Pastor Drew Williams
How many of you have tried to put something together without the instructions? Maybe it was a piece of furniture, or maybe it was a toy for a child. Maybe you had lost the instructions, or maybe you were just of the opinion that you “could figure it out just fine, thank you.”
I remember one time when my friend, Steven, was trying to put together a kitchen playset for his daughter for Christmas. They had hid the box in the garage until she went to sleep on Christmas Eve, so then he proceeded to START the process of putting it together that night so that it could be assembled and ready to go as a surprise in the morning.
I think he started out with the mentality that it was going to be pretty simple, so he just opened the box and started taking plastic off the pieces and hunted around for the screws to put it all together, but it didn’t take long for him to realize that this was a more complicated process than he thought, so he wisely went back for the instruction booklet.
Sometimes, doing a task is just easier when you have instructions. It takes the anxiety of guessing out of the equation and it gives you the confidence that you should be able to get the intended result.
I mean, did you know that Pop-Tarts even have instructions? There’s three steps: Open the bag, toast the pastry, and step 3 is Enjoy.
It doesn’t matter how simple the task is, having instructions gives you steps to follow so that you can be sure you’re on the right track. And in today’s passage from the gospel of Luke, Jesus demonstrates how great of a teacher and leader he is by giving simple, clear instructions on exactly how he wants his followers to join him on mission.
We’re going to be given some steps to follow today, so let’s read Luke 10:1-11
PASSAGE – Read Luke 10:1-11
We’ve been following Jesus through the gospel of Luke for a while now, and I think that I’m starting to see his methodology. No matter where Jesus goes, he interacts with people based around their needs, calls some to follow him, and after they have been with him for a while and learned from him, he SENDS them out on his behalf.
And he’s at it again with our reading today. A couple chapters ago, Jesus commissioned and sent the 12 disciples, and here he is calling together 72 people who have been following him, and he sends THEM out.
Now, this story is not recorded in any other gospels, so I want us to pay attention to the details that Luke includes to see what Jesus felt was important for the people he was sending out.
First, he sends them in pairs. Maybe because he knows it’s nice to have someone to talk to when you’re on a trip. Maybe because he knows that mere mortals can’t accomplish the mission of God at the same level as Jesus. In any case, the disciples are paired up and sent out TOGETHER. And that’s an important point I want us to realize today. Jesus established a pattern for ministry, and it was followed by the early church: from Barnabas and Paul, to Paul and Timothy, to Peter and John Mark. Working with partners was the norm. And we would do well to learn from their example and realize that God probably isn’t calling us to join him in his mission on our OWN.
The ones who travel alone are lone wolves, and Jesus specifically says he is sending his followers like LAMBS, not like wolves. And to doubly prove that he’s not sending them on their own, before they even GO anywhere, their first job is to PRAY.
“Pray to the Lord. ASK the Lord…” you could translate that word to say “Entreat the Lord, IMPLORE the Lord, BEG the Lord to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Why? Well, the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are FEW. I don’t know if we need a clearer picture that Jesus has already done all the work for us; that he’s just inviting us to join him in what he’s already doing. The harvest is PLENTIFUL. God has already done the planting. God has already brought the growth. In fact, he’s already brought the fruit. The field is RIPE! It’s ready to be harvested. All he needs is workers to gather the harvest. But even that isn’t a job we’re called to do on our own, because Jesus tells us to PRAY for GOD to send the workers.
Talk about taking the burden off our shoulders! Jesus selects 72 of his followers and gives them the best news ever, that he’s done all the work and is just inviting them to join him in the harvest. And he tells them to PRAY for more workers.
And here’s a thought, when WE accept Jesus’ invitation to join him in the work he’s doing around us, we are actually the ANSWER to that prayer! We GET to be the answer to the prayer for the Lord to send workers! We GET to join what Jesus is doing, we GET to work with partners, and we get to pray for the Lord to raise up even more people.
And this is such a different gospel than the simple one I was raised with. Do you feel the same? When I was young, I learned that God made everything, and it was “good”, and then humans sinned and turned away from God, and now we were stuck and enslaved to our sinful ways, so we needed a savior to come RESCUE us.
And there is truth in that, but it’s almost too simple. If that’s the only story we believe about Jesus, then we think that the end goal is accepting Jesus as our savior so that he can clean us up. And then we can go to heaven when we die.
And, again, there is truth in that, but it leaves a big ‘ol question mark on what we’re supposed to do with our lives between receiving Jesus’ grace and forgiveness and dying one day. What are we supposed to do with our life? If Jesus is “just” our savior, then we spend our lives trying to make sure we don’t slip back into sin, and asking forgiveness when we do, and checking to see if we’re living the way we “supposed to” which is just code for trying to live a good life on our own power so that we can maybe one day EARN the forgiveness that Jesus gave us when we were first drenched in sin.
Does that sound familiar? Has anyone else found themselves living their lives in that way? Viewing Jesus in that way? It makes the “good news” of Jesus seem good only for the end of our life. It doesn’t seem that good when we feel like it’s a burden, or when we’re dealing with shame.
