Sunday, October 18, 2009

St. Luke, Evangelist Sermon -- Luke 10:1-9

October 18, 2009 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

“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.”

The Gospel Writer whom the Church commemorates on this day authored those words. St. Luke records Jesus’ action that authorized the Seventy-Two to go out and proclaim the coming of the kingdom of God. It is an appropriate event in Jesus’ life to hear on this day, as the Church remembers the Evangelist who was not an apostle, not a relative of Jesus, not even a relative of the Twelve.

Jesus’ action in sending the Seventy-Two demonstrates that there will be people beyond the Twelve apostles who will bear His authority. They will bring the Gospel of Christ—the words and works of Jesus that provide salvation—to other places that the Twelve would not get to. So it is for all who follow in the footsteps of the Twelve and the Seventy-Two.

Looking at Jesus’ instructions that He gives to the Seventy-Two, we see the authority that He conferred upon them. Jesus tells them: “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on him. But if not, it will return to you.” Jesus gives the Seventy-Two His own greeting to use in their work. The Seventy-Two will bring the declaration that the Lord God desires reconciliation, not retribution. And those who receive such message receive that reconciliation.

Jesus also gives the Seventy-Two instruction regarding hospitality: “Remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you.” The Lord’s instructions tell the Seventy-Two to act like He did: eating and drinking and associating with those who receive them. So Jesus did, and so the ones He sends shall do.

Jesus also instructs the Seventy-Two regarding their agenda, what they will do: “Heal the sick in [the town that receives you] and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” The Lord gives the Seventy-Two power over the effects of sin, even illnesses. He authorizes them to disclose to the people why these things were happening in the towns they visited. The Seventy-Two extend the sphere of influence that Jesus has in this world; the kingdom of God is expanded by the reception of their authoritative actions.

That is why this Gospel Reading was selected for a day to commemorate St. Luke, one of the Four Evangelists. What is seen in the instructions that Jesus gives to the Seventy-Two is the kingdom of God on the move, the Gospel going out. It is evangelism—the word with Gospel at its heart. [euvagge,lion = “gospel” in Greek; evangelium = “gospel” in Latin] In His graciousness, Jesus wills that people receive the benefits that He brings to this sinful world. He desires that people receive the salvation which He earns, including His victory over sin and all its effects.

That same desire is why Jesus continues to authorize people to go out to cities and villages today. The Sending of the Seventy-Two gives the pattern for what takes place among you as a congregation of Christ’s people. You will not have one of the Twelve apostles come to this place. No matter how hard you would wish for it, Peter, James, John, Andrew, and the others will not step foot here in Calvary Church. But the Lord Jesus does authorize others to go on ahead of Him.

For those of you who were here in the Winter and Spring of 2008, you learned much about that authority. You learned how the Lord of the Harvest sends workers out to His people. A man comes who is invested with Christ’s authority, but not for any action. No, the authority is given for specific acts, just as Jesus listed them for the Seventy-Two: “Bring My greeting of divine peace to My people. Stay among My people, not looking to jump to another house. Associate with My people. Bring My healing to their diseases, to the effects of their sin. Proclaim to them that the kingdom of God has come here among them.” That is what those who have and who currently hold the office of the ministry do with Christ’s authority in this place.

The reason for such action is simple: Jesus desires that you also receive His salvation. He desires for you to be part of His kingdom. Jesus desires that you have the fullness of His Gospel: the mercy that He shows to penitent sinners, so that they are forgiven and made heirs of everlasting life, even living out newness of life in their day-to-day activities. And so this can take place, Jesus authorizes men to proclaim His words and works, the very proclamation of what delivers you from eternal death.

The words and deeds of Jesus fulfilled what God the Father intended to take place. Jesus’ work as the Redeemer of the world is to reverse the effects of sin. Your faults, your imperfections, your misdeeds all separate you from the Lord God. Because of those things, you lack righteousness and by your own abilities know nothing of the Lord God’s favor and grace. But listen to what the Lord God said the effects of the Christ’s words and works would be: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water.”

Jesus puts an end to ignorance and lack of knowledge of divine righteousness. The effects of your faults, imperfections, and misdeeds are reversed. As the kingdom of God comes near to you—which is simply having the Holy Spirit given to you through the proclamation of Jesus’ words and works—you are no longer blind, deaf, lame, or mute. Instead of your souls being barren wastelands of sin and corruption, they have the springs of eternal life in them.

That is what the Gospel of Jesus does when it is brought to you and you believe it. That is the end goal of evangelism—again, which is nothing but the proclamation of Jesus’ words and works which carries the Holy Spirit to those who have yet to receive it. As you and others receive it from those who are authorized by Jesus to bring it, you are changed by Jesus’ actions, by His kingdom coming near to you. It is just as Martin Luther described in the Small Catechism: “How does God’s kingdom come? God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.” This took place in the cities and villages reached by the Seventy-Two; likewise it happens here.

That proclamation of Jesus’ words and works is what heals. It is how the Lord God fulfills the description of Him in the psalm: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” It is how your status is changed, so that you are no longer under divine condemnation. You are not blind, deaf, lame, or mute in matters of righteousness. No, you know what holiness is and that you have been given it because of Jesus’ actions done for you—His death and resurrection. The healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments puts to flight the diseases of your souls, so that with willing hearts you may ever love and serve the Lord God. So now, as you believe His holy word, as “the kingdom of God has come near to you,” you receive the Lord God’s favor, just as the psalm states: “the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His steadfast love.” That is what the evangelism you received from those who carried Jesus’ Gospel has brought to you.

The proclamation of Jesus’ words and works is what St. Luke’s life became all about. That is what he did as an Evangelist, leaving behind his physician’s practice to travel with St. Paul. Even today, we have his proclamation in a written form. As it is repeatedly read, we hear the words and works of Jesus. The great deeds of Jesus which delivered sinful human beings from sin, death, and Satan are heard and known by old and new groups of disciples.

That is how the Evangelist Luke was involved and is still involved in the extension of God’s Kingdom. That realm now includes you who live centuries after Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit is still given to you so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity. That same task of proclamation is what those who follow in the steps of the Seventy-Two are all about. May you receive the effects of Jesus’ words and works through it, the salvation that brings you to everlasting life.

T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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