V. 10: “But when you enter a town and are not welcomed…” It’s a bit ironic that he’s sending them out with a message of peace and healing and that that wouldn’t be welcomed. Is it because we’re suspicious: if it sounds too good to be true, it is? Or maybe it’s the religion angle, because of its perceived subjectivity or relativity. Religions confront, they can make people uncomfortable, and they usually mandate change. So it can be a tough sell, even when the message is that of “peace.” For sure I’m not open to hardly anyone who comes to the door with amazing, groundbreaking messages of whatever they’re selling. Surprisingly, not everyone wants to receive the message of peace. Not everyone wants to be healed. It could also be a natural hostility to the things of God.
So they are to wipe the dust off their feet “against you.” My immediate thought is, “That’s a little weird.” But it’s somewhat a personification of the ground, as if the ground could give testimony against their rejection. , sort of like in Gen. 3 where the ground cries out to God with Abel’s blood.
“Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.” Hm. Their rejection will not stop or change the forward march of or the growth of the Kingdom of God. The gates of hell themselves will not prevail against it. Every civilization has imagined that life has meaning, that history is heading somewhere. Utopian and apocalyptic futures alike are imagined in cultures everywhere, regardless of religion or level of development. In the covenants to Israel, unfolded over thousands of years of prophetic visions, God promised a kingdom of restored human rule on the throne of David. Wrongs would be made right, the curse would be reversed, and the sons and daughters of God would replace the alien invaders of God’s good creation.
When Jesus stood in Nazareth and read of the kingdom of God, the concept was hardly new. What was new, enough to provoke a violent riot, was Jesus’ declaration that the kingdom of God had shown up, and that the Day of the Lord was here. Jesus’ hearers understood how insane and megalomaniacal it sounded for Jesus to identify himself with the coming of God’s new order. They wanted the glory, power, and security of the kingdom, but with Jesus merely a means to that end.
But Jesus didn’t back down. Everywhere he went he announced the kingdom, and demonstrated its arrival by turning back the curse in all its forms. He is unperturbed by evil spirits, natural forces, and biological decay—they retreat at the sound of his voice. Why? Because, as he put it, “if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive our demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Mt. 12.28). As the King, Jesus established himself as a wise ruler with dominion over his own appetites, with a will, affections, and conscience directed by his Father instead of the “god of this age.” Free from the one power evil spirits have over the image-bearers of God—the accusation of sin (Jn. 14.30)—he walked through human suffering, temptation, and the curse of death itself to wrest humanity from the Accuser’s fingers.
Jesus fulfilled both the hopes embedded in human psyches everywhere and, more specifically, the kingdom promises God made to the people of Israel. He applied that nation’s imagery—of temple, vine, shepherd, light of the nations, and so forth—to himself first, and then to those who are found in him. God’s purposes for creation and for his people are found in Jesus: cursed and condemned and handed over to Satan, but raised from the dead and marked out with the Spirit (Ezk. 37.1-14; Rom. 1.4). His teaching prepared his people, through stories and pictures and signs, for life in his new kingdom. And then he ushered it in as “the firstborn from the dead,” the “first-fruits” of God’s new creation project. The kingdom of God is near, indeed, and it cannot be stopped.