We are in the tenth chapter of Luke’s Gospel, so you’ll want to go ahead and turn in your Bibles to Luke, Chapter 10, verse 1—Jesus’ sending of the seventy-two missionaries. We’ll begin by reading the first 12 verses of that chapter together. You’re noticing, probably, a number of different ways of saying it’s time for our church to get out there and spread the Gospel and bring the Gospel out to the community in different ways. We obviously know that you as individual Christians are doing that already in your families and friends and neighborhoods and work and all that. We just want to give you some formal opportunities to help you to learn how to share the Gospel, as you do it with one another, and that will be an encouragement to you and also instructive as you see people who are experienced at sharing the Gospel do that in another setting, and it’s just going to be, I think, a very encouraging time for our church, a time of growth and stimulation and edification.
If you get the sense that we’re getting into Luke 10, and we have all these sermons on evangelism, that it’s a bit of a conspiracy behind the scenes to encourage more evangelism, I want you to know that you’re absolutely right about that. But it’s not our conspiracy. This is what Christ has planned for us. I started Luke’s Gospel back in January 2015, and I could not have anticipated then that we would be here now. So he has been planning this for quite some time—to unleash this kind of tone and tenor in our church, and I am so excited to see it happening, to be a part of it, to know that Christ is the head of the Church, and we as elders and deacons and leaders here in the church—we’re just really following his direction, responding to what he’s renewing among us. So it’s pretty exciting times, a pretty special place to be, and I know you all feel that and sense that, too.
Let’s look at the text here in Luke chapter 10:1-12:
“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. 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. 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. 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.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.””
Now if you remember back to last week, what happened last time—how abruptly we ended. That’s how we’re going to begin this morning. No superficial fluff about textual criticism and the like, no chitchat about textual variance and all that. We’re going to dive right in. I’m even resisting the encouragement of some of you who came to me and said, “Give us that primer on textual criticism next Sunday.” And I said, “No!” And I’m thinking of all of you. You’re welcome! We’ll do that another time and not on a Sunday morning. It’s not as edifying in a message like this.
But we’re going to move through the first 12 verses with several “m”-words as anchor points for our thinking: the mission, the mindset, the manner, the means, and the ministry. [Repeats] We covered the mission last time—verse 1. We’re going to cover the mindset—verses 2-4—today. We have four points under that heading for this morning—four attitudes that we need to have as a mindset when we ourselves go out in our own day to preach the Gospel. So four attitudes we need to have as a mindset for evangelism, a mindset for the mission that the Lord has sent us on, according to Matthew 28, to “go and make disciples.”
Here’s the first—ready? Go and preach joyfully. Go and preach joy-full-ly. We get the “go and preach” part from verse 3. We see that Jesus commands the seventy to “Go,” and it is a command, there. As in Matthew 28 he says, “Go and make disciples.” That’s a participle that could be translated, “As you go, be making disciples.” Making disciples is the chief command there. Here the command is “go.” It literally is “go”—“hupagó.” “Be gone” is what he’s saying. “Be off!” “Away with you!” he says to these guys. He’s shoving them out; he’s sending them out, and he’s doing it in an abrupt and powerful way. “Go! Away with you!”
But first, even though he says that, he wants them to have some instructions. He wants them to have—in verses 2-4—a mission mindset. So he tells them in verse 2, “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.” That verse—Luke 10:2—is a very important verse in Luke’s Gospel because this is the only place in everything that Luke wrote where he uses that word “harvest”—“therismos.” You’re not going to find a reference to the harvest anywhere else in his Gospel, anywhere else in Luke’s second volume, the Book of Acts. You find harvest imagery in other parts of Scripture, but not in Luke’s writings. This is the only place, and he uses that word several times here.
We need to clarify, as we get into this point about the joy in the harvest—the nature of this harvest because there is some division of opinion on what this harvest is, especially when you look back to other places in Scripture that speak of a harvest. This brings us to a key interpretive issue. Is Jesus, here, talking about an eschatological harvest of judgment (“eschatological” is just a long way of saying, “end times judgment”)? Is he talking about end times judgment here—is that the tone? Or is he talking about what we might call an “inaugural harvest of peace”? A harvest of salvation? In other words, does Jesus send the seventy-two on a mission where judgment sets the tone, and they have God’s eschatological, end times judgment in mind as they go and speak to others? Or is he sending them out with a mindset that’s salvation—an announcement of peace that sets the tone?
Now the Bible speaks of both kinds—harvest of judgment and a harvest of salvation. Whichever harvest Jesus is referring to here, it’s not only going to help us understand the mindset of these seventy-two missionaries, but it’s also going to help us understand what our mindset should be as we go out evangelizing.
