How do we best invest the time we have available to make connections and build relationships?
If we have a desire to share the good news of Jesus, how might we start?
As always, the Bible can help guide our deliberations.
And we have turned to Luke chapter 10, where Jesus has sent his followers out on mission.
But we would have to translate this into something that would be relevant to our time and culture.
Yet the principles remain the same.
What can we make of this for today?
How would we apply this text in today’s situation?
What takes your eye??
What do you find interesting??
1. Sent to places that Jesus “intended to go” (v.1b). Jesus sent out seventy (or seventy-two) of his followers two-by-two on a bit of a forward mission – to places and people that Jesus himself was interested in. These Jesus-followers (or disciples) were to be ‘agents’ of Jesus. Oops … do we know Jesus well enough to be his representatives? Well … we have the witness of the Gospels to how Jesus lived and the sort of character he displayed. And we can be assured of the inner witness to Jesus that the Holy Spirit brings to us (Matthew 28:20b). An ‘agent’ of Jesus will shine for Jesus, with inklings of love, joy, peace and hope.
Having said this, it is also our raw human experiences (both positive and negative) that can often allow us to connect with others. People need to see the real us, not a person covered over by multiple layers of ‘acceptability protection’. We need to be open, if others are going to be able to get to know us, and come to truly trust us as a friend. How we handle downturns, and how God has turned things around for us, can be hugely relevant to other people. So, we, as we are, yet growing in faith, represent Jesus as his hands and feet; meaning sometimes bringing words of encouragement, and other times a practical helping ministry.
2. “In pairs” two-by-two (v.1a) – just like the dual witnesses required in Jewish courts … where one witness may be doubted, two provide much more credibility. This also brings companionship, teamwork and accountability; working together as families or with friends. We don’t see ourselves as individuals … each with our own brand, but rather we work in combination, and in cooperation, under the single brand name … of ‘Jesus’.
3. “The harvest is plentiful” (v.2a). Jesus conceded that there was a big job to do … there are many people who are ready to respond … seeds have been planted that have taken root and produced plants with the potential of fruit. God has been preparing the way. There are never enough people to bring in all the harvest. We should never conclude that no one is interested … only that we need new ways of connecting with the people that God is preparing the way with. That of course takes us to prayer, and hearing from God.
4. The call to prayer … “ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers” (v.2b). Why the need to pray – God could just do this!? To build relationship, and to bring forward faith that would partner with God in a commitment to the harvest. These ‘disciples’ had already been sent, but now were put in a more prayerful frame of mind concerning the immensity of the mission, and the need for more workers. At the same time as praying though, they had to go … “Go on your way”. And in their going, they were actually committing themselves to being part of the answer (to their own prayers). Pray for “labourers” … oh, yes, I’m a labourer … that means me … off I go! We don’t have to be especially ‘called’ and ‘sent’ … each of us has already been called and sent. We don’t have to discover our mission field … we already have one.
There is even more to this combined prayer/action dynamic. This is outstandingly brilliant mission theology from Jesus and Luke! It is actually the people we are prayerfully and faithfully connecting with, who are the future “labourers”. Disciples are only disciples if they are making more disciples!! So, those who receive the gospel from us also become answers to this prayer (as they too replicate the same sort of activity). The “labourers” we are praying for are the ones we will make contact with. There is the indication here, that those that we ‘enlist’ … will never be self-interested ‘pew-sitters’, nor passive ‘consumers’, but rather active disciples and co-workers. Thus the prayer request is really about success in mission.
Many people set their clock alarms to 10:02 … to remind them to regularly pray for more “labourers”. Why 10:02? Luke 10:2. However, we would certainly misunderstand this text if praying was all we did. So the prayer and labouring go on hand-in-hand – one cannot do without the other … the labouring needs prayer behind it and with it, and the prayer needs to be accompanied by movement in the direction of God’s guiding. That’s why prayer-walking around a neighbourhood can be so illuminating … prayer with real intent to connect … moving towards those God is already preparing (and seeking to draw to Himself).
5. “I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves” (V.3b). These disciples would certainly be out of their comfort zone … facing various levels of opposition and challenge, hence the need for faith. Mission is just not easy! The message may be great, but there will still (inevitably) be mixed reactions. And the difficulties and darkness that exists … is likely to touch us and even abide with us for a time, especially because we really care. Just as well then we’re a team, and we can rely on each other for spiritual and emotional support.
6. They should travel lightly (v.4) … go without a load or unnecessary weight, with no distractions, without ties, without the need for comfort, and without delay. There is a sense of urgency … in a sense the “harvest” could rot in the field if it is not gathered in soon. Jesus had taught, in the passage just before this, that, “no one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (9:62). We can see here … that all mission for Jesus … is necessarily carried out in utter dependence on God. It is God (seen in Jesus) that is central in this. We go without resources of our own, to ensure that we firmly rely on God’s resources.
7. Where do we go (v.5)? This is where we need to take the basic principles here and apply them to our modern context. We don’t move so much from town to town; but rather from person to person (within the one general area around where we live), from house to house, from family to family, from shop to shop, from opportunity of ministry to the next opportunity of ministry. Again, this would involve prayer – listening for God’s leading where to go – discerning where limited resources might be best spent.
