NO CO-DEPENDENT MINISTRY Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
I’m thinking that if I were to preach from this passage, I wouldn’t be preaching to the congregation so much as simply allowing them to eavesdrop on a message I would be preaching to myself. If anyone needs to heed this passage, it’s those of us who are called to the vocation of preaching the good news. This passage is for preachers!
Jesus instruction to the seventy-two (or seventy, depending on the manuscript) is a little longer version of the same instruction He gave to the twelve in the previous chapter (Luke 9:1-6) and in both of these passages, we can discern Jesus’ pastoral care for his preachers. He was protecting them with this instruction and in short, Jesus told his disciples that, while they were to be responsible for the proclamation of the message, and while they were to participate in the inauguration of the kingdom, they were not to assume any credit or blame for its reception or rejection. While they were doing nothing less than ushering in the kingdom of heaven (Luke 10:18), even that was not what they were to celebrate. They were to do the work of the Lord all the while recognizing that it was, after all, His work. This is great counsel for preachers and I don’t know very many who don’t need to hear it.
Consider the kindness of Jesus’ teaching here, regarding who was responsible for the fruit of their labor.
1. The remedy for the need for more workers was to ask God to send them. (Luke 10:2)
2. They could be sure that the message was not going to be received by all, no matter how it was proclaimed. (Luke 10:3)
3. If the people of a community were not receptive to the message, they were to simply walk away. (Luke 10:11)
4. However, this should not create anxiety over whether or not the kingdom of God has come near, for it had, even in those towns that rejected the message! (Luke 10:11)
5. They were to remember that if people rejected the disciples’ message, it would not be the disciples that were being rejected, but rather God the Son and indeed, God the Father that was being rejected. (Luke 10:16)
6. Conversely, if the people of a community were receptive to the message, the disciples were not to rejoice in the part they played, but only that God was saving them as well. (Luke 10:20)
This is so contrary to the church culture with which I am familiar. In my over 30 years of pastoring a church, I have been consistently subject to almost the exact opposite instruction.
1. The remedy for the need for more workers is better marketing, recruitment, and certainly greater remuneration.
2. The people of every community are eager to hear the message, provided it is proclaimed appealingly, convincingly, passionately, and winsomely.
3. If the people of a community are not receptive to the message, more effort needs to be expended, and perhaps the message modified. (I’m thinking a coffee shop might be helpful.)
4. After all, the nearness of the kingdom is related to the visible evidence of it.
5. Know that if the people reject the message, deep personal introspection is required regarding one’s effectiveness as a pastor. Perhaps another conference by another expert should be considered.
6. Conversely, if the people of a community are receptive to the message, and there is great success, the disciple needs to be credited, certainly by denominational leaders and perhaps with even a book recounting that success.
This instruction to the seventy-two (or seventy) occurs in the context of a very severe call to discipleship, which is not irrelevant to Jesus’ instruction to those who will call people to it. Just prior to Jesus sending out the seventy-two, He spoke of the costly nature of following after Him. According to Luke, according to Jesus, if one has property (…the Son of Man has no place to lay His head) or is responsible to their family (…let me go bury my father, let me go back and say good-bye to my family), they are precluded from being one of His followers. (Luke 9:57-62)
This instruction to the seventy-two occurs in the context of Jesus making His way to Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51)
Perhaps one of the reasons that Jesus felt it necessary at this time to provide His disciples with the proper perspective regarding the work He was calling them to do was because He knew that the message of following Him to the cross was not a particularly appealing one. Jesus was perhaps foreshadowing the rejection He knew He would receive.
And it occurs to me that the significance for pastors to heed Jesus’ teaching here might be in the liberty it provides us to be faithful to the message of Christ. If it really is His work, then we can really speak His words, in all their fullness, leaving the results to Him, and rejoicing in His grace to us.