I thought about this passage today found in Matthew 10 and in Luke 9. It reads like this.
He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” (Luke 9:3-5)
Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. (Matthew 10:9-14)
Now this is interesting. Especially the one in Matthew because there, the verses just prior tell us that Jesus forbid his disciples to go to the Gentiles or any part of Samaria. Why he might have said that is a whole other topic. That he said it is useful to understanding the today’s focal text. And that’s because, we see that Jesus is sending his disciples to God’s chosen people — the Israelites.
The challenge Jesus lays before the disciples is simple, but daunting. “Go,” he says, to proclaim the good news that the “kingdom of heaven has drawn near.” And while they’re at it he commissions them to serve the Israelites by healing, resurrecting, and cleansing. But they are to do this with no bag for belongings, no staff to defend themselves, and no money for provisions. Not even an extra shirt.
His reason, “for the worker is worth his keep.”
Of course, it sounds like a silly plan. What kind of person plans a road trip without taking a few precautions? Food, protection, and clothing are the most basic of needs. But Jesus tells his disciples to forget those things and to go forth, armed only with the word of God and his instructions to perform the work he has laid before them for an audience he has pre-selected.
This is a bad ministry plan. It’s certainly not the way things are done in todays’ churches and ministries. Bring this up to your pastor or mentor and it’s likely you’ll be told this is not the way ministry is done. And yet, here it is in scripture, from the very mouth of our Lord Jesus.
Sure, this is not the way it’s always done, but it’s done. And let me encourage you (and myself) that if this is what God is asking you to do, don’t fret. He’s provided for his people before upon their obedience. He’ll do it again.
Shaking the Dust
Of course, the other interesting thing about this passage is the way in which the disciples are instructed to go and exit. They are told to go and try to perform the work he has set out before them, but to leave the places where they are not cared for, and where their message is not welcomed.
This must’ve been difficult. If I were a disciple trying to do what God has told me to do in a particular city, I might overstay. Because if I didn’t, I’d feel like a failure. I’d feel as though there was something I could say or do to make the city know that I was sent by God to heal, cleanse and resurrect them. An early exit would feel like giving up. Or to put it more churchy, I would feel as though my faith lacked the sort of punch it needs to fulfill the task. I’d question, why allow me to go into a town where the message would go so thoroughly unheard and unsupported?
But Jesus rescues his disciples from such traps. It is not the responsibility of the disciple, preacher, or minister to get buy-in for the message and service he is meant to perform. It is the responsibility of the town or village to receive it.
Did you catch that?
The mission of the minister who is sent by God is his, and his alone. No amount of affirmation, buy-in or “fruit” can confirm that mission. Jesus is cluing his disciples in on the fact that there are cities who will reject them and their message; cities stuck in their cultural tradition or politics, stuck in their cliques and “good ol’ boy/girl” networks. And when the disciples find themselves in such a city, Jesus instructed them to leave, and to remove any trace of that city from their person, all the way down to the dust on their sandals.
It is the city’s loss, not the minister’s. And according to the scripture, the city will face judgment (Matthew 10:15).
Jesus Knew From Experience
Jesus knew his disciples needed to see this firsthand, because he’d experienced it firsthand. When he went back to Nazareth to tell them who he was and what he was sent to do, they tried to (literally) throw him off a cliff because what he was saying did not line up with the type of ministry they thought he should have (Luke 4:14-30). This, from the very people who recognized him as “Joseph’s son,” the folks he grew up around, the people who (supposedly) knew him best.
There in Luke 4, Jesus says, “No prophet is accepted in his own town.” And then he left Nazareth to go to Galilee, where his ministry truly began.
Don’t get stuck in Nazareth trying to convince people of your mission, waiting for them to rise up to throw you off a cliff. Hear what God has for you. Hear his instructions for your life, and let that be enough. Be obedient. Hear and obey. And when necessary, make your exit from the cities that do not welcome you, and like the disciples, shake the dust off your feet.
Are you stuck trying to convince a city of your mission and message from God? Share your story.
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