Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses twenty-one through thirty-seven of the tenth chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you will find it taking place immediately after the seventy whom Jesus had ordained and appointed as His messengers returned filled with joy because of what they had accomplished in His name. Have you ever been there? Have you ever been filled with joy because you were used by God in such a mighty and supernatural way? Have you ever returned into the presence of God elated and jubilant because you were used by the Spirit of Christ to bring healing into the life or within the physical body of another? Have you ever left the presence of Jesus with an assignment, a mission and a purpose, and you returned into His presence hours later—perhaps even a day, or even a week later—and you could not contain the excitement within your soul because you were used mightily by the Spirit of Christ to produce change within and upon the earth? Have you ever left the presence of Jesus knowing you were ordained and appointed to go before His face and were given power and authority to heal the sick, to drive out devils, and to preach the gospel of the kingdom, and then returned into His presence filled with joy because you were used to do just what you were sent out to do? Perhaps I should ask this a different way and ask you whether or not you remember when you last left the presence of Jesus excited, elated and joyful because you were entrusted with the ministry of young before His face as a messenger to prepare the way? What is so incredibly intriguing about these seventy is that they essentially had a ministry that was likened unto that of John the Baptist, for they were tasked with going before the face of Christ into the cities and villages He would come in order that they might prepare the way for Him. Within the life and ministry of Jesus we first fine the appointment of the twelve and Jesus giving them power and authority to preach the gospel of the kingdom, to heal the sick, to raise the dead, to cleanse the lepers, and to cast out unclean spirits. Now we have Jesus appointing other seventy also whom He would sense before His face as messengers who would prepare the way for Him.
What I so love about the passage that is before us today is that it takes place directly on the heels of the appointment of the seventy who were chosen and appointed by Jesus to go before Hum as His messengers—those who would go before His face and prepare and pave the way for His ministry. Essentially that which these seventy individuals were tasked with was being pioneers and trailblazers into the cities into which they were sent, for they were tasked with making ready and preparing the way for the ministry of Christ. Pause for a moment and consider that reality—the reality of a preparation for the ministry of Jesus Christ. Consider the fact that these seventy would preach the gospel of the kingdom, would heal the sick, and would even cast out devils in the name of Jesus, and yet even though these cities and villages experienced a glimpse of the work which Jesus Christ would accomplish, that wasn’t the actual ministry of Christ. It’s interesting and worth noting that although men and women were healed, and although unclean spirits were driven and cast out, there was still a greater ministry that would take place within their midst. Even though evil spirits would be driven out, and men and women would be healed, there would still be a greater ministry that would take place among them in their midst—one that would come from the very person of Jesus Christ. Imagine being one of these seventy who would enter cities and villages, would heal those who were sick, and would even drive out unclean spirits, and yet the ministry and work you were doing was only a prepatory work that would go before the face of Christ. These seventy individuals would enter into these cities, towns and villages, and would engage themselves in a ministry of preparing a people for the presence and work of Jesus the Christ. Despite the fact that they were able to heal the sick and cast out devils, the ministry, appointment and assignment they had been given was one of preparation in that they would make ready a people in the earth for the coming of the Messiah.
