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Monday, June 23, 2008

Lexegete June 29, 2008

Lexegete TM | Year A | Matthew

June 29, 2008 (Lectionary 13)

Complementary Series

Jeremiah 28:5-9
Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18 (1)
Romans 6:12-23
13. Matthew 10:40-42

Semicontinuous Series

Genesis 22:1-14
Psalm 13 (5)
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

1a. CONTEXT: Matthew 10:(34-39) 40-42

Today's text forms the conclusion of the second discourse in
Matthew, the commissioning of the disciples. Following last week's
Gospel, it begins with the strife to be expected by the followers of Jesus,
and concludes with the benefits to be expected by those who treat him and
his followers well. It is interesting to note that while Mark and Luke
report on the return of the followers after the sending out, Matthew
ignores it. This is probably not because Matthew thought the journey
unimportant or unsuccessful, but rather because the historical journey of
the twelve was not as important to Matthew as the implied commission to
all Christians.

The verses that make up this passage have some parallels in Luke
and some echoes in Mark and John. Matthew's editing ofthe various sayings
is unique. The notion that family strife (10:34-37, and Lk 12:51-53, and
Lk 14:26) was a sign of the end times was traditional (Micah 7:6). Jesus
modified the tradition by stating that the Messiah himself would cause the
family strife, rather than having the Messiah be the one to end the strife.
Family ties were extremely important, but Jesus represented something
even more important. In Matthew's day, people, both Jewish and Gentile,
were experienceing family rifts because of Jesus. (Beare, THE GOSPEL

Matthew 10:38 and 39 have parallels in all the Gospels. The notion
that following Jesus entailed suffering and sacrifice was held commonly.
That Matthew chose to put the sayings about the cross-bearing and
following, and life-losing and gaining, between predictions of family
strife and directions about receiving followers of Jesus is interesting
here. The passage ends with directions about hospitality towards
Christians. Again, its was traditional to give an emissary the same
hospitality that one would give to the one the emissary represented.

1b. TEXT: Matthew 10:40-42


40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.
41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person's reward.
42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

40ο δεχομενος υμας εμε δεχεται, και ο εμε δεχομενος δεχεται τον αποστειλαντα με.

41ο δεχομενος προφητην εις ονομα προφητου μισθον προφητου λημψεται, και ο δεχομενος δικαιον εις ονομα δικαιου μισθον δικαιου λημψεται.

42και ος αν ποτιση ενα των μικρων τουτων ποτηριον ψυχρου μονον εις ονομα μαθητου, αμην λεγω υμιν, ου μη απολεση τον μισθον αυτου.

Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition © 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;
The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition © 1975, United Bible Societies, London.

2. ANALYSIS: Matthew 10:34-42

Matthew 10:34 - " I have not come to bring peace(eirenen) , but a sword(
machairan)." - While some may expect the coming of the Messiah to end
strife, Jesus engenders it, particularly among families. Luke 12:51 uses
"division" instead of "sword." Albright and Mann (ANCHOR BIBLE, p. 129)
focusing on Jesus' response to the expectations put upon him, translate
Matthew, "I have come neither to impose peace, nor yet to make war."

10:37 - "He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me."

- The "hate" in Luke 14:26 is less strong in Greek than in English. (Beare,

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW, p. 250). Matthew's emphasis is on
loyalty to Jesus; Luke's is more on the cost of the loyalty. "worthy of me,"
(mou aksios) used three times in 10:37-38 is typical of Matthew. Note
that Luke uses "be my disciple."

10:38 - "and he who does not take his cross and follow me.." - Some form
of this saying exists in all 3 synoptics. Note that here and in the parallel
form (LK 14:27) the negative is used. Mt. 16:24, Mk 8:34, and Lk 9:23 are
positive forms. This is Matthew's first use of the cross and is significant
because of it. (Fenton, SAINT MATTHEW, p. 165) Although it is possible
that Jesus' disciples had to face the thought of their own crucifixion
within Jesus' lifetime (Albright and Mann, p. 132), it is clear that Matthew
is again speaking to his own community here.

10:39 - "He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my
sake will find it." - This saying, too, has multiple parallels: Lk 17:33 (the
closest), Mt. 16:25, Mk 8:35, Lk 9:24, and Jn 12:25. In Greek, the find
life/lose life dichotomy does not imply "live or die," though Matthew's
placement of it right after the cross-bearing section tempts one. "Lose" (
apoluo) here has the sense of "let go" or "be liberated," which does not
necessarily imply literal death. "Psyche" here is another difficult word.
Although the RSV translates it "life," soul or self is probably better. Note
that Luke 17:33 omits "for my sake."

10:41 - "He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a
prophet's reward..." - This verse has no parallels and is cause for
confusion. Albright and Mann suggest tht both "Prophet" and "Righteous
one" refer to Jesus himself (p. 133), although most commentators assume
that they refer to classes of early Christians. "eis onoma" means literally,
"in the name of." The reward of the one who receives the prophet or
righteous one will be the same as that one's. There's a commutative
principle at work here.

10:42 - "these little ones" (ton mikron) is a phrase Matthew often uses of
the disciples.

