The Sent Sender
Preached by Jason Abbott
The good news is all about sending. God the Father sent Christ Jesus the Son into the world to save sinners. And, as the Father sent his Son, so too does Jesus now send his followers out to the nations. Text after text of Scripture teaches this truth. Our God is a sending God. We are his sent people. His gospel is sent out through us. Just consider a few examples of this from the book of John:
- Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me (John 13:20).
- As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world (John 17:18).
- As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you (John 20:21).
If you’re a Christian, then you’ve been sent by Jesus to proclaim the gospel. And, in today’s text, we’ll learn from Christ what it means to be such a sent people. What should we expect? Well, let’s read what Jesus says.
10 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. 2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. 7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.
16 “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
To help us learn, I want us to just focus on four things which Jesus teaches us about being sent out as his ambassadors. (1st) Jesus tells us we pray. (2nd) He tells us we go. (3rd) He tells us we warn. And, (4th) he tells us who we are.
1. We pray (vv. 1-2).
Christians pray. The very act of prayer is an expression of our faith. We speak to God. We don’t see him. We don’t typically (at least, I don’t typically!) hear God speaking audibly back to us. Often, we aren’t aware of any kind of tangible answer to our prayers. Yet, nonetheless, we’re taught and told to pray throughout Scripture. It’s an essential element of relating-to and following-after God.
- We pray when we wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night.
- We pray before we eat meals and before we read the Bible.
- We pray for those who are sick and those who’ve lost a loved one.
- We pray whenever we have an important meeting or job interview.
- We pray many times during the course of a worship service.
And, here, we find Jesus prescribing yet another time for his followers to pray. He tells his disciples to pray before going and sharing the gospel in this fallen world. And he tells them to pray a specific prayer. Jesus says:
The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest (v. 2).
Christ tells his disciples to pray to God that God would raise up more disciples because gospel proclamation is a big task and more gospel proclaimers are needed. In short, Jesus says: Pray that you harvest so that your harvest can harvest too.
Friends, let me encourage you. When these seventy-two prayed this prayer, the Father answered it resoundingly. Now, when I say this, you might think I’m looking ahead to verse seventeen. The seventy-two come back to Jesus and report: “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” But, that’s not how I know that God answered it. The way I know for sure that he granted their prayer is…you. You are that answer. You are the evidence. You are those laborers.
Around the world today, 2.4 billion people identify themselves as Christians. And, regardless of how accurate such numbers are, what’s sure is that God has raised up workers for his harvest. He’s multiplied disciples and continues to multiply them. He’s answered that prayer and is even now answering it. But, are we still praying it? Are we obeying Jesus and praying that our non-Christian friends would trust in him, get saved, and—in turn—become gospel workers themselves? If you’re a Christian, this should be a prayer you earnestly pray.
A week before the holiday I got a call from a friend who recently moved away. He called to tell me that he’d become a Christian—that he trusted Christ. And it was, without a question, the very best gift I received this Christmas. (Sorry, sweetheart.) Here, however, is the best part. This new brother in Christ is already hard at work sharing the good news with others. In fact, he has invited two non-Christian friends he has made to have regular Skype discussions about Christianity with Mike Grenier. Praise God! How awesome is that—a new laborer raised up for the harvest!
This, however, didn’t happen overnight. We’d been praying for his salvation for a number of years. And, there were times we felt sure that we were losing ground with him. When he moved, I was certain Satan was behind it—pushing him away from the gospel before he believed. Nevertheless, the Lord is sovereign and answers when his children pray as he’s instructed them to pray: Father God, save our friend. Make him your child. Use him to serve your gospel purpose. And so, by God’s grace, we have a new brother in Christ laboring now with us.
- Friends, are you praying for someone?
- Are you praying for your non-Christian neighbors and coworkers?
- Are you praying for harvest laborers as Jesus commanded?
Well, this brings us to the second thing which Jesus teaches about discipleship. Namely that…
2. We go (vv. 3-11).
Look again at what Jesus says to his disciples as he sends them out:
Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near…’ (vv. 3-11).
Here, Christ charges them—“Go your way;” he says, “I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” This is a commissioning ceremony. As followers of Jesus, they are to go ahead of him as messengers. And their message is good news or bad news depending on how it’s received. (But, more about that in our next point.) For now, notice two things about how we, as disciples, are told to go:
a. We are to go proclaiming.
Luke doesn’t go into all the details of the message the seventy-two are to share with those they meet, but we get the gist of it. These disciples are to proclaim peace whenever they engage people. And, peace is simply shorthand for the good news—God the Father sent his Son to open the way of peace between the holy Triune-God and his rebellious human creatures. So, this is what our Lord commands us to share wherever we travel—the message of peace with God in Christ.
b. We are to go practicing.
