In Luke 10, Jesus calls out 72 disciples and sends them on the road as advance teams “into every town and place where He Himself was about to go.” Their message was simple: The kingdom of heaven is near! The incident, recorded here alone, raises questions. Who were these men? Where did they go? How long did they stay? What relevance does this have for us?
As we gaze at the ruins of a post-Christian era, those days when the kingdom was near seem almost irrelevant. And yet the kingdom is always near—it has come, it has yet to come. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. He still calls and sends disciples out on the road as advance teams for God. We may look down that road and see nothing but hardship and discouragement, but time goes forward, and so must we. Better to set out with purpose and direction than be dragged by the current, and it seems to me that the Lord’s instructions are still good:
Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Some of us see this as an excuse to stay home and pray rather than hit the road. But Jesus says this to those very laborers. If the laborers are the pray-ers, does it follow that the pray-ers are also the laborers? In other words, don’t divorce the praying from the doing.
I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves—hence the need for prayer. We go with no illusions of the world throwing flowers at our feet—we’ll be lucky if they refrain from throwing bricks. But it’s our shepherd who sends us out, and a good shepherd would not send the sheep into danger unless he was near at hand: “I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”
Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals …
Travel light. Leave the grudges at home—also the sour memories, old anxieties, and ingrained fears.
... and greet no one on the road. Stay focused. Don’t be deterred by trivial pursuits and idle conversation.
Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace be to this house!” And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. Along the way, you will meet fellow travelers whose hearts are likewise set on pilgrimage. You’ll be able to recognize each other, and any peace you extend will multiply in fellowship. Do good to all, as much as it depends on you, and do not burden yourself with the weight of rejection.
Remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Don’t be too proud to receive as much as you give.
Do not go from house to house. You’re not a bee spreading pollen! You’re an ambassador, cultivating relationships. Trust grows with time, so take the time.
Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Don’t expect more than people can give. Instead, ascribe the best possible motives to others and accept their offerings with thankfulness.
Heal the sick in it and say to them: “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” Do any earthly good you can, but always in the name of the Lord: “The Author of all good sends me, and He has something vital to say to you.”
But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, “Even the dust of your town ... we wipe off. … Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.” All you can do is warn and teach. If they reject you and your message, it’s not your problem—God is the One who changes hearts, and judges justly.
Above all, don’t lose heart. The kingdom of heaven is near, and every step brings us a little closer to the King.