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Today, the church gives thanks to the Lord for giving us Luke.
So, if I were to ask you which of the four gospels is the largest and most comprehensive of the four, the correct answer would be, ‘Luke’s.’ Luke begins his gospel with the account of the conception and birth of Jesus Christ and concludes with the sending out the Apostles “into all nations beginning in Jerusalem” and the ascension of our Lord .
Luke also wrote a sequel to his gospel called the book of Acts in which he gives a detailed account of how Jesus’ great commission unfolds.
So, if I were to ask you which of the New Testament writers is responsible for writing more of the New Testament than any other, the correct answer would be, when you put Luke’s gospel and Acts together, Luke is responsible for writing more of the New Testament than any of the other authors.
So, Luke gives us Jesus Christ in two volumes. In volume one, he reports on God’s purpose to reconcile the world to Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ during the time from His conception to His ascension. Then, in volume two, he reports on God’s purpose to reconcile the world to Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ from His ascension to… today, tomorrow.
In a sense, the book of Acts is still being written as God continues to bring life and salvation to “all nations” through the word of Jesus proclaimed by His apostles and recorded by men like Luke.
The gospel reading appointed for the feast of St. Luke is the one we just read from Luke’s gospel about the sending out of the 72. First Jesus calls and sends the 12 who are known as APOSTLES. Then, He calls and sends the 72.
Interestingly, Luke is the only one of the four gospel writers to report on this. And so the church as always assumed that probably, Luke himself was one of those 72 whom “the Lord appointed and sent ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.”
Luke makes it clear that this was not something that he choose for himself. He writes, “the Lord appointed 72 others and sent them on ahead of him…”
They were to go, “two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.” It was like sending 72 John the Baptists into the wilderness. They were to “prepare the way for the Lord.”
Jesus gives them pretty specific instructions. They were not to ‘speak for themselves.’ He told them what they were to say. “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’
They were not to go ‘shopping’ or ‘sightseeing’ along the way. “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals and greet no one on the road.” There is a clear sense of urgency to the work that they have been called to carry out. They have a message to deliver. A message that the whole world has been dying to hear ever since death entered the world. PEACE BE TO THIS HOUSE.”
This is the message that runs like the ‘river of life’ through Luke’s gospel and Acts.
• His gospel opened with the birth of John the Baptist and the prophetic song of his father Zechariah about the coming Messiah “who will guide our feet into the way of PEACE.”
• Immediately after that, the angels announce the birth of Christ to the shepherds in the fields saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth PEACE to those with whom He is pleased.”
• When Simeon takes the eight day old baby Jesus into his arms, he sings, “Lord, now let your servant depart in PEACE.” (Luke 1:79, 2:14,29)
• On Easter Sunday, this is the greeting that Jesus Himself extends when He enters the house where the Emmaus disciples, no doubt some of the 72, are gathered, “Peace to you!” (Lk. 24:36).
• In the book of Acts, Peter is told to go with a centurion named Cornelius, a gentile to his house. When Peter arrives, he told them about the “good news of PEACE through Jesus Christ…” (Acts 10:36).
God has reconciled the world to Himself through Jesus Christ and by Him and through Him, we have PEACE WITH GOD.
When the 72 entered a house, this was to be the first words out of their mouth. “Peace be to this house!”
What a wonderful greeting. Everything that makes you an enemy of God has been settled and justified and the slate has been wiped clean in the cross of Jesus. PEACE. Fear and worry, guilt and shame before God – all washed away in the blood of Jesus. PEACE.
A greeting like that is either ‘EMBRACED’ OR ‘REJECTED.’ Either you ‘BELIEVE IT’ and welcome this unexpected visitor into your house and receive what he offers, the Lord’s PEACE.
Or you ‘DOUBT IT’ and it and tell the unwelcome intruder to take his greeting and scram, and his word has no effect on you at all, except to make you annoyed or even angry that anyone would be so judgmental as to think that you need someone else’s PEACE.
Jesus warned them that they would not be welcomed by everyone. “If a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you.”
But to the ‘sons of peace,’ who welcomed them into their homes, they were first of all to “heal the sick in it.” If anyone in the house was ill, they were to heal them. Leave it to LUKE WHOM PAUL LATER TELLS US IS A PHYSICIAN to be sure to include this.
