Pastor Drew Williams
Megan and I love to travel, and before we had kids, we experienced many amazing and unique places together. Now that we have kids, our traveling has slowed down a bit, but it’s not because we don’t still want to see amazing places. It’s because kids make the hardest part of traveling even harder: getting TO wherever you are going.
You know what I’m talking about: the packing, the double-checking, the triple-checking if you have everything you need. Making sure you’ve got enough changes of clothes, making sure you’ve got your ID and boarding pass, making sure you’ve got all the medications you need, making sure you’ve got all the chargers and cables you need.
And then you get to the airport and have to keep everyone together while also partially undressing so that your shoes, hat, belt, and jacket can go through the Xray machine. And you might have also forgotten that you needed to take out your laptop or CPAP machine first, so your meticulously packed bag needs to be opened and then repacked.
Is this triggering anyone else’s anxiety? Have you experienced some of the joys of traveling with kids? It causes you to become this control freak, always checking and double-checking, making sure everyone is doing what they’re supposed to, and even peeking over the shoulder of your spouse to make sure they’re doing the part they are in charge of.
Oh, you don’t act that way in stress? Only me? Well, then…
Well, I can remember one of the last trips Megan and I did without kids, and it was actually very different than that. It was actually a great example of each of us taking ownership of different things and then trusting the other with their part. Megan took ownership of packing and ensured we had everything taken care of at home, while I was in charge of the plane flights and rental car and maps.
And it was interesting, now that I look back on it, because we both had to depend on the other for their part. I had forgotten to double-check on Megan to make sure she had packed some simple meds like Flonase and stuff, so I was really just depending on her to be able to provide what we needed for the trip.
Likewise, Megan had fully let me handle the travel arrangements, so she had to depend on me as we navigated the airport, and then make it to the right gate, and then figured out where our rental car was when we landed.
We each got a chance to depend on the other while they were leading in different areas.
It definitely wasn’t always easy, and there were definitely times when our trust and dependence on each other was tested because of things going differently than we had expected, but for the most part, we learned dependence in a new way.
Today’s Jesus story is going to be about learning how to depend on God instead of putting our trust in our own ability to provide for ourselves, specifically in the instances when we are sent out to share the good news of Jesus.
Before we read it, though, I want to point out that this passage is NOT Jesus’ instructions for all disciples across all of time. But it IS his instructions to his FIRST disciples. So we can read it and learn from what he said to them in this instance to understand a few things. First, we’ll see what Jesus thought was important for his followers to do as they were sent out. And second, we’ll see what he felt was most important for them to learn as they went.
PASSAGE: So let’s read Luke 9:1-9.
Okay, even though this is a short passage, it’s full of insights directly from Jesus on what he’s looking for when he sends out those who follow him to do the work he’s called them to do. And when we read it, we can learn so much about how Jesus still equips us today for the work he’s calling us to do.
Our first few verses hit us with a statement that is dense with big words, “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”
I wanted to understand better what these words meant, so I had to look them up in Greek language software, so let me share with you what I found out.
Jesus has CALLED together the twelve. It’s not just a happenstance. They weren’t just walking together one day and then Jesus gave some small orders and sent them out. This is an EVENT. He has summoned them, willing them to go on mission for him.
So he gives them POWER and AUTHORITY. The Greek words can also be translated as giving them capability and the right to command. So Jesus gave them the capability and the right to command the demons and to cure diseases.
The Greek word for demon is literally “unclean spirit” and is used to describe any malignant force or evil presence or mental condition that can’t be treated with the medicine of the day. It takes more than bandages and balm. The word for “diseases” refers to physical maladies, so Jesus is giving them power and authority, the capability and the right to control both physical illnesses and non-physical illnesses. It seems like there is no difference between the two for Jesus. Both are setting people free from bondage.
And then he sends them out to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. Looking at the Greek again, he sends them out to “proclaim aloud” the kingship of God and to “restore to health” those who were sick. He sends them to DECLARE and to bring DELIVERANCE.
And so now we’re two verses in and we already have to stop and ask, “who is this Jesus who is able to transfer this kind of divine power to his followers so that they can use it?”
