7:31 AM 1 comments

Mt. 26-28, a theological consideration (Julie)

Matthew 10 as a whole has often been appropriated as a classic text for gleaning insights for the development of ecclesiology. The commissioning and sending forth of the twelve represents the archetype for the founding and mission (and authority) of the institutional Church, called from its very roots to participate in that exitus/reditus action of God's love: going forth that they may return to the Father. In light of this, I'd like to pose a question to the text from the perspective of the way in which we understand church as community, in particular, I wonder about the way in which the passage may or may not (or may be altogether silent) encourage deliberation within the Church for the carrying out of mission. To direct our attention to a particular place where exegetically there might be some careful thinking required, I point to Mt. 26-28.

"So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that ill 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 ear, proclaim from the roofs."

The pronoun "you" in this passage, as in other places in Mt. 10, seems a bit ambiguous. Clearly, Jesus is speaking to a collective "you" as a general rule in the passage. However, a collective "you" can imply "you" as a single unit, or "you" as a collection of "yous." (The distinction being that in the former, Tommy's instruction "you all write papers" would mean that we all write a single paper together, and in the latter case, we each as individuals in a collection write individual papers). Now, it seems in some sense that both the former and the latter are implied in Mt. 10. The former is implied because he sends forth the twelve as a unity, working together toward the single end of the mission. Arguably, the latter also seems to be implied because they refer to things that one does on one's own -- individual acts of speaking (v. 20), being persecuted (23), handed over (17). The most particular case might be the text quoted above: whispering in one's ear suggests a very individual experience of inspiration for the mission.

It is this final case of an image that might suggest an individual whispering or inspiration for mission that I think requires a careful interpretation. To put the matter in the form of a question: are we a church of individually inspired members, or a unity with a single inspiration? Do we carry out missions on the basis of how we hear Jesus speak to us as individuals, or do we quiet what we take to be our own stirrings in light of what we decide as Church?

I really can't offer a resolution to this question yet, particularly on the basis of Mt 10 alone, but I will say that I think that there might only be two options here. Given that Jesus perpetually refers to "you" in what sound like individual terms, I think what is implied by the passage is either an ecclesiology of individuals, or a highly unified church (a church that is one individual).
6:09 AM 1 comments

Preaching to the Household (Matt. 10:24-25)

I’m revisiting the Beelzebul passage just because I find it fascinating. In structuring a sermon, I’ve found it useful to throw out something controversial or confusing at the very beginning to grab the congregation’s attention, and then the rest of the sermon can be devoted to explaining that or placing it in a new light. The Beelzebul passage gives a perfect platform for that method, since the mention of this character (preferably in a scary voice) will certainly cause some head-scratching. From here, a pastor could easily lead a congregation off into some rant about the devil (as a friend of mine who preached on this passage did), but I find it more useful to draw parallels back to the previous mention of Beelzebul in Matthew 9:34 (where the charge is leveled at Jesus) so that the passage almost becomes more about Jesus’ skill as a rhetorician. Now, even though the whole “Baal of the Flies” etymology behind Beelzebul is incredibly interesting to seminary students, it’s a fairly useless tangent in a sermon and could probably be summed up in just a sentence or two (a quick reference to the Canaanite deity or something).

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.

--Tom
4:20 AM 1 comments

What Are You Willing to Walk Away From? (Stephen)

In Matthew 10:39, Jesus said "And he that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it."

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).
3:18 AM 4 comments

The Call to the New Kingdom (Robert Fischer)

The commissioning of the disciples in Mt 10 reveals the text's conception of the Kingdom of God and how people are to behave within it. This revelation is often stated in the negative, defining the Kingdom of God in contrast to the world's kingdoms and cultures. The radically different nature of the Kingdom of God is suggested before Mt 10, because the devil is in possession of all the kingdoms of the world in some sense (Mt 4:8f).

There are a number of other contrasts within the Kingdom of God. The text reveals these in negative statements. Presuming that Jesus is instructing his disciples not to do things on the basis that they would be inclined to do them due to the dominant paradigm, these negative statements reveal the way that the kingdoms of the world work differently from the Kingdom of God.
  • 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.
10:44 PM 1 comments

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?

