This is the second in an on-going summer sermon series on the Lukan texts; read the introduction here.
July 4, 2010: Luke 10:1-11; 16-20
When I’m preparing to preach on a text, after I pray for guidance, I begin by reading the text as if I had never read it before, not an easy task. I then make note of observations, stories, memories, and questions that come to mind. I look for things that seem odd or perplexing.
With regard to Jesus’ instructions to the seventy in Luke Chapter 10, a number of questions and thoughts come to mind:
1. If someone told me I was being sent out like a lamb among wolves, I would probably not go. That sounds ominous. Lambs are meek, innocent and tasty. Wolves are hungry; they run fast, and they have big teeth. So that is not an auspicious beginning for me. It reminds me of every war movie I’ve ever seen, the scene in which the young, untried troops or pilots are given a pep talk by a hardened commander. There is usually a map behind him and the younger men are sitting in respectful rows. And you know that half of them or more will not make it back.
2. Verse 16 is dangerous.”Whoever listens to you listens to me and whoever rejects you rejects me? And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me?” I’m not comfortable aligning my message and intentions this closely with Jesus’ message and intentions. When religious leaders do this, nothing good ever happens.
3. Between verses 16 and 17, it seems like we’re missing a big piece of the story. The seventy leave in verse 15. They come back in verse 16. What happened in between?
4. Apparently, they cast out a bunch of demons. What does that look like today?
5. In verse 18, what does Jesus mean when he says that he saw Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning?
6. In verse 19, Jesus tells the Seventy that they have authority to tread on snakes and scorpions and power over the enemy. He tells them that nothing will hurt them. Things hurt us every daym so I’m not sure what to make of verse 19.
7. In verse 20, why would it be any better for the disciples to rejoice in having their names written in heaven than it would to rejoice that the spirits submit to them? Aren’t both potential ego trips?
Some thoughts on the intersection of my initial questions and my reading of I. Howard Marshall’s Commentary on Luke, pp. 412-430:
Luke is the only evangelist to record this further mission. The closest parallel to it is found in Matthew 10:5-24 where Jesus addresses the 12. Luke has Jesus address the 12 in chapter 9:1-7. Similarities among these instructions include directions on what to take, what greeting to offer when they enter a home, and how to handle a town’s rejection.
The instructions in 10:1-4 consist of a three part structure
• Commissioning (verses 1-2)
• Warning about dangers (verse 3)
• Packing list (verse 4)
L. Howard Marshall points out in his commentary on Luke that the focus is on Jesus’ instructions and not on the campaign. The tradition was more interested in Jesus than what the disciples did when they were not with him (412). Jesus’ instructions are the focus of this text.
In the saying “the harvest is plenty, but the workers are few” (10:1), Luke portrays the eschatological gathering of God’s people, using the Old Testament imagery of the harvest, which applies to judgment on Gentiles as well as Israel. Jesus wishes for more workers than are available and instructs those who are availalble to pray for others to be added to their number. We are not only to go ourselves, but to pray for more workers to be sent into the vineyard.
The packing list consists of all the things the Seventy are not to take. What should they take? The instructions specify what not to pack. What should we pack?
Jesus, the Shepherd to the flock of God, promises protection to the seventy. Of what does this protection consist? What does protection mean in the psalms (For example in Psalm 23 or 121)?
Chapter 10: 5-11
Offering a greeting on entering a house was standard practice. The wording of the greeting is nothing out of the ordinary either. But in this context, the greeting (“Peace be to this house!”)was not a wish. It is a gift that could either be received or rejected. (419). The disciples are not to try to find a home where there are already disciples, but they are to offer salvation to those who are willing to give it.
“I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” Jesus is using the mythological idea of the fall and defeat of Satan to express the significance of the disciples’ exorcism of demons. (Revelation 12:7-10, 13; Isaiah 14:12; Mark 3:27; John 12:31) See also Luke 11:14-23 where Jesus makes the point that he casts out demons, not by Beelzebub, but by the power of God. “If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you” (11:20).
Verse 20 (“Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven”) may reflect a later time when Christians did not necessarily perform miracles and exorcisms, but could take comfort in the fact that their reward awaited them in heaven.
“How Not to Be A Disciple: What Not to Pack”
July 4, 2010
If I were preaching on this text, I would focus on the intriguing fact (which I’d never noticed before today) that the packing list is all negative. I’d point out the importance of packing lists for various kinds of trips. People’s experiences of packing too much, not packing enough, checking luggage, losing luggage, etcetera make this a metaphor to which most everyone can relate. When I am getting ready to go on a trip, I type up a packing list. I don’t type up a “Don’t pack this” list. I know what not to take, don’t I?
This mission trip of discipleship is a trip that calls for a particular packing list. But all we’re told is what not to take. The difference between being a disciple and not being one (but maybe saying we are) is in what we pack. The nondisciple packs apathy, love of comfort and love of recognition.
