As we enter our third week of Gospel lessons from Jesus’ commissioning of the twelve with its concurrent warning of the persecution to come, the astute preacher will note that the tenor of the conversation has changed dramatically. From rejection by family and being dragged into court, Jesus turns his focus back on what sort of welcome his disciples can hope to receive as they enter various towns and villages. You’ll recall from two weeks ago (in the optional portion of a lesson that we rarely hear in the Season after Pentecost therefore effectively castrating this three-part lesson, but I digress, as is my wont, in ranting about the failures of the RCL) that early on, Jesus imagined for his disciples what hospitality might look like.
“Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.”
In Sunday’s lesson, he circles back around to the topic of hospitality, perhaps to end this commissioning on a positive note, but more likely, given the growing number of travelling missionaries by Matthew’s time, to encourage the wider audience to not give up on the several Hebrew Bible injunctions on hospitality. To welcome a messenger of the Gospel, like one of the twelve, and later Paul, Barnabas, and Priscilla, to name a few, was to welcome Jesus himself into one’s home, and to welcome Jesus was to welcome God almighty under one’s roof.
As I’ve talked about over the past few weeks, being a disciples of Jesus was dangerous for the first three hundred or so years of Christianity. Being an Apostle of Jesus, one who is sent to proclaim the Good News, was even more so. The call to martyrdom was answered by thousands in those early years, and yet, those who went and those who welcomed them remained faithful. While we focus on the great evangelists of the day, the Acts of the Apostles reminds us that without people like Lydia and Mary the Mother of John Mark the Gospel of Jesus would not have been able to spread like it did. As we reflect on our own call to go and tell, it would behoove us also to think about how we might open our homes to welcome prophets, apostles, and even Jesus himself.