This scripture is about what’s most important. There are many choices in life, if you gain a healthy perspective on priorities then you are well on the road to simplifying your world. Eight years ago our church went through an evaluation process in which we talked about what was most important. The guiding principle that emerged which shape us to this day is, “We were at our best when we are involved in ministry.” For example, Dena was not even here at the time, but when she wanted to spearhead a Turkey Dinner, that was an expression of the guiding principle. It also fits the mission we outlined: Rooted in the Word, Focused on the Cross, Missioned to the World. I hope everyone has a good time at the turkey dinner next Saturday, but the greater purpose is to hang out with folks from the community, share the love of Christ in a tangible way. What are your priorities?
Jesus wants us to GO prepare the way for Jesus. READ Luke 10:1. (Note: Some translations say 70 were appointed. Why? The earliest manuscripts the most common number was 70. In the past 50 years or so, many more manuscripts have been discovered and now many scholars consider 72 to be the accurate number… like all the minor variations, it makes no practical difference.)
Jesus sends out. Appointed. One of the astounding truths of Jesus Christ: Jesus trusts his students. wow. To be trusted by the Lord….
“two by two.” This seems wise. I try to put this principle into practice when I can, but truthfully I do a lot by myself. A few weeks ago I was with Jim Jeffreys and I asked him if he’d like to stop and visit somebody in the community. Reluctantly he agreed, but he said yes… and now he has an amazing story of several other people “coincidentally” stopping at the same time and what a wonderful time of encouragement and prayer… those who are leaders in the church, make it a practice to invite others to share in your responsibilities when you can… It is often easier to do everything yourself, but we need to be working side by side with others…going out… ministering together in the name of Jesus Christ…
The phrase I love in Luke 10:1 is the last part… “[Jesus] sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.” This gives a healthy perspective. Ours is a ministry of preparation to prepare the hearts and minds of people for the coming of Jesus Christ. I don’t change anybody’s heart. I don’t do anything except prepare the way for the Lord. This takes away personal responsibility and puts into perspective my part in the greater mission of Jesus Christ. God does not need us, but he chooses to use us. On Thursday I went to see Eddie Ledoschuk in the hospital. Eddie told me about his aunt Barb, Harlan Harvey’s mother, who was in the hospital. On my way to see Barb, I saw another person from Sumas leaving a room. Her mother was it he hospital. She was with a friend, formerly from Sumas that I hadn’t seen in three years, and her grandmother was in the hospital with a stroke. I went into that room and the granddaughter was just amazed because she’d just been telling her grandmother about me because of the article in the paper about Cliff Speck. I prayed with a dozen unexpected people that day. My only role is to point the way to Christ…. Go and prepare. It’s a lot of fun. We get to be on the front lines. We get to be with people. We get to point to Christ.
The biggest little word from today’s scripture: GO. When I was a kid I used to collect a series of books called “Big Little Books.” They were small hardback but really thick comics. Big but little. A big little word is GO. Jesus says GO. What is God’s will? GO. What is our privilege, GO OUT to the communities, go and prepare the way for Jesus. GO outside the walls of the church. The Big Little word of the day: GO.
Our tendency is to focus inward. To put life together. To find happiness. Often, we are reluctant to take on any responsibility in the Lord‘s work, because we feel that we do not have it all together. But Jesus, thankfully, uses imperfect people. He uses us. And He‘s telling us, Don‘t wait until you get your world 100% perfect, GO.
Jesus sees people ready for harvest into the kingdom of God. To be a follower of Jesus Christ is to find out what is important to him. Here it is: READ Luke 10:2. The Harvest. That means to go into the world, into the communities, and find people who are ready to hear about Christ, to receive Christ. There are many people in our confusing world that need the Lord Jesus Christ. The Islamic terror attack in Paris is a sobering reminder of what is most important: salvation in Jesus Christ. We have the most important message the world needs to hear: the way to find ultimate peace is through Jesus Christ. Our is a ministry of preparation for the Lord. The world is full of people who are searching, hurting, discouraged. Spend time with them. Encourage them.
