Bible Text: Luke 10:1 – 24 | Speaker: Clayton Fopp | Series: Luke – A Careful History | Luke 10:1 – 24
How do you qualify as a representative?
I imagine that over the last few weeks, many of us would have caught at least some news from the Winter Olympics in South Korea. I only heard bits and pieces, but it was enough to be reminded, that generally speaking, the people who represented their country at the Olympics, they didn’t just rock up to, say the offices of the Australian Olympic Committee, and say, “well, here I am, I’m an Australian, you’ll probably want to send me to PyeongChang, to represent us.”
No, with possible the exception of those countries like Nigeria and Tonga where there seems to be only a couple of people crazy enough to want to go when they’ve never even seen snow before, for every other country, there’s a rigorous selection process.
Plenty of people want to go,
Only a few are chosen.
Only the very best get to go to Korea, and represent their country.
USA snowboarding gold medallist Chloe Kim starting snowboarding at age 4, and started training for competition when she was 6.
It’s said that the British elite athletes train an average of 6 hours a day, 6 days a week, 12 months a year, in order to represent their country.
And even those like Tongan, Pita Taufatofua, who competed in 4 out of his 5 qualifying races on roller skis, yes, that’s skis with wheels! Even when he first found some snow, he had to put in 100%, learning how to ski,
Training for hour after gruelling hour, and using the light on his iphone as a torch, so he could see where he was going as he skied along!
To qualify as a representative, really means you have to be the best.
Better than everybody else.
And we might think that Jesus is going to employ a similar kind of approach when it comes to choosing those who will represent him.
The best of the best,
The elite Christians.
What you and I could be, if we really put in the effort, and trained for hours every day.
If you were with us when we looked at the beginning of chapter 9, we saw Jesus send out 12 of his disciples, the ones we know as the apostles. They were to announce the nearness of the kingdom of God, and, through healing the sick, and driving out demons, to give people a taste of the kingdom.
And this kind of announcing of the kingdom,
Telling people the good news of forgiveness and relationship with the God they’ve ignored,
That’s a fairly significant message that’s entrusted to these 12 apostles.
But they’re not the only ones to whom Jesus entrusts this work of announcing and bringing the kingdom of God.
Remember last week, we saw Jesus calling all sorts of people, and to them too, he gave the charge, you go and proclaim the kingdom of God, that was verse 60.
Mission is for all disciples (v 1)
And now, in the opening words of this section, we see Jesus throwing the gates wide open,
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.
So we’ve had the 12, appointed to the work of the kingdom,
We’ve had those in the last section, Follow me, and you go and proclaim the kingdom of God,
Now there are seventy-two others, to whom this work is also entrusted. And we’re not told their message, we’re supposed to understand that it’s the same as all these others;, proclaim the kingdom of God.
Christian ministry is not restricted to just a few. The work of God’s kingdom is for all those in God’s kingdom.
Proclaiming Jesus as God’s king,
Calling people to repent, to turn from their rebellion, and become part of the kingdom, that’s not something reserved for a few, the most special, the most spiritual,
This is the work of every disciple of Jesus.
So it’s not like the Olympics where you’ve got to be at the elite end of things, it’s more like those countries that have National Service for their military. If you’re a citizen of that country, you’re enlisted. It’s what’s required of you.
And the large number of these missionaries also points to the universality of this work. Jesus doesn’t appoint 5 more people, like he’s just filling the gaps.
72 more, is a large number, and it’s a number that the Jews, who liked numbers, considered significant.
If you asked one of Jesus’ listeners “How many countries in the world?”, they wouldn’t have typed that into Google, they would have been able to tell you straight away, there are 72. Their Bible told them that, in Genesis 10.
Jesus symbolically, appoints a missionary for every nation of the world. Of course, he hasn’t literally done that, he’s sending missionaries out into the towns and villages where he was about to go.
But that’s the connection people would have made in their minds.
Already Jesus is preparing his disciples, for the mission of the church after his death and resurrection, and ascension,
A mission that will be to all the world.
And the other thing with the numbers that I’m sure you noticed, is that these missionaries get sent out two by two.
Now, this isn’t Jesus laying down a requirement that you have to be married in order to do mission work! I’ve heard Christians try and make it say that!
What would have sprung immediately to mind when people heard Jesus say this, was the Old Testament law about witnesses. The testimony of just one person wasn’t enough, in Jewish legal thinking, to establish the facts in an important case.
