We’ve been in the book of Luke for several months now, and have about 5 weeks yet before we take a break and move into a different series for the summer.
But before we dive into chapter 10 today, I want to point out that we are at a major transition here in Luke. Actually there are 3 major transitions happening.
- In Luke 9:51 Jesus determines to travel to Jerusalem. Not that he’s never been there and he can’t wait to go see it, but in the past he’s been there for major Jewish festivals. This time he’s headed there to die, to be raised back to life, and to ascend to heaven. Up to this point, most of Jesus’ ministry has taken place in the area North of the Sea of Galilee.
- So I don’t want to assume you know where Israel is on the map, but it’s a tiny sliver of a country right on the east side of the Mediterranean Sea.
- Then go to the next slide and we zoom in on that sliver a little bit.
- Jesus has been spending his time in small villages and towns in the northern part of the country. And now transition number 1 is that he’s leaving Galilee and headed south to Jerusalem for the last time.
- The second transition is that so far, Luke has been showing us what Jesus DID. To this point, Luke shows Jesus speaking in synagogues, healing the physically sick and the spiritually sick, raising a few people from death. He’s had a few run-ins with religious people, but not many. He’s interacted with the lowly, the outcast, even the Romans.
- But now, Luke transitions to what Jesus said. If you have a bible where the words of Jesus are in red print, you’ll notice that from chapter 10 through chapter 21, it’s mostly red ink.
- We will hear lots of parables about the kingdom, we’ll hear Jesus’ warnings about pursuing religion for the sake of show. We’ll hear Jesus talk about interpreting the time and looking for the return of the Master. He’ll say more about the cost of following him, and what the values of the kingdom really are. And we’ll also hear a lot about his heart for sinners, and for the very people who would reject him.
- The third shift is that instead of having the disciples follow him everywhere he goes, observing what he’s doing, he is now asking them to participate. Chapter 9, he sent out 12. Now in Chapter 10, he sends out a lot more.
Speaking of trips, last summer, my family took the trip we’d been dreaming about for several years… three weeks traveling out west, hitting some of the major National Parks. And while the people who know us best can vouch for the fact that we are not the world’s best planners, we are closer to the other end of that spectrum, we did have to plan out a few things. One of which was we took a much larger van than our own, and pulled a small trailer with all of our stuff in it. All our suitcases of clothes, our camping gear – tents, cooking supplies, coolers of food, etc – swimming stuff, hiking stuff, it was all there in the trailer. Then there was Jodi looking at Priceline while I was driving to find hotels to stay in. The point is, we knew we were headed on a long trip and so we prepared for the trip.
When Jesus started this trip to Jerusalem in 9:51, he would have been about 80 miles north. If you are one of those people who like to count your steps with your Apple Watch or FitBit, that is around 175-200,000 steps. You’re looking at a 3-4 day trip if you’re walking 5-6 hours a day.
So this trip isn’t one you take lightly. This is one you plan for. He’s got quite an entourage that follows him now, so you’re planning ahead for meals and places to stay for maybe 2-3 dozen people. Since he didn’t have TripAdvisor or Priceline or Kayak or any of those websites, he sent people ahead to get ready for his arrival.
So, verse 1, After this, the Lord appointed seventy-two others, and he sent them ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself was about to go. He sent them ahead of him to all the towns and villages he would stop at along the way to Jerusalem to make preparations. Then a few days later, Jesus and his entourage would arrive.
So this whole process is going to take some time. But it’s pretty clear in the next couple of verses that this mission is about more than just booking rooms and lining up meals.  He told them, "The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.  Now go; I'm sending you out like lambs among wolves.
We’ve only heard one parable from Jesus in the whole book of Luke so far, and it’s the parable of the sower, or the planter. In that parable, Jesus was the planter. The seed is the Word of God. People are either those who outright reject the word of God or those who listen at first but let the cares of the world take over. Or, the seeds that grew and produced a harvest, were the seeds that fell into the good soil of an honest and good heart, that hold onto the word of God with endurance. And Jesus is telling his disciples that the harvest is abundant.