I have to admit that I absolutely love this passage of Scripture, however, there is something interesting which takes place between the appointment and sending out of the seventy, and their return into the presence of Jesus. If you read the words which are found within this passage of scripture you will fine that in between the appointment of the seventy and their return into the presence of Jesus, there was an indictment given by Jesus toward two specific cities which had experienced His works, His word and His ministry. As you take the time to read the words which are found within this passage of scripture you will find that in between the appointment and sending out and the return and rejoicing there is an indictment given—one that was directed toward two specific cities into which Jesus traveled and did most of His works. It’s actually quite interesting and astonishing to think that immediately after Jesus would send out seventy others who would go before His face and prepare the way for His presence through preaching and ministry, there would come an indictment toward two specific cities which had beheld and witnessed many of Jesus’ greatest works. The tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by Luke begins with Jesus appointing other seventy also—those whom He would send two and two before His face into every city and place, whither He Himself would come. In the process of sending these seventy out Jesus emphatically declared that the harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few, and then implores those before Him to pray unto the Lord of the harvest that He would send forth laborers into His harvest. IT is absolutely incredible and worth noting that when we speak of the harvest, we do not speak of it in terms of any ownership we think we might have toward and of it. When we speak of the harvest, and even that harvest being plentiful, we dare not, we ought not, and we must not consider even for a moment that the harvest belongs to us, and that we somehow have any type of ownership over the harvest. I find it absolutely wonderful and incredible that within the sending out and appointment of the seventy other whom Jesus sent before His face, He not only declared unto them that the harvest was truly plenteous, but He also entreated them that they would pray unto the Lord of the harvest that He might send forth laborers into his harvest. It is this concept of the harvest belonging to the Lord that we must truly come to terms with, for the question that must be asked concerning this harvest is how we are treating the harvest. If the harvest belongs to the Lord, and if the Lord is Lord over the harvest, then how are we treating His harvest? Are we respecting the harvest which belongs to Him? Are we taking care of the harvest which belongs to Him? Or, are we like certain who have been present within this generation, as well as previous generations who have abused the harvest and have used it for their own gain and advancement? One of the greatest questions we must ask ourselves is what we are doing with, and how are treating the harvest which does not even belong to us to begin with, and instead belongs to the living God who is Lord over the harvest.
Within this tenth chapter you will find the Lord sending out the seventy two by two before His face into the cities whither He Himself would come, and sent them forth to heal the sick which were present therein, and to declare unto them that the kingdom of God had come nigh unto them. What adds an interesting twist into this whole passage is that in between the appointment of the seventy and their return rejoicing in the presence of the One who sent them, there was a tragic and terrifying indictment of two cities which had seen and experience most of the mighty works which Jesus had performed during those days. If you begin reading with and from the thirteenth verse of the tenth chapter you will find the following words which were spoken by Jesus concerning these two specific cities—Chorazin and Capernaum. Consider if you will the words which are found in this particular chapter beginning with the thirteenth verse:
“Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell. He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me” (Luke 10:13-16).
It’s worth noting that this same inducement is found in the New Testament gospel of Matthew, and is found within the eleventh chapter. What is most interesting about what is written and recorded within the New Testament gospel of Matthew is that the apostle of Jesus Christ adds something different to this particular indictment. The indictment which was recorded in the New Testament gospel of Luke appeared to be an extension of the appointment of the seventy which Jesus had sent before His face to heal the sick and to declare that the kingdom of God had come among them. When you read the words which the apostle Matthew wrote concerning this particular indictment, you will find how Matthew writes and records concerning these cities that there was one thing they all shared in common—they experienced the manifestation of most of His mighty works. The indictment of these cities was simply and solely because they were those cities which Jesus had performed most of His mighty works. Pause for a moment and consider the fact that it is possible to experience a tremendous move of the Spirit, and to experience a tremendous move of God, and yet still find yourself indicted by Jesus Christ because of the condition of your heart. In all reality, I would dare say that a mighty move of the Spirit, and even a mighty work of God is not a sign of validation or even approval of a ministry, an organization, a church, or even an assembly. The presence of many mighty works which were wrought by the Spirit of Jesus Christ in the midst of an assembly can be nothing more than a great show if it is not mixed with repentance and humility before the face of Jesus Christ. The indictment of these two cities was not even because they were those cities into which most of the mighty works of Jesus Christ had been performed and completed, but because despite the presence of the mighty works, there was no repentance. Did you know that it is possible to experience the works of Christ among you in your midst, and yet those works produce absolutely no change and lasting effect in your midst? Jesus’ indictment toward these cities was not because they were those cities into which most of His mighty works were performed in, but because in the presence and wake of those mighty works, there was no repentance that was produced within the hearts of the people within those cities. Consider if you will the words which are written in the New Testament gospel of Matthew beginning with the twentieth verse of the eleventh chapter:
“Then began He to upbraid the cities wherein most of His mighty works were done, because they repented not: Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee” (Matthew 11:20-24).
