Quartz Hill School of Theology

The Historical Jesus: Lecture Seven

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." 1 But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." Jesus said to him, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."

The would be disciple of Jesus must understand two things; first, that attaching oneself to Jesus means attaching oneself to poverty. Second, attaching oneself to Jesus means that one must abandon all other ties and obligations. Of course, as the history of the Church unfolded these demands were softened or abandoned; but to be a follower of the historical Jesus meant precisely these two things: absolute poverty and absolute obedience.

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house!' And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to themome near to you.' But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.' I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.

This program for carrying out the mission of Jesus is both distinctive and powerful. It can best be summarized as an itinerant ministry. The missionaries were charged to visit villages in an almost "blitzkrieg" style: deliver the message, share a meal, and move on. They were to rely on the kindness of strangers, eat what was set before them, and withhold blessings on those who rejected them.

The performance of this kind of itinerant ministry is excellently described by Crossan in his book on the Historical Jesus. Such a ministry necessitates house owners who would give what they could to the itinerants; while the itinerants preached a message of poverty and obedience! This paradoxical situation did not survive the death of Jesus. If it had, there soon would have been no householders but only poor itinerants! That Jesus was himself an itinerant in this fashion is virtually beyond dispute.

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