July 7 2013 Sermon
ESV Luke 10:1 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. 2 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. 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. 7 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. 8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘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.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. 13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. 16 “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.” 17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 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. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
We rejoin Jesus in his final journey to Jerusalem to die on the cross. Along the way he interviewed two men who wanted to be his disciples, but he turned them down. Now, in today’s text, Jesus appoints 72 others and sends them on ahead of him to all the cities and places he was going to go.
Just a side note here: our translation says he appointed 72 others. So why do other translations say 70? Of the more than 4000 ancient manuscripts of the New Testament in the original language, some say 70 and others say 72. We are not absolutely sure which it is, but it does not affect your salvation, or any point of doctrine, so don’t worry about it. For my part, I prefer the reading in our translation: 72.
Two important things to notice here: One, they were 72 others. These are not the men who volunteered. He didn’t accept the ones who came on their own and said they would go with him. It is not up to us if we are going to become a follower and servant of Jesus. It is Jesus who chooses his servants and laborers.
The other thing of significance is, these 72 were appointed. They were specifically and individually chosen and sent. This is key to understanding this text. These 72 are not the 12 apostles, but they are men he appointed and sent. It was not just a random selection. They were specifically chosen by him and called to their office. In other words, in this text we are talking about God’s called and sent workers: pastors, missionaries, evangelists, teachers of the word. The people to whom they are sent are their congregations, students, or the mission field.
In short, this text is about pastors and their congregations. It teaches us about the call process for pastors, what their duties are, and what are the responsibilities of congregations. To become a pastor is not a personal decision, nor does a pastor choose what congregation he goes to. One is not a legitimate pastor unless and until he receives a call from God, which comes to him through a church or congregation. It’s not just an inner feeling or desire. The purpose of the call process in our church body is to seek direction from the Holy Spirit and ask him to reveal the person he has chosen to send to your congregation.
In verse 2 Jesus begins to teach us: “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.” Here he uses the language of harvest. In the Bible, sowing seed, planting, includes the concept of death. “Unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it cannot bear fruit.” (John 12:24). On the other hand, the harvest is all about life, bearing fruit, abundance, and joy. The word harvest is used 3 times in this single verse. The emphasis here is on resurrection and life! He is pointing our attention toward heaven. This sending out of his chosen pastors has but one goal: eternal life. The pastor’s job is to get people into heaven.
But notice Jesus’ command here is to pray. This is not a command to go become a pastor or missionary. He tells us to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send more workers into the harvest. There is a need for more pastors and workers, so he commands us to pray for more.
One final point about this verse 2: He does not use the Greek word “send.” The word he used is “to throw” or “cast” workers into the harvest. It is forceful and demanding. Some of those he sends never wanted the job in the first place. That explains why so many pastors today have had other professions prior to going into the ministry: they simply had no intention of becoming pastors until God picked them up and threw them into the harvest.
Starting in verse 3, Jesus begins his instructions to pastors. This is not general instructions given to all believers. It would be false exegesis to read personal instructions into this text. This is the job description for pastors. He speaks frankly, “I am sending you as lambs amidst wolves.” This needs no elaboration. Every pastor already knows what this means. There is no promise that it will be an easy or comfortable road, and it goes right back to what Jesus said earlier in chapter 9 to his followers: you must deny yourself and take up your cross…
His next instruction is this: take no money bag, or suitcase, or extra shoes, and greet no one on the way. Again, this is not a general instruction to all believers, and it is pretty counter-intuitive. It flies in the face of human reason. But God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. He demands radical faith for radical discipleship. This is faith that he will provide for all their worldly needs. It demands an unshakeable faith that trusts God when all looks hopeless.
He also says, “Don’t greet anyone along the way.” He doesn’t mean to be unfriendly and go right on past the man on the side of the road who was beat up and robbed and needs help. But it does means not to let anything or anyone distract you or turn you from your course of action. As he said earlier, “Let the dead bury their own dead.”
