Sent Ahead of Jesus (On the Way to the Cross - Part 10)
Scripture: Luke 10:1–10:20
Synopsis: Jesus sent 70 of his followers ahead of him to the cities he was about to go to. On this side of the cross, we have been sent ahead of Jesus to proclaim the gospel in anticipation of his return. What lessons can we learn from the example of this mission?
For the past ten years or more, it has been trendy among Christians to take spiritual gift inventories, personality tests, etc to try and determine God's plan for our lives. While some of these may be helpful, I think they have become something of an obsession among many Christians today. I would actually argue that many of these tests serve only to waste a lot of our time. In fact, I am quite certain that at this very moment I already know God's plan for your life.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matt. 28)
We have been sent ahead of the King to proclaim his gospel. We are heralds for Jesus. This is our central purpose in the world. At this point I need to explain what a herald is and does. (Illust: Hark the herald angels sing - knew an old man named Harold...) A herald does two things: proclaims the words of a king and carries out the kings orders among people.
In our passage today, Jesus sent 72 people ahead of him to herald his coming to a particular group of towns. There is a lot for us to learn here in terms of God's way of doing evangelism. That being said, we need to recognize that the instructions Jesus gave were specific to the time, place, and audience we find in this passage. We can’t apply everything directly, but we can apply the principles behind them.
The first instruction we find in Luke 10:2 is to pray for more laborers.
And [Jesus] 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."
-Plentiful harvest, few laborers therefore pray to God for more laborers. Not exactly the logic we might apply. (Imagine a farmer going out to a wheat field too large for him to harvest. Instead of hiring workers and call on friends to harvest the field, imagine he knelt down and prayed for help. It sounds nice, but can it really be effective?)
That’s how a lot of us think. When we see the great commission and we see that there are so many peoples who have never even heard of the King, and when we know that Jesus has commanded us to pray for more workers, one of two things generally happens. First is that we tend to pray for God to send other people into His field. We will talk a bit more about that in a moment.
The second thing that we tend to do is have another mission conference or an evangelism committee, send money somewhere. These can be good things, but only as long as we don’t miss the point here. We are not in control. When we try to take control we end up with works of the flesh that will not produce the fruit that God requires. It’s hard for us to comprehend sometimes, but the only effective way to produce God’s results is to do things God’s way. His way is to…
1. Pray for more laborers
Who is the Lord of the harvest? God is the Lord of the harvest. God made the harvest field. He orchestrated everything in such a way that we would have the job of proclaiming His kingdom to the world. Sometimes our self-centered nature distracts us from the truth that life and the world are all about displaying the glory of God. God is glorified when His people proclaim his Kingdom.
Who sends out laborers? God sends the laborers. We must rely on God to send brothers and sisters to help us herald His kingdom. So then the natural follow on question is, “Why then are the laborers few?” If God is the Lord of the harvest and He send laborers, we might expect that there would not be a lack of them.
Perhaps the reason for few laborers is so that we would be driven often back to the truth that we need God to accomplish God’s mission through us. Otherwise we risk becoming self-sufficient instead of God-reliant. We are meant to look out at the world around us, see the great need of God in the lives of all people, and be convicted by the fact that there are few among us willing to go to them.
I believe that when we pray for God to send laborers into his field, the first laborers he sends are us. Does that mean you need to go to some strange foreign country? Could be, but not necessarily. (Yes, I know we are already here.) Where is it that God has sent you? Every Christian is sent. In my case: 1st harvest field is my family, then I have my neighbors, you (workplace), and everyone else within my sphere of influence. God’s harvesting fields are all around us.
I also believe that it is not generally his will to send us alone. Even Jesus sent the 72 in groups of two. There is wisdom in this in terms of setting up accountability, fellowship, and support. So once God has sent you, the next step is to keep praying for Him to send laborers into His field to help you.
In v.3-4, the next instruction Jesus gave the 72 was basically to
2. Rely on God for direction and provision protection.
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.
