“Don’t thank me: you will repay me.” — Middle Eastern Proverb
Hospitality is life in Jesus times. imagine a place where there is no police. A place where your security was really the company you kept, both at home and on the road. At home there was your village. Nice people, a bit nosy perhaps, but they stuck up for you with strangers, even if you were the low one of the totem pole.
There also was a web of family that most often lived in your village but cousins lived in other places and the two of you had obligations to one another.
Aside from that, everyone else was a stranger. Family and village extended you steadfast love. Strangers may or may not extend you hospitality and they did that through the clan and village elder. If hospitality was extended, you were safe for the duration of your stay. No one would harm you, just as if you were at home.
On the road things were different. You carried a staff because it was a good defense weapon. You carried a large bag for provisions because you did not know if hospitality was going to be given you. You carried a purse for treasure to conduct business if that was your quest. You carried extra cloak and extra sandals because without the shelter of a house extra protection against the weather and the way are required.
What then does it mean to travel without those things? They asked no charity and went on their way single-mindedly. (talk to no one on the road) (see also 2 Kings 4:29) They were not protected and provided for. Surely, when the disciples were observed to be traveling with nothing but the clothe on their backs an assumption was made: Surly, these are prophets. Fools maybe, but prophets none-the-less.
Like Israel in the wilderness and not unlike John the Baptist, they must be assumed to be relying totally on God. It is clear to all who watch them that they have power that has to have been given them from higher authority, power that even they are surprised at. (10:17)
They go out with a warning: Some will hear them, those who share in peace. (10:6) Some will not. (10:10) The message is the same to both: “The Kingdom has come near you.” But, those who are of peace will gain the blessings of that peace. (10:9) Those who are not will reap condemnation. (10:12-16) It seems though that Luke does not dwell on those who do not receive the seventy. When they return there is joy because the message has had its harvest. The people of peace have been gathered in, they were the harvest for which Jesus so anxiously sought laborers. (10:2) Jesus has perceived the plentiful harvest and proclaims that the accuser of the people has fallen from the sky, in other words, he no longer travels in heaven. (Job 1 also Revelation 12:10)
What is the reward for the laborers? They have seen salvation happen. “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” (10:23b-24)
It is easy to get lost in the work of the harvesters and disciples. This is after all a mission text. But whose mission is this? Whose power is at work? Whose strategies and methods are at play? Whose bread do they eat and what does it mean to receive that bread through the hand of strangers? Who will shelter them at night? All is not theirs. They do not take. They receive in humility that which the Lord provides to prophets through the hands of windows with small jars of oil and even ravens in rough places. They take enough but seek no better deal. (10:7)
It is a strange lesson in independence. On their own they could not do this mission if their life depended on it. The very shape and character of it makes it impossible. Yet, as they walk they are free of any encumbrances. They really have worry for nothing as they have nothing that they took on their journey. At the same time, they report that in that state and mission they lacked nothing. At least I do not hear anyone complaining upon their return or after the Lord’s ascension when they seem to live this way again to some extent.
It is independence day in America. Larry Gillick tell a little story:
I remember a radio commercial about a brand of bread. The little lad told his mother he was running away from home. She asked him if he would like her to make a sandwich or two for the trip. He softly said that would be okay. Then he asked his mother if she would drive him.
The hospitality extended tot he traveling prophets, it was provided by human hand to be sure but it human hands the God of all providence had already arranged for. People of peace were gracious to them. God provided in strange ways, but God provided. We are never as independent was we think. In the end of the day, we do well to thank God through whom all things we have done that day have been made possible. We do not breathe our own air after all and neither do we plant in our dirt.
We are not alone and we are not “independent” in this mission to which we have been set as well. No matter how good our mission and vision statements are, in the end we remain totally dependent of the master of the mission, the master of the harvest. The greatest and the least of us have to rely on a sandwich and a ride from the master of the field and harvest.
But it seems this is better than independence anyhow. Great things wait to be seen. (10:24)