Some see this as a reference to eschatological judgment—a final harvesting of the earth and all the souls that are on the earth. And that’s described in rather chilling—figurative, but rather chilling—language in Revelation chapter 14. In fact, I’d like you to turn over to Revelation 14, and we’ll start in that chapter in verse 6. It’s themed with judgment in that great chapter. I just want you to see this in Revelation 14, starting in verse 6. I want you to see this for yourself and then follow along as we read about this eschatological judgment, a harvest of judgment at the end of the age.
The scene begins here with three angels, who make three announcements to all the citizens of the earth. There’s one final call to salvation. There’s one final warning to turn from following the beast. The beast represents a very gifted, competent, attractive, charismatic, powerful human leader who sets himself up above all the kingdoms of the earth, over what we would call a “one-world government.” There’s a final warning to turn from following the beast and to follow the Lamb instead. Look at Revelation 14 verse 6:
“Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.” And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”
Powerful, isn’t it? A judgment prophecy, there, is interrupted here—the next couple of verses—by a short word of encouragement to the saints—encouragement for them to endure suffering for the sake of Christ, a reminder to them of their blessed union with Christ—and then right back to that theme of judgment at the end of the age—verse 14:
“Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.”
That’s a picture, there, of the Son of Man doing the reaping. He’s pictured there as he is in Daniel 7:13-14. He’s seated on a white cloud; he has a golden crown on his head, a sharp sickle in his hand. The golden crown represents full, complete victory, triumph, crowning of a conquering of a hero…and then that sharp sickle. You might call to mind a picture of the Grim Reaper—something like that—a huge curved blade, long sickle. A sickle represents there swift, sudden judgment. If you’re a stalk of wheat in a field, and that sickle comes in…one day you’re growing and the next moment you’re reaped.
This is not some Grim Reaper holding the sickle, though. This is someone infinitely more powerful, someone whose wrath is going to strike terror deep within the hearts of all who have rejected him. And he holds the sickle, and he does the reaping. More to come in verse 17—look at that:
“Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.”
Two images there of harvest. There’s a harvest of grain from the field, and then there’s a harvest of grapes from the vineyard. Both of those harvest images come from the Old Testament judgment texts. Both of those are pictured here. This is a fulfillment and a finality, bringing both images of the grain of the field and the grapes of the vineyard—all brought together to speak of fulness and finality—a harvest of judgment. Joel 3:13: “Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the winepress is full. The vats overflow, for their evil is great.” Just as Joel connects the harvest to the grain of the field in that first part, he connects it with the harvest of the grapes from the vineyard in the second part, and it speaks of full and final judgment—and the same thing here in Revelation 14.
“The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.”Matthew 13:39
Both of those texts are looking ahead to a time of judgment that is going to come in the Great Tribulation period. Specifically, as we see in Revelation 19—it’s talking about the final battle of Armageddon—when the nations of the earth gather, the beast leads them to fight against God’s people in the land of Israel. This is going to happen at the Second Coming, when Christ comes in Revelation 19. He returns in wrath to save his people from the surrounding nations, coming to destroy the nation Israel. He will destroy them all with the sword that comes from his mouth.
It’s a picture, actually, of Christ coming in judgment—very familiar to Israel—the hope that they had of protection from the nations. It says over in Isaiah 63:1-6:
“Who is this who comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, he who is splendid in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.” [It’s Christ speaking.] Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress? [Answer from Christ:] “I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel. For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and my year of redemption had come. I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so my own arm brought me salvation, and my wrath upheld me. I trampled down the peoples in my anger; I made them drunk in my wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.””
It’s a terrifying image, isn’t it? And we need to take it very seriously and be sober-minded about this Gospel that we’re a part of, to realize that we who are saved—we who are believers in Jesus Christ—will not know the fiery wrath end of that relationship with him. We know the day of redemption that had come. We’re saved and spared from this. But many whom we speak to about the Gospel—they’re going to be on the receiving end of this—this coming of Christ in the full and final judgment pictured in Joel 3, pictured in Revelation 14—the final battle of Armageddon that’s described in graphic detail in Revelation 19. This is what Jesus himself warned of in Matthew 13, Matthew 24—in other places as well. In Matthew 13:39, he says, “The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.”
A question for us is this: Is that the “harvest” that Jesus is talking about in Luke 10:2? Is that the harvest—a harvest of judgment and wrath, treading down the winepress so that the blood flows? Is that what he’s talking about as he sends out the seventy-two? In fact, go ahead and turn back in your Bibles to Luke chapter 10. Does Jesus want the seventy-two missionaries to go out with their minds oriented to that final judgment? Does he want them thinking about the danger that the people that they speak to are in? Is that the tone of the text?