Notice first the progression of this command. First Go, then look I am sending you into danger, and then don’t take provisions or seek protection. Again this is not the logic we would generally employ when sending people on a difficult and dangerous mission. Yet Jesus sent the 72 heralds out to the highway, to people who would likely reject their message. And he sent them utterly helpless. No money, supplies, no extra shoes. Not even the help of people they might have met on the way.
I think this is an example of training how you fight.
In the army we had this expression, "Train how you fight." The basic idea was to try to create the harshest conditions possible during training, so that you develop the ability to cope with any real situation.
I think that is what Jesus had in mind here and I base that on Luke 22:35-36.
Just before Jesus was arrested this is what he said:
And he said to them, "When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?" They said, "Nothing." He said to them, "But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one."
Why the change? First of all, they were in a different situation then. Even so, I would argue that Jesus used this mission of his 72 heralds to train them to rely completely on God for direction and provision. In this way, these 72 disciples would be prepared to trust God in any situation they faced after Jesus ascended to heaven.
It was quite a shrewd strategy if you think about it. Jesus knew that persecution would drive them from Israel to the surrounding nations. I would argue that since these had endured harsh training to rely on God, they were able to do so when that time came. Instead of the scattered believers dying off, they became the catalyst for the spreading of the gospel and the birth of many churches.
The principle for us then is not so much to go out with nothing the same way they did. But we do need to learn to rely on God for direction, provision, and protection as we proclaim the good news. Now, before you breathe a sigh of relief, there is an important application for those of us who come from wealthy, developed nations. Don’t be cluttered up with material things. They will draw your eyes away from total reliance on God toward reliance on your resources and things. As long as we remain addicted to our luxuries, our proclamaition of the Kingdom will be hindered.
We must look to the example of the 72.
In v.17 “The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!””
See how they lacked nothing even though they brought nothing. See how in their utter helplessness the forces of Satan could not stand against them. God is with us too. We don’t need wealth, power, or influence to accomplish the mission of our King. We just need our King.
So the 72 heralds were commanded to ‘Go,’ and in verses v.5-9 Jesus began to tell them what to do when they got there. The first thing they were to do was to 3. Be a blessing among the people.
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."
The first command in these verses was to speak a blessing on any house they entered. This served as a test to see if they would be welcome there. If they were welcome, they could stay. If not welcome, they were not to stay. The next command was to accept what was provided and stay in one house. This command is emphasized with the further prohibition against going from house to house. The point being that they were not to prey on hospitality.
These instructions were carefully crafted so as to not make the 72 a nuisance to a town. Take this together with the command to heal the sick and proclaim the kingdom, and it becomes clear that they were to bless the towns they went to.
The principle is the same for us. We need to look for ways to bless people in our communities and spheres of influence. For the 72 this meant healing the sick, for us this can take a variety of different forms. There are so many things we can do to be a blessing to the people of Abu Dhabi. There are poor people here, there are lost rich people, there are needs to be cared for and hospitality to be given. Above all there is the good news of God’s kingdom that we must herald among all the people in this city.
There is a powerful question that we should ask ourselves. If I disappeared from Abu Dhabi today, would my neighbors feel the loss? If ECC disappeared today, would the love, blessing and proclamation of our church be missed by the people of Abu Dhabi?
Finally we come to the content of the heralding ministry of the 72. This is where we find that there are two sides to it. The first we already saw in verses 8-9, so let’s continue through verses 10-11
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."
The 72 heralds were commanded to either Proclaim or Serve notice of God's coming Kingdom. In this command we can take a direct application. The truth of the matter is that the good news of God’s kingdom is not good news for everyone. For those who believe the good, it is the greatest joy. But for those who reject it, it becomes a notice served against them.
I’ll read from the commentary I have been using to prepare for this series:
“To have heard God’s word is a great responsibility. A man will be judged according to what he has had the chance to know. We allow things in a child that we condemn in an adult. We forgive things in the simple-minded that we condemn in the astute. (He should know better!) Responsibility is the other side of privilege.
