(1)Jesus gets the 72 together and sends them out, what is their mission? "to go ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go” They play the role of the get ready guy, they go before and prepare the way. Their message is “[God’s] kingdom has come near to you.” they are to tell people that the long wait is over.
Israel has been waiting for God’s kingdom for hundreds of years, awaiting the fulfilment of the promise, they have been longing for it. And as each king came the question was is this him, is this God’s king, is now the time of the kingdom when we will be God’s people in God’s place enjoying God’s rule? The disciples message is that there are no more sleeps, the long wait is over the king and therefore the kingdom are here. But before they go out with that great news Jesus teaches them first about the nature of that mission.
It is a needy mission(2). As Jesus looks at the nation of Israel what does he see? Ripe harvest fields, but he also sees the workers are few. What happens if the harvest is ready but there is no-one to pick it? It rots and is wasted. The answer is for the disciples to go but also to pray as they go for more workers. There are people looking and longing for God, knowing something is missing, looking for peace with God. And as the disciples go not only will they see people joyfully accept the kingdom but also become workers in the harvest field.
Jesus is not into one man ministry. His is a ministry of multiplication, he starts as 1, then he calls followers, in chapter 9 he sent out 12, now he sends out 72 others, with the prayer that the gospel multiplies. The gospel doesn’t win converts it makes disciples and multiplies workers, labourers, harvesters, ministers.
It’s why our vision statement as a church makes no mention of growing a big church. It says “We exist to equip God’s people to be grace in the community to the glory of God.” That is why church exists, to make, grow, nurture you as followers of Jesus so that you take the message of grace into the world and win disciples because the harvest fields are ready.
Is this a prayer we pray? Notice it is those he sends who pray it, they don’t pray and sit at home waiting for someone else to go. I wonder what excuses pop into your head when we talk about mission, about evangelism. We are good at coming up with excuses not to share the gospel with people. But what if people reject the message or me? Jesus warns the disciples that will happen, expect it he says, but they are not rejecting you but God(16). In fact they are to expect rejection where you expect welcome - in the towns of Israel. Sometimes those we think will welcome the gospel will reject it. But what about the risk? Expect it, Jesus sends the disciples out on a risky mission – “as lambs among wolves”. Neither fear of rejection or risk should stop us.
I’ll wait for someone else to do it or I’ll do it another time? Jesus says the mission is urgent (4)that’s why he tells them not to greet anyone, he isn’t saying be rude, head down charge on, but don’t engage in the traditional long protracted greetings. But they are nice people… It matters because of the consequences(12-16). We need to keep in mind that rejection of the gospel brings judgement, in rejecting the gospel they show that they want no part in the kingdom of God. And here it is towns in Israel who Jesus says are condemned.
There is encouragement, as we engage in mission we do so with the comfort that we can pray to the “Lord of the harvest”. God is sovereign, he rules and reigns even as people accept or reject the great news that they can know God.
The disciple shares Jesus Missional mindset. They know the need, they pray to and trust the Father, they take risks and they go to tell others because they know it matters.
The disciple also shares Jesus wonder at grace and their privilege. One of the questions Luke 9 poses is; is it worth being a disciple? Jesus has made it clear that it is costly(23-37), uncomfortable and uncompromising. Discipleship is hard and we must not hide the cost, but it is a privilege. (17)The disciples come back form their mission and they are full of joy why? “demons submit to us in your name”…
But Jesus corrects their thinking, he shows them that the real reason to rejoice(18-20) is not the submission of demons. Yes their mission is significant, it is part of the overthrow of Satan and the advance of the kingdom Satan has been trying to wipe out through out history. But the real reason to rejoice is their salvation, it is the gift of God by grace, not your ministry success or failure.
Too often we allow our circumstance to dictate how we feel to us. So if my ministry is going well, if my work is going well, if I am doing a good job as a parent or whatever I feel good and I can rejoice. But what about when they aren’t? If how I relate to God is dependent on my performance then I will be devastated and not be able to praise God.
Jesus calls the disciples not to rejoice because of ministry success but because of the grace and love of God. Read the Psalms and you will find it is exactly what the psalmist does again and again in the midst of difficult circumstance he rejoices in the steadfast love of God.
(21-22)Jesus prayer of praise to God is a model of how we rejoice. What does he praise God for? His revealing of the gospel of salvation to those who were not wise or clever. Rejoice in your salvation by grace and recognise your privilege, (23-24)others before you longed for this. The irony is we are even more privileged, we live after the resurrection, we live with the Bible, God’s word, written down and in our hands yet sometimes we long to be back there with the 72.
What do we rejoice in? What do we consider my privileges? The disciple doesn’t just walk like Jesus, he doesn’t just follow Jesus but he thinks like Jesus. Grace in amazing, we have been privileged by the grace of God to be forgiven, redeemed and called to know God and call others to enter into relationship with him and make that privilege know to all.