Sunday 18 June 2017

Bible Book:

“These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (vv. 5-6)

Matthew 9:35 – 10:8 Sunday 18 June 2017

Psalm: Psalm 116


Verses 5-6 could be read through a kind of 'charity begins athome' lens. Implied is that the preferred place for God's work isamong God's already chosen ones who share the same culture,customs, history, heritage and blood ties: the nation of Israel.Yet "the harvest is plentiful" (v. 37) suggests a wider reach too,as does the reference to crowds and sheep who might be straggly andspread out (verse 36). Jesus is unlikely to be telling hisdisciples here to keep mission outreach ethnically pure,straightforward and safe. That narrowness would niggle in Matthew'sgreater scheme of things. Rewind to Matthew 8:5-13 and perhaps we discover a clueto the 'only Israel' command. A Roman officer, a Gentile, impressedJesus immensely. A respected army man, clearly not from the 'houseof Israel', had touching compassion for a household servant who laysick, and heartening faith that Jesus had the power to heal. Jesuswas amazed: "Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I foundsuch faith" (Matthew 8:10). For Jesus, as he commissionedthe disciples, it's living, demonstrable faith that he wanted themto discover, across all communities, whatever the family line orethnic origin. Sometimes the best examples will not be found amongtheir own. Jesus loves his own: no question. He's from King David'sline after all, central to the 'house of Israel'. Matthew's Gospelmakes it clear that only after the cross and Resurrection willmission to Gentiles 'outside the house' really kick in. Until then,intriguingly, Jesus finds himself finding faith as much outside thehouse as inside. Learned leaders steeped in Israel's law accuse himof exhibiting demonic power not divine compassion (Matthew 9:34).Even among his own little gathered household, the Twelve he gaveauthority to and sent out, fear got the better of faith many a time(Matthew 8:26). Jesus wasn't displayingnarrowness driven by religious identity but rather nervousnessfuelled by experience. Better you start with the ones youmightreasonablyassumehave got faith in God sorted out, he suggeststo disciples on the starting blocks. Just in case they haven't.

To Ponder

  • "Go nowhere among the …?"(v. 5) Imagine you're imparting adviceto a loved one off on gap year travels. How would you finish thissentence and why?
  • What kind of authority should a follower of Jesus assume theyhave today?
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