7:36 PM 1 comments

M Newell 10:26

10:26 - What is the significance of "nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known"? Jesus says this after mentioning the coming persecution--as if this is the reason that the disciples don't need to fear the persecution they will face. This saying is found in all 3 synoptics, though the placement in pericope changes in Mark and Luke to the Lamp Under a Basket Parable. It really makes me wonder what it's doing here in Matthew--even more basic, what exactly is it that is going to be revealed? It could be the evangelion itself, resonating with all the times Jesus tells people not to go spreading what he's done, and with v 27. Also, as an aside, if I remember rightly, I think Rene Girard also reads this verse as supporting his idea that Jesus' work in going to the cross is 'revealing' the scapegoat mechanism. I don't know about that, but something weird is going on with this in Matthew.

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)
7:25 PM 4 comments

Jeanne on 10:7

1.) In 10:7, Jesus instructs the disciples to proclaim, “the Kingdom of heaven is near” which furthers the continuing theme of heaven’s kingdom approaching mentioned also in 3:2 by John and 4:17 by Jesus (Carter, 234). Does this verse refer to the approaching time of Christ’s return (as v. 23 mentions) and establishment of an apocalyptic and eschatological kingdom, or does 10:7 rather reference the earthly and physical exemplification of the kingdom of heaven on earth through the disciples’ healing of diseases, proclamations of peace, and simple lifestyle?

2a) The only mention Luz gives to the matter is simply to state, “The Kingdom of God is primarily the setting for the ethical proclamation of Jesus” (75) While maintaining healing is the “concrete experience of salvation” given so that the proclamation of the kingdom of heaven does not become “mere ethical exhortation,” Luz does not further expound upon this argument.

2b) Likewise, Carter seems to align with the latter interpretation, although he offers little explanation for his views. Carter states that 10:7 refers to “God’s empire” that “challenges all other reigns, including Roman imperial power and the religious elite’s control (234). Carter maintains Jesus’ imperatives to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and cast out demons demonstrate God’s “life-giving reign.” However, Carter notes also that “response to the mission involves eschatological consequences of vindication or condemnation (233).

3) It seems that the Gospel of Matthew portrays Jesus’ and then the disciples’ proclamation and exhibition of God’s kingdom of heaven on earth as pointing towards Christ’s apocalyptic return and establishment of an eschatological heaven. 3:2 and 4:17’s seems to account for the apocalyptic element to this reference of Jesus by mentioning the necessity of repentance. However, it seems Jesus first and foremost accounts for the disciples seeking to live as the household, or kingdom, of God on earth due to Jesus instruction for the apostles to live out such kingdom values as poverty, powerlessness, and self-denial.

7:05 PM 1 comments

Preaching on hell... Matt. 10:26-28

[26] "So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. [27] What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops. [28] And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Who is it that can destroy both soul and body in hell? This seems to be almost an aside within Matt. 10, yet I think it cannot be overlooked in a faithful preaching through this chapter. For that matter, neither should it be over-emphasized or distorted. This should never be turned into this: "Jesus says fear not of man, so go preach the Gospel at all costs or you will go to hell." Rather, I believe that these verses, and the reference to hell in particular, should turn the attention of the pastor and congregation to: 1. the reality of hell, 2. the nature of hell, and 3. the mission of the disciples.

Who is it that can destroy both body and soul in hell? The stock answer is Satan, however, this must be nuanced. At the end of 9 and beginning of 10 we see Jesus, and then the disciples, casting out spirits (presumably those of the house of Be-el'zebub, v. 25). The key defining attribute of these spirits is unclean (v. 10:1). The word used for hell is the burning trash heap outside the Jerusalem walls, a place of the ultimate uncleanliness. So, a major issue at hand is one of being clean or unclean. To be considered clean is to be able to be an acceptable participant in Israel. To be unclean was to be separated, isolated from the community (the household) until the ritual cleansing rites were undergone. Thus, to be destroyed, body and soul, would be to be rendered unclean and thus separated completely and irrevocably from Israel. Here Jesus is both mobilizing and reworking Israelite ideas of what it means to be clean or unclean, part of the community (in the house) or separated from it (lost).

For preaching purposes today, what would it mean for us to be "unclean"? Separated? I would venture to say that we ourselves can destroy both body and soul, and we do so by falling prey to our own egotism. The disciples are sent to reflect and model Christ, and they are sent to do so as loving servants of Israel, the world, and the Gospel. To turn away from love and service of others is always to turn in on ourselves. It is not the death that may come with the promised persecution that will beset those sent by Jesus which is to be feared. No, it is the more subtle, more nagging, more attractive voice, prompting that, when things turn to shit says: "This is too hard, too much, too uncomfortable. The odds are too long. Just turn back. It's easier. Safer. Fade out of this mess and go back to a happy home life lived in quiet and comfortable obscurity." Is this not the true and great and most dangerous prompting of Satan? To become a law unto ourselves. To care for our own needs first. To look out for ourselves, rather than the needs of the lost, which we ourselves were and are. To neglect the growing house of Israel, redeemed by the Suffering Servant.

