(A) Introduction. Read: Luke10v1to24

This phase of Christ's ministry east of the Jordan in Perea seems remote both in time and experience. The passage has not inspired a great many sermons and at first reading did not appeal much to me. However, on reflection, I realised it did provide guidance for service in the 21st century. This exposition is rather long and could form the basis of at least two sermons but in this instance I am going to defer to the essential unity of the passage.

(B) The nature of the work Jesus wanted the 72 to do.

The 72 were forerunners or promoters. They were told to prepare the way for Jesus: After this 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. Lk10v1. Their task was to make Jesus known. They did this in two ways:

(1) Heal the sick who are there .. v9. This was an important means of getting the public's attention, winning sympathy for Jesus and creating a real anticipation of his coming. If the promoters could do such great things how much more might the main man do!

(2) And tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you.' To put it simply and in a way that is understandable today, Jesus disciples were to announce, 'The king is coming.' Not only was he coming but he was also recruiting loyal subjects for his kingdom. The Messiah required men and women to commit to him.

Lessons: There remain two main ways of making Christ known:

(1) By providing practical help to people. In this way unbelievers see love in action. This week I visited Mrs Dorothy Boreham who is 98 years old. She reminisced about her childhood in the Suffolk village of Whepstead. Her mother, a widow, took in washing to provide for herself and her three daughters. When Dorothy was only 6 or 7 her eldest sister died of consumption. (TB) Dorothy said that the blacksmith's wife, a Mrs Kemp, used to visit her poor sister every day. She would invariably inquire whether there was anything she fancied to eat. Dorothy continued her story by saying, "Mrs Kemp had a family of her own but she always seemed able to provide what my sister asked for. I don't know how she did it. She were a real Christian." So she was! Mrs Kemp made Jesus known by her loving care of a dying 14-year-old girl.

(2) By word of mouth. There are a great army of men and women who teach Sunday school, run youth clubs, lead alpha courses, entertain their friends, work at Christian camps who do just that. Jesus is recommended by word of mouth in a great variety of different contexts. I have mentioned elsewhere on this website a young man who during a very dark period of his life remembered what his headmaster said in an assembly about Jesus: "If you are ever in real trouble - Jesus is there to help you." The young man in his despair just shouted out: "Jesus, Jesus, JESUS, JESUS." His cry was answered.

(C) Conditions of service.

Jesus outlines some of the things his servants must be and should expect:

(1) Plenty of overtime.

"The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into the harvest field. v2.

There is so much work to be done to make Christ known and there never seem enough to do it. Many churches are short of Sunday school teachers and in my own Association of Churches there is a chronic lack of pastors and an even greater paucity of evangelists. We need to pray for more workers - not shirkers, but workers. I admire several former pastors - long past retirement age - who have joined a local church to carry on serving Jesus in a variety of different ways - even if it is only helping out with the mothers and toddlers group or taking on the responsibility of church secretary.

(2) Opposition.

Jesus said: "For I am sending you out like lambs among wolves." v3.

It is not safe being a lamb among wolves! The disciples of Jesus would experience opposition from the same quarter as their Master. The religious leaders among the Jews crucified Jesus and then hounded his followers. Later when the Faith spread amongst the Gentiles both the adherents of pagan gods and the Roman authorities persecuted Christians.

It is very dangerous to make Christ known in some parts of the world today. Even in Britain there is growing hostility to Christianity. Recently the charity Relate sacked a Christian because he was not prepared to give sex counselling to homosexuals. You might have thought Relate would employ homosexuals to counsel homosexuals. This week the press has been full of the plight of a nurse suspended without pay by her local health authority for offering to pray for a patient. I think the nurse could have shown better judgement but nonetheless the draconian punishment suggests that her managers found Christianity profoundly distasteful! A growing number of Briton's find the mere mention of God or Jesus offensive. I think they are the ones suffering from a phobia!

(3) Single-minded.

Jesus instructed the 72: "Do not take purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road." v4.

