Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Have you ever been in a situation where someone had to say to you, “Don’t blame the messenger?” Imagine for a moment that you have to go to Service Ontario. Perhaps when you went, there were already a ton of people there. You sat there waiting for over an hour in a hot office. When your number was finally called, it took the agent 30 seconds to tell you that you didn’t bring the correct documentation. You’ll have to go home through rush-hour traffic, grab the proper papers from home, fill them out, and pay an obscene amount of money. How might you react? Some of us would not be happy campers. Sometimes, we get angry at the agent sitting behind the desk. Did you think afterwards, why on earth did I get mad at them? It wasn’t their fault! “Don’t shoot the messenger,” they might have said back to you. It isn’t their fault, is it? They are simply an agent, a provincial government representative, just doing their job. In our Gospel reading, Jesus sent out seventy-two disciples. This morning I want you to see that Jesus sent them out as his representatives, and send them with a message of peace.
I. They are sent as His Representatives
Jesus chose and sent seventy-two disciples out among the towns on his final journey towards Jerusalem. Those disciples were not selected and sent to share their own personal thoughts on religion. Like that employee in Service Ontario is sent by the government to do a specific job, Jesus sent and authorized them to serve as his representatives. Since Jesus appointed the seventy-two, that means how people react to them is how they will respond to Jesus.
“The one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” Jesus warns that there will be those who would reject the seventy-two. Some might “shoot the messengers.” They were sheep among wolves. Jesus underscores this with His warnings to the cities since those cities had lots of Jesus. Even the city of Sodom, a city so filled with sin and evil that it was consumed by fire and brimstone, even that city does better than a city that rejects Jesus or his representatives. Those words ought to scare the daylights out of us. Having Jesus always around doesn’t help the towns if they still reject him. We have Jesus, and we’re no better off if we reject him. The way to judgment and woe is to refuse Jesus’ ambassadors. The way to condemnation is to refuse the gifts of God. To reject the men Jesus has chosen and sent is to reject Jesus himself. And to reject Jesus is to reject the Father who sent Him.
Any Israelites who listened to these seventy-two and received them into their home were receiving the very peace of Jesus. “The one who hears you hears me.” (Luke 10:16). When the seventy-two proclaim “peace”, when they heal the sick and cast out demons, they do so “in the stead and by the command of their Lord Jesus Christ.” “Heal the sick,” Jesus tells them. They are His deputies, and they have His authority over disease and demons. Through their ministry, those trapped by the devil are set free. The devil’s reign is ended. “He’s judged. The deed is done. One little word can fell him.” Their authority over satan, sin, and disease is not from the seventy-two themselves; it was given to them from Jesus, God’s appointed King. It was given so they could share with all who would hear and listen.
God sent his Son, and Jesus, in turn, sends others just like an ambassador is sent on behalf of the government. Like those seventy-two, your pastor has been chosen and sent to you. He speaks on behalf, in the stead and by the command, of Christ. Just like Jesus commissioned those seventy-two disciples, he has also commissioned pastors in the Church. God has chosen and sent your pastor to pray for you, counsel you, and be at your bed when you are sick because Christ has crucified and risen for you. To hear the men whom Jesus has chosen and sent is to hear Jesus Himself. You see, God hasn’t promised to speak through dreams. God doesn’t reveal his peace through nature. Your feelings and experiences are not a sure and certain guide to what God wants to tell you. The seventy-two spoke on behalf of Jesus. Pastors speak on behalf of Jesus. That is how God speaks to you: through his word delivered to you by those whom he has called and sent: through pastors. How you treat your pastor reflects how you treat Jesus and His Father. If your pastor represents Jesus, how do you think he should be treated? How you respond to the message your pastor preaches is how you respond to Jesus. If Jesus gives him a message, do you think you should listen to him? Philip Melanchthon sites our text in the Lutheran Confessions, “For they do not represent their own persons but the person of Christ, because of the church’s call, as Christ testifies (Luke 10:16), “He who hears you hears me.” When they offer the Word of Christ or the sacraments, they do so in Christ’s place and stead” (AP VIII:28). God has chosen and sent your pastor to ensure that God’s gifts are given to you so that you continue steadfast in the one true faith, unto life everlasting.
