6 October 2017
Today’s reading is a part of the instructions Jesus gave to the seventy disciples before he sent them out to prepare the way for him. We put ourselves in place of disciples here, since our mission is the same as theirs – to equip the hearts of those we meet for a profound encounter with Christ.
In this passage, there is both warning and reassurance.
Firstly, Jesus speaks of their hardness of heart. He is unequivocal about the consequences of not being open and malleable in God’s hands. There seems to be real anguish in Christ’s words as he outlines what will happen to those who close their hearts and not learn from him.
Jesus then speaks of the trust and authority he is placing in the disciples as they go out on mission. He gave them a task and equipped them for it. They can be confident that they are representing Christ.
Why would Luke think it is necessary to put these two statements together? They don’t seem to fit!
Having seen the Christian mission lived out for years, perhaps Luke recognised two significant temptations for missionary disciples: hardness and despair.
Hardness can come in a few forms.
I can be hardened by the difficulty of the task, the resistance I encounter. When I get knocked down, I can forget to get back up again. Luke is putting the example of Jesus’ rejection before us as a remedy for this hardness.
Another kind of hardness is when we become so confident in our mission that we are no longer open to challenge and change from others. This hardness can be very dangerous. Once I believe that I am the only one who understands God’s plans, I am in a prison of my own making. I need to maintain the delicate balance of confidence that God has gifted me with, along with the humility to recognise that I need others.
‘Anyone who listens to you listens to me; anyone who rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who sent me.’
Jesus speaks to our despair in the final verse of this reading when he confirms that we do have a mission and that we are essential to the kingdom of God. We are chosen, anointed and given authority for the task that God has for us. We need to hear this, but more importantly, we need to believe it!
What does Jesus need to challenge you about today? Hardness? Or despair? Or maybe both!