51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’ 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.
Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. He knew what awaited him there [Luke 13:32-33]. His time on earth was about to come to a terrible end, one he was not looking forward to. The very thought of what was going to happen filled him with dread [Luke 22:41-44]. Yet he went because it was his purpose in coming [Luke 18:31].
The Samaritans were not happy with him [v 53] because he was heading up to Jerusalem, which the Samaritans did not acknowledge as a centre of worship. Remember the words of the woman at the well in John 4:19-20.
Jesus could have done so much good if he had not gone to the cross. Imagine the healings and the defeat of demonic forces that could have occurred! Imagine the mobilisation of the world to meet need! Instead, Jesus followed the plan he and the other members of the godhead worked out before time began for the defeat of sin and the cleansing of all who would put their faith in Jesus. That was his purpose. He didn’t come to put the world right: he came to put people right with God [Luke 19:10]. The other things Jesus did he did because of who he is; his character demanded he heal and comfort and love, but his purpose was to be the sacrifice of atonement. It is the same for God’s people. Our purpose is not to bring justice to the mistreated, or help the need; they are the things we do because of who we are in our Lord Jesus, but our purpose is to make disciples of all people [Matthew 28:19-20]. We set out to make disciples but in doing that we are people who love others and hate injustice.
It may be this incident in verse 54 that led Jesus to give James and John the nickname “Sons of Thunder” [Mark 3:17], but whether or not that is the case this incident shows how appropriate the nickname was and it gives us a glimpse of Jesus’ sense of humour. You can imagine the smiles of the other disciples whenever it was used, and they recalled this incident and the telling off Jesus gave the brothers. There is much that shows Jesus’ humour in the Bible. Think of the humour of taking the log out of your eye before taking the speck out of someone else’s eye [Matthew 7:3-4]. Those of us who are visual thinkers can’t help but smile at that.
Do you ever think of Jesus being joyful? Or the Father for that matter?
Joy should be one of the markers of the believer [Phil 4:4]. Is it part of who you are? Jesus resolutely setting his face towards Jerusalem was for you. That should fill you with joy.
Heavenly Lord, thank you for your plan to rescue me. Help me to live in the joy that brings to my soul. Amen
57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’
58 Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’
59 He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’
But he replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’
60 Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’
61 Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.’
62 Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’
We have her the conundrum of faith. Salvation is completely free, and we should never move from that wonderful truth, but living the life of faith is costly. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote of this in classic work “The Cost of Commitment.” He talks of the widespread preaching of what he calls “cheap grace”, salvation without cost. This is not the only place that Jesus speaks of counting the cost of following him. There is that classic passage in Luke 14 about counting the cost before building or going to war [Luke 14:25-33], which Jesus concludes with the words, “those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” And again, he speaks of denying ourselves and taking up our cross daily, and losing our lives as we follow him [Luke 9:23-24]. We need to be careful of the “bait and switch” method of evangelism, where people are promised nothing but blessing but get hardship and persecution along with the blessings. It’s no wonder that so many give up the faith when hardship comes when the gospel they gave their hearts to was not the true gospel. It’s like a baby being adopted. They have no say in the process – their adoption is a free gift, however being a member of a family comes with responsibilities and costs as well as blessings.
Jesus says to this man “Follow me and you will have to give up the comforts of home and job and couch surf with me.” It may be that this is Jesus’ way of weeding out those who would follow him for the wrong reasons. Becoming a Christian is making Jesus Lord; in fact that is one of the early Christian creeds. A chorus we used to sing when I was in youth groups had the words, “If you do not make him Lord of all, you do not make him Lord at all.”
Are there areas of your life that are off limits to the Lord? “Lord, you can have this area of my life and this amount of time, but don’t ask me to give this up, or to do that.” Do you have dreams that do not take into account what the Lord wants of you?
