So Jesus sends out the Twelve Apostles to tell people that the Kingdom of God has come near and perform miracles of compassion to those in need. I think that when we visualize this passage, we imagine the Apostles going out and preaching like we often read about the Apostles or Paul doing in the book of Acts. However, this is taking place before the cross. This is taking place before the Feast of Pentecost. This is before they can offer salvation to anybody.
So if the Apostles aren’t preaching Jesus Christ and him crucified, and if they aren’t going into all these communities making disciples of all people baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins….what in the world are the doing? What is this trip all about?
They aren’t supposed to take money. They need to learn how to deal with those who accept them and those who reject them. They must learn how to live on little and depend on the generosity of others. They must learn to be bold and learn to show kindness.
When I read this passage, it always seems to me that Jesus’ focus is much more on the messengers than the message or the recipients. Peter has caught a lot of fish, but not he gets to go preach. Judas will eventually betray Jesus, but on this day he is proclaiming the Kingdom of God is near. James and John will later ask to sit on Jesus’ right and left hand when he comes into the Kingdom, but today they simply proclaim that Kingdom to strangers. It’s kinda scary to think about how very little these twelve men understand God’s Kingdom, but they are all proclaiming it in a bunch of cities.
Jesus knows they aren’t ready to turn the world upside down and create thousands of followers. In fact, if they had suddenly come back with a passionate horde, Jesus certainly would have found some way to care for and then dismiss the crowd. This mission trip is a training exercise for the twelve men who must be ready to preach on Pentecost. When Jesus is gone, the entire Kingdom of God will rest on the ability of these men to go into cities, boldly proclaim the Gospel, depend on others’ generosity, deal with rejection, and handle the power of God’s Holy Spirit working through them.
Can you imagine how relieved Jesus must have been when they came back enthusiastic and with reports of success? If Jesus was going to succeed, it was going to happen through these men.