I mean, I understand JESUS being able to heal people and cast out demons and restore people from the ravages of mental conditions. We’ve spent the last few months looking at stories where Jesus did just that!
He’s gone around healing and restoring and then declaring the kingdom of God, that he is the one that is bringing redemption for all of God’s people. But as far back as chapter 5, with Jesus calling the first disciples, we see that his plan all along has been to invite and include others into his mission.
And this time around, he’s sending out the twelve on their own, but we know his plan involves his disciples creating disciples of their own who are also disciple-makers, because in the very next chapter, Jesus is going to be sending out 72. And at the end of his ministry, there’s going to be 150 people waiting for the gift of the Holy Spirit. And it’s going to keep growing from there because followers of Jesus are people who help others learn how to follow Jesus, even as we are still in process ourselves.
So he’s given them power and authority to heal, and he’s sent them with the instructions to proclaim and heal. Then he tells them how he expects them to follow his instructions:
“Take nothing for the journey – no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic.”
These would have been very common things to bring for a long journey, but Jesus explicitly tells his disciples NOT to bring them. He’s sending them into mission with a calculated defecit. He’s doing this to help them remember, or learn for the first time, that they are prepared for mission only by depending on Him.
He’s saying, “don’t PREPARE as if you’re PROVIDING for yourself. I’m providing for you. Don’t PACK as if you LACK. I’ve given you everything you NEED.”
Wow, but it’s hard to trust Jesus like that, isn’t it? Because we’re so used to providing for ourselve. Because we’re so used to bringing extra things along that we THINK we “need.”
Let’s just go back to the idea of going on a trip. Don’t we always bring too much? We overpack for the kids, “just in case” there is some reason we need 17 outfits and 300 diapers for an afternoon out.
We bring extra underwear and socks, “just in case” we… I don’t know, fall in an icy river? Maybe you’re the person that doesn’t bring extra stuff, but you bring extra SPACE because you want to buy extra stuff on your trip! As if we don’t have enough little trinkets already!
Or maybe you’re a person who says, “I pack light…but I couldn’t LIVE without my…
I actually asked this question on Facebook last week and got some great responses about what were “traveling ESSENTIALS.” Here’s what some of you said:
Phone charger, medicine, your spouse, glasses, something to read, cpap machine, a travel bidet, ear plugs, advil, duct tape, snacks.
We pack for a trip and we load up all the things we *might* need, just in case.
And I do this too! When Megan and I went on a cruise with the kids at the beginning of summer, megan was a rockstar with the packing, but we still had to bring all the clothes, the sunscreen, the extra clothes, the diapers, more diapers, the snacks, the formula, the white noise machine, the toys and activities, the stuffed animals, the pajamas, and the shoes. And THAT was just for the kids!
Contrast that with one of the first trips we ever took together when we were both serving on a music team for the national youth gathering in San Antonio, and I had a single backpack and Megan had a cute little suitcase about *this big* for A WHOLE WEEK!
And so it’s natural to see why we think we need extra stuff even when Jesus calls us to join him on mission out in our everyday lives. “Maybe I should just bring these tracts with the 4 spiritual laws on them, that way I don’t really have to think about what to say, I can just hand over a piece of paper and let IT talk about Jesus. Or maybe I need to bring a business card with the church’s info on it so that I don’t really need to get into detail about Jesus, but I can just hope they come to church to hear the pastor talk all about it.
See, the thing is that I don’t think Jesus thinks being prepared or having stuff is BAD, perse. But he’s clearly showing that he wants his disciples to learn how to trust HIM to provide for what they need when they are sent on his mission. He’s already given them everything they need to share the good news and heal hurts.
This reminds me of when David was still the shepherd boy, and Saul was the king, and Israel was facing off against the Philistines, and Goliath was challenging them to a duel. And when David volunteers, Saul tries to outfit him with the royal armor. The problem is that it’s too big and cumbersome. Sure, it would offer protection, but it would also limit David’s ability to move well.
