Following Jesus together

Sunday the 3rd of July 2016

Luke 10: 1-11; 16-20

I wonder if many of you are like myself, in that sometimes when you read or hear Jesus speaking in the bible, you don’t first get what Jesus is on about. Jesus did and said some strange things didn’t he? Today’s Gospel reading from Luke Chapter 10 where Jesus sends out the seventy two is one of these places where it can be confusing and difficult for us to understand.

I suspect that over the years you would have heard many sermons on the importance of Jesus commanding us to go out and to reach out to those around us who do not know him. This is one of the major commands of Jesus to all his disciples, which includes all of us.

The mission that Jesus sent those seventy two, of his followers out on, is not a mission I could imagine wanting to do. It sounds more like orders received from central command on the series “Mission Impossible.” Listen to what he says and the language he uses “Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.” What a tough ask! Basically they were to have no provisions, not even a decent pair of walking shoes, danger was close to them, they were going into places where they would be open and vulnerable to attack, and they were not even allowed to stop to ask for directions. This sounds like some military exercise of survival that he was sending them on, rather than being sent spreading the Good News.

While Jesus’ demands may seem rather extreme, they should make us pause and think and I wonder if maybe that is exactly Jesus’ point. Maybe this is what Jesus is getting at. Stop and think. As you and I are sent by Jesus into the world in which we live in: What is it that you and I think we need? What are those things that you and I suppose we just have to have for a life lived in service to Jesus. What do we think we need to have to follow Jesus in this life?

To be honest this is where many Christian’s struggle because they think that they do not have what it takes. They don’t think that have what they need, or what is required. I have a passion for global mission. I have friends who are living overseas in the Middle East, in some very dangerous places. I have friends who have been in places and come back to Australia. Often when they come back the go to churches and tell of what God has been doing and believe me I have heard some modern day miracles that God has been performing in their lives. But one of the problems is that we can often see these people as hero’s. As these super Christians that are doing these amazing things, but we can’t be like them. Often verse 2 of today’s reading was quoted and used to try and motivate people: “the harvest is plentiful , but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into the harvest field” Most Christians live normal everyday lives, and I have found that often when missionaries share, it leaves others feeling inadequate and even burdened, not that this is intentional.

As I was pondering this I started thinking about Jesus mission of Seventy Two from a different angle. I wonder whether it should also make us stop and think that maybe we are asking the wrong question. You see we like to know what we are to do. Just give us the instructions and we can then attempt to follow them. However in this case what God asks us to do is often far beyond what we could even imagine then we think it is simply unrealistic. Maybe God’s expectations are too high of us on this one, we might say. But what if the real question is not what you need? But, who you need?

Often when we read and hear scripture we so easily skip over important details. And one that we skip over here in this Word is the fact that he sends seventy two of them.

You see they we were not sent out alone, they were not on their own. Each of those sent had seventy one fellow disciples, friends in the faith, on whom to rely, to depend. That’s a lot of people, on which to count on if the going got rough. No one was doing this alone. Jesus was preparing and also teaching his disciples already this early on in his ministry of how important it was (and is) to rely on each other, especially in Jesus absence.

We don’t do this alone.

You and I need to hear this. Our Christian journey with our Lord in not walked in isolation; we have our brothers and sisters in Christ with us for a reason. We are in this mission field together. But we don’t always find this easy do we because we do not like to be interdependent upon others. We tend to find things to put in place of people. We can fill our lives with stuff so that we actually avoid having to depend up on others. Relying on others does not come naturally to most of us, but in God’s Kingdom and in his way of working it is important.

In this world that we live in today, I believe that as Christians we are going to be more a more in need of our brothers and sisters in Jesus, particularly in this period of time when as a Church we are fast becoming, if we have not already become the minority in our society. Where we may begin to feel even more isolated and discouraged, it is even more urgent that we see the people God has placed around us to encourage us.

If you look in the book of Acts at how the Christian Church began, you can see here in today’s reading the Jesus was preparing them. He was preparing them for the fact that there was going to be a lot of travelling when it came to spreading the gospel, as it says: “Jerusalem, in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). These disciples needed to be prepared, they needed to know what was necessary to carry out this mission of the Gospel. And what did they learn, well as it turns out, when they had returned with joy, they learnt that all they needed is the name of Jesus and each other.

The nature of our Christian faith is communal. The Church of Jesus is made up of people for a reason. Too often in our world, the way we think about faith and spirituality are isolationist and independent. Like saying “my own faith, my own religious system, even my own God, are what matters” And, too often without thinking about this we can become dangerously autonomous. Yet, the nature of who we are as God’s people is to be in community with each other. We are called as His children, to be a part of this congregation and parish together. We are called to share in the life of Jesus together. We are called to carry each other’s burdens as it says in today’s Epistle reading from Galatians.

At the heart of this reading today is the reason why you and I are here in this place. We come here to this church because this is our group ‘of seventy’ if you like. We come to this church to journey with this diverse group of people whom God has put us here with; to be here with each other as we together journey with our Lord Jesus Christ. Whilst Jesus commands us to go; to be Christians here in this world; to spread Jesus Christ and the Gospel to those around us who do not know him, we don’t do this alone by ourselves, rather we do it together.

I encourage you to take the time to think about those who God has place in your life, to help and encourage you on your Journey with Jesus. To think about how God is working in this very community amongst you all working together for his purpose. Know that you are not alone in your journey, but that God has given you this community to support you, as you seek to follow what Jesus.