Sermon for July 7, 2019

Readings: 2 Kings 5:1-14 • Psalm 30:1-12 • Galatians 6:1-6, 7-16 • Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

This week’s theme is Our invitation to participate in restoration. The story in 2 Kings is about Namaan, who had leprosy. Namaan was told to wash in the Jordan river 7seven times (participation) and then God restored his health. The Psalm was a song of dedication to the temple they built for God—restoring relationship. Paul reminds believers in Galatia to restore one another—to do good to all. The sermon is based on Jesus sending the 72—inviting them to participate in restoring people to God.

Sending Disciples

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Introduction: Share a time you took a trip or vacation, or went on an excursion or a camping outing and then realized you did not plan or pack adequately for that event? Or a time you went to work and realized you left valuable material at home. Or you got to church and realized your sermon was sitting on your printer.

Today we will explore a story in Luke where we find Jesus sending out his disciples, but specifically telling them to not take supplies. But first, a bit behind the story.

It must have been exciting to travel with Jesus and hear his stories, watch the people listen and change, to see miracles take place almost daily, and to watch Jesus challenge the spiritual leaders of the day and call them out for their hypocrisy. You couldn’t help but believe you were part of something big—perhaps the beginning of the restoration of Israel and the downfall of the Romans.

Sure, there were dissenters wherever you went, but most of the people following Jesus wanted to follow him, they wanted to learn, they were excited to be part of this movement. Then one day Jesus calls 72 of you and tells you he is sending you on a mission trip—to visit the villages he plans to visit on his way to Jerusalem. Your adrenaline is pumping; you have been invited to participate in what he is doing. You can only imagine the excitement ahead of you, people listening and learning, people changing because you are bringing news about Jesus and the kingdom.

Jesus had just talked about the cost of following him and now he is giving you some specific instructions. We find the story in Luke 10:

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:1-2)

This wasn’t a nice tour—Jesus told them right from the start that the job was bigger than them. He told them the work was going to be hard. Though they are going in groups of two, the first thing they needed to do is ask God to provide others who can help them.

Notice he was also specific about where they were to go—he sent them to every town and village he would soon visit. Their job was similar to John the Baptist’s job – prepare the people for the visit of the Messiah.

At this point your heart is filled with excitement and a bit of anxiety—”wow, this is a big job. I hope I am up to the task.”

Jesus continues:

Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. (Luke 10:3-4)

You are listening carefully, taking notes: no money, no knapsack, no sandals, greet no one—wait! What? This doesn’t make sense. Why would you send out an expedition party without the right supplies? How are you going to eat? Can’t you at least take a change of clothes? And what’s this about lambs in the midst of wolves? That sounds dangerous. Wolves eat lambs. What is he sending us to? I’ll just have to trust him—so far it’s worked out.

Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. (Luke 10:5-8)

Good, he’s not asking us to become beggars, but to go where we are invited, and to not force ourselves on anyone. I can handle this. I’ve been hungry a few times with Jesus, but never starving. He has always provided—even if it means making a feast out of a couple fish and a few loaves of bread.

Heal the sick in it and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” (Luke 10:9)

Yes! This is why you want to go; you want to help people. You have seen the amazing work Jesus does and you are excited to participate. Imagine if you pray and someone is healed. You are excited about being able to share the good news of the kingdom of God and watch people respond with enthusiasm. This is the exciting part of a mission trip—when you don’t think about supplies, you only think about sharing the gospel.

But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say,  “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.” (Luke 10-10-11)

Not everyone will accept what you have to say. Jesus is telling you to let them know they have missed something bigger than themselves and that it is going to occur whether they believe it or not. Then just move on.

The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me. (Luke 10:16)

Without using the term, Jesus is telling you that you are his ambassadors—his direct representatives. As a disciple, you know this is high honor. Jesus is trusting you to represent him. You know that with this honor comes tremendous responsibility. You are ready to go.

Now, before we move to the last few verses of this passage, let’s talk about this a bit. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like Jesus really prepared his disciples for the trip. If it were me, I’d want food and clothes at a bare minimum. I’d rather have proper foot apparel, a proper cloak for the cold, traveler’s checks for any unknown expenses and a pre-paid uber camel ride to the next town. But I’m not Jesus, and he has reasons for why he does the things he does.

Let’s ask some questions: Why do you think Jesus gave these instructions? Why would he ask them to go without the necessary supplies?

Idea: This is a good time for some group discussion. If your congregation is larger, split them up to discuss this passage and these questions. Then share the results. If your congregation is smaller, lead the discussion and allow people to respond.

