In Matthew’s Gospel we read: “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” (10:40) Today, in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus sends seventy-two disciples to go out ahead of Him to various towns, and His packing list is very specific: bring nothing. Why?
Because the more they bring, the less their lives will testify to the One who sent them.
If a disciple of the Lord is living according to Christ in their hearts, an encounter with that disciple is an encounter with Christ Himself; this was to be especially true of those appointed by Jesus in our Gospel. As with the crowd on Monday that could not accept Jesus without some sort of sign, imagine the impact of meeting a disciple of Jesus that had no money, no sack, no sandals, who didn’t move from house-to-house but stayed in one place, eating and drinking whatever was offered them, even if the people there could offer only very little. Such a disciple comes preaching the Kingdom of God, the promises of Jesus and the goodness that comes of surrendering all things and following Him. Their lack of possessions witnesses outwardly to the inward reality of the Word they preach and believe.
Imagine, on the other hand, a disciple who comes preaching the same message, yet has a full purse, a sack full of food and clothing, and sandals on his feet, who goes house-to-house as a variety of people host and entertain him. He says, “Blessed are the poor! Jesus says to you, ‘Surrender everything and come, follow me.’” What credibility would that disciple have if he was not, as they say, walking the talk? Even today we struggle to find credibility in those preachers who live a life of luxury and wealth.
The world would look on the disciples as foolish for traveling without any provisions at all, yet they were not without provision: they trusted in our providential God, the same God of providence which they preached to those they encountered. They were living, walking, talking proof that the Kingdom of God is at hand, for while they seemed outwardly to be foolish, their outward testimony spoke to an integrity and contrary wisdom that has the potential to deeply impact the hearts of others. What freedom; what faith! Do we not, deep down, desire to have such faith as those disciples had?
With integrity of life—where our outer actions are expressive of our inner faith—comes peace, the same peace that these disciples offered to the households they entered. “Peace,” the old Latin saying goes, “is the tranquility of order”, and when there is a disorder between interior movements and exterior actions, there is anxiety. But when we live our faith with integrity, we not only find peace within ourselves, but we become an instrument of peace to others. With such peace we realize that, indeed, “The Kingdom of God is at hand…”