Exodus 19:2-8; Ps. 100; Rom. 5:6-15; Matt. 9:35—10:20
Priests, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (vv. 5, 6a).
From Shakespeare we have fatherly advice to a son leaving on journey, “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man” (Hamlet, Act I, Scene III).
This wisdom echoes Jesus sending his Apostles as lambs among wolves (Mt. 10:16, 17). So too, it is imperative that Christians know who we are: our nature, identity, and purpose, conducting ourselves in accord. From Advent to Pentecost, the church has been lavished with the revelation of God’s nature, identity and, purposes in his Son, previously veiled through the OT period.
Knowledge of God and self is not essentially doctrinal; rather, within the frame of Scripture, knowledge (cf. Jn. 17:3) is importantly relational, fleshly, and experiential as Christ comes to his church. Without intimate knowledge, it is impossible to be true to God’s salvation in the world.
It is God’s revelation through the second half of the year that engages us, “The Time of The Church”. Heading-up “church time” is the festival of The Holy Trinity, observing Jesus’ “Great Commission” to the world. The first creation was a “begetting of the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 2:4); but in the new creation God begets the man Jesus Christ (Mt.1:1; cf. Ps. 2:7) for a new lineage by Baptism, Resurrection, and sending the Spirit.
All that goes-on from Matthew’s first to last verse preaches to Holy Baptism and fellowship in Jesus’ sacrificial flesh. In these holy things, the church has her being, identity, name, and purpose; a Baptized-Eucharistic people, a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation”.
Last Sunday Jesus applied to his NT progeny, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the HS, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (28:19, 20).
Today’s Gospel, recounts a similar, but different sending-purpose; Jesus sends his Apostles only to the Jews. In this endeavor Jesus warned of persecution from authorities (10:17). In view of the imminent “end of the [Jewish] age” the apostolic preaching would be a parochial enterprise (vv. 5, 6), of the end of their nation, Land, Holy City, temple, and religion. Jesus tells his Apostles, “…truly… you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes” (Mt. 10:23b).
Jesus is not speaking of his coming on the “Last Day” (Rev. 22:12); rather its warning portent of judgment, by the end of the OT epoch. There was a 40-year overlap from the time of Jesus’ elevation on the cross to Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD.
Jesus, seemingly powerless, stood before the Sanhedrin; nevertheless, he rendered verdict upon Caiaphas, “I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mt. 26:64b). From that moment, the clock ticked, marking Israel’s time for urgent repentance and grace; so also, in these last days, the “Time of the Church”, the world must come to grips with final separation; either as sheep or goats.
Jesus’ commission was, first to the Jews, proclaiming the OT church’s reconstitution to a New Covenant in his blood that testified old Judaic skins, without bursting, could not contain God’s new wine (Mt. 9:17) of universal salvation in Christ, our new Adam (Rom. 5:15).
Jesus’ warning of coming judgment, “from now on”, began with his exultation on the cross, darkened heavens, earthquakes, torn temple curtain, and dead saints rising (Mt. 27:51-54), all culminating forty years later for verdict execution: personal and national judgement.
“From [then] on” Caiaphas witnessed Jesus’ church in authority and conversion, overtaking the old temple hegemony, until 70 AD. when the Son of Man arrived on divine clouds to employ the Roman Eagle in violent judgment on Israel’s rejection of grace in God’s Messiah.
What then is our Christian take-away; just this, old Israel was called out of bondage to be God’s covenant people in the world. To this purpose they were baptized through the Red Sea and consecrated on Sinai with blood. They alone were God’s agents for revelation of salvation in the world. Like Caesar's wife, by their vow (Ex 19:8) Israel was to be above suspicion of infidelity.
By grace, not merit, Israel was God’s “treasured possession. In the Promised Land, Israel would live holy lives, witness to God’s Law for revelation of sin (Rom. 5:13) and his ethic; be a beacon of his compassionate love; intercede, pray for, and teach for receiving new identity and purpose beyond idolatry. Instead Israel repeatedly played the adulteress in the world’s sin.
In the fullness of time God sent his only Son into our flesh. As obedient Son, Jesus at Baptism, completed on the cross, was ordained true Israel in place of faithless Israel. In the Resurrection Jesus’ church baptized in his Spirit was joined to him; new Israel in the world.
Old Israel had been untrue to themselves; the result was their demise. Before the day of Pentecost, Peter, like Jesus to Caiaphas, unpacked Judas’ rejection of Judah’s office, going “to…his own place” (Acts 2:25). Peter employed Scripture, “Let another take his office” (1:20b; Ps. 109:8). Of Israel’s infidelity to office, Jesus became true Israel and High Priest gathering a new Israel, a faithful kingdom of Priests and holy nation.
Because resurrected Jesus is faithful Son as a man, we having heard the church’s proclamation, believe. By the HS we come to Baptism for God’s Bread of Life; his word and Eucharist, at once our priestly work of witness and feeding in thanksgiving.
Sustained in Christ we pray, first acclaiming, “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!” (Introit, Ps. 67:3) and in Christ “to our own selves true” to the God and Father of our salvation. Amen.