The One Who Hears You Hears Me
The One Who Hears You Hears Me
St. Luke 10:1-16
In verse 16 of Luke, Chapter 10, Jesus says something important—really important. In fact, it’s the sort of “important” that, the more we think on it, should completely transform how we live: not just the things we say, but everything we do, and everything we value. In verse 16 Jesus says to his people, “The one who hears you hears me.” Think about that. The people who hear you hear Jesus. We’re called to speak Jesus’ good news on his behalf. We’re called to live out his kingdom and to make it manifest in our lives in such a way that the people around us will see it and hear its call to them. The one who sees us sees Jesus. We’re heavenly colonists. We’re the advance guard of the kingdom. Jesus has called us to himself, transformed us, and now sends us out into the world to prepare the way before him. For people to hear or see Jesus through us is to say that we’re his ambassadors. Again: “The one who hears you hears me.”
But how often do we consider that we’re ambassadors? Occasionally we hear of a sports all-star or a corporate executive being forced to resign over scandalous behaviour or comments, because the company or association they represent doesn’t want to be associated with them anymore. But most of the time I don’t think we give it much thought. The sports stars and executives were only worried about being good ambassadors after they got fired. I used to work with a field service tech whose “small talk” with customers was often about bashing the company. When it got back to his boss he was fired. It never occurred to him that he was being a bad ambassador for the company. I think of the striking teacher this summer who made a rude gesture when I drove past the picket line and didn’t wave. Someone like that makes a poor ambassador, but I don’t think it ever occurs to them. And if we give it so little thought when it comes to our jobs, I wonder how much thought we give to our being ambassadors for the kingdom of God and for his Church. A fish sticker on your car doesn’t make you a good ambassador; it’s what you do and how you drive while having that fish sticker on your car. Think again about Jesus’ words: “The one who hears you hears me.”
At the beginning of Chapter 9 Jesus sent out the twelve. Jesus didn’t want them encumbered by worldly cares so he sent them out with nothing: no bag, no money, no second coat. They preached Jesus’ good news, they healed the sick and the demon possessed, and they stayed with whomever would receive them. Now, as Jesus begins his trip to Jerusalem and as he prepares to meander through the country to get there, he sends out his disciples again, but this time on a much bigger scale. It’s not the twelve now. In fact, the twelve will stay with him. This time he sends out a whole bunch of other disciples. Look at Chapter 10, verses 1-2:
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “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.
Jesus sends out seventy-two. According to Genesis 10 in the Greek version of the Old Testament there were seventy-two nations in the world. The pseudepigraphal book of 3 Enoch reflects the common Jewish view that there were seventy-two princes and languages. Tradition also said that when the Old Testament was translated into Greek, it was done by seventy-two elders who wanted the world to know of the greatness of Israel’s God. Even though Jesus isn’t sending these seventy-two out into the gentile nations, that he chooses seventy-two of them draws on that history and that tradition. This is the beginning of a missionary venture that we see fully developed in the book of Acts and that is still ongoing today as the Good News goes out to the world.
Jesus doesn’t just send them out; he sends them two by two. They’re witnesses—literally. In Deuteronomy God told the people that for a criminal to be convicted at least two witnesses were required. And so here Jesus sends out his disciples in pairs to corroborate their witness. One witness who showed up talking about the Messiah might be laughed out of town, but if two witnesses are good enough in court, then two witnesses ought to demand a hearing of the people wherever they go.
And the people need to hear this message. As Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few.” If you’re a farmer, the idea of harvest will give you a sense of urgency. Most crops have to be harvested quickly when they’re ripe—usually in a window of at most a couple of weeks and sometimes even within a few days. If you miss the window your crops may become overripe, the birds might get to your fruit before you do, or rain or snow might crush it flat and leave it to rot on the ground. Jesus isn’t sending these people out on a leisurely or open-ended mission. He’s on his way to Jerusalem. When he gets there he knows that he’s going to be handed over to the priests and elders and that he’ll be killed. On the way he plans to pass through the towns and villages of the country. The people of those towns only have this one chance to hear his message, so he sends out the seventy-two to prepare the way for him—to preach good news to the poor and to heal and to make clean so that the people will be ready to hear Jesus when he arrives.
