"ANYTHING TO DECLARE"

LUKE 10:1-24

FEB 2, 2014

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             Let me give you some hints.  They come in the form of movies.  Goldfinger.  Dr. No.  Live and Let Die.  Casino Royale.  The Man with a Golden Gun.

            OK.  Those are the hints.  Now for the question:  Who was the main character, the world saver, in these movies?  You are right.  Bond.  James Bond.

            Unfortunately, years ago, MI5 the British equivalent of our CIA, said that James Bond would have never been admitted into their agency.  Why?  He would have been too tall to serve as a spy in Her Majesty's Service.  According to MI5, good spies blend in with those around them.  Since the average man is 6' tall or less, then the upper acceptable height limit for Great Britain's male spies is 5' 11".  For female spies, the upper limit is 5' 8".  All the actors who have played James Bond in the movies have been 6' or taller.  By MI5's current standards, none of them would have been qualified to serve as spies.  Apparently it's more difficult to keep your agent status secret it you stand out too much.[1]

            Jesus, of course, did not choose his disciples on the basis of their height.  He wasn't concerned at all that they would stand out too much.  In fact, he warned them that they would stand out and that their mission could be dangerous.  Please turn to chapter ten, verse one, in your bible, and let's begin reading.  And as you find your way there, keep in mind that Luke is the only gospel writer to record the story of the sending out of the seventy, the only one.  Our story for this morning is peculiar to Luke's gospel.  Let's begin.

 

            After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 

 

            Note two things here.  First, the seventy.  Why seventy?  Well, no one knows for sure, but the conjecture has to do with Genesis 10.  In Genesis 10 seventy nations are named and the number seventy became symbolic for all the nations in the world, and therefore Jesus sent out seventy to symbolize the gospel's eventual spreading throughout the entire world. 

            The other thing to notice ... he sent them out where he himself intended to go.  Just about every week someone in our Sunday School class says something incredibly insightful.  Last Sunday it was Barry Gastrock.  Our adult class is working its way through Luke's gospel and after reading this verse Barry said, "It sounds like Jesus sends out the seventy to test the waters, to help Jesus decide where to spend the bulk of his time.  No use going to areas where people are not receptive."  I like that.  I think Barry hit the nail on the head. 

 

            He said to them, The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.

 

            That's a scary image ... lambs into the midst of wolves.  It's difficult to imagine a scarier image.  Maybe that movie Snakes on a  Plane.  I haven't seen the movie.  I hate snakes and being in an enclosed space 30,000 feet in the air with snakes, well, no thanks.  And I wish I had not read the paper on Tuesday morning because there was an article in the living section about all the strange things being shipped in the cargo bays of passenger planes.  One of those things were live snakes.  Yuck.  Of course, being a lamb amongst wolves is not very inviting either. 

 

            Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, Peace to this house! And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide for the laborers deserve to be paid.  Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you;

 

            This right here is one of the reasons scholars believe the seventy is a veiled reference to the seventy nations of the world.  Food was a critical issue in the spread of the gospel.  "Eat what is set before you."  Well, what if they offer pork chops or glazed ham?  That could be a problem.  It was for Peter in the sequel of this book.  In the sequel to Luke's gospel, the Book of Acts, Peter was in the seaside town of Caesarea, and he was in a Gentile's home, the home of Cornelius, and he was out on the deck overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, and he smelled what Cornelius was cooking and it didn't smell kosher, and it was a crisis.  Would Peter refuse the food and would the spread of the gospel stop in Caesarea because of food restrictions?  Well, it didn't.  God gave Peter a vision that it was OK to eat pork and other things, and the gospel continued on.  "Eat what is set before you."  Let's continue. 

 

            ... cure the sick who are there, and say to them, The kingdom of God has come near to you.' But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near. I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.

            Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But at the judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 

 

            An interesting side note here, at least I think it's interesting.  Note the town Chorazin.  It's implied in the reporting that Jesus did mighty works there, however, in the gospels there is no mention of one thing Jesus did there or one word Jesus spoke there.  In other words, here's another example of how much we do not know about the life of Jesus.  The gospels are not biographies, they are only sketches Jesus' life.  Now, the next town Jesus had visited.  In fact, Peter lived there.  He had a house right on the shore of Galilee.  Go to Capernaum today and you can see the ruins of Peter's house.  Verse 15 ...