Jesus calls another person to follow him, but he says, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ Jesus’ answer is very hard to hear. He says there are bigger things at stake than just our family obligations, big, and no doubt as important as they are. He’s saying, “You must take the opportunity to follow me and carry out my mission when it comes. You cannot put it off. You must not put it off.” The third incident is much the same but the point Jesus makes is that we must follow Jesus with no regrets. It’s hard to read this without thinking of lot’s wife who looked back with regret to the city of Sodom as she and her family fled the coming judgment of God.
There is a cost to following the Lord, but it is a cost that comes with great blessings as well. Jesus said that no one gives up anything for God that he will not repay them a hundred-fold [Mark 10:29-31]. The issue is that we may not always recognize the blessings when they come.
It’s a great practice to start and end the day by counting our blessings and thanking God for them. It changes our view of things.
Lord give me a thankful heart that follows you without regret. Amen
10 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
This is the classic statement to encourage evangelism. “The harvest is plentiful.” Is that the way you see it today or was that just the case in Jesus’ day? In the sense that only 7% of Australia’s population are “active practitioners” of Christianity, and that only 15% go to church at least monthly, then 85% of our population are not active in Christian churches, (although 45% of Australians claim to be Christian), there is a plentiful field in which to work [Sources: ABS Census 2016 and McCrindle, Faith and Belief in Australia].
Notice too whose harvest it is? God is the Lord of the harvest. Just as God prepared in advance the good works he wants us to do, so too he is preparing people to hear the Good News – he is the Lord of the Harvest. The Holy Spirit is at work calling people to Jesus. It’s God’s field we go out into, and it’s people God has prepared that we call. The problem is that we don’t know who those people are so we go all out for everyone. Paul is the example that no one is too hard for the gospel to change them.
Jesus said “the workers are few, therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers”. Is that part of your prayer life? It ought to be part of the prayers of all God’s people. The problem is that we have to be prepared to be the answer to our own prayer, just as the seventy-two were. It’s pretty hard to pray “God send people out, but not me.” And look at Jesus’ pep talk – “I’m sending you out like lambs among wolves.” What happens to lambs put amongst wolves? It’s an interesting juxtaposition don’t you think – “the harvest is plentiful but you may get ripped to shreds in the process!” This continues the theme of persecution and suffering for the gospel that has been, and will continue to be a theme in this part of Luke’s gospel, and if you were with us in our last Daily Feast series in 2 Timothy you’ll remember the same theme there as well.
At our church we are blessed to have an evangelist on staff but that doesn’t mean his job is to do all the evangelism for us. Rather it means that the church has recognised his giftedness and is willing to support him so that he can get on and do what God has gifted him for. It doesn’t absolve us from spreading the gospel. Anyway, as we saw in our last series in 2 Timothy, good news is for sharing. We will share the gospel if it really is good news for us. Is it good news for you? Does the Good News thrill your soul or has your love grown cold over the years?
Pray the Lord of the harvest not just to send out workers but to give you back your first love and enthusiasm for the Good News. Here is a challenge – pray that every morning for a month and look back and see what ahs happened.
Father and author of the good news, fill me with all joy in believing so that the gospel will flow out of me to those around me like a cup filled and running over. Amen
5 ‘When you enter a house, first say, “Peace to this house.” 6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
8 ‘When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. 9 Heal those there who are ill and tell them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 “Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God has come near.” 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
13 ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.[c]
16 ‘Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.’
I have a friend working as a missionary in a foreign country and his strategy is to do what Jesus tells the seventy-two to do here: he looks for men and women of good will who welcome him and are hospitable. He is like a hunter looking for the signs of those God is disposing towards the Good news, or at least his servants. He is not trying to convince all and sundry of the need for salvation (although if the opportunity arises, he doesn’t shy away from it), but he is looking for signs that the Holy Spirit is at work in someone’s life. I have another friend who describes himself as a “hunter-gatherer”. As these friends of mine meet someone for the first time they are asking themselves,” Is this one that God has been preparing?”