Jesus expected his agents to be dedicated. There was no need for them to take any spending money. Jesus didn't want them prowling through the markets for bargains. They could leave their posh sandals for 'going out in' at home. Nobody was to be like Olive, the village gossip, who in my youth could make a visit to the local shop last all morning. Jesus wanted his representatives to concentrate on the task in hand free from distractions.

There is no doubt that we can waste a lot of time in life - time that could be better spent in Christian service. I have to admit there are days I feel guilty about the hours spent on leisure activities.

I suppose the only occasions in my life when I served Jesus single-mindedly were when I worked at a Christian camp. I never took to camp any novels to read, binoculars for bird watching, a lot of money or even an easy chair. For 12 days I, with others, concentrated on making Christ known to young people. Moreover, at those camps I witnessed many conversions.

I am sure that the one common feature of all the evangelists greatly used by God was their dedication. This is how F.W. Boreham concluded his essay on D.L. Moody in, 'Cliffs of Opal': In 1874, Mr Moody being then 37 wrote from Scotland to Major Whittle: 'I am doing just one thing. That is my motto: one thing. This one thing I do.' There lies the secret - a secret that appeared so obvious and unmistakable to all who heard him. He felt - every day, every hour, every moment - the unutterable preciousness of the meanest human soul. He felt - every day, every hour, every moment - the all-availing efficacy of the crucified Redeemer to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by Him. And therefore it became the most natural thing in the world for him to dedicate every day, every hour, every moment to the sublime task of bringing sinner and Saviour together.

(4) Goodwill.

Jesus impressed upon his servants the importance of goodwill when he told them: "When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.'" v52.

If we wish to make Christ known it is crucial to show goodwill towards those that we are trying to reach. It is counter productive to be aggressive, judgmental and arrogant in our dealings with non-Christians. It is very foolish to belittle those we disagree with whether they be Scientists or Muslims. If we are bitterly antagonistic to Muslims we will never make Jesus known to them. The apostle Paul had the right attitude when he wrote to the Corinthians: I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 1Cor9v22. (See exposition on 1Cor9v19to27)

(5) Accept help from others.

Jesus advised his co-workers: "If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, .... ." v7.

The people who provided hospitality for the 72 were participants in Christ's work.

I think it is important, as far as possible, to involve well-wishers in the work of Christ. My brother, Philip, has done this sort of thing for Brockley Cricket Club. He has been very good at getting the parents of the boys in our youth sections to participate in the running of the club. This has fostered a good team spirit. So I believe it is a good thing to get as many people as possible to help with the activities of the church - the youth club, holiday club and social events like a barbeque, picnic or outing. If people begin to feel they belong it should become easier for them to make a wholehearted commitment to Jesus.

During my time as a worker for Pioneer Camp the Skipper, my old friend Pastor John Skull, was never very fussy about the quality of Christians who volunteered their help. Perhaps that is why he accepted me! There was something for everybody to do!

(6) Be easy to get on with.

The seventy-two were told: "Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house."

The promoters of Jesus were not to complain about their meals and most certainly they were not to make any attempt to better their accommodation.

During a trip to Japan with my friend, Tommy Bamber, we depended upon the hospitality of some Japanese families. We were extremely grateful for everything we were given. We ate all the strange foods put before us including raw, fermented squid and salted plums. Tommy and I were very easy to get on with.

William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, on the other hand was not. In my exposition on the, 'Bruised Reed and Smoking Flax,' I wrote: This is what one lady said of her experience of entertaining the General. He sent detailed instructions a week before his arrival on how to prepare his meals. In making the toast, the bread should be cut tolerably thin and gradually toasted until it is dry and hard but not too crisp. On arrival William Booth virtually took over the management of the household. He demanded dinner at once and simply wolfed it, putting his knife in the salt and in his mouth. He next retired upstairs but didn't like the bedroom I had prepared as it was at the front of the house. So he took possession of the rose room .... . During the afternoon the fire must have annoyed the General in some way because he put it out by throwing water over the fire and hearth ... . Nearly all our doors had to be padded with dusters to prevent them banging and orders were sent down to shut the dog up.

