************ Sermon on Luke 10:2 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 14, 2010
"The Most Important Job on Earth"
One of the large oil companies needed a public relations office for their work in the Far East. They asked a missionary to take over the post, offering a salary that was considerably larger than that which the church was able to pay, but he turned it down. The company officials met, and because they felt this missionary had unusual gifts in the field of public relations, they increased the salary offer to a point where it would be very difficult to say, "No." But again the missionary refused. "What's wrong?" the official asked. "Isn't the salary big enough?" The reply was simple, yet direct: "The salary is big enough, but the job isn't."
Do you know what job is big enough? Do you know the biggest job on earth? Do you know the most important job on earth? With apologies to most of you, it is not milking cows, fixing cars, selling insurance, educating children, investing money, preparing meals, growing fruit and nuts, raising hay, nursing the sick, working in a lab, repairing computers, or balancing books. As we begin Mission Emphasis, I want to remind you that the biggest and most important job on earth is preaching the Gospel.
I Their Appointment
A What do we see in our Scripture reading? We see Jesus on his way to Jerusalem to suffer and die (Lk 9:51). There are many towns and villages on the way. So what does Jesus do?
(Lk 10:1) ... 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.
Who were the seventy-two? We aren't told. Luke makes them anonymous – nameless and faceless. Obviously, they were followers of Jesus. They heard the Lord's teachings. They saw His miracles. They knew about Jesus' rejection by Samaria and Korazin and Bethsaida. We can only conclude that they represent the ordinary follower of Jesus.
We notice that the seventy-two were "appointed." The word for "appointed" was often used in classical Greek for a soldier assigned to his post or an official to his office. Likewise, the seventy-two were appointed. Theirs was a job, a calling, a task.
We also notice that it was Jesus Who appointed them. Their appointment was from the Lord. He appointed them. He called them. He gave them their marching orders. Theirs was a job, a calling, a task, from the Lord Himself.
B Why does Scripture use the word "others?" The Lord, we are told, appointed seventy-two "others." Who else has Jesus appointed? Go back one chapter, and we see there the appointment of the Twelve (Lk 9:1-9). Jesus uses almost identical language with the seventy-two as He used with the Twelve. The Twelve, however, were sent into the villages and towns of Galilee whereas the seventy-two were sent into the villages and towns of Judea.
What message do you think this gave to the Twelve and to the seventy-two? Do you think the Twelve might have had illusions of grandeur? Do you think the Twelve might have had feelings of pride and superiority? Do you think the Twelve might have thought they alone were to be trusted with the news of the Gospel? After all, they were the Twelve!
I ask this because of what we read part way through Luke 9. Luke writes, "An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest" (Lk 9:46). Not only were they jealous about their own position in the group, they were also jealous about their position as a group:
(Lk 9:49-50) "Master," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us." (50) "Do not stop him," Jesus said, "for whoever is not against you is for you."
To drive the point home that it isn't only the Twelve who can act in Jesus' name, to drive the point home that others can also act in Jesus' name and preach the Kingdom of God, what did Jesus do? Jesus "appointed seventy-two others" (Lk 10:1).
The church, today, needs to hear this. Too often, we think witnessing and evangelism and missions is something to be done by a select few – like ministers and missionaries. But it isn't. The Lord uses more than the Twelve. The Lord uses more than the seventy-two. The Lord uses the Apostle Paul, Barnabas, Mark, Timothy, Priscilla, Aquila, Phoebe, you, and me. Read the list of names at the end of Romans 16 sometime – all of them, fellow-workers with Paul. Does this list include you? Have you ever told anyone about Jesus?
The biggest and most important job on earth is not meant for only a chosen few. This is one of the reasons I am thankful for the Gideons. The Gideons follow two practices of interest to us. First, it is lay-people who present the Gospel. Second, ministers are excluded; ministers are not allowed to be members. This stresses what Jesus stresses – that the most important job on earth is not meant for only a chosen few.
C What was the office or assignment of the seventy-two? They were not called "apostles" but Jesus "sent" them (Greek: "apostello") just like they were "apostles." They were sent ahead of Jesus to represent the Lord. They were Christ's ambassadors sent to prepare the way for Him. They were Christ's witnesses.
Why seventy-two witnesses? Why not sixty or eighty or twenty? Why seventy-two? Before I explain the meaning, let me alert you to a foot-note at the bottom of the page; it informs us that some Greek manuscripts say "seventy" rather than seventy-two; for our purposes, seventy or seventy-two mean the same thing.
