St. Luke, Evangelist: Sending Laborers into the Harvest

Lessons: Isaiah 35:5-8, 2 Timothy 4:5-18, Luke 10:1-9
Hymns: 518 (st. 1, 26, 3), 676, 826, 810, 849

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

After Jesus called the Twelve Apostles and sent them to do the work of evangelists, He gathered another seventy men. These seventy were sent to preach in specific places to prepare the people for the Kingdom of God. Jesus sent these men in pairs to preach the Gospel in areas where He would later visit. They were not to carry a bunch of belongings with them. Instead, they were to make their living by the Gospel. The needs of the seventy evangelists were supplied by those who heard their preaching.

While Jesus tells them that their needs will be provided for, Jesus also informs them that their task will not be easy. Not all cities will receive them. Not all homes will welcome them. If they were rejected, they were instructed by Jesus to shake the dust off their feet when they leave that city.

Jesus says to these men, “I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves” (Luke 10:3). Jesus is the One who does the sending. He sends men who love the Gospel, who desire to preach the forgiveness of sins to sinners.

They are lambs among wolves. They are outnumbered. Wolves are those who reject the pure Word of God, those who persecute the men whom our Lord sends, those who do not receive with meekness the Word of Christ.

Wolves are all around. They are often dressed in sheep’s skin, appearing innocent, behaving as Christians. They often insist that they are Christian. They can put on a good show of righteousness, like the Pharisees. They can kill in the name of God, thinking they are offering God a service. They can be leaders and models to the Church, but they have no faith. They are not sheep. They are wolves. They harm, they persecute, they destroy.

But Jesus sends men for the ministry anyway. He knows there will be casualties. He knows the difficulty they will face. He knows because these men whom He sends are not above their Master. Jesus Christ does the sending and He is the Master. Servants are not above their Master. If Jesus suffered wrongly, if Jesus was persecuted, if Jesus was led as a Lamb to the slaughter, then most certainly the men whom Jesus sends will also suffer wrongly, will also be persecuted, and will also face trials all along the way.

What are these men sent by Jesus to teach? They are to preach that the kingdom of God is near. They are to preach the peace of God which surpasses all understanding. They are to prepare the people to be visited by Jesus. They are to prepare sinners to be received in God’s eternal kingdom. They are to prepare sinners to die in Christ. They are to preach salvation in Christ alone. They are to preach what the Prophets preached, what John the Baptist preached, and what Christ Himself preached, which is, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

No wonder Jesus states that there are wolves out there, unwilling to receive the men whom He sends. For who wants to repent? Who wants to be told that he is a sinner? No one according to his sinful flesh wants to be brought to his knees in repentance. No one wants to admit guilt. Everyone wants to compare himself to others and say, “I’m a lot better than those people.” Most want to say, “I’ve been a rather good person.” Most want to lay claim to salvation on account of his own personal righteousness.

But that is not the way to salvation. That gives no access to God’s peace (peace which the world cannot give). God’s peace does not come from within the person. Instead it comes from outside the self. It comes from God. Jesus alone earned peace for us. And in Christ, He distributes that peace to us.

That is why Jesus instituted the office of the holy ministry. To deliver His peace to a world full of sinners. To declare sinners righteous. To declare sinners saints. To distribute the love of Christ to a people hostile to Him. To keep on reminding sinners through their continued preaching that they need the forgiveness Christ offers.

God uses sinners whom He sends to deliver these glorious gifts to sinners. And He gives these gifts for free.

While this peace, this righteousness, and this love comes to us as a free gift, it is not free. For Christ Jesus earned it on behalf of us. He became a Man so that the world’s sins may be heaped upon Him. He suffered the penalty for our sin when He bled and died on the cross, forsaken by God, and abandoned by His heavenly Father. He paid the ultimate price: He gave His life.

But in giving His life, He grants to you eternal life for free. He gives you access to the Father. He gives you His peace. He adds you as a member to His Kingdom.

This Good News is declared by the men Christ sends. Jesus did not just call the Twelve to be Apostles or the Seventy to be ministers of the Word back then. But Jesus continues to call men to preach the Gospel today. Jesus Himself instituted this office so that sinners will be absolved, so that the unrighteous will be declared righteous, so that the heathen will be declared saints.

Ministers called by Christ are called to be faithful to Him. Ministers are not called to preach according to the itching ears of the people. They are not called to conform to the world. They are not called to tell the people to listen to their opinions.

No, they are called to be faithful. They are slaves of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. They are under orders: the orders of God. They preach what God has instructed. They forgive and retain sins as God has instructed. They are stewards and give an account of their stewardship. Their needs are to be covered by those who hear Him.

Their calling is not easy, as Jesus Himself testifies. But their calling is important and rewarding. For sinners are brought to Christ, forgiven, and declared acceptable and holy by God. Ministers of Christ are the mouthpiece of God, humble instruments through whom God does great and glorious wonders. Sinners are baptized. Sinners are absolved. Sinners are fed the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Sinners are given the key to eternal life. Such amazing wonders!

Now, today the church commemorates St. Luke, evangelist and physician. Tradition has it that St. Luke was numbered among the 70 sent by Jesus to preach. We do not know for sure if this is true. But we do know that Luke did accompany St. Paul on some of his missionary journeys as recorded in the second book written by Luke—the Book of Acts.

Luke was a physician, a doctor. He was called by Christ to be an evangelist, or one who spreads the Gospel. The word evangel is the Greek word for Gospel. Evangelists are those who declare the Gospel. St. Luke declared the Gospel through his missionary work with St. Paul and especially in his account of the works of Jesus Christ—his Gospel known as Luke.

In the book of Luke, Luke does not write about himself. Instead he writes concerning the deeds of our Lord Jesus Christ. Luke was not so much as an eyewitness to these events because he was not one of the Twelve Apostles. But Luke was indeed inspired by the Holy Spirit to write what he wrote. And Luke wrote his two books (both Luke and Acts) under the Apostolic supervision of St. Paul.

Luke wrote these books using very eloquent and sophisticated Greek, which testifies to his knowledge and skill, suitable for being a physician. But what is most important is that Luke writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, his writings are not his own opinions, but they are the very Word of God.

And Luke keeps the main thing the main thing. He gives an account of the deeds of Jesus Christ—from our Lord’s conception to His public ministry to His Passion to His death and resurrection to His ascension to His continued work among Christians through His Spirit.

In Luke’s second book, Acts, we hear both Peter and Paul preach Christ and Him crucified and risen for the forgiveness of sins.

Therefore, all faithful preaching to this day follows the same pattern. Christ crucified and risen for the forgiveness of sins. This is what you need, for through Jesus alone you have access to eternal life. Those who assume, deny, or gloss over Christ and Him crucified and risen are not faithful preachers. For salvation is found in none other than Christ our Lord.

We pray that God would continue to send laborers into His harvest. For the harvest is truly plentiful and the laborers are few.

You are Christians, redeemed by the blood of Christ and brought into His fold through the faithful proclamation of the Word. As Christians, God has given you some duties and responsibilities. One is prayer. Just as Jesus instructed the 70 to pray, so also God desires to hear your prayers. Pray to Him in repentance. Pray to the Lord for the well-being of your family and friends—especially their spiritual well-being. Pray for your pastor whom Jesus sent. And pray for these, your brothers and sisters in Christ, that they may remain faithful and are received into God’s kingdom. And pray that faithful laborers will continue to be sent into the harvest. Amen.            

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen