Your Name Is Written In Heaven! What Joy!
Pentecost 7 (Proper 9) Trinity Lutheran Church
3 July 2016 Murdock, NE
+Jesu Juva +
St. Luke 10:1-20
Well, once again, there’s tons of stuff here in the text. I’d better get going PDQ. I see that some of you are starting to nod off already. A few of you are already looking at your watches. Good grief! Now is not the time to sleep. Save that for the couch or the bedroom. So off I go! Hang on tight! You’re going to be joyfully white-knuckled!
Jesus sends out 70 preachers. 70! Loads of meaning there. 70 is the traditional number of the Gentiles or the non-Jewish world (Genesis 10) just as the number 12 is the number of the tribes of Israel, the OT church (Mt. 10:1-4).
When Jesus chooses and sends out the 12 apostles He is having for Himself a new Israel. A bunch of Hebrew Hangers On! 12 new tribes of Israel if you will. He would repent and faith them. But His having a church, an Israel, doesn’t stop there. His new Israel will also include people from all over the world. Not just Jews but also Gentiles! He’s the Savior of all people. Every color. Every nationality. Every culture. Thus the sending of the 70 preachers! Again, the number 70 is the number of the Gentiles. Here is Luke’s version of Matthew 28 if you will. The beginning of making disciples of all nations through His 70! In Luke’s Gospel Jesus has already hinted at this mission with His on-purpose-work among the hated and despised Samaritans.
The preachers are sent “two by two.” That’s according to the rule of Deuteronomy 19:15 that every matter be established by two witnesses. The early apostolic ministers did the same. Two by two! Peter and John go out together in Acts 8:14. Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13:2. Barnabas and Mark a pair / Paul and Silas another twosome in Acts 15:39-40.
What Jesus has been doing and preaching, the 70 are to do and to preach. They are His ambassadors. When they do and say what He has given them to do and say, Jesus speaks and acts through them. Did you hear that? I’d better say it again. The 70 preachers are the emissaries of Jesus. His spokesmen. They only do what He’s given them to do. They only say what’s He’s given them to say. He uses them as His instruments. His representatives. His mouth. His hands. His ministry.
The sermon they are given to proclaim is this: “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” Of course, the kingdom and the king is Jesus. He’s present in the words they preach. He’s doing and giving what He says in His words the 70 are given to preach! So, just to be clear – just so you’re still tracking with the text — when the 70 preach what Jesus gave them to preach JESUS IS PREACHING! Jesus Himself says so: “The one who hears you hears me.” That’s His categorical promise.
As it goes with Jesus’ ministry so it goes with His preachers’ ministry. Humanly speaking Jesus has nothing. You remember what He said about His ministry last week, don’t you? “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head,” (Luke 9:58). So too His preachers. “Take no moneybag. No knapsack. No sandals. Don’t greet anyone on the road. Eat and drink whatever the houses of peace provide you.”
Some received Jesus. They were His hangers on. Believers. However, many rejected Him. Had no use for Him. In fact, they hated Him. So too with His preachers. He sends “out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” Like Jesus they will be attacked, assaulted and assailed. Hated. Demonized. Even killed. I’m forever thankful that you have received Christ’s Word and the preachers He sends including me! THANKS BE TO GOD FOR THAT! May that always be the case here at Trinity.
This text does, however, teaches us the serious nature of Jesus calling people to repentance and faith. He earnestly desires you to be part of His new Israel. Salvation is at stake when Jesus sends preachers to preach and do ministry “in His name.” St. Paul puts it this way in 2 Corinthians 6:2 when Jesus sends preachers: “Now is the favorable time; behold now is the day of salvation!” Again, when preachers faithfully preach what Jesus has given them to preach as His ambassadors, Jesus speaks! When you hear the words of Jesus you hear Jesus Himself. “The one who hears you,” Jesus declares, “hears me.” Jesus is physically present among His Israel of both Jew and Gentile through the preachers He sends.
This theme is all throughout the New Testament. From Mark 16:20 we hear that when the apostles “went out and preached everywhere … the Lord worked with them.” In Matthew 18:20 Jesus promises where “two or three are gathered together in My Name there I am in the midst of them!” In Matthew 28:20 Jesus guarantees that He is with His apostles as they do the work He’s given them to do. “Lo I am with you always,” He says. St. Paul speaks of preachers Jesus sends in this way: “We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us,” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Preachers. 70. And more. Still to this day. Sent by Jesus to proclaim: “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” It comes near you as Jesus reigns in your midst in His Word and sacraments. Lording His Good Friday death over you and the world.
