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Life of Christ (1996-1998)

Two by Two

Luke 10:1-24

If there is one thing which frightens the average Christian, it is the thought of witnessing about the faith to others. We have it in our minds that (somehow) this just can’t be my job. This despite the Great Commission! This morning’s passage is an example set to encourage us. We’ll take it a few steps at a time.

The Going

In this passage, Jesus sends out the seventy (note: some manuscripts do have seventy-two as the number, and that is what is found in NIV; KJV, NASV and NRSV have seventy). Let’s see what we can learn, step by step.

Step 1: Ask for help

(Luke 10:1-2 NIV) After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. {2} He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

·         First, note that the Lord “appointed” the seventy. We so often feel that “God can’t use me in this; I’m so {weak, uneducated, poorly spoken}. In fact, this is a shocking blasphemy. It is saying, “even God can’t enable me to do it.” He not only can, He will. He appoints and sends; as we will see, He enables them as He does so.

·         How? First, he sends them “two by two.” He does not ask you to go alone; He knows your weakness. Even St. Paul had his Barnabas. He knows you’re human; you need encouragement and support.

·         Note the purpose. They go ahead of the Lord, like the John the Baptist, to prepare a way. We often have the idea that all of salvation rests upon us; in fact, the task is to prepare the way in others’ hearts for the Lord of Glory.

·         As is made clear later, those who go out are part of a coordinated effort. We often think we must “do it all.” But the Bible makes it clear we are to do our part, so that the church may bring Christ.[1] We are part of a body, not the whole thing. We may plant; the next water and someone else reap.

·         Finally, we are to ask. God by his power can raise up miracle workers, but it is his gracious choice that the weak should do the work rather than the strong. He does this so that we will learn to depend upon him. So ask.

Step 2: Innocents Abroad

Character counts (despite American politics). What is the character of the “sent?”

(Luke 10:3 NIV) Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.

What does that mean? The Lamb of God sends you out into the world of wolves. Let me suggest three points:

·         We are to remain, as Paul told the Romans[2], “wise about good, innocent about evil.” The essential is to overcome evil with good, not with evil. To pick up the weapons of the world is to become a son of this world.

·         This, of course, means we are going to suffer. Even the greatest of Christians will experience that; indeed, it would seem that the greater the Christian, the greater the suffering -- or the more like Christ.[3]

·         For most of us, the great fear is that of rejection. But just exactly who is being rejected; us, or the one who sent us?

Step 3: Travel Arrangements

OK, so I’m to go. What about travel arrangements? I wouldn’t go on a business trip without calling the travel agency first; what arrangements would God have me make for this journey?

(Luke 10:4-9 NIV) Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. {5} "When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' {6} If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. {7} Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. {8} "When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. {9} Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you.'

·         First, this is no place for excess baggage. You are traveling at God’s charges. You can either trust Him for everything or try to do it all yourself.

·         Next, don’t stop to talk along the way. In our lives, this would amount to a warning against the “good” things. The good is the enemy of the best. Is there anything wrong with a casual conversation? Yes, if it gets in the way of doing what God wants you to do. What, or who, distracts you along the way?

·         Then there is this issue of “peace.” The concept seems strange to us, as we do not use this expression, but to Christ’s hearers it would be familiar.

·         From the Old Testament, they would recall the “peace offering.” This is often referred to in modern translations as a “fellowship offering.” It conveys the meaning. The offering was to be free of defect. Interestingly, the offerer got most of the meat -- it was party time, time to mend social fences.

·         The Greek word is eirene, which has at its root the idea of “to set at one again.” The root word, eiro, would be used in carpentry in the sense of “to join.”

·         From this we see the sense of peace as reconciliation -- and God has given us the ministry of reconciliation.[4]

·         If the reaction is good, we will meet a “son of peace.” If our host is reconciled to God, then we will be fellow laborers for Him.

·         As a resource, included at the back is Thomas à Kempis’ classic essay on this subject.

·         Eat what you’re served. (There are no Hilton Hotels here.) Your mother told you to finish your plate, right? One reason was that she didn’t want you pigging out on desert. Another is so that you would learn the social grace of eating what is put before you. Being content with what you have is a grace, especially in the kingdom of God. Is the kingdom a place for worldly ambition?

·         Do the job you were sent to do. If that job means sharing the love of God in a physical way (“heal the sick”), then use your time and talent that way. If it means sharing the Gospel (“tell them”) then do that. Don’t just sit around and take up space; get on with the work.

Step 4: If not welcomed...

The fear in this is rejection. What if they won’t listen? What if they don’t understand? What if they think I’m weird?

(Luke 10:10-16 NIV) But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, {11} 'Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.' {12} I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. {13} "Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. {14} But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. {15} And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. {16} "He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me."

(Does this impress you with the seriousness of the matter? I hope so.)

So what do I do if they reject the message -- and the messenger?

·         Don’t leave without giving them a warning. Don’t just walk away meekly, hoping that someone else will be more eloquent. Jesus sets the example here. They will be judged according to their knowledge, and knowing who Jesus is will make it worse for them on Judgment Day.