And Jesus makes sure they know that this is a job that requires wholehearted and undivided commitment. He says:
Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.
The instructions are similar to the instructions he gave to the twelve. Their focus is to be on the mission he’s given them. He’s set his face to go to Jerusalem and they need to set their faces on preparing the way for him. He doesn’t want them distracted by “things” or by money. And the situation is obviously changing in terms of Jesus’ reception. So far what Luke has told us about the way the people of Galilee received him and his disciples has mostly been positive, but now he warns them that he’s sending them out “as lambs in the midst of wolves”. The urgency of the mission is growing every day that Jesus gets closer to Jerusalem and to his rejection and death, but also, the more urgent the mission, the more hostility Jesus and his disciples are going to face. The more people hear him and receive his message the bigger threat he becomes to the status quo and to the Jewish leaders with an interest in it. More and more Jesus is calling his disciples to identify with him in his rejection.
In verses 5-12 Jesus then gives them specifics about the mission itself.
Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. (Luke 10:5-7)
Their message about Jesus is first and foremost a message of peace. For Luke, throughout his Gospel, peace describes “salvation”. The “Good News” is a message of peace. And for the people to whom these disciples were ministering, the idea of peace was shaped by two major cultural forces. Their understanding of what peace meant came first from Jewish culture, from the Hebrew language, and from the Old Testament. The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. But shalom is a much bigger word than peace is. Shalom is the idea of wholeness and well-being, of plenty and security, and it has a strong covenantal sense to it. Shalom has more to do with the whole community than it does a single individual. Shalom was what the people hoped for and looked forward to when the Lord would send his Messiah to establish his kingdom. It’s the sense Isaiah gives when he writes of the lion laying down with the lamb (Isaiah 4:4) or the sense that Micah gives when he writes about every man sitting under his own vine or fig tree (4:4). Shalom is the Lord’s dealing with sin and rebellion and death and setting his temple—the cosmos—to rights and loving and caring for his people.
But peace was also defined by the Romans. Caesar had brought peace to an empire torn by civil war. Caesar has conquered far-flung peoples and nations and had established the Pax Romana—the Roman Peace. And as far as the Romans were concerned, Caesar was lord—very much in part because he had brought peace. But remember, Caesar might claim to be lord, but he’s not. He’s a pretender. Jesus is the true Lord. And so when the seventy-two go out preaching peace, the peace they preach is a peace that combines these idea together. It’s a peace that declares Jesus as Lord. It’s a peace that reminds the people of God’s covenant promises to Abraham. It’s a peace that reminds them of the Prophets who preached about the coming Day of the Lord and of the Messiah’s reign. And it’s a peace that upsets people, because it’s a peace that cannot be had without repentance. Jesus’ peace welcomes people into the kingdom, but to receive that welcome means admitting that you’re not already in the kingdom. That might have been fine for Romans or Greeks—they were gentiles. But it was hard for Jews to admit that they, too, needed the peace that Jesus is offering.
“If,” Jesus says, “you find ‘sons of peace’—if you find people who have heard my message and have received it—stay with them. Accept their hospitality. It’s their way of extending peace back to you.” Brothers and sisters, think about that for a minute. Have you ever considered that hospitality is a practical way to show Jesus’ peace to people? It’s one of many ways that we can manifest the kingdom to the world. We also manifest the kingdom in the way we receive hospitality. Some of the seventy-two may have been afraid of being moochers. Jesus brings up the harvest imagery again. He compares them to labourers hired for the harvest. They deserve to be paid for their work. They’ve gone out with nothing, but God will take care of them through his own people. On the other hand, some of the seventy-two might have been tempted to take advantage of this hospitality: spending the first night in town with the first person who offered a bed and simple food, but then moving out to stay with a wealthy person with a softer bed and better food who might make an offer the next day. That’s not what the kingdom is about. And so Jesus warns them not to offend the hospitality they’re offered. Graciously take what you’re offered and be satisfied. You’re here to preach the kingdom, not to get rich and not to be comfortable. There’s an exhortation here for the Church to show hospitality to and to look after the clergy and those working full-time in the harvest, but it’s also a warning to the workers that ministry isn’t about always looking for the bigger, better deal and it’s not about fleecing the sheep.