Consequently, “When they [preachers] offer the Word of Christ or the sacraments, they offer them in the stead and place of Christ.” This is why at the beginning of the service the pastor absolves in the stead and by the command of Jesus. When you hear the absolution whom do you hear? You hear Jesus! The absolution is the living voice of Christ (Viva vox Christi)! That is precisely why the Small Catechism says that we hear the absolution “as from God Himself” or “as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.” Similarly, holy baptism! When a person is baptized in God’s Name, she is baptized by God Himself. It is God’s own doing! His giving! Also the Lord’s Supper! When you hear the Words of Institution sung or said by the pastor you’re hearing Jesus Himself! They are His words. As His ambassador the pastor speaks Christ’s words to you and FOR YOU. Jesus does and gives you what He says in His words. In the Lord’s Supper His words deliver into your mouth His body and blood with all the Good Friday forgiveness and salvation He won FOR YOU.
Preacher are sent, ambassadored, by Jesus so that you repent of you sin, turn from your sin and most of all believe in Jesus. Or as Jesus says in the text: “that your names are written in heaven” or that salvation is yours. Preachers preach Jesus. His death. his resurrection. FOR YOU. That’s really good news. “Faith [in Jesus] comes by hearing” Romans 10:17 teaches. And “hearing by the word of Christ” preaches by those preachers He sends.
Who in the world would ever reject the preachers Jesus sends? Preachers that preach Jesus? Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum did. What a hellacious tragedy for them as Jesus said in the text!
“The one who rejects you [the preachers Jesus sends] rejects me,” Jesus says, “and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me [God the Father].” Throw out the faithful preacher, the Lord’s ambassador, and you’ve thrown out Jesus too. And not only Jesus but also the Father that sent Jesus! Absent yourself from Jesus and the Father and that’s … well … damnedly hellacious! God’s wrath not God’s peace resides in such a place!
This was to be illustrated by a ritual act done by the preachers to show God’s judgment: “Whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you,” Jesus declares, “go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of our town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you.’” This is precisely what Paul and Barnabas did when their faithful preaching was rejected (Acts 13:51; also Acts 18:6)!
Well, I have to wrap this up. You’re snoring. I can hear you. The 70 return from the preaching assignment. They’ve preached according to the Lord’s mandate. They’ve ambassador-ed authentically. Faithfully. Loads of joy! “Lord,” they declare, “even the demons are subject to us in your name!”
The 70 remarkably discover that, poor and powerless as they are, that as they did their work IN THE NAME OF JESUS — Jesus Himself was at work through them. Consequently, in these pathetic ambassadors not even all the hordes of hell could endure because Jesus was at work in the ministry He gave them!
Jesus confirms their joy. Again, He tells them that their triumph over all the hellish hosts of Satan was really His triumph over them. They were simply His tools or instruments. Consequently, Jesus declares: “When you preached as I told you, I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” The authority Jesus gave them was really His authority, not theirs!
Since Jesus triumphantly faced Satan in the wilderness after His baptism in the Jordan, Jesus has freed all people from Satan’s power. He has crushed Satan’s head with His divine death and the shedding of His divine blood in the cross. Satan has lost his place as your accuser (see Revelation 12:7-10) because Jesus died FOR YOU. Because Jesus baptized you into His death. Because Jesus gives you the very body and blood that won your salvation in the Lord’s Supper.
One more thing. I know. I know. It’s time to call it quits with this sermon. You can barely hang on. But I beg you. Do so for just a moment longer.
Joy in “success” even success in Jesus’ name can be a treacherous thing for preachers and for you. It can turn faith from the power of Jesus toward his/her own religious prowess. As if you get all the credit. Or the preacher alone gets all the street cred so that ministry become a cult of personality.
So Jesus turns the eyes of His ambassadors away from the sight of the scattering hosts of Satan to the cause and grounds of their victory and your victory: “Your names are written in heaven.”
That’s the biggie. That’s the clincher. That’s what really counts for preachers and also FOR YOU. Hear His promise FOR YOU again: “The kingdom of God has come near to you” in Jesus! “Your names are written in heaven” because of Jesus!
WHAT JOY to be a repented and faith-ed citizen of heaven even now! Deep, deep and lasting joy!
In the name of Jesus.