Monday, December 15, 2014

Sending the Seventy, Part 6: The Silence of Greeting

Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come.

Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. (Luke 10:1, 4 NASB)

"Greet no one on the way" seems like an odd command, doesn't it? Here in Mississippi, greetings, especially in public are a big deal. If you see someone you know, you greet them and chat about their families, catch up on their lives. It's considered good manners and is the way life is done here. So it was in Jesus' day. Greetings then could take as long as they do now. I enjoy the greetings that accompany a trip to the grocery or out shopping, and you probably do, too, but if we are honest, those greetings can be time consuming. Those greetings can also be a way to delay a difficult task. Perhaps you've never spent time visiting with someone when a job you dreaded was waiting, but maybe you have. If so, you know how easy it is to procrastinate in the name of good manners.

These seventy disciples were no different. Jesus knew that there would be a temptation to stop and chat along the way. They could easily spend hours greeting the people they knew, telling them about the job Jesus had given them, and discussing their big adventure, all while avoiding the difficult task ahead. Jesus sent them out as sheep, but he did not intend them to stay in a herd of fellow sheep. They needed to be on their way, going to their assigned sites, and preparing the way for Jesus. Theirs was a task that required haste. Just so we are clear, talking to our buddies about how we are going to be serving Jesus is not the same thing as serving Jesus, and that was part of the reason for His admonition. 

Matthew Henry, a 17th and 18th century theologian and commentator, suggests another reason for the instruction to "greet no one on the way." He suggests that this was a call to a kind of silence, that they might be "sober and serious". They had a difficult job ahead and Jesus knew that it could be, quite literally, deadly serious. Eventually, some of these "sent ones" would die for Him. Perhaps He was calling them to spent their traveling time in contemplation of the work ahead. 

Henry suggests that this silence of theirs was much like that described in Job 2:13, when his friends sat with him in mourning for seven days before speaking. If the "sent ones" understood the eternal plight in which the  people to whom they were sent stood, their response would naturally be grief. They were to prepare to minister by mourning the plight of the people, knowing that the good news of Jesus could change death to life, brokenness to wholeness. 

In some faith traditions, a season of silence is a powerful opportunity to focus attention on our Lord. It allows us to take a step away from the clamor of modern life and be still before our Lord. I have several friends, including a group of dedicated Protestant ministers, who enjoy annual retreats of silence. They spend the time studying Scripture and hearing from God rather than each other, and describe it as one of the most powerful times of devotion imaginable. Perhaps, during this busy season when the Advent of the Christ is our intended focus, we would do well to have a season of silence of our own. Consider the Savior who came in flesh to save us, the tasks to which He has assigned us, and those who do not know this One who died for them. As much as we enjoy the festivities, decorations, and gifts of our Americanized Christmas, the focus must be Jesus, and Him glorified. May our challenge be to spend a few minutes each day until Christmas in utter silence, greeting no one but our Lord, listening to no one but that Still Small Voice, worshipping no one but the Child born in a manger in the shadow of the Cross. 

Be still, dear ones, and know that He is God alone. 
The link to last night's post is here:
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