Matthew 10:5-15 Part 3

This is the third of three sermons on the verses – five through fifteen of chapter ten. And we may get to an introduction, here in verse sixteen, of Jesus’ warnings to the apostles about what they’ll find when they get out there – and I’m referring to the virulent resistance to the authority of Christ which the apostles will encounter when they go out to find the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And I’m also referring to the violent effect of being found by Christ – and following Him!

(And as we proceed with the preaching of the Gospel this morning, it is for the Church in San Antonio to know, and the listeners of the tapes, that I am preaching on Sunday, the twentieth of January 1991, which is the Lord’s Day following the beginning of the war with Iraq.) It goes without saying that this is an uncomfortable time – a time in which many of us have been glued to our TVs, and a time during which I’ve done a lot of reflection on God and His Sovereign working of all events to the end that He, Himself, is ultimately glorified.

It’s a time during which I’ve forced myself to concentrate on the fact that this is God who brings down kings and raises up other ones. And, as we will learn later on in this chapter, not even the smallest thing – not even the smallest event – passes by without His total attention! Even though things appear to be in disarray, they are not. And we are not to put our trust in kings or armies, but in the Lord God of Israel – Yahveh – Jesus Christ the King. 

And we are not to be distracted - that is, we are not to allow our minds to be taken away – we are not to become double-minded – thereby becoming anxious, about things that are taking place. But to look through it into a faithful anticipation of God – Who loves His world – bringing to its fullness the glory of His Kingdom.

God has not – and will not – abandon the least aspect of the architecture of His new Temple. And He will not neglect the least need of His virgin Bride – the Church, for it is His very Body.

And although He has not forgotten – and will not forget – the retribution which He promised to all idolatrous nations, there is a special tenderness in the very nature of God for His elect people! As we said last Lord’s Day in the comments on the atonement, that tenderness is due to the covering of sin by the blood of Christ and the objective satisfaction of God’s retributive wrath and anger. For that reason God does love His people. And even though we are not above His begotten Son – and so have to suffer with Him and in Him – we therefore still have this almost incomprehensible security – even in this vast creation called the universe – we still have this security and peace which is explainable only in the Gospel.

Without it there can only be this lostness and dread for whatever might come to pass. But in the Gospel of the Kingdom Jesus Christ gives His people light and life and hope and anticipation and optimism and victory and – security. And the steadfastness and perseverance and unshakable faith which comes from living in Christ just thrusts us right through the uncertainties of rulers rising and falling from power. There is no lostness and dread of what might come to pass.

And although the toll of human suffering which tyrants cause is heart-breaking in the greatest sense of that word, there is stability in the Kingdom to which we belong. We never have to worry about unjust rule, brutality, abdication, overthrow, or the King’s death. And our full anticipation is the worldwide salvation prophesied in the Old Testament Scriptures.

And a glorious example of God’s love for His people is set forth in these verses of Matthew chapter ten, and Jesus empowers His disciples with EXOUSIA in order that they might go out and find these sheep who are lost – one by one. They have been flayed and cast down and bruised and scattered by pseudo-leaders and teachers, but God has not forgotten them. He gives His Own authority to specially commissioned men to go and find them and bind up their wounds, give sight to blind eyes, hearing to deaf ears – to provide light where there’s been only the darkness of prison, to bring them into the new temple where they worship the One True God through the perfect sacrifice.

And now there is no loathsome, fearful darkness and chaos for them, for fear and uncertainty is removed from the breasts of those who live faithfully in the Body of the Son of God. And I would offer these things to you this morning – in the wake of the harsh brutalities of depraved men – you who belong to Him have the only security available to creation. There is none other God than Him. And in Him there is no uncertainty. And chaotic events like war aren’t fearsome events when your security rests in His good intentions.

In the last sermon Jesus was instructing His apostles what to do in finding the lost sheep of the house of Israel – the remnant of Israel who have not bowed the knee to the Baal philosophies of the world order, who love the Lord God with all their hearts, and who are still looking with great anticipation for the Christ to come and set up His Kingdom. These are people who are the elect sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the remainder of an apostate nation.

