35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
10:1 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
“Dad, I’ve got some good news! She said ‘Yes!’” “Great news, Mom! I made the team.” “All that work paid off! I got the job! Let’s celebrate!” “The Brewers won the World Series! Can you believe it! We are the champions! This is the best news ever!”
Now, this kind of good news is pretty subjective, meaning it’s good as long as you agree with it. What if you are the parent who doesn’t like the future daughter-in-law? What if you are the kid that didn’t make the team because that other kid did? What if you are the one who wanted that job or you are the one dating this woman who has to move to the new job? What if you aren’t a Brewers fan (how is that even possible?)? Then, the news isn’t so good, is it?
When we see Jesus today, he is traveling and teaching throughout Palestine. He is seeing people in need of good news every day. And what is his good news for these people who were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd? Is Jesus holding rallies protesting hate, spreading love and unity? Is Jesus promoting better laws and leaders? Is he providing superior schools and educational resources? Does he offer affordable health care and top-notch hospitals? Does Jesus give them all the money and pleasures this world has to offer? For so many people, this is the good news they are looking for. Their ears perk up and their eyes widen when Jesus is healing and providing for people.
But is that really Jesus’ good news? No! Not even close! He had the kind of news that was good no matter who he was talking to or helping. He had news that was good for everyone, no matter their color, creed, or country. He had news that was good for the sick and the healthy, for the religious and non-religious, for the hurting and the happy – it is good news for every single person, ever.
See, this is where the road splits between giving the kind of news that we call good and our topic today – giving the kind of news that God calls good. See, giving our kind of good news is good as long as you agree with it. Evangelism is giving God’s good news, his unchangeable, unconditional, and universal good news.
Do you know what his good news is? I could stand up here and give you the full rundown for hours, but I’ll keep it short. It’s not enough for God’s good news to be that you will never feel alone. It’s not enough for God’s good news to remove sicknesses or diseases. It’s not enough for God’s good news to get rid of bullies. It’s not enough for God’s good news to be a relationship, a job, a championship for your favorite team. And it’s not enough for God’s good news to give you ten steps to happiness.
God’s good news is that he came here to earth as Immanuel. Remember what that names means? God is with us! God’s good news is that you are never alone because he came for you. God’s good news is that Christ removed sin and death from your record and at your baptism, he replaced it with righteousness and life. God’s good news is that there are no enemies for his children that he has not completely destroyed for eternity. God’s good news is that Jesus purchased a home in heaven for you and you and you…
But it’s not just for you. Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful.” Our Savior looks out over ripe fields where there are no categories, only souls for whom he shed his blood. God does not play favorites with this field. God doesn’t pick spots during all these tense times in politics and society. God wants all the harvest, all to be saved. Yes, the racist, the rapist, the liberal, the conservative, the terrorist, the terrorized, the religious, the irreligious, the smart, the simple, the happy, the sad… All are in his harvest field! He wants all not because of who we are, but in spite of who we are. He wants all not because we offer him something special, but because he gives us something special.
This good news is the gospel! And if this good news has come from heaven to our hearts, then what do you do with good news? “Dad, I’ve got some good news! Jesus saved me…and you.” “Great news, Mom! Jesus brought me into his family… and he’s your brother, too.” “I was lost, but I have a Savior who searched me out and found me. He’s looking for more. Let’s celebrate.” “He won! Jesus came back from the dead. The victory over death is ours!”
Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore to send out workers into his harvest field.” “Ok, I’ll ask him to send someone else! I don’t know if I’m the right one to share it. I go to worship. I pray for missionaries and evangelism efforts. I support with my offerings. But when it comes to actually speaking the gospel to others, I’m not up for that.”
Or maybe you’re the type that says, “I don’t know what to say. If were are talking about accounting, construction, insurance, health care, then I’m fine. But I don’t know what to say about Jesus.”
Or you are the one that says, “I don’t know who to tell. My parents and kids are believers, my friends are believers, most of my relatives have a church, I think. My coworkers kind sound religious the way they use God’s name so much. My neighbors… you know I’m not sure about…”
Or is it possible that you’re the type that puts yourself up on a pedestal looking down on others, “I don’t want to tell them my good news. When have they ever done anything nice to me? Why should I care about them? Besides, I wouldn’t want them in my church, I see them at work or around the neighbor too much the way it is.”
