Taking Nothing

Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money — not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere. Luke 9: 1-6.

If we’re willing to listen, I believe this passage of Scripture can teach us a good deal about how we should approach Advent.  For most of us, accustomed to succeeding through diligent preparation, Jesus’ suggestion that the disciples “take nothing” seems a little odd. We wonder why Jesus did not want the disciples to bring along a few supplies, a little extra cash or some snacks.

First, I think the answer lies in understanding the context.  In this passage, for the first time, Jesus inaugurates the notion of what it means to be an apostle.  (That word comes to us from the Greek apóstolos, which translates as “one who is sent out”.)  Thus, following Christ will require that they leave their rabbi behind and take their own journey.  It will require the same of us. No longer would the disciples simply stand around and watch Jesus’ miracles and ministry. Jesus taught them, as he teaches us, that the Christian life was not a spectator sport.

So, why would Jesus send his disciples, his friends, out without any tools, equipment or provisions?  I don’t think Jesus wanted the disciples to be unprepared.  I think rather that Jesus was telling them, “None of that stuff is what you need.  In fact, it will only get in your way.”  The disciples needed to trust that God would give them everything they needed to do the work he wanted them to do.  When they learned to use God’s resources, rather than their own, they were capable of far more than they imagined.

That’s not a bad notion for us to carry forward into our journey through the season of Advent.  We will need to leave a lot of stuff behind.  Mostly, we’ll need to leave behind the illusion of self-reliance that we’ve come to accept.  We need to learn to trust God and trust that God will give us the tools for His work.  We may also need to leave behind our notion of who we are, and what we’re capable of doing.  The real question we should ask during Advent inquires where God is sending us, and what He can accomplish through our lives.

Have a good and holy Advent,

James R. Dennis, O.P.

© 2011 James R. Dennis

9 responses to “Taking Nothing

  1. I wish I had the faith to follow advice like that…

    Actually, I am packing for a winter camping trip this weekend. I really wish I had the faith to take advice like that knowing I was heading out to a remote place with forecasted snow and 20 degree weather…

  2. Trust and faith in God…there is our security.

  3. Preach it; live it!

  4. Awesome reminder about emptying ourselves from those things that we think we need, but in reality separate us more from God. Thanks for sharing and thanks for visiting my site. God bless.

    • Thanks so much, Noel. Our Orthodox brothers and sisters called this self-emptying “kenosis”. It’s a hard lesson for most of us, and for most of us, change happens (if at all) in small steps. Small steps taken toward God, however, generally have some far reaching consequences for our spiritual lives. Pax.

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