Could Jesus be saying that entering the house of another is like entering the holy temple? That living in our neighbourhood is sacred work in a sacred place?
“Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals.”
This instruction often catches us off guard during Neighbourhood Life gatherings when we’re spending time reading and reflecting on Jesus sending out his followers in Luke 10. We are to go with nothing? No programs, no right answers, agendas, strategies, Roman roads, or expertise? No invitations to services, projects, or events? Really, we are to go with just ourselves?
Eugene Peterson affirms it in The Message translation of Matthew 10:10 and in Luke 9:3: “You are the equipment.”
In Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood, Alan Roxburgh compares Jesus’ instruction to the experience of the Israelites in exile in Jeremiah 29:
“Like the exiles in Jeremiah 29 seeking the peace and well-being of the city—[we are being instructed] to reenter the life of the local people, listen to their stories, and love them deeply without feeling the need to ‘sell’ them anything or ‘make a pitch’—and without assuming that we already know what they need and what the gospel ought to look like in this time and place.”
Could we “just” do that in our neighbourhoods? Hang out, share a cup of sugar, a rake, a listening ear? Go for a walk together, have a mug of coffee, ask for help? Such actions might be a lot like how Jesus lived among us on earth: accepting people as they were and eating at their tables, drinking from their wells, partying at their celebrations, touching their unclean skin, loving them deeply. Maybe that’s what it looks like for the kingdom of God to come near?
But that’s not all. There’s another layer to this verse in Luke 10—one that twenty-first-century readers likely miss but that would have jolted first-century listeners. Jesus quotes the exact words of the Halacha and Oral Law of ancient Jewish tradition:
“He may not enter into the Temple Mount with his staff or his sandal or his wallet, or with the dust upon his feet.” —Mishnah, Tractate Berakot 9:5
“It has been taught…a man must not go up to the hill of the Temple neither with shoes, nor with dust on his feet, nor with money wrapped in a cloth, nor with a girdle [tunic, cloak] on.”
—Palestinian Gemara, Tractate Berakot 9:5 (8)
“As it has been taught: A man should not enter the Temple Mount either with his staff in his hand, or his shoe on his foot, or with his money tied up in his cloth, or with his money bag slung over his shoulder.”
—Babylonian Gemara, Tractate Berakot 62:b
Could Jesus be saying that entering the house and village of another is like entering the holy Temple? That being sent to remain among our neighbours is sacred work in a sacred place?
Could Jesus be saying that where he sent us, placed us, and asked us to remain is actually holy ground where God dwells?
In The Road to Missional: Journey to the Center of the Church, author and missiologist Michael Frost explains:
“Any Jewish listener to Jesus’ instructions about purses, bags and sandals would have immediately recognized that these are the very same instructions given to those worshippers who approach the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Jesus is sending his disciples out into the world, like a faithful Jewish pilgrim would prepare to worship Yahweh on his mountain. The symbolism is unmistakable. All of Israel’s and Judah’s hope for the future house of God, as prophesied in Old Testament passages … are being fulfilled in the mission of Jesus. And this mission is not located on Mount Zion, but in the households to whom the disciples have been sent … By sending his disciples out into the mission field like penitent worshippers approaching the Temple Mount, he is saying that the world is not his parish, but the world is his temple.”
What if we really believed this? And acted on it?
That’s our Neighbourhood Life invitation—to discover how God is working in our neighbourhoods and to join in that work.
How will you join God at work in your neighbourhood this week? How are you going and remaining? Perhaps it begins (again) by asking God to send and empower us—giving us ears to hear and eyes to see God’s temple right where we live. We look forward to hearing your stories and your participation in our Neighbourhood Life initiatives.