I think there were 72 of us (though someone made the count only 70). The Master summoned us to himself and gave us clear instructions. We were to go out before him into the towns and villages of Judea who had not yet heard of him. We were to travel light with nothing to fall back on, not even a purse or a spare pair of sandals in case the strap broke. That sounded ridiculous until I remembered what Moses said to the people in the wilderness, that though they had spent 40 travelling in that barren nowhere, still, by an unnoticed miracle of God their clothes had not worn out in all that time. For a moment my attention wandered, when had they realised that this was not normal? After 5 years? Or 10? Or 20? Or had they simply forgotten that clothes wore out until Moses brought it to mind? It would have been something to see their faces when they found out! I could just imagine the dawning amazement as they ran critical eyes over the state of the cloth and the strength of the seams!
But no, I must pay attention now! I didn’t want to let him down by ignoring his instructions. I figured that if we weren’t to take anything for backup, it was because God would see to it that we wouldn’t need it. So I was clear on that, though the “lambs among wolves” bit was a little concerning.
The next part seemed straightforward enough. We were to wish peace on anyone who welcomed us, we were to depart from anyone, or any place, that didn’t. I was happy with that, it was a workable approach, and I liked having clear instructions to follow. And to eat what was set before us was just good manners. We weren’t some privileged group of people to demand special food and special treatment! (Actually, we were incredibly privileged, but I only dimly grasped it then, because our privilege did not come from the honour other people might bestow on us, but from the wonder of knowing, and being known by the Master, and being called into his service.
But what was this? “Heal the sick and say to them, ‘The Kingdom of God has come near you.’” We had seen the Master heal the sick, oh, it was one of the things that first drew me to him, as much, if not more, for his compassion as for his power! But now we were to do the same? Who was I that the healing power of God should flow through me?
I trembled. The audacity of such an idea was overwhelming. But the strange thing was that when I looked at Jesus, such an Idea didn’t sound wickedly presumptuous, but merely a simple act of obedience. Perhaps that’s where all true miracles are found, not in any exaltation, but simply in the willingness to keep on obeying in the place where only faith can carry us. So we went forth, two by two, in his blessing and returned in wonder and rejoicing.
That was then. So much has happened since: his death, his resurrection and the coming of the empowering Spirit. That first time I went forth battling fear, doubt and uncertainty. Now, though there is still so much I do not fully comprehend, I go forth with one great certainty: I am wrapped in his love, I am called to his service, and he who once died for me now lives and reigns forever.