The first followers of Jesus didn’t have it easy. When Jesus had said “Take up your cross and follow me,” he meant it. And for them, the symbol of the cross was no decoration but the daily possibility of arrest, abuse and worse. Paul wrote, encouraging them to be tough, describing their daily lives “ as servants of God” thus: “in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger.” (2 Cor 6:4-5)
Jesus himself had sent his disciples out to speak of him, with the instruction: “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.” (Lk 10, 3,4)
They were to have no back up, no resources (“No purse, or bag or sandals”). They were to go fast and avoid distraction (“D not greet anyone on the road”). They were to travel light.
One thinks of an unencumbered postman. No sack, no round. Just the one letter, and he carries it in his head. All he has to do is give that letter away, as often as he can. It’s such amazing, wonderful good news that –listen carefully – the message is more important than the messenger. Imagine that.
It’s like having the cure for cancer inside your head, and all you must do is share it to those who will hear. Such wonderful, life-changing news.
So they travelled light. No sound team, no pension plan, no mortgage, no family ties (if you can manage that!). The whole enterprise was to be characterised by mobility and simplicity.
And vulnerability too. They were being sent out as “lambs among wolves.”
And somehow, that’s part of the message too. In fact, the messenger is the message. If this good news doesn’t work in you, then you have no business sharing it. You are not a salesman trying to palm off a product. You are the product.
In 2 Corinthians 2, Paul uses the analogy of scent, to describe this point. “Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life.”
They “smell” something on you. Something good. He’s not bragging, just making the point. Because there’s a downside too: “ But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.”
In the next chapter (2 Cor 3) he switches to that postman analogy I referred to before, to make the same point. “ We don’t need letters of endorsement, either to you or from you. You yourselves are all the endorsement we need. Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it—not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives—and we publish it.” (2 Cor 2:12-3:6)
If you are a believer, then God has written something on your life. “Your very life is a letter that anyone can read just by looking at you! “Remember, this isn’t bragging. Paul goes on: “We wouldn’t think of writing this kind of letter about ourselves. Only God can write such a letter….The plan wasn’t written out with ink on paper, with pages and pages of legal footnotes, killing your spirit. It’s written with Spirit on spirit, his life on our lives!”
His life on our lives!
Today, Lord, let me travel light. In fact, let me be light for those in a dark place. Let me be good news for those needing to hear it. Let me be like fresh bread or ground coffee for those whose lives smell sour.
In Jesus; name, I pray.
Lifting the Veil
7-8 The Government of Death, its constitution chiseled on stone tablets, had a dazzling inaugural. Moses’ face as he delivered the tablets was so bright that day (even though it would fade soon enough) that the people of Israel could no more look right at him than stare into the sun. How much more dazzling, then, the Government of Living Spirit?
9-11 If the Government of Condemnation was impressive, how about this Government of Affirmation? Bright as that old government was, it would look downright dull alongside this new one. If that makeshift arrangement impressed us, how much more this brightly shining government installed for eternity?
12-15 With that kind of hope to excite us, nothing holds us back. Unlike Moses, we have nothing to hide. Everything is out in the open with us. He wore a veil so the children of Israel wouldn’t notice that the glory was fading away—and they didn’t notice. They didn’t notice it then and they don’t notice it now, don’t notice that there’s nothing left behind that veil. Even today when the proclamations of that old, bankrupt government are read out, they can’t see through it. Only Christ can get rid of the veil so they can see for themselves that there’s nothing there.
16-18 Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.