Imagine you discovered that you had some heart trouble. It needed an immediate operation, an operation which could only be done by a specific skilled surgeon. The operation needed to be performed straightaway otherwise you will die. Once you had had the operation you would make a full recovery. Fortunately, such a surgeon was resident in the city. And so your doctors contact him. How you feel if the surgeon sent a reply back saying “No thanks – I do not want to do the surgery.”
If you and I are not telling people about Jesus Christ then we are the surgeon. We have the knowledge of life through CHRIST by the message of the gospel. If we are not sharing this message, then what are we doing being a Christian? Why are we coming to Church? The Church itself, is a vassel, a conduit, and mouth-peace from which the message of life should be shouted.
Our Gospel reading this morning is so clear. Jesus send’s out the disciples. He uses the farming metaphor of a harvest. The harvest is plentiful. The workers are few. The same is true day. The harvest is plentiful. Workers are needed. And the workers are to come from the church.
Jesus says some very important things about sharing the faith in these verses which we need to understand.
1. Firstly, prayer is a vital part of evangelism. Jesus begins with the instruction for the 70 disciples to pray for laborers for the harvest. There may be many excuses about why we can’t evangelize (and we will tackle some of them today) but the one thing every single Christian can do, and should do, every day without fail, is to pray for the success of the gospel. If we are not praying daily that the message of Christ would be proclaimed and heard in our community, nation and world, then begin today.
2. Harvesting / evangelism requires workers who actually want to harvest / evangelize. From a Farmer’s perspective, a Harvest is no good until it is harvested. And it can only be harvested when workers go and DO the work. Right now, a lot of the church is like a worker looking at a harvest and doing NOTHING! I think it is an oxymoron to be a Christian and not want to others to become a Christian. A Church that does not want to see others hear and receive the Gospel of Christ is no Church of Jesus Christ. We can receive all the training available and all teaching we can handle on the why’s and how’s of evangelism. But we will only DO it if we WANT to – if we have a DESIRE to see people come to Jesus Christ and know him as savior and Lord.
3. To be a Christian and to share the faith is not easy, and indeed, may even be dangerous. Jesus says “I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” What do wolves usually do with lambs? They attack them and they kill them. Jesus is killed for speaking the truth about God. And we are told that if they treated Jesus like that we should not be surprised that the world hates us. For you and I our physical lives may not be in danger, but we need to willingly and happily accept and understand that sharing the faith is likely to cause us to be ridiculed, and verbally attacked and we might even have our reputation attacked. Evangelism is a serious thing. Sharing our faith is a serious thing. We become a target, not just for those who are against Christianity but we become a target for the enemy. When we became believers in Christ we became a soldier of Christ. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of darkness and when we become one of Christ’s own, we become a target for the enemy. As a soldier we should be willing to give our life if necessary. For 2000 years the Church has had thousands and thousands and thousands of martyrs. Not all soldiers die physically for Christ but all soldiers must be willing to die.
4. The task is urgent. Notice what Jesus says to the disciples – do not take a purse, or a bag, or sandals – in other words don’t waste time packing. Don’t get weighed down by the things of this world. The issue is NOT that you should NEVER take a money or extra clothes – Jesus at the close of his ministry tells the disciples “if you have a purse take it.” The point is that the things of this world can distract us from the urgency of the task ahead of the church. The urgency is emphasized by Jesus’ command not to salute anyone on the way. This is was very rude for the culture. If you were traveling and meet a fellow traveler or even a fellow Israelite you would go through a complex ritual of greeting before you could carry on. Not to do so was an insult. The disciples are not talk to anyone, Jesus says. This task is that urgent. Do we have the sense of urgency to reach out to people with God’s love, compassion, healing, his presence and his life giving Spirit?
