In Luke 10 Jesus is continuing his journey to Jerusalem to face his passion. Chapter 9 was emphatic about that shift to his agenda, but along the way Jesus was so completely invested in his day to day mission that it is easy to forget: everything here is ramp-up to the Cross and Resurrection.
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
The Revised Common Lectionary gives us Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 on the 4th Sunday after Pentecost.
They omit verses 12-15, presumably because they show Jesus predicting God’s judgement on Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. I guess the lectionary didn’t like the attitude Jesus was showing so they just edited it out.
Planning the Mission Trip
The passage is all about a mission trip. In the previous chapter Jesus had sent the Twelve out on the first ever church mission trip. It worked so well that now Jesus builds on the program.
This time he recruits 70 of his followers. And he adjusts the plan. Instead of sending them out as a great big group, or one-by-one in all directions, this time he goes with the buddy system.
Thirty-five teams of two. I’m thinking that was a recipe for success.
If he sent big groups they would go to fewer places. Now thirty-five villages would receive a team for a ministry of healing and teaching.
And if they went out one by there would be a whole lot of anxious missionaries. Anxious missionaries might well mean failed missions. But by going together with a partner they could encourage each other.
As it said in the Bible,
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9 NRSV)
No hot-shots, no solos. Team work, fellas.
Luke gives us one one other little insight into Jesus’ approach to planning mission trips. It has to do with picking where to go.
Today we send teams
- to places we’ve been,
- to places we know somebody,
- or to places where we know of a need.
Or if we’re evangelically ambitious, we go
- to places where Christ’s name has never been heard.
Jesus, on the other hand, sent his teams
to every town and place
where he himself intended to go.” (Luke 10:1 NRSV)
Personally I think there is some wisdom there for people going on or planning short term mission trips today.
If I were planning one I would probably tell the team,
Hey, we are the body of Christ, right? So when we go to this place and meet these people, whatever work we do the most important thing is that we bring Jesus.
I think there’s truth in that.
But with this text, I think maybe I’d instead say,
Hey team: Jesus sends us because this is someplace he’s planning to go. We need to remember that we aren’t the main event. We’re just the advance team. Leave them eager to meet the Lord who sent you.
Part of the message is humility. No matter what how good the work we do, what comes later is far more important.
I’ve suffered through post-mission talks where the team got that one wrong — where someone who didn’t even speak the language of the people he was serving, and came away convinced that he had been the crucial instrument of their salvation.
Part of it is a warning: Don’t be a jerk. Jesus is coming here and you don’t want to make it harder for him.
Think about the impression you make.
Briefing the Mission Team
Then Jesus gives them their actual instructions. And I have to say, it doesn’t sound that great:
See, I am sending you out
like lambs into the midst of wolves.
Carry no purse,
and greet no one on the road.” (Luke 10:3-4 NRSV)
I’m not sure if I’m understanding this right but it sounds like it could be paraphrased,
I’m sending you into dangerous territory, and you aren’t allowed to pack any supplies or talk to anybody.
Should I put that on the permission slip for the upcoming youth mission trip.?
Clearly they are going to have to live in trust as they do Jesus’ work. That has to be the point of taking no resources of their own.
You see the need to trust when he tells them that once they get there they really must talk to people.
Whatever house you enter,
‘Peace to this house!’” (Luke 10:5 NRSV)
Trust God in the process of making friends and finding help.
If the house belongs to a a peaceable, welcoming person, stay there for the duration.
If the house belongs to someone who doesn’t welcome you peaceably, move on.
Probably a good nugget for modern mission trips again: Find welcoming partners and peaceable hosts.
But the thing I want to note is the humbling advice Jesus gives about while you are staying with those peaceable hosts:
Remain in the same house,
eating and drinking whatever they provide, …
Do not move about from house to house.” (Luke 10:7 NRSV)
Two bits of teaching about how to be humble — how to be a good guest, really — one of which is so important that he repeats it in the next verse:
Whenever you enter a town
and its people welcome you,
eat what is set before you;” (Luke 10:8 NRSV)
When you are a guest, Jesus tells us, especially when you are a guest because you are there to do his work, don’t be picky.
- You may not like the food. Eat it anyway.
- You may not like the bed. Sleep in it anyway.
- You may not really enjoy talking with your host. Be polite anyway.
Be grateful instead. And put up with things you don’t like. Better still, learn to enjoy the things you don’t like.
That advice works for mission trips and for daily living as well.
Then after the mission trip, the Seventy are so pumped. They’ve seen God do wonderful things through them, miracles at their own hands.
Lord, in your name
even the demons submit to us!” (Luke 10:17 NRSV)
Jesus acknowledges the truth of this. He also emphasizes the source: He has given them authority to tread on demons and serpents — the promise made to Eve in Genesis 3:15, and reaffirmed in the oft-ignored second ending to Mark.
But Jesus doesn’t want his mission team to focus on their newfound power.
Yes, it is exciting to have accomplished great things on a mission trip. But the point is to continue to work on character formation.
- before the mission trip,
- during the mission trip,
- and after the mission trip.
…do not rejoice at this,
that the spirits submit to you,
that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20 NRSV)
The thing to focus on is not that you’ve done something great.
The thing to focus on is that you are loved by God.
Which is why you went on the mission trip in the first place. Right?
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