1.) In Matthew 10.5-6 Jesus directs His disciples to preach a very specific message, “The Kingdom of Heaven is near”, to a very narrow audience, “(Only) the lost sheep of Israel.” While the content of this preaching fully corresponds to Jesus’ own message in Matthew (e.g., 4.17. 11.12, 13.24, 18.3-4), the exclusivity of audience disagrees not only with the imperative precepts at the beginning of the Matt 10 pericope, “heal every disease ad sickness” (10.1), but also with the audience of Jesus’ own vocational activity (e.g., 4.13, 5.47, 8.5, 15.21-28). As such, how does the evangelistic exclusivity of Matt 10.6 retain harmony with Matthew’s overall agenda and portrayal of Jesus?
2.) Commentary proposals:
Hauerwas: He tersely posits that although Gentiles have responded to Jesus’ Kingdom of Heaven activity, in accordance with Isaianic prophecy, the exclusivity of the disciples’ preaching ensures that Israel would not dissolve among the nations (106). Thus, Jesus’ missional directive for the disciples solidifies Israel’s pre-resurrection opportunity to repent and remain God’s people (106).
Luz: He states that Matt 10.5-6 demonstrates that the disciples’ mission exists in continuity with Jesus’ own mission (70). Luz notes that despite the ethnic exclusivity of the missional directive, the command is broadly inclusive for Israel; the message extends not only to the marginalized, but to all of Israel (73). Luz thus recognizes three prominent options for interpretation. First, the message is allegorical: Samaritan equates to heretic and Gentile operates as a synonym for heathen doctrine (73). Luz rejects this option because allegory functions as an expansion of literal meaning, not a substitute or alternative for it (73). Second, Matt 10.5-6 endorses those within the Matthean community who desire to engage in Gentile mission (73). Luz rejects this option because it assumes a limited contextual validity for the text (73). Third, the directive applies only to the twelve disciples mentioned in Matt 10.2-4. Luz rejects this option as well. Luz recognizes that the disciples mentioned in 10.2-4 comprise the same group (less Judas Iscariot) to which Jesus gives the Great Commandment directive in 28.19-20. So Luz maintains that 10.5-6 reports the missional directive of the disciples in their pre-Easter activity. That is, prior to the crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus’ mission, and so the mission of His disciples, was by in large exclusively Israel-oriented (73-4).
3.) My Thoughts:
The recognition by Hauerwas and Luz that the disciples had different missional directives pre-Easter seems correct. This observation rightly gives enormous weight to the transformative impact Jesus’ resurrection left with His followers. However, I do not think this view takes into account sufficiently the “why” of the missional directive. Reading through Matthew, Israel clearly stands on shaky ground. Israel’s leaders are corrupt (e.g., the Herodian dynasty, Pilate, hypocritical Temple officials, and illiberal religious authority) and her people suffer greatly (cf. 8.2, 14.6, 16.1-4, 23.1-39, 25.31). Perhaps the directive in part retains the assumption that Israel possesses a unique role in God’s universal salvation plan, so the brokenness of Israel poses a very real threat to God’s entire salvation schema. If Israel’s fate in any way corresponds to God’s salvation plan, the misisonal directive of Matthew 10 illustrates that Jesus, while engaging in the graphic realities of His present moment, does so while firmly oriented with a post-Easter perspective in mind. Perhaps Jesus’ exclusivity in 10.5-6 functions as the precursor for the greater missional directive of 28.19a, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” (NIV).