 

            And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven?  No, you will be brought down to Hades.

             Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.

            The seventy returned with joy, saying, Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us! He said to them, I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

 

            We could focus on a number of Jesus' words here, but I want to go back to the beginning of the passage to the second verse.  Do you have that in front of you?  I want to go back to the words, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few."

            I wonder if that still is the case today.  As Christ's church, as Christ's disciples, we are asked to do a number of things.  We are to provide for those who cannot provide for themselves, remembering how Jesus said, "for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me" (Matt. 25:42-43).  We are to work for peace and justice in the world.  We are to maintain a house of worship and gather each week to worship God and to teach the sacred Word.   But, as vital as these things are they are not our main business.  Our main business is to introduce the world to Jesus Christ.  The last thing Jesus did before he left this earth was give us the great commission: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matt 28:19-20).  That is our primary purpose.

            And that is not an easy thing for most of us to do particularly if it means sharing our faith with others.  Perhaps youve heard the story about the man who prayed the same prayer every morning: Lord, if you want me to share my faith with someone today, please give me a sign to show me who it is.

            One day he found himself on the subway on his way to work when a big, burly man sat next to him.  The guy took a seat next to our friend who was praying for a sign that he should share his faith.  Having this burly man next to him made our friend nervous.  He anxiously waited for his stop so he could exit the subway.  But before he got to the next stop, the big guy burst into tears and began to weep.  The burly man then cried out with a loud voice, My life is such a mess.  I need to find Christ.  I need the Lord.  Wont somebody tell me how to do that?

            The burly man finally turned to our timid friend and asked, Can you tell me about Jesus?

            Our nervous friend immediately bowed his head and prayed, Lord, is this a sign?

            Most of us are not very comfortable sharing our faith with others.  There was a time when churches would send people out two by two to evangelize the community.  Our Jehovahs Witness and Mormon friends still do it that way.  Its not nearly as effective as it once was.  People dont want strangers knocking on their door.

            I think of the guy who heard a knock at his front door one cold and rainy day.  He opened it and there stood two Jehovahs Witnesses, damp and shivering in the cold.  They asked if they could come inside.  He couldnt leave them standing there, so he said okay.  He brought them into his living room and offered them a chair.  They were quiet for a long time so he asked, What happens now?

            The older one said, We dont know.  We never got this far before.

            Going out two by two was once an effective strategy for reaching people. It is not today.  We need to find new ways of extending the call of Christ to a new generation of seekers.  But, how do we do that?  How do we do that?

            Research indicates that the best way to do it in this day and age, is simply to invite a friend, a neighbor to church.  Surveys show that, if we invite a friend to church, 50% of the time they will respond with a yes.  That percentage goes up substantially with a second, third, or fourth invitation.[2]

            The problem is that most of us are even reluctant to ask.  Why is that?  Are we ashamed of the Gospel?  Are we ashamed of our church?  Is there something we could do to make ourselves so excited about our church that we would invite a friend to worship with us?

            You may know the story of Garrison Keillor, host of the popular program on public radio, Prairie Home Companion.  Keillor was brought up in a fringe group of the Plymouth Brethren Church.  Finding the churchs heavy legalisms off putting, Keillor stopped going to church.  From then on people would ask him, Do you go to church?  

            And he would say, No.

            Then they would say, Why dont you go to church?  And he would tell them, that the heavy legalisms, all the don'ts, turned him off.

            That ritual exchange served him well for many years until, sometime back, a Lutheran friend yes, some Lutherans do evangelism, engaged him in those same two stock questions, Do you go to church? and Why dont you go to church?  But then this person surprised him with a third question: Why dont you come with us?

            Never having been asked that before, Keillor didnt have a stock answer.  And before he knew it, he found himself saying yes.  And thats all it took and he was back in the fold once again.[3]  Wouldnt it have been a shame if no one had ever asked?

          Can Christ count on us to give that invitation?   "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.  Amen.



[1] CNN.com, "James Bond 'Too tall' to be a Spy", Mar 6, 2004, International Edition London, England, Reuters, 2004.

[2] Mike Slaughter, Momentum for Life, Revised Edition (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2008).

[3] Leonard Sweet, Faithquakes (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994).