How often do WE overburden our efforts in following Jesus’ commands and end up rendering ourselves less effective, less free to follow where Jesus leads us? “Oh, I can’t bring Jesus up in this conversation right now, because I haven’t prepared what I’m going to say… I can’t offer to pray for this person right here and right now, because I usually bring prayer requests back to the prayer chain at the church…”
But Jesus has already given you everything you need to share the good news and heal hurts!
Jesus wants his first disciples to learn dependance on HIM, so Jesus speaks negatively in reference to THINGS, “you don’t need STUFF on your mission to fill in your feeling of lack.” But he speaks POSITIVELY in reference to relationship:
“Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town.”
Now, this is referring to the custom of hospitality that was common in that time and area. If travellers came in to a town or village, someone would usually invite them over to share a bite and rest from the trip.
Jesus’ command to “stay there” is to stop his disciples from traveling from house to house in a town in search of better accommodations. They are there to heal sickness and proclaim the kingship of Jesus, so the last thing they should be doing is leaving the impression that they just want to USE the people who are welcoming them in.
When we’re receiving hospitality, we’re assuming the position of a grateful guest, so callously moving “onward and upward” would disrespect the gracious hospitality that the hosts are sharing with you.
Having them stay in one house while they are in a town is also another way that Jesus is teaching them to trust Him as the provider, rather than letting them be constantly anxiously looking around to provide for themselves.
Stay. Trust. Heal and proclaim.
Maybe one way that we could see this apply for us today is as an instruction to go deep with a few people when we join Jesus on mission in our everyday lives. Our American sensibility that bigger is better and faster is better and more is better would lead us to believe that if we are to follow Jesus’ call, then we had better be telling AS MANY people as we can about Jesus. We had better spread the message wide across a whole group.
But that’s not actually the way Jesus himself modeled it. That’s not the way he taught his first disciples, either.
Whatever house you enter, stay there. Whatever door to relationship that I open for you, go deep. Stay there. Linger in love. Don’t always be rushing. Stick around. Look around. Ask around. Look for where God is already at work, where God has already helped you build a bridge with someone, where God has already opened a door, and just compassionately and lovingly be present to offer whatever good news that Jesus wants to declare in that place or with that person.
This can be hard for us, because we usually either let fear quiet us and keep us from helping and sharing good news, or we go in with guns blazing, thinking we’re supposed to coerce or force some reaction.
We feel like we’re not ready, or aren’t prepared, so if we DO try to share the good news, we zoom in for a quick moment of sharing before returning home to our safe environment.
Or, we think that we’re supposed to elicit some “decision” or change from the people we interact with, so we follow Jesus’ call, but we add on our own effort and we add on our own expectation of outcomes.
But when Jesus send out his disciples, he gave them what they needed: power, authority, a direction to go, and availability to receive hospitality from others.
Stay there. Go deep. Follow the small opportunities for relationship and conversation, trusting that I have given you everything you need to share the good news and heal hurts.
And then Jesus gives them one last thing: discernment. He says, “if people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them.”
This was a common practice for Jewish travelers if they ever found themselves going through Gentile areas. They would shake the dust off their feet as they left the area as a sign that the area was not following the one true God and would be recipients of God’s judgment.
So Jesus takes this common ritual and turns it around to not be about whether or not a place is ethnically Jewish, but about whether or not a place is willing to receive the good news of the kingdom of God as found in the person of Jesus.
If you’re not warned about bad coming, you might not change your path. If you’re comfortable in your life, and don’t realize that it’s headed towards hurt and brokenness, you might not accept the invitation to a different way of life. So when Jesus’ first disciples get no response to their message of the kingdom of God, they are told to leave and announce that rejection of their message means a rejection of Jesus.
But when I think of this command in today’s context, the tradition of shaking the dust off your feet during a journey doesn’t really connect with our lives today. But I see a different angle that carries the same weight and warning, not for the “towns” we might visit, but for ourselves.
Perhaps when you listen to these instructions of Jesus, you begin to feel the weight and burden of reaching people for Christ. You begin to feel a heaviness on your shoulders, thinking that you “must” share the good news, otherwise those people might not know Jesus and that guilt would be carried by you.
