1 After this, the Lord appointed seventy-two others, and he sent them ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest. 3 Now go; I’m sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Don’t carry a money-bag, traveling bag, or sandals; don’t greet anyone along the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ 6 If a person of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they offer, for the worker is worthy of his wages. Don’t move from house to house. 8 When you enter any town, and they welcome you, eat the things set before you. 9 Heal the sick who are there, and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near you.’ 10 When you enter any town, and they don’t welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘We are wiping off even the dust of your town that clings to our feet as a witness against you. Know this for certain: The kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.
No matter how well-known the quote, it is still jarring to read in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” It’s certainly a stark refinement that confronts the way we Christians, in our enthusiasm and our ignorance, have twisted and cluttered the simplicity of the gospel and our mission as followers of Christ. But as pithy as it is, and I have no doubt that Bonhoeffer would agree, taken out of context, the quote only tells half the story.
Because God is, in plan and purpose, a sending God.
God sent Abram. God sent Moses. God sent David. God sent John the Baptist and Paul. And in each of these accounts, He sends them first into the wilderness, a place of emptiness that they might learn who God is and what God is doing. A place they would run headlong into their need and grow to trust in Him. But these narratives are all low-resolution pictures of a God who, Himself, was sent to embody and demonstrate that plan and purpose.
In Luke 10:1-12, Jesus sends 72 followers into their own wilderness of sorts—a place where wolves roam free and the odds are already overwhelmingly against them. On top of that, Jesus tells them, “Set aside all the trappings of this world, your financial security, your comfort, your wits, and whatever influence you imagine you might have. Be conspicuously invisible. Humbly invest in everyone you encounter with a wealth that is not your own. The successes will not be yours; the failure will not be yours, and the answer will be the same. The promise has been fulfilled and the kingdom is near.”
Jesus is about putting his disciples in a position of powerlessness that they might experience true power—His power. And not to be a genius of the obvious, but His plan and purpose remain the same for the 21st century Christians.
What if God desires our protection but not necessarily our safety? What if God desires our rest but not our comfort? What if God desires our humbling that we might lose our ‘religion?’ God’s not looking for exceptional people. He doesn’t need our strength, our wisdom, our good reputations, or our noble desires. Sanctification and our personal wilderness experiences are exhausting, not because of demands placed on us by God, but by the desires and ambitions God wants to free us from.
God’s design is for us to be more and more dependent on Him. He wants us to be unburdened conduits of His grace and His power—power that is essential to the sheep silencing the howl of wolves and turning a stranger into a loved one.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- What baggage might you need to put down in order to experience God’s power in your life?
- Are the odds stacked against you in such a way that you can’t imagine your way out of it or into it?
- How do you respond when your goodwill is rejected?