The Great Apostle
Main Idea: May the Lord of the harvest make us better evangelists.
- Four Attitude Adjustments for Reaching Others (9:46-62)
- He turns us from pride to humility (9:46-48).
- He turns us from tribalism to cooperation (9:49-50).
- He turns us from vengeance to mercy (9:51-56).
- He turns us from security to sacrifice (9:57-62).
- Five Action Items for Reaching Others (10:1-24)
- Pray earnestly (10:1-2).
- Go meekly (10:3-4).
- Seek peace (10:5-8).
- Preach boldly (10:9-16).
- Rejoice greatly (10:17-24).
- One Aim in Reaching Others (9:48; 10:16)
When the Lord began to give us vision and a hope for Anacostia River Church, he led us to meditate on the book of Titus. And in that book he gave us five M objectives to focus on:
- Spreading the Message of the gospel
- Showing Mercy to our neighbors
- Supporting the Maturity of our members
- Multiplying church plants and Christian leaders
- Sending international Missionaries
We reasoned from Scripture that if we could pursue those five objectives, then we would, by God’s grace, be a church that follows the Bible and we would, by his grace, reach many of our neighbors for Jesus.
Today’s text helps us to think about a couple of our Ms: Spreading the message and sending missionaries. In Luke 9–10 that’s what we see the Lord Jesus Christ doing. He’s training the first disciples in how to approach people with the message of Christianity. He addresses three things: their attitude, their actions, and their aim.
Four Attitude Adjustments for Reaching Others
He Turns Us from Pride to Humility (9:46-48)
The first attitude adjustment Jesus teaches his followers is to turn them from pride to humility. This lesson comes on the heels of verses 44-45, where Jesus for the second time teaches his disciples that he must be betrayed, crucified, and killed. While Jesus talks about his death, the disciples in verse 46 argue about who is the greatest among them! Everybody wants to be Muhammad Ali. Everybody shouts, “I am the greatest! I am the greatest! I am a baaad man!”
Now what must be in our hearts to even argue with others that we are the greatest? To even enter that argument, a person must have some level of pride. That person must feel pretty good about himself—too good, given that we are all sinners. When you imagine the scene, it all looks rather childish.
Jesus knows their hearts. Almost as if to say, “This is childish,” the Lord places a child by his side. A child in that culture was not greatly valued. Children occupied the lowest place in society. So Jesus makes a powerful point by putting this child at his side and saying, in effect, the least of persons in society are greater than you. It’s a humbling thing.
More than that, the Lord teaches why being like children makes you greatest in the kingdom. Do you see the logic in verse 48? Jesus means the message is greater than the messenger. Even if the message comes from a little child, the Lord offers himself to the world in the message. The Christ preached is greater than the preacher of Christ. What makes the child so great in this verse is that the child brings Jesus with him. Why is that so great? It’s because in receiving Jesus you also receive God the Father. Which is greater? The child or God? For this reason the messenger is always lower than the message. The main thing is not the giver of the message but the God in the message.
We need to know this in a day when preachers, their gifts, and their platforms are so widely idolized. Knowing that the message is greater than the messenger keeps us from fighting about who the “great preachers” are. It keeps us from saying as they did in Corinth, “I belong to Paul. I belong to Apollos.” Do you remember what Paul said to that? He asked, “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? They are servants through whom you believed” (1 Cor 3:4-5; emphasis added). The preacher serves the message. The truly great preachers do not boast in their preaching ability or verbal prowess. The truly great preachers boast in the Lord! There should be no famous preachers—only a famous Savior.
The Lord checks their pride because the message will be lost in their arguing about who is “greatest.” If their argument continues unchecked, they will offer the world more of themselves rather than more of Jesus. Sometimes fallen men love themselves too much and exalt Christ too little.
He Turns Us from Tribalism to Cooperation (9:49-50)
The disciples see a man casting out demons (v. 49). This wasn’t a rumor or report. They are eyewitnesses to a miracle. This man does the right thing with the right motive. He is “driving out demons in [Jesus’s] name.” He’s doing the work of the Lord.
So we might ask, “Why did they try to stop him?” Why would you stop someone from doing an obviously good thing for an obviously good reason? Why would you stop someone from doing the work of the Lord?
They give us the answer in verse 49: “because he does not follow us.” Their opposition boils down to one fact: he was not in their clique, their group, their little tribe. So they tried to shut him down. They raised their group above the mission itself. That, friends, is tribalism, not Christian ministry.
