The Sending Of The Disciples
July 2, 2006
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. Today's reading of the gospel is the story of Jesus when he commissioned the twelve disciples for evangelism and missions. However, in that [passage] the scripture says a very strange thing. The Lord commanded his disciples, "Do not carry anything but one cane. Do not carry bread or money." In short, it is telling about how that as they were launching off, he confiscated all the disciples' possessions. What a ridiculous story it is. The disciples are not going on a nearby errand. They are going out on a missionary trip, going around from village to village for a number of days. It was a first time experience for the disciples. What's more, even though it was a trip during which only hardships could be expected, he dared to send the disciples out penniless. What does this sending [out of the disciples like this], which could [easily] be called foolish and reckless, mean? Together, let's give this some of our thoughts today.
Make Pairs Going Two By Two
2. In this sending of the disciples, the first thing [I'd like] to stop and look at is where he made them into "pairs going two by two." The fact of their traveling in sets of twos was a common custom for the Jews. We know, for example, the story of the two travelers going to Emmaus (Luke chapter twenty-four and beginning in verse thirteen) and Paul's going on a missionary trip along with Silas, and of other [stories]. Still and all, [I] am claiming that [the Scripture] is saying in this [passage] something quintessential going on in the work of Christ's disciples. It is that Jesus did not ask for lone individual work. He required the disciples to work together. He required the disciples to love each other and to serve each other before being sent out into society and serving other folks. In that sense [I think] I could make the claim that this "sending out in sets of twos" is a model for the church.
3. With that said, they must have had a hard time there because the disciples did not assemble together for the fundamental reason of being attracted to each other. They were assembled together by Jesus. Therefore, there was diversity among them. At the background to each of the disciples there were also elements that were in conflict to one another. For example, one of the disciples was "Simon the Zealot." The Zealot Party was [made up of] nationalistic extremists fighting for liberation from Rome. Still also, there was among the disciples Matthew (also named Levi). He is an ex-tax collector. [Tax collectors] were people who had sold off their Jewish nationalistic pride and were in service to the house of Herod and to Rome. You might say it like this, Christ's flock of disciples had extreme patriots and traitors to their country living together. As represented by these two men, an unattractive, a very unattractive group of men were assembled together, and it was a hazardous undertaking as they were sent out in sets of twos from there. Had they been in pairs who got along well, there wouldn't be a problem, but perhaps it wouldn't turn out so [bad]. How in the world would it turn out?!
4. Now, at the time when they were sent out, all of their possessions were taken away. It appears that in no time they were placed into poverty. But, being made poor is not necessarily a bad thing. When there are food and possessions, you're itching to fight over them, but when you're in trouble with nothing to even eat, you must give each other help every single time. It is a fact that ruptures easily take place between two strong persons and two persons when they have things. Because the one person can go it alone. But, when there are two persons who are distressed and poor, when two weak people are there, they can't make it that way. We can say in that sense "poverty" is the best school for learning how to love one another. We can also say that Jesus took their possessions away and then he, sort of, drove them into this school.
5. This kind of thing happens even in today's church. It happens even in our typical daily living. When love grows cold because we're immersed in wealth, the Lord will not hold back to take away our wealth. He will place [us] into deprivation and poverty. [He will do it] so that we learn how to love each other and how to help each other.
Let Others Be Of Service To You
6. And one other thing that is clear is that by Jesus' having taken away the disciples' possessions the disciples were driven into a situation in which they could not do anything else but trust in God completely. Because if they do go out with one cane, they will only go out trusting what God provides for them. The disciples will have prayed totally all the more earnestly, "[O Lord,] give us our daily provisions." What's more, both of them would be in one accord!
7. But, how will this "daily provision" be given to them? Will manna fall from heaven, like Israel had experienced once ago? No, it doesn't seem to me that Jesus was making such an assumption in any way. The Lord said this to his disciples, "When you go into a certain house, wherever it may be, stay at that house until you set out to journey from that land," (verse ten). Since giving shelter and playing host to travelers was considered a faith based virtue in Jewish society back then, there was nothing at all strange about it. Jesus was giving his speech with that custom at the background to it. In short, he was saying to them, "Just as anyone will do [to serve you], let yourself be beholden to the services of anyone while you travel."
8. In other words, it means that the disciples are going out in trusting reliance upon God, but the specific assistance and nourishment from God would not fall directly from heaven, but would be given through the agency of [other] people. Therefore, he says let anybody be of service to you. Going even further, he says to "stay in that house" as long as you are in that locality. He says to be at peace and let them take care of you through and through.
9. But this means something else. It means not only being placed into a situation of being unable to avoid trusting in God, but they would also be placed into a situation of having no choice but to humble themselves before others. It is believed that this had a great deal of significance in the way they should be in their mission activities.
10. Please try to imagine it. They are going [on a trip] to proclaim the kingdom of God. Asking for repentance and faith they proclaim the word of God. And they are going [on a trip] to perform healings by applying oil on the sick, and to set persons free, who have been possessed by evil spirits. So, if you are looking at how your own work is turning into help for other people in a form specifically visible to the eye, and if you are starting to receive many many words of thanks from others, then how will things turn out? Our mindset will inevitably start to turn into one of "'We will do' anything 'for you people' for [your] salvation. [We will do it all to help you.]"
11. But, when they set foot into a new village, they would have no choice but to humble themselves all over again. First they had to let others give them lodging. They had to let others feed them. As weak persons like that, they would go into a village. Because they were penniless, they would need assistance with doing anything. In this way then, Jesus made the disciples receivers of things first before they would be givers of things. Put another way, it means that the Lord did not allow the disciples to enter the villages as if they were the superiors teaching something to the underlings, or as if they were the strong people helping the weak people. It means that the Lord did not desire for the mission work to be done in that form.
12. I feel like this experience of the disciples is teaching us something important. Those burning with a sense of mission often hate to put themselves in the role of a recipient. They would only place themselves in the giving role. However, there is a pitfall in that. I once had an experience where I went to give a speech at a meeting for some volunteer association. The people meeting there had been working in [volunteer] service to others for a long long time. But, more than a few of them said, "I don't want other people helping me; I don't want to be work for others." That made an impression on me. I can't stop myself from saying something is weird [here] when all is said and done.
13. "I don't want other people helping me; I don't want to be work for others." "I don't want to cause trouble for others." -- We may be saying that too, without even realizing it. Those who put themselves way too often on the side of giving only, in a true sense, are not able to live with others. They cannot share valuable things with others as equal human beings, standing on the same ground level. That's right. Those who do not want to let others help them will most likely not turn out to be good workers for God.
14. I could probably say this even in [our] telling the gospel to people close to [us]. I'd say there are a lot of folks who are assembled here [in this place] who are Christians only alone with family. To your own family you most definitely want to tell the gospel and you want to tell the blessings of God. But perhaps before that, you will have to become a person who first meekly asks of your family to "please help me." That's because the unconscious placement of the self at a superior level will often times become a hindrance to evangelistic work.
[God's] Power Is Revealed Right There In [Our] Weaknesses
15. Well, the disciples like that were forced to enter the villages as weak and requiring assistance. They could not now act like persons with authority, like persons standing high up. However, another important [point] shows up in that. That is to say, in the very place where human beings quit acting with authority, the word of God, which is a different authority from the authority of human beings, is revealed. When [Christ's followers] become weak beings who must get help from others, that is the very time [and place] where the strength of God is revealed, which is different from the abilities of humans.
16. Please look at verse twelve. In spite of the fact that they had entered into the villages in a beggarly fashion, and actually in spite of the fact that they got assistance from the people, the following is written in regard to their work: "The twelve went out and preached so that [the people] would repent. And they drove out many evil spirits, anointing with oil they healed many of the sick," (verse twelve).
17. Many evil spirits were driven out. Many of the sick were healed. What does that mean? It means that before that [happened], repentance among the people happened [first]. It means that [their] faith happened. -- Because where there is no faith, even Jesus could not do powerful works, (6:5-6). The people accepted the message of the disciples and believed the gospel. That this came through the power of the gospel itself is pretty clear. I think that the disciples themselves could sense it because in the form of beggars these disciples were not at all factors pleasant to the eyes of the people. It was not these disciples in and of themselves that they had accepted. All we can say is that the word of God was accepted. And if anybody was set free from evil spirits, it must be because they could not keep from being aware that it didn't come through the power of the disciples, but through "the authority against the unclean spirits," (verse seven), which Jesus had given them. Whenever someone was healed, the person could not keep from recognizing it as a work of the spirit of God and not by his or her own power because the disciples as their own selves did not have anything with which to furnish the people.
18. We must examine carefully: Is the church handing on something truly from God or is it only handing on what humans can furnish? Is what is being revealed in the church truly the authority which is the very power of the word of God or is only human ability and authority being revealed in it? When we are sent and do missions, is it the power of God that is at work there [in us]? Or is it the mere power of men and women? If the only thing seen is just what humans furnish, just a manifestation of human power, perhaps we may be in possession of way too many things. If that is true and it is, we need to have [our things] confiscated by Jesus just like the disciples. Furthermore, just like the disciples we need to start by truly seeking God in prayer and relying on Him.
19. Or we might say the opposite. During every worship service each week we receive the benediction and are sent into the world. But perhaps we may leave from here all the while considering our weaknesses, our powerlessness, our poverty and while feeling a lot of worry and unrest over our walk for the week. Yet, we need not fear. Those disciples [of Jesus] went out with impoverished figures, having nothing beside a walking stick. Maybe they still kept worrying a lot! But, through these [men] the deeds of God was revealed. We too should be expectant. The grace of God is sufficient for me. The power of the Lord is perfected in the weak places.