Ulrich Luz on Matthew’s Mission Discourse

Nijay Gupta has recently commented on the lack of explicit theological engagement and reflection in Joseph Fitzmyer's new commentary on 1 Corinthians.  I agree with his assessment and have been distinctly underwhelmed when working with that commentary myself in recent weeks.

So what a wonderful relief it is to engage for a while with Ulrich Luz's unsurpassed Matthew commentary.  Luz is entirely prepared to stake some claims about contemporary Christian faith and discipleship on the basis of his exegetical endeavours (endeavours which, as anyone who has used the commentary will know, are exemplary).  Here he is concluding his comments on Matt 10.5-15, and refusing to allow the Christian church in the west to wriggle away from the radical demands of Jesus:

On the one hand the entire institution of the church, including all of its members and office bearers, is challenged to take small but intentional and active steps in the directtion of greater poverty and powerlessness, of greater wholeness of its proclamation and distance from the world – and to do so in such a way that the existing form of the churches is not simply negated but changed.  There is no evangelical legitimacy of a national-churvh reality, only a practical 'legitimacy'!  On the other hand, it is indispensable for the entire church that in it (not alongside it!) individual groups and communities raise up on behalf of the entire church signs of radical homelessness, nonviolence, poverty, and holistic proclamation.

Ulrich Luz, Matthew 8-20, trans. James E. Crouch (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001), 83.
The point is that while one can argue about the extent to which the contextual circumstances of contemporary western society render a straightforward application of Jesus' teaching more problematic than Luz seems to be suggesting here, at least Luz recognizes that the question is a real one, a crucial one, that the fundamental temptation facing the church is the neglect of the question: what does this radical teaching of Jesus addressed to 1st generation intinerant kingdom-bearers have to do with us?

That the question is asked and answered in a 'critical' academic commentary is all the more cause for admiration.