OK, let’s summarize:

These 72 disciples are going to be working hard because there aren’t enough laborers, and it’s a big job. Further, we get the sense there was a sense of urgency. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem for the final time and there was much to do. He said, “Go—get going—on your way.”

How similar is this to today? There is much to do and not enough laborers. Still, Jesus tells us to Go—as we are going—and to participate in sharing the gospel.

They were going to meet people who would be hostile to their efforts and were going to find themselves in situations where they would experience rejection.

Again, very similar to today. We often encounter people who are hostile to any Christian message or overture. Some of us have been rejected by family and friends. Jesus told us this would happen—we shouldn’t be too surprised when it does. We can’t let this discourage us or keep us from what we’ve been asked to do.

The 72 were drastically under-packed—you could say unprepared—and relied on others for sustenance.

Is there any among us who feels fully qualified? Are any of us fully prepared to meet the challenges we face? Do we even have the sustenance we need? On our own, obviously not! However, we do know the One who is qualified, who is preparing us, and who continually provides for us and sustains us—physically, emotionally, spiritually.

These instructions on what to pack and what to leave at home clue us into the purpose of this mission trip. Like you and me, the 72 were to represent Jesus and announce the advent of the kingdom of God. Given that purpose, they left all the unnecessary stuff at home; but I am sure they took along their faith and courage.

Let’s read the rest of the passage:

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:17-20)

The disciples returned excited and a bit surprised. “Even demons are subject to us in your name.”

Jesus’ reply likely surprised them and gave them an indication who Jesus was. “I saw Satan fall like lightning.” A flash of lightning is quick. It may be powerful, but it is over in a moment. Satan’s reign is nearly over, the kingdom of God is near. The eschatological defeat of Satan is taking place in the ministry of Jesus and his disciples.

Some have taken Jesus’ next statement out of context. When Jesus says, “See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will hurt you,” he is not telling us to handle snakes and that we are not susceptible to their venom. Some charismatic snake-handlers have found this out the hard way. Jesus’ point is that even in the face of the violence and injustice of life, evil cannot destroy the one who goes forth in Jesus’ name. The physical body can be destroyed, but our names are already written in heaven.

God has invited us to participate in what he is doing—bringing light to the world, sharing the good news of the kingdom, teaching others about Jesus, making disciples. He is giving us the opportunity to rejoice because our names are already written—now we want others to have reason to rejoice.

When we participate, God gives us many reasons to rejoice. When we share the gospel, we are telling others the blessings of knowing God—that he is real, that he is here, within the grasp of any who receive the good news.

And when he calls us to participate, we often wait because we are so focused on the preparation, making sure we have the right supplies, the right information, everything we believe we need for the journey. But Jesus tells us to go and to trust him to provide.

Here are a few things we can apply from this passage:

  • Living and sharing the gospel is a communal enterprise. Go in pairs—two by two—for encouragement, accountability and safety.
  • Don’t be discouraged by how big the job is—just start. As you go, ask God to provide other laborers who can also participate. Not just so your work load is lighter, but so more people can be reached and more disciples can be made.
  • Know God will take care of you. Not only might he provide physical sustenance, but he will give you the words to say, the courage to say what you need to say, and the love for others that enables you to reach out and build relationships.
  • Don’t get discouraged when some reject the gospel. They aren’t your problem; they are God’s problem and he will work with them in his time and in his way.
  • Expect God to show up in miraculous ways. Prayers will be answered. People will respond in positive ways. Healings will occur.
  • Don’t fear the evil one—he is already defeated. He has no power over those who do anything in the name of Jesus.
  • Praise and worship the God who has invited you to participate in preparing the way for the kingdom and for the return of Jesus. Experience the joy of being one of God’s beloved as you share the gift of the gospel.

God has invited us to be his ambassadors. The kingdom of God is near, and you get to share the good news.

Prayer

 


Small Group Discussion Questions

  • If there was one thing you could take on this mission trip (if you were one of the 72), what would it have been?
  • Share a time you forgot something you thought was essential, but it all worked out.
  • Jesus told the 72, “Whenever you enter a town and its people, welcome you, eat what is set before you.” What ramifications might this statement have had considering the Jewish dietary rules? What ramifications might this have for you today?
  • Should the phrase, “See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpion, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will hurt you” (v.19) be taken literally?
  • Describe a mission trip experience or a time of sharing the gospel that was memorable, harrowing or enjoyable.
  • In Galatians 6:9 Paul tells us to not become weary in doing good, and that we will reap a harvest. How would you relate this to the passage in Luke?
  • Read Psalm 30 and share how this song relates to our being sent as representatives of God.

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