Jesus goes on with his instructions in verse 8:
Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ (Luke 10:8-11)
Jesus stresses that there are only two responses to the Good News: either people will receive it or they’ll reject it. There’s nothing in the middle. Think about it. We’ve confused things a bit in the last century or two by talking about the “Gospel” as “How to get saved”. When we look at the New Testament, the “Gospel” or the “Good News” isn’t a set of instructions or a prayer to pray. The Gospel is simply the message that Jesus is Lord. That’s why Luke can interchange it with “peace”. Brothers and sisters, if Jesus is Lord, there are only two things you can do with that. You can be a rebel and fight against Jesus’ lordship, or you can acknowledge and submit to him in trusting faith. The same goes for peace. Either you embrace peace or you reject and refuse it. Shalom doesn’t come in half-measures and neither does lordship!
And so, Jesus says, if the people of the town receive you, heal the sick—do all the things Jesus has been doing: preach good news to the poor, release to the captives, and sight to the blind and then demonstrate it in practical ways so that the people will know that they’ve put their trust in a Messiah who is the real deal. Bring restoration and invite the outsiders into the kingdom, because they need to know that even if the kingdom hasn’t appeared yet in all its glory and fullness, the one who is Lord of the kingdom and who has come to establish it has come near. Give the people a taste of the kingdom so that they have reason to hope in Jesus!
On the other hand, Jesus says, if the people do not receive you, they need to know that the kingdom and its Lord have come near and that they’ve rejected both. He tells them to shake the dust from their feet—probably doing it publicly in the town square or at the town gate for everyone to see. As we saw before when Jesus gave the same instructions to the twelve, to shake the dust from their feet was to declare something or someplace unclean. If these people reject the kingdom they need to be sent a message that they’ve chosen to be outsiders, that they’ve chosen to be rebels, and that they have no hope when judgement comes. Jesus came to redeem, not to condemn, but that doesn’t mean condemnation isn’t coming. He came into the middle of history to provide a way of escape from the coming judgement—and his way is the only escape.
In verses 12-15 Jesus underscores just how much is at stake here.
I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.
Jesus says, “On that day” and we might ask “What day?” But the Jews knew what Jesus meant. To talk about that day or about the day was to talk about the day when judgement would finally come. It was the end of history or the end of the age. And every Jew knew that judgement was going to come on the gentiles. But now Jesus turns that all upside down. If they thought that the judgement that came on Sodom was bad, just wait. When the day comes, Sodom will be better off than the towns that reject Jesus. He singles out Sodom, because Sodom had refused to show hospitality to the Lord’s messengers. Instead of showing them hospitality, they attacked them. And now Jesus compares the towns that refuse to welcome and to show hospitality to his messengers with the evil people of Sodom. And he specifically names three towns, Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, all in the Galilee. These were towns he had visited and preached in. Capernaum was his home base. And now we discover that despite the enthusiasm of the crowds, Jesus had been rejected by those towns. The Jews are obstinate in their rebellion and rejection of him. Jesus compares them with Tyre and Sidon. These were gentile cities on the coast of Lebanon. Isaiah had spoken out about their evil and wickedness, but Jesus says that as evil as Tyre and Sidon were, they would have repented—they would have turned from their evil and turned to the Lord—if Jesus had preached and ministered there as he had in Galilee. You see, the Jews were convinced that they were bound for glory. They were convinced that their circumcision, their dietary rules, and their temple made them kingdom insiders. They were convinced that when Judgement Day came, God would vindicate them as he destroyed their enemies. But now Jesus says that their obstinate refusal to receive his message of peace and to acknowledge his lordship has got them bound, not for glory, but for hades—for wrath and destruction.
