After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’
“Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 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. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
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Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
What a great reading we have from the gospel according Luke for our today’s reflections. Jesus Himself sending His seventy disciples and providing them with both, instructions and necessary encouragement to carry out their mission.
And what could be better than to hear from our Lord and Master Himself how to go about this great and joyful work that we too are called to do. Today we will reflect on three of the many different themes that this text is so rich with.
First will be about what is required to follow Jesus, what does it take to be Jesus’ disciple? Second will be about what is it that we are sent to share with others? And the third, where can we get the power or inspiration to carry on this great mission?
First, what does the following Jesus require? What does this mean for us? We more or less know what people generally are like. Focused on themselves, seeking for their own good, searching for their own benefits. Unfortunately, we can see it everywhere.
The question that is so often asked in our society in one form or in another is this, – what is there for me? That’s right, for me. But the question that we need to ask to ourselves is this, – are we as Christians much different?
How do we think about the Church? Why is she here? For me? So that I can find there something for me? How do we think about our congregation? Why is it here? For what purpose? Is it here for me, for my convenience, or is it here for something else, for some greater mission and purpose?
You may have heard people after the service saying that: “There was nothing for me.” Maybe you yourself have said it. And, surely, on the one hand we can say that the Church and also this congregation is here for us. For you! For this is how our gracious Lord cares for us, and it shows how much He cares for you.
He gathers together this community of His saints, He calls and provides pastors to serve this community, He Himself dwells among us and blesses us in so many ways. But is that all?
Jesus also called people to follow Him, and He blessed them abundantly with His presence, with His Word and with His Spirit. But today we read that He not only called them, but also, what else? … yes, He sent them.
And as Jesus sent them, He also described what situations they will face, and not much has changed since then. “I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.” We live in the world that is hostile to the true God.
And into this hostile environment Jesus sends His Church. It is not an easy task, not at all. We prefer loving and friendly communities. Don’t we? We prefer to be accepted and praised by people. How often do we remain silent, fearing what people may think about me, even as the Lord opens for us opportunities to witness about Him?
Sometimes hostility is real, but how often it is simply our fear of not being liked, or being misunderstood, or rejected? It is so much easier to stay where we feel comfortable, than to engage with people who are different, who don’t share our faith, who may look down at us as Christians.
And, for sure, Jesus says that there will be both – places and people and homes, that will gladly welcome us, and will rejoice in what we have to say, but there will also be those, who reject us because we come in Jesus’ name.
It requires a certain kind of person to follow Jesus. It requires a certain commitment to Jesus, to take what He sends us to do very seriously. It requires courage. Courage to speak and not to remain silent. Courage to face our own fears and possibly the hostility of others.
It requires readiness to suffer and to be rejected as Jesus was rejected for the sake of the truth, and for the sake of the same people who may show their hostility towards us. It requires someone special who is … just like you.
That’s right, just like you. Because Jesus doesn’t call some super-heroes to be His disciples, He calls everyone. And He sends everyone. Do you know why? Because He is the One who makes His messengers super.
Because the success of His mission does not depend on our power and our abilities, but on Jesus’ power and the power of His Spirit. We are His messengers, simple clay vessels, that carry this divine treasure, the Gospel, that has the power to transform the life of everyone it touches.
When Jesus calls you, He Himself gives you everything that you may need. Do you believe it? Sounds like some elevated language that pastors use to cheer up their congregations… But these are not some empty words.
See, when Jesus sent out the seventy, He didn’t send them out on their own. He sent them two by two. And you are not alone either. You don’t need to do or figure out something just on your own. Not at all. Just look around!
All these people, your pastor – Jesus has placed them all into your life, and you into their lives, so that as one body of Christ, as one community of saints we could help and support one another. So that we could pray for one another.
So that we could ask and discuss what we as individuals don’t know. So that we could tap into our collective wisdom, so that we can have everything that is needed. Those are not some empty words, Jesus, indeed, gives us what we need.
More, in our congregation we have both our Sunday study of God’s wisdom, but also our “Joy to the World” initiative, where that is all that we do – think, discuss, pray and support one another as we try to carry on Jesus’ mission. It’s all here. Jesus has provided it for you, as promised. As He always does.
