As we go through life we meet many people along the way. Most are casual friendships, people with whom we worship or work or come to know in other ways and some are neighbors who live close to us. Some of these casual friends will become close, long lasting friends who will be significant participants in our lives. All of these people make up our personal community in life, a community that is constantly changing and renewing itself in various ways but they all have one thing in common. Each of these relationships begins with a greeting.
As Jesus sends the 70 on their missionary journey in today’s Gospel He gives some specific instructions which end with the words, “…greet no one along the way.” That sounds a bit unfriendly, don’t you think? Imagine going through the day ignoring every person we encounter. Even walking down a busy sidewalk we often nod our heads when our eyes meet another’s. What’s up?
It occurs to me that this example may not be realistic in our modern society and may point to times in the past before we had all of our electronic devices to which we choose to connect while we avoid any personal contact on the street. Are they, or we, following Jesus’ command to “greet no one along the way?” I don’t think this is what He is referring to.
In ancient times, a greeting was not just a greeting. It was more involved and usually invited more conversation. What might be for us a simple, “Hello,” would for them become a more lengthy encounter. It might be the equivalent of asking someone to meet for coffee so as to engage in meaningful talk, allowing two separate lives to interrelate with each other.
Jesus is telling the 70 to stay focused on their missionary objective. Greetings are good but there is a time and place for them. This is not it. The message they carry is for the salvation of souls. Their message is one for which people and nations have been waiting for thousands of years.