Jesus follows us...
1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
There is a moment in discipleship that I’ve found intriguing. If we are over-schooled in the theology of God’s sovereignty we might even miss it. I fear there have been days when I have.
We have been taught to follow God and rightly so. In fact, over the last several years many believers have tampered with terminology converting from the term “Christian” to “Christ-follower”. The theory is that the label “Christian” has lost its meaning and that in order to recover the quintessential desire of God we must embrace a new name, which represents a more nuanced representation of Biblical discipleship. Hence, the term “Christ-follower”.
Now I would submit that we’re largely nitpicking over semantics, but I do think there is something to the label “Christian” that needed some new branding and with it an awakening of the original theological intent.
But regardless of where you stand on the aforementioned issue of terminological rebranding, no one would argue that we are called by God to be follows of Christ. This is bedrock to our faith, a cornerstone that mustn’t be touched…
…but if you will allow me to touch it for a moment, I want to wonder out loud about something.
I want to touch it because I think this verse talks about a critical time in discipleship where Jesus sends us to go before him and he follows us. If we aren’t careful, we will walk in the “shadow of Jesus” our whole lives and miss the opportunity Christ gives us to strike camp and test ourselves.
It’s easier to always have Jesus to fall back on as the kneejerk default. When you stumble with your words, you look to him and he fills in the blanks. When you start to falter in the execution of your plan, he promptly takes over and bails you out. When you come to a situation that seems a little out of your league, you back up and let him step up to the plate as the pinch hitter. As you move to the bench, you watch him hit the homerun musing to yourself, “I’m glad I didn’t try to come through, I would have struck out. Only Jesus can hit the clutch homerun in the bottom of the ninth.” It seems like a Christ-o-centric model of ministry that is theologically airtight. There’s only one problem, Jesus doesn’t agree with it.
Jesus knew that if all his disciples did was watch him and listen to him and follow him, he wouldn’t ever be able to leave the planet. His goal was not to monopolize; it was to mobilize. This is the moment in discipleship that is talked about in this passage where Jesus sends them out and follows them to the towns they decide to go. He lets them encounter people cold turkey and doesn’t provide ice-breakers and crowd-teasers. He lets them decide where to stay and when to leave. He lets them cast out demons and heal diseases. And get this, before they go and do all this stuff he takes things away from them that could easily become security blankets like their wallets, shoes and luggage. He wants them to go forward with nothing but their own hearts and each other so that they would know without a shadow of a doubt that “they could do it”.
It says that Jesus sent them out “like sheep to the wolves”. I find it disturbing that Jesus knew they were going to face insurmountable odds and that he lets them go anyway. What must Jesus have been thinking?
Well, maybe something like this…
I know they believe in me, but they must know that I believe in them, too.
I know they count on me, but they must accept that I count on them, too.
I know they follow me, but they have to believe that I follow them, too.
And he did. And when they returned from this mission trip and told Jesus about how cool it was to “do the stuff themselves”, the text says that Jesus was “full of joy in the Holy Spirit”. This is the only time where we see Jesus described in this way. This is the only time where we get the sense that Jesus was smiling and laughing and clapping with delight.
I still think it moves Jesus to joy when he sends us out and follows us around watching us “do the stuff” he taught us to do.
It’s a beautiful thing to follow Jesus.
It’s a beautiful thing that he follows us.
It actually brings him great joy to do so.