Jan 22, 2011

Peace in a greeting, peace for eternal life: in full

As I recently posted the devotion at Seeking A Kingdom, Peace in a greeting, peace for eternal life, I was a little constrained by the devotional format. That is okay, at least in part, as I tend to be wordy. But, I also wanted to give the full thrust of what I intended to say. I will let you be the judge, if you have read the devotional post, let me know if they are comparable, or if one is lacking? Or, maybe I didn't do justice to either? Either way, here it is.

Consider Matthew 10:7-15 as the text for this meditation. I would also like to draw focus on Matthew 10:11. The contrast of going with nothing is accentuated with the command of going into the homes of those who are found to have been worthy, that though they have nothing, they have sustenance and shelter provided by them that are worthy. (Mark 6:10, Luke 9:4)

And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. (Mat 10:12-13)

This is ironically, a greeting that is customary in Middle-Eastern/Jewish culture. It is also said by some commentators that the blessing of the disciples through their presence and prayers is in view in the peace to you salutation. But if the house is unworthy, or inhospitable, this instruction, let your peace return to you, implies a retraction of the blessing on an unworthy household.

We greet those we visit with gifts, and blessings, and sometimes with statements like Ata Shalom! Peace to you and your house!

If we investigate the Lord's usage of the phrase, we see it only occurs post-resurrection. Examples include Luke 24:26, and John 20:19-26. The only other time we see this phrase outside of the New Testament is in the Old.

Genesis 43:23 And he said, Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money. And he brought Simeon out unto them.

Please, do not misunderstand me here. I am not promoting the prosperity of wealth and riches, and the subsequent peace that is brought with financial security. But it is noteworthy that the peace spoken of here is that which is brought through provision God had given the Israelite's through the hand of Joseph, by means of Egypt, which in turn is an interesting provision for Hebrews indeed.

Turning back to Matthew 10:14-15 now. What words would the disciples have been bringing to the households they visit? Is it inherent in the blessing contained in the phrase Peace be unto you? Or is it simply a prayer of blessing upon entry or departure from household to household? The instruction then comes, and brings some clarity laden with conviction in v14. Jesus says, "when you depart out that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet." When Jews would travel from Gentile roads and cities and then return to Jewish land, they would shake the dust from their feet because of its unworthiness, they believed it would defile the 'Holy Land.' This is interesting for us to observe, because in Matthew 10:6, it is the lost sheep of Israel the Lord is sending them to.

In Matthew 10:15, the Lord pronounces condemnation upon rejection that the disciples will inevitably receive. The paradigm that is given for them is the tolerance for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment. Simply stated, those who reject the disciples will have it far worse than the city that was leveled by the wrath of God through hellfire and brimstone.

I believe the peace being brought to these households is the same peace that Christ brought to the disciples when they were locked away in fear and trembling because of the Jews (John 20:19). This peace is the news that the Father has sent the Lord Jesus, and he now sends us. And this peace is the same that greeted the doubting Thomas (John 20:26) who was then convinced of the Lords resurrection upon witnessing a living Christ.

The punishment Sodom and Gomorrah received was not due to a total lack of hospitality, as some have claimed, and some of us have heard. We know that they received punishment because of their wickedness, and received death the first time, and an eternal punishment slated for the next. They however did not receive the peace of the gospel. The missing piece there is the glorious news of a resurrected savior from the mouths of those who are witnesses thereof! Those who receive, then believe.

Looking at Mark 6:12 and Luke 9:5-6 we can see clearly this message the disciples brought. We also see the peace given unto others in their homes and towns, and that is that men everywhere should repent. Whoever rejects this message, rejects the Messiah, the one who issued the command with authority from on high. This rejection of the Christ is a testimony against them.

We preach Christ and him crucified. We rejoice in the power of him resurrected. And, we bring peace to those who receive it, believe it, and are baptized into his body.


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