Grace For The Journey
We are studying our way through the Gospel of Luke. At the end of chapter 9, Jesus has just spoken with three different individuals about what it means to follow Him and then, in chapter 10, He appoints 70 people to go and preach the Good News. He says He is sending them out as “lambs among wolves.” Few wish to be known for their weakness. Most would rather be known for strength. We are intrigued by the guy who has power and unimpressed with the powerless. So, a text that identifies Christians as “lambs among wolves” is not an easy sell. Who wants that? Wolves possess impressive strength, speed, and aggression. Lambs are weak, slow, and defenseless. Take an average group of 1st Grade boys and show them the two animals and most are taken by the wolf and totally unimpressed with the lamb. So how do you study a text that identifies Christians as “lambs among wolves” in a culture that prepares us to admire the “wolves among lambs?”
This is our challenge today as we have these 16 verses of Scripture that speak not only to Christians 2,000 years ago, but to Christians today. We have a passage here that occurs only in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus sends out these 70 disciples two by two into every city and place (verse 1) He Himself will be passing through on His way to Jerusalem. He sends these 70 out to preach the Good News, the “Kingdom of God” (verse 9). This missional activity is similar to Jesus’ sending the 12 disciples back in chapter 9. The difference here is that there is a greater outreach involving greater numbers of disciples and greater fields of harvest. Luke is a disciple who has a missionary heart. His inclusion of this event points forward to our Great Commission at the end of the Gospel as well as in Luke’s second volume, the Book of Acts, Acts 1:8, where he records Jesus saying, “You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” This commission continues today and most believe that this is why Luke records this incident to remind us of our obligation to take the Gospel to every person on the planet.
The beauty of this text is that it uncovers a few characteristics of Christ-followers. How many of you would identify yourself as a Christ-follower? Let me share from this passage some of the things that are to characterize our lives. The first word is . . .
Jesus says in verse 2, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” There is much work to be done. And the way Jesus sends out these lambs among wolves is striking. He says in verse 4, “Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road.” All of this conveys that the assignment of the 70 is an urgent matter of business. There is not much time. Get busy. There is work to be done.
Jesus even says there at the end of verse 4, “Greet no one along the road.” It almost sounds like a discourtesy or rudeness. But the Eastern greetings of Jesus’ day were not like our greetings today. In Jesus’ day, greetings were very long and time-consuming, the taking of the hand, the kissing of the face, the long words of blessings. Jesus is not calling for disciples to be discourteous. Rather, His sending out of the 70 and Luke’s recording it for us in his Gospel highlights the urgency of our business. We are chiefly to be about spreading the Good News of the Gospel.
The message is in verse 9, “And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” The miracles, like healing, were special empowerments given to the disciples in order to validate the truth of the message and the message is in the last part of verse 9, “The kingdom of God has come near you.” That is, the Good News of the Gospel is here. Repent from your sin and turn to the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, your Savior from sin.
That was the message then
That is our message today.
To underscore the seriousness of the message, look at the consequences of refusing to heed the message. To any city whose occupants reject the disciples’ message Jesus has some very condemning words. We read the, in verse 12 and following . . . “But I say to you that it will be more tolerable in that Day for Sodom than for that city.” Most of us remember Sodom. The city of Sodom, was destroyed by fire for sexual immorality, homosexuality, and moral ambivalence toward God. Jesus says that while their judgment was great, it is nothing compared to the judgment of an unbeliever who scorns a Christ-follower, rejects him, and rejects his message of the Gospel.
Now if I were not a Christian, I would be sitting up in my chair just a little straighter. Jesus is saying that, once we have heard the Gospel message, we become accountable to what we have heard. We were condemned already for being sinners. But if we scorn those who carry the Good News of the Gospel and reject them as helpless lambs and refuse to follow Jesus Christ our judgment will be worse than the judgment of Sodom.
Jesus continues this teaching in verses 13 to 15, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades.” Again, the point is that there are consequences for not responding to or receiving the Gospel. Hearing the message, knowing you are not saved, and refusing to do anything about it makes sitting in this room a very dangerous place. There are consequences for our failure to walk in the light we have received.
Jesus says in verse 16, “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.” God’s Word is shared with family and friends through personal evangelism, or teaching the Word in a small group Bible Study class, or preaching the Word from the pulpit. Jesus says that . . .
If you are rejected for sharing
The truth of the Bible,
People are not rejecting you,
They are rejecting Jesus
Christ and His Father.
