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LSB Festival of St. Luke Sermon – Luke 10:1-9

October 18, 2015

October 18, 2015 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“After this 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.”

Jesus sends His emissaries into the towns and villages of Israel. They go to the places where Jesus would appear. When they go, they carry Jesus’ authority: “Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” That authority is exercised for the benefit of the people that Jesus’ emissaries would encounter. Their commission comes from Jesus, the Ruler of heaven and earth, so that they could bring the people of Israel into the kingdom of God.

Jesus’ assignment of the Seventy-Two is a foreshadowing of the great mission that He would assign to His Church. It shows that the work of extending the kingdom of God would not be limited to the apostles. Instead, there would be others who received this assignment from Jesus. When Jesus inaugurates the great mission of the Church, He doesn’t limit it to the locations within Israel’s borders. Instead, Jesus extends that mission to the nations of the Gentiles.

As the Church commemorates of St. Luke on October 18, it is fitting to think on that theme of extending the kingdom of God—both in terms of who does that work and among whom that work is done. Luke is called by the Church an evangelist—a gospel writer. Yet, he held that position without being one of the apostles. He was not among the Twelve whom Jesus directly called to follow Him. But through his work, Jesus’ mission was extended. Like the Seventy-Two, Luke is counted among those who received the authority to speak and write about the kingdom of God. And where was this authority exercised? Not within Israel’s borders and not primarily among those who descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Instead, his work was done in the regions of Syria, Asia Minor, Macedonia, Greece, and Italy—the dominions of the Gentiles—so that they would be added to Jesus’ realm.

What necessitated such work in foreign fields? The spiritual diseases which ruled over the people who knew nothing of the LORD and His salvation required it. For just as the LORD sent His Messiah to restore His Covenant People Israel, so that same Messiah extends His restoration to the ends of the creation. Jesus’ salvation is meant for all people, all who suffer the same illnesses of body and soul caused by sin. He is the Redeemer of the world, and so His world is meant to share in that redemption.

Think on the Old Testament Reading that you heard this morning. Isaiah’s text described in poetic terms the plight of Israel’s exiles that would be reversed: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water….” The LORD promises a reversal of His people’s afflicted state. And that He did when He brought the people back to the Promised Land.

But Isaiah’s words also speak about an even greater affliction that plagued the entire cosmos. Blindness, deafness, lameness, muteness: these conditions rightly describe those who know nothing of the LORD. They are apt ways to speak of the spiritual state of individuals who are cut off from the LORD, who have no righteousness or life in them. But that is exactly the condition which the LORD promised to reverse. So when His Messiah appears, He sends out His emissaries to heal the sick and declare the arrival of that promised kingdom.

The great mission of the Church is to take that gospel out into the world that is blind, deaf, lame, and mute. It is to heal the sick and inform them that they are being made part of the LORD’s kingdom. That sickness is more than just physical unwellness. It is the pernicious disease of the soul which leads to eternal death. But when those who carry Jesus’ authority come to towns and villages, they bring the healing of His redemption: they make known the LORD and His way of life; they revive and regenerate souls; they bring people from the bondage to sin to being the liberated subjects of the kingdom of God.

That is the great act which the LORD has caused to be done among you through individuals like the Seventy-Two whom Jesus has sent to your town. No apostle has come around these parts. But you have had people who carried the charge from Jesus to extend the kingdom of God live and work among you. Through their acts, your blindness, deafness, lameness, and muteness have been overcome. For you know who the LORD is. You hear His words. You walk in His ways. You speak His praise. There is no lack of life in this parish. It is not a parched land. Instead, you are people in whom the springs of eternal life well up inside your hearts. This work done among you is just like what the Seventy-Two did. You have been healed and you have heard that the kingdom of God has come near to you.

But there is a greater, mystical truth about what happened when the people carrying Jesus’ authority did their work. As they healed the diseases of the soul and declared the kingdom of God had come near to you, Jesus actually appeared among you. Though He may not have walked here like He did in Israel, Jesus has been present in this place. The acts of baptizing, preaching, absolving, and communing are all ways that this has happened. For in these acts, Jesus is present with His redemption and restoration. So we can rightly declare that this town is a place where Jesus has actually gone. He is in the baptismal waters. He is in the proclamation of the gospel. He is in the forgiving hands. He is in the bread and wine. And through these things, not just the kingdom of God has drawn near, but the King Himself has appeared.

You are part of the kingdom of God. By divine grace, this has been made so. It is true as you have heard Jesus’ words and believe the acts that He has performed for you, even when He has used human hands to do so. There should be no doubt of that. Your living in that kingdom of God is an active life. Isaiah’s statement alluded to that: “A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.” You have been placed on that way. You have been called to follow Jesus as His disciples. You actively live as citizens of His kingdom, leading godly lives now and in eternity.

One aspect of godly living that is especially fitting to mention on this day is how you help to extend the kingdom of God. That doesn’t mean that you will be sent to other places like the Seventy-Two, although there may be some of you who would be called to do so. But it does mean that you model the way of life to your households in righteous living. It means that you speak about being the LORD’s people to your children. It means that you speak about the gracious acts that Jesus has performed for you to those whom He brings into contact with you. And it means that you support the work of those who have been sent by Jesus to your midst.

That support of the work of those sent by Jesus was mentioned in His instructions to the Seventy-Two: “Remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages.” Yes, Jesus’ words speak about the offerings that you supply for the operation of this congregation. And as we have been able to do together, that support also includes assisting other congregations so that they can provide for the laborers sent by Jesus to them. Your mission offerings are distributed to other places, so that the kingdom of God can be extended to other towns and villages as they have someone come to their midst.

All this is a great enterprise that functions because of Jesus’ authority. That authority is being exercised for the benefit of the people whom His emissaries encounter. This will continue until the day that Jesus returns. Until that day arrives, Jesus’ words should be heard and heeded. Hear what is spoken about Jesus’ great work done to redeem and restore you, for He makes Himself present for you in that. Abide by the command that He gives to His followers: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Give thanks for having laborers come among you. And pray that the authorized work may continue—that the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments may put to flight the diseases of your souls that with willing hearts you may ever love and serve the LORD.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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