After this, it says at the beginning of today's passage and those of you who were here last week may remember that Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. That he is "proceeding" to Jerusalem in the same way the people of Israel proceeded into the desert from the land of Egypt after theyd been set free, that he is going "up" to Jerusalem to be "taken up" on the cross and into heaven.
Jesus is in a hurry we heard last week, there suddenly is an urgency in the way he is going about things. When people dont want to receive him he moves on without much further ado, when people want to follow him he warns them that even things like burying their loved ones and saying goodbye to family members may be too much of a luxury for those who want to be with him.
The foxes have holes, the birds have nests, but the son of man does not have a place to rest his head And neither will you if you decide you want to follow me is what he says ..
It is in this context Jesus appoints 70 "others" and sends them on ahead of him. Like heralds before a king to prepare the way. As labourers into a harvest that is plentiful and where they will have their hands full to bring it all in.
But also: Like lambs into the midst of wolves.
Seventy helpers, (or seventy two helpers as some manuscripts give), are appointed by Moses shortly after he and the people of Israel have entered the desert. Seventy (as well as seventy two) a number that will come back time and again as the representation of the fullness of Israel (7x12) as well as of all the nations of the world as they were known then (70 nations).
Two by two, like the animals into the arc does Jesus send people ahead of him to prepare people for what is to come: a journey through death, to resurrection and new life.
Like lambs between the wolves.
Not only Jesus lays himself open to violence and rejection, those commissioned by him will encounter the same fate, will not be safe, their journey too will also lead them through rough terrain.
They are to travel light. And those whove been camping will know why: anything superfluous will slow you down and make life difficult once youre on the road. If you want to travel fast you need to travel light.
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, there is not much time left to spread the message. His followers are on their way following in his footsteps and there is no time to lose.
There is no time for greeting even, a very elaborate ritual in those days, that, once started, would take at least part of a day to conclude.
So they are not to take or do anything superfluous, anything that is not absolutely necessary on their journey but keep their eyes on the road and on their task.
Peace they are to take with them, to anyone who wants it. But if not, ok, then not. No time is to be spent trying to force peace on people that dont want it, no time should be spent worrying about it either, just shake the dust of your feet and go.
Receive hospitality when it is extended to you. Dont worry (and they did in those days) about what you are going to pay back without your purse and sandals on you. Just take life as it comes, go with the flow and receive gratefully of what comes your way.
Cure the sick, just like that, put very matter of fact, in one breath with all the other things they ought to do. Not much thought or effort seems to go into it, just: cure the sick and say "the Kingdom is near". No lengthy explanations or sermons to be delivered on the Kingdom or the gospel either.
If they dont want you or what you have on offer: shake the dust of your feet and go. It is their loss, not yours.
The Kingdom of God is near.
Lambs between the wolves. An image of utter vulnerability laid open to the most scary and merciless predators known in Israel at the time. No purse, no sandals. Only peace and healing. No nonsense. Just go.
Because the Kingdom is near, God around the corner, all this time, even when you dont see him.
The seventy return with joy. They make Satan fall from heaven it says, they tread upon snakes and scorpions without being harmed. They cure the sick and drive out demons.
And yet says Jesus, that is not the big deal really. It comes with the territory. What is the big deal is that your names are on the role in heaven. That youve become inhabitants of the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom is near. Jesus message that started to go out to Israel and the nations, that was brought to us through people that felt called by him to bring peace, healing and the Word of God to others, has now arrived here this morning.
And there is still no time to lose. No time to lose to go out ourselves and share of the peace we have received, share of the healing power Jesus brought to us, share of the message that was given to us.
Its simple really, mission, there is not that much to it when you start thinking about it. And yet. Mission scares us, it reeks of pressurising others into something they may not want. It reeks of hard work and standing on street corners making ourselves ridiculous.
According to this text it is not any of those things. According to this text it is about becoming vulnerable, about going out, about sharing.
Not to worry about what we should take or how we will be received.
Just to go, offer peace, offer the good news, bring healing wherever damage has been done, not worrying how or when or in what way we will do it, what we will eat or drink on the way, how we are going to pay our way. Just going and trusting that Satan will fall from heaven if we try, that what we've received ourselves is important enough to share and will be sufficient to make miracles happen if we let ourselves be people of God.