Would you go into the woods for a week with just a mostly empty backpack, a thermos of fresh drinking water, and a survival knife? I’ve been in the woods a bit, but not like that, not really interested. There’s a new program called Fat Guys in the Woods that does this: a survivalist takes three guys into the wild with almost nothing and they start their own fires without matches, build their own shelters, find their own water and purify it, and hunt for their own food without firearms. If they don’t get a fire started, they’re cold at night; if they don’t find food, they go hungry. It’s character building, which is good, and makes the show interesting. I think my character’s going to stop where it is right now.
Jesus sending his disciples with less than minimum. The two things he allows them are necessary: a walking stick means they can fend off snakes and wildcats as they go through the hills of Judea, which have tons of snakes and such. The sandals are not only important foot protection, but an important symbol of status: slaves went barefoot. No one would listen to a slave, or give them any respect, they’d wonder why they were away from their masters. Jesus has them play down their status, for staying in one places keeps their visit away from a series of parties as one host after another entertains them, and perhaps completes to show the best hospitality. They definitely aren’t going to impress anyone with their fashion sense since they’re wearing the same tunic every day (and hopefully cleaning it once in a while!) Since they have no spending money and can’t take anything with them, they have to depend on the people they’re with, who they’re serving. When they get to a town, they’re part of it in every way possible, they aren’t celebrities on tour.
Christianity challenges us to be different people, live by another standard, especially not living above anybody else. The commission to the disciples gives us the parameters of our mission: infiltrate, rely on our resources, have the courage to be different. The main thing we carry with us is Christ. Christ is all we need, Christ reaches out to others and Christ brings the response.
Jesus asks us to travel light, but He gives us the basics, even more than we need. He gives us Himself in His Body and Blood, becomes part of us, and calls us to live as he did. We might not be survivalists in the wild, but we’re ordinary people. That’s perhaps the greatest miracle of all: Christ reaches out to the world through ordinary people who are traveling light.