Gospel: Luke 10:1-9
Travel for the Lord
What travel plans do you have for this summer? How can you insure smooth travel?
1 After this, Jesus chose seventy followers and sent them out in pairs. Those followers were to go and prepare every town and area Jesus wanted to visit. 2 Jesus told them, "God has a great harvest. But he has few workers to bring it in. Beg the Lord to put workers out into the ripe fields. 3 Now go! Listen! I send you out like sheep into a wolf pack. Don't carry a wallet or extra shoes. And don't stop to talk to friends along the way. 5 When you arrive to stay with a family, first say, ' May the peace of the Messiah be with you.' 6 If the head of the family wants to hear your message, your blessing will remain with him. If he rejects it, your blessing will return to you. 7 Stay with the family that receives you. Eat and drink with them. For a worker is worth his pay. Just don't move from family to family in the same area. 8 When you enter a city and the people welcome you, eat everything they set before you. 9 Heal the sick in the city and announce to them, 'The Kingdom of God is close to you!'"
In this short version of this Sunday's gospel, Jesus commissioned thirty five advance parties. The commission included 1) a prayer for fellow missionaries, 2) a warning for prudence, 3) instructions for swift travel and guest etiquette, and 4) ministry responsibilities.
1 After these (events), Jesus appointed seventy [two] others and sent them out two [by two] before his face into all the towns and places where he intended to go. 2 He said to them, "Indeed, the harvest is great. But the workers are few. Beg the Lord of the harvest that he might put workers out into his harvest."
10:1 "seventy [two] . . . two [by two]" The words in brackets are variants found in many manuscripts.
"before his face" The term "face" meant the presence of the person. Jesus sent out seventy envoys to prepare for his arrival.
10:2 "he might put workers out" is literally "he might throw out." The word can imply force or dynamic action. This is the same word Luke used to describe the influence of the Spirit in Mark 1:12 when Jesus went into the desert after his baptism. Implicitly, Jesus wanted his followers to pray the Father sent his Spirit to energize those evangelizing others. He asked prayer for the Spirit's dynamic, decisive action.
The commission of the seventy began with a short prayer. The Messianic harvest had begun. Many yearned to hear the Good News. But the few numbers of missionaries limited access for those peoples. Jesus encouraged the missionaries themselves to pray for companions. The work of the Lord needed as many hands as necessary!
3 Go! Look! I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves.
Jesus followed the prayer with a warning. Danger lurked for traveling missionaries. Traveling in pairs gave some safety. Jesus included other instructions to insure the success and safety of the followers.
4 Do not carry a money bag nor (extra) sandals. Do not greet anyone along the way. 5 Into whichever house you might go, first say, "Peace to this house." 6 If a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on him. But if indeed not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house eating and drinking (meals) along side them. For a worker is worthy of his wage. Do not move from house to house. 8 Into whichever city you go, and they welcome you, eat that being set before you.
10:4 "Do not carry a money bag nor (extra) sandals." Jesus instructed his missionaries to travel light and depend upon the hospitality of others for food and shelter. Hence they did not need money, nor extra sandals. Implicitly, while Jesus encouraged fast travel, he also discouraged theft, since his followers did not have anything worth stealing.
"Do not greet anyone along the way." Jesus did not encourage social rudeness. He simply wanted his advance people to remain focused. Greeting people along the way meant socializing that could delay the missionaries for days at a time. The time to socialize would come when the missionaries arrived at their destination (see 10:5).
10:5 "Peace to this house." This is a traditional Hebrew greeting that, in the context of the mission, has Messianic overtones. In other words, the Shalom of the greeting had a reason. The house should be at peace for the Lord was coming soon.
"son of peace" This referred to a person of Messianic peace, a person who was hospitable and willing to hear the Good News.
"...your peace will rest on him. But if indeed not, it will return to you." Luke implied that, once the word was spoken, peace had an existence independent of the speaker. The best analogy of a word with an independent existence is a military order. Once the command is given, it has a power that required those to obey. The power came from the speaker but "rested" on the listener. In the same way, the peace of the missionary "rested' on the family (i.e., house). The power of the peace came not only came from the missionary, but from the Lord who commissioned the missionary.
10:8 "eat that being set before you." Common courtesy demanded a guest eat whatever he was served. The problem came when the Jewish-Christian missionaries passed through Gentile areas (which Jesus did in Mark 7:31, for example). If they stayed with Gentiles and ate their food, they would become unclean. This was a real pastoral problem in the early Church. In Luke, Jesus seemed to imply the risk of becoming unclean was far outweighed by the urgency of preaching the Good News to all who would welcome it.
The travel instructions were to provide focus for missionaries. First, they were to travel light and quick, depending totally upon the hospitality of strangers. Next, they were to greet a host family in such a way that their mission would be clearly communicated; their greeting would identify them as messengers of God's Kingdom and his Messiah. Third, the pair was to remain with one family in an area and eat with them as honored guests (this, and only this, was their reward). If they went from family to family, their movement might distract from their mission (families would compete for the honor of hosting distinguished strangers, instead of listening to the message) and cause scandal (people might infer the missionaries were shopping for the best deal). Finally, they were to eat what was presented to them, no matter where they traveled. These instructions helped the missionaries concentrate on the work before them.
9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, 'The Kingdom of God has come near to you!'"
For any traveler who was welcomed into a home, there was a "quid pro quo." Many travelers would enthrall their hosts with stories of their travels. A night's entertainment was worth the meal and bed the hosts provided.
The "quid pro quo" the missionaries provided was obviously more than travel narratives. They proclaimed the Kingdom in word and power. What the hosts received far outweighed the courtesy they extended.
Any travel, including vacation, should have a purpose. For some, travel provides an escape and a diversion. For others, travel provides a way to reconnect with family and friends. Others travel for business. Luke's gospel about the seventy missionaries challenges us, modern Christian travelers. No matter where we go, no matter what reason we have for travel, how can we bring the Good News to others we visit?
Take the last question to heart. When we travel this summer, how can we bring along the Good News and proclaim it to others?