Into the Harvest (Luke 10:1-11,16-20)

Luke 10v2 harvest 06

I’m always on the lookout for effective evangelism techniques to help the people of our church share the gospel with others. For example, one approach is to do a neighbourhood door-knock to tell the people about Jesus in their homes. When that happens to me, however, I’m usually pretty quick to thank them for their time, close the door and get back to what I was doing. Another evangelism strategy is to warn people about hell and then point them to Jesus as the one who can save them. We have seen that approach used in social media recently in Australia by a prominent rugby union player. The backlash on commercial and social media tells us how successful that tactic usually is.

With these and other evangelism strategies in mind, I am fascinated to read about Jesus’ evangelism strategy in Luke 10:1-20. As far as I can tell, he gave them no formal training other than a few instructions. Jesus then sent these followers out ahead of him in a similar way a farmer would send workers into his fields to gather in a harvest. They went to the villages that Jesus was about to visit with a message of peace and the coming kingdom of God. This looks like Jesus’ main evangelism strategy – send people out to tell others that they could find peace through Jesus and the Kingdom of God.

What if evangelism is that simple? Is it possible that effective evangelism isn’t about programs or campaigns or multi-million dollar extravaganzas, but simply about followers of Jesus sharing a message of peace with the people we come across every day?
There was a time when people saw the mission field across the seas, in different countries where people didn’t know Jesus and needed to hear the message of salvation. That need still exists, but for a few decades now people who study our society have been telling us that worshiping attendance in our own country has been getting less and less. Australia is now identified as a ‘post-Christian’ country. What this means is that most people in Australia don’t attend church or, more importantly, don’t know Jesus. The fields ready for the harvest aren’t just ‘out there’ any more. They are all around us.

What I find significant about the way in which Jesus sent out his disciples in Luke 10 is that he didn’t send them out to bring people into church. Instead, he sent them out with a message of peace through the coming of God’s kingdom. It is important for us to be listening to what Jesus says because so many people in our society don’t know peace in their lives and are looking for a greater sense of peace.

Jesus’ sent his disciples out with the promise that people could find peace through him. Two thousand years later, Jesus is still promising peace through faith in him and the presence of the Kingdom of God to the people of our time and place as well. Jesus gives us good news for the people of our world. Our job is not to try to get people into church. Our job is not to threaten people with hell. Jesus sends us into the world as his followers like workers in God’s harvest field with the job of bringing God’s peace to the people we meet. Jesus’ strategy for people to hear and believe this good news in his time and for ours is simply for us to share the message of God’s peace so others can know the peace of God which passes all human understanding (Philippians 4:7).

Passing on the peace that Jesus gives to others begins with us finding God’s peace in our own lives. We can’t give to others what we don’t have ourselves. One way we can understand our congregation’s discipling plan is for each of us to be connecting with God’s peace through the gospel and growing in that peace through faith in Jesus. As we grow in God’s peace in every area of our lives, God equips us through his Spirit to be able to bring the good news of peace to others. We can share stories of how we have found God’s peace in different ways in our lives. We can tell others about the difference God’s peace makes in our lives. Like the seventy-two disciples that Jesus sent out, when we are finding God’s peace in our relationship with Jesus, then we can bring his peace to everyone we meet in the harvest field of our own homes, schools, workplaces and city.

Luke doesn’t tell us what the seventy-two disciples were thinking or feeling when Jesus sent them out to bring his message of peace to the villages. I wonder if they were excited to be part of the mission of God in the world, whether they were afraid, cautious, uneasy or just unsure about what they were getting into. When they came back to Jesus, though, they were full of joy because of the way they had seen the Kingdom of God at work in people’s lives.

Can you imagine finding that same joy as we participate in God’s mission in the world by bringing his message of peace to the people we meet? I understand that most people are uncomfortable with sharing their faith for a whole range of reasons. My hope is that all of us would be growing in our faith, as God equips us with good news to share with others and sends us out into his mission fields as his workers in his harvest.

Whatever might be happening in your life, Jesus promises you peace through a growing faith in him and his love for you. Is there someone in your life who needs a greater sense of peace? Is Jesus sending you to that person to give them his message of peace through faith in him? Jesus has given us the message of peace for people who are trapped in conflict, whether within themselves or in their relationships with others, and sends us out like workers in the harvest to bring this good news to others.

With whom can you share the good news of God’s peace in Jesus this week?

More to think about:

  • Imagine you were one of the 72 disciples that Jesus sent out with his message of peace. What do you think your reaction might have been? Do you think you would have been able to do what Jesus sent you to do? Why or why not?
  • What do you think God’s peace is like? Can you describe it?
  • Are there things in your life at the moment that are causing you worry, stress or anxiety? How might you be able to find a greater sense of God’s peace in your own life?
  • How might growing in God’s peace in Jesus help to equip you to share God’s peace with others?
  • Do you have a story to tell of how you encountered God’s peace in your own life?
  • Is there someone you know who needs a greater sense of God’s peace in their own lives? How might you be able to share God’s peace with them this week?

