Our weekly devotion from the sainted Rev. Earl Feddersen:
In this Sunday’s Gospel lesson, Jesus gives His disciples their first glimpse into being apostles. Less than halfway through Mark’s story, Jesus’ message to the Twelve changes from “Come and see (or hear)” to “Go and tell.”
It is something of a surprise that Jesus sends them out on their first mission so early in their training. These are the same guys who still look at each other with blank faces when He scores the punchlines of His parables. They are still in the simple “Wow!” stage at the meaning of His miracles.
He sends them out two by two. It is another example of His wisdom–it’s a cruel world out there and He doesn’t want them to face it alone. He sends a dose of divine authority with them as well, making them dominant over evil spirits. But the rest of their equipment is to be scant. They are to travel extremely light. They take no food or money and only the shirts on their backs. Each should wear sandals and carry a walking staff. They are equipped for fast travel.
The idea of leaving excess baggage is a good one for all of us in His mission. Too often we have emotional baggage. We worry that we won’t be able to answer all the questions people might ask. We think we should memorize the Scriptures before we depart. The fact is that too many people think the call to teach others, to “go and tell,” is something that should come later … much later!
Jesus gives the disciples a sense of urgency. If somebody fails to accept their message right away, they are not to hang around and argue. They are to leave them in the dust and go to someone who will listen. As God’s missionaries, we are called to tell the Good News, not to create the results. The results are in God’s hands. Some people may need 100 witnesses to come by before the seeds take root and grow.
This time of the year reminds me of my days in the parish and Vacation Bible School (VBS). We would usually start with 50-70 kids, but in just a few days we would have well over 100. Why did the other kids come? Did we give evangelism instructions to the first group or teach them invitation techniques? No, kids carry no baggage whatsoever. Filled with simple joy, enthusiasm and the Spirit of God, they sang the songs, simply because they liked them, and told their friends about the good time they were having every morning at VBS. For the kids, having come and seen and heard, it was only natural to go and tell. The enthusiasm of children is contagious, perhaps even infectious.
Maybe that is why Jesus sent His disciples out so early in His ministry and so early in their stage of instruction. Maybe that same childlike quality filled their witness. Maybe, years later, when they were hardened veterans in the mission field, they would remember it.
In Sunday’s lesson from Ephesians, Paul begins his letter to this, his main support station, by reminding them that they are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ, chosen in Him to be holy and blameless in God’s sight, predestined to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ. It goes on and on. In the Greek, the entire 12 verses are one sentence! The whole thing is fascinating– wonderful, but I particularly treasure the opening lines noted above.
Paul was talking to Gentiles. It went against everything he had always thought “before Christ.” Even the Gentiles, the men and the women, are adopted as God’s sons–the word “sons” is a legal term. As children of God we all receive an inheritance right along with Jesus. There are no second-class children in the family of God.
The words remind me that, just as Jesus did not require any advance qualifications for His disciples, so they require no special attributes to be His apostles–His missionaries. He took swarthy fishermen right from their boats, a tax collector right from his table, and turned them into His full-time students. After very little preparation, He sent them out to proclaim His kingdom. His grace was sufficient to bring them into His presence and His power was sufficient for them to enter His service.
In the same way, Jesus required nothing in advance from us before He went to the cross for us. It’s a good thing, too, since we weren’t even born when He did it. That is the purest of undeserved grace! And now, having made us God’s “sons,” inheritors with Him regardless of our nationality, race or sex, He sends us out. And God blesses us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing–everything we need. We have no need of excess baggage. We who are stained and guilty in sin are, in Christ, “holy and blameless in God’s sight.” Well, now that you’ve come and heard, go and tell!