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Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Luke 10:1–20

James T. Batchelor

Pentecost 7, Proper 9, series C
Saint Paul Lutheran Church  
Manito, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Jul 3, 2016 

When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter tried to defend Jesus with a sword.  Jesus stopped Peter and said to him, Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? (Matthew 26:5253)

Twelve legions of angels are somewhere between 50,000 and 70,000 angels.  Thats a lot of angels.  When the Assyrians attacked Jerusalem in the days of Hezekiah, the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. (2 Kings 19:35) If that is what one angel can do, think what twelve legions of angels could do.

Todays Gospel caused me to wonder what twelve legions of angels could do if Jesus sent them out to proclaim that the reign of God has come near.  As a pastor, I sometimes wonder why Jesus sent out mere mortal sinners to proclaim His gospel when He has legions of angels at His disposal.  When I examine my own life in light of the Ten Commandments, I see an unworthy sinner.  It is a mystery to me as to why God would use a sinner like me to proclaim His good news from this pulpit.  Never the less, todays Gospel informs us that Jesus sent out seventy-two sinners to proclaim the coming of the reign of God.

Jesus sent out the seventy-two to prepare the way for Him as He made His way to Jerusalem to keep His appointment with the cross.  You might remember from last weeks Gospel that Jesus is the one who set his face to go to Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51) The Lord Jesus wanted everyone to be ready for Him when He came by on His pilgrimage that would take Him to the cross in Jerusalem.  Therefore, the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. (Luke 10:1) Jesus used seventy-two sinners to prepare people for His coming.  Thats right!  Jesus sent sinners to proclaim His Good News to the people.  We are so used to the idea that sinners proclaim the Word of God that we dont even think about how strange an idea that is.  Jesus put His most precious Good News into the mouths of filthy sinners.

Now before you start wondering if maybe I am over-stating the case here, ask yourself who Jesus sent out.  Jesus sent out James and John.  Remember that just last week, we heard that James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven on an unsuspecting Samaritan village just because they didnt want Jesus to pass through their town.  Jesus sent out Peter you know the one to whom He had to say, Get behind me, Satan! Then there was good old doubting Thomas.

Then, of course, lets not forget Judas.  Judas the one who would betray Jesus the one who would hang himself in despair that Judas!  He also was one of the disciples that Jesus sent out to prepare the way for His arrival.  Each and every one of these disciples had failed Jesus multiple times.  Each and every one of these disciples would fail Jesus many times again after the events in todays Gospel.  These are not the men that I would choose to get out the word if I were God.  But then, I am not God.

In spite of the fact that all of these men were sinners in spite of the fact that we know that at least one of them, Judas, was even a traitor, Jesus still entrusted His message to them.  He even said, 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) Jesus promised that even though they were sinners, His message would remain intact in their mouths.  Think about it.  Jesus promised His disciples that when they proclaimed the words that He gave to them, their hearers were hearing Jesus Himself speak through their mouths.  People were to pay no attention to the sins of the messengers.  Instead, they were to pay attention to the truth of the message.

What is this precious, holy message?  In todays Gospel, Jesus said, Whatever house you enter, first say, Peace be to this house! (Luke 10:5) This is no ordinary peace.  This is the peace of God that passes all understanding.  This is the peace that Jesus would soon earn when He finished His journey to Jerusalem and kept His appointment with the cross.

Jesus also told them to heal and preach.  8Whenever you enter a town and they receive you Heal the sick in it and say to them, The kingdom of God has come near to you. (Luke 10:89) The Kingdom of God is different from earthly kingdoms.  Here on this earth, we say that someone is a king because he rules a kingdom the king depends on the kingdom.  When it comes to the Kingdom of God, things are the other way around.  The kingdom is the kingdom because Christ the king rules it the kingdom depends on the king.  When we say that the kingdom of God has come near to you, we are saying that the king has come near to you.  That king is Jesus Christ Himself.

So far, everything about this mission sounds pretty good, but there is also a dark side to this mission.  It begins in the instructions.  Jesus began with a warning, Behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. (Luke 10:3) As wonderful as Gods peace and His kingdom are, there will be some people who will attack you for it.  There will always be people who reject Gods peace and His kingdom.  There will always be those who hate Gods message and His messengers.

Jesus also gave His disciples words and actions of judgment.  Whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near. 12I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. (Luke 10:1012) What sad and terrifying words.

The most terrifying thing about this judgment is the thing that is missing.  There are two words in the blessed proclamation of the Gospel that are missing in the judgment.  When a town received the disciples, Jesus gave them a proclamation that ended with these words: The kingdom of God has come near to you.  When a town rejected the disciples, Jesus gave them a proclamation that ended with these words: The kingdom of God has come near period!  The words to you are missing from the judgment.  The words to you make an eternal difference.

You see, Jesus Christ died for the sins of the entire world.  When Jesus Christ hung from the cross and shouted, It is finished, He meant it is finished for everybody.  Jesus Christ has earned the forgiveness of sins for every man, woman, and child who ever has or ever will live.  Jesus purchased the forgiveness of sins for all people in all places in all times.

This means that you can walk up to anyone in any place and tell them that you know for a fact that Jesus Christ has earned forgiveness of sins for them.  Think of the worst human beings who ever lived.  Jesus earned forgiveness of sins for them.  Nero burned Rome and blamed it on the Christians, but Jesus earned forgiveness for his sins.  Genghis Khan, Jesus earned forgiveness for him.  The people who carried out the Spanish inquisition, Jesus earned forgiveness for them.  Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Osama Bin Laden, whoever you can name, Jesus earned forgiveness for them.  Even Judas Iscariot, Jesus earned forgiveness for him.

Even though Jesus earned forgiveness for these horrible villains, the odds that they are or will be with the Lord are extremely low.  The problem lies in those two little words to you. Jesus earned forgiveness for everyone, but some people reject that forgiveness.  It is not the Lords fault that anyone suffers forever.  He has brought His kingdom near.  He has earned forgiveness of sins for everyone.  The Holy Spirit offers that forgiveness through the Gospel to everyone.  The only thing the Holy Spirit does not do is jam the Gospel down peoples throats.  Some people resist the Holy Spirit and reject the Gospel.  The Kingdom of God has come near, but not to them.

In the Small Catechism, Martin Luther explains the Lords Prayer.  When He gets to the second petition, He says this: Thy kingdom come.  What does this mean? The kingdom of God comes indeed without our prayer, of itself. But we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.  How is this done?  When our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead a godly life here in time and there in eternity.  We pray in this petition that it may come to us.

The crucifixion and the empty tomb are objective facts.  The historical record outside of the Bible can teach us all kinds of things about Jesus.  We can know that most of His ministry was in Galilee.  We can know that He tangled with the temple authorities in Jerusalem.  We can research ancient documents and learn how those temple authorities coerced Pontius Pilate to crucify Him.  We can uncover the mystery of an empty tomb.  All of these things are objective facts.  The Apostle James tells us that even the demons believe the objective facts and shudder [James 2:19].  We need more than objective facts.

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