Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 7 Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.
8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”
12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
Well, our Summer Growth series is almost done. What have you learned? What has made an impact on you? What has helped you grow? It’s good to do a spiritual inventory every once in a while to honestly analyze what areas are strong and what areas need some help. A key there is to be honest. There might be some things that you need a little more work than others
For example, you might not struggle with the fact that worship is absolutely essential. You might realize that what happens here is the same thing a hospital does for someone with cancer. This is God, the master of body and soul, cutting out what is bad with his law and healing what is sick with the gospel. This is necessary for the health of your spirit, and so you make church attendance a priority that nothing can top. Good, that’s a strong spot for your faith. It’s not something to be boastful about; it’s something to thank God for.
But maybe when it comes to worry and fear, you wither and wilt. You just can’t help pondering over the problems at work or deliberating the difficulties of some relationships. You are afraid of the future for your kids, you are afraid of rejection, you are afraid of death, and the fears continue to pile up. It’s like what Jesus said to his disciples when he calmed the storm, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Jesus was not questioning if they believed in him as the Messiah, the Son of God to save them from sin. Jesus was telling them that some of their fears were clouding out God’s promise to protect them from danger. So, that’s an area that needs some growth. Repent for the lack of faith. See Christ’s loving forgiveness. And then study up on some of those powerful promises in Scripture, because that is what the Holy Spirit will use as miracle grow for your faith.
We all have areas where we need God’s Word to keep us strong and healthy and then we also have areas where we need God’s Word to strengthen our weaknesses and grow our faith. I think today’s Gospel brings up an area where we can all use some growth. It’s the great privilege and purpose that God has bestowed on his people. It’s the reason why a congregation was started here back in the early summer of 1960 as an offshoot of Redeemer in Mandan. It’s the specific effort of all God’s people to reach others with this life-saving gospel message of forgiveness through Christ. It’s our mission. This area that needs some strengthening is called evangelism.
Today, Jesus gives us 5 lessons about our mission that can help us grow in this important work we do together.
“Calling the Twelve to him, he… gave them authority over impure spirits.”
Lesson 1 – Jesus calls us and gives us his authority.
It is a very little detail, but I think it’s a powerful one. Notice how this mission work started for the disciples. It wasn’t 12 friends who had this bright idea that they should go out preaching and teaching in the name of Jesus. It wasn’t these highly educated religious scholars who wanted to impart their vast wisdom on people. It wasn’t specifically trained men with titles like pastor, staff minister or teacher. This is a group of people who were called together by Jesus.
That’s all you need to do this mission work. You need Jesus’ call. The Son of God in the flesh calls them together for their first mission trip. It isn’t a big one – they just went to neighboring towns and villages – but it is important work, work that needed special authority.
Jesus not only calls them but then gives them his authority. That’s what it takes to fend of the devil and all his evil. It doesn’t take all the best skills and personality traits. It doesn’t take all the coolest programs and events. Mission work needs Jesus’ authority over the devil.
You have both of these things. Did you know that? You have been called by the Son of God, the Word made flesh, to be his child, to be salt and light in this decaying dark world, to go and make disciples. Every single Christian is called in this general way to be a part of Christ’s mission. And you carry with you the authority that does not originate from the wisest philosophies this world has to offer. It’s not from a diploma that hangs in your office from the best education money can buy. It comes from the one who came not from this world but from heaven. His mission was to rescue us from sin, death, and the devil. It was God’s promise that he would crush the devil’s head and that is exactly what Jesus did. That’s the kind of authority we have in our mission of spreading Jesus to those around us and the whole world.
While every Christian has this call from Christ to carry out his mission in their lives, there are some who have specific calls to specific places to serve Christ and his people. Paul mentions these types of ministries in the second reading for today. God’s people need leaders, overseers, or shepherds to help serve and organize their mission efforts. Right now, there is a great need for them. We have around 100 churches that don’t have a full-time pastor. We have even more schools that have to try and piece a unit of teachers together to make sure we can teach the gospel to all the students in our WELS elementary schools and high schools. Might it be a good time to focus on what is truly important in our nation? Might it be a good time for you to talk about this with your children and grandchildren? Might it be a good time to make the sacrifices now, so that God will continue to have instruments to preach and teach his gospel?
Even though we are not worthy of such a calling, Christ desires to use his people to carry out his mission. Through the church, he calls some to specific places to carry out specific work as pastors and teachers. Through his Word, he calls all of us and gives us his authority to carry the gospel around with us in our day to day lives.
“Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two…”
Lesson 2 – We don’t need to do it alone.
Jesus never said that you are an island when it comes to mission work. In fact, so many times throughout Scripture the exact opposite is the case. Elijah thought he was alone and God said there were seven thousand still on his side. David felt alone when Saul was trying to kill him, but he still had Jonathan. Paul went on missionary trips with Barnabas and Luke, and later Silas and Timothy. Jesus himself gathered these 12 men to be with him. He also reminds us, “Wherever two or three gather in my name, there I am with them.”