They are small in number in comparison to those in the history of the nation, and in comparison to the population in Israel at the time of Christ. And they are scattered in darkness into the towns and villages of Israel and Jerusalem. And they are in the remotest parts of the earth – the isles and nations of the world.

The apostles’ mission is in the region of Galilee – probably to last no longer than a few weeks – to go into all the towns and villages and find the ones who are worthy – that is, the ones whose response matches the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom – to stay there until their preaching is complete in that town, and then to go to the next town.

Now, I’m not going into a full description of what a proper response to preaching is right now – because it comes up again in more detail later on in this chapter. But just let me say again what I’ve said before – that when the messengers of the King are sent out with His authority to preach the Good News of the Kingdom, the hearers were to hear the voice of the King Himself. Paul the apostle actually says that when the Gospel is preached people hear HIM!

Verses twelve and thirteen are fascinating. Let me read them again: 

“Then as you are coming into the house greet it (salute it). And if that house is worthy, put your peace upon it; but if that one isn’t worthy, your peace shall be turned back to you.”

Now, that salute I mentioned isn’t like a military salute. That kind of salute wouldn’t have very much value in finding lost sheep, would it? What this is is a salutation – which comes from the same root word as “salute.” A salutation is a greeting.

The Greek word here is aspasmos which means to give an all-embracing salutation. And this was a very important thing to do. You remember of course that Paul, at the beginning of his letters to the Churches, begins with a salutation – such as, “Grace and peace to you.” You may also remember the angel Gabriel’s greeting to Mary when he came to her before she was to become pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit.

And certainly the primary event which comes instinctively into our minds as believers when we think of a greeting is the greeting of Christ to His apostles after the resurrection: “Peace to you.” That’s so significant because “peace” means the absence of enmity between God and man; and Jesus had just accomplished that! He had taken away the reason for the wrath of God toward the world, thereby creating the state of “peace.” And when He comes into the upper room where his disciples were, He “puts His peace upon them.” “Peace to you,” He says.

Now, the Pharisees were in the habit of going out into the streets in order to receive these greetings! They loved for people to come up to them and recognize them and honor them by saying “peace to you.” Receiving honor and distinction and attention was a critical thing for them, as we already know. And it seems to me that people who wear the distinctive garb of the clergy – or some insignia of the clergy – today, are looking for the same thing – for whatever reason – looking for special recognition. But that doesn’t have anything to do with this passage, does it?

In the Luke corollary passage – it so happens that Luke also has this occurrence in his chapter ten – the apostles are warned by Jesus not to take up time with greetings in the streets, but get to the place where the response is equal to the approach, and begin work!

Matthew says for them to go to a particular house and “let your peace go in upon it.” Now, the fact that the apostles were endowed with EXOUSIA empowered the greeting. And if the family received the greeting and the messenger accordingly – that is, worthily – then the power inherent in the peace which comes from God and His Prince of Peace remains on that household! But if the household was not worthy – that is, unresponsive with a corresponding gesture – the power of the authority of the apostles to preach peace would return to them, supposedly leaving the unworthy household with a curse to its destruction! A rejection of God’s peace brings ultimate disintegration.

But the greeting itself – the salute – the salutation – relayed a mighty message of grace and peace from God. And it was empowered by Christ with His EXOUSIA. So in it was the very voice of Christ. The lost sheep of the house of Israel heard the words and responded with joy – and they desired to hear more. And they welcomed the apostles and showed them hospitality, and the peace of the Prince of Peace remained.

But, as verse fourteen implies, there were many who would not welcome them, and would not hear their words. Listen: 

“And whoever does not receive you, nor hear your words, as you are leaving that house or that city, shake off the dust from your feet.”

Now, the construction of this sentence, and the forms of the words themselves, indicate that there might be entire cities, or towns, where there is no reception of the apostles. Certainly a lot of houses. And the proper response to the greetings and the preaching was both welcoming and effectual hearing! “…whoever does not welcome you, nor hear your words….” So “worthy” meant that a household would receive the apostles and welcome them as heralds of the anointed King, and they would hear their words as the voice of that King Himself.

