SCRIPTURE: Matthew 10:5-23
The Mission of the Twelve
5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. 9 Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
16 “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22 and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
Iain D. Campbell shares that “The work Jesus gives his people to do (vv. 5–15) The place of their work is to be among ‘the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ (v. 6). We have already seen that Matthew is preparing the way for the universal proclamation of the gospel—wise men from the east have already worshipped Jesus and a Roman soldier has been commended for his faith. One day, disciples will be made in all the nations (28:19). But Jesus is reflecting the unique purpose of God in the mission to the world—Israel is the light of all the nations (see Isa. 42:6; 49:6; 60:3). God ‘had chosen Israel in relation to his purpose for the world, not just for Israel’.1 Yet there was still much that had to be accomplished in Israel up until the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Only after Pentecost would the Christian mission extend among the Gentiles and the Samaritans.”
Campbell’s point that Israel was where the work for the disciples needed to start but was not the only place the work would need to happen is crucial to the understanding of Christianity as a worldwide religion. Campbell writes “God ‘had chosen Israel in relation to his purpose for the world, not just for Israel’.” I think that this is important to keep in mind as it there are people who argue for a specific nation (depending on the person and their beliefs and values) that they believe God favors more over other nations. This kind of mindset can become extremely dangerous on many levels and lead to divisions among faith communities locally and globally.
How do you understand the “unique purpose of God in the mission to the world”? How do you understand the history, for better or worse, of the spreading of the Gospel in different nations around the world? How does that understanding influence how you share the Good News with others?
Loving God, you created everything in creation. You formed the land, brought forth life, and continue to watch over it all. Help us to remember that disciples can be made anywhere in the world, that we are all your children, and that the places we live do not define our worth as your creation. Amen.