It is a terrible thing to reject God’s invitation. There is a sense in which every promise of God a man has ever heard can become his condemnation. If he receives these promises they are his greatest glory, but each one that he has rejected will someday be a witness against him.”
We are heralds of the King’s news. It simply does not go well with those who ignore the message of the King’s heralds as we read in v. 16
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.
But lest we should become prideful in this awesome responsibility, we need to read on to the return of Jesus’ 72 heralds in v. 17-20:
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.
Jesus had given these men great authority to heal the sick, cast out demons, and most of all to herald the kingdom of God. Naturally when they came back they were feeling quite triumphant. Maybe even a bit prideful. So we read that Jesus brought them back down a few notches. In fact, I think he gave them a warning that is also important for us to hear.
5. Rejoice in your salvation not power
Jesus said he saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning. On first reading, that sounded triumphant to me, but then it occurred to me, when did Jesus see Satan fall from heaven? I would argue that Jesus saw this long ago when Satan was cast out of heaven by God for rebelling against him. According to tradition, this was due to Satan’s pride.
In this context, Jesus’ words change a bit from a triumphant declaration to a warning for his disciples not to fall into the same error. Yes, there is great power in being a herald of God’s Kingdom, but do not rejoice in the power, rejoice that God had mercy on your sinful soul and wrote your name in heaven.
Sometimes we too are tempted by pride in the knowledge that we have salvation and that we have the mission to proclaim it. When that happens, it actually damages our ability to witness the gospel because we have forgotten that we need to get down to get in. That is, to receive salvation in the first place, we had to humble ourselves.
Sometimes Christians forget that the saving power of the gospel comes from Jesus, and we need it too. Christianity does not spread because of the wealth, power, strength, force, or influence of the evangelist. Rather by the work of God, the Lord of the harvest. Our pride can be an unnecessary barrier to the gospel.
So we have had five principles of heralding God’s Kingdom.
Pray for more laborers.
Rely on God for direction and provision.
Be a blessing among the people.
Proclaim or Serve notice of God's coming Kingdom.
Rejoice in your salvation not power.
This is God’s way of heralding God’s Kingdom to bring in God’s harvest.
Each one of us is a herald sent ahead by Jesus to proclaim the coming of his kingdom throughout the world. In my case, this takes the form of proclaiming the God's word as a preacher. This is not the only way to do it. I firmly believe that the real power of evangelism is not with me preaching once a week, but with you in your homes, workplaces, schools, among your friends and families, among the 200 nations that have gathered here in Abu Dhabi.
Being a herald for Jesus will not be easy. As Jesus said he has sent us as lambs in the midst of wolves. There will be risk involved in proclaiming his kingdom. Our lives will not always be comfortable, in fact we are called to live dangerously. Just for a moment, I would like to try drawing an application of God's way of evangelism to the workplace.
Are you the only Christian at work? Pray that the Lord of the harvest will send laborers into his field. "Lord please send someone to help me proclaim your gospel where I work."
Are you afraid of the consequences of heralding the Kingdom in your workplace? Learn to rely totally on God for your provision and protection. (Man came to Abu Dhabi and was sent to prison on arrival because of a misunderstanding concerning the contents of his shipment. So he boldly proclaimed the gospel in prison, and prayed with the inmates despite being told to stop numerous times. Eventually, he was thrown out of prison!)
God is in charge and powerful. Don't be afraid, trust Him.
The other application of this is that we can’t keep the message to ourselves. The news of Jesus is life or death even if people haven’t heard it. Keeping faith to yourself is not a way to avoid bothering people. In reality, it means you either don't really believe the gospel or you hate people. These are the only reasons not to proclaim the message you have been charged to proclaim.
More in On the Way to the Cross
April 13, 2014Glorious Injustice (On the Way to the Cross - Part 24)
April 6, 2014Peter and Judas (On the Way to the Cross - Part 23)
March 30, 2014I Will Send My Son (On the Way to the Cross - Part 22)