7 July 2019Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
“Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you’.” (vs. 8-9)
Psalm: Psalm 66:1-9
At the beginning of the previous chapter, Jesus sent out the twelve apostles to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal, with somewhat similar but briefer instructions. Therefore we are bound to wonder at the purpose of this more extensive follow-up mission. It involves seventy or seventy-two paired disciples – the oldest copies of this gospel are equally balanced regarding the exact number. Many scholars see a clue to Luke’s purpose in that the number represents the then considered number of countries of the world and that the words “where he himself intended to go” do not appear to refer to anything Jesus would physically do in his earthly lifetime. Luke’s two-fold work, Luke-Acts, is concerned with how the gospel was intended to reach, and by the end of Acts largely penetrated to the ends of the earth. So whilst the mission of the twelve, like that of Jesus in his lifetime, was focussed on the twelve tribes of Israel, a second phase to reach the world was already intended.
Jesus’ instructions stress the vulnerability of the missionaries and their need to rely entirely on the hospitality or otherwise of the places they visit. However, their meek acceptance of whatever food and lodging is offered (v. 8) contrasts with the dramatic way they are to renounce the towns that do not welcome them (vs. 10-11). But in both cases the crucial words of their message are the same, “The kingdom of God has come near to you”. They are in either case ambassadors of God bringing to people the challenge of God’s kingly rule, but whether to embrace it and the healing it brings (v. 9) or to reject it and invite eventual judgement (v. 12) is a matter of personal choice.
Note also that these kingdom messengers will have no reason to be disheartened by rejection, for according to verses 5-6, their greeting on entering a house, “Peace to this house!” – it being normal practice to offer some such greeting on entering a home – will either bless the residents or, if they prove hostile, will return as a blessing on themselves.
- Are the words you use in greeting people thoughtful and rich in meaning? How could you make them more so, that they might prove a true channel of God’s blessing?
- How important is it not to be self-sufficient, but instead rather vulnerable, if we are to be effective in commending the kingdom of God to others? What might that mean in practice for us in a culture where hospitality to strangers is not the norm?
- If we want a society largely indifferent to God’s rule to take it seriously, is there value, even necessity, for the kind of dramatic gesture epitomised by wiping a town’s dust off one’s shoes, or should there be no limit to our passive tolerance of unbelief?