But when we dig into stories like this one today, it seems to be pointing to a slightly bigger story. It seems to be pointing to the fact that the end goal of following Jesus isn’t just accepting him and then attending church every week until we die. No, it seems like perhaps accepting Jesus’ love and forgiveness is actually just the BEGINNING of a life of joining him at work in the world around us.
It seems like the good news of the gospel actually applies to every part of your life.
It seems like God’s plan for you doesn’t end with YOU. No, God’s plan for you STARTS with you and SENDS you OUT to the people you meet.
And Jesus has some thoughts on how he wants to send you out:
Verse 4: “Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.”
Jesus initiates his call for his disciples to go on mission by sending them out with a calculated deficit. He’s sending them without extra stuff on PURPOSE. Because he’s making a point, and he’s teaching his disciples something important.
Now, in the context of THIS story in Luke 10, Jesus is sending the 72 in pairs ahead of him to the various towns that he was going to visit soon. Their job was to go ahead of him. To prepare the way for him. And since these would be groups traveling by foot from town to town, he had to intentionally highlight what was different about his instructions.
Most of the time, travelers would bring extra items on a journey, in case they needed them. We do this today, don’t we? Anytime I go on a trip, I have AT LEAST a full extra outfit, if not a few extra, in case something happens, or in case I want options…
Some of you might pack by just transferring ALL of your clothes to the suitcase, so that you can decide what you want to wear “when INSPIRATION hits…”
But Jesus says, “no purse, no bag, no sandals.” You don’t need a purse to hold a large sum of money. Money isn’t what you need to put your trust in for this journey. Extra money isn’t to be your security when you’re on mission with me.
Don’t bring a bag. You don’t need to be carrying extra supplies. You don’t need to put your trust in STUFF. You won’t be fending for yourself when you’re learning to trust and depend on me.
Don’t bring an extra pair of sandals. Bring what you have on your body. Not because it will all magically never wear out, but because I don’t want you to bring things with you that will enable you to be self-sufficient. When you’re joining me on mission, you need to be learning how to depend on ME for your needs.
“Oh, and don’t greet anyone on the road.” Your baggage is light, and I don’t want you stopping to salute people you meet along the way because your mission is urgent. If someone tries to stop you on the road, just act like the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland and respond with, “I’m late, I’m late for a very important date. No time to say hello, good-bye! I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!”
Jesus is sending his disciples on a specific job with specific instructions. They’re not just being sent out to sort of stand around until something happens. And I have to admit that this is where I have fallen short in my own life of being a witness for Jesus. There have been many times where I view my role as a disciple as kind of being a more holy version of myself, and then hoping that will somehow get people to notice, and then maybe they’ll want to know more about Jesus.
But hope isn’t a strategy. And if I’m honest, this passive way of following Jesus, where I’m kind of just standing around waiting for something spiritual to happen, allows me too much room to get distracted by other things. I get pulled away to other goals and desires. And I begin to wonder if this is all there is to following Jesus. Do I just try and live a good life, and attend church, and that’s it? THAT’S the life of abundance and restoration that Jesus is inviting me into?
So then we think that our job is to invite our friends to church. Because, I mean, that’s the goal of following Jesus, right? To come to church. So let’s invite our friends and neighbors to church, as well. Then the pastor can preach to them.
But that CAN’T be the main goal of following Jesus, because the Lord of the harvest is raising up workers to go OUT into the harvest.
And this isn’t a burden. This isn’t a HAVE TO OR ELSE. This is the desire of the Lord, to invite us to join him in the work he’s already doing out in the world around us.
God WANTS to send people to spread his good news of grace and abundant life to those who need to hear.
And he invites us to partner with him in prayer for that, to pray for him to raise up more workers for the harvest. And he’s inviting us to partner with him in going and joining what he’s already doing, to be an answer to that prayer.
And then Jesus gives specific instructions for how to be a worker in the harvest:
Luke 10:5-6 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.
Jesus’ ultimate strategy for spreading the message of the good news of the kingdom of God – that a king is showing up to bring reconciliation and healing to the whole world – doesn’t involve huge campaigns, or papering a whole town with flyers and pamphlets, or an internet and TV marketing explosion.
No, Jesus’ way to spread the good news of the gospel is through relationships, not programs. He tells his disciples to make friends in the towns where they are going ahead of him. Project peace to those you meet. In other words, be a person who promotes a sense of wholeness, of rest, of compassion. Be a person of peace and find a person of peace.
“If there is a person of peace, your peace will rest of them.” Find that person who is open to you. Who responds to you. Who reciprocates the peaceful and kind demeanor you are promoting.
I have often thought of this as the Holy Spirit going ahead of us and opening doors to relationship for us. Finding a person of peace is the practice of first projecting peace ourselves, and then learning to discern who the Holy Spirit is opening up to us. Because God WANTS to send people into the harvest, and he’s already at work in front of us, preparing people to be open to us. Find a person of peace who reciprocates your peace.
And when they respond to your peace by inviting you in, accept their hospitality. Now, in Jesus’ day and culture, it was a deep value to practice hospitality for strangers and travellers. So Jesus is telling his disciples to accept that hospitality, but not to abuse it.
