Sunday

26 June 2011

"Whoever welcomes you welcomes me" (v. 40a)

Background

These verses come as the climax to Jesus sending out his disciples on their own for the first time. The instructions (Matthew 10:5-15) that he gives them about the way they should travel (no money, no bag, no extra clothes) (verses 9-10), teach (the kingdom of heaven has come near) (verse 7) and do (heal, raise, cleanse, free of demons) (verse 8) are well known. We also remember how the disciples should immediately leave and shake the dust off their feet if they are not welcomed (verse 14).

Immediately, before these verses Jesus warns that he has not come to bring peace and the need to put him first, pick up our cross and follow him (verses 34-39).

So how do these verses fit?

My commentaries focus on the importance of hospitality in difficult times (if Christians are not welcomed when on the run from persecution, or on mission work then the gospel (good news) cannot spread) and on the authority of the disciples (when you welcome them it is just as if you welcome Jesus).

Both of these still challenge us today. How much do we welcome people fleeing persecution or coming to us with the gospel (good news) from other places? When someone comes to us from elsewhere do we welcome them and their teaching as we would welcome Jesus?

However, I also want to suggest another challenge for today. These verses may help in the recent controversy about hell and salvation that has followed the publication of Love Wins by Rob Bell. What does this passage mean today for someone who welcomes and offers hospitality to a Christian without believing themselves? We often focus on belief as the only response to Jesus. Perhaps here we see what Jesus thinks of another response, specifically hospitality.

Hospitality, specifically the welcome and care of strangers, is a frequent theme of the Old Testament (for example Genesis 18:1-15).

When people are hospitable today (and so many different people offer amazing hospitality) how do we apply these verses?

To Ponder

How do you feel about the hospitality we offer as individuals, churches and as a nation?

What influences the authority you give to someone's experience and teaching?

How do you respond to those who are hospitable to Christians without themselves believing in the one who sends them?

Bible notes author: The Revd Dave Warnock

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