Whose Authority is Really Being Established Here?
7/18/04Times New RomanArial
In the Collect for today we pray that the Lord would govern the course of this world. Authority is an important issue. Without clear lines of authority anarchy results. In our text, the Lord Jesus sends out His first pastors. These are not the apostles. These are 72 other men that Jesus appointed. Whose authority is really being established in this text?
Is it the Lord's? He establishes here that He is the Lord of the harvest. Let me ask you. When you go by a farmer's field and see it heavy with corn, do you agonize about how he's going to get it in? Isn't it up to that farmer? Does he think you're going to stop your car right there and start harvesting? No, the farmer owns the harvest. It's under his authority. It's up to him to bring it in. Here the Lord establishes that the harvest belongs to Him not us. He calls upon us to "beg" not just "ask" the Lord of the harvest to send workers out into His harvest field.
This text establishes that the Lord has authority and responsibility over the harvest of souls. It also establishes that He has the authority to send out workers. Notice Jesus tells the 72 to beg the Lord of the harvest to send out workers, and then the very next words out of Jesus' mouth are, "Go! I am sending you." This text establishes Jesus is the Lord of the harvest and He is the one who must send workers.
At this point you have to remember the Gospel reading from last Sunday which comes immediately before today's text. Do you remember all the trouble Jesus had recruiting workers? First you had the guy who didn't realize how hard it is; then you had the guy who let his family come before the kingdom, and then there was the guy who was willing to work the harvest fields but wanted to do so while looking back. Where would Jesus get any workers at all? Then our text opens, "After this the Lord appointed 72 other workers..." Though it's an axiom of the Church of all ages that the harvest is plentiful and the workers few, rest assured the Lord of the harvest is able to find the workers He needs to bring His harvest home; that's why He calls for prayers to Him not for worry from us.
The Lord establishes His authority here as the Lord of the harvest, as the sender of workers, and as the protector of workers. Jesus says that He sends His workers "as lambs among wolves." No one expects a lamb to protect itself in the midst of wolves. Even a human rancher knows that if he puts lambs in the midst of wolves, he had better be ready to help them, protect them, defend them. Surely, the God/Man, Jesus knows that too.
This text establishes Jesus as the one who has authority over the protection of His workers, and the One who has authority to provide for His workers. Jesus banishes all care that His workers might have for their provision by forbidding them to take the extra things a traveler would normally take. Far from imposing hardship, Jesus is showing grace. If we're going on a trip together and I tell you, "You don't need to take this or that," I'm saying, "I'll be responsible for it." How freeing.
No doubt about it; this text establishes the authority of Jesus, but it also establishes the authority of the workers sent by Jesus. Listen to the instructions Jesus gives to the workers He sends, "When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.'" Jesus' workers have the authority to declare peace is present where war ought to be. They can go into a house and not say, "There may be peace; or, "There will be peace," but, "There is peace." There can only be peace between God and sinful man through the Body and Blood of the God/Man Jesus. A worker sent by Jesus can say, "Peace is here," because Jesus bore in His Body all the sins that caused God to be at war with us. A worker sent by Jesus can say, "Peace is here," because Jesus kept all the Commandments, and that pleases God and makes Him peaceful.
What authority to be able to step into the worst house imaginable, the most fallen, decadent, sinful house, even one like yours and say, " God's peace to this house." But that's not all a worker sent by Jesus has the authority to say. He can say, "The kingdom of God is near." This is better translated, "The kingdom of God is here, or has arrived, and is here to stay." This text establishes the authority of the workers sent by Jesus to say the kingdom of God arrives and is present in their ministry. Who would dare claim such a thing unless Jesus said it first?
