Luke 10 records Jesus’s commands as he commissions the work of the seventy. Jesus is asking his disciples to join him in the work that he is doing proclaiming the Kingdom of God. In order to increase his effectiveness, Jesus sends some of the disciples out as missionaries to be his witnesses in areas where he has both already gone and will go in the future. The blog post last week focused on the importance of recognizing that Jesus has specifically sent us to the places we already go first and foremost to be his witnesses. Whether we are at our place of employment, the grocery store, or the park, our main task is not to work, buy groceries, or relax but to be witnesses for Jesus. But there is more to these commands than just being a witness.
Jesus commissions the seventy to go to various towns and proclaim “the kingdom of God has come near to you.” The seventy are to go and live life in the places they are sent; eating, drinking, practicing hospitality. But their main message through these various activities is that the kingdom of God has come near. All that they are doing is to be a testimony to the truth that the kingdom of God has come near. Jesus almost assumes that they will be accepted in the towns they visit. However, he realizes that there may be some places that will not accept the message. There will be places where the seventy travel that will be opposed to the word of God being proclaimed. If they encounter such places they are to go to into the main street and shake the dust off their sandals in protest against that town. But even when doing so they are to say, “yet know this, the kingdom of God has come near.” Their message remains the same no matter what. Whether a city accepts them or rejects them they are still to proclaim, the kingdom of God has come near.
It’s interesting that Jesus tells them their message is to be the same no matter what. It does not change based on the response of the individuals. Even though they probably crafted their message in a way that would best reach different groups of people, the truth of the message always remained the same. And their faithfulness to the mission was not dependent on how many individuals believed their message and became followers. The hope was that towns and individuals would accept the message and become participants in the kingdom. But even if the message was rejected completely it did not change the truth that the kingdom was coming near. Just like the Old Testament prophets who were sent with a word from the Lord and were to preach the same message whether the message was accepted or not, the seventy were sent to proclaim the kingdom. And their faithfulness depended on the proclamation, not on the response of the people. God would take care of the response, they were simply called to proclaim.
Sadly, I fear too many times today we judge someone’s effectiveness in their calling with the wrong criteria. Too many times a minister’s effectiveness or ability is based on how many people are in the pews or if the church is growing numerically. Too often, individuals do not view themselves as missionaries because they’ve never actually “brought someone to faith” or sat down with someone and had a bible study together. Because we do not see the response we are looking for we assume that the person proclaiming the message is ineffective or unqualified.
But what if our role as those commissioned and sent out by Jesus is not to create a response but to faithfully proclaim the message? What if we viewed our effectiveness as witnesses based on our faithfulness to the calling, that in good times and bad we proclaimed the kingdom has come near? Obviously we can all learn to craft our words and messages more appropriately, but while we are hoping for a positive response from listeners, the response does not determine the message or our faithfulness. We have been sent by God to proclaim the kingdom has come near. That is an important calling. We should take that seriously and come to understand it as our primary role in life. Each situation we find ourselves in should be seen as an opportunity to proclaim the kingdom. We might proclaim the message by giving a cup of cold water, by engaging in the practice of giving or receiving hospitality, or even with just an encouraging word. And while we hope and pray for a positive response from others, we are to proclaim the kingdom message no matter what. Being faithful to the message is what determines our effectiveness.