We’re looking at the life of Jesus in the gospel of luke
We’ve seen that there’s a shift in theme, a turning point in Luke 9-10
chapters 1-9 Who is Jesus? 9 onwards Since he is who he is - the divine son from heaven- how then shall we live? the answer is become a disciple, follow him. And what does that look like? well what these next chapters tell us..
next week - neighbours to all, following - worshippers
this week - it’s to be a messenger. disciples are messengers
every disciple of jesus is given a message to publicly proclaim, to communciate urging everyone to believe it.
This of course is an incredibly hot issue in our society -
Anyone claiming that they have the Truth; saying that their religion is superior and trying to convert people to it is considered at best arrogant and at worst dangerous. The divisiveness of religion is seen as a major threat to world peace.
And to a certain degree - that fear is absolutely right. There clearly is a danger that religion and ideology can play into the negative human tendencies towards superiority and separation. looking down your nose at ’them’ can lead to the marginalisation of others which can in turn lead to oppression, abuse or even violence against them.
Our modern society’s solution to this problem is to seek to control religion, to privatise religion and silence the religious. We as western Christians feel this pressure very keenly and largely we bow to it. We are silenced; we bow to the dogma that it’s fine to believe what you want to believe as long as you don’t try to persuade or convert anybody else..
But - as we shall see in a bit there are deep internal contradictions and problems with this dogma.
We shall see in this passage that Christian disciples ARE messengers. It cannot be avoided. We are
sent on a Mission
with a Message
and yet it is our Motivation that will affect the whole way we go about our mission and ensure that we are never contributors to oppression or abuse of others ..
Mission, Message , having the right Motivation
v1 sent them ahead
v3 go i am sending you
chapter 9 v1 the apostles, the 12 sent to preach cast out demons heal the sick
Those are the 3 things jesus does
preach - persuade with the truth
cast out demons = liberate people’s souls from that which is enslaving them
heal the sick = mend bodies and communities, fabric of the world
what jesus does - send apostles, his appointed leaders out with authority to do that
and if we only had chapter 9 and not 10 we could probably legitimately say - ‘there you see that’s what the leaders do, full time christian workers, the clergy, they go out to do those things - we pay them to do it. i’m sure glad they’re doing that…’
but in chapter 10 - jesus gets 72 together. 72. ancient readers would know in the OT Genesis chapter10 table of nations - 72. This is Jesus way of saying it’s not just the clergy
everybody is sent (word is missio). we’re all on mission and it’s a mission to all nations - to the whole world.
all are needed - harvest is plentiful but the workers are few
So pray for more workers, more disciples - that we’d become the workers that we are meant to be. God is in control. He is the LORD Of the harvest.
You see this throughout the Bible - Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, - A disciple is someone who is called radically in - we don’t just know god from afar, closeness, intimacy to be blessed. BUT now at the very same time you are called radically out. go, i send you out
mean? God says “i bless you to be a blessing”
i only call you radically in inorder to send you radically out to care for the needs of others
to be a healing agent, to reweave the fabric of the world where it’s ripping - to meet their needs so they can then do the same thing.
God says before i met you when you were battling that inner sense of lostness and inadequacy it was understandable that you could be self absorbed, lost in your own problems and trying to survive. but now - i have met you, i have dealt with your shame. i have provided for your longings for beauty and love (and of course you don’t experience this like you ought to but it doesn’t matter) there’s no more excuses. you ARE liberated so get out. i am sending you. live for others
You are God’s workmanship created to do what God has ordained for you to do
So it’s not that you are sent out in general. there are particular things, people for you to help. You have been shaped to be the instrument for healing that certain people or situations need. It’s Not just your joys but also your sorrows, your age, gender, ethnicity, gift mix, all your experiences put together means that God has shaped so that there are some hands that only you can hold, some needs that only you can meet, some demons out there that only you can drive out.
there’s certain people that God has prepared for you to be the healing agent of God’s grace in their lives.
This is utterly differnt to the reigning worldview that biological life is just here by accident you’re not here for any purpose. Heidigger called it ‘thrownness’ You’ve just been thrown into the world. There’s no meaning, no purpose, no point.
