Central to this text is the sending. The chapter begins with Jesus sending 72 “others” (10:1). It continues as Jesus tells them to pray for more workers to be sent (10:2). He warns them they are being sent as lambs among wolves (10:3), and those who reject them reject the one who sent Jesus Himself (10:16). We are in the season of Pentecost, and this text reminds us how God and His church are both apostolic.
What does Jesus send these people to do? He sends them to speak peace (εἰρήνη, which corresponds to shalom in Hebrew, 10:5). He sends them to remain with and accept the hospitality of those who welcome them (10:7-8). He sends them to heal the sick and proclaim the nearness of the reign of God (ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ, 10:9, 11). He sends them with the knowledge they will not be received by everyone (10:11, 13-15) and they will need to shake the dust off their feet in some towns (10:11-12).
Before moving toward a sermon on this text, it is important to keep in mind that this all took place before Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus sent these people ahead of Him to the places He Himself was about to go. Which means this text does not apply directly to post-resurrection Christians (Verses 17-19 make this an important recognition. See also Luke 22:35 for another sending, this time with moneybags).
The text does have significance for Christians of all times and places, however, for it sheds light on God’s way of working in this world. A sermon might use the text to help hearers reflect on three specific aspects of His work: His sending, His peace, and His reign. I will say a few things about each.
His Sending. I noted above how both God and His Church are apostolic. This begins with God. He has been sending since Abraham, and He continues sending throughout the Old Testament. Rather than speaking on His own, God works most often in the Scriptures by sending prophets to speak in His name and with His authority. His ultimate Prophet is Jesus, who makes the apostolic nature of His mission known in Luke 4:18. When Jesus sends the people in our text, He was foreshadowing His sending of the Church to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem (Luke 24:47).
His Peace. Above all, the Church is sent on a mission of peace. Not peace as the world conceives of it (See Luke 12:51 and John 14:27). This peace is otherworldly. Isaiah spoke about this peace in the Old Testament reading for this week (Isaiah 66:12) and Luke emphasizes it throughout his Gospel: it is sung about by angels (Luke 2:14) and old men (Luke 2:29) and it comes to those with faith (Luke 7:50, 8:48) in the resurrected Lord (Luke 24:46). Christians must never lose sight of this peace. It is the gift of God in Christ to them, and it is the heart of the mission they have been given.
His Reign. Peace is only possible because the reign of God has come near in Jesus. When Luke speaks of the reign of God in verse 11, he does so in the context of those who reject the apostolic Word (vs. 10-15). This serves as a comfort to those who are rejected despite their words of peace. Jesus’ words at the end of the reading should be heard in the context of the reign of God. Whether or not the Church’s speaking brings about positive results, Christian joy (Luke 10: 17, 20) is grounded in the eternal promises of God to His people.
This is how you might proclaim the promise of Christ to your hearers. Their names have been written in Heaven. This was God’s doing, not their own. They can take confidence in this promise and rejoice in God’s grace. With their temporal and eternal well-being secure in Christ, the resurrected and reigning Son of God, they are now sent to speak words of peace. The message has not changed. Christians today are sent to speak peace in their homes, their congregations, and their communities.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Luke 10:1-20.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Luke 10:1-20.
Lectionary Podcast-Dr. Walter Maier III of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Luke 10:1-20.