Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, ‘Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.’ They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.
Empty-handed mission is what our passage is about today. It is a very different model from the one we have sometimes adopted as Church. The model Jesus sets out is about entering a mission field with nothing but the clothes on our back and the love of Jesus in our hearts. We go with humility and open hands; this puts us in the position of being guests rather than hosts, of being the least rather than the entitled.
As guests at a meal we would normally seek to be gracious, polite and accept that we are in someone else’s house. We would, therefore, treat our host and their house with respect and a servant heart (we might offer to do the dishes!) This humble, gracious attitude is what Jesus was telling the twelve to adopt as they went into the surrounding towns with the Good News.
Jesus also leaves us under no illusions that the task of proclaiming the Good News will be easy. He says that sometimes the message will be ignored but that shouldn’t stop us from trying, we are to move on and seek new places, not say “we tried it once and it didn’t work!”
The empty hands show that we are prepared to accept the hospitality of others and although we are told to go into the mission field with few material goods, we are promised that we have the power of the Holy Spirit with us. Power enough to bring healing, wholeness and a foretaste of God’s Kingdom.
Take some time now to think about how you approach your mission field. Do you go empty-handed yet Spirit filled? Ask God to show you how you might be empty-handed, gracious and Spirit filled as you walk the way of Jesus in your communities this week.
God of mission, send us out into your world, trusting that your Spirit is already at work in us and others. Help us to go with empty hands and loving hearts, that the message and signs of the Good News might flourish and grow in our communities We ask this in the name of the one who sends us out, Jesus. Amen.
The Rev’d Stuart Nixon, SCM Pioneer minister, MediaCityUK Church