Tribalism will make you crazy. Here are disciples on their first training mission—they’re just trainees trying to learn how to do something—and they attempt to stop somebody from doing what they’re being trained to do. What they attempt to stop isn’t error or falsehood. They’re trying to stop the work of God. Why? Because the worker wasn’t from their tribe.
You know, we have a lot of ways of being tribal, don’t we?
- Black vs. white (ethnic tribalism)
- Male vs. female (gender tribalism)
- Reformed vs. Arminian (theological tribalism)
- Young vs. old (generational tribalism)
- Urban vs. suburban (community tribalism)
- Rich vs. middle class vs. poor (class tribalism)
- Republican vs. Democrat (political tribalism)
We could go on. We even combine them to make even smaller tribes: someone might say, “I am a black, male, Reformed, urban, Democrat.” We place ourselves in social cliques and act as if no one outside that clique really knows God or really is faithful to do God’s work. Then we create shibboleths for testing whether someone really belongs to our tribe. The main thing becomes whether they are “with us” rather than whether they are with Jesus. That’s crazy!
Don’t get me wrong. There are good and necessary distinctions to be made in life. There is such a thing as truth and falsehood, good and evil, and so on. There is such a thing as a true gospel and false gospels. Regarding those things we do not hesitate to draw and defend lines. But tribalism occurs among people who all name Christ as Lord and believe the same gospel. Because they are not “with us,” we are not with them. That attitude is to our shame.
The Lord checks our tribal attitudes and demands an attitude of cooperation (v. 50). If a person isn’t against you in God’s work but is doing God’s work, then that person is for you. Tribal people can’t see who is actually for them in the gospel. Only cooperative people can see that.
But our Lord’s words are a two-edged sword. We may be comfortable saying, “If they are not against us then they are for us,” as long as we assume we are the standard and others have to come to us. But can we embrace the statement in the other direction? Can we joyfully conclude, “If we are not against them then we are for them”? If we cannot, then tribalism probably remains in our hearts and will likely get in the way of our seeing the work of God being done by others. What a tragedy that would be because it will push us into smaller and smaller tribes of isolation and make us doubt that God is at work in the world.
He Turns Us from Vengeance to Mercy (9:51-56)
Tribalism merely aggravates and inconveniences when it exists by itself. When you add power and anger to tribalism, a destructive potential results.
The Jewish people of Jesus’s day had nothing to do with Samaritans. The Samaritans were a people who were part Jewish and part Gentile. So we are surprised to read that Jesus instructed his disciples to enter this village and make preparations to stay there (v. 52).
The Samaritans returned the favor to their Jewish neighbors. They had nothing to do with Jewish people. The situation is rife with ethnic prejudice. When the Samaritans learned that Jesus and his disciples were headed to Jerusalem, they refused to receive the Lord (v. 53). Their prejudice came out. They were nativists. They wanted Samaria for Samaritans. They wanted the foreigners out.
Now the Samaritan attitude is wrong—they opposed the Lord—but the attitude that most needed adjustment was the disciples’. They wanted to call down fire from heaven to consume or kill the people (v. 54). They wished to punish the Samaritans. They were impatient and merciless. Tribalism married to power and vengeance is deadly.
So the Lord rebuked them (v. 55). Some manuscripts record the Lord saying to them, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them” (vv. 55-56 NKJV). We are reminded of James 1:20—“The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (ESV). In sinful, fallen anger the disciples want to call down judgment on people who have refused Jesus. That is not the Christian spirit, beloved. If people in the community reject Christ and us, we should not call for judgment. Judgment will come soon enough. That will be a great and terrible day. While it’s still day, our job is to announce the good news: there is a way to escape the coming judgment through repentance and faith in Christ.
If they will not hear the good news, then in mercy we simply keep moving. Luke says, “They went to another village” (v. 55). They didn’t argue with the Samaritans. They didn’t look to destroy them. They left town. That was the merciful thing to do. The proud would argue. The tribalist would shut them down. The vengeful would destroy them. But the disciple would leave, hoping the Lord might have mercy on them later.
Pride and tribalism in combination with the power to exact vengeance is deadly. If you bolster that with religious zeal, then the deadly force is almost unstoppable. Isn’t that what we are witnessing with ISIS? May it never be so among Christ’s people. Before we can be of any use to our cities, neighborhoods, and neighbors we must temper justice with mercy. Otherwise the gospel will not ring true.
This observation applies to at least three situations:
- Evangelism: We warn of judgment to come, but we don’t call it down. Judgment will come soon enough. We should seek mercy and time for people to eventually hear.
- Gentrification: Some community activists sound like Samaritans rejecting strangers. Christians should fight for justice, but that can’t look like racializing places in a way that forbids freedom.
- Political candidates: Some of our candidates sound like the Samaritans in their immigration policy. Christians should reject any appeal to nativism and vengeance against those who aren’t “one of us.”
The Lord turns us from pride to humility, from tribalism to cooperation, and from vengeance to mercy.
He Turns Us from Security to Sacrifice (9:57-62)
In one way or another, each of the three persons in this passage saying they would follow Jesus wanted to do so with the guarantee of security and comfort. Apparently the first person thought he would follow Jesus to some comfortable home, but Jesus says, “the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (v. 58). The Creator of the universe was homeless in his own creation. That’s humility and sacrifice. He divested himself of all the glories and privileges of heaven to enter creation homeless. To follow this Lord means following him into the very life he lives. Christ did not come to lead us into riches and mansions in this life. If we would follow him we will have to sometimes give up home and the safety of home—just as many of you have moved into this neighborhood, forsaking more comfortable and secure places for the sake of Jesus’s mission.
The second person wanted to wait and collect the inheritance after his father’s death (v. 59). Perhaps he heard Jesus say to the first person that he had no place to live. So he decided first to secure some money of his own so he wouldn’t have to follow Jesus poor.
The third person wanted to have more time with his family. He wanted to say his “good-byes” (v. 61).
Each of these is a failure to commit to Christ at the cost of comfort. The proclamation of the kingdom is at stake in all of this. That’s why the Lord tells one person, “Let dead bury their own dead, but you go and spread the news of the kingdom of God” (v. 60). The Lord tells another, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (v. 62). Our desire for comfort and security often hinders our obedience to the Great Commission.
Do you remember the parable of the sower in Luke 8? Do you remember how some seed fell among the thorns, which was a symbol for how the word of God is “choked with worries, riches, and pleasures of life, and produce no mature fruit” (8:14)? Isn’t that what’s happening here? Don’t a lot of people find it difficult to follow Jesus because they love the world?
Security smothers sacrifice. That’s tragic when the kingdom of God is at stake. Beloved, we want to have a sacrificial attitude because time is short, hell is real, and souls are at stake.
My Christian friend, what are we unwilling to sacrifice so that people may hear of the kingdom and be saved? Which of these attitude adjustments are most necessary in your life? The best gospel work begins in our own hearts before it can reach our neighbors.
To my friends who are not yet Christians, the message we bring we’re willing to bring to you in humility, in cooperation, in mercy, and at great sacrifice. Do you think we would go through all of that to bring you something that would hurt you? Do you think the Lord Jesus would require it of us only to abuse you? Certainly not! We recognize we have sometimes failed to have these positive attitudes when speaking to you of Jesus—please forgive us for those failures—but do not let Christians keep you from Christ. Consider the gospel fairly.
The Lord offers you forgiveness and eternal life through faith in him. He died on the cross to pay for your sins. He lived a sinless life to provide your righteousness before God. He was resurrected from the grave as proof that God accepted his sacrifice on your behalf. Now God calls you to repent of your sin and to place your trust and hope of eternal life in Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. Do not allow God’s love to pass you by. Receive it through faith in Christ.
Five Action Items for Reaching Others
If Luke 9:46-62 was Jesus preparing the disciples for action, then 10:1-24 is Jesus sending them out to do the work. In this work we see five actions the disciples are to take. This is their strategy for reaching their cities and towns.
Pray Earnestly (10:1-2)
The first great work of Christian evangelism is done on our knees in prayer. We must earnestly seek the Lord to supply laborers. The problem is not that there is no harvest. The problem is that there are too few laborers, too few Christians doing the work of telling people about Jesus. This is why I find the Saturday evangelism teams and stories of workplace evangelism so encouraging. You are doing the work of evangelism. But we need more laborers, for the fields continue to be plentiful.
The Lord commands the disciples to pray. In the following verses he sends them out to do the work. In a very real sense they were the answers to their own prayers for laborers. So it is with us. We must pray earnestly, which means we must be prepared to be the answer to the prayers. We cannot be faithful Christians without at least being stumbling evangelists. We don’t need to be perfect evangelists with all the answers delivered smoothly from the top of our heads. Remember the example Jesus used of “the great evangelist” (see p. 164). It was a child. Surely all of us can be like children, trusting the Lord, unworried about what we don’t know but really consumed with what we do know, telling others in the power that comes from prayer.
Let us be people of earnest prayer so that the plentiful harvest might actually be brought in and the storehouses of God’s kingdom filled to overflow with the saved.
