3:58 PM

Significance: mission 'then' and now (Laura)

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)?

Comment (1)

L,
One good hermeneutical question might be, "What is lost when missionaries of the gospel arrive with health insurance, a salary, etc., that is, without any unusual dependence on the persons/communities to whom they have been sent?"

If the people of Israel is determinative of the gospel as Mt. 10 suggests, then it's a problem that we have been able to make sense of the gospel and Christian mission apart from its relation to Israel. We easily forget that to live as Gentile once meant to serve gods other than the God of Israel as political communities other than Israel. Elsewhere in the NT (e.g., 1 Cor. 12), for Gentiles to begin to serve the God of Israel because of Jesus is to cease to be Gentile (which is not the same as becoming Jewish). I understand the mission of the gospel to be about the eschatological formation of the one people of the one God of Israel. Christ's defeat of sin/hostility and death has healed Israel, thereby making room in its promised covenant peace for the whole world by the Spirit of the resurrection. Without retaining the primacy of Israel and the oneness of the people of God, Christians have typically not understood the gospel in terms of becoming a people at peace, the Israel of God. The gospel has been about something else--getting to heaven or the perfection of the individual person or something like that. So we've been happy to continue the same political existence in the name of Jesus that Israel and Gentiles lived before Jesus, i.e., we've gone on killing others and one another. We've not seen that the gospel is about the end of that because we think there's something else more important/urgent.

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