Jesus giving instruction to these 35 teams of disciples. Now, even though we're only in chapter 10 of this 24-chapter gospel, we're already three years into Jesus' ministry. He is very close to His final days at Jerusalem. You'll notice that the majority of the chapters leading up to His Triumphal entry in Jerusalem are printed in red letters, meaning that the upcoming chapters are more teaching, and less action. There are few days left - He is very close.
The time is getting short, but there are still so many places left to preach. Jesus decides to send the seventy out in twos to pioneer a pathway to the peoples He'll be preaching to on the way to Jerusalem. He tells them, "The message is urgent. The time is short. The laborers are few. And you've been called."
Do you realize that we are in much the same predicament today? The time is so short - Jesus is so close to coming back. The signs of the times are all around us. Biblical prophecy has unfolded at such an alarming rate in the last 50 years that every end-times prophecy left to be fulfilled will be fulfilled AFTER the rapture of the church! The message is urgent. The time is short. The laborers are few. And you've been called.
What would have happened if the 70 said, "Hey, Jesus, I'm willing to go, but I've got to finish raising my family before I head on out" or "Lord, I just need to finish these last two years of college, and I'll be raring to go" or "I'm so busy at work - but when things slack off, I'll really have time to devote my full attention to the ministry"?
The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few How totally true of today! Do you really believe that Jesus is coming back? Do you really believe that you've been sent out by the Lord into your community to preach the gospel to people that are lost and on their way to hell?
The time is so short, that Jesus goes so far as to say, "Greet no one on the way." What he was telling them was, "Hurry up!" You see, in those days, there was no simple "hey, how ya doin'?" Custom and etiquette obligated them to a lengthy and tedious greeting ceremony. They had no time for these social obligations. The message is urgent. The time is short. The laborers are few. And you've been called.
The prophet Isaiah once had a vision of the Lord sitting on His throne. He tells us that upon seeing the Lord, he said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." But an angel took a burning coal from the altar and touched Isaiah's lips. His iniquity was taken away, his sin was forgiven. Then he writes:
Isa. 6:8 ...I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
When we've truly seen the Lord, when we've truly realized that He's cleansed us from our sin - our only response is: "Here I am. Send me!" The message is urgent. The time is short. The laborers are few. And you've been called. Will you make yourself available?
Many are afraid to make themselves available for evangelism or to be sent out because they are afraid they might not be accepted. They might be rejected, ridiculed, even railed on. I can promise you this: When you are sent out as a missionary by the Lord, whether it's in Cheyenne or Shanghai, there will always be people that reject your message. There will always be people who will ridicule what you're saying. There will always be people that will rail on you. But don't take it personally - they're just hating Jesus in you. Jesus said
John 15:18-20 "If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you..."
Now, you might be thinking, "Is that supposed to motivate us to evangelism and availability?" Absolutely! Read on...
Do you think that everyone that the seventy encountered accepted the message? Absolutely not! But they "returned with joy". Why? Because there is source of joy in this universe that is so great, no experience you've ever had even comes close, and no drug-induced high can match it. It comes when you share the gospel with someone.
The high and the joy that comes from sharing the Lord Jesus Christ with people that don't know Him is beyond compare to anything you can imagine. And the joy, the high, comes not from their acceptance of it, it comes from your obedience to doing it. There is no high like that Holy Spirit high that comes from sharing the gospel with people.
In the book of Acts, the apostles were preaching the gospel and got arrested. An angel let them out of prison that night and told them to keep on preaching. So they did. They of course got arrested again the next day, and the high priest said, "We told you to stop!" The apostles said, "We must obey God rather than men." Acts 5 tells us that the high council had them...
Acts 5:40-41 ...flogged... and ordered them to speak no more in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.
"You mean to tell me that you can be beaten, threatened and arrested, and still have that supernatural joy?" Absolutely. Paul the apostle told the Colossians:
Col. 1:24 ...I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ's afflictions.