The law says that such A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. Deuteronomy 19.
When people hear Jesus say, for this ministry, this testimony, it takes 2 people to announce it,
There’s immediately a sense that this is significant testimony,
That it’s meaningful, that it matters.
The message of Jesus is not just a matter of opinion or belief, it can be attested to, in a way that could stand up in court.
So Jesus sends these 72 out.
His mission is expanding, and we’re given a glimpse of its scope;, preparing us for the good news going into all of the world, after Easter,
And we’re reminded also, of the importance, and absolute reliability of the message these witnesses are bringing.
These missionaries are in some ways the advance team, they’re going ahead of Jesus to get ready for him.
So, if you’ve driven to town recently, you’ll know that road closures for the Adelaide 500 have been in place for a while.
There’s been teams of people there, building grandstands and what have you, months ahead even, of the races starting.
The advance team comes in to get people ready.
But as well as going before Jesus, to every town and place where he was about to go, these missionaries in some instances, will stand in for Jesus. That is, they are the main event.
See, notice down in verse 16, Whoever listens to you listens to me;
whoever rejects you rejects me;,
but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
The response that people make to these missionaries, is their response to Jesus.
If people dismiss them and their message, they’ve dismissed Jesus.
And if they dismiss Jesus, they’ve dismissed the God who sent him.
The stakes are high.
And if the 72, are a pointer, to the mission of the church after the time of Jesus, the mission that spreads out across the world,
This gives us a picture of how Jesus thinks about our work in announcing the kingdom, doesn’t it ?
If you’re a Christian, you represent Jesus to people, as you speak the good news of the kingdom;, relationship with God,
And as you demonstrate, what it is, how good it is, to live with Jesus as king.
People will respond to that, either positively or negatively.
And that response is in fact their response to Jesus, and ultimately their response to the God who created them.
There’s no place for a Christian person to feel that they, or their ministry, is insignificant.
This is what Jesus thinks of your conversations with your non-Christian friends.
This is how Jesus views the rejection, disappointment, and maybe even ridicule you experience, when your faith is maligned, or your invitations to Simply Christianity are knocked back.
That conversation you have with your friend,
That time you summon up the courage to speak of the hope you have in Christ,
When you come to Simply Christianity with your friend, and then answer their questions afterwards,
Jesus thinks, that person is listening, to him. Whoever listens to you listens to me; he says, that’s quite remarkable, isn’t it?
We’re not in the exact same situation, but Jesus works the same way through us.
He does his work, through our words.
The world is a bumper harvest (v 2)
The second thing we see in these opening verses, and we’ll speed up in a minute! but please don’t miss the fact that a great harvest is waiting.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.
I suspect, if you asked the average Christian person in Australia, maybe even if you asked us here today, ‘cause, we’re pretty average! if you asked for an image to capture the relationship between Christians and the world, I don’t reckon, many of us would come up with this one.
I reckon Christians in Australia, and probably other places, we’re probably more likely to look at our society,
And feel isolated,
We see something that threatens us.
Jesus gives his disciples a very different picture, doesn’t he? The world is a field, ready to give a bumper harvest.
This is not a time for retreating back into our Christian ghetto, this is a time for going out into God’s harvest field, to bring in his harvest.
Yes, there’ll be some who reject Jesus’ words, and reject the message of those who come in his name, but the harvest is plentiful
Now, the image of harvest is used in the Old Testament. There’s a connection to God’s judgment on sin and rebellion,
But also, very simply, the harvest is the culmination of everything else, isn’t it?
Pretty much everything else the farmer does, looks forward to that.
Why do I water my fruit trees?
And spray my fruit trees?
And prune them,
And cover them in bird net,
And everything else I do all year?
For the sake of the harvest.
So when, The harvest is plentiful, and my trees are loaded with fruit, do I just sit back and do nothing?
No, of course not!
The harvest is the time for action!
The farmer doesn’t look at his bumper harvest, and think, “my fields are out to get me,
I’d better just stay in the farmhouse, so the fields don’t mock me and ridicule me!”
Do we need to change the way we look at our world?
Jesus says, a great harvest awaits. Many people, will respond to the good news of the kingdom of God. If you missed the metaphor, that’s the point of it!
There are lots of people who are going to hear the message about Jesus and respond.
