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Carnival Man

Luke 10:1 -- 24

Lesson audio

If you dig into a family history, you can usually find some unusual and interesting people – some of whom were not quite as upright and dignified as the old photographs make them look. Such a man was my great-grandfather’s brother, known to us as “Uncle Bud.” Uncle Bud worked for a circus, which doesn’t sound too bad today. He worked the carnival side, however – which at the time was considered distinctly less than respectable.

Uncle Bud was an advance man – the guy who arrived about a month before the circus did, just to make sure that everything was lined up correctly. For example,

  • He would arrange lodging – not so much for the people of the circus but for the animals. The average farmer was not too thrilled with hosting the elephants, but somebody’s meadow was going to feed them.
  • He also made sure of what we today would call publicity – articles in the newspaper (carefully written by Uncle Bud); posters all over town and handbills passed out at various occasions.
  • His work also included smoothing and soothing the local authorities. The civic leaders always got a generous number of tickets to hand out as rewards for favors done.

All this took money and (rumor had it) sometimes more persuasive tactics. The circus was often opposed by at least some elements of the church; there was always the possibility of the girl on the flying trapeze corrupting the local youth with her tight fitting costume (in a time when proper ladies kept their ankles and necks covered – and everything in between.) The job called for ingenuity, persistence and a distinct style of conducting business at the edge of the law. By way of example, Uncle Bud had at least five wives – some of them simultaneously.

Now, I had not noticed this before, but when Christ sent out the seventy they were going out as his advance men:

Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. "Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.

(Luke 10:1-3 NASB)

As we shall see a little later, they were to heal the sick and proclaim that the kingdom of God is near. Uncle Bud would have understood this clearly. What might have dismayed Uncle Bud was the manner in which Christ sent them out. It was clear to Bud that the advance man was entitled to such favors and perquisites as might be available. Christ did quite the opposite:

  • First, these disciples were appointed, not volunteers. They are the obedient and trustworthy ones.
  • They go two by two. One reason for this is that they shall be witnesses to these cities; a single witness would simply not be heard.
  • But the big difference is this: they go out as innocents in a world full of hard hypocrisy.

Uncle Bud would have been shocked. Send out these innocent choirboys? In the hard world of the advance man? This Jesus fellow must be out of his mind.

Actually, Jesus understood this quite well. These men are NOT capable of doing the job, and Jesus knows it. They are outnumbered, to begin with. So Jesus tells them to pray that God will send more laborers. The shortage has not, to my knowledge, yet been cured.

Ambassadors of Peace

"Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. "Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace be to this house.' "If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. "Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. "Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.'

(Luke 10:4-9 NASB)

Where Uncle Bud arrived with a bag of tricks, these men arrived carrying practically nothing. This produces certain results:

  • It convinces those who see them that they are not “in it for the money.” If you don’t collect an offering, you must have another motive. And if you have no “bag” (as translated here) you can’t take an offering.[1]
  • It also convinces you that God will provide. He’d better; otherwise you’ll starve. Making a public proclamation that you depend upon God is one thing; following through is another.[2]

And to each house they were to bring the blessing of their peace. The concept of a person having his own peace is somewhat foreign to us – but up through the Middle Ages it would have been familiar enough. We may look at it in three ways:

  • The first was well known to the Jews of the time: it would be referred to as a peace offering. If you wished to settle a dispute with someone, a part of formally declaring the dispute to be finished was the peace offering. The Jew would bring his offering to the Temple; after the priests took what was their legal portion, the rest would be divided. This was a sign that peace now reigned between you two. One’s peace was therefore an offering in hand; their peace was the offering of Christ himself.
  • A second way of seeing this is in the concept of the “king’s peace.” Every man was said to have his own peace; that peace was greater for those who were of higher rank. The king’s peace would, therefore, be the greatest. It was a crime to “breach the peace” - a phrase we hear yet today. This peace could be bestowed on various places; by so doing, the king (or other nobleman) declared that place to be under his protection so that no violence could be done in it.
  • This passage also prefigures a concept that Paul amplifies: we are ambassadors of reconciliation. Reconciliation is a part of the process of making peace. These men were such ambassadors – they represented the Prince of Peace.

In whatever sense you take it, the advance man of the kingdom of God comes not to proclaim entertainment but the coming of the Prince of Peace.

Rejection or Acceptance

"But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.' "I say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city. "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. "But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you. "And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades! "The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me."

(Luke 10:10-16 NASB)

One of the most difficult things for modern Americans to realize is this: Christ is absolutely serious. There is such a thing as heaven; there is such a thing as hell (though of course we don’t use that word from the pulpit; a “Christless eternity” is the preferred phrase.) The very idea that accepting or rejecting Christ could be important seems to have been lost, even upon the church. As Vince Lombardi said in another context, “It’s not a matter of life and death. It’s more important than that.” Indeed, it is a matter of eternal life – or death.

Therefore, it is no favor that we do when we soft pedal the Gospel. If you had a bomb in your house, wouldn’t your friends warn you? If your dog bites, you’d at least put up a “beware of dog” sign. So why, then, when the stakes are eternal life, don’t we at least mention it to others?

We’re afraid of being rejected. Beat us over the head with a stick; we will be noble martyrs. Take our money to send the Gospel far away; it is a noble sacrifice. Speak to our neighbors? What if they reject us?

If they do, it’s “nothing personal” – at least, nothing personal to you. It is the rejection of Christ and therefore the rejection of God. It’s serious – but nothing personal. That doesn’t happen too often.

But – suppose they accept what you say?

The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name." And He said to them, "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. "Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven."

(Luke 10:17-20 NASB)

Who is it that invented the thought that Christians have to be the most sober faced people in the world? Not when the Gospel is successful! Even if we’re not the ones who are there at the moment of acceptance, it’s still a cause for rejoicing.[3]

But as you rejoice, remember just whose power is at work here. If they reject you, they reject Christ. But acceptance likewise means acceptance of Christ. It is his power that is displayed, not your own.

It is also good to know why you rejoice. It’s not because you have somehow become someone special; rather, God is telling you of your own salvation – because you have carried the Gospel, you know that you are his child.

The Only Way

At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, "I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him." Turning to the disciples, He said privately, "Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see, for I say to you, that many prophets and kings wished to see the things which you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and did not hear them."

(Luke 10:21-24 NASB)

Jesus “rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit.” Here is an attitude we can adopt with great benefit.

  • First, we should rejoice in the Lord always. In ultimate things we are those who triumph with Christ.
  • Second, we should do so in unity – just as Christ is in unity with the Holy Spirit and the Father.
  • Finally, in all these things we should praise God – the giver of every good and perfect gift.

Just why this rejoicing?

  • First, God has revealed the secret of the kingdom – and not to the guys with the PhD in physics. Why? It is his intention to have fellowship with his creation – and he doesn’t want an intellectual elite controlling that access. He wants “whosoever will.”
  • Therefore Jesus has chosen the ones to whom it will be revealed. They have no merit of their own; therefore they must accept it as a gift of grace.
  • A gift of grace – too expensive to buy; it must be given away.

[1] The word in the Greek is used of a particular type of bag used by heathen priests to collect money as they went from village to village.

[2] A good example of the principle is found in Ezra 8:21-23.

[3] I well remember the day my wife’s 89 year old father accepted Christ – after many years of talking with him, Betty’s sister-in-law led him to Christ. What a day of joy that was!

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