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Matthew 9:27-10:42, 13:53-58; Mark 6:1-10; & Luke 9:1-6


Most of today’s passage consists of Jesus’ instructions to the 12 disciples, whom He is commissioning as Apostles.  The other main topic is Jesus’ homecoming to Nazareth — presumably the first since He began His ministry.

Matt 10:14 | Jesus tells the Apostles to depart any town from which they have been rejected by shaking the dust off their sandals.  This resembles a rabbinical tradition whereby Jews were supposed to dust off their sandals after leaving a Gentile town so as not to carry the uncleanliness with them.  The implication is thus that Jewish towns who reject the Word are as unclean as the Law considered Gentiles to be.

More generally, showing the sole of your feet to someone is a cultural taboo throughout the Middle East.  It’s the Semitic way of giving the middle finger, you could say.  This is the context for some modern incidents like Iraqis, after the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003, slapping posters of Saddam with their sandals in derision, or like the Iraqi reporter who threw his shoe at Bush.  These are more than just random outbursts but are symbolic gestures of opprobrium.

Matt 10:34-35 | Jesus uses some rather charged language here in saying that He doesn’t come to bring peace but the sword.  To the dismay of the Zealots, this doesn’t mean that Jesus comes to lead a military revolution against Rome.  Biblical imagery uses the sword to describe Jesus’ tongue and (both consequently and specifically) the Word.  Jesus is bringing a message that will pierce the hearts of His listeners, carve out the misunderstandings and sin in the lives of those who accept this Word, and will distinguish those that have chosen to submit to the Kingdom of God from those that have not.  This is the context for the statements about sons and fathers fighting: how you stand with regard to Jesus and the Word is more important than even your family ties in defining who you are.

Matt 10:38-39 | We’ll get into the meat of this message more when John covers it (I think), but this is the first time I realized the anachronism at the heart of the statement: ‘Take up your cross and follow Me.’  I always assumed that this sentence originated after the crucifixion, in the sense that we are to follow Christ into the death and resurrection.  But here He references the cross well before the crucifixion.  I assume that He knew the awful fate to which He was referring, but His audience didn’t.  To them, Jesus makes this radical demand out of nowhere that they suffer a gruesome, excruciating, disgraceful death in order to enter the Kingdom.  You have to think that the ones that heard that message and continued with Him were either super faithful and committed or really dense.

Mark 6:3 | In a more explicit nature than I remembered, Mark (and Matthew) refer to Jesus’ brothers and sisters.  This is a point of contention between the Catholic and Protestant traditions (I plead ignorance to the Orthodox position on this).  Catholic doctrine, as I understand it, holds that Mary remained a virgin for the rest of her life.  They explain these references to Jesus’ siblings as either referring to cousins or children from a previous marriage of Joseph.  The Protestant church isn’t convinced and doesn’t think that having children with Joseph subsequent to Jesus would somehow detract from Mary’s faithfulness.  By contemporary mores, having many children was the godly thing to do.

Mark 6:4 |  Jesus’ line that a prophet is without honor in his hometown is widely quoted.  It makes sense since the people you saw you grow up saw you at your humblest and are the least likely to be impressed with your adult identity.  Like the world renowned band, Cross Canadian Ragweed, says, ‘You’re always seventeen in your hometown.’*


* Yes, I had to look that up.


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