Too many Christians are prickly, awkward, abrasive and off-putting. We need to be easy to get on with - humble, compliant and with no side. My old friend Gladys often told me of the first time she entertained my father on a visit to Brockley to preach. What particularly impressed her was that he shaved in the kitchen while she got the breakfast! My father had no side!

(7) Not be held responsible for failure.

If we make Christ known and fulfil the conditions outlined above then the people who spurn the invitation are the ones who will be held responsible - not us.

(a) In Christ's day.

Korazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum rejected Jesus notwithstanding the mighty works he performed in those places. John describes how Jesus' Galilean support dwindled after his discourse on the Bread of Heaven. (See my exposition on John6v25to59) The vast majority of Galileans were unwillingly to make an unconditional, personal commitment to him. They were fiercely nationalistic and wanted a Messiah who would break the power of Rome. As a consequence of their deeply ingrained belief that they were God's special people the Jews revolted once too often against the Romans and in 70AD their country was well and truly blitzed. The destruction experienced by towns like Capernaum was quite as bad as the devastation of Sodom and Gomorrah. According to Jesus, the Jews brought it on themselves!

(b) Today.

During the last 40 years Jesus has been faithfully made known to numerous young people in Britain by parents, Sunday school teachers and youth leaders. They have been invited to believe in Jesus and follow him. Many have counted the cost and refused. They must bear the awful consequences themselves. Jesus said: "He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me." v16. There is no hope for those that turn their back on God.

(8) Protection.

"I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you." v19.

Jesus promise: "Nothing will harm you" - does not altogether accord with our experience. Christians are involved in motor accidents, get raped and even murdered, succumb to diseases, suffer imprisonment and martyrdom. So what can Jesus mean?

I am very fond of John Bunyan's account in 'Pilgrims Progress' of poor Mr Little-faith's encounter with three sturdy rogues - Faint-heart, Mistrust and Guilt - in Deadman's-lane. They robbed Mr Little-faith of his money and Guilt struck him to the ground with a great club. But when Mr Little-faith came to himself - although much distressed at the loss of his spending money - he found that the place where his jewels were they never ransacked; so those he kept still.

I believe that we are protected from the worst of Satan's attacks. During my 37 years as a teacher I often asked in faith: "Lead me not into temptation and deliver me from evil," and God answered my prayer. Thank you Lord.

(D) The servant's joy.

The 72 returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." v17.

The ambassadors of Christ returned with joy after being more successful than they anticipated.

It is wonderful when our efforts bear fruit. Nothing encourages the Christian more than to see people coming to the Saviour and the church growing. Sadly, this has not been the experience of most us who attend rural churches in Britain. It explains the low morale of many Christians and the spirit of discontent that prevails in a lot of churches.

Jesus did mildly rebuke his disciples. He told them that what was more amazing than successful service was the fact that their names were written in heaven. In other words, we should rejoice most of all over what Jesus has done for us rather than over what we we have done for him. We are what we are because of his mercy and grace.

In the words of Horatio Bonar:

            Not what my hands have done
            Can save my guilty soul;
            Not what my toiling flesh hath borne
            Can make my spirit whole.

            Thy work alone O Christ,
            Can ease this weight of sin;
            Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God,
            Can give me peace within.

(E) The Saviour's jubilation.

Jesus exults over four things:

(1) The defeated enemy.

"I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven." v18.

It is not clear what Jesus means by this expression. Jesus was probably anticipating the eventual fall of Satan which will be as sudden and dramatic as a flash of lightning. Satan's power is broken but, like any wounded enemy still at large, he remains dangerous. Christ's second advent will end Satan's influence for good. In, 'The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats,' Jesus referred to: "The eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." Mt25v41.