And I can answer that question with a definitive “yes” and “no.” Look—clearly, by reading the text, the mention of Sodom and “that day” in verse 12—we can see there a concern about future judgment, about human accountability before God. Knowing the fear of the Lord, knowing the wrath of God, the coming judgment—those concerns are never going to be far from any missionary, any evangelist, any Christian as we talk to unbelievers because, after all, we share the heart of God in this matter, don’t we? We want to “rescue the perishing,” don’t we?
That said, though, it’s important to recognize that the harvest that Jesus speaks of here in Luke 10:2 is not a reference to that eschatological harvest. This is an inaugural harvest of salvation, and I say “inaugural” because it is talking about the inauguration of Christ as King. This is talking about his first advent, the first coming of Christ to the earth. This is not the eschatological harvest of judgment, which is associated with the second coming of Christ. I just want to keep those two things clear, and then understand the true tone of this text where Jesus is sending out the seventy-two.
We’ve already read this a number of times, back when Jesus launched into his ministry in his home town of Nazareth in the synagogue there in Luke chapter 4:19. It says—and he was reading from the text of Isaiah 61:1-2—he summed that up by saying, “I have come—the Holy Spirit has sent me—to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” “The Lord’s favor.” But he stopped in his reading of Isaiah 61:1-2—he stopped in verse 2, right before saying, “and the day of vengeance of our God.” He stopped there. He didn’t read that. After he said, “I’ve come to proclaim the year of the Lord,”
“[H]e rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”*
He’s holding off the day of judgment. That waits for a future time. Here in Luke 10 Jesus is seeking a harvest among—verse 5—“the sons of peace.” This is a harvest among those whose hearts have been prepared to receive Jesus as the Messiah, as the Christ. They’ve been prepared by the Law and the Prophets. They’ve been prepared by John the Baptist. And now they’re being prepared by the seventy-two Kingdom heralds—seventy-two Gospel preachers sent out to visit their town, their village, their little hamlet before the arrival of the coming King. They’re going out to harvest those who are going to embrace Christ as their King because those people who embrace him are blessed recipients of the grace of God.
Remember John 4 and the Samaritan revival that happened just after Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman? You can turn there—John chapter 4 and verse 35. Jesus said something very interesting to his disciples about this early Samaritan revival. This is the kind of harvest that Jesus is talking about in our text as well, gathering those who are ready to trust in him. Look at John 4:35—let’s go to verse 38 for now:
“Do you not say, “There are yet four months, then comes the harvest? [He’s speaking to his disciples.] Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.””
It’s perhaps a picture of Samaritans running toward him from their village, wearing the white garb of Middle Easterners coming out to see him in light-colored clothing. He says, “Just picture a field, that field right there of human souls, white, ripe for harvest.” Verse 36:
* “Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”*
It’s what Jesus is talking about. He’s talking about gathering fruit for eternal life. If you need help interpreting that, let’s keep reading—verse 39:
* Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”*
“Savior of the world”—not just Jews, but “salvation has expanded now to us Samaritans as well!” That is cause for rejoicing! If you’re a Samaritan, that’s cause for rejoicing—to see these Samaritans—we’ve talked about them—historically and theologically antagonistic to all things Jewish. Now we see them running to Jesus Christ, calling him “Messiah.” “He is the Savior of the world,” “He is our Savior. We believe his Word.” By the grace of God, they’re recognizing him to be none other than the Savior of the world. This is pure, pure joy. It’s why Jesus told his disciples—John 4:38: “ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” In other words, he’s saying the preparation for this harvest has been going on for a long, long time. Not just decades, but centuries—millennia. Now by entering into this labor—verse 36—“sower and reaper may rejoice together.”
Listen—that is the same kind of harvest Jesus is talking about in Luke chapter 10 verse 2. It’s the same sense of anticipation, the same sense of joy in going out to gather true believers into the Kingdom of God. Yes, this harvest is going to reveal hearts. Yes, it will separate from the believers from the unbelievers—that’s what the Gospel does. The Gospel is a dividing line. In fact, it’s exactly what John the Baptist predicted when he came preaching—Luke 3:16-17: “He will baptize you will the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and gather the wheat into his barn. But the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
So Jesus comes proclaiming the Kingdom of God, and as Simeon told Mary, he does so so “that the thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” But the gathering of the wheat into his barn—that’s joyful! That’s exciting! That is good and wholesome work. Even the joy of gathering the wheat in the barn—as we do that, we’re always mindful, though, of the time to come when the Lord is also going to burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. We hold both of those things in our mind, don’t we?