But Jesus says no, not thrownness but sentness is the mark of your life
i send you
everyone has a mission
it’s an urgent mission vv3-4. there will be risk and vulnerability. prayer and dependence is needed.
but we also go with a power and authority vv5-6 as Jesus’ messengers to convey or withold the message of God’s blessing and peace in a tangible way
disciples represent Jesus and therefore:
to reject disciples IS to reject Jesus. very serious as the woes of mourning vv12-15 demonstrate
sent on a mision
2. everyone has a message
v16 ‘Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me;
every disciple is given a message that they are to publicly communicate and urge others to believe it.
now this is the hot issue in our society isn’t it. overt in media
people say this is my only prob with xians
it’s ok that they believe in jesus but they should not try and convert other people
it’s ok that they believe and that they say that they have joy and peace but they should NOT say to other people that they should believe it too. saying this is right this is true, you must believe. that’s so superior, that’s dangerous. keep it to yourself.
but there’s a problem with that problem
first there’s a problem from the christian side
Jesus sends us out to communicate what he calls elsewhere ‘the gospel’
what is that? why was this word chosen to express the christian message?
well, it has a v specific meaning. ‘gospel’ was news of an objective history changing event which changes everybody’s situation. so from ancient antiquity we have a document in greek which goes like this “this is the beginning of the gospel of Caesar Augustus”
What? That’s what the word gospel meant. The gospel of CA was a declaration that he had ascended the throne. Taken out by heralds everywhere. News of a major history changing event that affects everybody.
Another famous example form AD490 the battle of marathon. The athenian army went out on the plains of Marathon to battle against the Persians. Everyone expected the Persians to win and that Athens would subsequently fall. The city was on the verge of desperate anarchy - people preparing to flee for their lives. But incredibly the Athenians won - and as soon as they did they realised that they urgently needed to communicate the gospel. So they sent a single runner to run the 26 and a bit miles from Marathon to Athens to calm the panicking despairing people. The runner raninto the city and all he was able to do was cry out ‘Rejoice, we’ve triumphed” before he fell down dead.
when JC said - go and proclaim my ‘gospel’ to every creature under heaven
do you see what he is claiming? you get a hint of it in v18 when he says ‘I saw satan fall from heaven’
He’s claiming again as he claims on virtually every page of the NT - i was there.. before the creation of the world; before the universe existed, I AM.. I am the uncreated, eternal, second person of the triune God! I am God! The kingdom of God is near..
If Jesus is just a prophet and he had some teaching about God - that’s advice and you could say the message of JC is advice. Heres how you can live, pray, know God and you could say ‘hmm shall i take this advice or not? fine for you not for me thanks.. ‘
But if JC is God. If he saw Satan fall like lightning. If he has come to save us to restore us to God. The his birth into our world is Gospel. The history changing momentous event which changes everybody’s situation. And you have to know about it otherwise history is going to leave you behind.
To not convey this gospel is cruelty.
Like having the cure to cancer and keeping it for yourself and your family and friends. That would be outrageous. To not convey is wicked - and notice i use the word convey deliberately because to run into the street to shout in peoples’ faces may well do the very opposite than convey the Kingdom of heaven is near. How? how do we truly communicate this world changing news when people are so suspicious???
But that’s the problem from the Christian side to being told that we shouldn’t try and persuade others to believe. It’s not just advice - it’s gospel
But there’s also a problem from the Non-Christian side with telling Christians it’s ok to believe in Jesus but you shouldn’t try to convert anyone; you shouldn’t claim that you have the truth.
Because when a person says that. what they’re really saying is that you shouldn’t believe in Jesus. He can’t be the unique God. He isn’t.
what they’re really saying is: YOU have to abandon your view of the universe (that Jesus is God) in favour of my view of the universe (That he is not). And i want to say, OK but how is that any less narrow than me saying to you I want to persuade you to abandon your view of the universe in favour of mine!
The point is we all have our exclusive convictions. everyone is proselytising for their view of the universe. To say ‘stop it’ is to do it.