In his gospel, Luke repeatedly reports on how great crowds sick and diseased people came to Jesus and He healed them. Now, THE LORD EQUIPS these 72 disciples with His power so that they may demonstrate the authority of the blessing they bring. PEACE BE TO THIS HOUSE.
THEN, to those who were sick but who are now healed, they were to say, “The Kingdom of God has come near you.”
The ‘Kingdom of God’ is all wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ WHO COMES NEAR TO YOU IN THE WORD OF HIS MESSENGERS. He IS wherever His Word IS. Which means that your response to HIS WORD, which comes out of the mouth of His disciples, is your response to HIM.
Just because His greeting is rejected doesn’t mean that He wasn’t near or that the Word was not His Word. Even those who threw a bucket of cold water on their visitors were to hear the same announcement. “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.”
TO THE ONE WHO BELIEVES, the message of PEACE is the good news and the grace of God coming to you from the Son of God Himself, and received with great joy. TO THE ONE WHO DOES NOT BELIEVE, the same message of PEACE condemns them because they would not believe it.
Jesus warns his evangelists that they should be prepared for both kinds of reception. “Behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” Not exactly the kind of ‘pep talk’ they were hoping to hear from Him, I’m sure. But they should expect to be received NO DIFFERENTLY than He Himself is received. Because after all, their word is really His.
Luke reports that Jesus is the one who is arrested by His own church and betrayed by His own apostle and mocked and beaten. He is tried by the Church Council and the governor of the State. Luke writes, “And when they came to the place that is called ‘the skull, there they crucified him…” And Luke is the one who records these words of the Lord from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
The same treatment continues wherever His Word is preached. In his Acts, Luke records Paul’s words to the elders of the church in Ephesus, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock…” (Acts 20:29) WOLVES HAVE ONLY ONE THING ON THEIR MIND WHEN THEY SEE A LAMB AND THAT IS, DINNER.
And this is what Jesus sends His evangelist out to be – DINNER FOR HUNGRY WOLVES. The harvest IS RIPE with sinners who are ready and anxious to hear the word of PEACE. And it IS RIPE with sinners who hate that word and the messengers who speak it.
AND HERE’S THE THING. BOTH OF THOSE ‘SINNERS’ ARE YOU AND ME. We are simultaneously BELIEVERS AND UNBELIEVERS.
We welcome the evangelist who greets us with PEACE – “The peace of the Lord be with you.” “And also with you,” we readily reply. But how easily do we also reject that word of PEACE when things don’t go our way or we, like lambs, are being attacked by hungry wolves. How often are WE THE WOLVES who sink our fangs into someone with words and deeds meant to hurt and wound and even kill?
SO, THANKFULLY, THE LORD SENDS HIS EVANGELISTS OUT FOR WOLVES TOO, or none of us would ever have His PEACE. Thankfully, He sends His precious lambs into the harvest that is ripe with wolves like you and me, or there would never be any PEACE in this house.
Of course, in sending His messengers with His Word on their lips and His power to heal, He is really sending Himself. Because He is “the Lamb of God.” HE OFFERS HIS BODY AND BLOOD TO HUNGRY WOLVES TO “TAKE AND EAT… TAKE AND DRINK.”
• For it is in eating this Lamb that even wolves like you and me are transformed into disciples and evangelists.
• It is in eating this Lamb that even you have PEACE with God through Jesus Christ.
IT IS IN YOU, IN YOUR VERY MOUTH, THAT ISAIAH’S PROPHESY IS FULFILLED AMONG YOU TODAY, “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb” and “the wolf and the lamb shall graze together.” (Is.11:9, 65:25).
“YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT.” When wolves eat this Lamb they become little lambs, sheep who “hear the voice of their shepherd.” And THE PEACE OF THE LORD IS WITH YOU.
When sinners eat the BODY and drink the BLOOD of this Lamb, they become saints, ready to go into the “plentiful harvest” like “lambs among wolves” saying, “peace be to this house.”
Today, the church gives thanks to Luke for giving us the Lord.