Chosen to Serve (2): Delivering the Mail
Read Luke 6:12-19 –When LBJ became president, he appointed Larry O’Brien Postmaster General. For publicity reasons, he insisted that O’Brien take his oath of office in Hye, TX where he recalled mailing his first letter at age 4. At the ceremony, Pres Johnson remarked, “It was 53 years ago that I mailed that first letter. And Larry O’Brien told me a few moments ago that he is going out to find that letter and deliver it.” Our question this morning is, are we delivering our mail – the gospel of forgiveness in Jesus Christ?
Last week we began to look at how Jesus chose 12 men to represent Him after His departure. We saw how God took ordinary men and produced great things through them for His ultimate glory. And He wants to do the same through us. But having looked at the men, today we focus on the Purpose and Power of their choosing. Lessons here will encourage us to make sure that Christ’s message is not lost to those around us through our negligence.
II. The Purpose
“17 And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, 18 who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases.” Training of the 12 now begins in earnest. In these words we see the purpose for which they were chosen. They were chosen to serve, preaching the gospel in WORD and in DEED to everyone. Jesus’ preaching is summarized in Matt 4:17, “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The kingdom of God is coming, but you’ve got to repent of your sins if you want to be a part of it. That is the message, presented in various ways throughout His ministry. According to Luke 19:10 He came – “to seek and to save the lost.” That gospel hasn’t changed from that day to this. It is still the same good news. Jesus died to pay the penalty for your sins and will deliver everyone who accepts Him as Lord. The purpose of service is to preach the gospel in word and in deed to everyone. So let’s look at those elements individually.
A. In Word
Jesus’ popularity was fueled by His miracles. But don’t miss the first reason people came in v. 18. They came to hear him. The healing was spectacular. But without question, His priority was the preaching. Jesus says in Luke 4:43-44, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” At one point, He tried to get away for some rest, but a crowd found Him and we’re told in Mark 6:34, “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.” In Mark 1, Peter begs him to continue a healing service, but we’re told in v. 38, “And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.” Matt 11:1 tells us, “When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.” Jesus’ priority is preaching – and that’s what He sends His apostles out to do. Look at Luke 9:1, “And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. (Jump to v. 6) 6 And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. (To v. 11) 11 When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.” You can’t miss it! Jesus’ priority was preaching.
The Bible says in Rom 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” There is power in the Word, and so it is the priority of Jesus’ life. Paul says in Rom 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Listen, Beloved, the best thing we can ever do for anyone is to expose them to the gospel that Jesus was so anxious to preach. His priority must be our priority. We must tell people about Jesus, share books and literature and CD’s that give the message, invite people to church where the gospel is proclaimed – by any means possible. I love the Gideons who give out the Word. It’s why we’re here! Sure, not everyone will believe. Not everyone believed Jesus either. Ever think of that? But they should get the chance!
Several biographies of the great preacher, Charles Spurgeon include the account of a woman who bought some butter at a farmer’s market. The package was wrapped in a piece of newsprint that included a page of one of Spurgeon's published sermons. Through that partial exposition of a single Bible verse, she came to faith in Christ. Spurgeon himself was converted as a teenager when a he entered a church one morning where the pastor was absent because of a blizzard. An ill-prepared, uneducated layman gave a lesson from John 3:14-15: "(As) Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life." At one point as he spoke the man looked directly at Spurgeon and said, “Young man, look to Jesus Christ". Spurgeon said, “I saw at once the way of salvation. When the bronze serpent was lifted up, the people only looked and were healed, so it was with me. I had been waiting to do 50 things, but when I heard that word, "Look!" what a charming word it seemed to me! There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun. Oh, that somebody had told me this before, "Trust Christ, and you shall be saved." We may not all preach like Jesus, but we must get the gospel to people any way we can. The Word is the power of God to salvation.