This text establishes the authority of Jesus' workers to proclaim peace to sinners although sinners can rightly expect only war with God. And this text establishes the authority of their words. "Hear them; hear me," says Jesus. "Reject them, not only reject Me but the One who sent Me, " says Jesus. Think of your mailman. It doesn't look like a big deal to interfere with a mailman, but in reality the full power and authority of the United States government are behind that man. If you disrupt his activities you answer not to a man, but to the Federal government. Likewise, those who reject the sent workers of Jesus answer to God not man. And Jesus says they will be worse off then Sodom on judgment day. In other words, it will be worse for those who reject the ministry no matter how politely, coyly, or hypocritically they do it, than it will be for brazen homosexuals.
So this text establishes the authority of the Lord and of His workers, but it also establishes the authority of those who believe. Friend, this text teaches you that you are not a fool for believing that your God works in your life through incredibly ordinary things. You're not a fool for believing Baptism is a powerful, forgiving, water of life. You're not a fool for believing that when your pastor forgives your sins they're actually and permanently sent away from you and your conscience right then. You're not a fool for believing that when your hands, lips and mouth touch the Bread and Wine of Holy Communion they really touch the Body and Blood of God.
This text establishes your authority, your right, your power to sing "Amen" when I place my hand on the altar after the Words of Institution and say, "The peace of the Lord be with you always." Yes, the peace of Jesus is yours. His presence now on our altar testifies to that. How come? Because as He tells us in the Words of Institution, "This is My Body given for you; this is My Blood shed for you." He can only give us His Body and Blood today because His sacrifice of it was acceptable to God on Calvary's cross. God the Father accepted it as a wrath removing sacrifice. No more suffering, dying, or damning was required from the Body and Blood of Jesus. God, therefore, raised Him from the dead, and Jesus again and again gives His Body for Bread and His Blood for wine in the name of peace.
Jesus brings His risen Body and Blood to this altar to assure you He has established peace between you and God. You are not a fool for singing, "Amen" which means, "This is most certainly true." Even though the devil, the world and your own flesh are still at war with you, you have authority from Jesus to believe that you have peace in Jesus' name. Even though you may feel agitated, worried, turbulent, Christ by this text establishes your right, your power, your authority to believe you have the peace of God which passes all human understanding.
And though this little flock doesn't look like much of a kingdom, though our treasures, our jewels be only Water, Words, Bread and Wine, though earthly kingdoms scorn and mock us, this text establishes your authority to believe not only that the kingdom of God is right here, but that it is so big and powerful that not even the gates of hell can prevail against it. You have the authority from Jesus Himself to believe that the kingdom of God touches the kingdom of earth at this place. Here's the place where angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven gather on earth because here is where the King of kings come down to earth bodily. Here is the place on earth where sinners doomed to hell find entrance to heaven through Jesus, the Door. You have the authority to believe that what is said and done here in the kingdom of God is more important, more powerful, more long lasting than anything that happens out there in the kingdom of men.
This text above all else establishes the authority of believers and hearers of pastors not of pastors. You have God's command and promise to believe, to trust in, to face down sin, death and the devil with, the words I speak into your ears. When I say, "I forgive you," you have authority from Jesus to believe that your sins are truly forgiven before God in heaven. When you're dying and I say, "You will not die but live forever," you have authority from Jesus to believe that you will not die. When I say, "Though you don't feel that all of your sins are really forgiven, I in Jesus name send your sins away," you have authority from Jesus to believe your sins are really gone.
By the words, "He who listens to you listen to me," Jesus establishes the authority of people who actually listen to their pastor. That's why in the early days of the Missouri Synod, many churches had those words embroidered on their pulpit parament and even etched on the front wall of their church. By these words Jesus means to silence your conscience, quiet your fears, deliver you from the mass of doubts your flesh always churns up. Jesus says you can hold up the words of forgiveness that come from my lips and believe them rather than what your conscience, your fears, or your flesh says. You have authority from Jesus to believe what I say about your sins, your death, your everlasting life rather than what your sins, the devil, or the world say.
Whose authority is really being established by all that is written here? Why the one who believes all that is here written. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Pentecost VII (7-18-04), Luke 10: 1-12, 16