In this week’s Gospel we get a thorough discourse of the blueprints for building the Kingdom of God. Jesus stands before 72 would be evangelists who are undoubtedly feeling pretty great about themselves. Afterall up unto this point the disciples had pretty much not done anything but get in the way. In fact, we just heard Jesus rebuking many (fairly harshly) last week who wanted to follow him, but also had a quiver of ready made excuses. One might think his words to be “not so Jesusish” but in reality, Jesus was also very much aware that his time of purpose was fast approaching. He knew he couldn’t do this wandering teacher, preacher and healer bit forever. The roads are tough, mind you and Jesus didn’t have Chacos. He wanted to make sure those to whom he would entrust the whole ‘convert the world’ thing, would actually be able to do it. Today, we see Jesus sending out 36 pairs of followers to the places he had indeed to go, but may not have time to get to with the whole crucifixion/resurrection thing hanging over his head. Jesus must have felt like a parent sending their child to their first day of school. Will they make friends? Will they know what to say and do? Will other people be mean to them? Will they come back?
Jesus is very honest with them, and by proxy all of us, saying this work is going to be hard,
messy, and discouraging. The reason it is hard, messy and discouraging is because this work of the Kingdom, has a whole lot to do with people, and as many of you I’m sure have
discovered, people, are the worst! In fact, the only thing worse than people, are OTHER people. I often think to myself, gosh this whole getting to heaven thing would be whole lot easier without all these people. It is with people that we often become frustrated, angry, hurt, or depressed. It is with people that our ideas or intentions are dismissed or distorted. .Not to mention that there are indeed people who seem to lie in wait, with intent to strike and bite us with the venom of jealousy, gossip, disenchantment, and the like. While Jesus is always honest, he never gives a task without explaining what is expected.
Jesus is very clear that they will be unable to do this work on their own. Firstly, we see that he gives each disciple a partner, because the work of God is always done within a community of persons, including the creation of the world. This was a brilliant move be the Savior of the world, because in order for these disciples to love and serve strangers, they first needed to learn how to love and serve each other.This would turn out to be a necessity as Jesus doesn’t let them take anything with them! No money, no sandals, not even dried gefilte fish! He did this to instill in them the foundational knowledge that any good they do, or “success” they have comes from God and that apart from Him they can do nothing.
Did you happen to pick up on what Jesus told the disciples to do when they got to town? Did he say Go into the town tell as many people as you can about me, tell everyone what they have been doing wrong, solve all their problems ( even the ones they don’t know they have) and of course do all this as quickly and effectively as possible? No. He said go and bring peace to people. Sit down and have a meal with them. Don’t jump from house to house. Get to know the people you are with.. Be fully present with them, and offer them healing. Notice at no point did he tell them to argue and debate with everyone until they give up or give in. In fact if and when people did disagree with or even dislike them, Jesus, taking full advantage of the beatific vision, channeled Taylor Swift, and told them to shake it off. Not because those who disagreed with them were not worth their time, but because a disciple must be humble enough to not have to win every debate and battle. They must love the best they can, and then let it go.
These lessons on evaluation must not be lost on us as if this Gospel is merely Christ’s commencement speech to the new graduates of Jesus Christ Junior College. In order to continue the work of building the Kingdom of God, we must immerse ourselves in the community of the Body of Christ, trust that God knows the best use of our time, talents and treasures, bring peace and healing to troubled hearts, be fully present with one another, and be humble enough to walk away. This task has been laid out for us for two thousand years, and yet we still find it daunting. Perhaps it is because we have been told “what” to do but not so much “how” to do it. The answer lies just a few chapters before this week’s Gospel, in Luke 5:16. “But he often withdrew to lonely places to pray.” If you want to begin to understand how God is calling you to build the Kingdom of God, then go do what Jesus did. Be still. Be silent. Be.