Matthew 10:1-42

Gospel Readings:

Matthew 10:1-15
Matthew 10:16-33
Matthew 10:34-42

Devotion 1

Wait: Take time to sit in silence together, allowing space for God’s voice to be heard.

Read: Matthew 10:1-15

Today’s reading marks the beginning of the second major discourse in Matthew’s Gospel. While the first, the Sermon on the Mount, centred on the social and economic relations of communities participating in God’s reign, this one centres on the mission on which Jesus’ disciples are sent out.

Chapter 10 begins as Jesus summons his disciples, conferring on them precisely what has been at issue through much of the Gospel’s narrative—his authority. If Jesus’ authority is contested by his opponents, who reject it as being demonic, then the disciples might have reason to be nervous about the authority now given to them! Throughout the narrative, Jesus has displayed an alternative to the kinds of ways in which authority was used by the rulers of the day. Rather than dominating others, he has used his authority to heal the effects of domination. And rather than mystifying exploitation and injustice as “the will of the gods”, he has exposed its evil and prophetically proclaimed that injustice is on borrowed time. Now this authority—to cast out unclean spirits and heal “every disease and sickness” is given to the disciples.

Matthew lists the names of the disciples, some of which the narrative has made familiar to us, and some which only appear here. While much of dynamics of this community are lost to us, we catch a few hints. Matthew the tax collector and Simon the zealot (while Zealot didn’t become a term properly used for the group of violent revolutionaries until the Jewish war of 66-70 CE, it certainly would have been known to Matthew’s community) may have represented ideological enemies. And Judas Iscariot (if Iscariot comes from the term sicarios), may have been connected with the dagger men, which might go a way to explaining his willingness to turn in Jesus, the nonviolent revolutionary. One can only imagine the conversations that these disciples had between themselves!

The disciples are sent out to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” It seems here that not all of Israel is in view, but rather those who were seen by the Judeans to the south as “lost”—that is, exploited and despised Galilee.1 They are to go amongst the towns and villages of Galilee as what we might call “community organisers”2, proclaiming the good news that “the kingdom of heaven has come near.” For these Galilean villages, known to be potential hotbeds of violent revolt, what is significant about this proclamation is just how this kingdom is manifested—not in taking up arms in resistance to imperial occupation, but in acts of healing, restoration, and liberation. As they go, the apostles are not to engage in the money economy that is so destroying the fabric of village life, but they are to practice reciprocal relations which affirm the dignity of villagers and the moral economy of village life. They will find, in the villages and towns of Galilee, communities of welcome, generosity, and peace. And they will also find communities who are unprepared to accept Jesus’ teaching. Closed places unable to welcome outsiders. Anxious places, unable to practice generosity. And angry places, unable to imagine that laying down their hatred toward the oppressive powers to find creative ways of making change could lead to peace.

Reflect:

  • What strikes you in today’s reading?
  • In what ways have you experienced others’ responses to your attempts to participate in Jesus’ mission of healing, restoration and liberation?
  • In what ways are you challenged or encouraged by today’s reading?

Pray

Share Communion 

Close with the Lord’s Prayer

1. Ben Witherington, Matthew (Macon: Smyth & Helwys, 2006), 219-220.
2. Richard A. Horsley. Jesus and the Powers: Conflict, Covenant and the Hope of the Poor. (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2011), 135.

 

 

Devotion 2

Wait: Take time to sit in silence together, aware of God’s presence in a broken world.

Read: Matthew 10:16-23 3

Having outlined the nature of the mission on which Jesus sends his disciples, he now turns to the likely response. The disciples are to go out as “sheep into the midst of wolves”—an image which highlights the powerlessness of the disciples and the predatory nature of the ruling class.4 The disciples’ message to the Galilean towns and villages that “the kingdom of heaven has come near” is one that is deeply subversive. Kings and their officials don’t like hearing of the arrival of other “kingdoms”. Moreover, the disciples’ activity of healing, restoration and liberation will serve to expose the rulers’ unjust leadership and empower the peasant population to imagine a more just world—one in which the current rulers’ hegemony is stripped away.

