In Matthew 10 Jesus sends the apostles out on a mission to Israel. He instructs them to go nowhere among the Gentiles (a mission that will come later, see Matthew 28: 16-20), but only to the lost sheep of Israel. Along with casting out demons; healing the sick; cleansing lepers; and, remarkably, raising the dead, they are to proclaim the same message as Jesus and John the Baptist: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Depending on recipients of the message for food and lodging wherever they go, the apostles are to travel lightly with no money or change of clothes. They are to give without pay as they have received without cost.
Then, we come to a section about worthiness. The Greek word, worthy, has an interesting use in this Gospel, especially in Matthew 10. The term is used in association with the word peace. Jesus instructs the apostles to find worthy individuals in the town and stay with them until they depart. Jesus instructs the apostles that if the houses they enter are worthy, they are to leave their peace there. If no one will receive them and listen to them, they are to shake the dust from their feet. God’s judgment will come upon that place. The worthy are those who accept Christ.
Both worthiness and peace are associated again is verses 34-39. Here Jesus says that He has come to bring a sword, not peace, a perplexing statement considering what He says a little bit earlier in the chapter about His disciples’ bestowing peace upon a house or village. The peace given by the apostles seems tangible. It can be given and withdrawn. In verse 34, however, the word is used in contrast to sword. Peace here is the absence of conflict. In this section Jesus’ examples pertain to conflict within the family regarding faith in Him; members of one’s own family will become enemies of those who accept Christ. The same situation is described in 10: 21ff.
In Chapter 10 peace is used in two different senses. In the earlier text where Jesus gives instructions on how the apostles are to conduct themselves when they enter a town, the word peace means salvation. Those who welcome the apostles and receive their message are given the salvation that the apostles bring. They are worthy because of their receptivity and belief. They are different from those in the parable in chapter 22 who refuse to come to the wedding feast–that is, the unworthy who refuse God’s invitation of salvation. The second meaning of peace refers to the absence of conflict and persecution both of which Jesus stirs in His ministry.
In our defense and witness to the faith, we are doing no less than offering on Jesus’ behalf the salvation that He brings. The preaching of the Gospel brings conflict and persecution, even in the family itself. We must realize that the necessity of apology (defense) is due to the hostility and opposition some bear toward the Gospel. We must be prepared for such eventualities by prayer, worship, and study of the Scriptures. Our defense may become for some the means by which they are brought to Christ.
Michael G. Tavella
Anthony and Pachomius, Abbots
January 17, 2024