Luke 10:1-20 / 7 Pentecost (Proper) / 07 July 2013 / Holy Trinity – Hacienda Heights, CA
“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.” (Luke 10:16)
To be sent with authority is to be sent for certain. Jesus is sent from the Father to the world. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. He in turn sends others to go in His stead and by His command. With His authority. To hear one whom Jesus sends with His authority is to hear Jesus Himself. To reject one whom Jesus sends is to reject Jesus. And to reject Jesus is to reject the Father who sent Him.
It’s all about the sending. The Father sends Jesus. Jesus doesn’t go on His own initiative, but the Father sends Him. Likewise, Jesus sends disciples as His apostles, His “sent ones”. This sending of the seventy-two is one of the foundation stones of the Office of the Holy Ministry. His words are their words. “He who hears you, hears me.” “As a called and ordained servant of Christ and by His authority…..” You have Jesus’ word on it, and His Word is sure.
Jesus sends seventy-two. Not seventy-four or eighty or a hundred. But seventy-two. The numbers are significant. Twelve apostles remind us of the twelve tribes of Israel. What about seventy-two? Seventy-two was the number of the nations in Genesis after the Flood. Jesus is going to Jerusalem to die for the world, for all nations and all peoples. The seventy-two signify the fulness of the Church, scattered throughout the world, embracing all nations. Their sending is a snapshot of the Church sent to make disciples of all the nations, baptizing and teaching, preaching repentance and forgiveness in the name of Jesus.
Note the urgency. The fields are ripe unto harvest. There’s no time to waste. I was on the farm of Karen’s family when the Kansas fields were ripe. White fields of wheat were everywhere. And there could not be enough laborers. The hours were long; the work was focused and intense. That’s the focused intensity of Jesus headed toward Jerusalem. 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 among 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. The wolves will be watching. That’s one reason they go out two by two. The wolves look for the lone lamb, the isolated one. That’s the danger of individualized Christianity, believing on your own without a communion of saints. You’re a lone lamb among the wolves. If you watch the show Nature or any of those other nature programs, you’ll see what the outcome is for the isolated. It’s not pretty. Don’t be a solitary Christian. Even in sending, Jesus keeps them in a fellowship, a communion with one another.
The seventy-two come to proclaim peace. They are ambassadors of the Prince of Peace. “Peace be to this house.” “Peace be with you.” 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. We don’t build the kingdom of God. We proclaim it. There’s a big difference. Sometimes one gets the impression that the kingdom of God is some building project of our doing. The kingdom of God is built not 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 Jesus’ blood, sweat, and tears. He does the work; we announce that “it is finished”.
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.” Our Lutheran Confessions quote this verse often to the effect that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us according to His mandate and institution, those words are as valid and certain, in heaven also, as though Christ Himself were dealing with us. They call the voice of absolution “a living voice of the Gospel” and “a voice coming down from heaven”. Even when the owner of the voice is less than honorable (Judas also was sent by Jesus), 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. 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. “You shall be brought down to Hades” is Jesus’ word of warning to our refusal.
“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 beach, in the mountains, anywhere at all.” And that’s true. You can talk to God anywhere in your prayers. But that’s YOU talking to God. The issue in this morning’s text is 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.”
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. The Law that condemns is quieted and fulfilled. Nothing shall hurt you.
But 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, 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.
Don’t take my word for it. It’s Jesus’ word to you.
In the name of Jesus,