Preparing the Way (3): Traveling Light
Intro – I saw a cartoon the other day that showed a skeleton lying on its stomach, propped up by its elbows. The skeletal head is still pointed directly at the hands which are holding an I-phone. The guy obviously died while playing video games and texting. It could happen, couldn’t it? Putting something good ahead of something necessary – like eating!
But that is so human. It’s so easy for us to get so focused on the insignificant that we miss the necessary. Jesus’ commission in Luke 10:1-16 urges us otherwise. Here’s what is necessary says Jesus. Here’s your commission. So far we’ve looked at the commission summary given by our Lord to each of us, the challenge of the commission (fields of people ready for harvest, but with few workers) and the commands of the commission – pray and go! Today we continue by looking at the conditions the commission.
IV. The Conditions
Jesus warns right out of the chute – this is not going to be easy – so here is what you need to know. The atmosphere and the attitudes.
A. The Atmosphere
V. 3, “Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” Jesus is no prosperity gospel preacher. He isn’t. He never builds false illusions the cost of representing Him in this world. It is absolutely the highest privilege that one can have. But it is dangerous. Lambs among wolves.
In preparing for this I read some accounts of wolf attacks on human beings. I’ll spare you the gory details, but they are vicious animals who leave behind nothing but bones. Sometimes humans are able to fend them off using firearms or axes or other weapons. But imagine being a lamb among a whole pack of wolves. This is a vivid picture of absolute helplesness.
What’s the point? It is twofold. First, Jesus is saying, “Expect persecution.” A lamb among wolves is going to be attacked. It’s not a question of “if”; only a question of “when.” Second, He is showing us that we are totally dependent on Him. A lamb is toast – unless help comes from elsewhere.
Here’s the Christian life: John 15:18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” Persecution is automatic for followers of Christ. We don’t have to seek it out. It just happens. We must be sure it’s our message and not our attitude that stirs it up, but it will come! Jesus is telling the 72 – “Expect it guys. I know the danger, and I’m sending you anyway!”
Why does this happen? Jesus explains in John 15:21, “But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’” People are not naturally neutral toward a God who says, “I love you, but you are accountable. And since you can never measure up, your only hope is to accept the death of my son as your own. People love the love part – hate the accountability part.
I’m grateful we do not face the life-threatening persecution that is rampant in other parts of our world. But as our own society grows more Godless, the persecution will intensify. People willingly agree with God about other people’s evil (the whole US hates the Nation of Islam killing Xn children) -- but they do not take kindly to having their personal sin called out. Thus our society, while we condemn Islam, has looked on with approval as 60 million parents have murdered their own children in our own country in the past 40 years –abortion without consequence. To speak against it is to be called an extremist.
We define sexuality in our own terms, and even in churches have accepted that premarital sexual relationships are not sinful but normal. Some even posit adultery as a positive good. To speak against that is to be labeled the hopeless relic of an earlier age. And the tolerance of homosexuality has reached the point where to speak against it will soon be labeled a hate-crime, subject to imprisonment. It’s coming and it will only get worse unless we turn to God as a culture. We have been insulated for so long by the moderating influence of biblical principles that we have forgotten that persecution is a normal part of Christian existence. Short of a revival, such protection will soon be gone. Many of you could testify right now that if you were completely obedient to your Lord’s commands regarding integrity, you would risk advancement or lose your job. Surprised? No. God says in II Tim 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Period.
So why does Jesus send us out “as lambs in the midst of wolves”? Doesn’t He care that we will be persecuted? Of course He does. But He also knows – it will be the means of some coming to Him. Not long ago in CA a woman named Barbara Robidoux was intrigued with a neighbor named Michelle. Michelle lived a graceful, joyful, Christian life and was dubbed by Barbara the neighborhood “Bible Thumper.” Each summer during VBS, she would take a van full of kids. She was constantly visible in the neighborhood providing help wherever it was needed. Barbara looked for flaws but what she found was compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
One afternoon, Michelle’s son was attacked by a group of neighborhood bullies. He barged into the house, tears falling, having been pelted with stones accompanied by jeers of “Jesus freak! Jesus freak!” Barbara happened to be there and she watched as Michelle calmly comforted her son and prayed for the salvation of the bullies. Barbara asked how she could remain so composed and why she didn’t call the police. Michelle responded, “I’m so angry I can hardly talk, but my Lord’s instructions in Rom 12:14 are, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” You can guess the rest, can’t you? Barbara was haunted by the incident. She began to press Michelle in detail about her faith and listened carefully to her answers. It wasn’t long before she testified, “I don’t know if any of the neighborhood children found Christ that summer because of Michelle’s touch. But I know I did! I found Him because one family lived it in my neighborhood, and they lived it daily.” Does that mean that every persecution leads to someone getting saved? No. But often it will; that makes it worth every insult, doesn’t it? Jesus sends us for a purpose – and He goes with us to bring others to Himself. This is true Christianity. True Christianity is not the cars and jewelry and big houses and cruises of the prosperity gospel preachers; true Christianity is the converts of the persecution gospel that Jesus preached.
B. The Attitudes (Travel Light)
Now, in light of the expected persecution, Jesus tells these men how to live. Summarized in two instructions. Be unemcumbered; be unentangled.
1. Be Unencumbered
V. 4: “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals.” In effect, Jesus says to the 72, “Don’t be encumbered by physical concerns.” No moneybag meant no financial reserves. They were going to be dependent for room and board on the communities to which they were sent. No knapsack meant no food reserves or extra clothing. No sandals didn’t mean barefoot, but no extra pair. They were to go as they were. Now, these instructions were specific to this particular effort. It was short-term with minimal distance involved. They could reasonably expect to be supported by those to whom they ministered. Thus Jesus’ comment in v. 7, “for the laborer is deserved his wages.”