If there is one thing we notice when reading the words which are found in the New Testament gospel of Luke, as well as those which are found in the New Testament gospel of Matthew, it’s that in between the appointment of the seventy and the return of the seventy, there was an indictment of those cities in which most of His mighty works had been performed. Would it shock and surprise you to find out and discover that it is possible to experience a great number of mighty works of Jesus Christ, and yet still find yourself being indicted by the Christ because of your lack of repentance? You will notice that Jesus didn’t indict these cities because of the presence of His works, but because of the fact that in the presence of the mighty works there was no repentance. Please don’t miss and please don’t lose sight of this reality, for it is possible to experience many of the mighty works of Jesus Christ, and many of the mighty works of the Spirit, and yet those works produce no change within your heart and life. This actually brings me to an incredible truth concerning the works of Christ—namely, that the works of the Spirit, and the works of Jesus Christ are intended to produce an inward change and transformation within your heart and mind. Tell me—what good are the mighty works of God in your midst if those works don’t lead to and produce lasting change within your heart and life? Oh, I can’t help but think about the various awakenings, the various revivals, and the various moves of God which have taken place throughout the years—both within this nation, as well as other nations—and how it is possible to experience the mighty works of Christ, and experience a mighty move of God in our midst, and yet such works don’t produce any genuine and authentic repentance and humility within our hearts and lives. Jesus didn’t indict these cities because of the number of works which were performed among them in their midst, but He did indict them because of their response—or should I say, their lack of response—to the works which were performed among them in their midst. Jesus didn’t take issue with the fact that most of His mighty works took place within these cities, but rather because in the presence of those works, there was no repentance, there was no change, there was no humility, there was no brokenness of heart and spirit. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this particular reality, for if and unless the works of Christ within your life produce repentance, and produce transformation within your heart, your mind, your soul, and your entire life, those works are nothing more than niceties and pleasantries. These cities were unbraided and indicted because it was in them most of the mighty works which Jesus performed among men took place, and yet, despite the presence of those mighty works, they did not give themselves to repentance in the presence and sight of the living God. Oh, I am convinced that we must pay careful and close attention to this particular reality, for after sending the seventy out—perhaps even included in His appointment of the seventy—Jesus indicted certain cities for their lack of repentance.
I feel the great need to touch on the indictment of these cities possibly being a part of the appointment of the seventy, for despite the fact that Jesus was sending them before His face into the cities whither He would come, there would be those within these cities which would not receive them, and would quite honestly reject them. In fact, if you read the words which Jesus spoke and declared unto the seventy, you will find that He didn’t simply prepare them to be received and accepted, but He also prepared them for the possibility of being rejected and not being received. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for it’s almost as if Jesus not only prepared the seventy for the possibility of not being received in some of the cities into which they were sent, but he also prepared them for the lack of repentance that would be present in their midst. In other words, that which Jesus did for the seventy was prepare them for the strong possibility that they would be rejected and not received in certain of the cities into which they would journey, and that within those cities there would be no repentance—this despite the presence of the mighty works that would be done in their midst. I can’t help but get the strong sense that when Jesus appointed and sent out these seventy other also, He not only prepared them for the possibility of not being received by those unto whom they would come, but He also prepared them for the reality that in some of the cities into which they would journey the people within the city would not give themselves to repentance, and would continue in and with their hardness of heart. I have previously written concerning those who would follow Jesus the Christ how Jesus did not send out us prepared to be accepted, loved, and received, but rather to be hated, despised and rejected. In fact, twice within the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find the reality of those who walk with and follow Jesus being hated by nations and peoples for the sake of the name of Christ. In all reality, I would dare say that there is a strong connection between the lack of repentance that would be found in the cities in which most of the mighty works Jesus performed, the possibility of men and women not receiving those whom Jesus sent, and Jesus’ words unto His disciples concerning their being hated of all nations for His sake. In fact, I would dare say that it’s necessary that we consider the words which Jesus spoke unto the disciples—first in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, and then in other places within the New Testament gospels. Consider if you will that which Jesus spoke unto the disciples concerning their being hated by all nations and all people’s for His name’s sake:
“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as sea-rents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciples is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord” (Matthew 10:16-25).
“Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:9-14).
“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not Him that sent me. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin. He that hateth me hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father” (John 14:18-24).
I have to admit that the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples, as well as the words which He spoke unto the seventy are intrinsically linked and connected, for when speaking unto the disciples, Jesus prepared them to be hated, to be despised, to be rejected, to be persecuted, to be afflicted, and to be mistreated for His name’s sake. When Jesus sent His disciples out, He did not send them out to be received and accepted, but rather He knew and understood that they would be hated of all nations for His name’s sake. Jesus knew that if they persecuted Him, so also would they persecute His disciples—those whom He would send out to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils, raise the dead, and preach the good news of the kingdom of God. What’s more, is that when Jesus sent the seventy other out also, He sent them out two by two before His face, and prepared them for the eventuality that they would be rejected by those within the cities into which they would come. What’s more, is that I would dare say that not only did Jesus prepare the seventy for the eventuality and possibility that they would not be received, but He also prepared them for the reality that these cities would experience the mighty works of the Spirit of Jesus the Christ, and yet they would not give themselves to repentance. Despite the fact that many mighty works of Jesus the Christ would be performed and completed among them in their midst, they would not give themselves to repentance, and would remain in the same place of hardness of heart as before. This is actually quite alarming and disturbing, for it is possible that the mighty works of Christ could and would be performed among you in your midst, and yet those works do absolutely nothing for the heart that is found within men and women. Oh, they are grateful for the works of Christ, they are grateful for the healing, they are grateful for the deliverance, yet once they receive what they want and desire from Jesus the Christ, they continue right on in their same state and condition. There is not a doubt in my mind that when Jesus sent out and appointed these seventy other also, He prepared them for the hardness of heart of those who not only would not receive them, but also those who would not repent in the presence and face of the mighty works of Christ present among them in their midst. Jesus prepared these seventy other also—not only for the possibility of not being received by those in the cities into which they would come, but also the hardness of heart and lack of repentance within the hearts of men and women. In all reality, I am convinced that true preparation for ministry must include a preparation for not being received, for being despised and rejected, and even for being hated for the sake of the name of Christ. No true preparation in ministry should be absent preparation for being rejected, for being despised, for being hated, and even for the hardness of the hearts of men and those who will continue in their hardness of heart and will not repent in the face of the mighty works of the Spirit of Christ.
As you continue reading the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke you will find that after Jesus instructed the seventy to rejoice not that the spirits are subject unto them, but rather than their names are written in heaven, He Himself rejoiced in His spirit that His Father in heaven had hidden these things from the wise and the prudent, and revealed them unto babes. Immediately after instructing the seventy to rejoice that their names were written in heaven, He declared unto the disciples privately, saying, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them” (Luke 10:23-24). What comes after the appointment of the seventy, the indictment of the unrepentant, the instruction in rejoicing, and the declaration unto the disciples is the presence of a certain lawyer who stood up in order that He might tempt Jesus. This lawyer stood up in the presence of all those which were present and asked Jesus what He needed to do to inherit eternal life. In response to this lawyer’s question, Jesus asked him what was written in the Law, and how He read it. The lawyer declared unto Jesus that it was written in the law to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” Jesus declared unto this lawyer that he had answered correctly, and then instructed him to go and do this, and he would live. Unfortunately, the lawyer sought to justify himself in the presence of Jesus, and in the presence of those who were present there, and asked a question which has been asked throughout the generations. Upon hearing Jesus instruct him to love the Lord his God, and to love his neighbor as Himself, this lawyer sought to justify himself—not by asking how to love God, for Scripture made it very clear how to love the Lord our God. This lawyer did not attempt to justify himself by asking how he should love God, for Scripture made it very clear that we are to the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength. In all reality, I would dare say that there is no justification when it comes to our loving the Lord our God, for Scripture makes it very clear how we are to love the Lord our God. It’s interesting and worth noting that this lawyer did not attempt to justify himself in terms of how he should love the Lord his God, for Scripture made it perfectly clear that we were to love the Lord our God, and to do so very specifically. Where this lawyer sought to justify himself was as it pertained to his neighbor, for this was less clear and much more difficult to do than loving the Lord our God. Perhaps this lawyer knew how to love the Lord his God, yet when it came to loving his neighbor, he sought justification—not only on who his neighbor was, but also on how he should love his neighbor. There is not a doubt in my mind that the question which this lawyer asked Jesus in an attempt to justify himself is one that we have asked of Jesus over and over again throughout the centuries and through the years. There is not a doubt in my mind that the same question which this lawyer asked concerning who his neighbor was is the same question which has been asked time and time again throughout the years by men and women who seek to justify themselves.