Back here in Luke 10:2, to learn more about this mission mindset, now that we know what kind of harvest that Jesus has in mind here, we can understand the mindset and the tone of these seventy-two that Jesus sent out. And if we understand that correctly, we can understand, then, the mindset that we need to have as we go out and harvest souls for the Kingdom. Listen—you need to realize as you sit here in 21st-century Greeley, Colorado—as you’re here in the Northern Colorado area—Front Range—as you’re living in a day of amazing technological and medical advancements and all kinds of comforts and pleasures and ease—you need to realize that you’re not here to enjoy any of that. We were left here for one purpose. That purpose is to glorify God by preaching the Gospel.
Yes, we have jobs, relationships, families. We live like the world lives in a lot of ways— earning a living, making bread, eating and drinking, being married, and all the rest of things we do—having children, raising babies, kissing our grandkids, and all the rest. We do all of those things—yes. But all of those are avenues for us to interact with other people—unbelievers—to make disciples of all the nations. That’s our role; that’s why we’re left here. It’s the only thing that we cannot do when we get to heaven. So think about the privilege that we have right now. It is a high and holy honor. It is a supreme joy to have the privilege of participating in the salvation harvest. That’s how we need to read this text, through the lens of profound joy and privilege.
For any first-century listener, harvest means joy. It’s an occasion for great joy. Harvest is—yes—great work, but it’s laboring in the company of family, working alongside friends. It’s gathering fruit; it’s filling basket after basket after basket with the fruit of the field, with the fruit of the vine. The picture, here, is of plenty, of abundance in the harvest. Harvest means profitable labor, eating good food, enjoying good company—all the things you think of home and hearth and fellowship and feasting—that’s what harvest pictures.
Having said that, I found one commentator who said—and this is a bit hard for me to understand, but this is what he wrote: “The reminder of ‘the harvest is ripe but the workers few’ is a sobering, even discouraging, introduction to the mission of the seventy-two. The seventy-two are called to a task for which they are not adequate. Even before they go, they must pray that the Lord will send workers for the harvest.” The same writer looks ahead to the caution in verse 3 that Jesus gives and restates what he said: “The mission is not only discouraging; it is also dangerous.”
Okay—“dangerous,” sure—but “discouraging”? Is discouraging the tone that Jesus wants to set as he sends the seventy-two out to work in his harvest? I don’t want to disparage this commentator. I do understand his reasoning and how he arrived at his conclusion, but I whole-heartedly disagree with him. Viewing this particular mission through such a dark, negative perspective I think is really missing the point. The point here is on joy in the harvest. The point is on joy, and all I need to prove that to you is to point you back to the text itself. It makes its own case. It’s plain and obvious. Jesus sends the seventy like envoys, heralds, preachers. Notice in verses 5 and 6, they’re to go out and find future friends: “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ If a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him.”
You don’t need to look any further than the end of the chapter to see these sons of peace. There’s a son of peace named Lazarus and his two sisters, Martha and Mary—they’re daughters of peace. And these to Jesus are dear, dear friends. And when the seventy return—yes, they’ve experienced rejection, they’ve probably experienced some dangers—but what’s their attitude about that whole mission? Any discouragement here? Any sense of failure? No. Verse 17: “The seventy-two returned with”—what?—“joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name.’”
The commentator E. Earl Ellis noted this: “The return of the seventy is the core of the episode. It reveals in the midst of the mission’s rejection the nature of its victory.” So true! Victory and joy—reasons for rejoicing—verse 20, not only that the spirits are subject to them—but more importantly—that their names are written in heaven.
What about Jesus? What’s his tone? What’s his attitude? Look at verse 20. Is there any discouragement, doom and gloom, abject failure? Not at all. Verse 21—“That same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit.” He’s praising the Father for his eternal decree. He’s praising the Father for his sovereign will, for the outworking of his plan of reprobation and election and special revelation—all of that according to his will. He turns to these disciples and he says, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.” He loves this! That’s the attitude here.
What do these guys see—these seventy-two? They see the Messiah coming to his people. They see the harvest of believing souls gathered in. They see friends won for the Gospel—new citizens in the Kingdom of God. They see peace bestowed on believing households—reconciliation between them and God. They see the power of God, who heals people and drives away demons. The Kingdom of God is before their very eyes, becoming reality on earth as they travel from town to town, village to village. It’s an incredible time!