Verse 5 gives us the essence of the mission. “In whatever house you enter, [that would be congregation for a modern day pastor,] say, ‘Peace be to this house.’” This is not just the common Jewish greeting, “shalom.” It is the blessing of God’s peace. It is the peace of God which passes all understanding which God bestows on the congregation. When the pastor pronounces the blessing this peace from God comes down and rests on the people. Peace with God is forgiveness. “we have peace with God because we have been justified by faith,” says St. Paul (Rom 5:1). Without the forgiveness of sins, we are enemies of God. Forgiveness brings peace between God and man. So when the pastor says, “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” God is bestowing his peace on his people. The job description of the pastor is to forgive the sins of repentant sinners. They are the “son of peace” talked about in verse 6. The Lord’s harvest is all about forgiving the sins of the penitent so that they may take part in the harvest, that is the resurrection, and bear fruit unto eternal life.
But if that person to whom they give the peace is not worthy, which means, is not repentant for his sins and does not have faith, that peace will return to the pastor. An unrepentant sinner will not receive forgiveness, but it will be returned.
This principle is something we can all apply to ourselves. Often we worry when we are giving aid to a person in need, or spend some of our money on a project to help people. We wonder if that person really has a need or if he or she is just taking advantage of us. If I give money to a beggar, will he just go out and buy booze or drugs? Is this organization I am supporting really using the money wisely? Not to worry, says Jesus. If he is not worthy of your blessing, the blessing will be returned to you. God will pay you back.
But how does one survive if he is not to take a money bag, or any luggage for the journey? That’s where faith comes in. God is here promising to provide for their needs. “Trust me!” he says, “I will provide.” How? He says in verse 7, “Whatever house you enter…eat and drink what they provide,” (7) and in whatever “town, eat what is set before you.” (8). Here he is speaking of the congregation. The very same people he sends you to are to provide for your physical and material needs, “for the laborer deserves his wages.” It is the pastor’s vocation to forgive sins, and it is the congregation’s vocation to provide for his physical and material needs.
Also pastors are not to go running from house to house. They are not to be constantly on the lookout for another congregation where the people are more friendly, where there are fewer problems, or where the pay is greater. They are to go where God sends them, and stay there until God moves them.
They are to heal the sick, verse 9, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” For where God’s sent ones are present with his Word and Sacraments, there God is. The kingdom of God is found wherever the Word is preached and the Sacraments administered. By his Word he declares your sins forgiven. By Baptism he brings you into the kingdom of God. By Holy Communion you are fed and nourished in the most intimate union with God possible. So the pastor visits the sick, takes Holy Communion to the homebound; forgives your sins in private confession and absolution, and sometimes at the beginning of the worship service; and he feeds you with the holy body and blood of our Savior himself at the Communion rail. This is what our Lord sends his workers to do in the harvest. They are given the authority to forgive sins and where they do this, God is present.
But Jesus also gives a warning: if anyone does not receive His servants, then they are to shake the dust of that city off their feet as a sign of God’s condemnation. For, “whoever hears you,” says Jesus to his pastors, “hears me. And he who rejects you, rejects me, and he who rejects me, rejects the one who sent me.” That is how closely Jesus binds himself to his servants. How you receive them is how you receive Jesus himself. What you do to and for them, you do unto Jesus. Their word is God’s word. Their forgiveness is God’s forgiveness. The blessing they pronounce on the people is God’s blessing.
But if anyone does not receive their word, Jesus says, “It will be more tolerable on the Day of Judgment for Sodom than for that town that rejects him.” It will be more tolerable for the pagan cities of Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for those people.
And when the 72 returned they were filled with joy that the demons were subject to them. Likewise, as they were working in the harvest, Jesus saw Satan fall from heaven. For when his sent ones forgive sins, preach the word and administer the sacraments, Satan’s kingdom is being destroyed. He is losing his grip over mankind. His darkness is being scattered by the light of the Gospel. Satan falls from heaven when God’s word is preached. When the pastor preaches; when he gives you the Sacrament, you are being freed from the power of evil. You are released from the grip of Satan. Your sin is being washed away. Do you, like king Herod, want to see Jesus perform some miraculous sign? Then come to the church. Every Sunday the dead are raised to life in baptism. Captives of the devil are freed from his power by the absolution of sins. Forgiven sinners are fed at the banquet table of heaven in Holy Communion.
All this, the harvest and the workers in the harvest, is for one purpose: that you go to heaven. They workers came back rejoicing. Rejoice you who have received the peace of the Lord from his appointed ones. For your name is written in heaven. Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem to die for you so that you can set your face toward the New Jerusalem, the eternal kingdom of God, because your name is inscribed in heaven. Rejoice! The Kingdom of God is near. Wherever his word is preached and the Sacraments administered, there God is present. Amen.