified "logion." Luz argues that 28-31 are unified (Luz, 99) whereas Davies & Allison believe that 28 was itself an original saying distinct from 29-31 (Davies & Allison, 202). Thus, the two commentators vary slightly as to the function of v.28 in the whole of Matthew 10. Luz states that the aim of the logion is to encourage the disciples who surely faced persecution (Luz, 101). Almost no explicit comment is made by Luz to explain what is meant by "hell." In fact, Luz states that "Our text does not intend to make statements about... life after death" (Luz, 102).
Like Luz, Davies & Allison suggest that v.28 is written to a people who faced martyrdom. However, unlike Luz, they address the question of hell by suggest that Matthew held "the prevalent view that the wicked would suffer for ever" (Davies & Allison, 207).
Hauerwas does not address hell explicitly but does argue that despite its ability to be communicated in manipulative ways, "the language of reward and punishment is clearly central to what Jesus says" (Hauerwas, 112). Carter does not mince words when it comes to hell: "Decisions have consequences" (Carter, 241).
3) I don't mean to focus too much on the question of hell, if Jesus' words are meant simply to remind the disciples that they belong entirely to the God who created them. On the other hand, the themes of judgment and hell play heavily in the history of Christian theology-- not to mention in the very words of Jesus. So, it seems difficult to abandon some notion of hell and punishment based on this passage.
Finally, it is clear that the words of Jesus are intended to remind all who follow him that the death of the body is not final (as Jesus demonstrated), and neither is bodily safety our highest good.
(As a brief aside, I find it pretty funny that Jesus instructs the disciples to pray for workers in the harvest field in the last verse of Mt 9 and then sends the disciples in Mt 10. He set them up!)
1. In Matthew 10:5, Jesus forbids the Twelve from preaching and performing miracles in Samaria or areas containing Gentiles. In v 18, however, Jesus instructs the Twelve that their persecution will serve as a testimony to the Gentiles. The Twelve themselves are not the ones who are to share this testimony, but the Holy Spirit through them is the one who will share this testimony. Though Jesus forbids the disciples to go into Samaria and areas containing Gentiles to spread his message, does Jesus intend for the Gentiles to be reached?
2. Carter suggests on page 237 that though the Twelve are instructed to refrain from preaching and performing miracles among the Gentiles, that the Twelve will still serve as a witness to the Gentiles. Carter also suggests that the Twelve’s mission to the house of Israel is merely the first stage of the mission. The second stage is to continue into areas containing Gentiles (Acts 1:8), which follow the same pattern found in v 18 (first to Israel, then under persecution to the Gentiles).
Davies and Allison agree with Carter that the Gentiles will learn of Jesus and his message through the suffering of the Twelve. Davies and Allison go further than Carter and assert that the Twelve serve as witnesses of Jesus to the Gentiles only after being handed over for persecution. (Davies and Allison 184)
3. An important distinction must be made between what Jesus commands the Twelve and what we interpret him to command the Twelve. Upon first reading this passage I understood Jesus as commanding the Twelve not to bear witness to the Gentiles or Samaritans. Upon further reading, however, this is not Jesus’ intent. The Twelve are forbidden to travel among the Gentiles and the Samaritans, but they are not forbidden to bear witness to these groups. In fact, they are told that they will bear witness to the Gentiles through their suffering.
2. Hauerwas explains that the disciples are commissioned, "to bestow the peace of God on those who provide hospitality" (106). Yet the text itself makes no mention of God's peace but explicitly mentions "your [i.e. the disciples'] peace." According to Hauerwas, this peace does seem to play a role in the coming judgment--at least insofar as its absence suggests that a certain house was inhospitable to the disciples and will consequently be rejected, just as the violation of hospitality in Sodom and Gomorrah brought about the cities' destruction. Hauerwas explains that the "peace on earth" (RSV) mentioned at verse 34 is the "peace of the world" which stands in opposition to the "sword of the cross" (108). Drawing upon Bonhoeffer's work, Hauerwas argues that the "sword of the cross" will disrupt the world for the sake of the peace of the Kingdom of God (109).
Witherington makes explicit what Hauerwas implies, namely that the "peace" described at verse 13 is related to hospitality practices. This peace is an offer of "shalom/well-being" to the house which one give before entering (222). Witherington stresses that the words of shalom bring "actual blessing" upon the house, but their rejection causes the blessing to return to the one offering it (222).
3.Witherington's assertion that the "peace" described at verse 13 primarily describes a hospitality practice seems likely--particularly in light of the mention of Sodom and Gomorrah later in verse 15. Hauerwas's interpretation that the "peace" is in fact the "peace of God" is not explicitly supported by the text but also does not seem to be excluded; there does not seem to be any reason why the "peace" of verse 13 could not refer simultaneously to "shalom" and the peace of the Kingdom of God.
Initially one important exegetical issue is found in 10:23, “you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” What does it mean for the “Son of Man” to come? It is important, if in fact the statement refers to the second coming of Christ, then Jesus seems to make a false prediction, which is obviously problematic.
Luz, on pages 91-94, provides the most complete answer, though it is hardly appealing. He believes the emphasis of the phrase should be in the comforting aspects of fleeing to a safer area (a.k.a. Jesus is with us, even when we are running for our lives). Carter, on pages 238-239, interprets ‘Son of Man’ as referring to Jesus’ second coming yet he does not recognize how this statement contradicts with 23a. Hauerwas fails to address the issue on page 106 & 107. My NIV Study bible states that Jesus’ statement refers to the Temple destruction of 70 A.D., however this seems forced.
Unfortunately, it seems that a majority of the commentators have chosen to negate the issue entirely or have given interpretations that lack coherence and at times seem artificial (how could the coming of the Son of Man refer to Temple destruction).
Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.
- In 10:5-6, Jesus restricts the disciples’ mission to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (10:6b) by instructing them not to go to the Gentiles or Samaritans. Later, Jesus tells the disciples to “make disciples of all nations” (28:19), which apparently contradicts his earlier instructions. Does this indicate that Jesus is changing the nature of Christian mission? What is the significance of Jesus’ command to “go only to Israel” when read in light of his later command to “go to all nations?”
- Luz lists several possibilities: Jesus’ command in 28:19 represents an expansion of 10:5-6, his command in 28:10 replaces 10:5-6, or the language of Gentile, Samaritan, and Israel in 10:5-6 is symbolic (Gentile = heathen philosophy, Samaritan = heresy, Israel = the church). Luz indicates that, most likely, 28:19 replaces by 10:5-6 (i.e. there is no longer a mission to Gentiles). Davies and Allison present (and reject) another possibility: that 10:5-6 was part of Matthew’s tradition and included in his gospel “even though it did not reflect his own convictions” (which align better with 28:10) (D and A ,167). Instead, they believe that 10:5-6 reflect Matthew’s beliefs about the pre-Easter mission while 28:10 reflects the post-Easter mission (168).
- My preliminary conclusion is that 28:10 marks a significant and intentional (on the part of the author) shift in the nature of the early Christian mission. Against Luz, I believe that 10:5-6 describes the first phase of a two-part mission. Therefore, the tension between 10:5-6 and 28:10 indicates that Jesus’ mission was first to Israel and second to Gentiles. As Davies and Allison observe, “the Gentile mission did not in truth begin until after the resurrection” (168). Therefore, 10:5-6 describes the first phase of the two-phase Christian mission: first, Jesus and his disciples ministered to Israel, and second, after the resurrection, this mission expanded to include Gentiles too.