That’s the principle that we can grab from this text, too—that we can apply to ourselves in our time and in our place. Any church that participates in the Lord’s work of harvesting souls for the Kingdom—they have the privilege of joining in with the joy of the Lord’s salvation harvest. That’s our privilege as well, Grace Church. I’m going to have more to say about this later, but we are positioned so well to gather friends in for the Kingdom, to find those sons and daughters of peace, and to seek and save the lost, going out to find them, preaching the Gospel to sinners. For every Christian—you know this—for every single one of us as Christians—preaching the Gospel makes you feel like you truly lived that day.
Our best days are marked by explaining the Gospel to someone who needs it, isn’t it? When you have the joyful privilege of telling people the good news of the Gospel, you tell them they can escape the just wrath of God due for their sins. That they can escape that. That they can be reconciled to a thrice-holy God, that they can know him personally, not just as words on a page, but in spirit and in truth they can worship him, by the free grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. We get to go tell them that they can be forgiven and cleansed and washed white as snow, covered in divine righteousness. We get to tell them that they can live forever in union with Jesus Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, in communion and worship with God and all the saints, to worship God, our eternal reward, forever. That’s what we get to tell people? What better news do we have? Have you checked out what’s on Netflix®? What are we talking about? I’m telling you, folks, we’re living in such a sad and hopeless age. People need this good news. So go and preach to them, and when you do, do it with a smile on your face. This is joyful! Joy, participating in the harvest.
Secondly, go and preach prayerfully. Go and preach prayerfully. “The harvest is plentiful,” Jesus said in verse 2, “but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Notice how Jesus draws a logical inference in verse 2. That is to say, “Because the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few, therefore”—logical inference—“pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest.”
Okay, so “Lord of the harvest”—who’s that? Well, who appointed the seventy-two, right? The Lord did. The Lord appointed them. He appointed them, sent them. The rest of the passage shows us that the same Lord also commanded them, watches over them, provides, instructs, assures them. When those preachers returned from their mission, that same Lord enters into their joy. He debriefs with them, he encourages them, assures them, and finally, he personally rejoices with them in the Holy Spirit. That’s the Lord—thoroughly involved in the harvest. It’s this same Lord, then, who commands the disciples, “Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Now, who’s he talking about, here? Is he talking about himself in the third person as he commonly does when referring to “the Son of Man”? Well, whenever I see Jesus directing the prayer of the disciples, he’s always directing the prayer of the disciples to God the Father. So here I think he’s doing the same thing. He’s directing their prayers to God the Father, the sovereign Lord of all. That’s pretty typical as we see in the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11:1.
But the author, Luke, he is the one who wrote the narrative portion of chapter 10, verse 1, calling Jesus “the Lord,” and there he’s wanting us to make a Trinitarian connection. I love Luke. He wants us to make a Trinitarian connection. He wants us to see that the Father is assigned lordship to Christ, “that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father”—John 5:23. It’s thoroughly Trinitarian. You’ve got the Father, the Son—verse 20, the Holy Spirit. We need to realize that as we’re praying to the Lord of the harvest, we’re dealing with the eternal God, the infinite God, the one who is from everlasting to everlasting. We need to realize, then, that this work—it’s way, way bigger than us. In this harvest, God is working out his eternal decree. He’s accomplishing all his good pleasure in working out his sovereign will, and these seventy-two preachers—and every Gospel preacher since—we’re joining in on a mission in progress, one that’s been in progress for centuries—for millennia. And our role in the Lord’s harvest transcends our own particular time and our own particular place. It helps us to see how big this whole project—this whole mission—is.
This is the Lord’s harvest, which means he’s the one who owns the field; he’s the one who’s funded this entire endeavor from start to finish. The Lord plowed the field, he planted the crop, he watered and fertilized the field. He cultivated the crop by his power. He has caused the growth of the field, and he’s readied the field for harvest. It’s his harvest. So since God is sovereign, since he is all-powerful, and since this is his harvest, we might ask the question since he’s abundantly provided for everything, “Why hasn’t he flooded the field with laborers for the harvest? Why does he want us to pray, and pray earnestly, and ask him for more laborers?” Ever ask that question? If God is sovereign and all-powerful and is good, why does he want us to pray? He’s got it all handled.
Well, quite simply, God calls us to prayer so that we can share his heart for the lost, so that we can enter into his thinking, so that we can enter into his desire in the gathering of his people. That’s why he wants us to come to him in prayer. Look—we’re not just hired hands, day laborers who only care about a paycheck coming at the end of the day or the end of the week. He involves us at the very highest level—the level of planning and hiring, the level of gathering more laborers. So as we work, we work in partnership with owner of the harvest, the owner of the field. We share his heart in prayer as we ask him to help us to successfully complete the mission that he sent us on.