Go Meekly (10:3-4)
The attitude adjustments are crystalized in these two verses. Lambs in the midst of wolves is a picture of danger. Wolves snarl, bare their fangs, circle around, ready to tear into defenseless lambs. Everything that is a predator is stronger than the lamb.
Christ sends his people not into a safe house or monastery but right into the midst of wolves and dangers. He calls the disciples to go without supplies because he will supply for them. He commits to guarding them in the midst of danger and supplying for them in the midst of want.
When we come to Luke 22:35, the Lord nears his death and ascension. Then he instructs them to take their knapsacks and materials as their supply. So now we cooperate together as a church. We combine our resources—which we received from Christ—to carry on the mission of our Lord. This is why we give and then use those resources to buy Bibles and tracts, help in benevolence, and assist community organizations.
The “go” of Luke gets echoed at the end of his Gospel and in the Great Commission. This command applies to every Christian. There is no way to be a Christian and not be a goer—at least across the street or to your child’s bedroom. We must meekly go and bear witness to Christ’s love.
Seek Peace (10:5-8)
As ambassadors of peace we are to seek the people of peace. Our Savior is the Prince of Peace. Sometimes we may meet those who do not return peace. We are to keep moving in such cases. Other times we will meet those who receive us and receive our message. When that happens we are to share in all good things together. We let our peace rest on them.
We are instructed not to move from house to house. I think the Lord tells his disciples this so they do not develop a reputation for “mooching” off those to whom they must give the gospel. Even today many people think, “The church only wants my money.” Beloved, we do not want your money. That is too little a sum in light of eternity. What we want is your soul, and there is nothing you can give in exchange for your soul. The gospel is about whether you spend eternity in hell or heaven, in condemnation or in love. Don’t give your money to a church if that’s a concern for you. But do give your heart, soul, and life to Christ. Everything else will follow. We do not want what you have; we want you to have our Savior.
Preach Boldly (10:9-16)
Jesus determines what is preached: “The kingdom of God has come near you” (v. 9). The preacher does not determine the message. A faithful preacher only delivers what Christ has said. By the preaching of the gospel, the kingdom of God comes to men.
Do you see the boldness of this message? Even if rejected, we must proclaim the message in the city streets! We must pronounce the “Woe” of God on those who reject his King (vv. 10-15). That warning is an act of mercy. There’s nothing more merciful than warning a person to flee a burning building. It requires boldness and love.
We must tell the truth that God is angry about sin. His judgment is near. So is his kingdom.
Some of the most popular preachers today make a big deal of never talking about sin and judgment. Any person who will not speak plainly with you about the state of your soul is not your friend. These people make themselves an enemy of your soul. Any people who will not tell you about the real dangers of a real hell and a coming judgment prove they care nothing about you—even if they tell you smooth things about how wonderful you are and how great you can be. Do not believe them, beloved.
For the message about Jesus to be good news, we must understand the bad news. The bad news is, God is a God of condemnation. The good news is, we can escape his condemnation through faith in his Son. When a preacher says “woe to you” for sexual immorality, laziness, anger, stealing, abandoning your kids, or disobeying your parents or your boss, then that preacher is being a friend to you. Any one of those things and a thousand more are enough to condemn us to hell. If we break one law, then we break all of God’s law. God will not wink at sin or turn a blind eye. He will simply ask if we have trusted his Son who takes away wrath by becoming our sin bearer or if we have rejected him and remain in our sin. That is the choice. Receive Christ; believe in him and be saved.
Christian, let us preach this message boldly to all. The message does not change based on the audience’s response. Whether the people receive us or reject us, the message remains the same: the kingdom of heaven is near. This means we don’t have to worry about what to say. We simply need to know the gospel. If we know the gospel, then we know everything we need to know in order to see our neighbors saved. Preach that message boldly. And remember that what looks like opposition in the beginning ends with a melted heart and sincere faith in the end. Preach boldly.
Rejoice Greatly (10:17-24)
The seventy-two return with joy that even demons obeyed them in Christ’s name. They go from opposing the other man who cast out demons to now being happy to have the same ability. The Lord replies by pointing to Satan’s fall from heaven and the power he has delegated to them. However, that’s not the basis for their rejoicing. Instead, they should rejoice that their “names are written in heaven” (v. 20). That is a far greater cause for rejoicing than even the ability to cast out demons. We should always rejoice that we are not among those cities and people condemned in God’s judgment. We are citizens in the kingdom of heaven. That’s been accomplished at great cost and great love—the blood of Christ. No matter what happens in life, we have reason to rejoice if our names are written in heaven!
