Gospel Reading: Mt 10:16-23
Jesus said to his Apostles: “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves. But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to another. Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”
BEHOLD, I AM SENDING YOU
Jesus has been instructing his Apostles as they are sent out to do the work of the Kingdom. Now, in a compelling mixture of images, Jesus warns them that he is sending them out “like sheep in the midst of wolves,” so they are to be “shrewd as serpents and simple as doves” (v 16). In pulling these three animals into the same picture—vulnerable sheep, crafty serpents, and gentle doves—Jesus is being both candid about the perils of discipleship and wise about the approach disciples should take in the face of those dangers.
Jesus names some of the painful experiences that the disciples can anticipate, and surely the first readers of Matthew’s gospel will recognize these. In the volatile religious and cultural background of the first century, missionaries from Matthew’s community will experience being disciplined by religious councils, called on the carpet before public officials, rejected by members of their own families, and hated by many for their mission labors (cf vv 17-22).
The disciples can expect conflict and even persecutions because they are representatives of Jesus. A disciple is like his teacher, a slave like his master (cf 10:25).
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