Date: February 17, 2019 Transcript:
This morning, we start with a pop quiz:
- How many of the Twelve Disciples can you name?
Peter, John…..Judas Iscariot…..Oh, and Thomas and…. Well, we maybe should get a few more than that. After all, these twelve men all hold prominent roles in history. As the book of Acts records, they are really twelve men who changed the world! It is good for us to know who they were.
- How many of the 72 disciples can you name?
Luke 10:1 – After this, the Lord appointed seventy-two others (some versions say 70), and he sent them ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself was about to go.
Who are these 72 people? The answer to the question is that no one can even name one of them. We can speculate as to who these individuals might be. It is very possible some were women – maybe the ones who went to Jesus’ tomb that first Easter Sunday. Yet, nowhere are we given a name or any information about even one of these other 72 disciples of Jesus.
Maybe someday in heaven, I will run into a guy named Joe, who says, “Hey, I was one of the 72 Jesus sent out!” Yet, for now, this is a group of unknown, anonymous disciples.
Friends, I think this is another great example of how the Lord uses ordinary people. I am afraid many folks think God is primarily interested in spiritual superstars – that he is like an NFL scout who goes to a college football game because he is interested in one player out of the 100 that are there.
But, God is not like that. He is not interested in just superstars. There is a song from a few years ago which says, “God uses ordinary people, people just like you and me.”
When Jesus chose the Twelve Disciples, they were ordinary guys. They were not the rich and famous. They were not the intellectual or religious elite of that day. Most of them were fishermen by trade.
Here, Jesus chooses an even more ordinary group. He chooses people whose names are not even recorded. I suspect they were people with many of the same limitations, fears and frustrations those of us in this room have. They were ordinary people, just like us; or I should say like most of us. I think there may be a few extraordinary types among us.
Friends, today our text is the first four verses of Luke 10 (page 868). We are going to explore some of the things Jesus says to the 72 ordinary disciples he sends out. As we do, I believe we will find a message for the ordinary followers of Jesus in this room and for any extraordinary ones as well. Let’s pause and pray that, through his Word and Spirit, the Lord will bring encouragement to each of us today.
As we go through this passage, I want you to note:
#1 Ordinary disciples have important work to do.
Luke 10:2 – He (Jesus) told them, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”
This is a farming analogy – grain farming. The harvest is abundant – the heads of the grain are full. However, there are not enough workers to harvest the crop. Two of Nancy’s brothers do a lot of grain farming, and it can be frustrating when the weather keeps them from harvesting the crop when it is ready.
In this case, there are not enough workers to harvest the crop. Yet, this also means there is a wonderful opportunity for those willing to take it.
Of course, Jesus is not talking about wheat or corn, but people. There are people ready to hear the gospel. There are people ready to respond to the great news that salvation and hope are found in Jesus Christ. That is a reason for Christians to be optimistic and encouraged as we do our work of telling others the great news about Jesus. The Lord assures us there are people who will respond positively to that message.
Let me illustrate it this way: Let’s say this summer you take a trip to Canada and hire Joe as a fishing guide. Joe offers to take you to one of two lakes to go fishing. He says he has never been to the first one and has no idea if there are any fish there. The second lake is one Joe has fished many times. He knows it is well-stocked with walleye, and he says sometimes the fish are practically jumping into the boat!
Joe asks, “To which lake do you want to go?” Most, if not all of us, would say, “To the second one, to the one you know has fish.” Friends, God says to us (to Jesus’ disciples), “You are fishers of men. I am sending you out into a world which is well-stocked with people ready to hear about Jesus.”
Now, how does God know this? Some say, “Because he is God and knows everything. He knows who will respond to the gospel and who will not.” That’s true, but the Bible tells us there is more involved.
One reason God knows people will respond to the gospel is because he is at work, using all sorts of different means and circumstances to cultivate people’s hearts and make them hungry for the gospel.
The 72 disciples are being sent to prepare the way for Jesus. God has already gone ahead and prepared people for the disciples. That is why the harvest is abundant.
Friends, the same thing is true today. God is at work. He is getting people ready – softening people’s hearts and opening their spiritual eyes so they will respond positively when ordinary disciples share with them the great news of Jesus.
Whether we are going to Africa, like the Klays, to tell people who have never heard of Jesus or to school to talk to friends that don’t understand who Jesus really is or to a family reunion where people believe about Jesus, but are not trusting in him.