B. In Deeds
Now, second, we must share the gospel in deeds. In v. 18, this whole multitude “came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured.” Jesus’ priority was preaching, even to the point of sometimes moving on even when being pressed. But He did good by healing. It is interesting that even His critics never questioned that Jesus could heal. He was never called a fraud. In fact, just recently an ancient magician’s cup, dated mid 1st century AD, was found underwater off the coast of Alexandria that said, “By the power of Christ.” That guy wasn’t a Christian, but he’d heard of this power and added it to his bag of tricks. Jesus’s power was legendary. But why did He heal?
To Show Compassion – First, His healing clearly showed His compassion for people. Jesus loved people – even those no one else would touch. And so must we. He healed because He cared. Matt 9:35-36 tells us, “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus knew the religious leaders despised common people. But Jesus had compassion. Both His preaching and healing were a result of His compassion. He cared for people, loved the unlovely, had a heart for the helpless. Matt 14:14, “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” One day Jesus happened on a funeral procession. We’re told in Luke 7:13, “And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” Faced with the death of his own friend, Lazarus, Jesus wept with his sisters before raising him from the dead. He had a heart for people; so must we, especially those who are different, diseased, downhearted, unlovely. We need to pray for compassion – for everyone, but particularly for those who are odd, unattractive, mean-spirited – not our cup of tea.
To authenticate His Message – If you show up saying you are the Son of God, that you bring the kingdom of God and that people must repent to be part of it, you had better be able to substantiate your claim, right? And Jesus did that through His unprecedented miracles.
The Jews didn’t get it. He claimed to be Messiah, but wouldn’t take the throne! Even John the Baptist didn’t get it. Forward to Luke 7 and John’s in prison, beginning to wonder, “Did I get it right? Is this the guy? And if so, what am I doing in prison.” This is not what he expected. So he sends a couple of disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one?” V. 22, “And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Isn’t it interesting? Jesus doesn’t berate John or belittle him in any way. He just points to the miracles. They were irrefutable evidence. And if He wasn’t exactly what they expected, He was certainly real! His miracles were a powerful message in themselves, and to reject Him was foolhardy. Jesus says in Luke 10:13, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.” Imagine standing before Jesus as judge one day, having personally seen His miracles, but having rejected His person and message. Unthinkable tragedy. But you know what? It won’t be much better for everyone since who has had the eyewitness accounts in the gospels – dramatically attested, verifiable history that people still freely reject.
To Picture Greater Spiritual Realities – Thirdly, the miracles show that Jesus is the answer to the greater universal need for spiritual healing. We’ve seen that His healing of the paralytic in Luke 5 demonstrated He could also forgive sins. Listen, the miracles were temporary. They pictured kingdom conditions, but their greater purpose was to point people to Jesus as the answer to their soul’s need for forgiveness and cleansing. And the great thing is that spiritual healing brings physical healing as well. You can have healing without forgiveness. Many people in Jesus’ time did. But you can’t have forgiveness without eventual physical healing. The ultimate in healing doesn’t come in this life; it comes when Jesus returns and the bodies of believers are raised to an incorruptible state for eternity. I Cor 15:53, “ For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” When does that happen? When Jesus comes again – the second time, not the first. The Bible says in Phil 3:20, “ But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body.” In His first coming, Jesus demonstrated unequivocally that He can do what He promises, but it’s that coming transformation that should excite us. Does Jesus heal now? Yes. Can we and should we pray for it? Yes, but they don’t happen all the time right now. His sovereign purpose includes more suffering than healing in this life. Ultimate healing comes later!
Jesus’ miracles were unique good deeds that showed His compassion and authenticated the gospel. And while we are not miracles workers, Jesus is asking us to represent the gospel through our good deeds as well. He says in Matt 5:16, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” We’re chosen to represent the good news of salvation by our words and by our deeds. [Eph 2:10] I love this little poem by my dad’s favorite preacher – John R. Rice – “You are writing a gospel, a chapter a day, By deeds that you do, by words that you say. Men read what you write, whether faithless or true./ Say, what is the gospel according to you? Great question, isn’t it?