So, what is significant about seventy or seventy plus two? Everyone who knows the Old Testament will recognize this number. Look at the list of nations in Genesis 10 sometimes. How many nations are listed there? Seventy. Seventy witnesses for seventy nations. Telling us what? Telling us about the universality of the Gospel message. Telling us that the Gospel message is meant for every nation under heaven. Telling us that the message about Jesus and from Jesus is to be proclaimed to all of the earth. Look at the flags on the stage – representing the nations to which we send missionaries, reminding us that we send missionaries to the ends of the earth.
Why did Jesus send them "two by two"? Don't forget, they were Christ's witnesses. They testified to Jesus: what He did, what He taught, Who He was. They gave testimony. Now tell me, in both the Old and New Testaments, how many witnesses are required to establish that testimony is reliable? Let me tell you: two or three (Deut 17:6; Mt 18:16; 2 Cor 13:1; Heb 10:28). So, when Jesus sent out the seventy plus two, how did He send them? Did He send them out alone? Absolutely not! Jesus sent them out in groups of two as witnesses. In the courtroom of Judea's towns and villages, there were always two witnesses to Jesus. This way, everyone knew the testimony, the witness, was reliable and true and trustworthy and dependable.
D The seventy plus two, then, had a message for the nations – even though they confined themselves to the towns and villages of Judea. They were Christ's witnesses. They proclaimed what they had "seen and heard" (Acts 4:20).
So, then, what was their message? That "The kingdom of God is near you" (Lk 10:9). How do they know for sure the Kingdom of God is near? Look at the signs of its presence, all the mighty works that are being done: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor (cf Lk 7:22-23).
Do you remember what Jesus said about the King of the Kingdom just before He sent out the seventy plus two? Jesus told them, "the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life" (Lk 9:22). Don't forget the setting: Jesus sends out the seventy plus two as He makes His way to Jerusalem in order to suffer and die.
The seventy plus two, we would have to say, were given the most important job on earth.
II Their Appointment Explained
A After He appointed the seventy plus two as His witnesses, Jesus instructed them on what to expect. We notice four things. Jesus told them their calling was difficult, their calling was dangerous, their calling was urgent, and their calling had eternal consequences.
The first thing we notice is that Jesus did not give the seventy plus two an easy calling. It wasn't a stroll in the park that He gave them. Their calling was difficult.
(Lk 10:2) He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few."Do you hear the comparison? Jesus compares the calling of the seventy plus two to a harvest. Jesus is thinking of the grain harvest. I doubt if anyone here gives even a thought to how we harvest grain. The farmer simply drives his combine into the field, engages the proper gears, and drives up and down. His only concern in the whole process is to empty the hopper before it gets too full.
In the Ancient World, however, there were no combines or threshing machines; everything was done by hand. Grain was pulled up by the roots or cut with sickles (Deut. 16:9). The harvested sheaves were spread out on a threshing-floor, and the stalk, chaff, and grain were cut apart by animal hooves (Deut 25:4), the beating of sticks (Ruth 2:17), or threshing sledges (Isa. 41:15).
The grain was then separated from the chaff by winnowing (Is 41:16). In its simplest form, it involves throwing the mixture into the air so that the wind blows away the lighter chaff, while the heavier grains fall to the floor.
The finished product was then bagged, hauled away for storage or sale, and the chaff was burned (Mt 3:12).
After a bumper crop, the threshing and winnowing process could last all summer. What a lot of work. What a lot of back-breaking work. What a lot of hard work. Especially if there are not enough workers.
This is what Jesus has in mind in our passage. There is a bumper crop. But there are not enough workers.
Now, let me ask you: What is 750,000 miles long, reaches around the earth 30 times, and grows 20 miles longer each day? Answer: The line of people who are without Christ. The harvest truly is plentiful. Or, consider this.
-- Pulpit Helps
Nelson Price, pastor of the Roswell Street Baptist Church in Cobb County Georgia wanted to place his church's television ministry into the most unchurched counties in America. He contacted the Research Department of his denomination and asked them to give him a list of the most unchurched counties in the land. To his utter astonishment one of those counties was Cobb County Georgia, the county his church was located in!