So the call to evangelism for us is a call to prayer. It’s such an exciting thing, isn’t it?—when a church is moved to pray for the harvest of souls. Why is that? Because praying about evangelism for us collectively as a group is clear evidence that God is at work, that he intends to reap among our town, our city, our area, our region. It’s clear evidence when we all get a heart to pray for these things that God is moving among his people to pray for the salvation of his people. That growth of an evangelistic spirit—a longing to see the salvation of souls—is a clear sign that God intends to work in and through the prayers of his chosen laborers—to convert people, to save sinners, to harvest souls, to give new people citizenship in the Kingdom of God.
God is the sovereign Lord of the harvest. Jesus commands us to pray to him, and this is where we see our responsibility join with and harmonize with God’s sovereignty. Our responsibility, God’s sovereignty—coming together in prayer and in labor to work and accomplish his purposes. God is sovereign, and we pray.
Listen—it’s only Calvinists who can make sense out of prayer, isn’t it? I mean, if you’re a truly consistent Arminian in your thinking, then you realize that God cannot move until the sinner grants him permission. And so why pray to God? Why not go pray to the sinner? If God’s working is subject to man’s willing, then all our praying and appealing and pleading is with the sinner. It’s not with God. We know his intent. We know his desire. We pray and plead with the sinner. That’s the logical, consistent outcome of an Arminian view. It’s the constant preoccupation you can see in man-centered evangelism. It’s a very unfortunate distraction.
God-centered evangelism looks first to God and then to the sinner. Since God is the only one who can change a sinner’s heart, since God is the one who takes initiative to cause that sinner to be born again so that that sinner might put his faith in Jesus Christ, then we pray to God. We pray to God because he is sovereign. We pray to God because he is all-powerful. And when we pray, we pray not just for a receptive heart in the sinner. We pray for the Lord to send out laborers into his harvest. We realize that he’s sovereign over the laborers, too. He’s sovereign in compelling them to go out into his field and to work and to share in the labor.
That’s why the verb here in verse 2 is so strong. You can’t see it necessarily in the English translations, but the Greek word in verse 2 for “send out” is “ekballo.” You know what that word is? The same verb that’s used for “casting out demons”—“ekballo.” Literally, it’s “Pray to the Lord of the harvest to cast out laborers, to drive laborers out into his harvest.” It’s ejection by force, it’s expulsion, it’s throwing them out into the field. So we’re to call upon him—and I’m going to start praying this way for some of you, that he’ll throw you out—not in a mean way.
We’re to call upon the sovereign, all-powerful God to do what only the sovereign, all-powerful God can do. So you ask, “Why such a strong word? Why the need for such force?” And I ask you when was the last time you heard of a church shutting down the evangelism list because too many people signed up? I know that we had room on Friday night for more. And if we didn’t, we’d make more room. We’d meet in here, and if this got full, we’d go out onto the lawn out front.
We tend to be lazy, don’t we? We tend to be a bit indifferent, don’t we?—not just to the desperate plight of the lost. Forgetting our own salvation, forgetting the darkness of our own soul before we met Christ—we tend to forget that. We tend to be indifferent to the heart of God, sadly, for lost sinners. So we need to be expelled. We need to be cast out of our easy chairs and pushed out of our comfort zones and thrown out there into the field. And when the Lord actually answers our prayers, and when he casts us out into the fields that are ripe with harvest—when we get there, we wonder why we had to be compelled to do so. Why? Because it is such a joy to preach the Gospel to the lost. It’s just a shame that we don’t share the Lord’s burden more consistently, more deeply, more passionately, and initially.
So we pray. We pray that the Lord will do what only he can do. We go out with a joyful mindset; we go out with a prayerful mindset. It’s so important that we pray, pray, pray as we go, go, go.
Third thing: Go and preach not only joyfully and prayerfully, but go preach watchfully. Go and preach, and be watchful. When the Lord of the harvest answers those prayers, when he kicks us out of our comfortable nests to go out into the fields, we need to realize there are dangerous things out there, right? You get into a field, you find poisonous snakes, you find biting insects. So when we go, we go out with a careful, watchful mindset.
Verse 3—“Go your way. Behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” Well, now that’s a mismatch, isn’t it?—“lambs in the midst of wolves.” In other words, “Do not be naive in thinking that the world is your friend.” These Jewish ambassadors here—heralds of the Messiah’s arrival—their great anticipation hope is to see the start of the Millennial kingdom described in Isaiah. They had every expectation that lambs and wolves would then in that day live in peace. That’s not the sense here, though.