But Jesus knows that not every interaction we have with those who don’t know him yet will be immediately easy and open. Jesus KNOWS that people will reject his message. Jesus KNOWS that doors will be closed to us.
So he says, “shake the dust off as you leave.” Don’t even take the DUST with you as you continue on your journey. Don’t carry the “guilt” of not being welcomed, don’t carry the guilt of “failure”… BECAUSE I HAVE NOT GIVEN THAT YOU TO TO CARRY.
Jesus has already given us everything we need to share good news and heal hurts, but he has NOT given us the weight of doing it on our own. He has NOT given us the task of having to be the savior for others. He has NOT given us the burden of being what people need. Shake off that dust. Because, for many people, dust just causes allergies!
Some of us are so DEPENDANT on how others view us that we’re covered in the dust of the past, unable to move forward to where God is calling us without causing an allergic reaction for all those we’re with. We’re covered in the past and it affects our current relationships. We’re bringing our past hurts and regrets with us and imposing those expectations on these new opportunities.
But Jesus gives us authority and power to share good news and heal hurts, not expectation and regret to burden others with!
Shake off the dust. If there isn’t an open door to relationship, keep moving on and looking for where the Holy Spirit is at work ahead of you and opening a new opportunity. Shake off the dust, even if you’ve been trying with that person for a while. Shake off the dust, not carrying a sense of guilt, and move on to where God is calling you to invest next.
And maybe this is just my own personality that is imposing my thoughts on the text, but I don’t think that I have to proclaim judgment on anyone who rejects me or chooses not to be open to the message of Jesus. Because I don’t know how God will continue to work on their heart in the future through others. I can pray for them, bless them, entrust them to God, and then move on with my eyes open to where God might be opening the next door to healing and relationship.
Because Jesus has already given me everything I need for the mission he’s calling me to, so I can learn to depend on HIM. I can learn to TRUST him, not only to provide for me, but I can learn to trust that he loves these people more than I ever will, and he’s going to keep pursuing them just like he has never stopped pursuing me.
And so the disciples set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere. Jesus had given them everything they needed, and they gave away what they had been given to others. They gave healing and restoration, and they gave the good news that Jesus is king.
They told everyone that Jesus’s reign represented the inbreaking presence of God’s saving activity. It was the good news that reign of God would bring liberty from everything keeping us in bondage. The realm of the kingdom of God was here, and everyone who wanted to accept it could begin to live in the new reality of freedom, restoration, generosity, and wholeness.
Isn’t that good news? Is that the good news that we are declaring to others? Are we sharing with others the good news that God’s reign in our lives actually frees us from the bondage of greed and the hunger for power? Are we sharing about how God’s never-ending provision is teaching us that we can be free of fear and anxiety?
Because, honestly, if Jesus is truly king, and if he is the good shepherd that he says he is, then we do not have to be in control, because we can trust that he is Great. He is sovereign over everything and is working towards his mission of restoration and healing.
If Jesus is truly God, then we don’t need to fear others and their opinions of us, because God is glorious, he is more weighty than anything else in the world, and his opinion of us is that we are beloved and cherished and made on purpose for a purpose.
If Jesus is able to provide for us, then we don’t need to look elsewhere to provide for ourselves. We don’t need to satiate ourselves with things that will not satisfy, because God is good and he gives good gifts that are truly everything we need for the mission he’s called us to.
If Jesus is truly our savior, then we don’t need to prove ourselves with our own effort or knowledge or works, because God is gracious. He’s proven that time and time again, and even though we continue to turn from him, he continually offers us his grace and forgiveness as a free gift so that we can receive it and be changed by it.
Isn’t that good news?! That’s the type of good news that we GET to share with those around us. In fact this news is so good, and the effect that the disciples had in their mission was so great that even Herod, a cold-hearted killer, was intrigued and drawn in by the stories he heard.
And you might be thinking that I’m going to encourage you to go out and share the good news of Jesus based on what we’ve been learning today. But that’s only half-true. Because Jesus himself often modeled HELPING first, and only THEN pointing to the good news of the kingdom of God as the explanation for why he was being so compassionate.