We as a culture are rightly trying to deal with the superiority, the anger, the violence, the disunity that absolute religious truth claims can create. But The solution of saying ‘everyone can believe what they want to believe but no-one is allowed to claim they have the truth and seek to persuade others’ - is itself an exclusive truth claim. It is ONE view of the universe that trumps and silences all others - doing exactly that which it seeks to outlaw. And that at best is disingenuous at worst it is dishonest - and it doesn’t work. To silence people from talking just drives us further apart.
So how then do we deal with our differences, how do we deal with absolute truth claims that are hurting the world?
how do you make sure that a claim to truth is not destructive?
Jesus does not ignore the problem, he says it has to do you with your
17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’
18 He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Of course my gospel is going to give you that power
But then 20 However, he says do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, I don’t like your motivation. I don’t like what is driving your ministry. instead rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’
there’s a kind of motivation that is bad and one that is good
don’t rejoice that the spirit’s submit to you
why not? why not rejoice in that liberation for people. people being healed..
look carefully - they’re not excited about having liberated people. did they say wow lord we’ve helped people, people are free, husbands and wives are back together, children are helped
they don’t say that, they say wow, we’re really something, even demons submit TO US!
to really understand their motivation you have to look at second clause
what does it mean to have your name written before printing?
every town had a town roll - like a census
but only citizens would have their name there. only a person of substance, nobility ..only the powerful had their name written - that was to be a somebody - everybody else they were slaves, servants, artisans nobodies
Jesus says. You’re looking for a sense of self, of substance. But i don’t want you to get your sense of self, your sense that you’re a somebody from power: your gifts, your accomplishments, your achievements, yourself - that’s going to lead to the same thing that made satan fall - pride.
people who rejoice in their ministry; their performance. who say i’m somebody because i’m helping people, theyre listening to me…
…first of all you’re going to be coercive and manipulative towards those people who are believing you because they’re like your trophies, they’re how you know you’re somebody
…but also you are going to be death on the people who reject you because when people reject you they reject your very somebodyness your very self, who you are!
when your self image is based on your performance and people reject you you say things like “lord shall we call down fire on those unbelievers??”
this is the thing the world sees happening with people who have exclusive religious truth claims and they’re scared of it and they should be scared of it and they’re repulsed by it and they should be!
and Jesus begins to see it happening in this group of people and he sys
rejoice not that you’ve got all this power, rejoice not in your performance …. i’ve got a better way … but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’
what’s that mean?
In the Ancient world the belief was that when you die and face divine judgement in heaven the books would be opened - the divine accounts ledgers - and if your good deeds outweighed your bad (that’s what religion is) then your name would be written into the book of life.
And Jesus Christ says let me tell you what the gospel of grace is and means - the gospel means that your names ARE written in heaven. Already written down. Past tense - are written. How? My life is not over yet.. Not all the accounts are in. How do I know if i’ve done enough??
The gospel says you’re already in, you’re already accepted..
It’s a like going to a classy restaurant in the West End.
You meet the Maitre D at the door, he says Yes??
and you say ‘I think my name is …’
And the Maitre D says ‘Yes, yes it is …come this way’
He ushers you through …into the opulent restaurant to your table
Your name has been written. Rejoice in that unshifting grace
How can it be?
When God, at great cost, rescued his people from Egypt. He sent Moses up the mountain to receive the ten commandments. And when Moses returned back down the mountain the people were already worshipping idols! They’d already cheated on God. And Moses says to God - if you are going to blot them out of the book, blot my name out instead. Let me take the rap for them. And God says I will blot them from my book but now you continue to lead them. How can God blot our names and yet continue to bless us? Because Jesus achieved what Moses offered but could not actually have achieved. Jesus took our sins and was blotted from the book of life for us. So that our names may be written in.
And they are written in. We are saved. We are secure. We are in the clear forever! Rejoice not in your brief successes, achievements, strengths ..Rejoice not in POWER , Rejoice in Grace.
And it’s this motivation that enables Christians to regard and speak to others in a way that is full of peace and humilty, honour and respect. To be agents of peace in our diverse world. We are NOT morally, spiritually superior. Christians are not better people, or even necesarily good people, we’re forgiven people. We would expect therefore to find morally better people who are of other religions and no religion. In the final analysis we’re really not superior. We’ve stumbled upon grace. That we are asked to share.