Back in the early 1980’s there were television commercials that ran as part of a recruiting drive for the Canadian Armed Forces. The narrator’s voice was reminiscent of that from educational films from the 1950’s in which we might learn something of the wonders of electric kitchen appliances or what to do in the event of a nuclear war. In one such commercial, we were given a glimpse of life on a Canadian warship and how its’ crew uses the world’s most advanced electronics. Then the narrator says, “If you have what it takes there may be a job waiting for you in Maritime Command.” The volume of the music in the background increases and then we here a chorus of men’s voices singing, “There’s no life like it, no there’s no life like it.”
I’ve known a few people that have had careers in the military. While many of them are satisfied with their time in the service, I think that most would chuckle at this recruiting commercial. With a roll of the eyes or a slow shake of the head they might sarcastically agree, “yes, there’s no life like it.” Like many jobs that one might find themselves in because of slick marketing or recruiting, the reality is that it is much less exciting, and often far more frustrating than one might have been led to believe.
I cannot help but to think of those commercials as we read today’s Gospel lesson. Without knowing the full story, one might at this point make the mistake of thinking that Jesus had fooled his followers. Jesus had recruited people, so to speak. More accurately, he called disciples to follow him and to learn from him. Boot camp was rather lengthy by modern standards, but we come to a point where it is time to get to work and Jesus speaks to his disciples about what it will be like when they go out into the world to do what they have been trained to do. If by this point any of them still had illusions of glamour or glitz or thought that people would automatically love and accept them because of their position, Jesus would soon put these thoughts to rest. In the passages that follow immediately after that which we have read today, Jesus warns his friends of the challenges that await them. Mockery, rejection, even persecution are to be expected. What he warns them of would make the hardiest of us shudder and perhaps might even make us second guess our life choices.
Even so warned, the disciples go willingly to the work into which they have been called. They don’t do this because they think of such mistreatment as a badge of honour. They do it because they believe that the work is needed and important. They believe in the work, and more importantly, they believe in Jesus. They know that they have been prepared and equipped, shaped and formed into messengers of the Kingdom of Heaven. Their commission at this point is to proclaim the Good News; “The Kingdom of Heaven has come near,” and as a sign of this, they are to use the gifts they have received to make people well. The Good News is a about life and God’s desire that all the world might know and have this life. There is a cost to sharing this Good News, but ultimately, there really is no life like it, so it must be shared.
And so, it comes to us, the followers of Jesus in this time and place. For many of our brothers and sisters in the world, the cost of discipleship has not changed much in the past 2000 years, and persecution may be more common than ever. For those of us in this part of the world, the challenges we face as followers of Jesus tend to be more intellectual than physical, but make no mistake, over time this can wear one down just as effectively as physical torture. The goal of this wearing down is that we would stop believing what we believe and stop sharing what we know. Yet we persist because we know that our message is one of life and healing for a broken and hurting world. We know that Jesus is the life of the world and that there really is no life like it.