An investigation of the possible Hebrew background of one of Jesus’ most difficult sayings.
Would you give a hungry child a poisonous arachnid to eat? Probably not, because even sinful human beings are not totally depraved. Would God give you something dangerous and destructive when you ask him for help? Certainly not, because he is the source and foundation of all goodness. In the Fathers Give Good Gifts simile, Jesus concludes his reassuring arguments that God can be trusted to provide for his full-time disciples when they pray the Lord’s Prayer.
When Jesus’ twelve emissaries to Israel returned from their mission, thrilled by their success at exorcising demons, Jesus described to them a vision of the expulsion of Satan from heaven. The vision’s message was double-edged: on the one hand, the downfall of the angelic prince meant that the way was opened for the redemption of Israel; on the other hand, having fallen to earth, Satan was about to unleash his fury against God’s chosen people.
The Apostle and Sender saying (Matt. 10:40; Luke 10:16) not only gave assurance to Jesus’ emissaries as he sent them out on their first healing and teaching mission, it also offers us an extraordinary glimpse into Jesus’ high self-awareness as the shāliaḥ, or official representative, of Israel’s God. In this segment of the Life of Yeshua commentary, David N. Bivin, JP’s editor-in-chief, and Joshua N. Tilton envision how Jesus’ Apostle and Sender saying may have been worded in Hebrew and explore the Jewish backgrounds of this profound saying.
One day Yeshua called his disciples together and chose twelve of them to be his emissaries to Israel. Their names were Shimon Petros and Andrai (his brother), Yaakov, Yohanan, Pelipah, Talmai’s son, Matai, Tomah, Yaakov Halfi’s son, zealous Shimon, Yehudah Yaakov’s son, and Yehudah from Keriyot, who was a traitor.
When three eager prospective disciples asked permission to follow Jesus, Jesus responded to each of them with a riddle. Why would God allow Jesus and his followers to sleep on the ground when he provides safe places even for the animals to sleep? How can the dead bury a corpse? Why would a disciple set his hand to a plow when Elisha had given up plowing in order to follow Elijah? These riddles would have to be puzzled over before their meaning was fully understood. But each of the riddles were ominous, and it appears that each of the three prospective disciples reconsidered his desire to join Jesus.