There’s a story that appears in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke in which Jesus sends out the disciples to be, well, like Jesus. You might think that would be a regular occurrence, but this is a particular moment and the story goes something like this, according to Matthew anyway (Matt. 9:35-10:23).
Jesus looks around at what he’s been doing and how much there is to do and realizes it’s too much for one Jesus. So he calls up the twelve, his closest companions, and tells them to go out and proclaim “the kingdom of heaven is near” and heal the sick, cast out demons, and generally do some good Jesusing. (Yes, I’m still trying to make that a real verb and I’m going to do more with it in just a minute.)
By the way, he says, don’t take any luggage or money or food or supplies. Wherever you go, people will take care of you. Probably. At least, those who welcome you will, and those who want to hear what you have to say. Some won’t and that’s okay, you should just move on.
Oh, and, by the way, you might want to keep moving because there’ll be people who really don’t want you. They’ll arrest you and beat you and possibly kill you, but just possibly, and you’ll likely be hated and persecuted because, by the way, I’m sending you out “like sheep into the midst of wolves.”
Surprisingly, after those stirring words of encouragement, none of the gospels record any hesitation or reluctance on the part of the disciples to go. Really? Because I’d have questions and I bet you would, too. At the very least, this would be a good moment for a “don’t be afraid.” And yet, there’s not mention of the disciples being anything but willing.
But I wonder if that isn’t because we might hear Jesus asking for a lot, in the face of great challenges, with the expectation to deliver what he does and be perfect as he is and, oh, we definitely aren’t Jesus.
Except we are and Jesus knows it.
I wonder if Jesus doesn’t appeal here to the innate Jesusness that he knows is in this little band of misfits from ordinary walks of life and asks them to let it out and do some Jesusing. I know what that sounds like (and I’m pretty sure I’m on thin ice with some people over the use of Jesus’ name), but just take a minute and replace “Jesus” with, say, love. Or goodness. Or grace. Or compassion. Or any and all of the things that they had experienced with Jesus – that we experience with Jesus. Replace the name with “image of God,” even, because I think that’s what Jesus sees in the hearts of these ordinary people. In the stories I think that’s why they are The Twelve, the inner circle, the closest companions, the dearest friends. And the first to be sent.
And when we take the stories into the world, I think Jesus looks at you and me the same way: he sees the Jesus in you and me and asks us to take that into that same world. Yes, the world that’s hard and challenging, hurting and broken, tired and worn, where there are many, many wolves. Jesus sent twelve. Imagine a world where we are all Jesus.