I find it absolutely and incredibly interesting that this lawyer sought not to justify himself concerning loving the Lord his God and what that looked like and meant for him, but rather, he sought to justify himself as it pertained to loving his neighbor. This lawyer sought to justify himself by asking Jesus who his neighbor was in order that he would be able to draw a clear distinction between those whom he should love, and those whom he should not love. What’s interesting about the question which this lawyer asked is that his question centered upon who his neighbor was, and who he should love, when in all reality, Jesus drew no distinction between our enemy and our neighbor. If you read and study the words which Jesus the Christ spoke, you will discover very early on that for Jesus there was no distinction between neighbor and enemy, for every enemy can be a neighbor. In Jesus not only do our neighbors deserve to be loved as we love ourselves, but so also do our enemies deserve to be loved. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which were spoken by Jesus in the Sermon the Mount—words which are found written and recorded by the apostle Matthew in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel which he wrote. Consider if you will the words which are found in this passage of Scripture beginning with the thirty-eighth verse of the chapter:
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him Twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He make the the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye m ore than others? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:38-48).
These words must be carefully considered as it pertains to the question which the lawyer asked of Jesus, for in seek to justify himself, this lawyer sought to do so as it pertained to his neighbor. This lawyer asked Jesus who his neighbor was, for by coming across a definition concerning his neighbor, he could justify those whom he should love, and those he could get away with not loving. This lawyer knew that he was to love the Lord his God with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his strength, yet when it came to loving his neighbor as himself, he sought to justify himself, and perhaps even to define those whom he should love, and those whom he could get away with not loving. In all reality, this question has been asked throughout the years by men and women who have been attempting to justify themselves, for men and women have sought to get a clear understanding of just who their neighbor is, in order that they might be able to distinguish who they should love, and who they could get away with not loving. The truth of the matter is that in and with Jesus there is no distinction between loving our neighbor and loving our enemy, for we are instructed to love both. What’s more, is that I would dare say that we are to love our enemy with the same intensity and with the same type of love we are to love our neighbor, and we are to love both with the same type of love with which we love the Father who is in heaven. Remember the words which the apostle John spoke in his first epistle, when he asked how we can say and declare that we love our Father in heaven whom we do not see if we cannot love our brother on the earth whom we do see. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we understand and come to terms with this particular reality, for when it comes to loving our neighbor and loving our enemy, there are not differing degrees and measures of love, for we are to love both the same way we would love ourselves, and even the same way we are to love the Lord our God. I am reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Roman congregation, which are found in the twelfth chapter of this New Testament epistle. I leave you with the words which the apostle wrote unto the Roman church as a word of encouragement, as well as a challenge to you to not only love the Lord your God, but to also love your neighbor and your enemy with no distinction, and with no contradiction:
“Let love be without dissimulation.Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:9-21).