“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.”
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
As we saw last week, Jesus has resolutely “set his face towards Jerusalem” and in preparation he sent messengers ahead of him into a Samaritan village to get things ready. In this week’s text, we again read of messengers with a responsibility to go ahead of him (“before his face”) on an urgent mission of preparation.
Seventy-two others are sent on a grand mission to the world in preparation for the Kingdom of God that will soon be “coming near.” They are instructed to go in groups of two so as to model vulnerability and transparency. Both last week and this week, we see a Jesus completely in control of all that is happening around him, but there seems to be an emphasis on the crucial role of the messengers, those sent “before his face” to prepare for his coming.
The training for these messengers includes instruction on the challenges that await them, the luggage (or lack thereof) that they are to bring with them, how they are to respond to potential distractions and what to do when they enter towns and houses. But most importantly, at the heart of the training for their journey is the declaration around the one, central message that they are being called to proclaim:
“First say, ‘Peace to this house.’”
Does this not hit at the heart of the ministry of Jesus, the reason that travelling light and avoiding distractions is so necessary? This is a message of critical importance to be pronounced in every place we find ourselves. Karen Wilk, pastor at NEW (Neighbourhood Engagement Workers) Community in Edmonton, has found this passage from Luke crucial in helping to move her congregations out into the neighborhoods around them. She writes, “Our offer of peace—acceptance, welcome and a sense of belonging to every neighbour—is another counter to the modern ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. We seek to be present by listening, being attentive and available, without judgment or presumption. Jesus does not send us with rehearsed speeches or ‘salvation plans’ but with peace.”
Jesus’ message of shalom, introduced by those sent to go in preparation, is at the heart of Gospel truth. It is the reason for the incarnation and the climax of the narrative of Scripture. What is this central message? “First, say Peace!”
Pastor Thomas Truby, in a sermon on Luke 10, states the following: “The proclamation of peace is the sum and substance of Jesus’ message. Jesus wants to give us his peace, and it is a peace qualitatively different from any we have known. It’s not like the world’s peace, built as it is on exclusion. This is a peace that includes all and takes away our fear of being cast out. He doesn’t want us to be afraid any more. When we have this kind of peace, even when we are as vulnerable as lambs among wolves, we are ok. This is the kind of peace he wants to give every home he enters, and we bring it too when we go ahead of him. This is the reason he sent the seventy out in the first place.”
So we are messengers of peace—agents of world transformation sent out into the everyday adventure of two by two interactions in homes, work places and neighborhoods. Jesus has set his face resolutely towards Jerusalem, and he sends us forth as peacemakers to help prepare the way for the Kingdom of God.
Joel Van Dyke
Director, Urban Training Collaborative
Guatemala City, Guatemala