5. We are to harvest where we are; our community, our work place, our homes, our families, our friends. Jesus instructs the Disciples to stay were they were given hospitality. They are not to look for a better place, or a more comfortable place to stay, or more receptive area of town. They are to accept the hospitality and the food they are given without questioning it’s standard or level. And then they are to minister where they are. I have often heard people say to me, “Oh I would like to come to do some evangelism but I am not knowledgeable enough… or I am no good talking to people…. Or I would prefer to evangelize where no-one knows me”. No, we must start where we are or we will never start. We are to start now, not when the timing is favorable because we will never start – the timing will never be favorable, the right moment will never come. We are to share the gospel – we are to minister were we are, NOW. And how do we do this? We live our life according to the way of Christ’s commands – love God with all our heart and love our neighbor as ourself. What do we say? The message is relatively simple. Jesus tells his disciples to heal the sick and to say “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” Is someone ill at work – ask them if you can pray for them there and then! Do you know someone struggling right now – ask them if they would like to know Jesus Christ and his peace? Do you know someone who feels lonely and unloved or unwanted? Tell them you know someone who loves them very much and is waiting to begin a relationship with them – Jesus Christ. Most of us would have no trouble speaking with excitement and animation to someone about how our college team had won a football game or about our children or grandchildren . And yet we struggle to speak at all about the one who died for us and through his sacrifice gave us eternal life.
6. To share our faith means we will be rejected. We must learn rejection. Many people pullback from evangelism because they do not want to fail. People will say no. People will be angry. We are not to take it personally. Just because someone whom you spoke to for 20 mins about your faith has not fallen on their knees crying for God’s forgiveness does not mean you have failed. We may have to plant many spiritual seeds before someone begins to consider Christ. We are not called to bring all persons to Christ but to bring Christ to all persons.
We can do nothing to change a person’s mind about God. That is the job, the work of the Spirit of God. Our role, our part is to share the message. Notice – Jesus sends the 70 ahead of him – he will come to the towns the 70 went to. They went as messengers – it is Christ through the work of the Spirit that actually transforms people. Not to share the message – to be like the Surgeon who refuses to operate, places a terrible burden upon us. God, when speaking to Ezekiel the prophet says: Son of Man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die’ and you give them no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you will have saved your life.
To share the message places the burden on the one who has heard. That is why Jesus instructs his disciples to wipe off the dust from their feet. To reject the messengers of God is to reject God’s message. The disciples are not to fret or worry or try harder – they are to leave the town and move on with the message.
7. We must never be arrogant, condescending or holier than thou. This is NEVER about the fact that we are better than others. We’re not. We are sinners who have found grace through Christ. The disciples return to Jesus after their incredible time of evangelism with a little bit of arrogance. “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name.” In other words – “WOW – let us tell what we did in your name – it was so cool.” Jesus tells them that that is not the point. It’s not even impressive. Jesus saw Satan fall from heaven like lightening – that was impressive They are not, Jesus says, to rejoice in the fact that they have been given authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions and the enemy. That type of feeling can too easily turn into a self reliance. That some how we are agents of grace, that we are the cause and focus. No. Jesus says rejoice that YOUR NAMES ARE WRITTEN IN HEAVEN. That is the point. That is our joy. And it’s because our names are written in heaven that we want to tell others about Jesus.
So, no matter who we are, what age we are, whether we are healthy or very ill, if we are believers in Christ we MUST be involved with evangelism. It is a non-negotiable command. Be it by praying every day for the advance of the gospel in our community, country and the world; or by our witness from the way we live our life, to actually speaking to others about our faith, we are called to share Christ with the world. We are called to share our faith because God has moved powerfully in us. We are called to share our faith because we have experienced God’s salvation. We are called to share our faith because we have received the forgiveness of Christ. We are called to share our faith because we know the joy of being reconciled to God. We are called to share our faith because have experienced the glory of God in our lives. We know the freedom of being Christ’s servants, forgiven our sins and given the promise of eternal life. It is only from this attitude that we should share our faith. All evangelism, all sharing our faith should come from a compassionate heart – longing for others to know what we know and experience what we experience in Jesus Christ our Lord, in whom is all glory and honor and majesty, forever and forever. AMEN.