To reject the Word of God is
To reject the God of the Word.
Sometimes someone will say, “Well, there’s this guy in our Bible class and he just folds his arms the whole time and has this smirk on his face,” or, “Brother Terry. this guy says he disagrees with some of the preaching. What do you think?” I say, “Ask that person specifically where he or she disagrees. Take them to the Word of God. If what the teacher or preacher is saying is the plain truth of God’s Word then that person’s greater concern is not whether he disagrees with me. To reject the Word of God is to reject the God of the Word.
Do you see the urgency of our business? There are souls to be saved. There are people who need to hear the Good News of the Gospel, people across the world and people across the street. I wonder whether our lives are characterized by urgency. Are we prepared to go as lambs among the wolves this week at school or in our jobs among the wealthy and among the poor? Urgency. It is a characteristic of a Christ-follower.
Here’s another characteristic . . .
Jesus instructs the 70 in verses 4 through 8 to, “Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road. But whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you.”
More than anything else . . .
The instructions of Jesus here
To His followers
Speaks of contentment.
As they went about their business, going into these cities and sharing the Gospel, they were to stay in various homes. They carried nothing with them, their lives being marked by simplicity. And wherever they were received into homes to spend their evenings there, they were to be content in that particular house. They were not to “do a search,” looking for a better situation, a better looking house, better amenities, better food, etc. This characteristic of simplicity is best understood when coupled with the previous characteristic of urgency. JC Ryle makes an pointed truth about this issue, “We must beware of thinking too much about our meals, and our furniture, and our houses, and all those many things which concern the life of the body. We must strive to live like men whose first thoughts are about the immortal soul.”
This is the danger of money and material possessions. They create the illusion that we are on this earth for the primary purpose of storing up our goods and enjoying the finer things of life and living in luxury as though there were no judgment at all. It is as though we have endless days to relax and play and there is no judgment to come and no hell to shun. Money and possessions are to be used to build up the kingdom of God. I know that is not what the TV commercial says, but it is what the Bible says.
I was reading in Acts recently, and reading the passage where Paul was on the ship headed to Rome and they came upon a severe storm and the ship being tossed. The Bible says that the crew began to throw cargo overboard in order to lighten the ship. AS I read those verses, I thought it is at times like that when you see just how little value there is in “stuff,” times when you are facing death and the judgment to come. Times like these, reveal just how little value our possessions have. We are willing to throw them overboard to save our lives. Simplicity is a virtue.
Let me give you one more characteristic of Christ-followers. We mentioned urgency, simplicity, number three . . .
It is interesting to me that these 70 disciples are unnamed. There is not a one among them who is named. And what is worse, they will face, many of them, utter rejection. This is implied, of course in verses 10 and 11, “But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, ‘The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you.’” This shaking the dust off the feet was a way of responding to their rejection, as if to say, “We do not want any part of the judgment that will come to you.” But they would be rejected. Again, on verse 16, Jesus says, “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.”
Here is a life of frequent rejection of the unnamed, unknown Christ-followers. There are countless believers who have made significant impact for the kingdom of God but few of us know their names. They gave years of their lives to the unreached areas across Asia, Africa, and India. Many of them labor in obscurity right here. Unnamed, unknown. Jesus said back in verse 2, “Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” I wonder, are you prepared to be the answer to your own prayer? What if the Lord called you to an unpopular, obscure place for the purpose of magnifying His glory through the power of the Gospel? Would you go? Are you praying to the Lord of the harvest? Are you prepared to be the answer to your own prayer?
I realize obscurity does not sound appealing to most of us, given our culture’s stress upon the strong and powerful and our inclination to name-drop when we are among them. Who wants to be a little lamb when you can be a mighty wolf? It is our sinful inclination to be numbered among the powerful wolves rather than the weak lambs. The Bible remind us in 1 Corinthians 1: 26-27, “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.”
It is an encouragement to me that God is not looking for exceptional people. He is looking for those who do not mind being unnamed for the kingdom. He is looking for people who love Him with their whole heart, people who delight in Him more than they delight in the approval of man. Early in my ministry for the Lord, I felt like God was looking for exceptional people to do His work. He is not. There are a few wise, mighty, and noble. But most of us are not. We are simply unnamed lambs among wolves, often working in obscurity, but ever thankful that God has given to us the saving grace of the Gospel and the free gift of eternal life. He has called us to share that life with others. Surrender to Him and see what He can do through you!
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”