We might consider where God has already granted us favour with certain people (who don’t know Jesus), or where a clear door of opportunity has already opened. Also, there are people that we seem to have a natural affinity with, where we may, over time, gain the necessary trust to share Jesus with them. Then there are people who seem to already exhibit Jesus-like attributes, who might be described as not far from the ‘Kingdom’. We might also embrace or seek out those people we think will likely respond, as they have already been prepared (by God) beforehand.
Yet we never close the possibilities on anyone. It may actually be … that we are drawn toward the more ‘unlikely’, just as the ‘angel’ spoke of the coming of the Saviour into the world to the most unlikely of all … the most untrustworthy of all … the shepherds in the field (Luke 2:8-20).
8. Sharing in the peace (v.6). Because we are open to receive hospitality, and more ready to listen than speak, we come almost empty-handed, being open for mutual ministry. We might join together to discuss mutual concerns about the neighbourhood or nation. [For example, our local Alpine RAR group]. We look to bring encouragement, and lighten (or share) the load that others are currently bearing. We certainly look for Jesus in the other. We certainly don’t head for either extreme … we neither ‘accommodate’ – which is watering down our witness to whatever we think will be acceptable; nor do we ‘dominate’ – which is beating people down who may disagree with our beliefs.
People today will not easily concede to just simple belief in the Bible, but rather will want to see how it is lived, how it works, and how it is practiced with integrity and love. We might just have the privilege of surprising some people out of the stereo-types they have held about ‘Christians’, e.g. that they are all rigid, judgmental, institutionally-inclined (rather than relational), gullible, weak, irrelevant. We can actually show that we listen, think and feel, as well as speak.
When we find a house like described in verse 6, or people like this, where the peace we bring seems to “rest”, we should invest our time in deepening this relationship – here is a natural opening. Such a person as this, will likely go on from becoming a new follower of Jesus, very naturally to one who will ‘make’ disciples of others. These have become known in the church planting movement as ‘people of peace’. They are often very well networked and social people. They are not only easy for us to connect with, but they are also well-connected enough to instantly start ministering to others.
We should be careful to not make judgments too quickly, as some of these ‘people of peace’ may not be who we might have first predicted. We can sometimes miss the obvious. The Samaritan woman at the well (in John’s Gospel chapter 4), who’d had that series of husbands and partners, and who had little understanding of spiritual matters to begin with, became quite the evangelist after meeting with Jesus.
9. “Remain in the same house (v.7ff)”. We shouldn’t rush on too quickly; we should settle down with them in friendship and accept their hospitality. Jews may not have been used to what was served at a Gentile table. We might be alarmed at how some people live … with vastly different customs to us. The point here is to NOT put up unnecessary barriers to hospitality, and to relationship, and to sharing the good news. We don’t come with a product to sell, but rather with an openness to relationship. We don’t expect people to buy straight into a bundle of beliefs, rather just simply connect with Jesus.
We don’t come with pride and feelings of superiority, but rather with humility and gentleness – it just so happens that someone shared Jesus with us, and many others have not been so fortunate. In forming relationships with people like this, we may start to make real inroads of blessing … the “seventy” had the possibility of curing the sick (v.9a) – who knows what ‘ills’ we can bring a ministry (of healing) into.
10.Wiping the dust off our feet (v.11). Sometimes we think it will be okay, but it could turn out that the “peace” we came with … is thrown back in our face. Well, no harm done, we gave it a try, we did all we could, we can’t always read situations properly – maybe someone else will have a better chance … we are part of a team approach. It is likely then … to be a good use of resources, and our own energy levels, to move on. Sometimes we will be outright rejected, but we shouldn’t allow our enthusiasm and faith to be dented by this – we need to move on without guilt to the next opportunity. And even in the context of rejection, the light of Jesus has shone out!
I have made a big assumption!?! That we want to share our faith. That it is the most exciting thing about our life, and we want to share that. Another assumption would be that we have a concern for the lost … for their life, for their well-being. No matter how a person’s life looks on the outside … without Jesus … it lacks something pretty crucial. We cannot just keep Jesus to within the walls of the church. We cannot ignore the need of the world.
This passage sets forth what remains a significant prayer and practical challenge. Yet I hope that you can sense how it is written with high expectations for the outcome. This is God’s mission in Jesus, which the Holy Spirit will continue to enliven. God goes ahead of us, always!
Just a few verses later we read, “The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord in your name even the demons submit to us’!” (Luke 10:17). So there was high impact, responded to with joy. Clearly there was deep spiritual work done. But the reference here to “even the demons” means that there was all sorts of other great ministry, relationship building, discovering ‘people of peace’, and sharing of the Gospel. And on top of this, the disciples worst fears concerning opposition, and the power of evil that might fall against them, were completely dispelled! Jesus was with them.
Christmas may be a time when conversations about Jesus become easier or less unnatural. Instead of the normal closed minds, they may be a little point of softness or openness. Blessings upon your sharing of Jesus this Christmas season! May you find some ‘people of peace’. May you share with them richly. Amen!