II. They are sent with a message of Peace
First the seventy-two were sent as Christ’s representatives. Second, they are given a specific message. Their job is to find the people of peace and provide them with that message. ‘Peace be to this house,’ the messengers were to say. And they were looking for those yearning for peace in their lives. So, at the heart of their mission was the message of peace. “The peace of the Lord be with you.” These seventy-two were appointed representatives of the Prince of Peace. Jesus decides what is preached: “The kingdom of God has come near you” (v. 9). The preacher does not decide the message. A faithful preacher only delivers what Christ has said. They were sent to proclaim peace. This peace is much more than a fond wish or a cutesy Hallmark greeting. “I’ve got a peaceful, easy feeling.” It’s not that kind of peace. It’s a peace unlike anything we could ever dream of. This is a peace that the world cannot give, a peace that surpasses our understanding. Why?
By the preaching of the gospel, the kingdom of God comes to men. Christ the King is offering peace to rebels. An offer of peace means there is hostility or war. Humanity is not at peace with God. Instead, we’re at war with him. The devil has coaxed humanity into a silly and futile rebellion against the Creator God. God is angry at sin and threatens to punish sinners. Now, we distrust God. We tend to love ourselves and our sin more than him. We question the Creator God’s right to tell us how to live our lives. Our rebellion and hostility with God overflows into our conflicts with others. There is no peace on earth among men because we do not have peace with God. Despite our rebellion toward God and hatred towards each other, God comes to us with a message of peace. Our silly rebellion can end; instead, there’s the opportunity for reconciliation; a restoration of the relationship with God we were supposed to have: peace with God.
That peace is won because Jesus, who was sent from God the Father, was rejected. Indeed, Isaiah 53 says that Jesus. “was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Is 53:3). Jesus was sent to us with a message of peace with God, and he was rejected. Humanity rejected Jesus, and rejecting Jesus, means also rejecting God. He is rejected so that you may have peace. Christ takes away God’s wrath by taking away our sin. Jesus provides you he perfect righteousness that you couldn’t give, and if you put your faith in him he will free you from sin and make you new. Pastors have been chosen and sent to tell you that you have peace with God because Christ is crucified and risen for you. God has chosen and sent his ministers to declare “Peace to you” because “upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace.
“I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven,” Jesus observed. That is why God sent Jesus into the world. He died for us so that he could make sure that the enemy could never hurt you. Jesus is the king who establishes peace between God and men. The evil foe has no power over us because the decisive battle has been won in this war. By being despised and rejected, Jesus Christ our Lord tread under all the power of the enemy. (Lk. 10:19). Satan has fallen. Christ has tread upon and cast down the devil and all his forces through his bloody death, burial, and glorious resurrection. The victory has already been won. And now, God pardons us rebels. God pardons you. Hostilities have ceased. Instead of death and hell, God promises you eternal life for Jesus’ sake.
Christ, through the Cross, has trampled the enemy. So that we may obtain this peace which Jesus won for us, God has chosen and sent pastors into the world to declare and deliver it to us. Each week your pastor declares God’s peace to you from his Word. Each week your pastor gives you the peace of the Lord, which is given in Christ’s actual body and blood. When you see a baptism, a rebel is pardoned, and the enemy is trampled. We’re not at Church because we like to talk about religion. We’re here because God speaks peace to us through the men he has chosen and sent. Having a pastor is a vital part of how the peace of God is brought to you. Those pastors who have been chosen and sent by God are preaching the Gospel of peace, which means they are trampling the enemy and speaking on God’s behalf to you! So, don’t shoot the messenger. He who hears you, hears Me. You have Jesus’ word on it.
May, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.