Why Can't the Disciples Move From House to House?

Jesus gives them an advanced lesson.

Luke 9:1-9 (ESV)

And he 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. And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.

Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen. Herod said, “John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he sought to see him.

This passage describes a discipleship training exercise. The twelve are intentionally sent out without the ability to survive on their own – no staff for self-defense, no food, no money, not enough clothing for a cold night. Even the small items they’d have in their bag aren’t allowed.

Jesus does give them amazing powers, even some authority; anyone who takes them in will be glad they did.

But they’re also given a curious restriction; they can’t move from house to house within a town. Why?

This fits well with the other restrictions and seems to complete the package. They have highly marketable skills (to say the least) but aren’t allowed to market them. They must travel as poor sojourners. “If you’re welcomed, great; if not, leave town.”

The disciples have no idea of the tough road that lies ahead for them – but Jesus does. In this exercise, He gives them the kind of power they’ll have later but forces them to be completely dependent.

This is essential training in how to function as an apostle.

We’re raised to be self-sufficient, and this passage is not calling us to forget what we’ve learned.

But we need to learn to not be self-reliant and to depend on Him. God is glorified when we become accustomed to the fact that He has all the power and we are nothing without His blessings.

This can only be learned through prayer. We need to ask God to teach us to depend on Him.

But this is tricky. How do you ask for this? Pray for a humbling trial?

No, there’s plenty of evidence already. We just need to see it better. Think back. Ask the Lord to remind us of the times we turned to Him and how He responded. We often forget the desperate prayers that preceded our triumphs.

Ask Him to help us recall and connect the dots.

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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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