If you've got a lack of joy in your life, I can guarantee you two things:
But 2) You can bring incredible joy into your life when you begin to step out and do it. Remember, the joy doesn't come from their acceptance - it comes from your obedience.
Jesus said He saw satan fall like lightning from heaven. I remember back in high school one day that I was wearing an "AC/DC" shirt. A Christian told me that the lightning bolt between the AC and the DC was a symbol of satan. Though I really didn't care at the time, that doctrinal statement stuck with me even into my Christianity.
But this week, as I was seeking to understand what Jesus meant by "I saw satan fall like lightning", I read all 35 times that the Scriptures mention lightning. And what I read amazed me. Because of the 35 times lightning is mentioned:
4 times, it speaks of the presence of God
13 times, it speaks of the power of God
11 times, it speaks of the judgment of God
3 times, it speaks of the angels of God
1 time, it speaks of the appearance of God
2 times, it speaks of the coming of God
Yet here's this one verse out of 35 where Jesus says, "I saw satan fall like lightning", and we think lightning is a symbol of satan. Let's take back lightning from the kingdom of hell. Instead of saying, "this is a symbol of satan", let's say "this is a symbol of satan's judgment. Because lightning is really a symbol of the presence of God, the power of God, the judgment of God, the angels of God, the appearance of God, and the coming of God."
To fully understand what Jesus meant by "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning", we need to understand how Satan became Satan. From the Bible, we deduce that he was the top angel, a cherub, the worship leader in heaven. He became filled with pride, and sought to direct the praise and worship towards himself. God says to him in Isaiah 14:
Isa. 14:11-14 "Your pomp and the music of your harps have been brought down to Sheol; maggots are spread out as your bed beneath you, and worms are your covering. How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.'"
And in Ezekiel 28, the Lord says to him:
Ezek. 28:16-18 "By the abundance of your trade you were internally filled with violence, and you sinned; therefore I have cast you as profane from the mountain of God. And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I put you before kings, that they may see you. By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade, you profaned your sanctuaries."
Satan became prideful, exalting himself above God, and he was cast down.
So the disciples have just come back fired up. They've done things with power and authority that they've never had before. They come back saying, "Even the demons are subject to us!" And Jesus reminds them, saying, "Yes, I have given you this power - but that shouldn't be your focus or the source of your joy. Instead, rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
You see, any time we are used of God in a powerful way, whether it is leading someone to Christ, or praying and seeing someone healed, or being used to establish a popular ministry, we are in danger of falling into pride. The thinking that it is we who have done this, not the Lord. Certainly we have seen those who have become spiritually arrogant because of "their" great power.
As a matter of fact, that is exactly why Paul warned Timothy not to make a new believer an elder in the church, saying:
1Tim. 3:6 and not a new convert, lest he become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.
Pride is the most heinous of all sins. Jesus warned the seventy before it took root in their hearts. May we do the same in our lives. Plucking out pride before it becomes a problem.
Notice that it says in verse 21 Jesus "rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit". He is ecstatic that the disciples were obedient to do the work of the ministry. He is just as joyful when we are faithful to do His work.
I think of all the great men of faith. Adam, who brought the curse of sin upon all of mankind, how he would have loved to see Jesus come and pay for mankind's sin. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who were promised that in their descendants would come a man through whom every nation on earth would be blessed, how they would have loved to meet this great, great, great, grandson. David, whose heart's desire was to dwell in the house of the Lord forever, how he would have loved to walk the roads of Israel with Jesus. And so many others. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Isaiah... how they would love to have been in the shoes of these disciples.
And in the shoes of you, His disciples. For today, we are on the threshold of the great and terrible day of the Lord. The end times that the prophets wrote of. And I think of how fired they'd all be to be living in these last days. And I think of how aghast they would be to see us living our lives of compromise, comfort, and complacency.
Luke 10:24 ...many prophets and kings wished to see the things which you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and did not hear them.
Oh, that we would have the joy of our salvation restored to us. That we would return to our first love.
Rom. 13:11-14 And this do, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we first believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh...