Stories with Luke Week 16:

Greatness

Pastor Terry Inman

08-13-17

 

Last week’s story about GREATNESS concludes with the excuses of potential followers. One said, he would follow Jesus wherever he went. Jesus told him he wouldn’t like the travel arrangements. Jesus and the disciples were homeless itinerates. He said, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

 

Jesus invited two others to join him. One wanted to bury his father’s bones first. Jesus said, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” This was a way of saying real life is sharing the good news of my kingdom.

 

The other guy wanted to go back and say goodbye to relatives. Jesus insisted, no turning around. “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9.60, 62 NIV)

 

A clue to understanding these challenging calls for commitment is the repeated reference to the kingdom priorities. Jesus mentions, “Proclaiming the good news of the kingdom” and “serving in the kingdom”. Jesus calls and commissions us in His kingdom. This takes precedence over and all other interests, loyalties and relationships.

 

As we saw last week it took Peter and the other disciples a while to grasp their kingdom identity. But later Peter writes, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1Pet. 2.9 NIV) We exist to glorify God!   

 

Luke begins chapter ten with another commission. “After this (greatness & excuses) 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.” (Luke 10.1 NIV)

 

What does it mean to be commissioned? In the movie Master and Commander British captain Jack Aubrey conquerors a faster and larger Spanish vessel. Thousands of miles from British territory in the Islands off Ecuador he seizes control of the enemies war ship and claims it as the territory of the Crown. He steps aboard and says, “Though we be on the far side of the world, this ship is our home. This ship is England.”

We live in two realms--earth’s kingdom and heaven’s kingdom. I remember my first assignment in Bible College was to write a paper on the nature of the Kingdom of God or kingdom of heaven. Up until then I thought of it, as a place somewhere out in space. It was just another name for heaven.

 

But Jesus says, my kingdom is not of this world. You can’t say, Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17.21

What ever it is in the future it is not now material or political, it is spiritual. It is the present rule or reign of God in His people the church.

 

No matter where life takes us we are citizens of the kingdom of God.

We also have a commission. We have an assignment and we have been given His authority to carry out that assignment.

 

In his final moments on earth Jesus gave what we call the great commission. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28.18-20 NIV)

 

A commission is about going. Here Luke says Jesus, “sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. Earlier Jesus sent out 12 disciples now he sends six times that many—72! This is a large missions trip. He sent them in pairs for partnership, protection and confirmation. This was huge and hazardous harvest.

 

Jesus 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. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. (Luke 10.2-4 NIV)

 

These instructions are similar to his first delegation of the twelve. They were empowered over demons and disease. They were commissioned to preach the kingdom of God and heal the sick. They were told to take noting no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra coat. Luke 9.1-3

Again he says travel light—no suitcases or carry-ons. He wanted them to depend on him and their hosts for their temporary room and board. We have all the right stuff but lack the power! We get lost in the baggage. Luke’s story is a prototype for our commission. We are familiar with this passage as the Prayer-Care-Share model. We talk to God about our friends before we talk to our friends about God. We ask God to bless them. We get to know them. We demonstrate our love and care. We pray for healing or freedom. Then at the right time we share the good news of the kingdom. Our commission is simple. We complicate it. We clutter it up.

 

Matthew adds some very descriptive imagery to this potentially risky harvest. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matt. 9.37-38 NIV)

 

Here Luke says, Jesus told the 72 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. The main reason we stop short of the harvest is because we don’t want to become somebody’s lamb chops. But He is the Lord of this harassed and helpless Harvest. He is sending us to wounded sheep!

He says I will be with you always! This is a co-mission! We pray and go!

 

Here’s Jesus strategy for reaching responsive people in that ancient mid-eastern culture. “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. 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.” (Luke 10.5-7 NIV)

 

He told them not to get delayed with greetings on the road, but enter a house and give God’s peace (blessing) to its occupants. If they respond and reciprocate you have what salespeople would call a warm prospect.

 

Accept their hospitality. Stay around and get to know them. People need to get to like us before they decide to listen to us. People in the mid-east drink a lot of tea and invest their time in a lot of talk. People want to be cared for—not converted. Leave the conversion to the Holy Spirit. Just love people and share your story. Let the Holy Spirit do the rest!

 

There is something here also about the wages of the witness. This is why we support missionaries. We can’t all go to the nations but we can send!

Jesus also says, “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you.” (v. 8) Sharing food, culture and friendship ingratiates us to people. I love trying different ethnic food!

 

Then Jesus takes the commission to another level. “Heal the sick who are there and tell them, “The kingdom of God is near you.” (v.9 ) I like this “heal” then “tell”. This is like kingdom kindergarten—show and tell!

 

Healing is a sign that the kingdom of God is near! It also makes people ready to hear! Healing is for hurting people in the Lord’s huge harvest!

  

Now not everyone welcomes the message or the messenger. Expect rejection maybe even aggression. There are wolves out there. There are consequences for rejecting the good news of the kingdom.

 

“But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘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.’

I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. (Luke 10.10-12 NIV)

 

There are nations, regions and cities like Sodom and Gomorrah that are dark and resistant to the good news of the kingdom. The kingdom will come near them with bad news. Jesus names a few.

 

“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. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. (Luke 10.13 NIV)  

 

Jesus literally tells Capernaum to go to hell. “Down to the depths” is an expression for Hades! Literal or figurative it is believed to be the inferno of the underworld. No one wants to hear or believe hell is real.

 

I wouldn’t be here today if a neighbor named Lee Archer hadn’t warned my Father about the consequences of living without Christ. “Max if you don’t give your life to Christ you will go to hell.” My dad went home and told my mom “Lee says we’re going to hell if we don’t get saved.”

They went to a little Pentecostal church In Lancaster CA and gave the their lives to Christ. It wasn’t just fire insurance they were spiritually transformed. They loved the Lord and served him the rest of their lives!      

Jesus told these 72 commissioned followers, “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” Luke 10.16 (NIV) Rejection isn’t personal it’s spiritual. People who resist the truth are resisting God. Pray for mercy.      

 

Don’t worry about some rejection instead rejoice over the reception. Luke says, “The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” Luke 10.17 (NIV)

 

Last week the disciples came off their mountain top experience and couldn’t exorcize a evil spirit from an afflicted child. Apparently the 72 understood their commissioned authority in Jesus name.

 

Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10.18-20 NIV)

 

This not an invitation to snake handling, it’s a confirmation that we have authority over evil. The last book of the bible says, “The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” (Rev. 12.9 NIV)  

 

When we dispel demonic influences we are simply executing God’s previous judgment. As Jesus listens to these excited followers testimonies he finally has something to be very happy about.

 

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. (Luke 10.21 NIV)

 

Jesus followers are excited about the success of their mission. Jesus is happy not just for them but he is “full of joy through the Holy Spirit”!

Fulfilling our commission, sharing the good news of the kingdom, freeing the bound and healing the broken is a reason for great rejoicing! “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.” Psa. 126.5 (NIV)

 

The only thing more exciting than your own salvation is sharing it with others. God keeps good records. Jesus said, “Rejoice that your name is written in heaven!” How many are happy that you’re in God’s book!