What I like about Jesus’ strategy here is that he doesn’t expect his disciples to blast away with the Good News and hope for the best, irrespective of how it will be received. They are not to waste their time on those who are not interested [v 10 & 11]. They are to look for the people of peace [v 8]. They are following the hound of heaven who is on the trail of those he loves [“The Hound of Heaven” is a poem by Francis Thompson which tells of God stalking him in love to bring him into the kingdom].
The first step in having a heart for evangelism is to ask God when we meet people, “Is this one you are pursuing?’
The gospel has a double role, it is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe, but it is the message of doom to all who turn away [v 13-16; see also John 3:18].
There will always be negative responses to the Good News. Provided we speak the gospel truly, rejection is rejection of Christ, and rejection of Christ is rejection of God. The difficulty with evangelism that it is hard not to take rejection personally, and it is personal in many ways. Rejection of the gospel is a rejection of what we hold dear, and who we hold dear. It’s a rare person who can just brush it off. No, it is personal but is a cost of being a disciple. “If the world hates you know that it first hated me.” [John 15:18]. It is one of those pains that we bear with the strength of the Holy Spirit because that’s one of the reasons he was given to us – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” [Phil 4:13]. Just as it is often rightly said, “you cannot love well if you are not willing to be hurt”, so you cannot share the good news if you are not willing to be hurt. You will never experience the joy of being part of someone’s testimony if you don’t share the good news, just as you will never experience the elation of love if you are not prepared for the possibility of pain. But, as we will see tomorrow, there is also the possibility of great joy associated with sharing the good news.
God and Father of my Lord Jesus, by your Spirit prompt me to be on the lookout for people of peace that I might get to share the Good News with them. Amen
17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’
18 He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’
21 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
22 ‘All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’
23 Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.’
The would-be evangelists “return with joy.” They rejoice at the effect of the power Jesus has given them. Jesus says he sees Satan fall like lightning from heaven. This could mean a number of things but probably refers to the figurative defeat of the evil one in the defeat of his minions, and although it is directed at a particular event (the success of the seventy-two) it is symptomatic of the series of defeats Satan will experience in the gospel age. Jesus words about scorpions and snakes have been taken literally by some [see also Mark 16:18 a passage that most reliable manuscripts do not include] and there is a group of Christians in America who are referred to as “serpent handlers” who, as part of their worship, handle venomous snakes claiming the power Jesus talks of here. A number of high-profile pastors have died carrying out this practice [ Snake-Handling Pentecostal Pastor Dies From Snake Bite. https://abcnews.go.com › story].
The passage does not say that the seventy-two rejoiced at the way they were able to walk on snakes and scorpions without harm, which you’d maybe expect if that had happened. It would seem that Jesus is again referring to the evil one, the serpent, the dragon and this is supported by the words “all the power of the enemy” [v 19].
Luke tells us that Jesus was “filled with joy through the Holy Spirit” at the results of the mission [v 21]. Do you ever think of Jesus, or the Heavenly Father for that matter, as being joyful? Did you ever think that part of the Holy Spirit’s work might be to produce joy? Think for a moment, if God does whatever he pleases [Psalm 115:3, 135:6] and if his will is always done, then God must be constantly pleased. If he lives in perfect unity and harmony with the other members of the trinity then all three must be full of peace and joy and delight in each other’s company.
Jesus tells the seventy-two not to rejoice at their power over the spirits but that their names are written in heaven. This is a method Jesus often used to make a point – he’s not saying don’t rejoice at your success, after all he rejoices at it, but rather he’s saying, “by comparison your success is nothing beside your salvation”. He uses the same method of making his point when he says things like “Whoever does not hate his mother and father cannot be my disciple” [Luke 14:26], and “I have not come to bring peace but a sword [Matthew 10:34-36]and the passages we looked at in day 1 of this week.
Then Jesus goes on to speak of his relationship with the Father.
22 ‘All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’ No one can know God unless Jesus chooses to reveal him to them, and he has done that for his disciples. They are blessed that Jesus has done that for them, as are we.
Do you realise your blessedness? Do you spend time thanking God for your adoption?
Father I rejoice that name is written in Heaven. Thank you for making me yours. Amen