This series of passages shows a progression of being sent out. The first passage is Jesus’ immediate 12 disciples being sent out. Their mission was to tell about the Kingdom of God and to heal people. Pretty simple goals. Difficult mission. This seems to be the test run, for Jesus later sends out 72.
These 72 are told that there are few workers. The 12 didn’t get that “pep-talk”. In both cases, they (whether 12 or 72) are to only preach to those who are open. Jesus tells them to “shake the dust off” if people are not receptive. In our day and age where were seek to not offend, this can seem pretty harsh. Yet, often we are called to plant seeds and move on so that we can plant more seeds. If you plant one seed, but just stay in one place to make sure it grows, everywhere else you could have gone remain unseeded.
Even still, there is a balance. While they are directed to move from town to town, while they are in one town, they only stay in one place. This is a not-so-subtle reminder that humans play politics. The latest prophet (or one sent by that prophet) is the latest “star”. Imagine how far too many people would clamor to host them, creating strife in a community where the Kingdom of God is being preached.
However, the last “sending” has a much darker and starker tone. Now, they are to be fully prepared and even armed. As an aside, many commentators struggle with Jesus telling them to have swords while at the same time being the Prince of Peace and (to many) a pacifist. That’s actually what makes this third sending so dark and stark. The reality of the world is that being foolish means that you will be destroyed. Now, there is the pacifist route, the self-defense route, and the armed aggressor route. As we look back at history, there is no question that the armed aggressor “evangelism” is against the Kingdom of God. Where the balance between pacifism and self-defense is a discussion that is still going on to this day.
Regardless, though, we know that the ways and the hows of sharing about the Kingdom of God are always changing. The message does (and must) remain the same, but how we share it changes constantly. One of the most common phrases used is, “this is the way we’ve always done it.” While, at the same time, how groceries, tools, gas, cars, and many other things are purchased has massively changed. Modes of communication have expanded. The ability to see across the world in real-time is everywhere. Yet, we want to deliver the message the same way?
1) Where have you been guilty of saying/thinking/feeling “that’s the way we’ve always done it?” What do you think the underlying emotions are?
2) Tossing the old just for the new can be just as bad. How can the old inform the past, and how can the new transform the past?
3) All too often we operate as if it is old versus new. How can we operate old and new?