Packing for Jesus' Mission Trip: Reflections on Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Lectionary Reflections
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
July 7, 2013

In the past when packing for trips, I've often left something important at home I should have brought. I went to South Africa one August a couple of years ago. While packing in Dallas, Texas, I had a hard time taking seriously the fact that it is winter in South Africa in August. I spent much of the trip yearning for the pair of warm, comfortable black boots I'd taken out of my suitcase at the last minute.

At other times, I've brought things on trips I wish I had left at home. I've trudged through airports with my seventy-pound backpack on my back, questioning why I felt it necessary to bring a laptop, iPad, Kindle, and seven books.

Those days are pretty much past. Not to brag, but the experience of lots of travel has made me an expert packer. I don't take too much, but I take enough. What I take depends on where I'm going and what I'll be doing.

I've learned that you can tell a lot about the purpose of a trip or the nature of an event by the invitation and the pack list instructions.

  1. Dress is business casual. (social event for work)
  2. Dress is Christmas casual. (Christmas social event for work)
  3. Bring a Bible and a flashlight. (summer church camp)
  4. Arrive by 5pm. Park down the street and come around to the back. It's a surprise, so don't spill the beans! (birthday party)
  5. Bring a hat and plenty of sunscreen. (mission trip or river raft trip)
  6. You'll be reimbursed for all travel, lodging, and food expenses. Please save and submit original receipts within two weeks of your return home. (business trip)
  7. Bring a salad or dessert to share. (church potluck)
  8. Wear comfortable shoes. (hiking club outing)
  9. Please no flowers. Send donations in honor of... to... (funeral)
  10. Please no gifts. (wedding)
  11. Please, gifts, the more expensive the better. (Just kidding, invitations never say this!)

It doesn't take a genius to figure out the rationale for the instructions.

  1. You'll be doing some schmoozing, so look professional but not like you're trying too hard.
  2. We'll be outside working the sun.
  3. We'll be doing a lot of walking.
  4. We'll be doing some serious eating.
  5. It's a surprise party!
  6. The electricity may go out.
  7. We're going to be having devotions every evening.

The invitation and packing directions for Jesus' mission trip in Luke 10 promise an odd combination of experiences. What can we infer we'll be doing and not doing by them? What should we bring? What should we wear?

You're going to be working very hard because it's a big job and not enough people have signed up. ("The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few"—10:2)

You're going to meet people who will be hostile to your efforts and you're going to be in situations where you will experience rejection. ("See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves"—10:3; "Wipe the dust of the town that rejects you off your feet" --10:11)

You are to drastically under pack. ("Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals..."-- 10:4) Apparently, you are not going to need any luggage whatsoever. This is a stumper. Why not? The instructions don't say. Is it because you'll be washing your clothes frequently or borrowing clothes from your hosts?

You are not to take snacks because you'll be mooching off the people you stay with. Or, put more delicately, you'll be relying on the hospitality of the people you stay with to provide you with food.

These instructions on what to pack and what to leave at home clue us into the purpose of this mission trip. We are to be representatives of Jesus, announcing the advent of the kingdom of God. Given that purpose, you are to leave all the unnecessary stuff at home, but be sure to take along your faith and your courage.

When the seventy return in 10:17 they express surprise at the way even the demons were subject to them when they acted in the name of Jesus (Mt. 7:22; Lk. 9:49f; Acts 19:13). The power to exorcise demons appears in the sending of the twelve in 9:1 (Mt. 10:8)

Jesus' reply in 10:18 expresses the power of his name over the demons. When he says he "saw" Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning, he is using the mythological idea of the fall and defeat of Satan to express the significance of the exorcisms (see Rev. 12:7-9). They are a sign of the defeat of Satan. The eschatological defeat of Satan is taking place in the ministry of Jesus and his disciples (11:20). (Marshall, 428-429)

Then Jesus says, "See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpion, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will hurt you" (10:19). This is not a literal promise that you can handle snakes and not be susceptible to their venom. It actually makes a much more powerful promise: that, even in the face of the violence and injustice of life, evil cannot destroy the one who goes forth in Jesus' name.