3. STRATEGY: Matthew 10:34-42

Today's text concludes Matthew's commission of the disciples,
without indicating that they ever did what they were asked. (Contrast
Mark 6:12 and Luke 9:6.) And so, without casting aspersions on the
disciples, the preacher could focus the sermon on "The Unfinished
Commission," or "The Unfinished Agenda." Myths and fairy tales often tell
of a group of people with an expectation that can only be filled by the right
person--he must slay the dragon; she must answer the riddle. Jewish
society expected a Messiah. Jesus came as the fulfillment of that
society's expectation (whether they knew it or not) and turned the tables.
In fulfilling the expectation that the society has for him, he has set up an
expectation in turn for the society itself to fulfill. Matthew, Mark and
Luke all have Jesus stating his expectations to the disciples. But in
leaving the commissioning open-ended, Matthew also invites his readers to
include themselves in the expectation.

So how do we respond to the unfinished commission? How
literally do we take it? How much do we tailor it to suit our needs and
wishes? If we look to this passage to give us guidance on our commission,
we learn, first, that following Christ can call into question the things we
hold most dear, namely our family relationships. Material things are not
even mentioned here--it is assumed we are beyond these. But family
harmony is not only God-given, it is God-mandated. However, our
commission takes precedence over our obligations to maintain even as
religiously defensible a thing as family peace. Should your church happen
to schedule a baptism this Sunday, it is interesting to note that Luke's
parallel passage is preceded with a violent baptismal reference. "I have a
baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is
accomplished!" (Lk 12:50) Baptism is too often perceived as a living
Hallmark card. To remind the congregation that baptism is more than just
a photo opportunity/family gathering is in keeping with the passage.

We also learn that the unfinished commission turns our lives
and expectations upside down. William Blake's poem, "Eternity," reflects
the sense of losing and gaining being switched:

"He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy.
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sunrise."

Holding on and letting go are reversed in this paradox. The suffering that we all experience is not an end in itself. It is part of a process. The point is not simply to lug a cross around; it is to take up one's cross AND to follow.

Finally, we learn that there will be solidarity in this process, that
by joining the unfinished commission we join others. Verses 40-42 tell of
a solidarity among Christians, a connection that is the body of Christ. The
passage which began so violently, with the bursting in of the sword, ends
ever so gently, with a cup of water for the "little ones." If sentimentality
about family is smashed earlier, we learn here that the commission is not
loveless or heartless. Loyalty is redefined; love is reaffirmed.


Albright, W.F., and Mann, C.S. THE ANCHOR BIBLE: MATTHEW. Garden City:
New York: Doubleday & Co., 1971.

Beare, F.W. THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW. New York: Harper & Row, 1981.

Blake, William. "Eternity," in THE POETRY AND PROSE OF WILLIAM BLAKE, edited
by David Erdman. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co., 1970.

Fenton, J.C. SAINT MATTHEW. Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1963.


O GOD OF EARTH AND ALTAR (LBW 428) would make an appropriate
first hymn, opening the service with a statement of some of the ills in the
theme, with the refrain, "You, O Christ, are there." A sermon hymn might
well emphasize the solidarity of believers engaged in the commission,
TODAY (LBW 188, although the Episcopal version is vastly better, being
complete, cf. ELW 450) would also be a fine choice, emphasizing the connection
between baptism and the commitment to the commission. Other baptismal
hymns might also be appropriate. THROUGH THE NIGHT OF DOUBT AND
SORROW (LBW 355, ELW 327) would end the service appropriately on the theme of
pilgrimage. THE CHURCH'S ONE FOUNDATION (LBW 369, ELW 654) would also go well at the end.

If the unfinished commission is the theme of the day, one might well incorporate it into the intercessory prayers and passing of the peace. This might also be an appropriate time for baptism or the affirmation of baptism in the incorporation of new members. We are all engaged in the unfinished commission. We have joined in media res. To witness others joining in media res today emphasizes the nature of the common pilgrimage.

Exegete: Rev. Jessica Crist
Bishop, Montana Synod / ELCA

or Peter and Paul, Apostles may be observed:

Lexegete ™ | Year A | Matthew


June 29, 2008
Acts 12:1-11
Psalm 87:1-3, 5-7 (3)
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18
John 21:15-19

Note: The Peter & Paul pericope is noted by Luther in his essay
“On the War Against the Turk,” (1529, trans. Jacobs) in the new boxed set of Luther’s Selected Writings, found here:,M1

[ For more on Luther and Muslims, see “Luther on the Turks and Islam” by Gregory J. Miller in T. Wengert, ed., in HARVESTING LUTHER’S REFLECTIONS on THEOLOGY, ETHICS, AND THE CHURCH (Eerdmans, 2003.) ]

Regarding Acts 12:1-11, see Paul F. Stuehrnberg, “The Study of Acts Before the Reformation...,” (Novum Testamentum, 1987, v. 3, BRILL and also his study writings on the “God-fearers” in Luther’s translation of Acts (Sixteenth Century Journal 1989, v. 20 n. 3: 4-7-415.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has excellent notes on the Timothy text at:

An apt hymn for Peter & Paul would be “There is a Balm in Gilead” (ELW 614).

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