And why? Because to reject the bearers of Jesus’ message is to reject Jesus himself. But it goes a step further. This is why those who reject Jesus are bound for destruction. Look at verse 16:
“The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
The Father sent his Son into the world as a means of escape from judgement. All of humanity is subject to sin and doomed not only to physical death, but to eternal torment for our rebellion. Nothing unholy can stand in the presence of a holy God. And so Jesus came as the fulfilment of God’s plan—the plan set in motion when God promised Abraham that he would be a blessing to the nations through his seed. Jesus is that seed. He came to die for our sins and to offer us restoration to God. To receive his message in faith is to grab hold of a spiritual, eternal life preserver. To reject him is to reject the only way out—to choose spiritual death. That’s what’s at stake: not just life and death, but eternal life and eternal death.
Brothers and sisters, think on that. This is why it’s so important to remember that those who hear and see us hear and see Jesus and to remember that we are ambassadors of his kingdom and his Church. Through us the world sees not only Jesus, but it also sees the Father—the one who loves us so much that he spared not his only Son.
But consider that the world only sees the loving Saviour and his loving Father when we faithfully represent them. We need to examine ourselves and ask whether the things we say and the way we live proclaim the Saviour and his Father. We need to examine ourselves, friends, because a lot of the time we’re like my old co-worker who spent his time bad-mouthing the company to customers. We slap a fish sticker on our car to announce that we’re Christians, but then we drive like hell. We talk with our non-Christians friends about “church”, but too much of our talk about church to them turns to gossiping or bad-mouthing our brothers and sisters. People around us know that we’re Christians, but they also see us living in fear of sickness and death, of financial ruin, fear of losing the “culture war”, or being overrun by Islamic militants—just to name a few potential sources of anxiety. But, brothers and sisters, consider that Jesus called his people from the very beginning to identify with him in his suffering and in his rejection. We can do that and still live in joyful hope, because we know that no matter what happens, Jesus is Lord and that he has conquered sin and death. Our call is to carry his victory to the world and to proclaim its good news—to proclaim our hope in the resurrection of the saints and the restoration of Creation.
If we’ve committed ourselves to the kingdom, if we know that Jesus is Lord, if we love our Saviour, and if we live our lives in the hope that the kingdom of God has come near and that it holds resurrection and new life for us and for the world, we should be living in a way that at the very least makes people constructively curious. Living under the conviction that Jesus is Lord means that, just like him, we preach good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, and sight to the blind. It means that just as we know the our bodies are meant for something higher on the other side of the resurrection, so the world is meant for something greater after that Last Day when heaven and earth are joined together and all of Creation restored to glorify the Lord. Brothers and sisters, as Christians we should be seeking to make the world a better place. Our calling is to manifest the peace of the Lord and to give hope to people still lost in darkness. We’re not perfect. The disciples walked with Jesus for three years, seeing his miracles and hearing his preaching, and they still fell into fear from time to time. Their faith crumpled under pressure sometimes. Jesus understands that, but he calls us to be ever-growing as we walk with him. And he really does exhort us to think on the fact that our lives give the world a window into the kingdom. We need to ask what people see through that window. The glass may be smudged a little from time to time and sometimes it might be dusty, but does it give the people around us a glimpse of the Lord Jesus?
Let us pray: Gracious Father, thank you for calling us into your kingdom and thank you for involving us in its work. Strengthen our faith and teach us to be good ambassadors. Give us the grace to set aside our fears and fill us in faith with hope for the glory that lies ahead, that in our words and through our lives the world will see the hope of your kingdom. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.