TODAY’S READING: Luke 10
Luke, a Greek, was very careful to point out the intentionality of Jesus to include all the nations in His Kingdom. In telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus made a hero of a non-Jewish enemy to show that His view of love extended beyond the one who was nearby. It felt then as it would today if we used the example in which a pastor and a soccer mom refused to a woman raped and instead ran away in fear, while the local radical Islamic cleric rescued her.
Luke also stretched his readers when he told the story of Mary and Martha. He pointed out that Jesus endorsed the woman who acted like a man, for it was not for women of that time to act like a male disciple and sit at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:39). They were to serve in the kitchen or hover in the background. But Jesus lauded Mary and said she chose the better part, the one thing needed (v. 42). How important that we remember intimacy is more important than industry. It’s not that hard work and active ministry are wrong; it’s just that they must flow out of intimacy with Jesus and are lesser in value and impact. If we want to change the world, we must first sit at Jesus’ feet and feed on Him, for there we are satiated and have something to feed the hungry. However, we cannot slip into the subtle, common error of feeding on Jesus only to have something to give the nations; that turns intimacy into industry and these must be distinct. Only when we revel in Jesus at how He thrills our soul will we be truly able to thrill others with His wonders.
A similar distinction must be made with authority. Jesus clearly pointed out that for men and women it is better to be under authority than over it. We are not to rejoice in ministry that He gives us power over demons (which He has and which He delights in); we are to rejoice that we will forever be under His blessed rule, in His presence where no demons will ever strike again. It is an easy thing to revel in the victories of ministry. When the strength of God flows through us to minister and to overcome evil is indeed a joy. But let us not become addicted to that lesser good. Let us remain centered on the greater good of His intimate presence where He has banished all evil. Let us even here chose the better part—the authoritative presence of Jesus over us trumps our authoritative ministry over demons.
Both of these stories are introduced with Jesus sending His disciples out two by two into every city and place where He was about to go (v. 1). What a joy to know that while writing this thirty miles from Mecca, Jesus wants to go there! What sobriety that Jesus has sent us out as sheep among wolves (v. 3). I can’t but think that we fight about who will stay home and rule the sheep when Jesus told us to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send us out seemingly defenseless among spiritual predators (v. 2). It is no accident that these two sentiments of God are next to one another: Pray for laborers, sheep among wolves. It’s hard, if not impossible and irresponsible, to go to difficult places defenseless if we are primarily activity oriented. But if have the great good of being under authority and the greatest good of being intimate with Jesus, then it’s not only doable, it is a delight.
 The etymology of the word “neighbor” is “the one who lives nearby”.