Jesus sends out the seventy-two in the reading this week. They are evangelists, instructed to announce that the kingdom of God has come near. In some ways the instructions these disciples of Jesus receive are very ambiguous, but parts of their mission are detailed. The detail part concerns what they can carry with them. Jesus allows them very little traveling comforts. He warns them that the way will be tough and dangerous (“like lambs among wolves”), but they are not to carry extra provisions. As they have been following Jesus, the gathered disciples have seen him teach, heal, cast out demons, and feed the multitudes. I have to wonder how much the disciples are really taking notice of the danger in all these instructions. I have a suspicion that they might be so excited to go out on their mission given to them by Jesus that some of his words just wash over them without registering. Jesus has demonstrated to them that something special is happening, and they are eager to be a part of it. But he is trying to tell them something really consequential. Jesus is trying to explain to them that their job is “gather the harvest.” These evangelists do not bear the burden or have the responsibility of growing the plants, their mission is to spread the news. They cannot control how people respond to the news of the kingdom; they can only control their own reactions to the peoples’ reactions. It is another reminder of their reliance upon God.
There are many powerful reminders and teachings for us about the faith in this passage, but this one really struck me. Jesus insistence upon the humility of the sent disciples. They are going out to do remarkable things: heal, announce peace and the kingdom, even cast out demons. And Jesus is focused on their provisioning. Much like in Matthew 6:31 (Do not worry about what you will eat or what you will wear.), Jesus knows the human condition is such that even after being with Jesus, seeing the miracles, and receiving the commission, the disciples will inevitably be distracted by material goods. It is the same for us. I am astounded when I read these instructions, and wonder if I could handle such extremes. I am also amazed when I read or hear stories about folks who overcome adversity and scarcity to achieve great things in the kingdom. Think of the testimony these evangelists had! But I recognize the ongoing truth in all of this. It is not on my power or my planning that the Good News rests.