"Go your way;behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves."
Luke 10:3 (NKJV)
The text of the mission of the seventy describes what it means to take the Gospel and following Jesus seriously: having to face, sooner or later, the strength of the wolves that are in the world with the weakness of the lamb. Indeed, the Master is clear, offering potential disciples one of the sharpest images of what their experience would be: "as lambs in the midst of wolves". Words that may surprise or perplex. What crazy shepherd sends his sheep into the midst of a pack of wolves? The wolf has always eaten the sheep and things will always be this way, so the lambs will be meat for the slaughter. They won't! Jesus uses strong language, but he is certainly not sending them into the wild, nor is it his intention to endanger them. The scene of sheep in the midst of wolves also offers a numerical sense, where the majority is evidently represented by wolves. We have before us a paradoxical situation: the sheep is invited to go among the wolves to love them, to guide them into the truth at the risk of their own safety. How is this possible since sheep are helpless and need to be guided? These are animals devoid of any form of defense. Many of the herbivores have strong horns, others have good legs to give themselves away. Sheep have no horns, except for a few rams that can defend themselves at best. So they can only survive in the absence of predatory animals.
Stepping out of the metaphor, Jesus is exhorting the disciples to speak of faith without fear, with the courage and boldness that the sheep does not possess, but that the Spirit would provide. Yet in nature lambs always come to a bad end when they encounter hungry wolves. In this detail Jesus is probably asking for an act of faith: to trust the Shepherd. Our strength is not in ourselves, but in our trust in Him. Faith that is also humility, to not rely on the purse and our own resources. The good Shepherd challenges us to believe in the possibility of lambs going among wolves and succeeding not only in surviving, but in changing the disposition and ways of potential enemies. So did the prophet Daniel in the lion's den. I do not consider it of little importance that the disciples are sent in pairs, to prevent any drift of feeling like lone heroes, little lions. The wolves, on the other hand, are all the people who make up the society in which the believer (as a sheep) is called to live, testifying of his or her faith by both words and concrete actions. If in some surroundings it is not easy to bear consistent witness to one's faith, if in others it may be a cause for ridicule and contempt, this is not, however, a mortal danger, at least in our latitudes. Rather, we must fear the temptation not to resist the sometimes very strong pressures of social conventions. Misunderstandings, hatreds, rejections, accusations... These are no small matter: but no mission is possible if we fear judgment and confrontation with the world.
We have before us a demanding and fascinating challenge, which is to live our faith consistently. To do so, we must not even worry about the change of some sheep, who, once they find the courage to leave the fold, dress as wolves. Excesses are always a flaw. An ancient Latin saying went, "Homo homini lupus," meaning man is wolf to man. Let us banish the infernal thought that in order to live among wolves we must become a little wolf ourselves. The Christian is the one who to the slap turns the other cheek, to the stolen cloak adds the tunic, does not need the strong and violent manners, to behave like evil to hide his real weaknesses, but overcomes evil with good, always. If there is one truth we must keep in mind, it is that spiritually speaking, we are absolutely weak and nothing we can do on our own. The one immediately following is that God brings His power to fruition in our weakness, never leaving or abandoning us. In the awareness of our frailty and weakness we find the strength we need, just as the apostle Paul declared, "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10). I believe it is time for us to divest ourselves of arrogance, conceit, and wanting to impose our ideas at all costs. If we are "sheep," we will not have any violent or aggressive instincts, but we will allow ourselves to be led by the good Shepherd in facing all kinds of wolves, without being touched in the least.
Weekly reading plan
January 30, Exodus 23-24; Matthew 20:1-16
January 31, Exodus 25-26; Matthew 20:17-34
February 01, Exodus 27-28; Matthew 21:1-22
February 02, Exodus 29-30; Matthew 21:23-46
February 03, Exodus 31-33; Matthew 22:1-22
February 04, Exodus 34-35; Matthew 22:23-46
February 05, Exodus 36-38; Matthew 23:1-22