Jesus proclaimed and embodied the reign and rule of the Father. He declared, 'The Kingdom of God is at hand' (Matthew 4:17), and demonstrated what this looked like by welcoming the weak, healing the sick, forgiving sins, sharing meals, and laying down his life as an act of self giving sacrificial love.
This kingdom, deeply rooted in scriptures and ancient narratives, heralded a time, a place, and a people where the promises of the 'age to come' were no longer a distant dream but a tangible present reality. Jesus announced that this day had, in some way, arrived—it was breaking in, not only through his ministry or the lives he touched but also through the community he formed.
The impending era, characterized by divine presence, blessings, and peace, where oppression and domination no longer held sway, was manifest in the here and now. It was akin to a down payment, the presence of the future, a now and not yet, where the values and vision of heaven, its fruit were now a foretaste.
While Galilee and Judea bore witness to injustice and oppression from the ruling elite, with the poor marginalized, now in Jesus and the community, the prayer 'Let your kingdom come, your will be done' began to find its answer (Matthew 6:10).
Jesus commissioned the twelve to proclaim and enact the kingdom, revealing the reign and rule of the Father (Matthew 10:1).
'One day, Jesus gathered his twelve disciples, granting them power and authority to cast out demons and heal diseases. He then sent them to announce the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick' (Luke 9:1-2).
The disciples, the faithful followers of Jesus, also emulated his ministry.
Just as Jesus held authority, the disciples were bestowed with authority.
As Jesus expelled demons, so too were the disciples instructed to do the same.
Just as Jesus healed all diseases, the disciples were to heal diseases.
In this way, the disciples were to resemble Jesus in both actions and love.
We can suggest that this passage initially referred to the twelve, making the kingdom task an apostolic duty. However, the Luke doesn't limit this mission to just the twelve, sending out a larger group of seventy-two, symbolising perhaps, if we read it alongside the list of nation in Genesis 10, universality of the message and reaching all nations.
'After this, the Lord appointed seventy-two others, sending them two by two to every town and place he was about to visit. He instructed them, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out more workers. Go! I am sending you as lambs among wolves. Don't carry a purse, bag, or sandals, and don't greet anyone on the road. When you enter a house, offer the greeting, 'Peace to this house.' If there's someone promoting peace, your peace will rest on them, but if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, partaking of what they provide, for the worker deserves his wages. Don't move from house to house. When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you, heal the sick, and proclaim, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' If you enter a town and aren't welcomed, go into the streets and declare, 'Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off as a testimony against you. Nevertheless, be sure of this: the kingdom of God has come near' (Luke 10:1-11).
These seventy two were called to proclaim and enact the kingdom, bearing witness to 'The kingdom of God has come near.' This proclamation was affirmed through the healing of the sick.
The disciples were to recognize that their presence in local communities meant nothing less than the drawing near of the Father's rule and reign.
If we consider the relevance of Jesus in contemporary discipleship, we can transition from the ancient context to its modern significance, drawing the following insights:
- Disciples are called to mirror Jesus in both their actions and love.
- Disciples are entrusted with the task of proclaiming and enacting the kingdom to life.
- They are the bearers of hope, conveying the vision and values of the age to come and endeavoring to embody them in their lives.
- Just as Jesus had a healing ministry, so too are disciples assigned to heal and restore.
- Disciples refuse to accept the world as it stands today, instead ushering in the eschatological hope into their lives.