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May 30 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 29, 2011

All things have been handed over to me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal him. Luke 10:22 (read Lk. 10:1-24)

INTRO: Can you think of someone whose words and actions made God beautiful to you?

Has there been anyone whose words and actions made God seem terrible, oppressive, or abusive?

For me, the development of my own mature knowledge of God generated some resentments
– I found myself feeling anger towards people who had misrepresented God to me
– Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, camp counselors, and pastors who gave me the impression that God was unloving, always angry and disappointed, that every day he had to be won over-again, yet was impossible to please

In our story, Jesus sent seventy disciples out ahead of him as his reps
– he gave them instructions to make sure that:

  • they would get the job done
  • they would represent him accurately

We’ll come back to this as we move farther into the text

The big themes of Jesus’ message are in this chapter
– the kingdom of God, the Holy Spirit, the name of Jesus, the revelation of God and Christ, knowing God, and prayer.
– the last two stories are both classics: the Good Samaritan and Martha and Mary

Let’s look at how Luke puts it together

Verses 1-16, What Jesus wants from his reps

Luke puts this section of the text in an envelope (bracketed by the word “sent” in verses 1 & 16)
– an envelope encloses a text by putting brackets, like bookends, at the beginning and end
– the word, phrase, or idea on the front and back tell us something about what’s in the middle
– in this instance, the fact that Jesus was sent by his Father adds gravity to their being sent by Jesus

They represent Jesus in the world just as Jesus represents God

What does Jesus want from them?

  1. That they share his vision, passion and mission
    – when crops are ready for harvest, there is a brief window of time in which to gather them before they get over-ripe, and that means that extra workers have to be hired to help
    – Jesus draws the disciples into his passion
    – pray to “Lord of harvest” to send laborers “into His harvest”
    The context is clear: the field, the work, and the harvest totally belong to God
    – God is already out there, at work in the lives of people
    – “Go”–they are an answer to Jesus’ prayer and the prayer he tells them to make
  2. That they depend on hospitality of others, but don’t exploit it
    “Behold” – this word is used in scripture to trigger a shift in the character’s (or reader’s) point of view
    – we are directed to look directly at something – to have get personally involved in what is being pointed out
    – We’ll soon see that the act of personally seeing is everything
    – “lambs . . .” they are not to be predators (there is a long history in the Hebrew Scriptures of the people being lambs who are exploited, oppressed, or devoured by their ministers; Eze. 34:1-10; Zec. 11:16-17)
  3. That they take only what they can easily carry
    – this is not a vow of poverty – it is not about being anti-materialistic, but about being unencumbered
    – not loaded with a lot of stuff that will slow them down
    That’s the point of “greet no one on the way” (see 2 Ki. 4:29)
    They were being sent on a journey and would be on the move
    – this is a journey within a journey (theirs within his)
    – that is what Jesus invites us into with his “Follow Me”
    The spiritual journey: We find our story within Jesus’ story
  4. Bring peace to every home they enter and the kingdom to every city on the way
    – this is the essence of their mission
    – “success” does not depend on the disciples, but the free will of those who hear them
    They don’t know beforehand which house will receive their peace or which city will receive them
    – so they cannot make any judgments about people before entering their home or their city

Verses 13-15 form a break in his instructions to emphasize the seriousness of their mission and its affect
– the cities that had the privilege of a near encounter with the kingdom of God intensifies their rejection of it
– they were confronted by a unique moment in space and time, but they were unable to see how big it was

Verses 17-20, The reps return and report on their mission

They’re excited (“joy”), but all they report is that demons scattered before them
– why doesn’t Luke give any other details of their mission?
– he does not want our attention to be shifted from Jesus
He’s the center, the One Luke wants us looking at and thinking about

“I was watching . . .” one of Jesus’ most mystical statements in the synoptic gospels
– again, “behold”–this time, our point of view is shifted to Jesus’ vision of their spiritual safety
– it carries the disciples above every spiritual threat to their work

