Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 7 Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits. 8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff– no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.” 12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
1. Do you remember who sent you or have you lost sight of the One behind your calling?
2. Jesus “gave them authority.” In Jesus’ day, to follow or learn from someone was to be under his authority. When disciples of that day spoke the message of their rabbi, it was with that rabbi’s authority and blessing. This is what we see Jesus doing here. It’s what we see Jesus doing again in The Great Commission. Sending us out in his authority. Do we go about our daily lives with the knowledge of this authority? With the clarity of this simple mission?
3. “Take nothing.” This doesn’t sound like a well-planned mission. As a fifth grader, I attended an outdoor education camp where we learned to pack a survival kit in a film roll canister (remember those?). Our motto: always be prepared. So why were the disciples to take only a staff? Maybe for the freedom of traveling light. Or maybe because everything about following Jesus required trust, even this mission. They’d already left home and career for him, why not leave behind extra clothes and money?
But why a staff? A staff was used as a walking aid, an instrument of discipline, or a tool for herding animals. Kings had staffs. Shepherds had staffs. The nomad and the villager had staffs.
Moses had a staff. When it became a snake, it was a sign of God’s power and authority over other gods. When it parted the Red Sea, it was a sign of God’s miraculous provision. When Moses stood atop a hill and prayed for Joshua’s battle, it was a sign of God’s favor and victory.
4. Are you humble enough to shake the dust off? Leaving is hard to do, especially when we leave feeling like a failure. The disciples weren’t to argue, push harder, manipulate. I see this as God’s way of saying, “I’m in charge of who receives my message.” And I’m reminded of Paul’s words in Second Corinthians 4, “We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” There is grace here. You are free to shake the dust off, free to leave. The salvation of others is not in your hands.
5. What is our message? The message of this world is love. Love everyone, everywhere, at all times, in all ways. And what is meant by that is, everything goes and don’t you dare tell me otherwise.
The love we preach is different. It’s a love embedded in repentance. What an unpopular and hated message. Repentance implies wrongdoing, requires humility and life change. Let’s face it, bearers of this message aren’t given a king’s welcome.
But there’s another facet to our message, and it’s seen in the action of the disciples: wholeness of body and soul. The disciples drove our demons, anointed the sick and healed them. They used deeds, not only words, in their outreach. So too, we must reach with our hands, not just with our voices. We must offer what is fundamentally and universally hungered for: healing of brokenness.