4th Sunday after Pentecost (Prop 9 – C)
July 7, 2019
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Gospel, which was read a few minutes ago.
Last week I watched Hacksaw Ridge, a fantastic movie about a Seventh Day Adventist during World War II. Hacksaw Ridge on Okinawa was crucial to American victory and American soldiers were repeatedly sent up the sheer face of the cliff knowing they probably wouldn’t survive. They were terrified and yet because they were soldiers, they did what they were told to do. When they were told to climb, they climbed. When they were told to fight, they fought. They had no choice, so they went up again and again until they were finally victorious. Now, you may not consider yourself a soldier, or maybe you were a soldier or a sailor once and you think that was enough. Maybe you’ve got a bit of a rebellious side. But what you think doesn’t really matter when it comes to Christ’s commands. When He tells you to do something, you do it, and today the command is “Go!”, for you are sent by Christ.
During His earthly ministry Jesus was constantly surrounded by people who wanted to hear what He had say and to be the recipients of one of His miracles. In more than one instance, they chased Him from one place to another. Everyone it seemed knew Jesus, and yet, here in the middle of Saint Luke’s Gospel Jesus sends out missionaries. Luke writes, “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 chooses seventy-two of His followers and sends them ahead to prepare the people for His arrival. There wasn’t a sign-up sheet. He didn’t ask for volunteers. He simply chose seventy-two people and told them to go, and they went.
When it comes to Jesus command for you to “Go”, it too is a command that can’t be ignored. You are sent by Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The man who went when He sent by His Father to save the world now tells you to go. You don’t go on your own volition. You don’t not go because you don’t feel like it. You go because, like a soldier, when you’re told to do something, you do it, regardless of how hard it might be. If you don’t want to go, if you disobey, you must ask yourself why. Why are you afraid to speak about Jesus? Why aren’t you motivated by the knowledge that those who don’t know and believe in Jesus are damned? To not go, isn’t an option. It’s what we do as Christ’s disciples.
When Jesus sent out the seventy-two, He told them “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.” We can understand the command to not take money, they were to trust God to provide for their needs. The command though to not greet anyone on the road seems a bit rude. Jesus doesn’t mean that the seventy-two were to be rude, rather He’s emphasizing the urgency of their task. They had an important job and to stop and carry on extended conversations with those they met on the way would delay them.
This same urgency is still needed today. Jesus tells you to “Go” and you’re to go without delay. The bitter Law and the sweet Gospel have to be shared now. People must know that the Kingdom of God, the salvation and forgiveness through Christ’s sacrificial death for all people, is available right now. We can’t let anything interfere with our sharing the good news of Jesus. It’s a message that is needed more today than ever before. You are to go and tell others without hesitation, and you can’t let anything distract you from your mission, not even your fear or uncertainty.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking right now because I’ve heard it before. You feel unprepared to talk about Jesus. You think that you don’t know enough. You think that you’re not articulate enough. You think that nobody will want to hear what you have to say. I’m going to say this as gently as I can: You’re wrong! Listen to what Jesus told the seventy-two missionaries to do, “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.” Is Jesus telling them to give long theological discourses? Do you think that these missionaries had all the answers? Of course not. They were to simply share the news that sins are forgiven and that eternal life is for all who believe.
You’re sent with the same message! Your sins are forgiven, you are child of God, this is what you tell people. You don’t need to answer every question and there’s no shame in saying that you don’t know. You don’t need to be able to debate or give lectures on the two natures of Christ. Just share the message of the peace of God that is for all people. Share the message of peace that promises that God isn’t mad at the hearer but wants them to be His people. When this beautiful message is shared, when it’s believed, peace comes to the hearer, and all of Heaven rejoices! Share with them the peace that surpasses all understanding, the peace that can’t be taken away by anyone or anything. It truly is eternal peace.
I’m kind of painting a rosy picture for you. Tell others, they’ll believe, and all of Heaven will rejoice. We know that it doesn’t always work that way. Jesus says, “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.’” Jesus prepares the missionaries for the times they’ll be rejected. William Carey was a Baptist missionary to India in 1800’s. It took him seven years to get one convert! Seven years and he got one! He served in India for forty-one years, and do you know how many people were brought to faith? 700! Seven hundred out of a nation of millions. But he never quit. He tasted rejection regularly, and yet, by persevering, he tasted the joy of baptizing 700 Christians.
If people rejected Jesus, they’re going to reject His messengers, and they’re sure going to reject you. You all know people who want nothing to do with God. You all know that person who is hostile towards Jesus and the Church. These people might reject Jesus their entire lives. You might spend your life telling someone about Jesus and never see it bear fruit. But don’t give up! You don’t know when someone will open their heart to what you have to say. You don’t know who Christ will bring to faith through your perseverance. And when people reject you, it’s not you they’re rejecting. They’re rejecting Christ and His Father, and you’re not responsible for, let’s be honest, their damnation. But you are responsible to go when you’re sent, and you’ve been sent.
When Jesus sent out the seventy-two, and when He sends out you, He sends you with His promise of protection. He says, “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.” The sheer number of Christian missionaries and lay people that have been murdered over the years or who’ve died of dysentery, is proof that Jesus isn’t talking about physical protection. Rather, snakes and scorpions refer to your spiritual enemies. Your salvation and your eternal life are guaranteed and can’t be taken away by anyone! You’ll run into opposition, but Jesus will preserve your faith, and He will provide what you need to faithfully do what He sends you to do.
When the seventy-two returned to Jesus they were ecstatic by what had been accomplished through them and Jesus replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” Whenever God’s Word is preached, whenever His Word falls on open ears, whenever someone is brought to faith, Satan falls. Whenever Heaven rejoices, Satan rages because he’s failed to drag someone down to Hell. Whenever someone takes the promise of peace to heart, that’s one less person under Satan’s control. Whenever someone hears God’s word and believes, that’s one more name written next to yours in Heaven. That is why you are sent!
My dad joked, or at least was sort of joking, when he said to me, “When I say ‘jump’, you say ‘How high?’” I was raised that when my parents told me to do something, I did it, and I was afraid of the consequences of disobeying them. Soldiers are trained to obey orders partially out of fear, at least in boot camp, and later with the understanding that obedience leads to success. We don’t obey Christ’s command to “Go” out of fear. We go because we love Christ and we love others. We go because we know the great responsibility that Jesus has given us. And most of all, we go because our names are written in Heaven and we want others to know the same joy and peace with God that we have. And remember, the Jesus who gave His life for you is with you wherever you go telling others about His peace.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen