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The IVP New Testament Commentary Series – Sharing the Authority (9:1-6)
Sharing the Authority (9:1-6)

Often those who have power hoard it as their personal property. But Jesus, in building a community, sought to delegate power and enabled those who ministered with him to share in carrying out his mission. This passage, the mission of the Twelve, picks up a theme introduced in Luke 5:10 (Tannehill 1986:215-16). The disciples will be fishers of people. This is the first of two missions Luke records (see 10:1-24). Only Luke includes two missions. This first mission is limited to the Twelve, while the second will expand the number who take the message of the kingdom abroad. The description of the mission assumes that some may reject them, just as when we go fishing sometimes the line yields a catch, sometimes it doesn't attract a single fish, and sometimes a catfish swallows the line. Jesus has his disciples prepared for any contingency.

The importance of bestowed authority for Jesus cannot be overappreciated (10:16, 19-20; 11:19; Grundmann 1964:310). All ministry, whether in Jesus' time or today, takes place in the context of delegated authority. Those who minister serve Jesus and are responsible to him (1 Cor 4:16). This line of accountability does not mean that we minister without concern for the feelings of those ministered to, but that we're aware that all ministry involves derived authority. The minister is a steward and a servant, ultimately accountable only to God for how the ministry proceeds. Usually being sensitive to that accountability means being sensitive to those we serve. But sometimes the "constituency" may be wrong and may need leading or instruction on the way to go. In this initial effort Jesus gives very specific instructions to the disciples as they seek to serve and be dependent on God.

The disciples' ministry mirrors Jesus' own ministry in Luke 8. Just as he preached the Word of the kingdom and healed, they are given authority over demons and disease as they seek to declare the kingdom of God. It is important to link verses 1-2 to verse 6. The miracles are the audiovisual of God's power at work in the announcement of the kingdom's arrival (11:20). The preached message of the kingdom is called the gospel in Luke 9:6. A hint of the message's content is given in 10:9. The healings picture the arrival of God's power. Again, the attention is not on the miracle itself but on what it represents. The fact that the disciples' power is derived is also significant. Jesus is the source of this declared deliverance. The speeches of Acts make the same point (for example, Acts 3:6, 14-26; 4:10-12).

Jesus' instructions for this journey are simple: travel light and keep lodgings basic. The disciples should not burden themselves with excessive provisions. One tunic is enough. No staff, bread, bag or money needs to go with them beyond the basics. The instructions parallel the travel practices of the Jewish Essenes, as well as what Jews instructed temple visitors to do (Fitzmyer 1981:753-54; Josephus Jewish Wars 2.8.4 125; m. Berakot 9:5; in contrast are the Greek Cynics and philosophers who sought money constantly—Schurmann 1969:502 n. 24). The disciples are to stay in one place, not move around within a village. In fact, the point may be, Live as the locals do and live with them. If there is rejection they are to move on, shaking the dust from their feet as a repudiation of the village's rejection of them (Strathmann 1967:503). It is a way of warning the city (10:9-11). But as Jesus' attitude toward Jerusalem shows, it is done painfully, not with joy (19:41).

The disciples do as Jesus says. Though there is no report on this mission, 10:17-24 communicates what the disciples feel—and what we too should feel as we take God's message to the world. What an honor to carry this message and to experience what the kings and prophets of old had longed to see.

Everything about this mission says that disciples are to depend on God. Their authority comes from him. Their needs will be supplied by him. There is no personal gain to be sought. As a contrast to the cultural peddlers of religion and philosophy of their culture, they carry the gospel so as to signal the character of those who serve the gospel. Modesty is the rule, ministry is the focus. I wonder how often the gospel's credibility has been damaged in more recent times because this modest approach to mission was not followed. As Paul shows in 1 Corinthians 9, ministers should strive to burden others financially as little as possible. On the other hand, God's people should care for those who minister to them—laborers are worth their hire (Lk 10:7; 1 Tim 5:18). According to Old Testament guidelines, the priests were supposed to be able to live comfortably as they ministered through the support the nation provided. The same should be true of the saints. Money and provisions for ministry always raise tricky questions. Those who are ministered to should give; and those who minister should trust God for their provision, traveling light and responsibly as they minister.

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