Date: July 5, 1998 Where: SHMC Words:
Sermon Title: Jesus Sends out the 72
Text: Luke 10:1-11
W. L: Rudolf Sawatzky G: Gerhard Pries
We have often heard the motivating words of Jesus: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Canadian Sociologists, Don Postersky and Reginald Bibby say that, there is a tremendous spiritual hunger in our Canadian society. There is a profound interest in spiritual questions among the people who we rub shoulders with in our everyday life. Our unchurched neighbors, that is, people who have spiritual interests, but who do not go to church regularly, are not, however, satisfied with simplistic and legalistic answers to the complex and difficult questions that face them.
Indeed, the field is ready for the harvest, and the Lord of the harvest wants you and me (everyone of us) out in the field. God wants us to take hold of the countless opportunities and challenges around us to bring Glory to the Lord of the harvest.
But, the church sometimes taken a lazy approach to reaching out to those who are searching for the deeper meaning of faith. There is an old story of a farmer who said lightning struck an old shed and saved him the trouble of tearing it down. Then it rained and saved him the chore of washing off his car too. When someone asked him what he was doing now, he replied, "I’m waiting for an earthquake to shake the potatoes out of the ground."
The issue for today’s message is the witness of Christ’s disciples to the world. And, unlike the farmer, the Church of Jesus Christ cannot afford to wait for an earthquake to shake the unchurched out of their hiding places and into the church.
One of the things that make the topic of Evangelism and Outreach difficult to understand is that we associate Evangelism mainly with the work of Missionaries overseas. When I was younger I had this image in my mind of white North American missionaries bringing the Gospel to monkey-eating natives in the African jungle. Lately, I have come to see outreach more as talking to my neighbor across the fence, whose wife of many years passed away last spring.
Today’s Gospel lesson is from Luke 10:1-20. Brother Pries gave us some of the background to the sending out of the 72 disciples.
1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.
2 He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.
4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
5 "When you enter a house, first say, `Peace to this house.'
6 If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.
7 Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
8 "When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you.
9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, `The kingdom of God is near you.'
10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say,
11 `Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.'
Jesus’ public ministry was quickly coming to an end. But there were still so many places that the Lord had not yet visited with the Good News of God’s Kingdom. Jesus had earlier visited the regions of Galilee in the North and Samaria in the center Plains of Israel. But, he had not yet ministered in the towns and villages surrounding the Jordan River.
During the six months or so before his crucifixion he ministered in this area. The people who lived in the towns and villages along the Jordan were treat with indifference by the Jewish religious leaders. That may have been the reason why Jesus sent out such a large delegation of disciples, so that they could reach as many people as possible in the short time that was left.
While the sending out of the 12 disciples earlier in Luke represents the ministry to God’s people – the twelve tribes of Israel, the ministry of the 72 was to the Gentiles – there were traditionally 72 Gentile nations.
Before he sends the 72 out Jesus says to them, that the need of these people is great, but that there are few people to do the work. Jesus commands them to pray that the Lord will send out more laborers to minister to the needy people.
With prayerful hearts the disciples go out, knowing that they will be like defenseless lambs among wolves. They are not to take any unnecessary baggage with them, nor waste any time, because the work is too urgent for any delay. God will provide for their needs as they trust in His leading. They must also not waste their time on the road with long-winded greetings that were part of the customs of the day.
When they enter a house the must use the customary greeting, “Peace be with you.” As they preach the Gospel this greeting will have a far greater meaning. Those who accept the message will share in the peace of Christ.
Many Gentiles lived in this area, and ceremonial purity was not practices as strictly as in Jerusalem. Jesus instructs his disciples not to waste time figuring out if the food set before them had gone through the proper process of purification.
As the disciples teach and heal, those who receive and accept the message will be convinced that the Kingdom of God is indeed at hand.
As we look at this text we have to confess some of the baggage that we bring to this reading. For one thing, we are very much aware of the cultural differences, not only in our society, but even within our own church. Furthermore, we confess our fears to take risks in congregational life. We have reservations about rocking the boat of our established church traditions, even our church politics. These are only some of the barriers that hinder the witness of the church today.
As with the 72, our journey of discipleship is an exercise in obedience and faithfulness to the will of God in Jesus Christ. The opportunities for reaching out are endless and literally right in our own back yard.
Let me give you an example, A few Sundays ago we went to the local Community club for a Soccer tournament. Even though it was raining the place was packed out with adults and children. We met and built bridges of friendship with other parents. We even met some of our neighbors who don’t attend church. And we invited them to bring their children to our Vacation Bible School.
Jesus has sent us out as his disciples among the people we meet in our daily lives. Although we do not always know where our journey with Christ will lead us, he gives us the gifts we need for the tasks ahead and enables us to be part of a great adventure – namely the coming of God’s kingdom.
The story of the sending out of the 72 teaches us being part of those who are sent out, is not easy. There is stress, tension, an element of risk, and great uncertainty.
Another thing the story tells us is that being sent out requires letting go of a lot of baggage. We must be able to move quickly, without unnecessary hindrances.
And the story tells us that there is a good deal of excitement and anticipation. Part of the excitement and anticipation of an adventure is that we aren't sure how things are going to end, where the journey will lead, how things will turn out.
You and I, as disciples of Jesus Christ, are part of the mission to share the Good News of God’s Kingdom with others. The Master has graciously chosen us to send out. We are privileged to be part of God's way of turning the whole world upside down!
Donald Ewing of Wheeling, West Virginia says the following about taking risks: To laugh is to risk appearing the fool. To weep is to risk appearing sentimental. To reach out to another is to risk involvement. To expose feelings is to risk exposing our true self. To place your ideas and your dreams before the crowd is to risk loss. To love is to risk not being loved in return. To live is to risk dying. To hope is to risk despair. To try at all is to risk failure. But to risk we must, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. The man, the woman, who risks nothing does nothing, has nothing, is nothing.
As strive to live as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, may we confess before God the greatest barrier that hinders our witness – namely apathy, that is, the lazy attitude of the farmer waiting for an earthquake. And may we be motivated by the passion and the sense of urgency that Jesus had for your and my salvation.