·         Remember that they are not really rejecting you; they are rejecting Jesus Christ. You are not greater than your Master; they rejected Him to the point of Crucifixion. You will be rejected too -- but likewise, He will reign in glory, and you will be a joint heir of the Kingdom with Him.

The Return

So, how did this expedition turn out?

(Luke 10:17-20 NIV) The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." {18} He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. {19} I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. {20} However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

They return with joy. That’s my experience as well, when I step out for Him.

·         We hear Christ describing Satan’s fall. While this certainly is open to controversial interpretation with regard to the various theories about the Book of Revelation[5], it does tell us one thing: Satan is ultimately defeated, and we have a role to play in it.[6]

·         This is an example of how authority is given in the Kingdom of God. Authority is given with responsibility. The reference to snakes has at least one Scriptural example[7] (this can be taken to extreme, as in our snake handling cults).

·         It is worth understanding, however, that the threat of harm involves two people: the one threatening, and the one threatened. If you threaten to expose me as a Sunday School teacher, it really doesn’t frighten me too much. Sometimes our fears come from our desires:

(Heb 13:5-6 NIV) Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." {6} So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"

·         We need to know why we rejoice. Christ clearly tells us that some who drive out demons in His name will have no place in the Kingdom of God[8]. We need to keep our eyes on the “main thing.” It is not the power given to us that counts but the reward.

The Father’s Purpose

What an exciting time this must have been! Not just for the power the disciples were given, but also because they were seeing what had been longed for by the Jews for so long:

(Luke 10:21-24 NIV) At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. {22} "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." {23} Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. {24} For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it."

Mystery

The word translated “hidden” in this version is, in the Greek, apokalupto. It means, literally, “to take the cover off.” In other words, God intended the kingdom from the very beginning; it is now revealed to us. And Jesus rejoices at this; indeed, the phrasing used can be translated, “jumped for joy.” What is most amazing to some is the character of the people Christ is using for the kingdom. The Kingdom of God does not come in the power of this world, for that power will fail. God uses the weak and insignificant so that the world might notice the fact -- and conclude that the power at work is not that of human eloquence or influence but God and God alone.[9]

Father and Son

There is a three step progression here which yields an important result. Look at it in logical order:

·         God the Father has placed all things in the universe into the hands of Jesus. He is Supreme. So the one who is speaking has all authority.

·         The relationship is one of Father and Son[10]. Since no man has seen God the Father at any time, only the Son can speak with authority on the subject of God.

·         And then Jesus makes the exception: those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. We are included in that exception. Man, of his own efforts, cannot see God -- but the Son reveals the Father to us.

Blessed

As such, we are greatly blessed. That is fact; the question is, what do we do with our blessing? Blessings don’t keep very well, but they share easily. The Israelites in the wilderness could not store manna, for it would rot -- yet there was plenty for all. There is plenty in Christ for all of us -- and just what do we propose to do with it? He will not allow us to sit back content and keep what we have. Remember the parable of the talents?

Appendix: Thomas à Kempis.

FIRST keep peace with yourself; then you will be able to bring peace to others. A peaceful man does more good than a learned man. Whereas a passionate man turns even good to evil and is quick to believe evil, the peaceful man, being good himself, turns all things to good.

The man who is at perfect ease is never suspicious, but the disturbed and discontented spirit is upset by many a suspicion. He neither rests himself nor permits others to do so. He often says what ought not to be said and leaves undone what ought to be done. He is concerned with the duties of others but neglects his own.

Direct your zeal, therefore, first upon yourself; then you may with justice exercise it upon those about you. You are well versed in coloring your own actions with excuses which you will not accept from others, though it would be more just to accuse yourself and excuse your brother. If you wish men to bear with you, you must bear with them. Behold, how far you are from true charity and humility which does not know how to be angry with anyone, or to be indignant save only against self!

It is no great thing to associate with the good and gentle, for such association is naturally pleasing. Everyone enjoys a peaceful life and prefers persons of congenial habits. But to be able to live at peace with harsh and perverse men, or with the undisciplined and those who irritate us, is a great grace, a praiseworthy and manly thing.

Some people live at peace with themselves and with their fellow men, but others are never at peace with themselves nor do they bring it to anyone else. These latter are a burden to everyone, but they are more of a burden to themselves. A few, finally, live at peace with themselves and try to restore it to others.

Now, all our peace in this miserable life is found in humbly enduring suffering rather than in being free from it. He who knows best how to suffer will enjoy the greater peace, because he is the conqueror of himself, the master of the world, a friend of Christ, and an heir of heaven.


[1] 1 Corinthians 3:6-9

[2] Romans 16:19

[3] See Acts 9:15-16, where Paul is to be told “how much he will suffer for my Name.”

[4] 2 Corinthians 5:18-20

[5] It forms the core argument for Augustine’s interpretation, that we are in the Millennium now (hence, Amillennialism).

[6] We are told that he is “driven out” at the Crucifixion (John 12:31-33).

[7] See Acts 28:3-6, where Paul is bitten without effect after shipwreck on Malta.

[8] Matthew 7:22-23

[9] 1 Corinthians 1:27-29. Remember that King David was the runt of the litter!

[10] See John 6:44-47; also last week’s lesson.

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