This week, we started Simply Christianity here at Cornerstone at lunch time, for students to read Luke’s gospel, and ask their questions about Jesus. 45 high schoolers came along. 3 of them, we know, are connected to church. Please pray for the other 42!
We don’t know what will happen! But The harvest is plentiful,
Pray to solve the labour shortage (v 2 – 3)
There is a problem though.
There’s a bumper harvest, but few workers.
There are few people to take the good news of the kingdom of God to the many, many people, who will respond.
Now, let me just employ a broad, gender-based stereotype. If you’re a bloke, you probably just went into problem-solving mode, didn’t you? You’re already thinking, “There’s a solution to this problem, we need to send out more workers.
Send out more.”
Except, that’s not exactly what Jesus says, is it?
The solution is not “send more workers”
Give Christians a kick up the backside.
No. the workers are few, so pray. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field
Ask God, to raise up more workers.
I wonder when was the last time you prayed that God would send more people from our church family, into our community, and into our world.
The world is God’s harvest field. There will only be workers in it, if God sends them.
And even when there are dangers, the hostility to the gospel message that perhaps Christians are very aware of, be reminded of God’s sovereignty over, his harvest field.
Imagine a few lambs stumbling into the midst of a pack of wolves. What kind of chance do the lambs have?
Well, none really!
Except for the fact that Jesus has sent them on his business, into God’s field, and nothing will happen to them, until the work set for them is completed.
That’s what God’s sovereignty over his harvest field means.
But remember, we are the workers? Whose responsibility is it, to harvest? To announce and invite?
Disciples of Jesus.
We’re not talking about some special category of Christian who are harvest workers.
And so this prayer that God will send out more workers, is both a prayer that God will stir up and equip existing Christians for the work of God kingdom, and also a prayer that more people will become Christians, and then able to take their turn in the work of ministry.
The solution to the shortage of workers is to pray, to ask God to save many, and to stir up and equip, every one of his people, for the work of the kingdom.
That’s a dangerous prayer to pray though, isn’t it? Who are the very ones Jesus tells to pray this? The ones he is sending, out like lambs among wolves.
If you ask God, to raise up workers who can labour for his cause in the world, don’t be surprised, if you’re the one he equips and sends out.
In 1934, a group of businessmen met at a dairy farm in the American city of Charlotte, North Carolina, to pray that God would raise up someone, to preach the good news of Jesus across the country and the world.
These men had been invited by the man who owned the farm, and who at the time, had a 16 year old son named, Billy Graham.
When Dr Graham died last week, it was estimated he’d spoken about Jesus to more than 2.2 billion people!
This is a dangerous prayer to pray!
That word for send out workers, is one of my favourite Greek words. It means “thrust out.” It’s not quite God hurling people out into the world, but it’s not far off. It’s an image of strength and deliberate action.
Which means, when it comes to us,
And our place in God’s harvest field,
It’s not accidental,
You didn’t just stumble into that spot,
And you didn’t just stumble into God’s kingdom.
God’s called you, and put you where you are, as a worker in his harvest field.
And maybe you’re here today because God is doing that;, right now, calling you to himself.
Expect mixed responses to the good news of the kingdom (v 5 – 11)
And Jesus sends out these workers with the same kind of priorities he gave the 12 when he sent them out.
For example, do not greet anyone on the road, it doesn’t mean “be rude”, but understand both the urgency, and the dependence on God that’s required .
Don’t go to Woolworths,
Load up your trolley with energy bars, and trail mix,
Then go to the shoe shop to get a spare pair of shoes,
Just get out there!
But there is going to opposition and hostility.
We could hardly expect anything different;
Jesus himself is on his way to Jerusalem in order to be killed.
So some people will welcome the message of forgiveness, reconciliation, and relationship with God,
When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you
In the message of the gospel, you offer someone peace with God.
Their relationship with God which they’ve broken by rejecting and ignoring God, what the Bible calls sin, you offer the opportunity for that relationship to be restored.
And what a great way Jesus describes it! As a messenger of the gospel you bring peace; peace with God, and someone who welcomes you and the message you bring, receives that peace;, your peace will rest on them.
The peace with their creator that’s been restored through Jesus, through his death in their place, that goes with them.
It’s a great image, isn’t it? Peace with God, resting on someone forever.
Someone rang me as I was reading Luke 10 this week, a Christian person, and they mentioned in the conversation that they were alone. But then they paused, and backed up, “No, that’s not true” they said, “It can feel like that sometimes, but I know I’m not alone.”
