Mission Trip Guidelines from Jesus: Reflections on Matthew 10:40-42
He just tells the Twelve where to go and what to do.
My Honduran mission trip handout also includes a "what to pack for Honduras" list. It includes all kinds of items Jesus doesn't mention in his packing list in Matthew 10:9-10: ear plugs, hat, motion sickness pills, flash light, small battery operated fan, rain poncho, water bottle, camera, water shoes, sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above, mosquito repellent, antiseptic hand wipes, an extra pair of shoes in case one gets muddy, snack food, and several other items I won't bore you with. But if you were going you'd want to know about them.
I am very grateful for the detailed "what to pack" list for Honduras. But I can't help but compare it to Jesus' "what not to pack" list in Matthew 10:9-10. No money. No bag for the journey, no extra tunic or pair of sandals, not even a staff.
I don't know that I would want to go on a mission trip whose team leader was Jesus. I picture Jesus as the airline employee who, just as you are dragging your roller board onto the plane stops you and says, "I'm sorry you're going to have to check that." But what he really means is, "You'll never see this roller board again. Now get on the plane." Without the preventive medications and small comforts of daily life, I am afraid a Jesus-led mission team would all come back home sunburned, dehydrated, and with blisters on our feet.
At least Jesus is realistic in warning the Twelve (and us) of the dangers of the trip. They will face opposition, rejection, and perhaps persecution (10:16-22).
And he offers some assurances to the Twelve and to us that help us see the journey in a more positive light.
- To be sent on this journey is an honor and a privilege, for on this journey the Twelve represent Jesus. In Jesus' day, influenced by ancient Jewish law, a person's emissary or agent was "as the man himself." (See Gal. 4:14; Jn. 13:20.) (Hare, 118) The theme of the disciple as representative of Jesus and his welcome as equivalent to welcoming Jesus occurs throughout the New Testament (Mt. 18:5; Mk. 9:37; Lk. 10:16; Jn. 13:20). Since the disciples are sent by Jesus and act for his sake, those who receive them also receive Jesus (10:40a) and by receiving Jesus they also receive the One who sent him, his Father. (Patte, 156)
- On this journey the Twelve have no need to fear anyone or anything they meet along the way. God protects their life. No human power, though it can kill the body, can kill the soul (10:28). Each traveler is precious in God's sight. The hairs on our heads are all counted (10:30).
- Following Jesus demands our highest allegiance and may cause conflict in existing relationships (10:34-38). But we have the assurance that sacrificing a definition of life as comfort and control for a definition of life as serving Christ leads to life abundance and eternal (10:39).
The honor of representing Christ, the assurance that nothing can kill our souls, and the promise of the reward of abundant life, defined as the joy of serving Christ: these are great incentives for embarking on this journey.
Every mission trip includes both those who physically go on the trip, those who await them in the location, and those who support them with funds and prayers while they're away. The same was true in Jesus' day. There were people in churches who sent prophets and righteous people out; there were prophets and righteous people. These were probably descriptions of various qualities and roles, not different categories of missionaries. (Long, 123)
Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.