Summary: The cost of discipleship.
Making a Difference
Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
July 8, 2001
This morning we continue our journey with Luke’s account of Jesus and the disciples as they head to Jerusalem. Luke opens this chapter by saying, “After this, the Lord appointed seventy others.” The “after this” provides a bridge back to our story last week when Jesus illustrated the cost of discipleship to three “would-be disciples” who found the cost of discipleship just a little too high. The theme of discipleship continues this week as Jesus commissions seventy new missionaries.
The Gospel this morning is really made up of two parts, the commissioning of the seventy and their joyous return. Matthew and Mark also tell this story, but each of them only talk about the commissioning of the twelve disciples. Luke’s version is the only one that tells of the sending forth of the seventy. It is also the only version that describes their joyous return and their victory over evil.
Luke tells us that these seventy individuals are sent out on a messianic mission. They were to go to the cities and villages where Jesus and his disciples would soon venture themselves. They are sent on ahead of Jesus to pave the way for Jesus’ eventual visit.
We note that Jesus sends out the seventy in groups of two. Jesus sends them out two by two because it not only provides companionship for the journey, and the ability to hold up each other when the going gets tough, but it also provides a double dose of faith and wisdom to witness to others. Also, according to Mosaic law, two witnesses were required for a testimony to be credible.
Jesus tells the seventy that there is much work to do, but not enough people to do the work. “The harvest is great, but the laborers are few.” He also tells them this evangelistic mission will be dangerous. “I send you out as lambs among the wolves.” Jesus knew they would face opposition and danger in preaching a new and different message. There is also a sense of urgency in their mission. Jesus tells them to travel light. “Carry no purse, no bad and no sandals.” He also tells them not to even take the time to greet anyone they meet on the road. The harvest is not only plentiful, it is also ripe. There is no time to waste.
The seventy missionaries are told that they may not be successful, or well received in every town. Not everyone will be open to their message. You see, these seventy were going into towns where people were worshipping many false gods and they didn’t want to give up all their gods for One God. These missionaries were competing with all of these false gods.
I heard a funny story the other day about competing. It seems there was a barber in a small local town who had been the only barber in town for years. Everyone went to this barber to get their hair cut. Then, one day a big hair salon franchise came to town and opened up shop. They advertised,
“All Haircuts for $3.00”
Slowly, the barber’s business began to dwindle. He just couldn’t compete. In a last ditch effort to save his business, he hired a business consultant. The consultant spent a day pouring over the barber’s books asking many questions. At the end of the day the barber asked the consultant, “So what do you think ? Should I close up shop ?” The consultant said, “Not yet. I’ll be back tomorrow.” The next day the consultant showed up with a huge banner that he hung in front of the barber shop that said, “We Fix $3.00 Haircuts!” The competition doesn’t always win, do they?
In the closing section of this story we are told that the competing gods didn’t win either. We hear of the great joy and success the disciples had casting out demons, healing the sick, preaching the Gospel and overcoming the competition by fixing $3.00 false gods. Jesus said, while you were out there evangelizing, “I saw Satan falling from Heaven like lightning.” He then warns this army of evangelists not to be so taken up with their accomplishments, but rather to give thanks that their names were written in heaven.
As we hear the story of Jesus sending out the seventy, we can’t help but ask ourselves, “What is missionary work and evangelism, and why must we do it ?” Jesus gives us the framework for missionary work and evangelism right here in his instructions to these seventy newly commissioned evangelists. He first tells them to bring the gift of peace to those they visit. He then tells them to heal the sick. And finally he tells them to preach the Good News that the Kingdom of God is near them. They were to teach, preach and heal, just like Jesus did when he entered a village.