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Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Christians from the evangelical tradition, we need to talk. And yes, I mean you, even if you’re from a denomination or group that isn’t technically a member of the National Association of Evangelicals (which The Church of the Nazarene is not, by the way. Does that surprise you?) I’m talking to anyone for whom winning other people to belief in Jesus Christ is a major part of their faith.

Is that you? Good. We need to talk.

Because in Luke 10:2, Jesus makes a statement that has long been seen as central to our belief in evangelism and missions: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (NIV). Both this and the identically-worded parallel in Matt 9:37-38 come within the context of Jesus sending out disciples, either the original 12 (Matt 10:1-16; Luke 9:1-5) or, as here, the sending of 72 others to announce the coming of the kingdom.

Jesus then goes on in both Gospels to give some pretty specific details about how disciples on this mission are to conduct themselves. Let’s take a look at some of these.

First of all, he tells them, “Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road” (v. 4). That last bit may seem rather unfriendly to us, but the point here is probably not that they shouldn’t talk to other people they meet, but rather that they should focus on the task at hand and not get distracted. In the ancient world, and in some cultures today, greeting someone formally is not a short task. I was fortunate enough to live in Kenya for a few years and quickly learned that a “greeting” there is not just a quick “Hello, how are you?” It would begin that way. Kenyans would then proceed to ask about your family, your friends, your neighbors, and want detailed descriptions of what you’ve been up to lately. Then, of course, you were expected to ask your friend to do the same about his life, and before you knew it, 15 minutes had passed and you’d “gotten nothing done” except small talk. (“Small talk” is anything but “small” in these kinds of cultures; it’s rather an important social mechanism. But I digress.)

Jesus’ disciples lived in a society with similar social expectations. So greeting every person you met on the road could easily eat up your whole day while you made little progress toward your destination. So here Jesus is probably trying to press on them the urgency with which they need to carry out the mission. His instructions to not take a “purse or bag or sandals” is also probably not literally meant, but is supposed to indicate that they should not be weighed down by possessions, which would slow their progress and possibly draw their focus away from the goal.

Once they reach the destination, they are instructed to give the house a blessing of Peace (vv. 5-6). This was a typical salutation when entering someone’s house. As such, it had likely become rote and drained of meaning for most people. However, just as Paul often took standard secular greetings and benedictions and infused them with Christian significance, Jesus and the disciples would have read more into this common courtesy. For them the word ‘peace” wouldn’t mean just “I hope you all are doing ok,” but would have deeper connotations from the Hebrew word for “peace” (shalom), which included the ideas of wholeness, completeness, and fullness. In other words, it was a wish for everyone and everything in the household to experience life as the best, most full version of what it could be, in every area, both physical and spiritual. (Put a sticky note here, we’ll return to this in a minute.)

After a few other instructions about how best to carry out their mission, Jesus finally gets to the crux of it all in v. 9: “Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you’” (NIV). The final instructions involve what to do if they are rejected by a town (vv. 10-11). Note that prior to and after v. 9 all Jesus’ directions have been practical in nature–HOW to go about doing what he has called them to do. Verse 9, is where we arrive at the actual WHAT of their mission–the thing they are sent to do.

Do you notice anything missing from these instructions? Is there anything you expected to find that you did not? Because when studying this passage deeply for the first time I was taken aback to realize that this sec