Notice that Jesus doesn’t simply send them proclaiming good news in word but also in action. The Lord tells them to go into towns and heal those who are sick. This is a kind of visual preaching of peace with God. Even as the seventy-two preach about peace, they work peace into the physically afflicted. So, as Christ’s disciples, we’re to go out being the gospel even as we preach the gospel.
As evangelicals, we’ve historically been good about proclaiming the gospel and bad about practicing it. Today, however, I think we’re rather terrible at both. One without the other is faithlessness, and the absence of both is simply inexcusable. Jesus sends you and me out to preach and practice the gospel. So, how are you doing? How are you being faithful to this twofold command?
- Would your coworkers even know that you’re a believer? And, if they do, would they be able to positively articulate what’s at the heart of your faith? Would they know why your hope is in Christ?
- Would your neighbors miss you if you decided to purchase another home? Would they miss your hospitality and friendliness and willingness to help when they’re in need?
Friends, as a church, we have a chance to start well in our new neighborhood. There will be plenty of opportunities to practice and proclaim the good news of peace which only the person and work of Jesus can bring.
If you’re handy, let us know. We’d love to see you serve God with PWAP, helping people throughout the neighborhood with small projects—practicing gospel among them. If you’re looking for ways to share the gospel, we have lots of chances for you to do so. Don’t hesitate to talk to me or Mike Grenier about inviting someone to Life Explored this spring. Or, if you’re a bit shy with adults, Carolyn would love for you to practice and preach the gospel to our children—whether in Sunday School or Vacation Bible School. Lots of ways to serve!
Well, our last couple points will be rather brief. Third, Jesus teaches us that, as disciples…
3. We warn (vv. 12-15).
It’s absurd to suppose there’s good news without some approaching bad news. To see what I mean, imagine you’re sitting at home today watching the NFL playoffs when I phone you and, after you answer, say: “I’ve got some incredibly good news for you! I saved you!” What would your immediate response be? Without question, you’d ask: “From what?” To make sense of the salvation I have just boasted about, there’d have to be an impending destruction which I somehow helped you to avoid. Otherwise, it’s just nonsense! It’s simply crazy talk!
Jesus, therefore, tells his disciples to warn those, who reject his offer of peace, concerning the danger they’re in without that peace. Look at what he says:
I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day [of judgment] for Sodom than for that town [that rejects you] (v. 12).
The Bible teaches that a day of reckoning is coming where all will be judged, and that—on our own merit—none of us will receive favorable reviews from God because his standard is perfection. That is the bad news. And, it was widely accepted as a fact by those to whom the seventy-two were sent. However, it’s widely rejected by most of those to whom we’re sent. The good news, therefore, seems like nonsense to people today…because they don’t think they’re in any danger.
This, then, is our challenge. We must, with great humility and full recognition of our own sin, help those with whom we share the gospel grasp why they need it—grasp the danger they’re in without it. This is one of the highest hurdles that we face. And, it’s why it’s so important to keep first things first. Jesus teaches us to begin with prayer—to rely upon God for success. So, before we speak of sin and judgment with our non-Christian friends, we must pray that God the Spirit would be the One working to bring them to conviction “concerning sin…and judgment” (John 16:8). Only then will such warnings be heard and heeded.
Well, let me end with a word of encouragement, because last Jesus teaches us about our identity. He teaches us…
4. Who we are (v. 16).
Look at what Christ says:
“The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (v. 16).
I enjoy reading Victorian novels; but, to be honest, they’re rather predictable. Usually there’s an orphan who has the cards of the world stacked against him or her. The orphan typically has some privilege, but just enough to eke out a meager living as a teacher or a governess. But then, a mysterious letter or eccentric stranger arrives, and we begin to suspect that there’s something about the orphan’s past that even he or she doesn’t know. And, in the end, we always find that the orphan is very wealthy and of noble birth. So, they can now marry and travel and help other orphans!
Friends, as we’ve just seen, the cards of this fallen and sinful world are stacked against us. So, Jesus tells his disciples, right here, in this passage, to expect rejection as they go out. And, we can expect rejection also, when we’re sent in the same way that these seventy-two are. You will often feel as if you’re a misfit. You’ll often feel as if you’re a second-class citizen. Nevertheless, here, Jesus tells you to take heart because you’re not an orphan, you’re not alone. On the contrary, as his sent disciples, your identity is so united with God that—when people hear you, they hear the Lord; and, when people reject you, they reject the Creator.
Be encouraged by this! If you’re a Christian, you serve the King of creation. The Lord is for you, and you’re unalterably united to him through your faith in Jesus. That’s our identity as his sent ones. Thus, we can go out boldly knowing that God is with us always. Amen! Will you pray with me?