Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town

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David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton suggest a Hebrew reconstruction of Jesus' instructions about how the twelve apostles were to behave when they entered a town. In this pericope we learn about the giving and receiving of hospitality among Jesus' earliest followers. We also learn what may be wrong about the popular view that shaking the dust from the apostles' feet was a symbolic action meant to signal to Jews who rejected Jesus that they were henceforth to be considered as Gentiles.

Matt. 10:11-15; 11:1; Mark 6:10-13; Luke 9:4-6; 10:5-12

(Huck 58, 63, 109, 139; Aland 99, 105, 142, 177; Crook 105-109, 121, 162, 200-201)[1]

וּלְאֵי זֶה בַּיִת שֶׁתִכָּנְסוּ אִמְרוּ תְּחִילָה שָׁלוֹם לַבַּיִת הַזֶּה וְאִם יֵשׁ שָׁם בֶּן שָׁלוֹם יָנוּחַ עָלָיו שְׁלוֹמְכֶם וְאִם לָאו עֲלֵיכֶם יָשׁוּב וּבְאוֹתוֹ הַבַּיִת שְׁבוּ אוֹכְלִים וְשׁוֹתִים לָהֶם כִּי כְּדַי הַפּוֹעֵל לִשְׂכָרוֹ אַל תֵּצְאוּ מִבַּיִת לְבַיִת וּלְאֵי זוֹ עִיר שֶׁתִכָּנְסוּ וִיקַבְּלוּ אֶתְכֶם רַפְּאוּ אֶת הַחוֹלִים בָּהּ וְאִמְרוּ לָהֶם הִגִּיעָה עֲלֵיכֶם מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם וּלְאֵי זוֹ עִיר שֶׁתִכָּנְסוּ וְלֹא יְקַבְּלוּ אֶתְכֶם צְאוּ מִן הָעִיר הַהִיא וְאֶת הָאָבָק מֵעַל רַגְלֵיכֶם נַעֲרוּ לְעֵדָה בָּהֶם אָמֵן אֲנִי אוֹמֵר לָכֶם נוֹחַ יִהְיֶה לִסְדוֹם בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא מֵהָעִיר הַהִיא

“When you enter a house, first say, ‘May this family have peace!’ If a person who is committed to peace is there, the peace you offer will remain with him. But if no such person resides there, the peace you offered will not remain. Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they have to share, for the worker deserves his pay. Don’t hop around from family to family.

If you enter a town where they receive you, heal the sick who are there and say, ‘God’s redeeming reign is here!’ But if you enter a town where they won’t receive you, leave the town and shake the dust off your feet as a sign that makes them face up to their inhospitable treatment toward strangers. Yes! It will go easier for Sodom on the day of reckoning than for a town that fails to show you hospitality.[2]


Reconstruction

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Conclusion

In the Conduct in Town pericope Jesus explained to his apostles how they were to behave when arriving in a town. The apostles were to accept hospitality from strangers and share their message of peace which would avert national catastrophe. The apostles were to demonstrate the inbreaking of God’s redemptive reign by healing the sick. If a town refused to extend hospitality to the apostles, then, as they departed, the apostles were to confront the townsfolk with dramatic proof of the town’s inhospitality: they were to shake off the dust that the townspeople ought to have washed from their feet when they arrived. Jesus commented on the fate of towns that are inhospitable to strangers: on the day of reckoning it will be worse for such towns than it will be for Sodom.

Adam Elsheimer, Jupiter and Mercury in the House of Philemon and Baucis (ca. 1608). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Adam Elsheimer, Jupiter and Mercury in the House of Philemon and Baucis (ca. 1608). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.