God is at work. If God calls us to share the great news of Jesus with people, we can be confident. He will work in their lives, helping them to be ready to hear the great news we have to share.
Friends, if we are faithful ambassadors of Jesus Christ, our efforts to represent him and tell others the great news will not be in vain. Now, that doesn’t mean we will see quick or frequent results. In fact, we may not see any results at all. The seeds we plant, however, will eventually bear fruit.
I always think of Luke Short, a farmer in colonial Massachusetts, who lived to be a hundred years old. At age 98, he was reflecting on a sermon he had heard the Puritan preacher, John Flavel, preach 85 years earlier back in Dartmouth, England. At the time, Flavel’s message had made him very angry, but now, 85 years later, it caused him to repent, turn to the Lord and receive Jesus Christ as his Savior.
It may take time for the seeds to grow, but the harvest will occur. And the Lord will use our efforts to help others experience God’s grace and find eternal life. That is a privilege ordinary disciples have.
#2 Jesus says ordinary disciples need to pray for more disciples who can be his ambassadors.
“The harvest is ready, but the workers are few.” The 72 ordinary disciples are ready to go to work. They are ready to go and tell others about Jesus. They need to do this. Yet, they also need more help. However, rather than going around knocking on doors and asking people, “Hey, would you come and help us work today,” we are to ask God to do the recruiting.
So, does this mean it is wrong for me as a pastor to ask you to help out with things at church? No! Yet, it is a reminder that before I do that, it is my responsibility to pray. We need to ask the Lord to call, prepare, equip and encourage others to be faithful disciples who will be ambassadors for Jesus Christ in our world.
We live on a planet where many workers are needed. There are over seven billion people in the world. About 29% (over two billion of them) have never heard of Jesus and have no contact with any church or any Christians.
There are about 400,000 cross-cultural missionaries (people seeking to share the good news of Jesus with others). Unfortunately, only 7,000 of them are seeking to bring the gospel to unreached people (to those who have never heard). That means there is about one missionary for every 290,000 people who have never heard about Jesus and have no way of hearing about Jesus unless someone goes and tells them.
The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. We need to pray God will raise up more men and women who are willing to go to places where people have never heard of Jesus.
Here at CBC, we are very grateful the Lord has called Chris and Steph Klay to North Africa to share the great news of Jesus with unreached people there. We need to be working to support them in that endeavor. And we need to pray God will raise up other workers from our midst who will invest their lives in bringing the great news of Jesus to people that have never had the opportunity to hear of Jesus.
Of course, many folks in our own community are not believers in Christ. Though they have opportunities to hear about Jesus, most have only a fuzzy idea of what Christianity is all about. As Christians, we are Christ’s ambassadors, called to represent him and share the gospel with the people around us. We need to do that.
And we should also pray the Lord will help other Christians realize they, too, have a responsibility to tell the people they know the great news of who Jesus is and what he has done for us.
Surveys show that most people who identify themselves as evangelical Christians (over 60%), seldom, if ever, talk about their faith in Christ with someone who is not a believer. These folks seldom, if ever, invite others to attend church with them. That is not good. Oh, I don’t think we need to be going door-to-door like Jehovah’s Witnesses or standing on a street corner telling people they should repent.
What we need is all believers in Christ, including those of us in this room, talking to their family members and friends about Jesus and what it means to trust and follow him. We should be praying that all genuine Christians will recognize this is their responsibility and, by God’s grace, will do it.
Now, to be frank, I don’t always remember to pray about this. I often forget to pray God will raise up workers who will help with the harvest, both in our own community and in other parts of the world, especially in those parts where no one has ever heard of Jesus.
Last week, the Lord used this passage to remind me that this is something I should be doing. I encourage you to be praying as well that the Lord of the harvest would send out workers into the harvest.
#3 Being an ordinary disciple will not always be easy.
Luke 10:3 – Now go; I’m sending you out like lambs among wolves.
Friends, I don’t think one needs to know much about how animals relate to each other to know it is not easy to be a sheep among the wolves. Folks, the Lord doesn’t want us to be under the illusion that following Jesus always means smooth sailing. There will be opposition. Some of that opposition will be very obvious. There may be persecution.
