Sunday October 21, 2007 | Annie Perdue-Olson
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
“When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' If the head of the house loves peace, your peace will rest on that house; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for workers deserve their wages. Do not move around from house to house.
“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.' I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.
Like Jesus' first disciples, we will be constantly confronted by anti-Kingdom values – in our case things like individualism, independence, and self-sufficiency. But Jesus' alternative Kingdom vision is very straightforward. As we reach out to the world around us, we're simply called to depend upon God and his community, enter into authentic relationships, act like Jesus, and then explain why.
In this passage, Jesus offers his disciples instructions on how to do “Jesus-style” Kingdom ministry. He begins by pairing them up in order to send them out “two by two.” Here we see that Jesus does not send his disciples out to do ministry as isolated individuals. Rather, he sends them out as “mini-communities.” Jesus’ pattern of doing “ministry-in-community” challenges our culture’s patterns of “rugged individualism” and “lone ranger Christianity.” It is only as we come together in Kingdom community that we can function as the “body of Christ” – as Jesus’ heart, hands and feet – in this world. In Kingdom community we literally become “a giant Jesus” to the world around us!
Next, Jesus instructs his disciples not to take with them “a purse of bag or sandals.” In other words, they are not to set out into ministry as self-sufficient individuals. Rather, they are to depend upon God. They are to lead others to trust in God by demonstrating what trust in God really looks like. Jesus also tells them to embrace the hospitality of those to whom they are sent. In the ancient world, sitting down at a table and eating together with someone was a huge social statement – it was a way of saying to each other that “we are equals and we are in relationship.” They are to grow the Kingdom community by entering into authentic, intimate relationships with the people to whom they are sent.
Jesus then instructs them to “heal the sick.” Jesus’ disciples are to build authentic relationships with people in order to then serve them and meet their needs. Finally, Jesus tells them that, after they have served and ministered to the people, they are to tell them about “the Kingdom of God.” In other words, they are to, first, love and serve people – “earning the right to be heard” by demonstrating the reality of the Kingdom before speaking about it. And then, second, they are to tell about and explain they beautiful Kingdom that the people have just experienced. “Show, and then say.” “Walk, and then talk.”
In our culture today, the church is often known for breeding “lone ranger Christians,” not God-dependent communities. It is often known for judging and excluding others, not dining with and serving others. It is often known for what it says, not what it does. Through this passage, Jesus calls us out of our individualistic, self-sufficient cultural patterns, and into a radical new Kingdom community where we are set free to trust God and serve others – and in doing so find the true meaning of the beautiful life!