Matthew 11:1 After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.
I think the NIV translators did their readers a real disservice here by saying, “in the towns of Galilee,” when in a footnote they do say, “Greek in their towns” Thankfully the Japanese sticks with the Greek, because I think it’s significant. The context of this verse is extremely important, and the Japanese picks that up better, too, using “cautioning in this way” instead of “instructing.” Chapter 10 is all about how Jesus sent out the 12, and the content is worthy of an entire seminary course, in my opinion. He told them all about how they would run into trouble with their own families, and even be arrested, but that God would be with them. It was specifically on that basis that He then went to teach in their towns. I’m sure there were several disciples, if not all of them, who were pretty nervous about that. He was going to make waves, and they might get caught in the undertow! It was in this context that John the Baptist’s disciples showed up. He of course had been imprisoned, and would shortly be killed, for failing to be politically correct in speaking the truth. That was a graphic example of the opposition the disciples too would face over the years of their ministry. We tend to hang back at the prospect of backlash, but Jesus had no such hesitation. We need to remember that the disciples were mostly from right around where Jesus Himself was raised, and people had already threatened to kill Him in His own “home town.” (Luke 4:14-30) It is generally far easier to proclaim truth to strangers than to those close to us, but Jesus makes it clear that we aren’t to back off from either.
I am something of an anomaly, because I have always been considered an outsider even in my own home town, simply for racial reasons. Also, my immediate family were and are believers, so I’ve never had any conflict there to my following Christ. Cathy likewise grew up in a Christian family and of course lives in Japan, but when we visit rural Virginia where she grew up, she gets a mix of awe at being a “real live missionary” and distrust that she might “show them up” for their lukewarm Christianity. Right now she feels more “at home” here in Omura! All that said, I have a strong streak of conflict avoidance; I don’t like to fight. I have backed off of far too many situations where I needed to be more assertive as a representative of Christ. I need to be willing to be disliked! I’m to deal with everyone with “gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15-16) but accept that people aren’t always going to treat me that way.
Father, thank You for this strong Word. Right now I feel fairly universally liked, and that’s nice, but at the same time I haven’t brought very many people into Your kingdom. I ask You to show me when and how I have backed off when I shouldn’t have, so that Your Word may penetrate more hearts to cut off their chains. (Hebrews 4:12) May I always speak the truth in love, but also never fail to speak the truth, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!