The Importance of Prayer
When Jesus chose 12 disciples, it symbolized a new Israel, matching the 12 tribes that came out of Egypt. Equally significant is the number 72 that points to the list of all the Nations of the earth found in Genesis 10. So in choosing 72 disciples to go, Jesus is helping us make the connection that this message is not just for Israel – it is for the nations, and if that’s the case, 72 disciples isn’t enough. We’re going to need to pray for ourselves that we don’t get discouraged and fearful as lambs among wolves, but also that God sends more workers.
I believe that is still the call for the church today. There are a great many souls who still have not heard the good news. Yes, there are many who are as hostile as wolves when it comes to the word of God, but there are many who want the gospel. “Who want purpose and meaning and significance in their lives. They might not know what is causing the aching and longing in their hearts, or how to identify it, but they are ready to hear that Jesus is the answer” (LMW, 200).
Maybe the church in America has become so accustomed to using Google that we figure, eh, if someone really wants to know about Jesus they can google it. But we must continue to pray that God raises up and sends out church planters, missionaries, missional businessmen and women, teachers, students, nurses, etc, who can carry the message of hope with urgency.
Raising the Bar
Jesus did not promise the task would be easy (Butler, 168), in fact, as we saw last week, it means leaving family obligations and burning the backup plan. It means facing possible hostility. On top of that, Jesus raises the bar even more –  Don't carry a money-bag, traveling bag, or sandals; don't even greet anyone along the road.
No van. No donkeys. No trailer. No extra blankets or suitcases. Don’t stop at the bank to load up on cash – just go as you are. When you pass people on the road, just a quick “hi” and keep walking. You have a mission to fulfill and time can’t be wasted with unnecessary conversation about the weather.
The main concern these disciples must have is the same reality for us as followers of Jesus today: They must trust God. Our focus is not meant to be the things of this world (do I have enough money, do I have enough clothes, is my family going to be okay).
Jesus said in another place, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things (clothes, food, shelter, etc) will be provided for you.” Disciples of Jesus must not allow the things of this world to have more influence on how they live than the things of God! That’s how it looks on the road. Here’s how it looks when you get to the town assigned to you:
Peace to this household
 Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this household.'  If a person of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you.
This word Peace is the word “Shalom.” It is to “pray that God will bring wholeness and blessing and harmony to the house” (Butler, 168). If the person who hears your greeting is a person of peace, if they receive that blessing well and invite you in, that’s where you are to stay.
Remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they offer, for the worker is worthy of his wages. Don’t move from house to house.  When you enter any town, and they welcome you, eat the things set before you.  Heal the sick who are there, and tell them, 'The kingdom of God has come near you.'
This again is an act of trust for the disciples. If they welcome you in, go on in. When they offer you food or drink, don’t feel bad accepting it – that’s my way of providing for you. But again, you need to keep focused on the mission. If you don’t like the food, don’t get up and go next door. If you don’t like the room they have you in, don’t get up and go to another house looking for something better.
I don’t know if any of you are like me, but I think sweet potatoes are a result of the fall of Adam and Eve. It is a deception from the enemy. It is some other orange food masquerading as a potato, and what’s sad is that even people who have been Christians for a long time are falling for it.
But the point is, if I’m a disciple and you have welcomed me into your house and you serve me sweet potatoes, eat the sweet potatoes. For Jesus to say “eat whatever they give you” is to say, even if you get welcomed into a Gentile home, a non-Jewish home, and they spend all afternoon grilling pork chops - eat the pork chops.
Why? Because the fact that I’m called on a mission to represent Jesus does not entitle me to a life of comfort and luxury. Instead it’s about proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven is not some far off abstract concept – it is real, and it is close – close to you! In fact, by the host receiving the blessing of shalom and welcoming the stranger, and the guest returning the welcome by receiving their hospitality with gratitude, by praying for the sick and seeing God’s power to heal, you are already participating in the kingdom!
On the other hand...
