“And Jesus said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always.’” ~ Matthew 28:18-20
One of the writers in the Bible, Luke, tells of Jesus sending out his 12 disciples to surrounding villages to teach about God and to heal the sick. Luke says, “Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority” to teach and heal (9:1). But then Jesus added some complicating conditions to their already difficult task. He told them not to take anything on their journey. No staff for walking, no bags for carrying things. No bread to snack on. No money for purchasing power. No change of clothes (9:3). Nothing.
A bit strange if you ask me. But then Jesus does it again one chapter later. This time he sends 72 followers to do the same: heal and teach. As with the disciples before, Jesus tells the 72 not to bring anything. No money, no knapsack, not even a pair of sandals (10:4).
Odd. Why not bring anything?
Jesus doesn’t really explain his rationale, except to say they should stay in places where they are welcome. “And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages… Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you” (10:7-8). The disciples don’t seem to be bothered by Jesus’ instructions. As far as we know, no one argues, “Uh, Jesus. Is that really wise?” or “I prefer to have a fresh tunic in the morning” or “What if there’s no place to stay?” Nope. They simply follow instructions and Luke reports that they even “returned with joy” (10:17).
We don’t know the specifics about their journeys, but much later in Luke’s account, during their last meal together, Jesus asks the disciples, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything? They responded, ‘No, nothing’” (22:35).
Nothing. They lacked nothing. Isn’t Jesus wonderfully paradoxical? The disciples should have been strapped for cash and hungry. But they reported that they had lacked nothing. Somehow, with nothing to eat, they were fed; with nothing to wear, they were clothed; with no money to purchase a room, they seemed to have had places to stay; and with nothing to invest, they came back with joy.
Well, that’s not completely true. They did take something. Luke says, Jesus “gave them power and authority” (9:1). It’s good that they took nothing of their own. Because at the end of the day, there was no question where that meal came from, how the miraculous healing happened, whose words they spoke, and where that joy came from. It came from him. From Jesus. Through the power and authority that he had given them. They may not have understood it at the time, but Jesus was preparing them for an even bigger task.
I believe that’s part of why Jesus reminded his disciples of God’s provision just hours before he was arrested and killed. They needed to be reminded where the power and the authority originated. They were about to face the darkest moment of their lives, a moment when Jesus would be killed and they would be left scared, confused, and with nothing.
And again, in the midst of despair, and fear, and nothingness, Jesus did something amazing. He came back to life as he had promised, with all power and all authority. In the light of his miraculous resurrection, Jesus gave his disciples a new task. The power and authority to baptize and to teach. This time, however, their task was not simply for the local villages, it was for the benefit and the joy of the whole world.
“You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy… and no one will take your joy from you.” ~John 16:20, 22