Thursday, November 08, 2012

JESUS SENDS OUT THE 72


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We have come to chapter 10 of Luke's gospel. Each chapter is full of several amazing stories of Jesus in action. This first story in this chapter is one of my favorites. NOTE the fact that we have just finished with some very tough teaching on how costly it is to be a follower of Jesus. And now Jesus appoints 72 disciples other than the 12 and sends them on a mission.
 

The story is divided into two sections in the first 24 verses. The first is Jesus sending out two by two 72 disciples on a mission and the second section is an interesting time of debriefing. We'll handle the first today and the second tomorrow.
 
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. 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. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

There is a mixture of specific instructions for them in that particular mission and some universal principles for us today. Jesus' instructions not to carry a purse, bag or sandals was for that specific trip. However the sense of going two by two was carried out throughout the spreading movement of the fellowship of Jesus.

There is also an interesting statement about how plentiful the harvest is and yet the workers are few. Years ago I presented a message entitled, "Many Are Called, But Few Get Up." We have a serious addiction within the churches in this country. People are addicted to church attendance with a semblance of guilt if they miss, but participation is not part of the norm.

I think Christians do mission work the hard way, mainly attempting to "convert" people from whatever their culture is to become a member of the Christian culture. In the process we send the wrong message as to what the Jesus movement is all about. The goal of missions is not to set up Americanized churches full of spectators, but to encourage intimate touch and interaction about Jesus and the kingdom. NOTE what Jesus' strategic plan is.
 
"When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' If the head of the house loves peace, your peace will rest on that house; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for workers deserve their wages. Do not move around from house to house.

This mission is all about "entering a house" and bringing peace with you on that house. Whether the head of the house receives it or not, the peace is still with you. He says something interesting, "Stay there in that house and don't move from house to house." This reminds me of what a friend said to me, "Be a fountain" and let people come to you. If you have brought the peace of God to this household, then it will be evident to the neighborhood and village.
 
"When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.' I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. NOTE what they are to do. Heal the sick and tell the people that the kingdom of God has come near to you. And if they refuse to welcome you and the peace you bring, then shake the dust off your feet. Then Jesus says, "Be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near." In other words, the kingdom of God has come near no matter the response.

Then Jesus curses the three cities in which He had performed many of His miracles. "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? 
No, you will go down to the depths.

When you receive as much light as these cities have received and still are not particularly responsive to the message of the kingdom, you will be held responsible for that rejection.

Then Jesus says something that is most empowering for these disciples and for us, too: "Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me."
You and Jesus are united inseparably when you are on a mission in His name. Whoever listens to you is listening to Jesus and whoever rejects you is rejecting Jesus. You see, the key to appreciating the power of this statement is found back in the early part of sending the disciples out. The harvest is plentiful. There are so many who have ears to hear and eyes to see, because Jesus is the Lord of this harvest. So, we are to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send forth more workers to take His healing touch and the message of the kingdom of God to those who are ready to receive it. It's His harvest, His power, His message and His peace.

I've got one final thought for you. When you are praying for the Lord to send forth workers for His harvest, be sure that prayer includes you as one of the workers. Jesus will handle all of the details of the work. Just raise your hand and volunteer to be one of those workers.

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