Summary: Jesus sent them out in teams for a purpose. From this outreach mission we can adopt principles of Prayer, Relationships and Acts of Kindness for Yahweh’s Kingdom. Conveniently that forms an acronym: PRAY.
Have you ever wished that you could live your life in a protective bubble – a life full of everything good, with all of the bad stuff removed? I know that I certainly have – and I look forward to, and long for, the Day when God will transform forever the world as we know it. The wonderful future Day I look forward to when God says He “will create new heavens and a new earth” (Isa 65:17) – but more about that another time.
In the meantime the concept of Bubble Creek Canyon (available at www.bluefishtv.com) is not the way that God calls believers to live. Jesus never said head away from the real world, escaping from sin and corruption, and away from people who don’t share your views or your faith. Earlier on in Luke’s Gospel – his faithfully and carefully researched account (1:3-4) – he tells how Jesus called together his 12 disciples and “sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick” (9:2).
On that occasion we’re not told whether all 12 went together or whether they went in smaller groups, but in today’s Bible account we hear that Jesus – The Lord – “appointed 72 others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go” (10:1). The King James Version of the Bible - which next year will celebrate its 400th birthday – says that the Lord appointed 70 others, not 72, and I believe the evidence from the Bible in Genesis chapter 10 where 70 nations are listed, strongly suggests that 70 is the correct number, not 72.
The number ‘70’ in the Bible symbolically represents the nations of the Earth in the early-Biblical period, so the fact that Jesus selects 70 followers, and sends them out in pairs, is also symbolic of the fact that later the Gospel would go out from Jerusalem to the whole world. So, I’m not going to suggest you deface your Bible, but when you see 72 read 70, because on this occasion the King James Bible got it right!
This Bible-event does not point to followers of Jesus hiding away in Church buildings or in an Englishman’s Castle, or in a ‘Bubble Creek Canyon’ Christian-only community. No, we are encountering followers of Jesus being sent out in teams of two, symbolically being sent to the whole world; where Jesus says that “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few; ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (10:2).
And when we ask anything of God – the Lord of the harvest – it is prayer. So when we ask God to send out workers into his harvest field – the World of men, women and children with all of their hopes and fears – we are praying into God’s mission to the world. At the New Wine Summer Conference in 2002 I was at a seminar being led by Wili Stewart – an Irish evangelist. He loves talking to people about Jesus, and he said ‘it is not that God has a mission for his Church, but God has a Church for his mission’.
He is Lord of the Harvest. It is his harvest, it is his mission, and we are his to send. Jeremy and Kate Ellis went to Pakistan where they have been for several years. Peter and Alison Roots went to Tanzania. My friends Geoff and Michelle Morris recently moved to South Africa and have made incredible progress in just 6 months, working amongst orphans, and working amongst refugees from the Congo where their fluent French comes in very useful.
I’ve had some lovely conversations recently with couples sensing God’s call upon their lives in a fresh way – sensing God’s call and direction into his multi-faceted mission; and it is by no means just married couples; and it is not just two by two. Going out in twos probably relates to the ancient custom of the need for at least two witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15), and it also brings us right up to date with our Child Protection Procedure requiring at least 2 CRB-checked adults whenever we work with children.
We’ve sent out teams this morning working with children and young people, and I’m currently in discussions with BBC Radio Essex about them coming to advertise what we do one Sunday morning. What an opportunity that will be!
Jesus didn’t send out ‘Lone-Rangers’. He sent them out in pairs and I believe he sends us out in teams, in groups, often with different gifts, skills and talents into his mission-field. I love working with the other two Vicars in the Billericay and Little Burstead team – Paul Carr and Paul Gambling. We’re a team of 3. God has sent you to Billericay, or the place where you work. What group or team are you part of?