Sunday Night Musings: Sending the 72

Last night's passage (yeah, the Sunday Night Musings is a day late) at church was from Luke 10:1-11:
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
“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. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’
For most of my life the message of the story of Jesus sending out the 72--36 pairs, 12 x 6, 6-squared partners (all sorts of numerology to play with)--usually about Jesus equipping us to do what He sends us to do. He'll empower us, equip us to do miracles, that sort of thing. But I heard and noticed something different this time.

First, I've always got questions to ask--questions that often don't have a readily apparent answer. First I want to know about these 72 others. Were they men and women? People who were around Jesus as much as the 12 disciples were? What's their stories? And Jesus sends them out to prepare the way for Him. What happens when Jesus goes to each of these places?

I'm noticing that Jesus tells them to "Ask the Lord of the harvest" to send out the workers. We often talk about Jesus telling us to go, but we seldom talk about asking Jesus to send people. And when He does tell them to go, He also tells them to be weary because they'll be like lambs among wolves--that there are people out there who will want to slaughter them. Jesus also tells the 72 not to greet anyone along the way. This seems rather unfriendly...is it because Jesus doesn't want us to talk to strangers? Or does it have to do with getting distracted from the mission. He also tells them to look for people of peace--that they will be the ones ready to hear the good news.Which makes me wonder why Jesus didn't send them to bring peace to the places of unrest?

So I have plenty of questions about the passage (as I think you should after reading any part of Scripture). Some I could probably find answers to in commentaries and other places. Others I'm not sure have answers. Regardless of the questions, there are also lessons to be learned.

The first is a reminder that we're not supposed to do this on our own. Often we thing of evangelism or helping others in "I" terms. "I can't share the gospel with that person--it would be too awkward." Or "I don't know how to help them--I'm only one person." But Jesus sends out people in pairs. He doesn't expect us to go alone. This is good news for me. I don't like to do those uncomfortable evangelism tasks on my own. I can do it much more easily with someone else with me.

Second is a reminder that God will provide. The disciples weren't supposed to take anything with them. But God's provision means that we must be open to letting others be generous to us. I don't always like accepting help from others. It's part of the Scandinavian farmer community I grew up in--you always help others, but you never accept help. It's a sign of weakness or something. But Jesus wants us to let others take care of us--especially if we're out there to help others. It's the flip side of that whole "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" thing. Don't be a mooch, but receive willingly from others. This also means that we need to have a willingness to be generous as well.

Third is a reminder to be people of peace--and to seek out others of peace. This, I believe, is part of the fullness of the Kingdom of God being near. And remember we're just preparing the way. We don't have to do the full work--Jesus will do that. That takes a lot of weight off our shoulders.

So go and share the good news of the Kingdom, but don't go alone. Be generous and accept generosity from others. Seek out peace.

That's a few of the things this Scripture passage says to me. What do you hear?

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