Summary: We have much to learn about the nature of Christian missions, as we read about Jesus sending 72 followers out into the mission fields.
I have been told that baby eagles don’t necessarily want to learn how to fly. They are very content staying in the nest and dining on whatever mom or dad eagle brings back for them to eat. There comes a time, though, when mom eagle decides that she’s had enough of that lifestyle and that the eaglets are big enough to fly and hunt on their own. In order to get them out of the nest, mom eagle has to teach her children how to fly. She demonstrates take offs and landings, and flies around the next to demonstrate some of the basic flight techniques. She then literally pushes the eaglets out of the nest. As they fall toward the earth, they either spread their wings and fly, or meet their impending doom.
The gospel story for today tells us of a similar time in the lives of Jesus and his followers. The time has come in Jesus’ ministry and in the faith walk of the disciples and followers that they need to spread their wings and fly. They have been around Jesus for almost three years. They have heard the message that Jesus has preached and have witnessed the miracles that he has performed. Jesus, now, commissions them to go out ahead of him, and prepare the way for him by doing the same thing that Jesus has done.
Jesus sends the seventy followers on ahead of him with specific instructions.
His first instruction is that they are to go in pairs. Christianity and Christian service were never meant to be individual, private enterprises. Jesus always calls us into the people of God. The world and the forces of evil will destroy us if we go alone, but together we can overcome the forces of evil and transform the world. Our Christian brothers and sisters hold us accountable, encourage us in our faith and remind us of God’s steadfast love. It is absolutely vital for us to be reminded of God’s love for us.
Christians enter the world as lambs traveling in the midst of wolves. They would be foolhardy if they traveled by themselves or even as a flock of sheep. Only when the shepherd is with them are they safe from the wolves. Only when we are held firmly in the love of God are we able to enter the world, reach people and change lives.
We walk, even in service, by faith. Jesus instructed his followers to travel light. He wanted to make sure that they did place their faith in the fact that they were prepared for anything and everything. Jesus wanted their focus placed on God as the provider of their needs and the protector from all evil.
Jesus told his followers that they were to bring peace to the households, cast out demons and heal the sick, and proclaim that the kingdom of God had come near. These instructions of Jesus may need to be expressed in a more modern manner.
The Bible tells us that we should be prepared to make an accounting of our faith—in other words to know what to say when people ask us why we are Christians and how to become a Christian.
The center of Jesus’ teaching is that God is a God of love and that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son Jesus to suffer and die so that we might have new life. Those sent out on this first mission trip were to proclaim to all those they met that God is a God of love.