- Dr. Edwin L. Cliburn
Yes, my brothers and sisters, there is a bumper crop out there waiting to be harvested. We are not just talking about overseas. We are not just talking about Big Springs. We are not just talking about Fresno. We are also talking about Tulare County. "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few" (Lk 10:2). The most important job on earth is difficult because it is so big and there are not enough workers.
B The second thing we notice is that their calling was dangerous. Jesus said, "Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves" (Lk 10:3). What do wolves do with lambs? Do they think, "how cute, how cuddly, how nice"? Of course not? They think: food, devour, lamb chops, supper!
The most important job on earth is dangerous. After all, as verse 17 indicates, they were invading enemy territory when they cast out demons and evil spirits. I've mentioned before that every one of the Twelve apostles, except for John, died a martyr's death.
Some of you, I am sure, have seen the movie "Martryed: The Story of Chet Bitterman."
Chet was a Wycliffe Bible translator in Bogata, Columbia. He and his family learned first-hand the danger of doing God's work and being Christ's witnesses.
On January 19, 1981, 7 armed terrorists burst into the Wycliffe office and took Chet captive for 7 weeks until they shot him in the head.
Throughout the ordeal, Chet showed care for his kidnappers, concern for his family, and true faithfulness to his Lord.
The world hates and often attacks those who point out sin and proclaims that Jesus is the only way. The most important job on earth is dangerous.
C The third thing we notice is that their calling was urgent. "Do not take a purse or bag or sandals" (Lk 10:4). Their calling to proclaim the Gospel is so urgent that they cannot be distracted by supplies and stuff. Furthermore, "do not greet anyone on the road" (Lk 10:4). Though, in that time and place, it was offensive to withhold greetings, Jesus told them their calling was too urgent to waste time on niceties – especially since greetings in that culture often were tedious and complicated. Back then, no matter how urgent the business, when an acquaintance is met, the traveler must stop and make an endless number of inquiries, and answer as many. If they come upon men making a bargain, or discussing any other matter, they must pause and throw in their own two-cents worth, though it is of no concern to them. Forget doing this kind of stuff, says Jesus. Because the most important job on earth is urgent.
D The last thing we notice is that their calling has eternal consequences. "He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me" (Lk 10:16).
Jesus mentions three towns in Galilee that rejected Him, His message, and His ministry: Korazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum (Lk 10:13, 15). He compares these towns unfavorably to three ancient cities: Sodom, Tyre, and Sidon (Lk 10:12, 14). Among the Jewish prophets and people, Sodom was the epitome of sin; no city was considered more wicked than Sodom. As for Tyre and Sidon, they were viewed as chiefly pagan cities. Jesus says it will be more tolerable for these three pagan cities on the day of Judgment than it will be for Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. Why? Because those pagan cities would have repented if they saw the signs of the Kingdom.
It is a serious thing, an awful thing, to reject the messengers sent by Jesus. To do this has eternal consequences. That's why this is the most important job on earth.
If we reduced our world into a village of 1,000 people, we would find 564 Asians, 210 Europeans, 80 South Americans, and 60 North Americans. Religiously, there would be 300 Christians, 175 Muslims, 128 Hindus, 55 Buddhists, and 47 Animists. Obviously there is still plenty of work to be done by Christian missionaries. As I already said, the job is difficult. It is dangerous. It is urgent. It has eternal consequences. But it is not impossible. Why not? Because someone else is in charge.
Consider, again, the harvest image. And think, for example, of the barley field of Boaz – the man who ended up marrying Ruth. Who makes the decision of when to harvest? Who sends the workers into the field? Who determines the need for additional workers and hires them? All of these are the responsibility of Boaz.
Jesus mentions the "Lord of the harvest" (Lk 10:2). This is the person who makes the decisions about harvest-time, sending out the workers, hiring extra workers, and so on. The "Lord of the harvest," of course, is Jesus. He is the One in control. He is the One Who blesses the seed, the sower, the sun and rain, and the harvester so that a bumper crop may be harvested.
What are we supposed to do? One word. Pray, says Jesus. "Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field" (Lk 10:2). But notice how we are to pray. We are not to pray for an easier job, a safer job, a less urgent job. We are to pray, instead, for more workers. Why? Because there is a bumper crop out there waiting to be harvested. "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few" (Lk 10:2). The most important job on earth is difficult, dangerous, urgent, and has eternal consequences. "Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field" (Lk 10:2).
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