 When you enter any town, and they don't welcome you, go out into its streets and say,  'We are wiping off even the dust of your town that clings to our feet as a witness against you. Know this for certain: The kingdom of God has come near.'  I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.  "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.  But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.  And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will go down to Hades.
There are two kinds of towns listed here:
Unbelievers who reject the message: The towns of Sodom, Tyre, and Sidon were pagan cities that God sent judgment on because of their sin. Prophets warned them of the coming judgment unless they repent, and they flatly refused. The reality is that as you present the good news, some people won’t attack you or even make fun of you. They might just say, “well that’s great that you’ve found something to give you peace, but it’s not for me”; or, “well that’s all well and good, Jesus sounds like a great guy, but I don’t see how that matters to me to say,” or just a flat out, “no I’m not interested, leave me alone.” Others might be more hostile, but there will be those who, when they first hear the message, reject it.
- Some people will say all roads, all religions lead to the same place… well, in a sense you’re right, if by “the same place” you mean the judgment seat of Christ. We all will end up there, either to be welcomed into eternal life or condemned to eternal judgment. To hear about Jesus and say no thanks is to be this close to the kingdom and not see it.
- Jesus’ instruction is: If they reject the kingdom by rejecting your message, you don’t force the issue, you walk away and shake the dust off as a witness that God is giving you what you want, and there are consequences that will follow.
Professing believers who reject the message. Jesus calls out a couple of cities where he spent a lot of time. Chorazin and Bethsaida are Jewish communities. They professed themselves as people of God. They loved the miracles. Benefited from them. Rejoiced in them. But when it came to the person of Jesus, they didn’t attack him or threaten him – they ignored him. They only said they were people of God. They saw the works, heard his words, and it didn’t change them. They professed belief in God, but refused Jesus. They will be under greater judgment than those who never heard the message.
- And then there is Capernaum, the city that had more of Jesus’ ministry than any other city. Will you be exalted to heaven just because Jesus did more miracles there than anywhere else? Will you go to heaven just because you grew up in church? Because your parents were missionaries? No – They would receive the greatest judgment of all, hell itself, because they had a constant front row to Jesus and still refused to acknowledge their sins and repent.
So that’s the mission trip 72 disciples are sent out to complete. Luke doesn’t really tell us anything about the actual trip, other than that they return in verse 17, look at this: with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name."
Isn’t that something? They went on a probably 4-5 day road trip without money, extra clothes, or sandals, knowing they were probably going to face hostility along the way – and they came back full of joy!
Church, how much joy are we missing because we spend more time complaining about what we don’t have than rejoicing in what we have in Christ? How much joy have we missed out on in our lives by wanting to make sure we have all the details figured out before we actually follow Jesus? How much joy have we missed out on by not trusting God to actually take care of us like he said he would?
The disciples went out in nothing but the power of God, and it worked! He was actually with them! They went out in prayer as lambs among wolves, and found that the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world was with them, and the most powerful and dangerous wolves of all listened to them and came out of people in Jesus name! They went out without wallets or extra clothes or extra food and found all of their needs were met! They are under no sort of idea that any of this was in their own strength - that’s why they are fired up!
Jesus replied: … "I watched Satan fall from heaven like lightning.  Look, I have given you the authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy; nothing at all will harm you.  However, don't rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
Oh, man. Church, I wish I had four hours today to run this all the way out, but all the way back in Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve’s sin that brought death and corruption into the world, helped along by the deception and lies of the serpent, there in Genesis 3:15, God promised that one day the offspring of the woman (a human) would crush the head of the serpent.
And here Jesus is telling his disciples when you participate with Jesus in the gospel proclamation, you are participating in the story of redemption, where ordinary people are living in the power of God, and the deceptive schemes of the devil and the world, and the head of that ancient serpent, Satan, the accuser are crushed! But Jesus said, oh, don’t say “amen” to that – rejoice that your names are written in heaven!
The real basis for joy in your life is not what you’re able to do; the real basis for joy in your life is what has been done for you. “The great[est] privilege of a believer is not his or her work and ministry, but the fact that he or she is a child of God and has been given eternal life” (LMW, 207).