- Eric Meckley
7:05 PM 1 comments

Theological Significance -- Kasey

Mission Discourse NT 18
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?
5:43 PM 1 comments

Divine ventriloquism? - 19b - by Michael

1. Jesus tells the disciples that when they are dragged into court before Gentile authorities, “what you are to say will be given to you at that time” (19b) by “the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (20b). This sounds like a reference to Exodus 4:12 and 15-16, where God tells Moses that he will speak for him before Pharaoh (12), and then that Aaron will speak for him before Pharaoh (15-16). Is this an intentional reference, such that Matthew sees a connection between Jesus’ discourse and the dialogue at the burning bush? In Exodus 4, first God and then Aaron are said to speak for Moses, while in Matthew 10, the Spirit speaks for the disciples. In Exodus 4, God and then Aaron speaks for Moses because of Moses’ own doubt and insecurity (“I am slow of speech and slow of tongue” 4:10b). In Matthew 10, no explicit reason is given for why the Spirit will speak for the disciples. Jesus’ words function more like a promise or assurance that comforts the disciples in the face of certain, coming persecution.

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.
5:15 PM 1 comments

Joseph on powers of modern disciples

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.

4:39 PM 1 comments

For Preaching-- vs 5-14 (Matt Morin)

Jesus sends the disciples out "to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (v6). It is these people-- Israel-- that Jesus commands the disciples to leave if their words are not heeded (v14). Jesus then, sends the disciples to preach the things of Israel to the people of Israel. This is because, from the start, Israel was a chosen people-- called out to be in unique relationship with God and by virtue of their very special worship and patterns of living, to reflect the glory of the one true God to the nations of the world.

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.
4:33 PM 1 comments

Comfort Christianity by Brad E

vv 16-22

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.

3:58 PM 1 comments

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)?

3:48 PM 1 comments

Take no bag for the journey. Steve M

Luz points to vv. 8-10 as a re framing of an older equipment regulation. Here there is an emphasis on self-denial: to "give freely", and to "take no bag for the journey." Hauerwas similarly points out that the disciples "are not too receive any money for their work" and to "bestow the peace of God on those who provide hospitality (v. 13)." Given the "extreme" nature of this call to modern sensibilities, how are such words to be taken today? Furthermore, how does the bestowing of peace relate to the disciple's supposed poverty? Is there a necessary link between the two? How does one reconcile this with other instances in which the command is "softened" or even eliminated entirely as in Luke 22:36?

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...
2:06 PM 1 comments

An unstable path? Mt. 10.39

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.

-DJR

2:05 PM 1 comments

Healing and casting out demons --by Beau

1. Jed has already said some really useful things about the wider significance of the Disciples' miracles of healing. I'd like to focus particularly on the relationship in verse 1 between "authority over unclean spirits" and "[the authority] to heal every disease and every infirmity." Today it would be a basic category mistake to even think that these two things could be related, but Matthew puts them together without even pausing to lift his pen. What does this mean about ancient Palestinian/Greek ideas about healing? Are spiritual health and physical health viewed as being related? (If you haven't guessed already, I imagine that this little blurb would be useful for the cultural background part of our text analyses.)

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.
1:45 PM 1 comments

Preaching: Are we the ones worthy? by Matt B.

In the mission discourse, the disciples are sent out to deliver a “hospitable” message, but are certain to encounter inhospitable reception (vv 16-18, 22-25). They are not to possess the everyday necessities to sustain their call, but to rely upon the generosity and material sustenance of mere strangers (vv 9-10). This is a ragtag bunch with nothing but the promises and riches of the kingdom (vv 1, 7-8). In their venture to the towns of Israel, the disciples will encounter those deserted by the halls of power, by the money-hungry and by the superstition of prejudice. Among these towns, the Twelve bear good news primarily to the sick and poor, and in solidarity with them, are to rely upon their provisions (and God’s of course) for the gospel to spread. Christians may initially place themselves within the disciples’ own mission, but what if we are to place ourselves among those who are to receive the wanting and willing evangelists in our own town? Are we the ones worthy to receive the peace of their message, as well as to provide for their needs (vv 11-15)? Are we among those to whom the disciples primarily minister, so as to receive the reward that awaits us (vv 40-42)?
1:36 PM 1 comments

Patrick - Significance of Matt. 10:40-42

As vessels of Christ, we are those who have chosen to extol the Gospel above those things which we value on this earth. By taking up our "cross" and following Christ, we seemingly accept a life of ridicule and marginalization by the standards of the world.