(2) The Father's good pleasure.

"I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure." v21.

It was the Father's good pleasure that:

    (a) The Kingdom of God is such that the highly educated find entry to it difficult. Much learning, academic honours and worldly success does not qualify anyone for the family of God. If anything these prove barriers to entry because they foster pride. Once a man starts thinking he knows best he will find all sorts of reasons for not believing in Jesus. He will cast doubt upon the veracity of the gospels and ask questions like, "To what extent is Jesus an historical figure?"

    (b) Entry to the Kingdom is easiest for those with a child-like mentality because:

      (I) A child is glad to accept what it is given. It has no hang ups about grace.

      (II) A child doesn't have to understand everything before it trusts. Indeed some would say children are too trusting. I can remember inviting a three-year-old standing on a chair in the pulpit of Brockley chapel to jump - and he jumped!

      (III) A child is teachable. A small boy realises there is much he doesn't know and is eager to find out more.

    Many, many poorly educated, simple, uncomplicated people have found the way to God by trusting in Jesus, accepting what he has done for them and opening their hearts to receive newness of life through the gift of his Spirit.

    I love the story of a boy called Henck told by Corrie ten Boom in her book, 'In my Father's house.' Henck had a very low IQ. He worked every day in a government workshop making clothes-pegs. Henck was a member of Corrie's Bible class and enjoyed the stories she told. One day Corrie went to visit Henck. She found him in his room, on his knees in front of a chair. Before him was a rather grubby picture of Jesus on the cross and he was singing in a soft, hoarse voice:

      Out of my bondage, sorrow and night, Jesus, I come, Jesus I come;
      Into Thy freedom, gladness and light, Jesus, I come to Thee.
      Out of the depths of ruin untold, into the peace of Thy sheltering fold,
      Enter Thy glorious face to behold, Jesus, I come to Thee.

    Anyone can say, "Jesus I come," and thank God for that - but it remains easiest for 'all the children of the world'.

(3) His mediatory role.

"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No-one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no-one knows who the Father is except the Son and to those whom the Son chooses to reveal him." v22.

Jesus gloried in his role as mediator between God the Father and man the sinner because:

    (a) It was given to him by his Father. Sometimes authority is bestowed upon an office because it is by royal appointment. Jesus is our mediator by divine appointment.

    (b) Of his unique insight born of his special relationship with God - "No-one knows the Father except the Son." This is something Jesus stressed over and over again in John's gospel:

    "The Father loves the Son and has place everything in his hands." Jn3v35.

    "For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does." Jn6v20.

    This great truth is also wonderfully expressed in Heb1v1to3. (See my expositon on God's Spokesman.)

    (c) He alone could make God known. The apostle John wrote: No-one has ever seen God, but the Only Begotten Son, who is at the Father's side, has made him known. Jn1v18. Jesus made many things about God known - his intent, his grace, his faithfulness and his desire. Only someone very close can ever reveal what is on your heart. Jesus knew the heart of God.

(4) The disciple's privilege.

"Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it." v24.

Jesus was happy for his disciples. They were immensely privileged to be walking and talking with God's son - the anointed one - the Prince of Peace and Only Saviour of the World. The followers of Jesus stood at the dawn of a new day.

There are three things to note:

    (a) Prophets like Isaiah and kings like David had looked forward to the Messianic era.

    (b) We probably see Jesus better than the disciples during his lifetime. We have the benefit of hindsight and the account of his death, resurrection and ascension. Christians today are also greatly helped to understand the significance of Christ's death and resurrection thanks to the wonderful writing of Paul. Finally, all those who trust in Jesus receive his Spirit - the heavenly tutor. Jesus told his disciples: "It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." v7. (See my exposition on John16v5to16.)

    (c) Notwithstanding all our benefits we look forward with eager anticipation to seeing Jesus as he his.

            Oh that will be glory for me, glory for me
            When by his grace I shall look on his face
            That through the ages will be glory for me!