And we’ve got to remember that he sent out his first disciples to proclaim the kingdom of God AND TO HEAL THE SICK.
We can’t forget that sharing the good news of Jesus often requires SERVING people as well as preaching to them. One theologian said that simply “telling unbelievers that God cares should be reinforced by EVIDENCE of such caring.”
Jesus’ brother, James, gets at this idea when he tells the early church that simply saying to someone in need, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”
Acts of caring reinforce the claim that God cares. Acts of service put flesh and blood on the claim that Jesus loves them.
So here’s what I suggest you DO in response to what God might be saying to you today: Find one hurt that you can help to heal this month.
Find one hurt that you can help to heal.
To share the good news of Jesus, we can start with service. So listen when people are talking. Look for a hurt that someone might be experiencing. And when you find a hurt, ask God how he’s calling you to help.
Maybe there is some way that you can serve them. Maybe you can help in some way. Maybe you can offer a listening ear. Maybe you can offer words of love. Maybe you can help to heal their hurt in some way.
So offer healing in compassion and love. No strings attached. And, chances are, they might ask you why you’re doing it. THAT’S when you can give an answer, sharing the good news of Jesus’ love and grace.
There’s one time that I was able to do just this. And I don’t share this story in order for you to think more highly of me, but rather because I think it’s a great example of God opening a door that I got to just walk through, and by doing it, not only did I help someone else, but it also increased my faith in God as the one who creates these opportunities and invites us in on the healing of those around us.
I was fresh out of college, and livin in an apartment in Santa Ana. Our local grocery store was a Food4Less, and there were often very needy people outside asking for money or food. One day, I was walking up to the store when a very unkempt man who looked like he had been living on the street for a long time approached me and asked for some money so that he could buy a burger at the nearby McDonalds. I didn’t have any cash, but for some reason, I felt like I was supposed to invite him to go grocery shopping with me.
He was blown away, but he accepted. So then we grabbed a cart and walked through the store together, getting a small amount of canned food and items that didn’t need a stove or a refrigerator so that he could keep it with him.
And the whole time, he just kept asking me, “Why are you doing this, man?”
At first, I just said, “Well, I wanted to be nice.”
But he kept asking and kept asking, “Why are you doing this for me, man?”
So, finally, I answered, “Because I believe in God, and I know that God gives us blessings so that we can bless others. God has always taken care of me, and so I get to help you out today to show you that God can take care of you, too.”
Or, at least, I said something like that, it was over ten years ago. And, again, I don’t tell that story so you think I’m something great. I want you to notice that God brought that guy up to me at just the right time. God prompted my heart. God opened up that guy to accept the offer. God probably also kept the store owners from kicking either of us out. And then we got his bag of food and wished him well and I never saw him again. But God used that story in MY life to show how he can use us in small and simple ways to join him on mission.
That’s why I’m encouraging you to find one hurt that you can help to heal this month.
Just because the disciples had miraculous feats of healing and casting out demons doesn’t mean that’s required of us in order to share the good news of Jesus. The key is the combination of compassion and the message of Jesus’ goodness. The disciples healed, AND got to proclaim the gospel.
We can do the same. We can look for one hurt to help heal, and offer the help in compassion. And when asked, we get to answer about our king Jesus.
And then when you do it, share the story with someone you trust afterwards! Give glory to God for the chance to take part in mission. You’ll be amazed how following God’s opportunities and then sharing testimony about them will increase your faith and the faith of the person you’re telling. And God uses that growing faith to send more people out on mission in their everyday lives.
Just imagine what our church would be like if each of us committed to helping someone else in a small way that healed a hurt? What would it be like when we keep our eyes open for opportunities from God to share compassion and love?
And what if we then got to share those stories with each other? Wouldn’t that just cause all of us to be amazed at how God can use our small acts of obedience to create enormous changes in the lives of others? In our lives as well?
God is inviting us to join him in mission every single day, in the areas we already spend time in, with the people we already see. He’s already given us everything we need to share good news and heal hurts. So let’s do it church! Our God is ahead of us, preparing the way, opening doors to relationship, and empowering us with the power and authority to carry out his plans. Amen.