“The kingdom of God has come near you.” This is Jesus’ proclamation to His disciples in both verses 9 and 11. I seem to remember that from somewhere. Computing . . . computing – come on-n-n-n brain!
I’ve got it! Isn’t this what John the Baptist said in Matthew 3 to prepare the way for Christ? “Repent! for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Isn’t that what Jesus said at the beginning of His public ministry in Matthew 4?
What’s fascinating here is that in Luke’s Gospel (or “the Lukan account” if you want to sound like a biblical scholar) Jesus says, “the kingdom of God has come near you” near the end of His public ministry.
Once again, the context is crucial. After Jesus has sent out the 12 and recruited them to help Him feed a hungry world, evoked Peter’s profession and begun speaking of His death and resurrection, He appointed 70 others also and sent them out two by two. Sometimes, because we hear so much about the 12, we forget about the 70. The interesting thing is that there appears to be a series of concentric circles of proximity of disciples to Jesus Christ. In the inner circle are Peter, James, and John; then the 12; then the 70; then the larger group of “the disciples” who faithfully follow Him; then the largest group of “disciples,” some of whom turn back when they hear the hard call to discipleship.
The 70 represent the nations of the world because traditionally (from Genesis 10) there are 70 nations. By sending them out, Jesus begins to send out His Body to the world to spread His kingdom. Even before the book of Acts, Jesus is sending out His disciples to do His will (the will of the Father) and spread the gospel of salvation. As Noah took the animals in 2 x 2 into the ark of salvation, Jesus sends out men 2 x 2 from the ark of salvation, the Church, to be fruitful and multiply and take dominion over the earth by proclaiming Jesus Christ.
As He sends them out, He assures them that the Kingdom of God has come near them because He, the King, is with them. And now the King has commanded them to be fruitful and multiply, to go and spread His kingdom by the same means He uses: healing the sick, telling them the Kingdom is near them, proclaiming the Good News, and casting out demons in Christ’s name.
Wherever Jesus sends His disciples to spread His kingdom and glory through His power, the Kingdom of God is near. In this way, the disciples became the incarnation of the Kingdom of God.
In this way, the disciples of Jesus Christ alive today also become the incarnation of the Kingdom of God. Jesus began with Himself and then called the 12, and then the 70, and then the book of Acts happened, and then 2000 years of Church history, and now we are the ones who are to manifest the Kingdom of God in people’s lives.
You are a carrier of the Kingdom of God, for you are the Temple of the Holy Spirit, by which Jesus Christ dwells within you. You may not heal the sick or cast out demons in the same way as the original disciples did. But the King, the Master, has called you to go out and proclaim the good news that His kingdom is here to all who will listen.
We’re to do this both by the things that we say and the things that we do. As in Jesus’ day, some will listen, and some will not. When God puts unbelievers into our lives, many are not ready to hear the Gospel. In this case, rather than being thoroughly obnoxious and insistent, we should move on to those who are more willing to listen. I think that Jesus is, perhaps, criticizing some of our methods of evangelism (and that of the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses!) when He says in verse 7, “Do not go from house to house.” It’s not our job to go from house to house, making pests of ourselves in the name of Christ, hoping that someone will buy the vacuum, er uh, encyclopedias, religion we’re peddling. We are to go to those who have ears to hear and receive us and are at least partially open to the gospel.Our task of going out and making disciples is not just about bringing people into the Kingdom for the first time but is the difficult, back-breaking work of making disciples and teaching them to obey all that the King has commanded. This is good news, because not all of us know a lot of non-Christians or have a close enough relationship with them to tell them about Jesus Christ for the first time.
But all of us know many disciples and would-be disciples of Jesus Christ to whom we should go out every day and proclaim Jesus Christ by what we say and do. Whatever else I do each day, whoever else I meet, I have one wife and five little rascals to whom I am supposed to bring Jesus Christ each and every day.
It might look different from the way the disciples in Luke 10 carried Jesus Christ with them, but we have the same fundamental task. And it is your job, being sent by the King Himself, to go out and minister to the world in the name of Jesus Christ.
When you do this, something of cosmic proportions happens: you participate in the casting down of Satan from heaven. Actually, I believe Jesus has already done this, but we participate in His work by casting down strongholds, those holdouts in our lives and the lives of others where Jesus Christ is not yet fully acknowledged to be the Lord.
I like to imagine that every time I’m faithful in what the Master has called me to do I’m doing something like pulling down a statue of Saddam Hussein. Actually, I envision it more like the story of Dagon from 1 Samuel 5. When George Whitefield preached and saw the results in men’s lives, he once said, “Dagon falls daily before the Ark.” This is what happens every time you proclaim Jesus Christ, whether by word or deed: Dagon falls daily, Satan falls like lightning from heaven, and the Kingdom of God comes near men.
I don’t know what else in life you may feel called to do, but I do know this: if you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, then you are called to go out and share Him with the world by your life. And I do know that every time you do this the cosmos is revolutionized a little bit and your Master is pleased immensely (and all the angels sing and cheer).
Prayer: We pray, Father, that it may please thee to send forth laborers into thy
harvest, and to draw all mankind into thy kingdom; that it may please thee to give to all people increase of grace to hear and receive thy Word, and to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit; that it may please thee to bring into the way of truth all such
as have erred, and are deceived; that it may please thee to give us a heart to love and fear thee, and diligently to live after thy commandments; and that it may please thee to strengthen such as do stand, to comfort and help the weak-hearted, to raise up those who fall, and finally to beat down Satan under our feet; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Adapted from the Litany of the Book of Common Prayer.)
Point for Meditation: Find one creative way to imagine the work of proclaiming Jesus Christ in your life. It might be the tearing down of an idol image (Dagon), or a military image (tearing down strongholds), or any other image that inspires you to more faithfully do the Lord’s will.
Resolution: I resolve to find one way to intentionally bring Jesus Christ to someone today.
Fall of Dagon – U.S. Public Domain