Thursday, April 10, 2014

Calling His Disciples (part 9)

In Genesis twelve, following the directive to “Go out from your country, your relatives, and your father’s household to the land that I will show you” (12:1b), from which one could easily infer a being with (I will show you) and a sending out (go out from), Abraham’s God continues His promise, saying “Then I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great, so that you will exemplify divine blessing” (12:2).  This could very well serve to round out what Mark intends to convey with his talk of the disciples being with Jesus so as to be sent by Jesus. 

It is not difficult in the least to here create one of those points of contact between the Gospel narrative and the Abrahamic covenant.  The disciples being with Jesus is functionally equivalent to the Creator God’s promise to make Abraham into a great nation, along with blessing him  and making his name great, which clearly allows for the assertion that the sending of the disciples to preach and to have authority to cast out demons is an exemplification of divine blessing. 

Turning again to Matthew with that exemplification of divine blessing, being with, and sending in mind, the same motif can be found to be at work, as the tenth chapter commences with a record that “Jesus called His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits so they could cast them out and heal every kind of disease and sickness” (10:1).  After an interlude in which Matthew takes the time to name the disciples as part of his narrative that will be primarily communicated orally, the reader can pick up at the fifth verse and find that “Jesus sent out these twelve” (10:5a). 

Clearly, conceptions concerning the Abrahamic covenant are strongly at play, with this mindset having been created by speaking about the leaving of a father (in the fourth chapter), along with the general Abrahamic mindset held by the people as part of their self-definition and self-understanding.  After restricting His disciples, at this point, to the land of Israel alone, Jesus further instructs them to preach that “The kingdom of heaven is near!” (10:7b)  This actually makes sense of the temporary limitation of the message to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (10:6b), as this message of the kingdom of heaven being near would not be immediately comprehensible to Gentiles (they would first need to be steeped in the covenant history of Israel).  In a sense then, this is yet another part of the “being with Him” that can be seen in Mark. 

Jesus goes on to describe the activities that would exemplify divine blessings to be carried out in their sending, by saying “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.  Freely you received, freely give” (10:8).  Then, a little bit later, and just in case one may be doubting that the story of Abraham is in mind in these Gospel presentations and in the minds of the audiences, Jesus is reported to have explicitly called attention to the story of Abraham and Lot, doing so in relation to His mention of Sodom and Gomorrah. 

He effectively describes the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, before making the connection explicit at the very end, by adding “Whenever you enter a town or village, find out who is worthy there and stay with them until you leave.  As you enter the house, give it greetings.  And if the house is worthy, let your peace come on it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.  And if anyone will not welcome you or listen to your message, shake the dust off your feet as you leave that house or town.  I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for the region of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town” (10:11-14).  

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