The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, 7 July 2019
A Sermon on Luke 10:1-20 by Samuel Zumwalt, STS
Luke 10:1-20 English Standard Version, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers]
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.” 17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
HOLY LIVES: JAN HUS
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
God Calls Laborers
The angel Gabriel told Mary in Luke 1 that Jesus is the Son of God who will claim the throne of David (1:32). So, Jesus is the Messiah, the King from David’s family, the King for which God’s people had been waiting for 600 years. When John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord, he prepared the way for the King. Once the King showed up, John was done. Already in Luke 4, the demons knew that Jesus is the King even when His own people did not understand. In Luke 9, the Lord Jesus sent out the twelve to proclaim the Kingdom of God with signs and wonders. You may remember that the Greek word for Kingdom means the rule or reign of God. Wherever the King is ruling, there is the Kingdom. The King has come to reclaim what He made (take a look at John 1 and Colossians 1). Wherever Jesus is received, there is the Kingdom. Wherever the King is “kinging,” there is the rule or reign of God. He wants no one to be left out.
Now, in Luke 10, the Lord Jesus sends 70 (some translations say 72) to proclaim: The Kingdom of God has come near. The key to these first verses of chapter 10 is already in v.2: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” The King has come to reclaim what He has made, and He needs workers. He sends out His disciples two by two. Their mission is to proclaim the coming King, who will reclaim what He has made. Reclaim from what? Sin, death, and the old evil one.
So, based upon your experience with your own family, friends, neighbors, classmates, or coworkers, do you think the harvest is any less plentiful today? Do you think there are fewer people outside the Kingdom of God? Do you think the Lord needs fewer laborers now than He needed then? Think about the world you live in. Are there less people who don’t belong to Jesus?
The Labor Is Hard
First, there are people who, if you let them, will tell you who you are and who you aren’t. Vicious people, who have no inner peace with God or themselves, will slice and dice you if you let them. It takes practice to learn that someone who talks trash is really talking about him- or herself. A little child, or someone who has been beaten down for years, may be ripped apart by a slicing, dicing tongue. He or she will try to handle that attack alone, but they need the King’s help. The person who slices and dices has huge areas of her or his heart that are still in bondage to sin, death, and the old evil one. All of us are born in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. By nature, we are all no less slaves in need of rescue than Israel was in Egypt. We are all reclamation projects. The reclaiming of one’s heart, mind, body, and spirit is a slow process. The Holy Spirit has to heal a lot of wounds and mend a lot of broken places in every heart and mind.
So, the Lord sends the 70 (or 72) two by two into the places where He was about to go. The 70 (or 72) go out with the peace of the Lord, with the certainty that they are His. They know who and whose they are. They know to whom they belong. That doesn’t mean they aren’t works in progress themselves. That doesn’t mean they have it all together. As Sri Lankan Methodist preacher Daniel T. Niles used to say: “Evangelism is one beggar showing another beggar where to get food.” The Lord’s laborers are pointing to the King who is coming and not to themselves.
So, what makes the labor so hard? Shouldn’t it be easy? The laborers have God’s peace. The people to whom they are going need God’s peace. But sometimes people don’t know what they don’t have. Sometimes people are so comfortable right where they are, they just don’t see a need to change. If they have been content without the King and His peace, they may not want what they need. But here’s what makes the labor hard. The laborers aren’t like merchants selling a product you can take or leave. The laborers aren’t there like advertisers who try to create a need the people don’t yet have. The laborers are bringing the message of the Kingdom – the King is on His way – and if the people reject the messengers, they are rejecting the King, and they are rejecting the One who sent the King to reclaim them. And, in that rejecting, is the crisis of hell itself. Using hyperbole, the King makes His point. Israel’s enemies are closer to the Kingdom.
The Work Is Dangerous
Jan Hus was born into a peasant family in what the Romans called Bohemia and is now part of the Czech Republic. He received Bachelors and Masters degrees and was ordained a Roman Catholic priest. There was a cultural divide in the faculty at Prague between German and Czech theologians where Hus taught. The Czechs, and particularly Hus, were attracted to the ideas put forth by John Wycliffe, a Roman Catholic priest who initiated the translation of the Bible from the Latin Vulgate into English. Both Wycliffe and Hus were disgusted by the accumulation of wealth by the Church and were critical of the papacy. Wycliffe was much more radical in his ideas than Hus, but he died of natural causes unlike Hus, who was tried as a heretic at the Council of Constance and burned at the stake. That same council declared Wycliffe a heretic after the fact. His bones were exhumed, burned, and his ashes scattered in the River Swift.
Just as Wycliffe’s writing had a profound influence on Jan Hus, so Hus had an influence on Martin Luther, who, after having read Hus’ writings, declared, “We are all Hussites.” The Moravian church, also known as the Unity of the Brethren or the Bohemian Brethren, view themselves as the descendants of Jan Hus. Wycliffe, Hus, and Luther were Roman Catholic reformers, whose ideas were popular with the common folk and with rulers who wanted more independence from papal rule. Hus and Luther were excommunicated while living. Wycliffe was excommunicated after his death. Unlike Luther who was protected by his prince, Hus was betrayed by his king, who had promised a naïve Hus that he would be safe at Constance.
