An old farmer sat on the steps of his small shack chewing on a piece of straw. He was approached by a passing stranger who was looking for a cool drink of water. Wishing to start a conversation with the farmer, the stranger asked, “How is your cotton crop coming this year?”
“I ain’t got none”, replied the farmer.
“Didn’t you plant any?” asked the stranger.
“Nope,” said the farmer, “I was afraid the boll weevils would get it.”
“Well,” asked the stranger, “how is your corn?”
“Didn’t plant any corn either,” replied the man, “I was afraid there wasn’t going to be any rain.”
“If you didn’t plant any cotton or corn, what did you plant?’ asked the man.
“Nothing,” said the farmer. “I just played it safe!”
Well, I guess if you don’t plant anything, it makes the harvest a lot easier, doesn’t it?
In our Bible reading today, Jesus sent out people to bring in the harvest. The harvest Jesus was talking about was not cotton, fruit or vegetables. He was sending out workers to bring people into the kingdom of God. He said that there were many souls who were ready to be harvested, but there were not enough workers. One reason it was hard to find workers was that it was very difficult work. Jesus warned that the workers in his kingdom would often be treated very unkindly.
The sending of the seventy mimics the sending of the twelve apostles in Luke 9, including leaving no essentials behind. The seventy were to focus on the mission at hand-the proclamation that God’s kingdom has come near.
The seventy were sent out to preach immediately and chiefly where Jesus was about to come. They were to prepare the way for His coming. The apostles were to be with Him; to hear His instructions, and witness the sufferings, death, resurrection and ascension that they might proclaim these things to all the world.
The seventy were sent in twos so they could help, counsel, sustain and comfort one another. Every Christian needs such a friend-someone to whom he can share his concerns, feelings and prayers. All of us need someone to help us live the life of Christ, someone to pray with, someone we can bounce ideas off, someone to hold our feet to the fire when we struggle, someone to watch our back when people oppose us. In ministry, to labour together is better than to go it alone. The God who is the Lord of the harvest reminded the disciples that their responsibility was to work diligently. His responsibility was to ensure they had something to harvest.
Greetings among the Arabs consisted of many gestures. These required time. The business of the seventy was urgent, so they were not allowed to delay their journey with long, formal greetings. The seventy were told not to go from house to house because of Arabic customs. When a stranger arrived, the neighbours (one after another) invited him to eat with them. There was a strict etiquette. Failure to observe this system was resented and led to alienations and feuds. It wasted time, caused distractions, and counteracted the success of a spiritual mission.
Jesus wanted the seventy to focus on the essentials. That’s why He gave them instructions. When the essentials are known, all decisions are simplified. The seventy were not to waste time on people who yawned or got angry or wanted to argue. Jesus advised them to tell the exciting news to people who were ready to hear it. This is good advice for us to follow today as we continue the mission of the seventy. Like Jesus, we have a limited amount of time. We have to spend that time spreading the Good News to people who are eager to hear it. We can’t afford to spend time on people who are opposed to it.
The message of the seventy was crucial. The mission was time sensitive. The seventy had to prepare the villages for Christ’s visit, which could happen at any time. We have the same mission today. We have to spread the message of the Good News of salvation before Jesus returns. Since we don’t know the exact date and time of His return, our mission is also time-sensitive.
The disciples were excited when they returned because the demons had submitted to them. For Jesus, this was not the most important thing. What was far more important for Jesus was that the disciples had been welcomed into God’s family. Jesus’ response to the report the seventy gave when they returned does not mean they should take no satisfaction in their ministry, which included successful exorcisms. Rather, they should delight more that God has chosen them to be part of His eternal family. Ministry success is wonderful, but it cannot compare to the eternal joys of calling the God of the universe one’s Father-assured that one’s name is written in heaven.
Jesus sent the seventy out to preach the Good News and do the Kingdom work. He knew they were ready because they were transformed by spending time with Him, following His instructions and receiving His authority. He sends us out today. He has prepared us. We have received His authority to spread the Good News.
Have we been transformed? How much time do we spend with Jesus? How much time do we spend reading or listening to His life-changing truths? How often do we allow His attitudes and words to flow into us and change our hearts so that His words flow out of us to others?
As believers in Jesus, we often feel weak and insignificant in the face of bad situations around us. Matthew 28:18 tells us that Jesus has all authority, and the passage from Luke tells us that He has delegated this authority to us if we are His followers. We should trust in that authority to stop unlawful actions, because we’re empowered to challenge the way the enemy is working when he or his forces are breaking God’s divine rules.
Evil forces may seem dangerous and far too scary to tackle when we feel small by comparison. We have to remember that we have Jesus’ authority and that His laws will stand for eternity. No matter how big and strong the evil forces seem, they must submit to the authority delegated by Jesus to His followers.
When we’re in the centre of God’s will and plans, we don’t have to be afraid. When we’re under God’s authority, we have His authority. The devil does not have any authority over us. The devil can’t take us out of the world. Only God can do that, and He won’t do it until our mission is complete.
The church can be compared to a giant hockey game, basketball game or baseball game where 20,000 people in the stands and watch a few people do the work on the ice surface, the court or the field. The church stands on the sidelines and shouts, “Go, team, go.” God is saying to us at the same time, “I want you down on the field, or the ice surface, or the court. I want you to carry the ball, throw the ball or shoot the puck. I want you to be a part of what I’m doing.”
In Luke 10:2, Jesus tells us to pray to the Lord to send out labourers. He does not say that we should pray for more observers, spectators or complainers. He says that we should pray that the Lord would send out more labourers.
No one can honestly pray for this work to be done if they are not willing to do it themselves. We must not say, “Yes, God, send more labourers into the harvest.” We must say, “Lord, let it start with me. I want to be a labourer. I don’t know what I can do or what I can offer. I don’t have a lot, but what I have is yours. I give it to you.”
The church’s job is to proclaim the kingdom of God. We’re always tempted to forget that. We’re tempted to believe that our job is to keep the doors open, or to preserve an historic tradition, or to be friendly. Many churches resemble a 21st century civic club instead of a first century church. We gather together to do good works, but sometimes all we accomplish is keeping the building from falling down around us.
Jesus is still looking for people who will work for him and bring people into his kingdom. That is what the church is supposed to do. It won’t always be easy. In fact, it will be hard. Many people in the church are like the farmer in our story — they are “just playing it safe.” I have read that eight out of ten church members have never invited anyone to church and that nine out of ten church members have never won anyone to Christ.
We have so much work to do. We have to start by speaking the truth and offering mercy and love to God’s lost sons and daughters. Some have them have been badly hurt by the church, especially Native American children who attended residential schools. In those cases we have to offer additional understanding. We have to apologize for the pain the church has caused, even if we don’t completely understand it.
Jesus calls us today to discipleship-a discipleship that involves practicing Godly values among people who have other loyalties. We have to proclaim the message to everyone that the kingdom of God is here now. We have to expect that some will accept the message with faith and others will oppose us. We are preaching a message contradicts the ways of the world.
The seventy were the hands, feet, legs, heart and minds of Jesus. That was the way it was then, and it is still true today. For Jesus to complete His mission in today’s world, he needs hands, feet, legs, hearts and minds. The harvest is overwhelmingly great and Jesus needs willing hands, willing hearts, willing minds and willing spirits. Jesus gets work done today through his disciples who are committed to doing the work.
Our faith is not a private matter. We are told by Jesus to proclaim it in word and deed. When we are persecuted we are not to retreat. We are here to build God’s kingdom, not bury it in our hearts. We can stay in our comfort zones, safely hovering above real engagement with the issues of faith that call out in our time. But if we do, if we refuse to get our hands dirty and our hearts changed, then we risk missing the kingdom of God that has already come near in Jesus. We risk missing the terrifying and empowering journey that requires nothing but faith in God to sustain us and trust in fellow travelers to support us.
How about you? Are you willing to work for Jesus and invite people to come to church? Will you go and tell people about Jesus’ love and that He died on the cross so that they could have everlasting life? Are those around you surprised by the love you show? Are you a work-horse for Jesus? Are you sharing the hope of Christ with those who are lost or hurting? Are you looking for opportunities to bless others in practical ways? There are many souls who are need to be brought into God’s kingdom, but there just aren’t enough workers. When we say “yes” to proclaiming the Gospel and being a co-labourer with Jesus, there’s no limit to what God will be able to do in and through us.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp.1406-1407)
- “Harvest Time.” Retrieved from www.Sermons4KIds.com
- Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament. Part of Wordsearch 12 Bible software package.
- Larsen, B. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 26: Luke (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1983; pp. 184-188)
- Denise Cross, “Whose Voice Are They Hearing?” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dr. Ed Young, “A Daily Word with Dr. Ed Young.” Retrieved from Christianity.email@example.com
- Denise Cross, “They Seem So Dangerous.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Pastor Greg Laurie, “Right Where you Are.” Retrieved form Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Christine Caine, “The Adventure of a Lifetime.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Gwen Smith, “a Challenge for the Changed.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Richard Niell Donovan, “Exegesis for Luke 10:1-11,16-20.” Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
- The Rev. Alan Brehm, “Contradictions.” Retrieved from http://thewakingdreamer.blogspot.com/2013/07/contradictions.html
- David F. Sillery, “Love Among the Wolves.” Retrieved from https://us6.campaign-archive.com/?u=dbffd2070718c7bba1b9b7e0&id=387bb43a3b
- The Rev. Edward Markquart, “Commissioning of the Seventy-Gospel Analysis.” Retrieved from http://www.sermonsfromseattle.com/series_c_commissioning_of_the_seventy_GA.htm
- The Rev. Christopher Henry, “The Nearness of the Kingdom.” Retrieved from http://day1.org/1030-the_nearness_of_the_kingdom.print