Summary: Christ has called us into a great and important work. Together we are God's task force, spreading the message of God's Kingdom in the world today!
“To have heard God’s word is a great responsibility.” To have heard God’s word is a great responsibility! The idea here is not unlike that famous advice from Spiderman, “With great privilege comes great responsibility.” Because we know God’s word, because we have been changed by God’s word, we have a great task; the task that Jesus places on “the seventy” in this passage today. And like the seventy who Jesus sent out thousands of years ago, together with other believers, we are the “force” that is to be at work in our world today in Jesus’ name.
I don’t know about you all, but ever since I was a little kid, I have loved Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Now, there is a particular Peanuts cartoon that shows Snoopy sitting outside in the middle of a snowstorm. Wouldn’t that be nice at this time of year! Snoopy is shivering from the cold. Linus and Charlie Brown happen by and see Snoopy and his condition. They say, “There is Snoopy, let’s go cheer him up.” They go up to Snoopy and say, “Be of good cheer, Snoopy!” The next panel shows them walking off, leaving Snoopy in the same condition they found him, and feeling satisfied that they have “cheered” him up.
Surely Snoopy was quite happy to see Charlie Brown and Linus approaching him in the midst of the snow storm. And certainly, Snoopy was pleased that the boys cared enough to bring him a word of cheer. But Snoopy was likely equally disappointed when Charlie Brown and Linus walked on without covering him with a blanket, or inviting him into the house. Somehow, we have gotten a very limited idea of our task as followers of Jesus Christ. We are happy with the minimum; satisfied when we feel good about ourselves, whether or not we have done anything for our neighbors. But we have heard the word of God, and we have a great responsibility; a responsibility not only to spread the cheer, the good news that the kingdom of God is near, but also to invite people in out of the storms of the world, to heal the sick, and to offer peace in the name of Christ! And we have to be doing this now!
As much as Jesus is instructing the disciples and the seventy in this passage about the task they have before them, he is also conveying to them a sense of great urgency. This is the second time in Luke that Jesus sends out his followers, and this time when Jesus sends out the seventy, there is a note of real urgency. Jesus knows that he will not pass this way again; if people don’t respond to his mission this time, it may be too late. So Jesus’ messengers had to go with a word of warning as well as an invitation. To refuse this message, to ignore the word that “the kingdom of God is near” would mean courting the disaster of going the opposite way from God. That’s why Jesus’ charge to the seventy was so urgent and seemingly stern. And the message, our task, is no less urgent today. The kingdom of God has come near—this is true regardless of how long history is yet to last. Are we taking our mission with anything like the seriousness indicated here?
What Jesus asks of the seventy here is the same thing that Jesus asks of all of us, it is the mission of the church; that we would go before him, announcing the kingdom of God, sharing the good news, offering peace, and following our words up with actions of love for our neighbors. Yet it seems that the mission of the church has come to be regarded as something that only a few specially called professionals carry out. We are content to gather a few times each week for worship or study, and to let someone else interact with all those people beyond the walls of the church. But did you know that there are as many as 80% of the people in our communities that are not involved in a church, perhaps haven’t even heard the word of God, the news that the kingdom of God is near?!? “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few!” The sending out of the 70 recorded in Luke’s gospel reminds us that Jesus sent out not just the Twelve, but all his followers. We are the workers, we are the task force, and together with God in Christ Jesus, we’ve got a job to do, a harvest to gather in!
Think of your favorite writer, or perhaps your favorite musician or artist. Or how about your favorite historical figure. Perhaps it is one of our founding fathers. Or imagine the President of the United States, anyone of position. This person walks up to you, greets you heartily, and asks you to work with him or her on their latest novel, CD, concert tour, or even to help shape the course of history. That would be some invitation, wouldn’t it? To co-labor with a President, or a writer of the Constitution, or a great artist! Just imagine! But, alas, most of us will, more than likely, stand un-commissioned in this kind of endeavor. There is in my life and yours, however, a genuine commissioning that, if you think about it, far outshines any other possible call! It is Jesus’ call to “Go!” It is Jesus’ call to work with him and for him in order to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world! God has called each and every one of us to work together with God to create a new people for God’s Kingdom!