This is the message that leads to Matthew 10:40-42, where Christ offers a positive slant on the life of a Christian disciple. When the disciples were given their commissioning in vv. 5-15, Jesus reminded them that they are to be these vessels of Christ's teachings, and when they effectively evangelize, though they may face strife, those who accept what they say not only receive that message, but also Christ and God who sent him. The acceptance of the Christian and the Christian message carries with it a reward for both the one evangelizing and the one receiving the Gospel. God will reward each his/her due for serving Christ and the Kingdom of God.

For the disciples this charge was clear, but for those of us entering into ministry, are we spreading Christ's message in order to receive our reward or so that the Kingdom of God can grow and produce? The question of motive drives us to a self-awareness of how we evangelize to others, especially in a world where evangelizing is often tainted by money and greed. In Matt. 10:8b Christ reminds the disciples that, "You received without payment, give without payment"; thus, the reward Christ envisions for faithful discipleship should remain secondary as long as the work of the Gospel remains incomplete.
1:00 PM 2 comments

"So do not be afraid of them" post by Tim W.

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?

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10:49 AM 1 comments

It is a shame to be ashamed - Colin K.

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.

9:56 AM 1 comments

On the Nature of the Witness in Ch. 10 by Tim Kumfer

In Matthew 10, the disciples are called to witness to a kingdom which is brought into fullness through vulnerability and suffering (vv. 9-10), in contrast to the Judean political and religious elites’ attempts to secure their people’s fate through collusion with the Roman Empire (vv. 17-8). This new kingdom is breaking forth at the margins of the social body (vv. 1, 8), amidst the poor and impure which the rulers have suppressed or excised. Jesus instructs his disciples to be laborers in the harvest (9:37-8) through going to the towns and villages of these hoi polloi and relying on their hospitality; in effect, they are to be community organizers for the kingdom whose very mode of presence exemplifies it. The proclamation and embodiment of this radically different way will inevitably lead to conflict, as it is a fundamental reconfiguration of the society which Judean elites have painstakingly constructed. They will drag the disciples before Roman governors and client kings (v. 18) and seek the power to put them to death (v. 28) in an attempt to eradicate the Jesus movement and restore stability to the social order. This family drama within Israel (vv. 21, 35-37) will thus play out before the nations; it is incumbent upon the disciples to maintain a mode of vulnerable presence (25: 31-46) despite persecution in imitation of their Master (vv. 24-26) and his cross (v. 39) that their witness may serve to bring the Gentiles unto Israel.
6:08 PM 1 comments

Jed- Significance for Theology and Preaching

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).

Luz 66-71

1:46 PM 1 comments

Beelzebul (Matthew 10:24-25)- Tom Lewis

“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!” (Matthew 10:24-25, NRSV)

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.
8:45 AM 1 comments

Everyone will hate you (10:22a) - by Leif

10:22a (nrsv): "and you will be hated by all because of my name."

The tenor and sweep of Mathew increases in apocalyptic energy as the mission discourse wears on. A chapter that started with a gentle admonishing to "proclaim the good news" (v.7) and instructions on what to do when entering into a house are now replaced by something that sounds more at home in Revelation or in Daniel than it does in Matthew - or, at least, the popular assumptions about Mathew which we harbor. This is not "the hug me Jesus" to be sure.

And while Leslie Houlden (in the Oxford Bible Commentary) does well outlining the way in which the descriptions of what is to come in the later half of chapter ten mirror Christ's own future sufferings (and in this way, she mostly echoes Chrysostom's analysis in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture) what is left out of her (and Chrysostom's) commentary is a discussion of who this "EVERYONE" is. Is Jesus meaning to say "a lot of people" when he uses this word? Does he mean to say that "everyone" = "the world"? Does he mean to say everyone outside of he and the 12? Or does he mean that even the disciples will come to hate (and be hated) by one another? In other words, taken literally, that indeed everyone will hate you? What if we suppose the last of these options to be the case? What kind of picture would we then have? Certainly we would then have here, in the later half of the mission discourse (especially in v. 22a), direct parallels to Exodus 20, Job, as well as to Abraham's near sacrific of Isaac. In what sense do I mean? In the sense of v. 22a's recapitulation and redescription of the extremity of the 1st (and, in a sense, only) commandment - that of following THIS God, and following this God all the time, all the way through this life, indeed past this life.

