July 7, 2019
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
by Andrew Lay
Associate Pastor of Keith Memorial UMC
Let’s be honest, Jesus said some harsh things. Just prior to this passage of Scripture, Jesus goes on a bit of a rant as he explains what it takes to be a true disciple. He makes it blaringly evident that being his disciple is not for the faint of heart.
One person comes to Jesus on the side of the road and says, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replies, “Foxes have dens, birds have nests, but I have no place to lay my head.”
Then Jesus turns to someone and says, “Follow me.” The person replies, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” And Jesus replies, “Let the dead bury their own dead. You go and spread the good news of God’s kingdom.”
Someone else approaches Jesus and says, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replies, “No one who puts a hand on the plow and looks back is fit for God’s kingdom.”
Jesus sure did have a way with words, didn’t he?
I’ve always been struck at how Jesus chooses to recruit followers. Jesus doesn’t sugar coat things. He doesn’t try to stretch the truth to seem more appealing. He doesn’t try to persuade or encourage people to follow him. Instead, Jesus says some very difficult and off-putting things. It is almost as if he is trying to turn people away. Can you imagine a church that evangelized like Jesus?
So often, we want to try to sell Jesus to others. We want to try to edit Jesus and make him seem more marketable. After all, we live in a very commercialized society. We are so consumed with consuming things.
The prosperity gospel has been gaining a lot of steam lately, and I can understand why. Folks are attracted to a place that offers them something material in return. We see those television preachers with pompadours and glistening white teeth proclaiming, “If you follow God (and more importantly if you give generously to the church) then you will be blessed, happy, and fortunate.” They say, “If you just become a Christian and send in your money, then your life will be easy, and you will be prosperous.” They say, “If you give money to God, then God will make a way for you to get that new sportscar you’ve been wanting.”
No wonder people want to buy in to that. It sure does seem like “good news.”
But Jesus paints a very different picture of the gospel message. Jesus speaks of a gospel message that calls for serving others rather than being served.
In this text, Jesus commissions seventy people out into the mission field, and Jesus does not offer a message that looks even remotely close to the prosperity gospel. Instead, Jesus tells his disciples that they will have to endure some hardship and sacrifice on their journey. He sends them out “like lambs into the midst of wolves.”
Still, we can be certain that this is a message worth sharing. Jesus commissions these seventy and sends them out in pairs in order to prepare the world for his arrival. They go to every town and place where he wanted them to go. He tells them that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.
Interestingly enough, Jesus tells them that if they enter a town that does not welcome them then they are to shake the dust off of their feet.
A part of me likes this approach. Jesus isn’t interested in shoving the good news down people’s throats. Jesus isn’t interested in forcing people or persuading people to accept the gospel message. Instead, the disciples are called to go with a sense of urgency and let God do the rest. They are simply charged with offering an invitation, and then letting people decide for themselves.
The seventy were sent out and some amazing things happened. They return to Jesus saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us.” There is no telling what happened with these seventy mysterious disciples. There is no telling how many lives were impacted because of them. There is no telling how many people received the good news and learned about Jesus Christ because of them. In the end of our lesson, Jesus assures these disciples that there reward is not some shiny new sportscar. Instead, their reward is knowing that their names are written in heaven.
Sometimes it is hard to see the return of our labor, but God calls us out much like he did the Seventy. Jesus never said it would be easy, but he did say that he would be with us always. Let us get to work. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.
Let us pray,
Gracious God, we give you great thanks for calling us out to share the good news of your Son. We know that doing your work can often be difficult and require us to live sacrificially. Help us to proclaim your truth with grace and love so that others might know of your great love. For we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.