A while back I was asked to bless one of the cottages in a correction facility. Through the years, I have done this a few times. And why is this a thing, you ask? I mean, what possible difference could it make for me to walk through a building, stepping into every room, and blessing it? And here we hit upon what is truly important. I didn’t bless anything. I asked God to bless the rooms and the people living in them; I asked God to bless the staff; I asked God to drive out every evil spirit. You see! I asked God to bless. I have no ability to bless. No more than anyone else. I can strive to be a blessing in the lives of others, but to bless a building; to drive out any evil residue – nope. So, I walked through the building and asked God to bless; to drive out evil. It is all about God’s power and authority.
Some people may think that Luke 9:1-6 and the Day of Pentecost outpouring in Acts 2 is all about the power of Jesus’ followers. But neither here, nor in Acts, is the emphasis on the disciples’ ability. That is why our story begins with Jesus gathering his disciples together and giving them power and authority. Jesus gave. Without that, the disciples would have been left ineffective and inauthentic. The word power refers to ability while the word authority emphasizes the right to act. Together these two are a powerful combination. However, exercising ability without authority, may work for a time, but eventually that authority thing will catch up and smack ya. So, Jesus gave the disciples power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. This is about Jesus bringing the kingdom of God into the world. This is about giving kingdom of God power and authority to his followers.
Having gathered them together and empowering them, Jesus then sent them out. It is Jesus who gathered them; it is Jesus who sent them out. This time their mission is described as proclaiming the kingdom of God and healing the weak. Like a herald, they came making an authentic message of the king. And a tangible result of the nearness of the kingdom of God was the weak being made strong. Then we have this strange command not to take anything for the journey; no staff; no traveling bag, no bread to put in the bag you don’t have, no money to buy bread to put into the bag you don’t have, and no change of clothes. But why? Some have suggested this is intended to be prophetic symbol. The message is too urgent to pause and make preparations for the journey. Some have suggested that this is about learning to trust in God. Maybe it also illustrates that the heralds of the king should be taken care of by the people they are serving. When they enter a house in any given village, they are to remain there until they leave the village. This is most likely about resisting the urge to upgrade their accommodations. If a poor person agrees to host you, do not insult them by moving on to a nicer house.
And what about those who do not receive or welcome you. This seems to be about how a city, as a whole, responds. Some cities will not rejoice over the message. Some will react with anger, fear, mistrust. Shake the dust off and move on. And what is this all about? Some Jews ceremonially shook off the dust of a foreign country as they came back to the holy land, as if to say, “I want nothing to do with your land.” Here, it seems likely that this is once again a prophetic symbol implying that their refusal to accept the message means that they will not be accepted in the kingdom of God; they will be shaken off like the dust of a foreign country. The message is urgent. Rejecting the message means being rejected. Receiving the message means being received into the kingdom.
Having departed; having gone through the villages; having preached the good news; having healed everywhere. Verse six is the summary verse and it is similar to the mission of Jesus described in 8:1-2. And that is exactly the point. The mission of the disciples is the mission of Jesus. They were gathered together; given power and authority; and sent out. This is about Jesus’ mission to bring the Kingdom of God into our reality. Jesus’ disciples are followers who continue the mission.
Have you ever felt as if life is too hard? Have you felt like giving up? Sometimes, it’s too much isn’t it? Life sucks you dry and people kick and bite and maim. The people you love hurt you. Stop! This is not about your power; your authority. This is about what Jesus gives you. Has he gathered you together? Has he given you power and authority? Has he sent you out? Let go of yourself. If you are called upon to be a blessing, don’t look to your ability or piety or holiness. Look to God. God bless you my friends. Walter