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"Later the Master selected seventy and sent them ahead of Him in pairs to every town and place where He intended to go. He gave them this charge: 'What a huge harvest! And how few the harvest hands. So on your knees; ask the God of the Harvest to send harvest hands.'
"'On your way! But be careful -- this is hazardous work. You're like lambs in a wolf pack. Travel light; comb and toothbrush and no extra baggage. Don't loiter and make small talk with everyone you meet along the way.'" Luke 10:1-4 (The Message).
This sounds like a typical missionary prayer meeting, doesn't it? But does God really sit around waiting for us ask Him to send missionaries out to the "mission field"? Why would Jesus send them ahead of Him and then promptly tell them to pray that God would send people out? Was it to boost the number of workers or was it some kind of preparation for their own hearts?
Who were these people that Jesus sent ahead of Him? Seventy people? Where did they come from and what connection did they have with Him? Since He was always thronged with people, there must have been those who regularly followed Him although they were not part of the inner group. He must have recognised them and got used to seeing their faces in the crowd.
Perhaps He even spent time with them in the late afternoon after He had dismissed the crowd. Whatever their relationship with Him, when He needed people to prepare the way for Him, they were there and they were available to do what He asked them to do. It was to them, not to His regular disciples that He gave these detailed instructions including to pray for reinforcements.
Since they were the answer to their own prayers, was this Jesus' way of developing a mind-set in them which gave them a better understanding of what their role was to be in the kingdom of God? Although He had twelve men who were constantly with Him and who were His recognised disciples, it did not mean that others were excluded. It also did not mean that others were of less importance and value to Him than the Twelve.
The instructions He gave this wider group were almost the same as those He had given to the Twelve when He sent them out on their first preaching tour. By involving these people He was teaching them that He was not the head of an exclusive club. The kingdom of God belongs to anyone who is willing to come under His authority and do what He tells them; and so is the mandate to open the doors of God's kingdom to whoever will receive it.
Jesus is encouraging us to realise that we don't have to sit around waiting for a special invitation to be part of God's kingdom or to invite others to come under His yoke. When we become the answer to our own prayers instead of sitting around waiting for someone else to respond, we have finally caught on to what is in God's heart. It's for everyone to participate in and for everyone to share.
Whether we stay at home or take the message to the ends of the earth is not the most important issue. What really matters is that we share the blessing of being in the kingdom of God by the way we live it out and by the way we speak about it in the most natural way possible. Wherever we are and wherever we go, there are people needing to hear about a life of freedom and joy under Jesus' yoke.
The next important fact for these recruits was to know that they were only the forerunners wherever they went, preparing the way; Jesus would follow, revealing who He was to the people who had seen and heard His followers. We're not in this alone. Jesus may no longer be here in person but His representative, the Holy Spirit is with us, in us and ahead of us to do the inner work of convincing those whose hearts are hungry, that Jesus is the Son of God.
So, let's ask what we can do. Let's be the answer to our own prayers, shall we?
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