Sure, you can go by yourself to invite someone to church or our Bible Basics class. We could emphasize a mission plan for each one to reach one, but I think Jesus is on to something. There is strength in numbers. There is encouragement when you are not alone. This is not a reason to use the excuse that “someone else will do it” but it is a reminder that Jesus does not call you to a life and mission of solitude. If you have a spouse or a sibling, you can be a missionary team that tries to seek opportunities to speak about what Jesus has done for you. If you have a family or group of friends here at church, you can pray for each other, encourage each other, and hold each other accountable in the mission work we do together. If you haven’t found anyone to partner up with yet, let me know and I will try to help you find a team. That way, when you make some mistakes or neglect some opportunities, you can also repent and forgive each other. This is the beauty of our mission. Christ never leaves you alone, but he gives you family or friends, a church family, a synod, and the whole Christian Church on earth to keep you going.
“Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town.”
Lesson 3 – God’s people generously support mission work.
We might think that it’s totally different now as a group of Christians tries to carry out the mission Jesus has given us, but it’s really not. The disciples didn’t take anything except what they were wearing, their staff, and sandals. God was going to take care of them through the generosity of his people. Part of what we do to accomplish Christ’s mission is pool our resources together to do the same thing. We share. We give. And we do it generously, willing to give money, food, housing, and whatever else it takes to support Christ’s mission work. I and my family are extremely grateful for what you do to generously support and care for us.
But my little family is not the only one who benefits. We generously support Christ’s mission so that we have this place where we gather and invite others to gather with us to hear the Word of the Lord. We generously support Christ’s mission so that there will be pastors to preach in places like this and teachers to teach in our schools and that there will be pastors and teachers to go to places and people that we cannot across the world. We generously support Christ’s mission so that our church body can train those who want to preach and teach God’s Word at places like Luther Preparatory School, Martin Luther College, and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary.
This generous support, whether it is your time, your abilities, or your money, is not costing you something. If you are looking at it that way, then look again. Your generous support of Christ’s mission is an investment in your eternity and the eternity of your children, spouse, family, friends, neighbors, and community. It is seeking Christ first, and he says all the other stuff will be taken care of, as well. That’s an investment with an eternal impact.
“And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”
Lesson 4 – We are not responsible for the results. We simply respond the way Jesus tells us.
I don’t know about you, but I need this reminder a lot, because I can put all sorts of pressure on myself to say the right thing at the right time to the right person. I can put all sorts of pressure on myself to preach better, teach better, reach out better. I can put all sorts of pressure on myself that the results of my mission work are up to me.
It’s just not true. Jesus flat out told the disciples that some might not welcome your invitations or your caring attempt to turn a conversation to spiritual and eternal matters. Jesus doesn’t say you have to beat yourself up about that. Jesus doesn’t say that you have to change your approach. Jesus doesn’t say that you have to go back home with your tail between your legs. If you are being diligent and faithful with the mission Christ has given you, then you have nothing to do but respond the way Jesus tells us.
Shaking the dust of their feet didn’t mean that disciples now had to hold a grudge against the people who rejected their message. Shaking the dust of their feet didn’t mean the disciples had to openly drag their name through the mud. It just meant that Jesus is serious about his Word. If people don’t want it, then Jesus wants us to give a loving warning that those who don’t want or don’t care much about the gospel of Jesus are outside of his kingdom. They don’t get to enjoy the eternity that Jesus has won. They will spend eternity with all the impure spirits of the devil. They will be the losers in hell forever.
You and I could never be responsible for someone believing or rejecting Jesus. It is the power of Holy Spirit working through the gospel that calls people to repentance and faith. It is the stubborn and unrelenting heart of evil that rejects the message of Jesus and his power to save. It is not the one doing the mission work.
Although, we could certainly be responsible for someone never hearing the gospel of Jesus, never seeing his mission in action, never knowing his peace. While we can never be responsible for the results of our mission work, we are always responsible for how we respond when Christ sends his people out with work to do.
That leads to the last lesson about our mission.
They went out and preached…
Lesson 5 – Get out there and try it.
There is no awkward dillydallying from the disciples. There is not one excuse. There isn’t a timidity that keeps them from doing this work. There is nothing that stops them. Why? Do you ever wonder why? Why do they just give us the impression that they were Christ’s robots when it comes to doing his mission work? Every time he sends them out they just go. Is it because they had the perfect pitch? Is it because they had the respect and honor from everyone they met? Is it because they had all the skills? Not at all. They had the call from Jesus and his authority. They had others with whom to go. They had the support of God’s people. They knew that they were not responsible for the results. And so they went.
I hope you notice today that everything they had is exactly the same thing that you and I have. You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. And so there’s only one thing left to do: Get out there and try it.
God grant it. Amen.