Luke 9:1-10 is a sign of great things to come – a transition in the story if you like, between Jesus’ ministry in Galilee and the final throes of his earthly mission. Once I dug a little further into Luke’s writings I also found however that it has a useful challenge to it.
In Luke 1-8 we have seen a great prophecy lead to a miracle baby who matures into a miracle worker preaching with great authority. His popularity has increased rapidly, as has his opposition. Despite all this, the disciples still have some way to go before figuring out who Jesus really is. That will come soon after in Luke 9 with the feeding of the 5,000 and Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ. We see in John’s gospel (at 6:66) however that many other disciples abandon Jesus as they cannot handle Jesus’ revelation of himself as the bread of life after the feeding of the five thousand. This is a first clue that his lordship would be revealed through suffering, which he explains to his disciples regularly between Peter’s confession and his ascension.
This interlude between the two main parts of Luke’s gospel – Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, and his revelation as the Messiah who would suffer for the people – gives a hint of how Jesus’ earthly mission is to continue after his ascension. The disciples, who have regularly witnessed Jesus perform many miracles earlier in Luke, are now sent out with all power and authority over demons and to cure diseases. They are now the ones “sent out” to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal (Luke 9:1-2). They are not to rely on many possessions for this short-term mission, but are to simply proclaim and heal (9:3-4).
It turns out that the disciples fulfilled their short-term mission (5-6), and news of their acts and/or those of Jesus spread as far as Herod (7-10). Jesus would later send 72 on a similar mission (10:1-12). Ultimately he would send the Spirit to clothe them with power from on high so that this mission could go to the ends of the earth (24:44-49 and then Acts 1-2).
While Jesus’ instructions in Luke 9:1-10 appear to be just for the purposes of their short-term mission, given the similarities with later passages in Luke and early in Acts these instructions should not just be cast aside by us today. The disciples clearly relied on the power of Jesus’ gospel as THE powerful agent in their mission, not some cleverly devised strategy or by appealing to worldly desires.
This challenges me to not “write off” certain people by thinking that they could never be interested in the good news of Jesus. The gospel had great power for the disciples in spreading the word before and after Jesus’ death and resurrection, and I know it has changed my life. It is God’s gospel and he will work it as he sees fit – it is not by our own efforts that people will change. Our mission is to go out, live it and proclaim it. We may be surprised by the miracles that follow!