And if that response wasn’t forthcoming, upon leaving that house, or upon leaving that city, the apostles were to “shake out the dust from their feet.” Now that ceremony was highly figurative, as you might guess. And it has heavy Theological significance, because the purpose of the King, as we’ve seen a number of times before, included a separating out of the Jewish nation – with the exception of these comparatively few lost sheep. And this word “shaking out” derives from the word which means to winnow in other places of Scripture; and “winnow” means to throw recently harvested grain up into the wind, so that the heavier grain would fall back to be gathered and the wind would carry away the chaff!

So “shaking out the dust from your feet” would have somewhat of a similar significance – a shaking out into the wind those who wouldn’t welcome the apostles and hear their words and hear the voice of the King in them. In other words they were unwanted chaff – or unwanted dust.

Of course this ceremony has a long and highly figurative history. This is the Greek word which is used in the Septuagint at Exodus fourteen, verse twenty-seven. God “shook off” or “shook out” the Egyptians in the midst of the Sea as Israel crossed over.

In Isaiah fifty-two, two Israel is exhorted to stand up and shake herself free from her Gentile captors – the animalistic Babylonians who had enslaved her for seventy years. And Paul uses the same dramatic figure when he preaches at Pisidian Antioch, and the Jews stir up opposition to him. And again when he makes his final break from the synagogue in Corinth… he shakes out the dust.

And let’s not forget the incident on the way to Rome where Paul had a viper attach itself to his hand. The word God used to describe what was done is this same word. Paul shook it off. And this particular word was obviously used for its theological significance.

So every time this ceremony is used by the apostles – or by the people of God in the Old Testament Scriptures, there was disastrous effect for those who were figuratively “shaken off.”

And that’s what we find in this passage today, don’t we? Because once the apostles have discharged their responsibilities to put their peace upon cities and households, and to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom, those refusing to welcome them and to hear their words will suffer judgment more harsh than that inflicted on Sodom and Gomorrah. (verse fifteen)

And the good and necessary conclusion from these words is certainly that the rejection of the voice of the King to submit to His rulership is tantamount to the worst of sins. In fact the homosexuality which infested the entire populations of Sodom and Gomorrah did not bring the heaviest punishment from God. But rejection of the voice of his Son does! Even though the vile nature of men with men and women with women brought the inundation of fire and brimstone from Heaven, Jesus says here that the city – and implied here also is the household – the city that will not hear the Gospel of the Kingdom will be worse off than Sodom and Gomorrah.

I think we can safely take that one step further by saying that that warning refers not only to the prolonged suffering to which these cities of Israel were finally subjected from 65 AD to 70AD, but also to a deeper degree of punishment in hell. Jesus Himself pronounces a curse against some of them later on in this Gospel.

So apparently the ceremony of “shaking out” was not only figurative but also brought concrete results. Results of death and destruction and inundation for the populace of Israel.

And I don’t mind at all making application to the Church today. Even though the text has a very tight context – a clear historical incident – Theological principle is involved here. And it can easily be applied. And that application is this: that men and women and children cannot sit under the preaching of the Gospel and continue to reject the constant call of the King for repentance and submission without suffering the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah! Or worse!

“God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son….” This world is in process of being saved. But in that process many are being winnowed out – or “shaken out.” Even though the voice of the King rings truly and clearly in the nations, many today won’t welcome the messengers and will not hear the words! It won’t be that way in the future, for most will hear and repent.

Will you be left behind? Will the winnowing wind of the Spirit of God just blow you away into outer darkness – the loathsome, obscure abandonment called Hades? And then be lumped together with the most repulsive creatures of the universe for an eternity of abandonment and torment? What will you do?

Paul says, “How then shall they call on Him Whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe Him Whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” In the preaching of the Gospel you have heard “Him.” And the single most serious issue of your life – the primary issue – is whether you enter the Kingdom or get blown away. 

It’s time for all of those who hear His voice to respond with the appropriate reaction – mourning, repentance, joy, obedience, anticipation, thanksgiving, and expansion of the Kingdom.