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Proper 10C Sermon – Luke 10:1-20

July 6, 2016

July 3, 2016 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Today, you were given a glimpse into the mission of Jesus within this sinful world. That was seen in the Sending of the Seventy-Two by Jesus “into every town and place where He Himself was about to go.” Through them, Jesus was performing His work. And what those Seventy-Two envoys sent by Jesus do is very similar to what happens even among us.

Jesus sends out the Seventy-Two people to bring the news of His arrival to many villages. As He sends them, Jesus gives them all the same command: “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. 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.’” Jesus authorizes the Seventy-Two to take divine power to people who need healing and forgiveness, who need to receive salvation, who need to be informed that the kingdom of God has come near and they are to be part of it.

But Jesus’ command also includes a second part, a stern and judging instruction: “But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even 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.’” When the people who receive the same message about Jesus’ arrival reject Him, then there is no help to be found. Instead, they remain standing under the LORD’s wrath and punishment. They become a sorry group of people who had Jesus’ salvation in their midst, who had the kingdom of God come to their town, but refused to participate in that great benefit.

Armed with the LORD’s authority and power, the Seventy-Two take Jesus’ mission to the towns and villages of Israel. These are the places where the people who had heard the LORD’s Covenant promises lived. The people were being informed that those promises were coming to their fulfillment. Jesus tells His envoys: “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.” Undoubtedly, there were places where they encountered rejection and opposition, making them proclaim the LORD’s stern judgment against the villages they entered. But you also heard how they reported back to Jesus: “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name!” The power and ability that the Seventy-Two carried into the world even allowed them to combat demons and the minions of Satan.

Yet, Jesus doesn’t want the Seventy-Two to be overjoyed at that fact. Yes, they did have that divine ability given to them to make demons subject to them. Yes, this was part of the way that healing and forgiveness was to reach the people they preached to. Yes, it was an awesome power, something that would make them glad, particularly as the evil forces were being put down. But Jesus says that the Seventy-Two have something else to be truly joyful about: “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” The ultimate joy for these followers of Jesus is that they also are recipients of His redeeming work, that they were brought into the kingdom of God, that they were made heirs of salvation and everlasting life.

As mentioned before, the situation that the Seventy-Two encountered in Israel is similar to yours. Jesus’ mission reaches all who need healing and forgiveness, sinners who need to receive salvation. You have had people like the Seventy-Two carry Jesus’ power among you—the power to forgive your sins, to make you heirs of everlasting life. That happens when the ones whom Jesus has sent speak, so that Jesus’ voice is actually heard. This takes place every time that you gather together to hear the words of Jesus proclaimed. For wherever that Word is spoken, Jesus’ actions are performed. So you can rightly say: “The kingdom of God has come near to us. It has come near and we are part of it.”

Those great acts of Jesus also included the exercise of divine power over demons and the minions of Satan, so that you also can rebuke them, especially when they wish to tempt you to sin or wrest you away salvation. You can say: “You have no power over me! I am baptized into Christ! I have His blessings! I am His servant, He is my Lord. You are nothing!” Or as Paul said it: “From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”

As part of the kingdom of God, as members of the LORD’s royal priesthood, you also are given the authority to proudly declare the work that Jesus has done for you. That declaration praises Jesus’ mission, worshiping and honoring His redeeming power. This is what today’s psalm exhorted you to do: “Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your deeds! So great is Your power that Your enemies come cringing to You. All the earth worships You and sings praises to You; they sing praises to Your name.’”

The LORD’s great power has brought you into His kingdom, driving the forces of evil away from you, so that you are sons and daughters of peace. When you worship Jesus’ great work of redeeming you, others hear about it. The invitation goes out to them, just as the psalm said: “Come and see what God has done; He is awesome in His deeds toward the children of man.” When they come and see, they are brought into fellowship with Jesus. The kingdom of God comes near to them.

All of this is true for you. But like the Seventy-Two, you should not focus on your ability to proclaim the greatness of God as the source of your joy. Neither should you think that the ability to rebuke Satan is the greatest gift you have. Nor is the ability to speak forgiveness to one another the reason for your eternal hope. The emphasis is not on what you do. Instead, the Lord Jesus focuses your attention on what He has done for you: “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Who has written your names in heaven? Jesus has etched your name into the Book of Life through His death and resurrection.

The same admonition is given to the ministers of the Church. Having the ability to pronounce forgiveness of sins in Jesus name, to preach His saving work to those who need it, to make people part of His Church through baptism, to feed Jesus’ disciples His Body and Blood for everlasting life are all great powers. But like the Seventy-Two, the ministers of the Church are not to find their joy in that, as joyous as it may be. Rather, they also are to rejoice and be glad for what Jesus has done for them—writing their names in heaven, just as He did for those they care for. That is why you and I join together in the Confession of Sins, the singing of the Hymn of Praise, the recitation of the Creed, the praying of the Agnus Dei, that testify to what Jesus has done.

That is what this episode from Jesus’ life can help us to realize. Some may look at it and say: “Here is an example of what Jesus wants you to do.” That isn’t totally false. But there is more than that. For Jesus is not just an instruction giver, not just a mission director. No, He is the One who is actually doing the mission through the humans He chooses to use as His envoys. Jesus first makes His missionaries part of His kingdom, then He sends them out. The Seventy-Two could only accomplish their mission, because Jesus first made them His disciples and then sent them into Israel. They receive salvation, so that they may bring it to others. The same is true for all who follow in their train.

The focus must always first be on what Jesus does for us, before we ever speak of what we do for Jesus. He redeems our bodies and souls from sin, death, and Satan, so that we can serve Him. But without that prior action done for us, without our names being written in heaven, there is no mission for us to do. Only because we have been made part of Christ’s kingdom, do we now have a new purpose in life.

So we can follow the apostle’s instructions to imitate Jesus, as Paul directed the Galatians to do: restoring fellow disciples who are caught in sin; bearing each other’s burdens; sharing all good things with those who teach; doing good to all, especially those of God’s household. Those are the new purposes for living given to you because of Jesus’ redeeming work. Jesus sets our lives right, so that we can walk in His way of righteousness.

That’s why we can truly rejoice. For we know that our salvation is not dependent upon what we do, not even carrying out Jesus’ mission. Instead, our joy is found in the fact that His death and resurrection means that He has written our names in heaven, as Paul testifies: “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Our joy is found in the kingdom of God coming near to us when that gospel is proclaimed. That is the pure grace of Jesus which is with your spirits.

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

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From → Sunday Sermon

One Comment
  1. Elle permalink

    This is a wonderful Word, heard from our pastor. Amen and Thank God for you.

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