Our second question was about what is it that we are sent to bring to people. The hostile world and the devil try to turn everything upside down. To make black white, and white black, good evil and evil good.
Similarly, they have made a very bad name to the message of Jesus. So often it is perceived just us some obsolete religious ideas. Some narrow religious thinking, and someone’s private opinions that we Christians are trying to impose on others. Something that is not fitting and relevant for our times.
And once people perceive our message in such categories, why would they listen? And if that is how we perceive our message, and some do, why would we even try to share something that is of so little importance?
But nothing can be further from the truth. How did Jesus say to His disciples: “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ … and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”
If only we could understand how much wisdom and beauty and power is in these few words! So, what is this that we bring? Briefly, – the Kingdom of God. That’s right. We come in the name and with the authority of God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Remember how Jesus said: “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” When you go as Jesus’ disciple with His message, you go and you speak with the authority of the Father and the Son, not less. Just think about it… … “Peace be to this house, and the Kingdom of God has come near.” Remember, our God is God who speaks, and He does everything by speaking. When He speaks through us, His Words do what they say. Peace is brought to people and the Kingdom of God comes near to them.
Again, these are not some empty words. What is this peace that Jesus mentions? This greeting comes already from the Old Testament, and we may know it better as Shalom! It is not peace as the absence of war or of all the trouble.
This peace, Shalom, it is the state of being for which we are created. The state of total well-being. When everything is as it is supposed to be. It begins with our relationships with our God. When we know Him as our gracious Father and our committed and forgiving Redeemer.
When led by His Spirit we fear, love and trust Him above all things. But this Shalom extends also to all our others relationships. When God reveals to us His wisdom how to live in this world.
When His Spirit comes and changes our hearts and the hearts of people around us. When hatred and strive ceases and mutual care, love and faithfulness abound in our relationships. When we get to taste that the Lord is good.
This is the kind of peace we are sent to share. And as we bring God’s Word to people, and as they listen to it, this is what the Word of God delivers for them. It creates new lives for them. Full of peace, joy, wisdom, meaning, and so on.
How does the Kingdom of God has come near us? When Jesus comes near to us through His Word and His Spirit. As Luther explained it in the Small Catechism: “How does God’s kingdom come?
God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.”
This is what we are sent to bring to all people. This peace, Shalom, and the Kingdom of God. There are no greater gifts than these, and it is worth to suffer rejection trying to bring them to those whom we love. For if no one does, how will they receive these gifts, how will they be saved from eternal death?
Finally, our third question. About where to get the power or inspiration to take on this mission. What motivates us as fallen human beings? Often it is about seeing results of our efforts, or even better – receiving praise for what we have accomplished. How sweet that is.
Surely, there is place for these things in our lives, but perhaps not when it comes to our participation in Jesus’ mission. For one, we may or may not see much results. That’s right.
The Words of God will not return empty, that is the promise, but nowhere there is the promise that we will enjoy the results. We are sent as His messengers, but that is God Himself who creates faith “where and when it pleases Him” (AC V).
We can take comfort in the fact that Jesus’ disciples were no different that we are. They too rejoiced in the visible results of God’s work through them. Remember how they returned to Jesus rejoicing and saying that: “Even the demons submit to us!” But what did Jesus say to them?
Where did He redirect their attention? “Do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” That’s it! This is your source of power and inspiration.
You don’t need to earn your place in God’s Kingdom. Your Father and your Lord Jesus has already written your name in heaven. Your name is already written in heaven. Nothing and no one can change that.
Surely, you can reject this gift, and many people do, and that is scary to watch. But if you hold to Jesus, if you allow Him to hold you, regularly listening to His Word and receiving His Sacrament, nothing and no one will be able to separate you from God’s love and everything that He has prepared for you.
And that is most certainly true. And because we are assured that this is true, and because we have been blessed with such incredible divine, heavenly gifts, how else could we express our gratitude to our Father and Jesus if not trying to bring God’s peace to others and thus helping to build God’s Kingdom.
That’s for our reflections today. We can see that even as we fail so often, disobey and displease of Father, even if we are such imperfect tools for Jesus’ mission, our God is and remain faithful and He will accomplish His plan, and He will get everyone of His chosen people to be with Him forever.
And what a privilege it is to take part in this great journey. Enjoy it brother, and sisters.