This morning, I want to continue on from where we left off last week. Let me start by summarizing in case you weren't here last week.
We were looking at the very beginning of Jesus disciple making ministry. We looked at the invitation that Jesus gave to Simon and Andrew and others to stop what they were doing and to learn from him. In Mark 1:15 we see Jesus saying "The time has come. The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news" That word "time" that Jesus used was the greek word Kairos which means opportunity.
He was saying to the people that now is their opportunity to learn first hand all about the Kingdom of God. It was his invitation to become His disciples – to follow him, to learn from him, to imitate him. And we talked about how Jesus makes the same invitation to us. He gives us these opportunities – these kairos moments – to draw in closer to him.
I also talked about how there is a very real sense that God is inviting us as a church into one of these kairos moments. Especially in the light of what was shared by Jerry Steingard a few weeks back and the words of prophecy that were spoken over us as a church, there is a sense that God is wanting to prepare us for something new.
As the end times approach, God's Word tells us that a great revival will come, in the midst of some terrible times, and people will flock to the church for answers and for hope. Will we be ready when that comes? Will we be equipped to handle their questions and direct them to hope and peace with God through Jesus that will last not just a few weeks or months but for a lifetime?
And we talked a little about how that won't likely happen through more projects or programs. It will happen through relationship, and community and opening up our lives to people. Letting people into our homes, our families and inviting them to follow Jesus with us. Inviting them to watch us and imitate us where we are getting it right and learn from where we aren't getting it right.
This morning, we are looking at again at how Jesus is continuing to call people to himself. But now it is not just Him calling individuals.
We're looking at the passage from Luke 10: 1-16 where Jesus is sending his disciples out to make that invitation to people.
1. Don't go solo – vs. 1
Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs. They would have been able to cover more ground going out individually but that's not what Jesus said to do. Why? Jesus doesn't explain why but there are some practical reasons for why that makes sense.
a) Protection. – It wasn't a random story that Jesus was telling when he told the story of the Good Samaritan. Robbers were out there waiting for opportunities. So it made sense for them to travel together to protect one another. I think that we need to stick together for protection too. We have an enemy who wants to stop people from hearing the good news of Jesus. So as we are involved in the work of inviting people to come and follow Him, we need to be praying for one another for protection. We need to have each other's backs.
This is not something that we can or are even supposed to be doing on our own. We need to be in it together.
2. Bless The Area And The People vs 5
We commonly greet one another with the words "How are you doing?" That is a fairly shallow greeting that we too often use as a "hello" without really wanting to delve into the answer to the question.
However, the phrase, "Peace be to this house" meant much more than a superficial greeting. The term for peace comes from the Hebrew word Shalom. I've never been to Israel, but I read somewhere that even today in Israel friends and acquaintances are sometimes greeted with the words mah shlomka which literally means "What is your peace". We've talked about this before, but Shalom is actually a lot more than just peace in the sense of an absence of violence. It also carries with it the ideas of completeness, soundness, and well being of the total person.
So when a person offers the blessing "May God's peace be on this house" it really is a blessing of life that only God can provide. It is like saying to someone:
I wish you and your family health.
May your enemies become your friends;
May your marriage be fruitful
May your children be happy and successful
May your life be rich and fulfilled.
What kind of an impact might we have if we were able to spend time in people's homes and were praying that kind of blessing for our community?
3. Fellowship With Them vs. 6-7
In the King James translation, vs 5 & 6 read this way.
And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house.
And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again.
Jesus sent the disciples out into the towns looking for the sons of peace or the people of peace.
These are people that are open and receptive to God's blessing. And when you find that person or that home, use that as a home base for your disciple making work. He was sending them into the towns with instructions to find a focal point and begin building bridges of friendship from there.
Find that person of peace – that one who is receptive – and start to build a network. Who are the people of peace around you. Those people who may not know Jesus yet but are open to God and spiritual things? Ask God to give you wisdom and discernment as you look around at your neighbours, friends, co-workers, people you go to school with. It doesn't mean that you ignore those who really aren't open and receptive. Still be friends with them and be open to them. But these aren't the people that we can start with to build a community of disciples.
Notice that Jesus said twice, once in vs. 8 and once here, that they were to eat whatever they were provided. That was in the midst of the strict Jewish dietary laws. To eat and drink with someone was a matter of relationship. It meant "I am identifying with you". Jesus did this and was criticized as one who ate and drank with sinners and tax collectors. He was even called a glutton and a drunk by some. He was called these wrongly, but it was what those religious people who cared more about their rules and regulations than about the people they were supposed to be serving. Jesus didn't care about the names he was called or the reputation with the religious that he had. He did care about the people he was inviting to the Kingdom of God.
You've heard people say "People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care". That might be a bit cliched these days but it is true. Before a person can ever trust your faith, they have to trust you! That happens as we throw our lot in with theirs. As we live with them and invite them to live with us.
4. Meet The Needs of the People – vs. 8
As we identify the people of peace around us and start to build networks and friendships with them, we will become aware of the needs that are there. And Jesus' instruction was to meet those needs. Heal those who are sick. Give hope to those who have none. Give them opportunities to encounter the power of God in the midst of their needs.
It's hard for someone to hear the good news of Jesus in the middle of a bitter separation. It's hard for someone to understand a loving heavenly Father who is their provider when they have no money or job. It's hard to see the love of Christ in the face of abuse, and violence. Find out what the needs are and work to meet them. This is another reason why we can't do this by ourselves. We will need each other and the wider church to do this.
5. Share The Gospel With Them – vs 9
It is good to be friends with people. It is good to be active in the community and in the world. It is great to promote social justice, to feed the hungry. The Mennonite Church that we are part of is great at all this stuff, but if we stop with just those things, we're not making disciples like Jesus told us to.
We also have to share the good news of Jesus. People need to understand that it is all about Jesus. We're not inviting them just to loving relationships with people, or to warm fuzzy spirituality. It is about Jesus. The invitation is to come and follow Jesus with us.
Let me close with this final thought. We need to expect rejection. Look at what Jesus said in Luke 10: 10 and 16. There will be those who will reject us and the invitation that we carry to them. Not everyone is going to be that person of peace. It is going to take work and persistence to find them. Let's not be surprised by that and let's not take it personally.
Maybe they are rejecting God because of past pain. Maybe they have felt rejected by Him because of past circumstances. Maybe they have been hurt by people who were supposed to be Christians and now they want no part of God. Maybe it is a timing thing. They just aren't open yet but at some other time they might become open. Maybe it is an intellectual thing and they have just rejected the idea of a God or at least a God that is knowable. The reasons for a person rejecting us and the invitation that we bring to follow Jesus are countless.
Regardless of the reasons, there will be consequences for that rejection if it persists. I believe that God doesn't stop calling people who reject him right now, but ultimately if they continue in that, they will face the consequences of that. And I think that what Jesus says about wiping the dust from our feet from these towns or people, he is saying that we are telling them "We can't make you believe or change your mind. But whatever dust and dirt it is that is causing you to reject God we leave it to you but will not have it stick to us"
We can't get rid of the dust on them. We can't make people have faith. We can't shake that dust off of them. We are never going to argue or debate a person into becoming a follower of Jesus.
So Jesus is saying that when we come up against people who aren't open, the solution isn't to work harder on them, to debate more with them, to pour more time and energy into convincing them. But instead to focus our time and attention on those who are open and build into them.
To close, let's remember that it isn't about us. When people hear the good news about Jesus that we share, it isn't because we were so great at sharing it. It isn't about us. When people reject the message of the good news and possibly also the messenger, they aren't rejecting us. It isn't about us.
It is about us being faithful to the call that Jesus gave to us of sharing the good news and inviting people to follow Him.