“Peace to this household…”

This coming Sunday is the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time. In yesterday’s post the disciples received their “marching orders.” In today’s post they receive instructions on how to conduct themselves while on the mission. The instructions for how the disciples should receive hospitality are expanded from 9:4, which simply commanded that they stay wherever they were received. Here the instruction has two parts, with commentary on each: (1) say, “Peace to this house,” and (2) remain in the house where you are received.

The peace they offer seems like a tangible gift or even a living reality with a mind of its own. This notion of peace rests on the biblical concept of the word of God as being not only a message but somehow an embodiment of God’s own personality and power (Isa 55:10–11; Jer 20:8–9). The peace-wish of the Christian missionary is more than an expression of good will — it is the offer of a gift from God of which they are privileged to be the ministers and heralds (see 1:2; Acts 6:4). Those who bring spiritual gifts can expect their physical needs to be taken care of by the beneficiaries (v. 7; see Gal 6:6 “the one who is being instructed in the Word should share all good things with his instructor.”).

The Twelve were to remain in the one house in any one town (9:4) and this applies to the seventy also. They are to have no compunction about receiving their meals free, for the laborer deserves his payment (cf. 1 Tim. 5:18). This is a principle of wide application that has sometimes been overlooked in Christian activities. But if the laborer is worth his wages he is not worth more. The disciples are not to go from house to another. That would mean engaging in a social round and being entertained long after they have done their work. There is an urgency about their mission. They must press on.

When the preachers are welcomed they are to accept hospitality, eating what is put in front of them. In the area beyond Jordan to which they were apparently going there were many Gentiles and the food offered might not always satisfy the rigorist for ceremonial purity. They were not to be sidetracked into meticulousness about food and food laws. They were to heal and to preach, the content of their message being that the kingdom of God is at hand.

Three instructions are given regarding the conduct of the mission in each village: (1) Eat what is provided, (2) heal the sick (cf. Matt 10:8), and (3) announce the kingdom. The three facets of the mission encompass the creation of community (table fellowship), care of physical needs, and proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom. The disciples, therefore, were charged to continue the three facets of Jesus’ work in Galilee.

Of course there was the possibility that the disciples and their mission would not be received. Jesus provides instructions for that scenario: Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, ‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.’ (Luke 10:10-11). This act is a symbol of complete dissociation with Jesus and the mission.

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