Second, we should rejoice that God has revealed the truth to us. Verse 22 startles some people. They do not like the idea that God reveals himself to some and not others. I understand. It’s alarming. But the burden of the text is verse 21. We are to rejoice in the things that Jesus rejoices in. Our Lord rejoices that God has made the gospel known to those who believe. It’s as if God with his own fingers has opened our eyelids and given us sight. He opened our eyes to see Jesus. He removed the scales and glaucoma that blocked our sight of Christ. He touched us and caused us to see. We were once blind and now we see. What made the difference? God revealed himself to us through his Son, and the Son showed us the Father. If you can see God through faith, you ought to rejoice. The most significant spiritual problem in the world today is spiritual blindness. Men don’t see this glorious truth, but that’s not a reason to think hard thoughts against God. That’s a reason to fall on our faces in gratitude for God’s kindness to us! Rejoice because you can see!
Third, rejoice as Jesus does because we live in an era that the prophets looked forward to (vv. 23-24). We have the privilege of living in the fulfillment of what they hoped for. They looked forward with fragmentary vision. We look backward to the cross and the full revelation of God in Jesus Christ. We see more than the prophets did because all of the revelation of God is complete and has been given to us. We can know the mind of the Lord through his Word. We have received insider knowledge. We’ve been pulled aside privately by the Lord and given the glories of the gospel, so we would rejoice and be glad in Christ.
One Aim in Reaching Others
Luke 9:48; 10:16
Perhaps you saw the aim of this passage repeated in the text. We see it in 9:48 and 10:16:
Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me welcomes him who sent me.
Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.
These two statements give us the aim in both positive and negative statements. There are only two ways to live. We either receive the messenger and the Savior offered in the message, or we reject the messenger and the message and the God offered in the message. Those are the only two options.
The aim, beloved, is that all people might receive Jesus as he offers himself in the gospel. Once again, if you are not a Christian, we beg you to receive Jesus. Consider Jesus. Consider your sin and the corruption of your heart. Is not sin real? Can you not discern it in your own heart? Do not thoughts of sin travel through your own mind? Do you even need to look beyond your own thoughts to know the reality of sin? Then we open the paper and watch the news where we see sin displayed around the world. Someone once said, “The only doctrine of Christianity for which we have empirical evidence is sin.” Isn’t that true?
Ask yourself, “Why am I bothered by my sin?” Oh, I know that we are not always bothered. But ask yourself, “Don’t I see how I work to not be bothered? How I press down the sense of guilt and shame in order to pursue the sin?” Aren’t we bothered because at some deep level we know that our sin is wrong—and “wrong” means something to us? Even if we don’t know how we came to know it’s wrong, we know that it is wrong and we shouldn’t do it or desire it. When we let ourselves think about our sin we feel bad about ourselves and what we’ve done. Do you know what that’s called? It’s called “conviction.”
Do not push conviction aside. Conviction is a gift of God’s grace. It’s how God tells us personally that our sins displease him and we should escape them. Let conviction work in your heart and mind. Be convinced of what you already know—that your sin is shameful and wrong. It makes us guilty before God. The answer is not to suppress the knowledge of our sin but to ask, “What can we do about it?”
Perhaps you’ve asked that question and you’ve begun to see something more troubling: You’ve not been able to escape your sin. Everywhere you go, there your sin is with you. You’ve set out to establish new habits. You’ve read self-improvement books. You’ve talked with friends about breaking these patterns. Finally, you’ve become aware that your sin is stronger than you are and it won’t leave you alone just because you ask and try.
I want to offer you something. It’s a way to be free of the power and guilt of sin and to be increasingly victorious over sin. One day you will be absolutely free from sin. The offer is this: If you let Christ pay the penalty of your sin and allow Christ to provide a perfect righteousness to God that you cannot provide, and if you put your faith in him and follow him, then he will increasingly free you from sin and make you new. That’s what God offers you, and God never makes a promise he does not keep. If you desire to be free from sin, then do not reject Christ. Receive him, and he will make you new.
Reflect and Discuss
- Which of the attitude adjustments do you think you need most?
- Which of the attitude adjustments do you think the Christian church needs most? Why?
- Luke 10:1-24 provides five action items for reaching others for Christ. Which of these are strengths for you? Which are weaknesses?
- Do you have a specific plan for praying for workers to enter the harvest? If not, talk with others about how they organize their prayer lives to pray for the nations and for Christian workers.