When Jesus sends His disciples out to preach to the towns and villages, He tells them to “take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt” (Luke 9:3). The text doesn’t tell us exactly how long they were to be gone but we are told they went “from village to village,” so you get the idea it was more than simply a night or two.
The irony is that He also gives them “power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases” (v. 1). Here are twelve men given extraordinary power—yet they are bereft of the basic necessities of life! They are to depend upon others for their lodging and meals (v. 4). To put it in our vernacular, it would be hard to get the big head when you are in such circumstances. While you might be able to work wonders with demons and disease, you couldn’t even provide your own meals.
Maybe that’s part of the reason why Jesus laid it out this way. He knew that having such power would affect anyone (see 10:17), and He was helping them stay grounded. I don’t know too many of us who wouldn’t need this kind of thing to help us keep things in perspective. But I tend to think there’s more going on than just building humility into the system. I think that something’s being said here about the nature of true power.
We tend to think of power as what the disciples are given in the ability to heal the sick and cast out demons. And there’s no doubt that in the context of what Luke is relating, power over demons and disease is a definite sign of kingdom power and authority. But if we look a little closer, we’ll see another kind of power—the kind that comes from trusting God completely. By restricting them from taking anything, Jesus is forcing them to trust in God and the provisions He provides through others.
I think this also says something about the kingdom power and authority of Jesus. He had the kind of power that comes from trusting completely in His Father. He wanted to cultivate this in His disciples. It’s too easy isn’t it, to trust in God as we cling to our health insurance, retirement plans, comfortable houses, and the like? It’s remarkably easy to forget Who is really in control and Who we should trust.
Jesus turned the power paradigm upside down. Whereas we usually associate having a lot of things with having power, true power is measured more accurately by what we can live without rather than what we have to live with. All of this challenges us to know the true power that trusting God brings.