If you fit into any of these groups, join the club. Did you notice the list of Jesus’ disciples? Did he send out religious leaders? Did he send out wise and persuasive professors? Did he send out people who were well liked? NO! He sent out Peter, the denier; John and James, the proud wanna-be-rulers in God’s kingdom, Matthew, the cheat; Simeon, the anti-government activist, Judas, the betrayer. He sent out men who were not respected members of the educational community. Jesus sent out people who had only known him for about 2 years. As I look around today, I know that you have been with Jesus long enough to know the basics. You know your sin and you know how Jesus has removed it from you for good. That’s what makes sinners such good evangelists. We personally know how God’s good news has changed us.
Do you really think I am a holy man? Do you think Pastor Wolfe doesn’t sin? Not a chance! Every single person is in the same harvest field. I don’t go to people and point out my good life as the good news. I give God’s good news, “My life would be a wreck if Jesus hadn’t intervened. Let me tell you what he has done for me and what he will do for you.”
Jesus has answers to all our doubts or excuses. Jesus tells the disciples to ask God for workers. And do you see the answer to their prayers? It’s the disciples. God can make that raggedy band his evangelists, and he can make you speak his good news, too. If you notice, they went because they had Jesus’ power and authority to speak.
Some of you might still be thinking, “What do I say and who do I say it to?” Jesus has that figured out for you, too. “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” That’s the good news. Jesus came to us and brought his light of life. Jesus has washed us clean and made us ready for the perfect paradise. Jesus has empowered us with his Spirit to be witnesses of his saving work.
Now, who do you tell? Listen to what Jesus says, “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Jesus wasn’t saying he didn’t want Gentiles in his church. He did plenty of ministry to them, as well. Not to mention he died for the sins of all people. This is what Jesus was telling his disciples, “Guys, as you get started with ministry work, go to your family and your friends. Go to the people who know you, respect you, and who will listen to you.” Jesus has put those kind of people in your life, the kind of people that you love to spend happy moments with, the kind of people who you share good news with, the kind of people that might not have a relationship with your pastor (but maybe they could use that), and the kind of people who won’t bite your head off if you want to talk about God’s good news. And even if they do, you have the kind of love and compassion Christ has put in your heart to handle that situation with humility and strength.
What Jesus is telling you is that if you are not interested in giving his good news to others, than that needs to change. It needs to change! But if you’re a little nervous or just starting out, you don’t need to go to the mall or grocery store and tap people on the shoulder saying, “Hey do you know the good news?” You don’t need to go to work with a bullhorn and walk through the halls shouting, “Jesus died for you, your sins are forgiven, and heaven is open for you.” You can go to your family members. You can go to your friends and neighbors. But you have to start with them.
Why? Why do you have to get into the fields? Why do you have to give God’s good news? Is it because you have a God breathing murderous threats down on you if you don’t? Is it because you will lose heaven if you don’t? I think you know Jesus better than that. Jesus says, “Freely you have received; freely give.” Jesus says you have good news and good news is great when others get it.
When you get engaged, you plan a wedding and a wedding dance, because you want to share your joy. When you make the team you are happy to be one of the guys. When you get the job, you celebrate with people because that’s what a celebration is, a bunch of people being happy together.
Doesn’t that kind of sound like us when we are hearing God’s good news together? Evangelism will be a burden if it’s all about trying to avoid God’s punishment. The news ceases to be good if that is how you see it. The only way God’s good news gets from your heart to your lips and to someone else’s ears, is with the power and compassion that Christ used to get it into us. It was all him and it cost you nothing.
Free stuff is great because it’s easy to share. Do you ever notice that? If someone drops off a bunch of food, it’s easy to say to your wife, “We should have some people over to help us eat all of this.” Or is that just me? God gave you his good news freely so that you can be free with it.
Do you notice what is not a part of evangelism? Jesus didn’t tell his disciples to each get 10 prospects. Come to think of it, Jesus didn’t make any demands for results. Do you know why? Because the results can never be up to us. We don’t save people. Jesus does. We don’t change hearts. The Spirit does. We don’t make God’s children. He does.
We speak good news! God’s good news is what changed you and me, and that is the only thing that can help make an eternal difference for someone else. Good news is good if a person agrees with you. Evangelism is always good, because it’s God’s good news.
You were made for this. God called us out of darkness into his wonderful light so that we will shine for those who are still in darkness. Jesus made us witnesses who are filled with his love and compassion, filled with his power and authority, filled with his good news.
And now there’s one little piece of good news left. It’s time for the…Amen.