St. Luke, Evangelist
October 18, 2020 A+D
St. Luke 10: 1-9
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Gospel begins with the phrase: “After these things.” It reads: After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.
After what things? After Jesus had sent other messengers ahead into a Samaritan village where He was rejected. He was rejected because His face was set toward Jerusalem. James and John asked if they should call fire down on the village because of it. Jesus rebuked them and set out for a different village. He explained a bit about the cost of following Him, describing His fate on earth as having no home. Then He rebuked those who would go bury their dead first or who thought that they needed to say goodbye before following him saying “let the dead bury the dead” and “no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God.”
So after those things: after rejection in Samaria and two rebukes, one for the disciples wanting to call down fire and another for those who aren’t fully committed to Him, after that Jesus appointed seventy to go before Him and prepare His way. Immediately after our reading, in the same speech, Jesus will issue a warning about being rejected and tell them to shake the dust off their feet. He tells them that they will be rejected and that when they are rejected it is “because the Kingdom of God has come near to you.” Being rejected, suffering loss, and being hurt in this world is part of being under the rule of God.
Jesus sends out seventy “others” to prepare the villages in His path. He is coming. They need to prepare by repentance and faith. Those sent are called “others” because they are not the 12. They are not the apostles, but they are also sent and they are sent with the same commission, authority, and power.
A. The Plentiful Harvest
The first thing Jesus says to these laborers is: “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few.” This is an objective reality. It will be true until Jesus returns in glory on the Last Day. The number of pastors needed is not determined by the number of congregations that can pay full time salaries or that have more than 10 people in Church. The harvest is plentiful. God’s people need pastoral care and the world needs the Gospel to be preached.
B. Lambs in the midst of wolves and eucharistic eating
The next thing He tells them is that He is sending them out amongst wolves intent on destroying them. The labor of the harvest is done in the presence and threat of wolves. Those sent do not fight fire with fire. They are not equal to the wolves in tooth and claw or cleverness. Those sent are themselves lambs not the King or the Messiah. Some of them get killed. Despite this, they aren’t to carry money bags, knapsacks, or sandals, let alone weapons. They are to live off the generosity and charity of those that they serve.
In this way they are ambassadors of Christ and bear marks of His Office. There is a sense in which they are so caught up in their mission that they forget bodily needs. They are to move with haste, greeting no one on the road and making no effort to make friends. The world rejects them as it rejects Christ. They have no place to lay their heads unless it is given by a brother. They might be killed by the wolves as a reflection of the slaughter of the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.
C. Peace to this house
Finally Jesus tells them that when they enter into a house, they are to pronounce peace to it. If one of the elect, a believer, is there then the peace will rest upon him. If not then it won’t and they are to move on. They aren’t to waste their time trying to talk people into faith. If there is one of the elect there, then the laborers are to remain there, living off of the people’s generosity and not coveting some other place. They are to take what the people give with gratitude as from God Himself. They are also to heal the sick and to pronounce that the Kingdom of God has come.
This is a foreshadowing of the Holy Communion and the peace that passes all understanding. The ambassador pronounces the Kingdom and its peace. If that pronouncement is received, mutually agreed upon, they become a family and enjoy table fellowship. The Kingdom of God is there. Neither the pastor nor the people are supposed to be looking around to see if they could do better.
When they return, they come to Jesus with joy and exclaim that even the demons are subject to them in His Name. He responds by saying that He saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven and their names are written in heaven. Jesus is referring to the war in heaven that was seen by John in Revelation 12. That war is an allegory. It doesn’t take place in heaven, as though heaven was ravaged by war and burning. Rather it is a struggle between heaven and Hell for the souls of men. It takes place in the Church on earth. The enemy isn’t a dragon either. It is Satan who is a created angel that rebelled against God. He is cast out of the Church, away from God’s people, by preaching and Holy Communion. He is said to be cast out of heaven because the people have one foot in heaven.
When the seventy return and saying “even demons are subject to us in Your Name,” Jesus says, “Yes. I know. I was watching. I saw your preaching cast Satan out of heaven, away from my people.”
So how does this apply to us? In most every way. We are the harvest in need of pastors to preach to us, to absolve us, to baptize our babies, and to feed us in God’s Name, to prepare us for the visitation on the Last Day. So also we ourselves, each of us, are sent to witness to our families and neighbors and to support the work of the Church. This is a holy obligation and privilege. We are to be prepared to suffer evil knowing that God is with us and will work it all for good. We all live and work amongst wolves. Faith is always under attack. But Jesus lives. This world and this life are fleeting. The harvest is white. There is urgency. There are wolves. There is danger. But so also the demons submit to us in the name of Jesus. His good and gracious will is always done.
Finally, we receive the peace of Jesus Christ. Satan is cast away from us by Word and Sacrament. The death of Jesus in our stead has rendered him impotent. Our sins are forgiven. His accusations are taken away. And we ourselves are changed. In Holy Baptism, God put His own Name on us and wrote our names in the book of life. At His command, we rejoice that our names are written in heaven. The Holy Communion is the Peace Banquet. We do not there consume Christ. Rather we are consumed by Him. He is not incorporated into us and made a part of our bodies. Instead we are incorporated into Him and made into His Body. Thus changed we do not belong to this world or to the wolves. Changed by grace, given authority over all the power of the enemy, we are prepared both for His visitation and to be His witnesses. Indeed we are eager for both.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.