“Behold, I Myself have created the smith who blows the fire of coals
And brings out a weapon for its work;
And I have created the destroyer for ruin.
No weapon that is formed against you will prosper;
And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD,
And their vindication is from Me,” declares the LORD.
(Isaiah 54:16-17)

But then Jesus makes a sharp turn
– their excitement cannot be in what they can do with his name, but in the place where their names are recorded
Notice where that puts the emphasis of their journey and ministry
– not in chasing demons–i.e., them against Satan–, but in their connection with heaven
Christians are constantly getting excited about the wrong things
– it’s our nature to respond to the sensational
but these are distractions that diminish our time and energy for the things that matter to Jesus

Verses 21-24, Jesus’ prayer takes us into the heart of the mystery

“He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit”
– this is an unusual expression–in fact, this is the only time it occurs in scripture
– what does it mean? Why not simply say that he “rejoiced greatly”?
– what changes when the words “Holy Spirit” are added?
Could it indicate a dimension of experience we are missing?
Paul in Ephesus, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (Acts 19:2)

The oddness of the phrase draws attention to itself – it evokes our curiosity
– not only regarding what it means but why Luke would use it
– what’s his point?

Luke mentions the Spirit a lot in first four chapters of his gospel
– but after chapter 4, the Spirit disappears from the story, until now
– he will be mentioned again in chapters 11 and 12, but then not again until the book of Acts (although his coming is implied in Lk. 24:49)
So why does Luke mention him here and in this context?

  • it adds something to our understanding of prayer
    – to see Jesus pray in this way, tells us something
    – we are “in the Spirit” when we worship (and we can also “pray in Spirit”)
  • the dynamic of Christian experience isn’t generated or sustained by natural energy or force
    – the form of Jesus’ praise points to a reality beyond us

We have a life in Jesus, not so much by working as by consenting
Obviously the disciples were not sitting on their hands–we are laborers
– but we work at a harvest we did not plant, in a field that doesn’t belong to us, working miracles for which we cannot take the credit
We labor, struggle, and press on
– but the success we enjoy does not result from our work
– the reward we will receive is infinitely out of proportion to our effort

Jesus’ prayer and explanation of his relation to the Father takes us back to the ongoing question: Who is Jesus?
– here he clearly says only the Father knows

“Truth is God’s knowledge of himself.” Helmut Thielicke

– no one can know “who” Jesus is or who the Father is unless it’s revealed to him

Earlier I said that the act of personally seeing is everything–that becomes obvious here
“Blessed, the eyes which see the things you see”
– this story is told to us so we can see what they saw, hear what what they heard
-so that their experience of Jesus can become ours

CONC: Jesus refers to God as “Father” five times in these verses

The story has led us along a trail that comes to this point – to the Father
– if everything in the chapter works as it should, this is where we arrive
– not at an imposing theological concept

N. T. Wright has explained the way theologians confuse issues when try to make connections between abstract doctrines, such as the incarnation and the atonement. He suggested that “. . . perhaps it is these abstractions that are causing the problem. The technical terms incarnation and atonement are, I believe, true signposts. But what is the reality to which they are pointing?”

The message of the kingdom of God is not about an “it”
– it does not come near to us as an “it,” but as a person; namely the person of Jesus (“your name”)
– those who listened to the disciples, listened to Jesus

So what we see are links in a chain: we receive the revelation from Luke, who received it from the apostles, who received it from Jesus, who received it from the Father
– by this chain we become linked directly to the Father
And what does Jesus want to tell us about God by this image of Father?
– in spite of our personal reaction to the concept of a father based on kind or abusive our own dads were to us, Jesus wants to introduce us to God as a Father (his Father) according to his understanding
So if God is our Father, then what?
Then . . . love, commitment, faithfulness, provision, help, guidance, training, strong arms to lean on, a shoulder to cry on, and home

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