When they persecute you in one town, run away to another one. I assure you that you will not finish your work in all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
[Jesus’ 12 disciples are sent out on a mission trip with these instructions. For background see Days 83-84.]
This is sort of a two-part statement. The first one is pretty obvious – Jesus tells his disciples not to stay where they aren’t wanted. He doesn’t ask them to force themselves on people who aren’t receptive. He doesn’t expect them to stay around and suffer abuse. He doesn’t say to stand and fight. He says to run away.
He second sentence seems to imply that they have been given a never-ending task. Remember that they have been sent out on a healing mission. By the time they make the rounds there will be a whole new set of people who need healing and they will have to start all over again. Jesus will also be making his rounds and they will eventually run into each other again.
One interesting thing is that Jesus uses the phrase “Son of Man” for the second time. Remember the explanation on Day 74? This refers to “humanity in all it’s frailty” or “everyone.” It seems that in this case he is referring to himself specifically as “Son of Man.” It’s a humble title, one that connects him with all human beings. He doesn’t elevate himself or refer to himself as a messiah. He calls himself an ordinary guy.
So putting it all together, Jesus is saying that they shouldn’t stay where they are not wanted. Jesus also says it’s a never-ending task and that he will eventually catch up with them.
Growing up Methodist, the first thing I think of when I think of traveling ministries is the good old circuit riders. In the 1700s the spread of Methodism throughout the United States depended on these traveling pastors who served a number of churches on their “circuit”, which was kind of like a sales territory. This was necessary because there were far more churches than pastors. The circuit riders preached at the churches on their circuit, but they also stopped at all of the villages along the circuit, preaching daily and spreading the Gospel. It often took 5-6 weeks to cover the entire territory before starting all over again. Like the disciples of Jesus, they also experienced persecution.
Not only did the preacher face physical hardship, but often he endured persecution. Freeborn Garrettson (1752-1827) wrote of his experience: “I was pursued by the wicked, knocked down, and left almost dead on the highway, my face scarred and bleeding and then imprisoned.” No wonder most of these preachers died before their careers had hardly begun. Of those who died up to 1847, nearly half were less than 30 years old. Many were too worn out to travel. (http://www.gcah.org/site/pp.aspx?c=ghKJI0PHIoE&b=3828779).
Despite these hardships, the circuit riders continued for about a hundred years. One rider, France Asbury, traveled 270,000 miles (on his horse) and preached 16,000 sermons along the way. In this manner the Methodist movement spread like wildfire across America; one could assume that Jesus’ disciples also helped to get the word out about Jesus and gain support for his movement and ideas.
So in this way Jesus gave his disciples authority to spread their wings and learn to fly solo. He encouraged them to get out there and do a little healing ministry, grow in their faith, and ultimately change the way we all look at God and religion.
I guess God has given each of us a circuit, and through our words and actions we have the opportunity to spread a message of love and peace to everyone we encounter. We can all help encourage those around us and plant seeds of hope for a better world. And maybe do a little healing and deliverance along the way as the spirit leads.
What does this scripture say to you?