In Isaiah 11:6 it says, “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.” Remember that?—so peaceful. So calm. Isaiah 65:25 adds this: “The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food”—and that scene of tranquillity ends with a promise—“They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”Revelation 21:6-8
That is wonderful. But this is not that. You chuck a lamb into a wolf’s den, and it will be…you understand. As they go out, they should not think that everyone in the land is as eager as they are to embrace the Messiah. Sad to say, not everyone is happy with repentance and change and growth. Some resist the Spirit of reformation and revival. And Jesus wants them to know rejection is what they’re about to face. Luke 9:22, Luke 9:44—he’s been saying it, over and over. This is a time, now, to expect hatred and scorn and rejection and even death on account of the Son of Man. Any receptiveness, any welcome they receive—they can be thankful for those who will be part of the salvation harvest. But the wide-scale repentance of Israel as a nation is still to come, and Jesus knows that.
So he’s warning them that they’re going out “like lambs among wolves.” The wolves here are not even picturing the nations as they are in a lot of Old Testament contexts. The wolves here that Jesus is describing are in Perea and Judea. They are their own countrymen; they’re fellow Israelites. And notice the pathetic picture of these seventy-two. Jesus doesn’t just call them “sheep in the midst of wolves.” I mean, sheep are prey. They’re incapable of fending off predators, but at least they’re full-grown and wary enough as sheep to run, to get away from predators. Jesus says they’re lambs in the midst of wolves, which adds the element of inexperience and naïveté to qualities of weakness and defenselessness.
You know how sometimes unbelievers in the world will say, “Oh, those Christians are just a bunch of sheep, just blindly following.” “No, sir, you’re wrong. We’re not just sheep; we’re lambs. We’re even more helpless than you think!” We really need the power of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Is this word of caution meant to discourage them or scare them? No. Is Jesus here trying—before he sends them out—to rob them of confidence? Well, in one sense, yes, he is. He wants these disciples to put no confidence in themselves. He doesn’t want them to put any confidence in themselves, in their own abilities, in their own strength. This is a mission like no other mission. It is a spiritual mission. It’s not by might, it’s not by power, it’s not by any intelligence, it’s not by any strategy, it’s not by familiarity with the culture, understanding the cultural sensitivity issue—it’s not any of that. It’s not by marketing, it’s not by numbers, it’s not by pragmatism, it’s not by wisdom of the ways of the world—but by the Spirit of God, says the Lord. Their own power, intuition, experience count for nothing. Zero.
Not only that, but Jesus doesn’t want them to put confidence in anybody else either. As they proclaim the Kingdom, they’re not to assume the best of others. They can’t even count on the good will of fellow Israelites—a nationalistic good will of brothers and sisters. No. They’re to be cautious and watchful about everyone, looking out for wolves.
What’s this warning for? Is it to knock the legs out from underneath them? Is it to throw a wet blanket on their excitement and anticipation of the harvest? What are weak, defenseless, naive lambs supposed to do when being cast into a den of wolves? Well, in a word—and back to the previous point—they are to be prayerful. They are to pray. They are to stay close to the Good Shepherd, who’s always watching over his sheep. They’re to draw near to God, who cares for his little lambs. Jesus doesn’t want them trusting in themselves on this mission. He doesn’t want them trusting in anyone else either. He wants all their confidence to be in God and God alone. He is the shepherd of the sheep, and he carries the little lambs on his shoulders. He’ll get us through.
So we need to go out in the same way. We go out joyful, prayerful, watchful, and finally—fourth point, just quickly—go and preach urgently. Go and preach urgently. We know Jesus commanded the seventy-two to go—verse 3. We not only know that they were obedient to his command; we know that he kept them safe, and how do we know that? Because verse 17—the seventy-two who went out, well, they also came back. Not one of them is missing. When they return, they return with joy. These are self-denying, cross-bearing, Christ-following disciples, and when they went out, they went out with a sense of urgency.
Jesus said—verse 4: “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.” They are to go out with urgency, in a hurry, making no plans or preparations, but “Get out there and do it quickly.” Think about that farming metaphor again. When a farmer hires laborers to harvest a crop, and only half of the harvesting force shows up, that is not good, right? I’m not farmer, but I can imagine at that moment you’re going to feel a bit of urgency about getting that crop harvested. Anyone related to the farmer—those who care for him, those who share his interest, who have the same heart of concern for the harvest—they also share that same strong sense of urgency to hurry and harvest that crop.
