Sunday, October 18, 2009

St. Luke

St. Luke’s Day – October 18th, 2009 – Luke 10:1-9 (and other verses)

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
Today is St. Luke’s Day, October 18th, the day when the Church commemorates this evangelist, this servant of Christ, who was the human author by which our Lord gave to us the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts – around a quarter of the entire New Testament. And yet, when we hear our Gospel lesson for this day, Luke isn’t mentioned once. There is no moment of glorifying Luke there – he may have been one of the 72, he may not even have been – we do not know. But, as the rest of his Gospel, this lesson is not about Luke, but rather it is about Christ Jesus. And when we look at this text, and think about how it relates to everything Luke writes, we will see a contrast between two things. On the one hand, we can consider our desires, our wants, and on the other hand, we behold what it is that Christ wants. Indeed, the entirety of the Luke’s Gospel shows us what it is our Lord desires. Let us examine the text, and compare.

This text is the sending out of the 72, and it is a striking text. Our Lord sends out these men in pairs, two by two, and He says to them, “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals.” Don’t take provisions, don’t take a spare change of clothes, don’t take your platinum card or anything else like that. Simply go – and what will you eat, well. You’ll go to houses, and whatever they provide, that’s what you’ll eat. “Remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide.” Simply go and receive what you are given. Now, does this sound like a good, pleasant idea to any of us? Would any of us consider taking a trip in this fashion? I mean, I’ve taken cheap trips – in college my friends and I did a 2 and a half week road trip where we bounced from family member to family member for nearly 6000 miles – but we at least told grandma we were coming first. But this is beyond that – no backup cash, no going to family even – headed out amongst complete strangers – relying simply upon their good will to provide. And indeed, that seems to be a sketchy proposition – as our Lord had said earlier, “Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” Not exact words to give me security. I cannot quite expect the wolves to show wonderful hospitality to the lambs.

Do you see how odd this would have sounded, how it would have completely cut against the grain of what the disciples, of what any of us would want? We want security, we want to know there will be food on our plate. And even more and beyond that. We don’t just want a house – we are Americans, we want a better house. We don’t just want shelter, that house had better have a nice TV and a good stereo in it too. The table better not just have food, but that food had better be good – there had better be cake and we had better be eating it too. When it comes to life, we want the respect of our community – not their scorn. When it comes to business, we want great growth and success and bumper crops every year. We want safety and security – all our ducks lined up in a row. We want. We want mammon, the things of this life – not even just comfort, but luxury and vanity.

Do you see how what our Lord instructs these people to do just completely cuts across the grain of human nature – how it is so opposite of what we as sinful human beings want? This week, which did you think more about – your money, your stuff – or God. Were you more concerned with filling your belly than with loving God with all your heart and with all your mind? The simple fact is we are so easily distracted by the things of this life, by the world and it’s vaunted, vain pleasures. Christ, in this text, directs our eyes away from this.

So why? What does Christ want? What is Christ’s purpose? Is it merely a purpose of the Law – is this simply instruction – look I am going to force your eyes off of your stomach, oh 72. Well, we can see that in there. This text does serve as a reminder of God’s providential care. While they are on the road, all 72 are cared for. In verse 17 we hear, “The 72 returned with joy”. It’s not as though Jesus sent out 72, but most of them starved to death and then He looks up and says, “Oh look, now I have 12 disciples, hey guys, you get to be the Apostles!” No! They all make it back, and things are even good, enjoyable for them. They are amazed at all that they see God provide, indeed, that they even can cast out demons on this trip. But our Lord says to them, verse 20 – “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Our Lord doesn’t focus on their physical care, on the “spiritual powers” they get to exercise, the drastic demonstrations of the power of their faith.

No, the highlight for Christ is salvation. You see dear friends, that is what Christ Jesus our Lord wants, that is His focus – the salvation of people, the redemption of sinners. Christ’s concern is not that your faith is awesome, but rather that you are brought to faith and kept secure in that faith so that you might rest assured of your salvation in His name. And not just you, but also for your neighbor. Listen again to our Lord’s Words – “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” His harvest. That’s Christ’s focus. Look, there are more and more people who need to hear, who need to be brought to faith by the power of the Word. You 72 are just tools, instruments to bring this about – get on out there. Don’t worry about stuff, just get out there! The focus is upon others, is upon the neighbor, is upon bringing other people into salvation, into the knowledge of God and His redemption. This is why we pray for workers. This is why it is good for us to pray for Jay – not merely because we like Jay and want him to have personal fulfillment in “his ministry” – blah, who cares about that? What’s important is the harvest, the people who will hear the word of God through him – the harvest is waiting, send Jay and plenty more so that others might be saved! The focus is upon the harvest – upon those the 72 will preach to as they are scattered amongst the wolves, the focus is upon the folks whom will hear the Word even to this day – to you here and indeed those out there who as of yet have not heard – this is Christ’s focus.

It is a focus we see throughout the Gospel of Luke. Luke’s Gospel is filled with Christ preaching, is it not? Over and over we see our Lord going from place to place, preaching and teaching. Even before He is old enough to speak, the Angels must come out and preach to shepherds in the field. This Gospel shows us what Christ preaches, what He does, who He is – namely that He is God Almighty. And then, there is it’s culmination – the Crucifixion of our Lord. What does Christ Jesus want – what is His desire? To seek and save the lost – and there is no greater evidence of this truth then the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is our Lord’s focus, our Lord’s goal – to win for us poor sinners salvation by His death and resurrection – to give that salvation unto us by the power of His Word. Indeed, consider what He says just before He ascends for Luke records for us His Words – “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His Name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” That is the focus of our Lord.

And so, Luke writes. He writes of what Christ Jesus does Himself in the Gospel of Luke. Then Luke writes the book of Acts, and what does the book of Acts show? It shows repentance and forgiveness of sins being proclaimed in Christ’s name, starting in Jerusalem and spreading to the nations. Luke provides a faithful witness to this – but even more than that. Consider, dear friends, that through this Gospel written by our dear brother in the faith Luke, Christ’s desire for repentance and forgiveness to be proclaimed – a desire shown by sending out the 72, a desire shown upon the Cross – is brought to fulfillment even here and now, this day, this place. We learn from this Gospel that we are to repent, that we are to flee from our sinful desires, that we are to beat them down. We learn from this Gospel to behold the wondrous love of our Savior – of His great love for us. But indeed, more than that, we also see from the pen of Luke the great ways in which we ourselves receive that Love directly applied to us in our own lives. Consider Acts 8:36 – Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch – where the Eunuch says, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being Baptized!” Or the Words of Peter on Pentecost – Acts 2:38-39 – “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children.” This promise is for us, for our children – we too have received it – just as we have learned from Luke – we have received the Kingdom of God like little children (that’s Luke 17). We have the wondrous gift of Baptism.

And indeed, Luke tells us of another great and wondrous gift from our Lord unto us – And He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them saying, ‘This is My Body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new testament in my blood.” Indeed, this has been given even unto you, and this day – even here and now, in but a few moments, you here in this place, so many miles away from Jerusalem, separated by vast years – you will receive from our Lord His own Body and Blood – given for you, poured out for you. Behold how diligently our Lord desires you to receive His forgiveness, how often and frequently He reaches out to you to bless you, to see that you know that your names are written in Heaven, to keep you in the faith so that you never depart from Him.

This is what our brother Luke shows you even today – How your Lord loves you with such wonderful and unabashed love, that His focus is upon you and upon your salvation, and that He will have His Name proclaimed to you so that He might claim you as His own. Thus we are right to thank God for His servant Luke, who so wondrously shows us the heart of God in God’s love for us. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +

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