Can you imagine a man showing up at your doorstep barefoot and filthy, carrying nothing with him. A man who doesn’t even have a spare set of clothes, he has no money, no food, no blankets, no toiletries. He’s covered in dirt from sleeping on the ground and the soles of his feet are stained black inside of deep cuts from the graveled journey he had been traveling barefoot. And he asks you… Can I come in? Will you receive me?
Jesus sent 72 disciples out before him to prepare the way in the places where he had planned to visit. He gave them specific instructions, which included stripping them of every possession, including their shoes. They weren’t to carry money or a napsack… they could take NOTHING with them. And this journey must not have been intended to go so well, considering Jesus warned them, saying to them, “I’m sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” I assume those who received these empty handed, homeless men on foot were far and few between. And I try to put myself in that position, envisioning what these men must have looked like and asking myself what I would do if they showed up here at my doorstep.
I’ve also thought that people who carry the word of the Lord are the ones who wear the blessings of the Lord on the outside. I thought that the power within a church is illustrated by its popularity, its success, the size of the building and the number of people who attend on Sundays. Thinking to myself, “If so many other people like this place, and follow its teachings then it must be the real deal.”
But Jesus illustrated something very different here. His disciples didn’t have big congregations (they went out in 2’s) and they had nothing to offer – literally had nothing with them – nothing to show on the outside that would cause anyone to think they possessed something of value. They didn’t even have food to feed themselves, much less state-of-the-art sound systems, smoke lights and projector screens. I don’t even think the image of our modern homeless men and women would do this visual justice. They had nothing….. not even socks. I can only imagine how horrible their feet must have looked and there they stand.. on our doorstep.. asking to come inside.
The awesome thing about those filthy feet is that Jesus washed them. The hands of God in the flesh cleaned the dirt off of his servant’s feet before he went to the cross. How precious is that? We’ll save that for a later discussion.
After Jesus died on the cross, rose again and then finally ascended to the Father so that the Holy Spirit could come into His apostles and commission them, we learn about the journeys of these appointed men who carried the word of the Lord and preached the Gospel of Christ. Their stories are extraordinary and their faith demonstrated in ways I can’t even comprehend.
They went against the world, without fear or worry for their own lives. They taught people the words of the Lord – his instructions to pick up a cross and follow him, to not love this world and to not care about our own lives. 1 John 2:15 says “–Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. (1 John 2:15)“. They spoke of Love, Hope, Peace, Joy and Faith, but not in the body – in the spirit. Their bodies were quite troubled and their journey full of horrific trials.
Paul said, “I only know that in town after town the Holy Spirit warns me that chains and afflictions await me. Can you imagine God telling you these warnings everywhere you go… saying, “Hey Paul, it’s about to get really bad. You’re about to be beaten and chained and tormented.” Yet he still went. Why did Paul go? He continues in that passage saying, 24But I consider my life of no value to myself, if only I may finish my course and complete the ministry I have received from the Lord Jesus— the ministry of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”
He was enduring great trials and he didn’t care about his own life. In his letter to the church of Corinth, he said that he had faced more than he could endure in Asia, so much so, that they despaired life itself.
He certainly wasn’t a rich man or a successful man either by means of the physical things here. He talks also in that letter about having unmet needs, yet asking for nothing from them. He didn’t speak of a family here, he had no home, he was a prisoner multiple times, he was shipwrecked twice, he was beaten repeatedly, bitten by a deadly snake and the list goes on and on. If I knew this man Paul today… I mean really, if we were watching his life unfold in our town during our generation right now, we would probably be calling this poor man cursed. We’d probably assume he was nowhere near the grace or the favor of God because his life on the outside was a wreck. And people did look at him that way. Paul clarified this in the book of Hebrews when he talked about how fearful it is to fall into the hands of the Lord. And that after we are illuminated by God, we must endure great afflictions and we are made a gazingstock. The message bible commentaries translates gazingstock saying, It seems to me that God has put us who bear his Message on stage in a theater in which no one wants to buy a ticket. We’re something everyone stands around and stares at, like an accident in the street. We’re the Messiah’s misfits. You might be sure of yourselves, but we live in the midst of frailties and uncertainties. You might be well-thought-of by others, but we’re mostly kicked around. Much of the time we don’t have enough to eat, we wear patched and threadbare clothes, we get doors slammed in our faces, and we pick up odd jobs anywhere we can make a living. When they call us names, we say, “God bless you.” When they spread rumors about us, we put in a good word for them. We’re treated like garbage, potato peelings from the culture’s kitchen. And it’s not getting any better.
Gazingstock… this is how Paul described the ones who are walking in the light of Christ and he says that’s how the world will view those carrying the spirit of the Lord. It’s interesting… Jesus basically said the same thing, except in a more harsh way. Jesus said to his beloved disciples, “You will be hated by everyone for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” He also said in the book of John, in his last speech to his disciples, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. But because you are not of the world, since I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
What is it like to be hated by the world as Jesus described? And if the world hates those who belong to Jesus, then what is considered God’s grace and blessings? Looking at Paul again. This is a man that had the power of the Holy Spirit within Him – He casted out demons and healed the sick (just like Jesus did). But his life was a disaster on the outside and he didn’t care. He said he didn’t care repeatedly. He even said it was a blessing for him to suffer like Christ. and he did suffer greatly. Paul said his heart was full of sorrow and he had unceasing anguish, (Romans 9:2)… Can you imagine anguish that never gives you a break? It’s just there heavy on your chest all day and all night, week after week and month after month, year after year… But Paul describes this deep anguish was not for himself, it was for the loss of life of others (eternally… his brothers and sisters that would perish). He saw something I don’t and he lived quite clearly the opposite of what is demonstrated in our world today. Just like the disciples who went before the Lord… just like the Lord himself and just like the apostles who followed Christ.
Maybe things have just changed…. Maybe the world has changed and maybe the burden of the Lord looks different today then it did 2,000 years ago. But why would it? It’s still the same world that the Lord said NOT to love… not to conform to… and is it really so different? In Paul’s letter in Corinthians he tells the people, “although you have 10000 instructors in Christ, you don’t have any fathers. But I have begotten you in Christ.. Follow me.” That church of Corinth had 10000 instructors in Christ? Sounds like our towns today. So many leaders speaking the name Christ and teaching on the things of Christ. But, where are the Pauls and Peters and Johns and Timothy’s and James and Stephens. Where are the disciples that carry nothing but harness the power of the word of the God inside of them.
Where are those that despise their own lives, deny themselves yet carry deep, unceasing anguish for the everlasting destination of their brothers and sisters. Where are the gazingstocks and if they are here… would we even let them in our homes?… .
Father you know my heart and you know the answers to all of this I ponder. Please have mercy on us…. Who can even understand these things Lord?