It's a verse (22) and a word ("everyone") that the commentaries mentioned above seem to wish to skip over, and it paints a horrific picture where in which everyone abandons you - except God. If nothing else, this seems to be an accurate image of death itself - whereby the entire world reveals itself as not having the power to save thus causing one to fall into oblivion, only to be rescued at the last minute by the one true God, the God who created death and therefore is beyond death.

If we take Jesus at his word that indeed all people will (potentially at least) hate us if we are to follow him, then this has immense ramifications for how we think about ministry - especially the "signs" of those we suspect as most redeemed and closest to Christ.


5:31 AM 1 comments

Verse 34 - Joseph

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.

9:25 PM 1 comments

Matthew 10:22b by Matt Scott

Matthew 10:22b “but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

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.
9:18 PM 1 comments

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.

7:22 PM 1 comments

v 34-36 by Matthew Newell

Jesus' claim that he came to bring a sword, and not peace, is troublesome. He has said in 5:9 that peacemakers are blessed and called sons of God. It would be ironic if Jesus himself were not a peacemaker, for by his own mouth he would not then be a son of God! Likewise later in Gethsemane (26:52) he explicitly rebukes a companion for attempting to defend him with a sword, saying 'them that take the sword shall perish by the sword.' What then does Jesus mean by 'sword', and how does it characterize his own description of his own mission?

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.
7:03 PM 1 comments

Matthew 10:34-36 - Lauren

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." How does such a statement reconcile with the image of Christ as Prince of Peace who praises peacemakers in Matthew 5? Has Jesus come to unite or to divide?

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?
6:53 PM 1 comments

10.16a

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.

-Daniel

6:44 PM 1 comments

Matthew 10:5-6 -Steve M

1). Verse 5 presents Jesus as sending his disciples/apostles (the twelve) to preach to "the lost sheep of Israel." This mission comes, it would seem, to neglect Gentiles and Samaritans. Furthermore, Jesus says (verse 23) that these apostles "will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes." This, however, appears to contradict the Great Commission of Matt 28:19. One's answer to this dilemma may well dictate the view one has of prophecy--perhaps most importantly the Christian's understanding of and relation to Israel.

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?
6:28 PM 2 comments

Mt 10: 14-15 - Julie

“Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words--go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet. Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.”

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?
5:57 PM 1 comments

Matthew 10:28-- Matt Morin

1) Jesus instructs the disciples not to fear those people who can only kill the body, but rather to fear God who can destroy soul and body in hell (10:28). What does this mean for our doctrine of hell? Moreover, a number of commentators make reference to Epictetus in their analysis of this verse. What is to be made of the apparently Stoic tone that this verse suggests-- especially given the physical body's high place Jewish theology? As a question regarding the internal dynamics of the passage, Luz puts it best: "One of the major problems in understanding the entire gospel (is): How are the merciful shepherd and the Lord of judgment... to be understood together?" (Luz, 65).

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!)
5:50 PM 1 comments

Keep It Movin' - Stephen

"And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feel" (Matthew 10:12-14).

Knowing how Israel rejected and persecuted Him, Jesus anticipated and prepared His disciples for the same treatment. The statement "shake off the dust of your feet" means to separate yourself from those people who refuse to hear the Gospel of Christ and who may lave lost the only opportunity to receive Him as their Lord and Savior. As an example, when Paul and Barnabas preached to Israel at Antioch, Paul told the that Jesus really was the One promised, and that if they would believe on Him, they would have eternal salvation. There were Gentiles present, and on the following day at their request, Paul returned to the synagogue to teach them as well. When Israel saw how great the crowd was, they because envious and began to speak out against Paul and Barnabas. But they boldly responded that "it was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles" (Acts 13:46). While the Gentiles were glad to have received the Gospel, Israel came all the more against their preaching and teaching, and Pal and Barnabas "shook off the dust from their feet against them" (Acts 13:52).
To salute or greet someone's house during that time was to say Shalom, meaning "Peace unto this house." Those considered worthy of such a greeting responded positively in "faith to the disciples preachings and actions" because they were coming in "as peacemakers...of God's merciful empire"...to bring the good news of "wholeness and well-being to the broken and oppressed (see v. 5:9; Ps. 72). To greet in such a way is to proclaim God's empire...and those who are worthy receive benefit form and commit to god's peace or reign" (Carter, p. 235). As Hauerwas wrote, "The kingdom unleashed by Jesus is the kingdom of hospitality. To reject Him and those who represent Him is to call down judgment on ourselves" (p. 107).
As we go forth into our individual ministries, we must bear this in mind. We will not always be welcomed at the different churches we go into. As Jesus stated, however, we too are to be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves as we "challenge the worldly powers with the weapons of the Spirit" (Hauerwas, pp. 107-8).
3:59 PM 1 comments

