These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for labourers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.
If you have got the impression so far that Jesus was continually on the move, village to town, town to city, teaching and proclaiming, healing and driving out demons, then you have got the right impression. Jesus was a sent man. Sent from Heaven to Earth, from God to lost people. He was a missionary man and his mission was to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).
When we think of Jesus and Christianity today we tend to link it straightaway with the idea of church. Whether we think of church as a building, people, a series of services and meetings or all three we still envisage something which is stationary, standing still. The church is there in a certain place, it might do a little bit of moving around occasionally but then it is back to the routine, back to the building, back to the same bunch of people. Worship and prayer, buildings and finance, meetings and fellowship. Our shared experience during the Covid 19 pandemic has loosened up and made more flexible our experience of church but still everything seems to be more pressing than sharing the good news.
The problem here is that we are often putting the cart before the horse. For Jesus the key thing was the driving, powerful and fully alive missionary movement. The churches or little village based communities of believers came along after the mission. We have got it the wrong way around, as one great theologian once said we have got ‘a church that has a mission, we should have a mission that has got a church’.
Jesus is on a mission, sent from God to rescue his lost children. Jesus gathers a handful of disciples. Disciples are learners and followers. If they are going to follow the great missionary Jesus they will have to become missionaries themselves. Jesus is setting up a movement not an institution. If they are going to be his disciples they will have to keep moving.
Here the disciples are not so much students as apprentices. A good apprentice does three things. First, they watch the craftsman do the job. Second, they learn to help the craftsman. Third, they do the job themselves with the craftsman watching.
As the Father sent the Son, so the Son sends his followers to all the towns and villages, so that none are missed. Even more challenging, when they reach a village they are to go to each individual house. Now here is a question, in fact a series of questions:
- What would happen to this country if the Christians could re-capture this sense of missionary movement?
- What would happen to your church if it went on a mission to its local neighbourhood?
- What would happen to you if you became a missionary follower?
I recently contacted a young man I knew some time ago. We met for a coffee and when I invited him to a Christian enquirers group I was amazed that he straightaway said yes. In contrast I have spent years patiently trying to be a mission person to a member of my family. It has not really happened yet but I am still in there.
The Jesus missionaries proclaim the good news, cure the sick and cast out demons. So here is the final and biggest question; thinking of your family, your work colleagues and friends, which of these do you think Jesus might be sending you to as his personal missionary?
You were sent by your father to our world.
May you send me to my world,
Show me who to go to,
Encourage me as I go,
Equip me to minister to them when I arrive,
That your mission might be my mission.