So first, this is the mind-blowing glorious mystery of Christ in you, that lambs (not lions or tigers or elephants) but lambs, would go on mission, crushing the heads of poisonous snakes and having wolves submit to them! You’d expect that momma to chase off a wolf, but not the little ones.
He Knows My Name
And secondly, if you are in Christ, your name is written in heaven! He knows your name! You’re not a nameless face in the effort. It doesn’t say your social security number is written in heaven. The Lord of the harvest knows your name, knows how many hairs are on your head, knows the things that keep you up at night, knows your weaknesses and where you’ve failed before – he knows that sin you keep going back to and he knows the reason you are tired today. He knows your past with all of its baggage and pain, and he knows your future with all of its glory. He knows exactly what you need today and tomorrow and the day after that, and your name is registered in heaven, the very place Satan fell from.
Can't Touch This
Which means what? In the victory that Christ accomplished, there is no power of darkness that can touch you! Church, the whole point of this section is that we don’t have to be afraid to be followers of Jesus in a world that is currently under the power of Satan! Jesus said, sure, you’re going to have trouble in this world, but take heart – I have overcome the world!
And when Jesus sees his followers willingly trusting God even when it doesn’t make sense, like what we just read right here in the gospel of Luke, Jesus does something that isn’t recorded anywhere else in all the gospels. He rejoices. That word in verse 21 “rejoiced” is too weak to capture how Jesus feels. It’s like saying the Highland Huskies football team rejoiced that they were going to the state playoffs. Sure, it’s technically rejoicing, but it’s a victorious celebration of joy.
 At that time he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to infants (Lambs). Yes, Father, because this was your good pleasure.
Joy Comes in the Morning
“Satan may continue to work in this world, but his ultimate defeat is assured through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Satan has no place in heaven and no more power for victory. Where Jesus’ followers trust him wholeheartedly in whatever he has called them to, the demons submit and the kingdom is at hand. Temptation, suffering, rejection—even the death symbolized by the cross—may come against Christ’s followers. But in the final hour, Christ is the victorious judge who rules over the world, judging evil and rewarding his faithful cross-bearing disciples” (Butler, 170).
- You don’t have to live in fear. The word pictures of wolves and poisonous snakes and scorpions is this picture of those things that usually produce fear. Satan is real and very powerful, evil spirits are active in the world, but they cannot act outside of God’s permission. God may decide to remove his hand of restraint on evil and we may face violent persecution and physical pain, but your position in Christ is never in jeopardy.
- You don’t have to live in sin. Jesus has given his disciples power over all evil. Sometimes the wrong we do isn’t because demons are goading us. James 4:1 tells us that while we are on guard against the evil that’s out there in the world, we also need to be on guard against the evil in our own hearts. Though we are lambs, with no strength of our own to crush serpents, with Christ in us we don’t have to give in to the natural desires of our sinful flesh. We can say no to the sin that so quickly can take over, in the forms of anger and pride and lust and jealousy and greed and laziness and discontentment and entitlement. Jesus has paid for our redemption, and so we have the power to say no to every temptation, and we have the gift of repentance for when we ignore the gospel and choose to sin again.
- If there is one thing we can learn from these disciples, Even if everything else you have is taken away from you – money, clothes, house, hobbies, friends, jobs, cars, reputation, spouse gone, kids gone – and the only thing you had left was Jesus, you would still have everything, and be overflowing with joy.
This fearless discipleship isn’t free. Jesus paid for it with his own life, his death, his resurrection, and ascension. Stand with me and we’ll sing of the price he paid.
Leadership Ministries Worldwide (LMW), The Gospel according to Luke, The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible (Chattanooga, TN: Leadership Ministries Worldwide, 1996).
Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51–24:53, vol. 2, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996)
Walter L. Liefeld, “Luke,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984)
Trent C. Butler, Luke, vol. 3, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000)
R.C. Sproul, A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1999)