7 As you go, preach this message: `The kingdom of heaven is near.' 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. 9 Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; 10 take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep. 11 "Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. 15 I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
While D.L. Moody was attending a convention in Indianapolis on mass evangelism, he asked his song leader Ira Sankey to meet him at 6 o'clock one evening at a certain street corner. When Sankey arrived, Moody asked him to stand on a box and sing. Once a crowd had gathered, Moody spoke briefly and then invited the people to follow him to the nearby convention hall. Soon the auditorium was filled with spiritually hungry people, and the great evangelist preached the gospel to them. Then the convention delegates began to arrive. Moody stopped preaching and said, "Now we must close, as the brethren of the convention wish to come and discuss the topic, 'How to reach the masses.'"
Moody graphically illustrated the difference between talking about doing something and going out and doing it. In today's gospel Jesus deliberately sent out his disciples to share the good news that He was bringing. They had no tangible security so they had to trust in him, and he didn't let them down.
When we do something for God we do not need to be confident that we can do it in our own strength. Indeed, our confidence can be a barrier to God working, or to him getting the glory for what we do. We are called to minister in his name and totally trust in him and his power.
This trusting in God, and nothing else, is shown by the instructions that Jesus gives his disciples. 9 Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; 10 take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep
The bag that they were prevented from taking was probably a begging bag used by travelling teachers at the time. The disciples had to depend totally upon God's sovereignty. The ability of him to provide for their needs and find them lodgings every night.
Jesus next instructions are to prevent the disciples from offending people...
11 "Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you.
Travelling missionaries depended on local hospitality and there were few inns. There were certain customs that would be observed when offering and receiving hospitality. In Jesus day there was competition to see who could host the latest, most interesting speaker, called a 'sophist'. Some richer hosts could have tried to tempt the better 'sophists' away from their current host by offering improved accommodation and meals. Jesus said to his disciples, 'Accept what is offered to you first of all. Don't look for better accommodation, even if it is offered. In doing so you may offend people.' Underneath this is the Christian teaching that we should not pursue riches and comfort at all costs, but accept what God has graciously given us.
Jesus continues the theme of the rejection of the gospel. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. 15 I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
In Jesus day a devout Jew would try to avoid traveling on foreign soil. If this could not be avoided, they would rid themselves of the foreign dust they had accumulated in their clothes and shoes as soon as they returned to Israel. This was seen as a judgment upon nations that had rejected the true God of Israel.
Jesus tells his disciples to do a similar thing. We have the expectation that some of the Jewish people would reject Jesus. It refers to the judgment that will come to those who do not accept him. It shows that, from now on, the people of God will not be determined by their race or religion, but through a personal acceptance of Jesus.
7 As you go, preach this message: `The kingdom of heaven is near.'
The Kingdom of heaven, or rule of God was and is near in the person of Jesus. We have the duty and joy of sharing this with others.
The late Sam Shoemaker, an Episcopalian bishop, said: "In the Great Commission the Lord has called us to be, like Peter, fishers of men. We've turned the commission around so that we have become merely keepers of the aquarium. Occasionally I take some fish out of your fishbowl and put them into mine, and you do the same with my bowl. But we're all tending the same fish."
At times I feel that I am so busy keeping things running here that there is little time for going out to people in the name of Jesus. Note, Jesus told his disciples to 'go', verse 7. He didn't ask them to stay where they were and say to people, 'come'!
One Sunday evening, William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, was walking in London with his son, Bramwell, who was then 12 or 13 years old. The father surprised the son by taking him into a pub. The place was crowded with men and women, some were drunk. The fumes of alcohol and tobacco were everywhere. Booth said to his son, "These are our people; these are the people I want you to live for and bring to Christ." Years later, Bramwell Booth wrote, "The impression never left me."
I was encouraged when five people recently came with me to a three hour conference about spreading the good news. It would be good if we could be more proactive in this area. The resources at the Conference included a Course called 'Lost for words' that helps people to share their faith naturally. It is for adults, youth and children. If there was enough demand we could run a course here. We may think that telling other people about Jesus is even more difficult than selling tea back to China, but it can be done with the help of God and with determination and discipline.
In October the P.C.C. will be reviewing where we are as a church and seeking God's guidance as to what he wants us to be and do. Please pray for us and this event.