That’s what this kind of peace is like,
The peace with God that a response to the gospel message brings. It’s ongoing, forever, and even if we don’t feel it, or think of it at any given time, it still stands as the defining reality of our life.
That’s one response. The welcome that brings someone peace with their God.
But there is another kind of response isn’t there? Verse 10, But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you
There’ll be some people who want nothing to do with the message of the kingdom.
And so Jesus refers to this little religious ritual, say, “Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you.”
This is what the uber-religious rabbis would do after they walked through a town that wasn’t Jewish.
It’s kind of extreme, isn’t it? We don’t even want to have molecules of your dirt on us after we leave!
If you’d been in someone’s house, and then as you walk out the front door, you got out a sponge and some soap, and you stand there on the porch scrubbing yourself, while they stare at you.
That would communicate a certain message, wouldn’t it!
Well, that was exactly the point.
“We want nothing to do with you.
You’re not Jewish, you’re outsiders.
We’re entirely separate from you.”
For the messengers of Jesus to refer to this is not about saying we don’t like you. It’s about separation and difference.
This sign that said, in no uncertain terms, you’re not part of us, here says, “because of how you respond, you’re outside the people of God,
You’re not those among whom God is going to work.”
And this is perhaps partly why Jesus sent them out two by two.
This is important testimony.
This is evidence about God’s judgment.
And the double witnesses will give those who hear it, reason to pay attention.
But what message are they to share in the towns that welcome them?
Verse 8, The kingdom of God has come near to you
And what’s the message to preach among those who reject Jesus and those he sends? Middle of verse 11, The kingdom of God has come near
The people need to hear the same message. Whether they embrace those who come in Christ’s name or not.
Sometimes we face the temptation, when we face a setback of some kind in evangelism, in announcing the good news of King Jesus,
We can think, “well the gospel message didn’t work,
Let’s switch to Message B, and roll that out, and see if we have any more success with that. And so we shift to some alternative gospel message, some variation of the gospel, in the hope that we’ll get more traction.
That’s not the pattern here, though, is it?
Having been rejected,
The disciples are to stay on message;, The kingdom of God has come near
There was something in the news last week about the struggle politicians have to try and stay on message, when people, and reporters want to ask all their own questions.
The Christian disciple also will stay on message.
The kingdom of God has come near
God’s king has arrived,
-People need to hear that.
It’s possible to get a glimpse of what life under King Jesus is like.
-People need to hear that.
The way into the kingdom, is through repentance, turning from living for self, and turning to Jesus.
-People need to hear that.
Whether you believe it or not, the reality is the same; The kingdom of God has come near.
For some it’s a reason to celebrate.
For others it’s a warning.
There was an earthquake in PNG on Monday. And as I was reading about it, I learned that the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii, was established after the 1923 Kamchatka earthquake in Russia.
That day, the officer in the Hawaii Volcano Observatory tried to warn the harbourmaster, that a tsunami would be coming, but his warnings were ignored.
There was significant damage,
And there was loss of life.
It’s foolish and dangerous to ignore this kind of warning.
Rejecting the message of Jesus is serious and eternal (v 12 – 16)
And so we see the seriousness of rejection in the comparisons that Jesus makes to other towns, other, notorious towns, we could say. 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
Sodom had been destroyed by God for its wickedness, and by the time of Jesus, it was more or less symbolic of God’s right and just judgement.
And similarly, Tyre and Sidon were who God had warned through the Old Testament prophets, to turn from their sin or face judgement.
And there was no doubt in the minds of Jesus’ hearers that these cities deserved God’s judgement. And actually, you’ve just got to go back and read the history, even today, and it will make your eyes water! The way their rejection of God and his pattern for life played out was mind-boggling, in it cruelty and evil.
You mention these towns, and there’s immediately a shared understanding, God’s judgment is just, and right, and entirely deserved.
But Jesus then names 3 cities of Israel, Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, verse 15, where Jesus performed miracles and preached the good news of the kingdom. This is a surprising segue for people listening.
Jesus thinks the people in these towns have seen and heard enough from God to know they ought to respond, but they’ve refused to.
Which puts them in a worse situation than even those cities whose wickedness drew God’s warning and anger centuries earlier.
And if those cities had become synonymous with just and deserved judgement, then we know this too is well-deserved.
Tyre and Sidon didn’t have the glorious Son of God turn up in their midst.
It wasn’t to Sodom that Jesus sent messengers, and performed miracles.
And so with such greater revelation, there is such greater responsibility to respond.
Is there a “woe to you, Australia”?
I wonder what Jesus would say to Australia?
If there’d be a “woe to you Australia.”
Now, we’re not a Christian country,
But our nation has certainly been shaped by the gospel of Jesus,
And lots of people have heard something of who Jesus is.
And so the expectation is, that they’re in a position to respond to what they’ve heard, more so than others,
We are in a more privileged position.
And yet many choose to reject Jesus, and the messengers he sends out.
“woe” is a word of regret and lamentation.
It’s like Jesus is mourning, broken-hearted, for these cities and their spiritual blindness.
And so I wonder if that’s how we see our country,
It’s easy to see them as wolves, and us as sheep.
It’s easy, at times, to see where we want God’s judgement to fall,
I’d be quite happy if God wiped that bit out,
And that bit over there,
And probably those people too.
But do we share Jesus’ mourning and regret for their spiritual blindness?
Are we deeply troubled, by the eternal significance of the path people are walking down?
To ignore the testimony about Jesus is not just to reject those who bring that message, it’s to reject Jesus, God’s chosen king,
To reject God himself,
And to put yourself under God’s judgment, in a way terribly illustrated by the experience of those 3 ancient cities.
All of this though, is said to the 72, before they’re sent out, isn’t it? Jesus isn’t saying this to them as an evaluation of their ministry. He says this to prepare them for their ministry.
And so while this whole section can seem a bit depressing, and negative, it’s part of how Jesus chooses to prepare his disciples for mission.
It’s part of how we are prepared for the work in God’s harvest field that he calls us into.
Christian mission is part of a spiritual battle (v 17 – 20)
And so, the 72 returned with joy. While, no doubt there was some rejection, the mark of their ministry was in fact that they had enjoyed great power, and evil was defeated;, “even the demons submit to us in your name.”
And Jesus replies in words that echo the prophet Isaiah from centuries earlier, I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
The work of proclaiming the kingdom,
Announcing the kingdom,
Giving people a foretaste of the kingdom,
Because that is all an extension of Jesus own work, it’s done in your name, as they say, it points to and depends on Jesus’ work on the cross.
Their work, then, shows that Satan is defeated.
It doesn’t mean that while the 72 are out and about, Jesus happened to look up and see Satan fall out of heaven or anything like that.
Jesus perceives the spiritual reality, that what looks like a bunch of not very well-equipped or educated itinerant evangelists walking the highways of Israel, is actually a work that spells defeat for Satan.
The proclamation of the Kingdom of God that some will reject, actually spells defeat for Satan.
What looks like a bunch of mostly middle-class, pretty ordinary Christians, taking the smallest of steps to bring the gospel of Jesus to people in their community, and to start new churches in other communities, actually spells defeat for Satan.
That one was us by the way, if you didn’t pick it up!
What looks like a gathering of such insignificance, a bunch of people around a table in a classroom on a Wednesday night,
A gathering called Simply Christianity, that looks so unimportant, that even the skateboarders around the campus don’t pay any notice,
It actually spells defeat for Satan.
I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
And it would seem pretty great, to be involved in this kind of work, something worth celebrating.
But Jesus, says there’s something better than being drawn into this work of such a cosmic scale. do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
The thing that’s most worth celebrating, is not the epic spiritual battle you’ve just had a hand in, but that you’re known by God.
The trampling on snakes and scorpions and all that, is not a promise that you can go barefoot in your backyard and nothing will happen to you. My dad got bitten by a snake in our yard when I was a kid, so I don’t think that’s how this is supposed to work!
No, once again this is Old Testament language. In Deuteronomy 8, God reminded the people of Israel that he had brought them through the wilderness, over snakes and scorpions, and he’d protected them. They were his precious possession.
This isn’t about being careless around wild-life, it’s about God knowing you, and calling you to himself, like he did with the people of Israel in the Old Testament.
We want significance.
I imagine the idea of being involved in work of real, spiritual significance, appeals to many of us.
Being involved in work that spells defeat for Satan, and points to his ultimate destruction. We like the sound of that.
The thing to value above all else is not that,
But your standing before God,
Welcomed, in Jesus.