Read Luke 10.
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Luke 10:1-3 (ESV)
It almost seems as if Jesus is setting up His disciples for failure, warning them in advance that they are being sent as lambs in the midst of wolves.
It’s still true today that God’s people are few and far between at times, and we are often treated badly by the world. Jesus knew that His message was not always going to be received with joy, especially by those who were strong and powerful in the temporal world.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.
“The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” Luke 10:13-20 (ESV)
How do we treat those who bring us the Good News of Jesus? Are we listening and are we heeding their directions that point us to Christ? May we by the grace of God in Christ have ears to hear the message, and to receive God’s messengers and teachers with joy and thankfulness. Jesus tells us that receiving His teachers and gladly listening to sound teaching is the same as receiving Him.
In that same hour he (Jesus) rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Luke 10:21-22 (ESV)
Faith is a gift given to us by God. Like little children all we can do is receive the good gifts that are given to us. It’s no small coincidence that many people who try to seek God via their own knowledge or by trying to find God with science often fail. Many (otherwise) great minds are far more likely to be atheist or agnostic, and find it very difficult, if not impossible to trust in Christ for their salvation and provision.
Often we see that the people with the most tenacious faith in Jesus are children and those who due to a mental infirmity or other disabilities see their complete and total dependence on Jesus more clearly. Jesus is the defender and champion of the weak. As the apostle Paul taught us, His strength is found in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him (Jesus) to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” Luke 10:25-28 (ESV).
Surely the young lawyer knew the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4-6. But there is a disconnect between knowing the Shema and being able to live it out. Jesus tells the parable of the good Samaritan precisely to point out that none of us are justified by the tradition we are born into. What we know in our heads doesn’t do us much good if we don’t believe it, internalize it and live accordingly. Apart from the grace of God we are completely unable to live in a way that is pleasing to Him. Samaritans were reviled and considered as heretics and worse, but the Samaritan in the parable, in spite of his religious unorthodoxy, was living out the Shema in the way he cared for the stranger along the road.
Jesus writes the Law on our hearts, but we cannot live it out aside from His grace. Even then we still deal with that paradox of being sinners and saints at the same time.
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)
Jesus does want us to love and serve our neighbor. But that love and service is a result, a fruit that is brought forth from loving and seeking God. It’s easy to be busy, and we should be productive and helpful to our neighbors… but… when “busy” becomes our god we simply become tired, burned out and not of much use to anyone, ourselves included. In order for us to live out the vocations we are given, we desperately need to take the time to sit at Jesus’ feet. We need to read the Bible. We need to listen to and take in sound teaching. How can we have strength for the journey if we fail to take the time to let God feed us?
During this time of year we can get bogged down into the “holiday have-tos.” There are a whole lot of “shoulds” out there that “should” get done. Most of those “shoulds” are not nearly as important as we want to make them out to be.
Mary understood the most important thing: to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him.
In today’s chapter of Luke the emphasis is on Jesus first, the primacy of Christ, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. By the grace of God, in this Advent season, may we step back and take the time to sit at His feet, to listen to Him, and to praise and adore Him.