O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Based on Luke 10:1-20
Preached on July 3, 2016
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Fellow baptized saints, the fields are ripe for harvest. And someone needs to be sent to bring in the goods. Whom shall I send?
It’s all about the sending, isn’t it? The Father sends His Son. Jesus doesn’t go on His own initiative, but the Father sends Him. In the same way, Jesus sends His apostles, His “sent ones”, “As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you.” And today we also have the sending of the seventy-two – another one of the foundational stones for the Office of the Holy Ministry. “He who hears you, hears me,” Jesus says. Your mouth. My Words. “As a called and ordained servant of Christ and by His authority, I forgive you all of your sins…..” That’s not my idea. You have Jesus’ word on it, and His Word is sure.
Jesus sends seventy-two. Not seventy-four or eighty or a hundred. Seventy-two. The number is significant. It means something. Twelve apostles remind us of the twelve tribes of Israel. But what about seventy-two? What does seventy two remind us of? Seventy-two was the number of the nations in Genesis after the Flood. “Seventy-Two” is a picture of “all nations” – not just the twelve tribes of Israel. Jesus is going to Jerusalem to die for the world, for all nations and all peoples – and this sending of the seventy-two is a snapshot of His Church - sent to make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching, preaching repentance and forgiveness in His holy Name.
Note the urgency. The fields are ripe unto harvest. There’s no time to waste. Living in Manitoba we’ve seen the fields when they are ripe for harvest. There’s so much to do, it’s like there is never enough laborers. The hours are long; the work is focused and intense. Yet this urgency belongs to Jesus. We heard last week – His focus is the cross and the people He will save by it – His harvest. And so this urgency is for His sent ones too. There is no time to worry about packing. Just go. No moneybag, no knapsack, no extra pair of shoes. Just go.
Note the danger. They are going as lambs in the midst of wolves. They represent the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the One who is going to His sacrificial death on the cross. Oh, the wolves will be watching. That’s one reason they are sent out two by two. You see, the wolves look for the lone lamb, the isolated one. They are less likely to attack the pack. They wait on the fringe for the foolish one that strays from the flock. That’s the danger of individualized Christianity, you know, believing on your own without a communion of saints. Thinking your faith can survive without regularly hearing the preached voice of the Shepherd and sharing His food with the flock. You’re a lone lamb in the midst of wolves. And you know what happens to the isolated one, at least you do if you’ve watched the nature programs. It’s not pretty. Don’t be a solitary Christian. Even in sending, Jesus keeps them in a fellowship, a communion with one another.
These seventy-two are sent to proclaim peace. They are ambassadors of the Prince of Peace. “Peace be to this house.” “Peace be with you.” And this is much more than a fond wish or a happy Hallmark greeting. This is a peace that comes from the cross of the Crucified One, a peace the world cannot give, a peace that surpasses our understanding. The Hebrew word is Shalom. Not just an end to the war, but a restoration of wholeness. With peace - comes healing of body and mind. “Heal the sick,” Jesus tells them. They are His ambassadors, they have His authority over disease and the demons. They bear good news. The kingdom of God has come near.
Take note of that too. We don’t build the kingdom of God. We proclaim it. And there’s a big difference there. Sometimes one gets the impression that the kingdom of God is some building project of our doing, but nothing could be further from the truth. The kingdom of God is not built on our efforts but on God’s efforts, not on our works, but Christ’s works. Not with our blood, sweat, and tears but with blood, sweat, and tears of Jesus, the Crucified One. He does the work; we announce that “it is finished”. We proclaim it.
Think about it. Someone knocks on your door and tells you that you just won a million dollars. Do you let him in? Give him a cup of coffee? Do his words mean anything to you? Will they affect you in any way? If you are convinced that he has the authority to speak those words, and those words are true, then you would be a fool to slam the door in his face, wouldn’t you?
“I forgive you all of your sins.” “This is my Body, my Blood for you.” Words from Jesus to you. Can you trust them? “He who hears you, hears me.” The Small Catechism asks, “What do you believe according to these words? I believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself. Absolution is a voice coming down from heaven. Even when the owner of the voice is less than honorable (Judas also was sent by Jesus). Sinners proclaiming to sinners. Nevertheless the words are Jesus’ words, the peace is Jesus’ peace. “He who hears you, hears me.”
The peace of Jesus is rejectable. You can slam the door on the messenger if you wish. But be forewarned: Even the dust on the soles of their feet will testify against you. That’s a very middle eastern way of expressing contempt. To raise the heel or to shake the dust off your feet. Jesus underscores this with His woes. Woe to Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum. These are Israelite cites. Capernaum was his base of operations. These cities had lots of Jesus. And yet Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom compare favorably.
Those words ought to scare the daylights out of us. The cities that had the most Jesus receive the greatest condemnation for their rejection. To whom much is given, much also is expected. To refuse the gifts is to reject the Giver. To refuse salvation is to reject the Savior. Even the city of Sodom, the poster city for sin and evil that was consumed by fire and brimstone in the OT, compares favorably with a city that rejects Jesus.
What makes the “unforgivable sin” unforgivable is its refusal to be forgiven. The kingdom of God has drawn near, but you want nothing to do with it. The forgiveness of sins is there for you, but you see nothing in yourself that needs forgiveness. To reject the Church’s ministry is to reject Jesus, the Lord of the church, and that is to reject the Father as well. Jesus warns against our refusal - “You shall be brought down to Hades.”
We’re getting to it now, aren’t we? “He who hears you, hears me.” You will meet people who say things like, “I can talk to God anywhere. I don’t need church or a pastor. I can talk to God at the lake, on the golf course, anywhere at all.” And that’s true. You can talk to God anywhere in your prayers. But that’s YOU talking to God. Those are words going up. The issue in this morning’s text is how God talks to you? How does God talk to you? In your feelings? Your dreams? Your intuition? No, Jesus says, “Through the ones I send to you. As Nathan was sent to David. As the prophets were sent to Israel. As Peter was sent to Cornelius and Philip to the Ethiopian in his chariot. “He who hears the ones I send, hears me, the one who sends them.” Saving faith seeks one who in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ speaks peace upon us. Thanks be to God.
The seventy-two returned full of joy. They were a smashing success. “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” What great fun this is, stomping on snakes and scorpions. Kicking out demons. Such impressive power! The devil’s reign is ended. “He’s judged. The deed is done. One little word can fell him.” “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” The power was not in them but in Jesus and His Name. Where the name of Jesus, there the devil and all his demons tremble at the sound. His death on the cross defeats Death; His sacrifice fulfills the Law. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Sin, Death, devil - all are defeated in Christ. Not one little thing shall hurt you.
But beloved, the cause for rejoicing is not that the demons submit but that your names are written in heaven. As surely as baptismal water flowed over you, as surely as forgiving words went into your ears, even today, as surely as the Body and Blood of Christ go into your mouths, so surely are your names written in the Lambs’ Book of Life. And you don’t have to take my word for it. For you are hearing Jesus tell you Himself. In the Holy Name of Jesus, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr