Saturday, June 1, 2013

Instructions to the Twelve (C and C')

Matthew's chiastic framework for chapter ten, in which this section can be derived, is seen below:

A)  Instructions to the twelve apostles  (10:5-15)
   B)  Persecution and family division  (10:16-23)
      C)  Enemies of the Master’s household  (10:24-25)
         D1)  Consolation of the twelve: "Do not fear them..." (10:26-27)
            D2)  "Do not fear those who... but Fear Him who can..." (10:28-30)
         D3)  Consolation of the twelve: "Do not fear, therefore..." (10:31-33)
      C’)  Enemies of the Master’s household  (10:34-36)
   B’)  Persecution and family division  (10:37-39)
A’)  Reception of the twelve apostles  (10:40-42)

The text for sections C and C' is as follows:
A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. 
...Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. 

According to these sections, Jesus is preparing his twelve apostles for soon-coming persecution from God's enemies. Jesus illustrates the relationship between a disciple and his teacher, as well as a servant and his master; and his apostles would have understood why this illustration was relevant to the entire discussion of chapter ten. For the Twelve apostles, this illustration was relevant for at least two reasons: first, Jesus was going to "give them authority over unclean spirits" (10:1), with a unique and crucial mission within Israel to "heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and cast out demons" (10:8). But Jesus didn't give this authority merely to anyone who wanted it, or everyone capable of possessing it. He was going to give it to them, and only for this unique mission until the Son of Man would come in judgment upon that generation (culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem and Herod's Temple in 70 A.D. as seen in the previous posts here, here, here, here, here, and here). And so, one thing which we learn here is that these twelve apostles needed to consider the  authority given to them very seriously, and to guard themselves against the wiles of the Devil which would tempt them to use their authority foolishly. Foolish abuse of God's authority would only aid the enemies of God and harm God's people. 

Secondarily, Jesus doesn't just want them to merely think of themselves as ones with the authority of the Messiah. He wants them to think of themselves as servants of God's household. The Twelve would have understood this language about household servants. They would have recognized the family aspect as well as the priestly aspect of household terminology, for priests were servants of God's house1 -- the Tabernacle/Temple. Jesus is not merely instructing his Twelve apostles concerning their authority. He is instructing them concerning their priestly authority in the midst of Israel, and the expectations which accompany their priestly duties that conflict with other priests in Israel. These "Twelve" apostles were to become the new rulers and representatives of God's new Israel.

As the new rulers of God's new Israel, Jesus expects devilish malignity from those outside of God's household. Of course, all of Israel considered themselves to be adopted into God's household. They were children of God's promised inheritance. They were God's covenant people. But many of the rulers and their disciples throughout the land of Israel were opposed to Jesus, even refusing table fellowship with him, stating very clearly that they did not approve of Jesus' household. Many of the rulers even refused John's baptism which paved the way for their Messiah and fellowship into his household. And as Jesus notes here (and earlier in his ministry), the rulers of Israel had been accusing Jesus of having a devil all along, so this statement about Beelzebul shouldn't surprise us.

As Jesus noted in the previous section (B and B'), his ministry (along with his apostles) would divide the people of Israel even further. Jesus warns the Twelve that if the rulers of Israel and their disciples call Jesus Beelzebul,  a term derived from Baal-Zebulmeaning "Lord of the high dwelling-place," how much more will they malign those of this "Lord's" household? (Baal-Zebul was a derogatory term associated with a pagan deity whom the Jews believed to be the "Lord" of evil spirits and their "house.") Jesus is teaching that if God's enemies can't touch the Lord of glory himself, they will go after his children. And if they want to destroy the Lord of glory himself, they will pursue his children unto death as well. Jesus is warning his Twelve apostles about this reality, and the temptations that come with their priestly responsibility to guard and keep God's house and household.

As Jesus says, he did not come to bring peace to the earth. Far too often this verse is used by overly-zealous children of God to justify their foolish patriotism and nationalism. But by making this provocative claim, Jesus was teaching the very opposite of patriotic nationalism. He did not come --become incarnate-- to bring peace to the "earth." In Greek, the word translated here as "earth" is γη (pronounced ), which is the term used throughout the Old Testament for the tribal "land" of Israel. Jesus did not come to bring peace to the land surrounding them. What land? The land in which the lost sheep of the house of Israel dwelled. The land which Jesus had come to divide, including the division of its wheat from chaff, sheep from goats, and those who were with him from those who were against him.

Jesus did not come to bring peace. He came to bring a sword. His ministry as the Messiah to the nations would necessarily divide the land of Israel because the leadership of Israel had become idolaters just like the Canaanites long before them, worshiping a god of their own imaginations. But the rulers of Israel had actually done much worse than the Canaanites. Not only had they been worshiping a god of their own imaginations, but they had also repeatedly rejected the God who tabernacled in their midst. Jesus came to bring a sword against them. He came to set a man against his own biological father, and a daughter against her biological mother, and a daughter-in-law against her legal mother-in-law. The boundaries which defined God's people were being divided, chopped up with the sword of the Spirit, wielded by the Word of God dwelling in their midst. 

Jesus could assure his Twelve apostles that enemies would indeed be those of one's own household because he understood that God's family transcends the legal and blood-related households of Israel. God's family is more important than legal family ties and blood-relationships which bind the twelve tribes of Israel together; and in that sense, water really is thicker than blood. The waters of baptism which John the Baptist brought to the lost sheep of the house of Israel would be taken much more seriously by God than those who refused it. As noted by Luke 7:30, which stands in very close connection with the narratives of chapters 10 & 11 in Matthew's gospel, "the Pharisees and teachers of the Law rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by John." Jesus had come to bring a sword against those rulers and their disciples, for they were enemies of God's household; they were priests of Baal's Zebul.

1.  For a detailed explanation of "Priests" being "attendants" or servants of God's "house," see Peter. J. Leithart, The Priesthood of the Plebs [Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003] pp. 48-86; See also L. Michael Morales, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured: Cosmic Mountain Ideology in Genesis and Exodus [Leuven-Paris-Walpole, MA: Peeters; 2012], pp. 258-270; and G. K. Beale, The Temple an the Church's Mission: A biblical theology of the dwelling place of God [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press; 2004], pp. 66-70.

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