John 10:1-20

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

What are you doing here? There’s work to be done! You just heard Jesus say, “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” So go out and work! Share the Gospel! Preach Peace! Point people to Jesus. Don’t just do nice things to people and hope that they’ll figure it out some day. Use your words and tell them just how much God has done for you. Pray about it. Again, you just heard Jesus’ words, “Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Pray—but beware. God may very well be sending you as an answer to your own prayer. That being said, rejoice! Rejoice that God has saved you. Don’t rejoice that He’s using you. Don’t rejoice that your words convert people. Don’t rejoice that you have power. “Rejoice that your name is written in heaven.” 

Luke 10 picks up on this idea of sending that has bubbled up over the last couple of chapters. In the middle of Luke 8, Jesus saves a man who had been possessed by a legion of demons. This man wanted to follow Jesus, but instead, Jesus sends him back home to proclaim the good news. At the beginning of chapter 9, Jesus sends out His twelve disciples, who go from town to town, doing the work of God and proclaiming Jesus. Last week, we heard that Jesus sent some messengers ahead of Him into the villages of Samaria to prepare His way, but they were rejected. And now, Jesus has amassed what seems like an army of disciples—72 others. 

And they had work to do. Jesus was very specific about the task that lay ahead. They would go out as lambs among wolves. Before we move too far past that, I want you to think about that for a moment. What do wolves do to lambs? They kill them and eat them. Wolves are a danger to the personal well-being of the lambs. And Jesus sends out these 72 lambs to work among the wolves. They are to carry no money bag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. They are to go with nothing but the shirt on their backs and the peace of Christ. They are supposed to share that peace with those around them. Some may receive it, others won’t, but in either case, their calling is to offer it to everyone.

They are to go, trusting that that very word of peace has the power to provide for all of their needs. Jesus’ word of peace will create open hearts and minds to receive the disciples. It will work hospitality among strangers so that these messengers would be housed and fed along the way. That word of peace will manifest in healings as well. The peace of God is so powerful, so creative, that when the word of peace goes out, even wounds and broken bones obey, and they return to a state of peace—of wholeness and healing. Not everyone will welcome that word of peace. Some will reject it. But even in that case, the kingdom of God—the reigning and ruling of God and His peace—has come near to the people. 

This coming near was for good for some, but it will stand in condemnation for others. Jesus speaks words of woe to the main cities of Galilee where He spent most of His ministry. They had seen the signs. They had heard his teachings. They should have known better, but they didn’t. They rejected Jesus and so they rejected God altogether. The same would be said of the towns and villages these messengers went into. If these people rejected Jesus’ disciples, they would be rejecting Jesus. And if they rejected Jesus, they would be rejecting God as well. There was work to be done, even if some rejected that work.

These 72 return to Jesus, rejoicing over all that they had done. They shared the word of peace. They healed the sick. They ate the food set before them. They even had power over demons, not in their own name, but in Jesus’ name! And Jesus takes it even further! Not only do they have power over demons, but they will have power over serpents and scorpions and any power of the enemy, so much so that nothing will hurt them. But as great as that all is, it’s nothing compared with the real thing. These 72 rejoiced over the small things. They had lost sight of the cake and were rejoicing over crumbs. Yes, these side benefits are great, but the thing that really matters, the thing that causes all those benefits, the one thing worth rejoicing over is God’s saving work. He has saved you. He has written your name in heaven.

In many ways, this event in Jesus’ ministry has many parallels for us today. But it’s not a one-to-one comparison. The main difference is this: these sent-ones went ahead of Jesus. You and I go with Jesus. They went to prepare His way. You and I go right there with Him. We still go out as lambs among wolves. It doesn’t take long to realize that. The world hates Jesus and it hates us as His followers. The difference is that we go with the Shepherd. We follow where He leads. 

We still go out with little to offer. Sure, we may go on medical missions, where we support local healthcare. We may go out with food and water after a natural disaster. We may go out to build homes for the homeless. But those are the exception rather than the rule. You might go on a handful of “mission trips” over the course of your life, but you are called right here, right now, to this very time and place. Right here, right now, in your home and in your community, Jesus is sending you to proclaim the exact same thing he sent those 72 out to proclaim—the peace of God.

Their peace was the word of a coming Savior. Your peace is the word of a Savior who has already come, is here now, and will come again. And that Word, that peace, has power, not because you’re a super-great Christian, but because you go out in Jesus’ name. That word of peace, the word of Jesus’ taking away of sin, that word of life and salvation is a word of power. Through the Holy Spirit’s working, that word creates faith. We may not see many physical healings this side of heaven, but that doesn’t mean God’s word never heals. He works far more that we tend to give Him credit for. 

That all being said, the word of peace that you and I have to offer in Jesus’ name can be and is rejected. People shoot down this word of truth all the time. It breaks my heart, and probably yours as well, but in this world, some people simply don’t want to hear about Jesus. They have shut their minds to this word of peace and will suffer eternally for it. It can be a burden to see this happen around you, but you and I have the comfort of Jesus’ words here. As long as we’re being faithful in pointing people to Jesus, we’ve done what we can. They aren’t just rejecting us, they’re rejecting Jesus and His Father. Their salvation or damnation is not on you or me. Their salvation is in God’s hands and their damnation is on their own. 

And in all this, we are to rejoice. Rejoice because God has worked in your life and in mine to bring us to salvation. The other things may come and go. Sometimes, God heals; other times, He doesn’t this side of heaven. Sometimes, as in the book of Acts, a believer will be bitten by a poisonous snake and live; other times (and most times, as it would seem), believers die by snake bites. If our focus is on those things, we’re losing sight of what matters. Do not rejoice in those things. Instead, rejoice that your name is written in heaven.

So, what are you still doing here? There’s work to be done! You just heard Jesus say, “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” So go out and work! Share the Gospel! Preach Peace! Point people to Jesus. Don’t just do nice things to people and hope that they’ll figure it out some day. Use your words and tell them just how much God has done for you. Pray about it. Again, you just heard Jesus’ words, “Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Pray—but beware. God may very well be sending you as an answer to your own prayer. That being said, rejoice! Rejoice that God has saved you. Don’t rejoice that He’s using you. Don’t rejoice that your words convert people. Don’t rejoice that you have power. “Rejoice that your name is written in heaven.” Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.

 

Lobe den Herrn

 

B. A. Woell