The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
Believe in Christ, Go Forth, Travel Light
Proper 9B, 08 July 2012
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Most of us are pretty familiar with Jesus’ Great Commission: Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing…and teaching. Matthew 28 comes after Jesus’ Passion, crucifixion, and Resurrection. As does Mark 16: And he [Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned….
The appointed Gospel for this week comes well before all of that. Three things are evident in our text: Believe in Christ, Go Forth, and Travel Light.
[Jesus] (He) went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief.
And he went about among the villages teaching.
Other villages would respond in faith to Jesus’ teaching, like the one where He healed the woman and raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. His own hometown, Nazareth, did not. The questions asked by the congregation weren’t seeking knowledge. Those questions had predetermined answers that assumed that the questioner already knew everything about Jesus.
Some questions doubt what He can do and how He can do it: “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands?”
Other questions doubt who Scripture says Jesus is: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?”
Actually, the Lord gave Jesus the authority and power to heal, exorcise, teach, preach, and raise the dead. Yes, he may be the carpenter trained and raised by Joseph, but Jesus is not his son. This is the Son of Mary and the Lord, our Father who art in heaven.
The unbelief of Nazareth had consequences: And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.
Two very different astonishments stand side by side: Jesus’ teachings amaze His hometown neighbors; yet their close-minded hard-heartedness leaves Jesus amazed. We see similar contrasts today as people experience so much goodness from God and yet remain unthankful and unbelieving. But Jesus did not retaliate or write people off, even when they scornfully dismissed Him. He took the world’s rejection and, through His sacrificial death, reconciled all people to God.
Lord, give us eyes to recognize You, ears to receive Your Word, and hearts to believe its promises. By Your grace, bring us to the fullness of Your glory in heaven.
Jesus moved on. He did heal some sick people in Nazareth, but because the unbelief of most would not bear fruit had he healed more, Jesus marveled and moved on.
7 And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— 9 but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. 10 And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. 11 And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.
The disciples are sent forth to prepare the way for Jesus own ministry in other villages. They are to travel light. More on those points as we go along.
And he [Jesus] called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits….So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.
This portion of the text begins and ends with the twelve, already called apostles back in Mark 3, being sent out and doing what they had been given to do. Since our Lord cares for the whole person, body and soul, people were healed in body and soul.
The message of the apostles echoes the message of the Lord. His first spoken words in the Gospel according to St. Mark were: The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15). So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. And believe the gospel—for the kingdom of God, His reign, was at hand in Christ.
The church continues to go forth. Not all mission work is overseas. Is the Word purely preached and taught in Christian congregations? Christ’s mission goes on there. Are the sacraments administered according to Jesus’ words? Christ mission goes on there. Does the Lord continue to gather a people to Himself each Sunday around Word and Sacrament? Christ’s mission goes on there. Do the people, young and old, go forth witnessing to Christ and of His forgiveness in words and life? Christ’s mission goes on. Christ’s mission goes forth—traveling light.
He [Jesus] charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. And he said to them, "Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them."
Could you imagine going on a hike up the mountain carrying a 40 lb. backpack? How about a heavier one like those carried by our troops (in Afghanistan)? That’s not traveling light. Even for the really macho guys among you, I wouldn’t recommend it. Not in this heat and especially if you’re not in shape, or not acclimated to high altitude recreation.
Being prepared is good advice for life. (The scouts can teach us that much.) But we can’t be prepared on our own for each and every contingency. Sure, water, food, and a first aid kit are basics out on a hike. Hikes don’t last long. We eventually get to come back home for a hot meal and a shower. The apostles were going on something longer than a hike. Jesus was urging them to travel light for a different reason.
By not dragging all or most of their earthly possessions with them, they had one less burden of the world on their backs. If they didn’t bring it with them, they didn’t have to worry about losing it or having it stolen.
Traveling light allowed them to focus on other things—more important things. Consider the distractions of technology: TV, radio, video games, mp3, computers, and cell phones. How about a summer technology fast for a week, a day, or even a few hours away from the electronic noise and temporary freedom from those electronic leashes to enjoy yourself in God’s creation and God’s Word?
Traveling light, most importantly, allowed the apostles to trust in the Lord for all. He gave them the message to proclaim about the kingdom, repentance, and gospel. He would certainly provide their daily bread. If he gave them the authority to heal and exorcise demons, certainly the Lord could be trusted to provide everything they needed to support body and life.
We Christians are called to travel light, too. This doesn’t mean we need to give away all our clothes to the thrift store and deprive ourselves of every tangible possession. We are to remember that we are to fear, love and trust in God above all things. All things. Even other people. Even technology. And especially false gods and false ideas about the one true God. To other people, we are to go forth and share Christ.
The disciples multiply Jesus’ healing and revealing ministry, building on the foundation laid by John the Baptist and anticipating their own ministries, which will bear full fruit after Jesus’ ascension. Even as Jesus sends the Twelve, He anticipates that not everyone will welcome the Gospel, as is still true today. Nevertheless, God unfailingly opens hearts and doors to their ministry, and He promises to do the same until the end of time.
The Lord has given you faith in Him by the working of the Holy Spirit through His Word.
The Lord calls you to go forth as you go about your vocations, prepared to give an answer for the hope, life, and peace you already have in Christ Jesus.
The Lord calls you to lay down the burden of sin and stress and silly busyness and take up His light and easy burden that you may continue to travel light in Him. Amen.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.