That’s the mindset that the Lord wants us all to have—wants these seventy-two to have as they pursue the mission. All of them were raised in an agrarian society, so they get it when he says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” That’s a saying they’re all familiar with. It means urgency—time is of the essence. No time for laziness, lingering, resting, packing—nothing. So verse 4—“Go. Get after it. No moneybag, no sandals, no knapsack. Don’t let anything weigh you down. Don’t bring extra cash. You’re not going to need it; God’s going to provide. Don’t bring anything in the backpack—extra stuff. You’re not going to need it; God’s going to provide. Don’t even bring something small, like replacement soles. That’s all he’s talking about when he’s talking about sandals—strips of leather you could tuck into your belt—very small. Not weighty. He says, “Don’t even bring that. No time. No need. You’re going to be provided for. You just get out there and trust the Lord of the harvest to provide for you on the mission.” Again, he’s driving them back—even when they think about their needs—to what? Prayer. “Lord of the harvest, I need new sandals. These are worn out.”
“Greet no one on the road”—what does that mean? Don’t say “hi”? No. It’s referring more to a Middle Eastern greeting, which is a lot more involved. “Don’t waste time with that long, involved Middle Eastern greeting.” In a small country like Israel, where everyone is likely to be a distant relation or friend or even a close relation—that Middle Eastern greeting takes way too much time. “There’s a harvest to gather, there’s no time to waste. Don’t waste time even talking to people on the road. Get after it.”
So this mission—these guys are sent out to prepare these cities, towns, and villages for the Lord’s arrival. If they have not done their job in a timely fashion, and the Lord arrives in that town, and these people are not prepared to receive his Messianic ministry—you do not want that on your head. So get after it; be urgent.
Look—ours is a serious business, isn’t it? These preachers went out on a Gospel mission, and those who rejected it would have been better off dying in the judgment of Sodom, with fire and brimstone coming down from heaven on their heads. It’s a very serious business. And folks, it’s no different for us today as we go out under the Lord’s commission. He commanded us, “Go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe everything that I’ve commanded you.” So if we’ll do that, we’ll go with his authority. We’ll go with the protection of his promise: “Behold, I am with you always until the end of the age.” Like the seventy-two, when we go out and preach, we don’t carry our own message; we carry his. When we go out, we don’t represent ourselves; we represent him. When we go out, we don’t come in our own name; we come in his.
So we have to realize that going out that way means something to those to whom we speak. We’re living and preaching and ministering the Gospel in an in-between time—after the first coming of Christ and before the second coming of Christ. That means a time fuse has been lit. The fuse is burning. The time of salvation will come to an abrupt and a sudden end, and when the Son of Man comes again as we were reading earlier in the service—that’s it. Time is up. That means, as we said earlier, we come in the same joy and anticipation of this inaugural harvest of souls for salvation. But at the same time we come in grave concern for those who reject the Gospel. Those who reject the Gospel, deny God, the Christ of Scripture—they’re going to be cast into the lake of fire. As it says in Revelation 19:20; 20:10, 14, 15—Jesus himself says this in Revelation 21:6-8:
“It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
The reality of that coming judgment—that’s part of what motivates our evangelism, isn’t it? Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. We don’t want to see them harvested in judgment—part of the eschatological reaping. We don’t want to see them cast into the winepress of the wrath of God. We want them to be saved. We want them to be saved now—part of that inaugural reaping to be gathered into the barn and to enjoy the bounty of the harvest.
Do you share that heart? We go with a mindset of joy mixed with fear, happy in Jesus, yes—but sober about the gravity of our mission. We go out like this, with this mindset: joyful, prayer, watchful, and urgent. That’s the mission mindset. Let’s pray.
Our Father, we want to thank you this morning for our opportunity to hear from the Lord Jesus Christ, to hear his charge to these seventy-two missionaries—these heralds of the Kingdom of God—going out into their own time and their own place on that mission. Thank you for the pattern that it sets for us. We just pray that every single one of us would be searching our own hearts right now as we come before the table of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—as we come to partake in communion—that we would think about our heart, whether we’ve been indifferent and cold, even maybe lazy—or fearful and cowardly. We pray that you would cut that out of us. Let us be fervent, zealous, passionate, courageous, and joyful about our mission here on this earth. We look to you for the grace you’ve given us already, that we would apply that to the mission you’ve called us to do. And as we come together before the Lord’s table, help us to be thoughtful about our own place in that, giving thanks to you for our own salvation, but also thoughtful and reflective on how we might do a better job and excel still more. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.