Miracles or just Houdini wannabes? Jed

1.) In verses 1 and 8 the disciples are given authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. A majority take chapter 10 as a calling for the church as a whole (everyone who is a member of the spiritual church of Jesus Christ that is). But most Christians do not perform healing or driving out of evil spirits. Is the church given this charge or is it solely for the disciples tasks after Post-Jesus? Do the disciples truly heal people or are they just performing illusions on poor souls who don't know better?

2.) Hauerwas describes the disciples as a giant simile. The disciples are not expected to be Jesus, but to be "like the teacher."(111) Luz comments that if miracles were just for the disciples at the beginning of the church's history because uneducated fishermen had something new to tell then we are mistaken.(67)

3.)As Luz states, "Is becoming well the only form of liberation from illness, or can it also be a form of healing, for example, to recognize in an illness some meaning, perhaps, even an opportunity?(76) The charge to drive out evil spirits and heal every disease is a miracle, it is a concrete example of salvation. The question remains, who has this authority? Matthew 10 is a commentary on how the people of the Lord should behave and as Luz puts it, "miracles are to make sure the message doesn't become an ethical exhortation but includes concrete experiences of salvation." Christians today do have the authority to drive out evil spirits without performing an exorcism and can heal every disease without attending medical school. By being a giant simile for Christ, Christians can liberate the world from sin through the profound miracle of love.
3:56 PM 1 comments

Mission of the Twelve (vv 5 and 18) by Brad E

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.

2:31 PM 1 comments

First Impressions: Matt. 10:13--by Beau

1. What is meant by the disciples'/apostles' "peace" in verse 13? How does this "peace" laid upon a house by the disciples relate to the discord that Jesus claims to be bringing to the household at verses 34-36? What are the wider implications of this "peace" with regard to the judgment described at verse 15 (and maybe verse 32?) and the seemingly selective character of the mission overall?

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.
1:27 PM 2 comments

Verse 23 by Colin K

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).

1:24 PM 2 comments

Eric on 10:6

Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.

1. Verse 10:6 serves as an important exegetical focal point for three reasons: First, it presents the difficulty of understanding who are "the lost sheep of Israel", and how they are lost. Second, this verse interacts (as Luz points out, p. 73) with both 15:9 and the mission command in 28:19. Third, and related to the first two, is the focus on Israel over and against the Gentiles.

2. Both Luz (p. 73) and Carter (p. 234) understand the verse, with regards to the first difficulty, as inclusive of all of Israel, not simply "the sinners, outcasts, and marginalized in Israel" (Luz, p. 73). They both also relate 10:6 to the others mentioned above and while Carter believes that the focus on Israel alone is temporary, and will come to include the Gentiles as well, Luz is of the opinion that the move to the Gentiles in 28:19 is the result of a "change of direction" made by Jesus, because Israel has rejected him.

3. From preliminary readings, I tend to agree with Carter on all three points, although I would want a more nuanced explanation of the inclusivity of his understanding of the first problem of the verse. It seems to me that to just say "the lost sheep of Israel" means all of Israel does not appreciate the differentiation present at that time between "the tax collectors and sinners" and the Pharisees (and everyone in between, for that matter...). What did it mean to be a faithful Jew in Jesus' time? Surely not all of Israel can be divided into these two classes. All this raises questions of what it means to be a part of Israel, and what it means to be lost. These questions are complicated when read in light of Ephesians, particularly the first two chapters, for example. Finally, to say with Luz that the mission to the Gentiles is a rejection of those who have rejected Jesus is a grievous misreading.
7:58 PM 2 comments

10:5-6 by Michael

  1. 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?”
  2. 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).
  3. 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.