The disciple packs a spirit of service, humility, and a fervent desire to interpret the good news for today’s world.
This breaks down into more detail, but we need to be careful as preachers not to make too many points, so pick and choose what is most pressing for you and your congregation.
How Not to Be a Disciple: Tell yourself the following things repeatedly:
1. There are plenty of other people. I don’t have to go (10:2).
2. If I do decide to go, I’m going to take a lot of stuff with me to insure my comfort (10:3).
3. I expect there to be perks for my taking the trouble to go on this mission. I’m not just going to take what people give me. I have certain requirements (10: 8).
4. I will mediate healing to people I meet by the combination of my professional skills and winning personality (10:9).
5. I believe (based on verse 16) that whatever comes out of my mouth is the verbatim word of God (verse 16)
6. I am going to interpret demons literally in the 21st century (10:17).
7. I’m going to assure people that Jesus means that nothing bad will ever happen to them in what he says in verse 19.
How to Be A Disciple: Reflect on and/or do the following 7 things repeatedly:
1. Make yourself available. This mission, as far as Jesus is concerned, is a mandatory opportunity.
2. Pack light.
3. Remember always that it is the kingdom of God we’re inviting people into, not our fan club or a social club.
4. Pray constantly for guidance in offering the good news, because the stakes are high. Strive to invite people to Christ humbly, sincerely and joyfully (10:16).
5. Reflect on the following questions
• From what do people need to be delivered today (their demons)?
• How do you understand the kingdom of God into which you are inviting people and how is it different from the” kingdom of me?”
• How can we assure people of Jesus’ care for them without making false promises of physical invincibility for believers?
A few thoughts on the kingdom of God in the gospels as background to this text. (From The Parables for Today, by Alyce M. McKenzie):
The Kingdom of God in the Gospels
The future of the kingdom was the time when justice and peace would be established, when the nation would be saved, evil would be defeated and YHWH himself would rule in justice and peace So Jesus instructs his disciples to pray “Your kingdom come” (Matthew 5:10; Luke 11:2). Jesus’ notion of the kingdom shared this “not yet” quality of Jewish expectation. (See Matt. 8:11; 20:21; Mark 9:1). He also portrayed the kingdom of God as a reality that is already present in his teachings, healings, and exorcisms. God’s gracious initiative to us makes the kingdom possible. Our human response is a necessary ingredient in its coming into being.
Jesus’ claim that the kingdom was present in his teachings, healings and exorcisms was shocking because it so strongly implied his divine identity. Where the leader, God’s chosen one, was present, the kingdom was already present. The presence of the kingdom meant that God’s anointed Messiah was here and was at work- that he was, in fact, accomplishing the sovereign and saving rule of God.. N.T. Wright, “The Lord’s Prayer as a Paradigm of Christian Prayer,” Into God’s Presence: Prayer in the New Testament, ed. Richard N. Longenecker (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001), 135.
The term “kingdom of God” in Jesus’ teaching does not refer to a territory or geographical domain. It does not refer to a utopian social order that would be established by human efforts on earth It is not equated with any political philosophy or agenda. It suggests the idea of a “reign,’ highlighting the relationship between the sovereign God and the individual. Says New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger, “Jesus urged his hearers to recognize God’s sovereignty as a present reality, to be acknowledged by a personal response, … and he also led them to hope for a new age in which human hardness of heart would no longer prevent God’s sovereignty from finding universal and complete response.” (Bruce M. Metzger, The New Testament : Its Background, Growth and Content Third Edition, Abingdon Press, 2003, 173.)
The Gospels depict the kingdom as something near at hand, into which people can enter (Mark 1:15: Luke 19:52). It is given as a gift (Luke 12:32). It is not a national or racial privilege (Matt. 8:12:21:43). The condition for entry into the kingdom is doing God’s will (Matt. 7:21-23). Before one can do God’s will, one must repent and be converted, completely changing one’s priorities and perspective (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:15). The kingdom must be a person’s first priority (Matt. 6:33; Luke 12:31), for which one is prepared to give up everything else (Matt. 13:44-48). While the initiative in establishing the relationship with the individual belongs to God, the responsibility for responding to that initiative belongs to us (Luke 12:31-32; Matt. 7:21). The kingdom will manifest itself in the future (Mark 9:1) when the Son of Man comes with his angels in the glory of his Father (Matt. 16:27). This kingdom, appointed by the Father to Jesus, is to be enjoyed by those whom Jesus determines are worthy to share its joys (Luke 22:29-39).(Metzger, 174).
Read the first installment of How Not To Be A Disciple: A Summer Sermon Series here.
Check back each week for further exegetical help on the individual texts…
Alyce McKenzie is Professor of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.