Some of Jesus’ followers may be arrested, beaten and even killed. That has happened many times in history, and it is happening in many parts of the world today. It is estimated that 245 million Christians now face high levels of persecution. In most Muslim-dominated countries, in Communist countries like North Korea or China, and in Hindu-dominated countries (especially India), it can be very dangerous to trust and follow Jesus.
Last year, over 3,000 Christians around the world were killed because of their faith. Many others were beaten or imprisoned. Many American missionaries have been forced to leave India in recent years because of the threat of violence.
Yet, other times the wolves will not be the violent type. They will scoff at, ridicule or will simply avoid followers of Jesus. This is the type of opposition that is most common in our country.
Now, most of us in this room have not experienced violent persecution or even much ridicule from those opposed to Christianity. Often, there seems to be a peaceful coexistence between wolves and sheep. Our culture has produced a lot of domesticated wolves – tame wolves.
There are folks who, even though they are not believers in Jesus, still tend to admire and respect Christianity. These folks don’t usually persecute Christians.
And then there are some sheep who try to blend in with the wolves. These are Christians whose values and attitudes really are not much different than the non-Christians around them. Thus, they don’t experience a lot of conflict with those opposed to Christianity.
However, things are changing! The wolves in our society are becoming much less tame. More and more people have no use for Christianity or for Christians. They often see Christians as negative, judgmental people who are a threat to their lifestyle. Some see Christianity as the big obstacle to real progress in the world.
Friends, in this type of environment, it is not much fun to be a sheep among the wolves. In other words, it is not always fun to be an ordinary disciple of Jesus Christ.
#4 Even though we may be in a hostile environment, the Lord’s instructions to ordinary disciples like us are very simple – we are to trust the Lord and get to work!
Luke 10:4 – Don’t carry a money-bag, traveling bag, or sandals; don’t greet anyone along the road.
Friends, those kind of seem like strange instructions, though they are very similar to what Jesus told the Twelve Disciples back in chapter 9.
The instruction not to carry a money-bag, traveling bag or sandals involves the expectation that there will be people in the village to where the ordinary disciples travel who will provide these things. The Lord will meet their needs through other believers in Jesus who are willing to share with those “laboring in the harvest.”
Yet, these instructions also point to the importance of trusting the Lord. When some of us go on a trip, we pack and attempt to prepare for almost any contingency. We put all sorts of things in the suitcase, just in case we might need them. In fact, that is the way some of us live our lives – trying to be prepared for any contingency, ready for any situation.
Now, in general, planning and preparation are good things. The Bible, especially Proverbs, encourages us to do just that.
However, like many other good things, planning and preparation can become idols in our lives. Especially in our culture, where some of us are very good at planning and preparing, it can be easy to place our confidence in our own ability to plan and prepare rather than in the Lord.
In other words, our trust and our faith is really in ourselves, rather than God. That is not how it should be, at least for ordinary disciples. Yes, we should plan and prepare, but our ultimate confidence always needs to be in the Lord. If it is, we will view our plans and prepare the way the Lord says we should:
James 4:13-18 – Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring – what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
Friends, those are words for all people, but they are ones 21st century Americans especially need to heed, including those of us who are ordinary disciples. Yes, we should utilize all the resources God provides for us, but our confidence should not be in those resources or in ourselves, but in the Lord.
So folks, that is what the Lord Jesus has to say to ordinary disciples – both in the first century and the 21st. There is one more thing that I want to say:
As ordinary disciples, we need to remember that trusting and following Jesus Christ is a great privilege, the greatest privilege in the world!
Whether or not people know our name is not really important. Whether or not our gifts and talents are recognized by others is not what really matters. Whether we think we have a successful or significant ministry isn’t even that important. What really matters is that you know you are trusting in Jesus Christ and have been adopted as God’s child.
Friend, if, for whatever reason, you are not sure what that means or not sure you are doing this, please make sure you talk to me or Pastor Mark. When you have confidence that you truly belong to the Lord, then you can let your soul be filled with gratitude for God’s amazing grace, and you can ponder what a great privilege it is to follow Jesus and be his disciple – because, in reality, there is no such thing as an ordinary disciple of Jesus Christ. Anyone who follows him is living the most extraordinary life one can imagine!
Oh, following Jesus is not always an easy life, not always fun and not always exciting; but it is the road that leads to eternal life and eternal joy!