Daily Reading for November 29

Next to the calling of the disciples, I expect that Matthew’s story about their sending forth is one of the most confrontational stories in all the Bible. Can you imagine? There you are, perfectly content to be a follower, when Jesus comes home all worn out one day with his hair hanging in his face and his clothes ringed with sweat and dirt. He looks around at those of you who have been with him all along and says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. I need some help, and I’m nominating you.”

Since we have been hearing this story about the sending of the disciples for so long now, we may take their job description for granted. In short, they were given exactly the same things to do that Jesus himself had been given to do, but it did not have to be that way. He could have pointed out that none of them was the son of God, after all. None of them had been born under a blinding star, or had angels sing hosannas over their cribs, or received exotic gifts from foreign dignitaries before they so much as cut a tooth.

He could have reminded them of all that and insisted that they remain his assistants—for their own safety, you understand, to avoid malpractice suits. He could have let them mix the mud when he healed blind people, or spray the Lysol when he cleansed lepers, or unwrap the bandages from those he had raised form the dead. He could have done that, but he did not. Instead, he transferred his ministry to them while he was still alive. He entrusted it to them. With no training and very little advice, he sent them out to heal wounds and restore outcasts and bring the dead back to life.

What keeps nagging at me, though, is the way he sent them out—no money, no shoes, not even a walking stick. Why send them out with so much power and so few accessories? The way Jesus set it up, they could not provide for others out of their own abundance; they could only provide for them out of their need. What must it be like to own nothing, to have nothing but your own need, and to understand that the only thing you have to offer anyone else is what you yourself have been given?

When it comes down to being a provider of God’s love, there is really only one provider, who sends us out with nothing at all and with everything we need: healing, forgiveness, restoration, resurrection. Those are the only things we really have to share with the world, which is just as well, since they are the only things the world really needs.

From “Heaven at Hand” in Bread of Angels by Barbara Brown Taylor (Cowley, 1997).

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