Christ’s Ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:16-21)

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Being an ambassador is an important job.

When monarchs, governments or people in positions of authority send ambassadors to a foreign country, those ambassadors go with the full authority of the person or people who sent them. Ambassadors are given a message for those to whom they are sent. When they deliver that message, it is received as though the people who sent the ambassadors were speaking themselves. So ambassadors have a critical role to play in the relationships between nations, especially when the they might be tense or they are in conflict with each other. Ambassadors need to be faithful to the message they have been given if the message is going to be communicated, good relations between nations preserved and peace achieved.

When Paul says, ‘We are Christ’s ambassadors’ (2 Corinthians 5:20), he is saying that God gives people the important work of bringing his message to the world. The message he entrusts to his ambassadors is the good news of reconciliation. This message is about the end of hostilities as two parties which had been in conflict with each other are brought together in peace. The message of reconciliation is about acknowledging the wrongs of the past, wanting to make things right again, and bringing healing to past wounds. The message God has entrusted to his ambassadors is a message of peace and restored relationships.

One question I have about this text is who does Paul mean when he talks about ‘us’ and ‘we’? On the one hand, Paul could be referring to himself as the writer of this letter, along with Timothy and others who might have been traveling with Paul at the time. If we understand Paul’s ‘we’ and ‘us’ as himself and those with him, then the appeal he is making is obviously to those who received the letter, the people of Corinth.

As modern hearers of Paul’s words, it is important that we hear Paul talking to us as well. Sometimes our biggest problem is that we don’t have a problem. We like to think that we can live our lives for ourselves, doing whatever suits us best, and God’s OK with that. We need to recognise that we all have the natural tendency to live like either the younger son or the older son, or sometimes both, from the Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32). We can behave like the younger son when we take what God has given us and use it selfishly. We can be like the older son when we think that God owes us something for the ‘good’ things we do. Either way, our actions bring us into conflict with God when we fail to trust in his grace and love others in the same self-sacrificing way that God loves us in Jesus.

That’s why Paul writes to Christian communities as Christ’s ambassador, pleading us to come back to God and be reconciled to him again. As Australians, we know how failing to admit past wrongs gets in the way of reconciling with others. In Jesus, God has done everything to reconcile with us. As Paul writes in this text,

God made him who had no sin to be son for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (v21 NIV).

Because of this great exchange Jesus made when he traded our wrongs and brokenness for his goodness and purity,

if anyone is in Christ, the new creation is come: The old has gone, the new is here! (v17 NIV)

We are reconciled to God through God’s work for us in Christ Jesus as he takes away everything about us that gets in the way of a relationship with God and restores that broken relationship by making us new.

This gives us a new purpose in life. As people who have been reconciled with God through the work of Jesus, God appoints us to serve in his Kingdom as Jesus’ ambassadors. This gives us a second way to understand Paul’s use of ‘we’ and ‘us’. He is saying that everyone who has been reconciled with God the Father through Christ Jesus has now been given the job of being his ambassadors to a broken and hurting world. God has authorised us to bring this good news to the people of the world: be reconciled to God!

This is important work because the world needs to hear this good news. Instead of thinking about God as some nasty being in the sky who plays games with people’s lives, or as a distant, uncaring thing who has abandoned us to suffer alone and work things out for ourselves, the work God is calling us to as his ambassadors is to help people see God as someone who is appealing to people, pleading with us, begging all people to come back to a new relationship with him so we can find life in all of its fullness.

The Parable of the Lost Son gives us a new way of understanding God as the father who is waiting at the front gate of his property, looking in desperate hope for his child to return. Ours is the God who throws away all of his dignity and pride as he runs up the road to embrace his child and welcome him home again. This is the God who wants all of humanity to come back to him, to live in a new, reconciled relationship with him, so we can all know God as our loving heavenly Father who doesn’t hold our sins against us but has done everything in his power, who has literally gone through hell and back in the person of Jesus, to reconcile with us. This is the good news we have to share as Christ’s ambassadors with our families, with our friends, with our community and with the world.

Being Christ’s ambassador is a very important job. It brings the message of reconciliation to people so we can live every day in peace with God, with ourselves and with the people around us. It gives us a place in our Father’s home for all eternity, but it also gives us value and purpose now. As people who have been reconciled to God through Jesus, we have good news to bring to the world. God’s not angry with us. God doesn’t count our sins against us. God just wants to embrace us in perfect love and grace.

As we work towards reconciling with the people in our lives with whom we are in conflict, we also have the opportunity to represent Jesus as his ambassadors as we plead with Paul: Be reconciled to God!