V7 “Do not move around from house to house.” Jesus is saying, “Don’t take advantage of people’s hospitality by trying to get something from everyone. And don’t disrespect the people who first were open to you by moving on in order to find something nicer.”
Accept their hospitality with gratitude as a way to honor them, as a way to continue to promote peace and kindness. Then, minister to their needs.
V9 “Heal the sick who are there and tell them, the Kingdom of God has come near to you.” This sentence could also be translated as “SERVE the WEAK who are there, and then tell them…”
So Jesus is encouraging his disciples to offer medical cures as well as simply serving people with broader needs. Project Peace by serving the people you meet who are open to you.
And then he ends his instructions by talking about what to do if NO ONE responds to you or is open to you: Move on. Jesus tells them to wipe the dust off their feet and keep on moving.
This act could have been a reference to some Jewish practices of making sure to clean off the dust of Gentile and Samaritan towns before they re-entered Israelite territory. But I also read it as Jesus taking the burden off of his disciples as well. It’s almost as if he’s saying, “You don’t need to carry the guilt or burden of people who aren’t open to the peace you’re promoting. Don’t even carry the dust of the town with you. Shake it off and move on, because I’m ahead of you, working on opening doors to relationship. Trust me in this.”
Because it’s NOT our job to save people or find the perfect words to change them. God is the one who has done all the miraculous, mysterious work of transforming hearts. He’s already at work ahead of us, inviting us to join him in the harvest.
Sometimes, I think we make evangelism more difficult than it needs to be. We make sharing our faith into this big ordeal, and we get anxious and afraid thinking about what to say or how to answer hard questions. But Jesus hardly says anything about having a sophisticated method. And he doesn’t give an outline for a well-developed message to share when we DO have the opportunity to do so.
The ministry that Jesus gives to his disciples – and to us – the mission he invites us into is to minister to needs, reveal God’s power, and share where it came from.
Even though many of us can be intimidated to share Jesus with others because we feel like we don’t know what to say, Jesus says to simply give of ourselves, and then point to the presence of God. Be a person of peace and find a person of peace who the Holy Spirit has already opened up to you.
Because, remember, this isn’t a job that is given to us to carry out on our own power. God WANTS to use US to reach the people around us. This is actually the way that he has joyfully laid out. As one author said, “YOU are God’s plan A for spreading his good news…and there’s no plan B.”
But God has already prepared the harvest for us, and he’s already preparing people to be open to us, and he’s inviting us to join him in the work that he’s doing. So how should we respond to that invitation? Well, if we take our cue from Jesus’ instructions in our passage today, we do two main things: Pray for partners and Project Peace.
We pray for partners because God doesn’t give us this assignment alone, and he doesn’t ask us to accomplish it on our own FOR him, either. He tells us to first partner with HIM in prayer, so that we are trusting him and expecting him to raise up more people to labor alongside us. And then we take that trust and partnership mentality with the people that we get to partner with, learning together how to be people of peace who find the ones that the Holy Spirit is opening up ahead of us.
Second, we project peace. When we meet people in our day-to-day activities who we want to share the good news with, we don’t need to follow a script or run a program. We definitely don’t need to win an argument or try and convince someone to change their mind on an issue. We just project peace and look for doors that the Holy Spirit has already opened. And when someone is open to us, we ask God how we can serve that person and continue to build a relationship. And when asked why we are serving in that way, we point to the presence of God in our lives.
Remember, God is at work ahead of us. We just need to trust him and follow him to share the good news of grace and abundant life in Jesus.
This is God’s plan for bringing restoration and healing and hope and joy into the world that desperately needs it: he invites us to partner with him, to join him on mission in our day to day lives through prayer and peace.
What if we accepted that invitation? What would our church look like if we truly prayed for God to raise up partners for us? What if we prayed that God would allow US to be an answer to someone else’s prayer for a partner?
Would it cause us to connect together differently? Would it cause us to see our daily schedule differently if we knew that God might be inviting us to be an answer to prayer?
What if we began to ask God to show us a person of peace? How would that change our neighborhoods, if you began to project peace and intentionally prayed for discernment on who the Holy Spirit has opened up to you in your neighborhood?
Would it cause you to linger outside your house more, in order to connect with a neighbor? Would it cause you to begin to pray for your neighbors by name? How would that change your interactions, if you began to see the people who live around you as image bearers of God who he is pursuing with love? How would that change your conversations if you committed to being a person who projects peace?
What if our whole community started intentionally living this way? Partnering together to project peace wherever we go? Imagine how that could change our whole area! We might meet people of peace at our grocery store. We might meet people of peace at our favorite restaurant. We might meet people of peace when we are on a walk, or shopping for clothes.
Imagine what kind of incredibly simple and grace-filled conversations could happen if we actually believed that God was calling us to partner with him to project peace and to connect with people HE is already preparing for us!
It might just transform our lives a little bit. It might just reveal the kingdom of God a little bit more. It might just show us how God’s grace is a gift that is easily shared when we partner with Him and interact with the people of peace he has prepared ahead of us.
It might just be the thing that Jesus is inviting you into today. Will we join him?