C. To Everyone
So, we are to preach the gospel in word and in deed. But there is one final clause. To everyone. To everyone. The gospel is for everyone. Notice according to v. 17 Jesus is about to preach to “a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon.” Why does Luke mention where these people are from? Because he wants us to know that it wasn’t just Jews that Jesus was preaching to. People were also there from Tyre and Sidon -- Phoenician coastal towns – Gentile country. And the point is, the gospel is for everyone.
I’m afraid our gospel is often selective. You know why Jesus wants us to pray for our enemies and those who ill-use us? Because the gospel is for everyone. Are we like Jesus? Or would we shy away from someone who doesn’t look like us, doesn’t dress like us, is a bit of a bore? How inclusive are we really? It’s easy to say, “Sure, the gospel is for those folks in Africa and Asia just like it’s for us. I’m on board.” It’s a lot harder to say, “Yes, the gospel is for that guy at work who keeps undermining me, or that harsh boss or that neighbor who works on their cars in the front yard, or that lady who snubbed me in front of everyone or picked on my kisd, the homosexual couple down the street.” Different story, isn’t it? We’ve all been there. But the question is, what are we doing to get the gospel to those people? Because that is what we are chosen to do, Beloved – to preach the gospel in word and in deed to everyone.
III. The Power
Failure makes cowards of us all, doesn’t it? As soon as we get a question we can’t answer, we feel like a failure. Get snubbed when we invite someone to church, we feel like we’ve failed. We must get through our heads, success or failure is not on us. It is on Him. Look at v. 19, “And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.” Where did the power come from? From Him? Our job is simply to do what He asks us to do by our words and works. But the result is His. I could help build a house. Tell me where to put a nail or attach a fixture or pull a wire and I’m there. I can do that. But someone who knows a whole lot more than me is going to have to be responsible for the result. All God is asking us to do is put in the nail or hang the fixture. The power is His. The response is His.
Look at Luke 9:1, “And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.” Who gave them power? He did. Where does the power come from? From God. He’s not asking me to save my enemy. He’s just asking me to love and pray for them. He’s not asking us to make a convert. He’s just asking us to share the good news.
Remember the chariot race scene from Ben Hur? Took weeks to film, 15,000 extras and 18 chariots. Big production. Charlton Heston, the star, actually learned to drive a chariot to add to the authenticity. But after weeks of practice he confided to the stunt coordinator, “I can drive the chariot, but I’m not sure I can win.” The stunt man laughed and replied: “Chuck, you just make sure you stay in the chariot, and I’ll make sure you win the race.” Similarly, God says to us, “Stay in the chariot. Stay in the chariot and I’ll take care of the rest.” It is God who will make sure we win the race by whatever definition He wants. I am reminded of this every time I get up to speak. How can I possibly represent God to you? What can I say to help someone who is in trouble or even dying? But that is when I follow the advice of Charles Spurgeon. Every time he preached, up all 13 steps to the pulpit he would repeat to himself, “I believe in the HS.” That’s where the power is, Beloved. The pressure is off. We just do what we can and He’ll do the rest.
Conc – Isn’t it great to be chosen to serve – to preach the gospel in word and deed to everyone? Especially when we know the result if His to produce. I love how Chuck Colson described it once. He said he was sitting at the Delaware State Prison listening to the choir one morning waiting to speak and his mind drifted back to his accomplishments in life – the scholarships, lawyer credentials, cases argued and finally senior advisor to a president. He comments: “My life had been the perfect success story, the great American dream fulfilled. But all at once I realized that it was not my success God had used to enable me to help those in this prison, or in hundreds of others just like it. My life of success was not what made this morning so glorious – all my achievements meant nothing in God's economy. No, the real legacy of my life was my biggest failure – that I was an ex-convict. My greatest humiliation – being sent to prison – was the beginning of God's greatest use of my life. He chose the one experience in which I could not glory for his glory.” Do you see the point, Beloved? God does His best work in those whom the world has tossed aside because then He gets the glory. Our job is to deliver the mail. Stay in the chariot. What happens after is up to God. He will turn ordinary into great. Let’s pray.