It is no surprise, then, that the disciples will find themselves dragged before the courts to be tried. This is their time to speak truth to power. This is the time for the real nature of power relations to be laid bare. Speaking truth to power will have a cost, though. Just as the ruling elite have sought to discredit Jesus, maligning him as demonic, so will they seek to discredit the disciples. And forebodingly, just as they eventually will silence Jesus’ threat to their power, so will they seek to silence the disciples, for a “disciple is not above the teacher.”

Opposition will not only come from the ruling class, however. It will also come from within the peasant population, even from one’s own kin. Jesus’ subversive praxis of empowerment of the poor and release from oppression will be divisive, for

“[t]he oppressed suffer from the duality which has established itself in their innermost being. They discover that without freedom they cannot exist authentically. Yet, although they desire authentic existence, they fear it. They are at one and the same time themselves and the oppressor whose consciousness they have internalised.”5

Fearful and perhaps consumed by a hatred for those long dominating them, many even of the oppressed whom Jesus’ subversive praxis seeks to liberate will not be able to accept Jesus’ message of nonviolent resistance and enemy-love. They will continue to yearn for another way out of exile—that of the violent overthrow of their oppressors.

The encouragement for the Jesus’ disciples, and for Matthew’s community hearing this retelling of Jesus’ story, is that God sees, and God will vindicate. There is nothing in Jesus’ words that promise rescue. The way of discipleship is risky. The consequences of giving testimony before rulers cannot be measured beforehand—indeed, the Greek word for testimony, martyrion, from whence we get martyr, may give us a hint. Your heavenly Father sees, the disciples are told, but there are still no guarantees that birds will not fall to the ground. This is the way of discipleship. It is the way of the cross. It is the way of living out God’s mission, even in the face of consequences.

Reflect:

  • Where do you hear God’s voice in today’s reading?
  • Imagine you are a part of Matthew’s community, struggling under the weight of imperial domination. In what ways does today’s reading encourage you?

Pray for one another

Share Communion

Close with the Lord’s Prayer

 

3. Matthew 10:16-42 are better left together, however, in order to keep the readings from being too long, we will split them in two.

4. Cf. Ezekiel 22:27: “Its officials within it are like wolves tearing the prey, shedding blood, destroying lives to get dishonest gain.”

5. Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, (1977; repr., New York: Continuum, 2005), 46.

 

Devotion 3

Wait: Take time to sit in the silence of repentance together, aware of our inadequacy and God’s grace.

Read: Matthew 10:34-42

How are we to understand Jesus’ words in 10:34, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”? After all, this seems to be a direct contradiction of Jesus’ teaching to “love your enemies.” Are disciples now to take up arms against their enemies? Those words, tragically, have come to justify violence and warfare in the name of Christ.

Perhaps we need to understand the bringing of a sword not as Jesus action but the result of his action. His subversive proclamation of God’s reign will bring opposition—sometimes violent opposition. Disciples are to understand that as they live out God’s way of love and justice, as they speak truth to power, as they practice enemy-love and refuse to perpetuate the spiral of violence, there will be opposition and persecution. There will be those who cannot come to terms with loving those who are “not like us”, who cannot extend love or understanding across nationalistic or religious boundaries or stand critique of national or religious symbols. There will be those who cannot come to terms with Jesus’ praxis of radical hospitality and acceptance of those deemed social or religiously “unclean.”

It is as Martin Luther King Jr. would write over 1900 years later:

Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured as long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its pus-flowing ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must likewise be exposed, with all of the tension its exposing creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.6

Reflect:

  • Are there ways in which you can relate to this week’s readings from your own experience?
  • In what ways are you challenged or encouraged by today’s reading?

Pray. 

Share Communion

Close with the Lord’s Prayer

 

Devotion 4

Wait: Take time to sit in the silence of gratitude together, giving thanks for the ways you’ve experienced God’s loving kindness.

This week’s Common Value: Justice

Read: Isaiah 5:1-7

Ask: How might we participate in God’s justice this week?

Pray

Share Communion

Close with the Lord’s Prayer

6. Martin Luther King Jr. The Essential Martin Luther King, Jr.: “I Have a Dream” and Other Great Writings (Beacon Press. Kindle Edition), Kindle loc. 1140-1144.