Matthew 10:13-18
Mat 10:13 (KJB)
And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.
Then Jesus gives them a principle. He tells them that if the house is worthy, that is, if there are those who are believers living there and are very glad to have these brethren stay with them, then let their peace abide upon the house. The house may even be unbelievers who are open to the Gospel and love the idea of hospitality. Then Jesus tells them that if you come into a house which is not worthy, maybe filled with rank unbelievers who may want to charge them and make some shekels, or filled with those who are hostile to the cause of Christ, then the peace you bid them needs to be returned to you and allow those homes to continue in the same type of unbelief.
Mat 10:14 (KJB)
And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.
As the apostles continued on their journey and they come either to a house that resists the preaching of the Gospel, or a whole town who resists the preaching of the Gospel, then they are not to stick around, instead they are to go on to the next town. However, as a sign of their hatred of the Gospel, the Apostles were to shake the dust of that town off their feet as a symbol that not even the dust of their streets were worthy to be carried around. (3 John 1:9-10 KJV) I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. {10} Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. The Apostle John had the same experience later on with a man named Diotrephes who wanted to be the top man in his church who prevented John from coming to see them. He created a very bad testimony of the Apostle and that is what the Lord is saying, that the dust where this man resides is not worthy of being carried about by one of His children.
Mat 10:15 (KJB)
Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.
Then Jesus brings up a tremendous principle. Sodom and Gomorrha were totally destroyed because of their sin and yet Jesus states that those cities which reject the preaching of the Gospel will fare worse on Judgment Day. So why does He say this? The cities where the Gospel was now being preached and this even includes modern cities and countries where the Gospel is forbidden have one thing that Sodom and Gomorrha did not. That was Light! Sodom and Gomorrha did not have anyone preaching the Gospel nor did they see any miracles of healing. The cities where the Apostles were preaching knew about Jesus and had the Hebrew Scriptures and knew about the coming Messiah, and yet they rejected Him and that is why they will do worse than Sodom and Gomorrha. The cities where the Apostles were preaching had the witness of the true Gospel and if it was rejected, they were worse off than Sodom and Gomorrha.
Mat 10:16 (KJB)
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
This is a scenario that the Apostles would have been very familiar with. Ravenous wolves were a threat to sheep everywhere. They would stalk out the flock and then wait for the right time and when the sheep started running away, they would pounce on the slowest one and then kill it for food. Jesus is telling them that as His disciples, they will be going into a very hostile world with the Gospel. The people will fight against their own salvation. Jesus is not saying to avoid them but while in their presence, they are to be wise as a serpent. A serpent will avoid any unnecessary dangers and that is why we see them living in rocks or under the sands. They are more defensive creatures than offensive. A serpent moves quietly and the followers of Christ are also to be quiet in their lives while being a testimony for Christ. They are not to retaliate against those who bring false accusations but are to be gentle or harmless as doves. They are never to provoke or plan harm to anyone, even if they oppose the Gospel. This is why the must emulate the wisdom of a serpent and the gentleness of a dove.
Mat 10:17 (KJB)
But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;
The synagogues had the authority to render civil judgments plus they also had the authority to have someone flogged if the offense warranted it. The prisoner was to be given 40 lashes but the Jews always gave 39 so they would not accidentally go over the forty. (Deu 25:3 KJV) Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee. Jesus is forewarning the apostles and all those who would come after them that the persecution would not cease. The Christians would be brought before the Jews in the synagogues and be punished for their testimony. Peter was flogged, Stephen was stoned, Paul was flogged five times. There is also a spiritual meaning to this too. When someone brings the true Gospel to a false church or brings a teaching which corrects a false teaching in their church, they may receive a spiritual flogging, that is, they may be harassed until they leave the church. Many have been brought before the Elders and Pastors because they dared to challenge the church leadership.
Mat 10:18 (KJB)
And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.
Jesus then ramps up the penalty for being His follower to the ultimate. They will face persecution beyond ecclesiastical authority and that is, they will be brought before the civil governments of different lands. Paul was before King Agrippa and his sister Bernice, and even before Nero. Jesus Himself would be brought before Pontius Pilate. Daniel placed in the lionís den of King Darius. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego went into the fiery furnace of Nebuchadnezzar. They would be brought there as a testimony for the Lord Jesus Christ and against the rulers and the Gentiles, who would be the heathens such as the unsaved Romans. Jesus was basically stressing in these few verses that the true believers would face persecution from a lowly home owner to the King of the land.