May 1, 2017: Matthew 10
Today’s Scripture reading was Matthew 10, which is Jesus’ commissioning of the twelve apostles. He tells them to go out to the people of Israel and preach the Gospel, healing the sick and casting out demons without taking payment or expecting a warm greeting. Jesus tells them to expect strife and conflict; he says that they will be hated for teaching in the name of Christ. He says that his message is not one of peace, but one of division and conflict. This is a challenging passage to me, because the idea that Christ’s message is one of conflict goes against pretty much everything I believe about the gospel. I don’t know what to do with this chapter.
At its very outset, Matthew’s account here is starkly in opposition to the other Gospels because in it Jesus commands the apostles to avoid the Gentile nations, whereas in the other Gospels Jesus commands them to go into all the world.
To some extent, I understand that Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience, so it’s possible (likely, even) that he is intending to demonstrate that the gospel message is intended not just for Gentiles but is a message of hope for Jews, as well; but how does that frame the rest of this text? Does that focus set the tone for the rest of the chapter? Is this division Jesus describes intended to recognize the tension that will be created by Jews believing in the message of Christ? Certainly, such a “conversion” (that may not be the right word for it) would turn father against son and mother against daughter — their heritage, their very identity as Hebrews, was a crucial part of their lives, so to seemingly reject that heritage would cause a tremendous amount of tension in families. Perhaps Matthew was simply recognizing that reality for his Jewish audience.