But the workers are few… Jesus sees a field ready for Harvest. People who feel lost, who have been looked down upon, neglected, broken—these people are ready for the kingdom of God. People are open to the kingdom of God when there is need. So often the church gets it backwards. We think the world is not interested. We too often think the world is hardened against God. Jesus never identifies the problem in those terms. Jesus always says the world is hungry. See the world as Jesus sees it. An attack in Paris causes multitudes of people to start searching for meaning. There harvest is ready. But the problem is not in the harvest and its potential. The problem is in the lack of workers.
The solution to finding more workers is PRAYER. READ Luke 10:2b. Pray/Ask for the Lord to send forth laborers into the harvest. Pray for people to go into Sumas, the Foothills, the Nooksack School District, Whatcom County, and beyond. WARNING. Jesus Christ is a little bit of a trickster. Often, the people who pray the prayer to raise up workers for the harvest, are the very people who wind up to be the ones who are sent! This goes back to Priorities, this goes back to the Big Little word, GO. We start praying about the need that God has placed on our heart, and Jesus says GO. just go and I‘ll be coming behind you. Prepare the way for the Lord.
Luke 10:3 is a warning that the way is not always easy. READ. It’s not. I guarantee you will meet resistance. You won’t always be popular.
The verses continue with principles of Going forward… take a light load with you in Luke 10:4…, the point is to stay focused on your task. I’ll never forget the time a friend of mine back in high school wanted to climb Mt. Baker with my father, my father gave instructions in what to pack. We got to the place where we set up tents and Rob had brought several “unauthorized” belongings to climb Mt. Baker including several magazines, a book and a radio. He clearly was not prepared for the climb because he did not take seriously what was most important. That’s the principle when it comes to Going out for the Lord and preparing the way. Not getting sidetracked but “keeping the main thing the main thing” as the saying does.
Other principles in Luke 10:5-9 of going out to do the work of preparation for the Lord: Be with the people and eat whatever you are offered… The 72 that are sent are Jews and the place they are being sent is gentile, so undoubtedly they’d be served food that is not Kosher… If you go to some cultures to serve God be prepared to eat bugs, worms, whatever is set before you…. Sit down and eat. Stay. Don‘t try to weasel yourself into a better house. And invest yourself where you‘re productive. If they receive you, let your peace be in that place.and if they won‘t, get up and leave. What Jesus is saying is, ―Don‘t spend your life pounding your head on closed doors. As we go, be discerning about where it is best to spend the time, the energy… Focus where the opportunity is promising. Check your gut along the way. Some people are simply not ready to give their heart to the Lord. Trust your God given instinct because it could well be the Holy Spirit that is speaking to you.
There is no doubt in my mind but that the harsh words of Jesus in Luke 10:10-16 are given as a warning that there will be plenty of rejection along the way. But don’t take it personally. If you are serving in the name of Jesus Christ, doing his will, then it is Christ that is being rejected, not you.
In Luke 10:17-20, the disciples of Christ come back excited. Jesus is excited with them. Then he instructs them to make sure they are most excited about what is most important. READ. Don’t be excited just because good things have happened, celebrate because you also belong to God eternally. It‘s always the case when people get involved in the work of the Lord, it‘s tremendously exciting. May we be a church that is constantly telling stories to one another of what the Lord is doing.
Luke 10:21 is the only time in all of the Gospels we are explicitly told that Jesus was thrilled with joy. Other times He talks about joy and His joy being in us. But here, He is said to be thrilled with joy. What is He joyful over? He‘s joyful over the fact that ordinary everyday people are part of the Kingdom work of telling hungry people about himself. Determine your priorities and life is simplified. As a follower of Jesus Christ, make your priorities whatever is most important to Jesus Christ. Another way to say it: WJBP ~ Would Jesus Be Pleased…. Jesus prays a prayer of celebration: READ Luke 10:21-22. “the wise and learned” is contrasting the closed minded know-it-all religious leaders of the day with the open mind of His children, the disciples, the little ones.
Jesus ends with these words: READ Luke 10:23-24. Following Christ is about ordinary people that entering God’s Kingdom work. Make God’s priorities the most important thing. Jesus says the harvest is ready. He says there is room for more workers. PRAY for workers. GO. Many will reject you/Christ, but that is offset by the extreme joy that is yours when you see people respond to Jesus Christ. Jesus is thrilled with JOY to use you. The world is hungry. Jesus invites us to GO and set the table so that the Lord can feed them. There is nothing more important.