After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”
When we think of Jesus’ followers we often think of the twelve apostles, but there were many more. This story speaks of seventy whom Jesus sent out ahead of his visit to each place. This was kind of like an “internship,” a training time while Jesus was still with them to instruct them. Their mission was the same as Jesus’ own ministry: “cure the sick” and “say to them, ‘the kingdom of God has come near to you.’”
Jesus warned these seventy to expect resistance and rejection, and nothing is different today. It’s the same isn’t it. I have a friend who quit going to church because she said, “I need to rest on Sunday more than I need some place else to go.” Jesus does not instruct them to argue, convince, or threaten if they are not welcomed. Likewise, they are not weighed down by rejection, or paralyzed with trying to figure out what they did wrong or could have done for a positive outcome. Instead, Jesus tells them to move forward with the confidence of two proclamations they had to share, “Peace to this house!” and “The kingdom of God has come near.”
Jesus only tells them what they should do, but he doesn’t say anything about measuring their success. If people don’t accept your message, he says, just shake their dust off your feet and move on. In our churches today we live with membership figures, giving levels, budgets, annual reports, and so on. It’s so easy to measure our discipleship by figures. That’s how many people will measure our ministry — but that’s contrary to the lesson Jesus teaches us here.
The commission Christ gives us doesn’t stop with baptizing people in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, but sadly, too often that is what happens. Often what follows Baptism is what we might call the Great Omission in the life of the ones we baptize. We’re called not just to baptize or to make churchgoers, we are also called to make disciples, and that means we teach them and continue to minister to them. It is the follow-up that develops people who really follow Jesus as Lord.
We don’t immediately learn how to make disciples and to serve others in the moment of our baptism. Baptism is only our beginning. We have to learn how to be disciples. Nurturing is a vital part of discipleship. Every disciple of Christ is called to proclaim the good news of Jesus in every area of life, and to follow Christ is to be nurtured in the faith and to nurture others in the faith. It is not all on the Pastor’s shoulders, it is a calling to the whole congregation. All of us can and are called to nurture new Christians in the faith.
- Who were your disciples after your Baptism?
- How are you teaching and nurturing the newly Baptized today?
- What does the Holy Spirit call you to do as a disciple in your home, your church and community?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.