Equipped for Success

We are currently into the season of Easter and Lent.  What I’d like to do with you throughout these 40 days is attempt to walk alongside of Jesus as much as possible, as he ministered during these last days and he prepared to go to the cross.  We are still early in the season, so Jesus’ activities haven’t really ramped up yet, and also we don’t have a hard and fast timeline of these first few weeks like we do once Jesus enters Jerusalem.  Very near this time, Jesus begins his journey towards Jerusalem, but he does it in such a way that it takes much longer than it should, as Jesus took a roundabout course to get there.  However, as this begins, we find Jesus speaking to his disciples more and more.  This passage today is from Luke 10:1-12.

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2 He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.

As I said, Jesus has begun his journey towards Jerusalem.  He knows that this is going to be his final journey and that death waits for him there.  This may have something to do with the way that Jesus chose to go towards the city.  He may have been trying to spend as much time as he could with his disciples and impart as much additional knowledge as he could upon them.  He may have seen the need to go to more small towns and villages in the area to spread his teachings more.  He may also have been trying to avoid the inevitable for as long as possible. 

Whatever the reason, this passage today speaks to his desire to continue to spread the gospel to the region and it is the model that the disciples follow once Jesus is gone and they begin to establish the church.  Jesus calls upon 70 of his followers.  This reminds us that, while we often picture Jesus and his 12 following along, there are actually quite a few people in his entourage.  These 70 would, for the most part, be called upon as leaders of the new church and to fill in roles that the disciples needed. 

Jesus was not short on followers.  We know that he preached to as many as 5000 (could be as much as 10000 if you count women and children which the bible likely did not) and we know that Jesus appeared to more than 500 after his resurrection, most of these were likely followers of his while he was alive.  We also know that some of the followers came and went because in John’s gospel we are told that “many of his discipled turned back and no longer went about with him.”  All educated guesses as the group of followers at this point in the ministry points to between 100-200, possibly a little more.

The point of this is that while Jesus had a larger group, he also likely sent away most of his “core” group on this mission.  Jesus knows that time is of the essence and he doesn’t have the ability to go to all of these places himself.  So he sent out his people and he gave them very clear instructions on what to do and how to travel.  I know this sounds like it should be obvious, but Jesus was a pretty smart guy. 

A few years back I had the pleasure of going down to Anderson when the Colts were having their preseason camp.  This was Coach Jim Caldwell’s second year I believe, but I remember being impressed with how the practice was run compared to how I knew our high school football practices.  Of course everyone broke up into their individual positions and took up residence on some part of the field.  Throughout the practice some parts of the team came together to work together, like backs and receivers, while others stayed apart most of the time, kickers and punters.  However throughout the whole practice I watched Coach Caldwell standing apart from any group, watching, taking notes, occasionally calling over a member of the coaching staff to give instructions, but he kept himself removed.

Coach Caldwell was exceptional at what he did.  In watching him at that practice, I realized that he had put together a team of coaches and had organized that team in such a way that they knew their role, their jobs, and their responsibilities for each day.  He could sit back and help guide without the need to get directly involved.  He equipped, not just his players, but his entire staff with a knowledge that could be spread among the team.  This was his way of achieving success.

Jesus has set up his group for maximum success and so that the most people possible will hear his teachings.  He gives his disciples a list of instructions and teachings that will enable them to reach so many more than Jesus ever could.  We are the direct descendants of that group.  Jesus has called us to go out to the world and share in his gospel.  Let’s take a look at the various instructions that Jesus gives his 70 and see how they apply to us today.

First, travel in twos.  Jesus instructed his people to travel with a companion so that there would be no confusion in the message.  Where one may not know everything, the other can help fill in the gaps.  Between the two of them, the message would be stronger.  We must remember that we are a part of the larger body of Christians.  We don’t have to have every answer or be able to solve every problem out in the world.  You only have to point the lost towards Christ and someone else will come along to help you where you need assistance.

Second, carry no money, bag, clothing, etc and greet no one on the road.  Jesus knew that he was sending his people into dangerous places that would not all openly accept this new teaching.  We live in a fallen world today that is in love with itself.  This world does not want to follow the teachings of Christ.  They only want to listen to his message when it is in favor of what they already want.  They pick and choose which parts of the bible to cling to without knowing the truth of those words.  As the passage says, “See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.”  Be vigilant and hold true to the entire gospel.  Spread the love that Jesus calls us to spread among those that would not want it.

Because of this fact, Jesus then goes into detail as to how one should enter a town or a house in order that they may be welcomed and safe.  While it is our duty to share the love of Christ to everyone, not everyone is going to be ready to hear it on our time.  It is up to God to soften the hearts of those that need it and allow us to plant the seed if it is the right time.  We may not know until we start that the person or persons we are speaking to are ready to hear about God, but that doesn’t mean that it is on us to pick and choose who we talk to.  Jesus doesn’t tell them to only go here or there, he tells them to go all over and then discern who is ready and who isn’t. 

Finally, Jesus tells his followers to leave those places that they are not welcomed.  You will come into contact with those that simply will not accept or believe and that’s ok.  Like I said before, that’s on God’s time and not yours.  All Jesus tells us to do in this situation is to remind them of God’s love, then leave them be.  We cannot force Christ on anyone.  Jesus doesn’t tell us to be discouraged and give up, he reminds us to dust ourselves off and move on to the next opportunity. 

Sharing the Gospel is a lifelong obligation and one that has been given to all of Jesus’ followers since this time.  As we approach this Easter season, our focus must be, not just on the sacrifice of Christ, but the teachings that he gave us while he was here.  This is one of those teachings; go out into the world and spread the good news.  I know I talk about this a lot from up here, but that is because I know that it is vitally important to the future of the church and to society as a whole.  It is up to each and every one of us to follow these instructions of Christ and get the word out to all that would hear that Jesus Christ loves you, died for you, and forgives you.  Only through this simple knowledge and faith can one truly find the path to Heaven and the salvation from the sinful lifestyle that has ensnared all people.  So go forth from this place and remember that the same Jesus that died for your sins, also died for the entire world.  It is up to us to share that good news to everyone, wherever we may go.