That this was not a permanent instruction is clear from Luke 22:35-36 where the night He is arrested Jesus refers back to this time and changes the pattern for future ministry: “35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.” His point is not that while He cared for them once, they must care for themselves in the future. Rather, His point is that having learned that they could depend on Him to provide from nothing, they should in the future make reasonable provision, knowing that He was fully capable of making up any deficiency. The message is now – Provide for yourself, but still -- don’t get encumbered. Don’t let things weigh you down. V. 7 is similar: “And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house.” Jesus is warning against arriving in town, accepting a place to stay only to discover a couple of days later a place with a King size bed, HD TV, a pool and a view and decide to move on. Don’t do that, Jesus is saying. That’s not why you are there! Be content!
“Look, don’t let it be a concern whether you have little or much. Stay focused on the main thing, preparing the way for Me in whatever career or environment you find yourself.” Money and things can be an obsession --whether we have it or not. Many who don’t have it are obsessed with getting it. Many who have it are obsessed with getting more. In either case, they are not obsessed with the eternal treasure of representing Christ. And that’s what He wants. Paul gives the right model in Phil 4:11 “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” That is an unencumbered attitude. If God prospers my labor, great. I’ll figure out how to use it for His glory. If He does not, great. I’m content -- with or without. I’ll tell you what – a lot less ulcers come with this attitude. Anything less means that the idol of “things” has invaded our own life, and people will see right through any gospel message we try to present.
Any of you who are familiar with Civil War history know that early in the war Stonewall Jackson embarked on what became known as the Valley Campaign which took advantage of his intimate knowledge of the ins and outs of the Shenandoah Valley which lay between the Blue Ridge Mountains on the east and the Alleghenies on the west. He marched his vastly outnumbered army (3-1) almost 700 miles in 48 days winning several minor battles in textbook fashion with speed and minimal supplies. One of his subordinate commanders, Richard Ewell, quoted Jackson as saying, “The road to glory cannot be followed with too much baggage.” TRAVEL LIGHT! That’s true in physical warfare, and it’s true in spiritual warfare as well. We’re not here to see how much we can pile up! Too much attention to things – either because we have them or don’t have them – dilutes our attention to the real objective – to live gracefully under persecution in a way that will invite others to Christ.
2. Be Unentangled
This is similar to the being unencumbered, but whereas encumbrances focus on “things”, entanglements focus on “relationships or ambition” that can get in our way. First note the end of v. 4, “greet no one on the road.” To our ears this sounds downright unfriendly. But Easton’s Bible Dictionary reminds us, “Eastern modes of salutation are not unfrequently so prolonged as to become wearisome and a positive waste of time. The profusely polite Arab asks so many questions after your health, your happiness, your welfare, your house, and other things. I have often listened to these prolonged salutations in the house, the street, and the highway, and not unfrequently I have experienced their tedious monotony, and I have bitterly lamented useless waste of time.” Once again the instruction to avoid such entanglement was particularly relevant to this fast, urgent mission.
Jesus similarly advises in v. 8, “Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you.” Did your Mom ever tell you that? I hear my mom’s voice in that command. You’re going to eat that asparagus and you’re going to like it! Well, that’s not exactly what Jesus is getting at here. These 72 were most likely all Jews. And they were going into Perea where there was a mix of people. They could easily end up in the home of a Gentile who might serve food that was forbidden by Jewish law. Jesus is advising, “Don’t get entangled there either. Eat it. Your mission is to present the gospel, not to get hung up on discussion about what food to eat. As the Lord of the Law, Jesus had already declared all foods clean according to Mark 7:18-19, “And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)” Jesus command is, “Stay on message. Don’t get entangled in long, time-consuming greetings or meaningless discussions about what food to eat. Stay focused on what is primary.”
God similarly instructs thru Paul in Eph 5:16, “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” I think a lot of us may have a lot to answer for on that one, don’t you? How many ways do we allow ourselves to get entangled in time-wasting activities? According to one recent survey the average adult spends 4 -1/2 hours watching TV per day, and another 5 hours of non-work-related on-line activities. Obviously we all need some time for relaxation and re-charging, but not 9 hours a day. We get so entangled with the things of this world we forget, we’re not of this world anymore! We forget we’re at war when the persecution is not affecting us personally. We lose our edge and find that we are hardly redeeming the time – more like wasting it.
Conc – Really what it comes down to is this, will we suffer some temporary persecution in the cause of Christ – or will we suffer eternal loss because we got entangled in the empty pleasures of this life and forgot our purpose. At her home in Nice in September 1927, Isadora Duncan (1878-1927, US dancer and flamboyant life-stylist) stepped into her brand-new, low-slung Buggatti racing car, driven over from the dealer’s by a mechanic. She wrapped her beloved long red scarf around her neck, flung back the end of it, waved gaily to her friends, crying, “Adieu, mes amis! Je vais a la gloire!” [Good by my friends. I am going out gloriously]. The driver started up and the car moved off with a roar. The long red scarf became entangled in the spokes of the oversized rear wheel, twisted, and snapped Isadora’s neck, killing her instantly.
That’s us, Beloved, unless we don’t see the encumbrances and entanglements of the world for what they are – potentially deadly enticements of an enemy seeking whom he may devour. C. S. Lewis said, “Prosperity knits a man to the world. He thinks that he is finding his place in the world, but all the while the world is finding its place in him." If we are to stay on mission, we must not love the world or its things. Let’s pray.