In the last verses of our gospel reading, our Lord makes clear there is no room for disciples to practice what Luther later called, “a theology of glory.” In chapter 9, our Lord rebuked James and John when they wanted to call down fire from heaven on the Samaritans. In chapter 10, our Lord warns the disciples about taking credit for or celebrating their power over the demonic. We follow a King, who is crowned with thorns on the cross, and whose victory over sin, death, and Satan is accomplished by His death on the cross. The way to the heavenly Father is always through death to eternal life. Our Baptism into the Lord Jesus’ death and resurrection is not a removal of the cross from our lives but rather is a cross-shaped journey in which we die daily to our selfish selves and rise daily to a life in which Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20).
Selective reading of the Bible has led to a popular but wrong-headed American theology known as “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,” in which God exists to make us happy and all good people go to heaven. Today’s gospel reading says just the opposite. The offer of peace with God often brings hatred from people who are quite happy with their wolfish lives as they are and who reject the only King who can deliver them from bondage to sin, death, and evil by His death on the cross. We are not and cannot be saved by doing good for others. Rather, we love God and our neighbor by serving joyfully the neighbor as God wills and as His King directs. We follow the One who gives His life a ransom for many. Marked with His cross in Baptism, we take up ours.
This weekend we give God thanks for 243 years of American independence. Here, we are free to assemble for worship around the Word of God and at His Table where He gives us Himself for forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and love. We know that our national freedom has been secured for us by the blood of patriots in every generation. We know that the eternal freedom we enjoy in Christ has been purchased by His precious blood on the cross. Jan Hus is among that great cloud of witnesses, who remind us that faithfulness to our Lord Jesus will lead to rejection, perhaps persecution, and may even lead to a martyr’s death. Rejoice; your names are written in heaven!
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
©Samuel David Zumwalt
St. Matthew’s Ev. Lutheran Church
Wilmington, North Carolina USA
Holy Lives: Jan Hus
“O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns, with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen” (The Daily Prayer of the Church, 617).
Luke 10:1 “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him….”
Eusebius [early 4th century Bishop of Caesarea Maritima, Israel]: “On observation, you would find that the disciples of the Savior appear to have been more than the seventy. Paul says that after the resurrection from the dead Cephas saw him first, then the Twelve. After these saw him, he was seen by more than five hundred brothers all at once, some of whom he says had fallen asleep, although the majority were still alive at the time that this account was being composed by him” (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Luke, 171).
Luke 10:3 “Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”
St. Cyril of Alexandria [early 5th century Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt]: “I will be with you, help you, and deliver you from all evil. I will tame the savage beasts. I will change wolves into sheep, and I will make the persecutors become he helpers of the persecuted. I will make those who wrong my ministers to be sharers in their pious designs. I make and unmake all things, and nothing can resist my will” (172).
Luke 10:4 “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.”
St. Cyril of Alexandria: “By this command, he does with them to learn and to attempt to practice that they must lay all thought of their livelihood on him. They must call to mind the saint who said, ‘Cast your care on the Lord, and he will feed you.’ He gives what is needful for life to the saints” (172).
Luke 10:6 “…your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you.”
St. Augustine [late 4th – early 5th century Bishop of Hippo Regius, Algeria]: “Since we do not know who is a son of peace, it is our part to leave no one out, to set no one aside, but to desire that all to whom we preach this peace be saved. We are not to fear that we lose our peace if he to whom we preach it is not a son of peace, and we are ignorant of the fact. Our peace will return to us. That means our preaching will profit us, not him. If the peace we preach rests upon him, it will profit both him and us” (172).
Luke10:20 “…but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
St. Cyril of Alexandria: “To rejoice only in the fact that they were able to work miracles and crush the herds of demons was possibly likely to produce in them the desire of arrogance. The neighbor and relative of this passion constantly is pride. Most usefully the Savior of all rebukes the first boasting and quickly cuts away the root that sprang up in them – the shameful love of glory. He was imitating good farmers who, when they see a thorn springing up in their parks or gardens, immediately tear it up with the blade of the pickax before it strikes its root deep” (176).
- Which baggage do I try to take along with me as I follow Jesus? Is it pride? Fear? Something else?
(Read this aloud daily until everyone in your home can say it from memory.)
Table of Duties
Certain passages of Scripture for Various Holy Orders and Positions, by Which These People Are to Be Admonished, as a Special Lesson, about Their Office and Service
To Workers of All Kinds
“Servants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord whether he is a slave or free” (Ephesians 6:5-8; see also Colossians 3:22).
To Employers and Supervisors
“Masters, do the same to them and stop your threatening, knowing that He who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with Him” (Ephesians 6:9; see also Colossians 4:1) (Luther’s Small Catechism).
- Pray for every unbaptized child and adult you know and for the child’s parents, too.
- Pray for your unchurched loved ones and friends. Invite one or more of them to worship.
- During the summer months (especially fathers!), bring your household to the services of God’s house. If you are on the road, worship while you are away and bring back the bulletin for Pastor Zumwalt to see. Do this for accountability and to let the pastor see what other congregations are doing.
- Are you reading “The Benedict Option” by Rod Dreher? Discussion continues chapter-by-chapter on Sundays at 9:45 a.m. in Room 117. We discuss Chapter 3 on July 7.
- All the baptized are called to love (serve) their neighbors through their various callings. Everyone has a boss, and everyone is accountable to someone. Pray for those for and with whom you work. Pray for those who are accountable to you. At all times, remember: everyone is a person for whom Christ died.
- Hang a crucifix or cross opposite your pillow so that the last sight you see before turning out the light is your Lord’s cross and the first sight of the new day calls you to prayer.
For Husbands and Wives
Repeat daily: “I (name) take you (name) to be my wedded wife (husband), to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish until death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I pledge you my faith.”