A message of peace with God, with each other, with creation
Jonathan Rowe, 3 July 2022
Galatians 6: 7–16; Luke 10: 1–11, 16–20
I wonder if you have ever been sent somewhere – I don’t mean ‘sent to Coventry’! Being sent is actually quite a common experience. I expect that most of us have been sent shopping or on an errand. Perhaps we’ve been sent somewhere for work.
In chapter 9 of the gospel of Luke, the 12 disciples were sent by Jesus to proclaim the kingdom of God. And now, in chapter 10, 70 others are similarly commissioned. What, we might wonder, is Jesus’ purpose in sending messengers ahead of him? The answer, of course, is that they prepare the way.
Going first can cause anxiety. Stepping into a new place for the first time is not usually as comfortable as stepping into it for the hundredth time. The reason is that one is not quite sure what to expect. And that was the experience of the disciples: they were warned that there would be people who accepted the proclamation of Jesus’ coming and those who rejected it. So sometimes it felt exciting to be sent – and at other times it was nerve-wracking.
That was the disciples’ experience. What I’d like to do now is simply highlight three ways the story helps us understand what it might mean to be sent today.
First, everyone is invited to enter the kingdom of God. In the ancient world, messengers would be sent before a king to proclaim that he was on his way. The messengers announced the coming king by running ahead or riding on horses to tell people to come out of their houses onto the street to greet the new monarch.
The 70 announced that God’s kingdom was coming with Jesus. They wanted people to be ready to listen to what Jesus said and did. It’s probably significant that in Jewish tradition, there were 70 Gentile – that’s non-Jewish – nations. So, when Jesus sends the 70, he is saying that the kingdom of God is for Jew and Gentile: the message is for everyone.
That’s still true today. God has no favourites. Or, rather, everyone is God’s favourite: all are welcome. God stands ready to accept everyone, even each one of us. It doesn’t matter who we are or what we have done … or what we haven’t done: Jesus’ welcomes everyone. And so, the message we have is for everyone.
God has no favourites. Or, rather, everyone is God’s favourite: all are welcome.
Second, the messengers had a message. When Jesus sent the 70 they were to proclaim ‘peace’. ‘Peace’ sums up life in the kingdom of God. It’s a rich idea – much more than the absence of fighting. It means peace with God, with each other, with creation. It points to life in all its fullness.
Jesus continues to send his disciples to announce peace. He now sends us to tell others about his peace.
What is this peace that Jesus gives us? One way of describing it is a feeling deep, deep down inside us that says, ‘It’s okay’. Even when some things are not good, even when things are not fair, or difficult, God’s peace is his presence, reassuring us that underneath everything – all our joys, all our struggles and hurts – are his everlasting arms. In the famous words of Julian of Norwich, it’s a confidence that with God, ‘All things shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well’.
It can take a bit of practice to recognise the peace that Jesus gives, which is why it’s good to speak with others – I’m sure that many people here will be able to tell of times we have known Jesus’ special peace with us.
Finally, people choose how to respond to the peace Jesus offers. The 70 messengers sent by Jesus were told to expect various reactions, both positive and negative.
Notice that the messengers were not to make people accept Jesus’ message of peace. That’s not how Jesus does things. Jesus’ way is to treat people with respect. They may be wrong – but they are not to be forced to see the error of their ways. They still have a choice. And it’s an important part of being a messenger of God’s kingdom that we, like the 70, allow people to make their own decisions and don’t attempt to bully or browbeat anyone.
So, our reading from Luke, which relates how Jesus sends 70 messengers to herald the arrival of God’s kingdom, highlights for us how God invites everyone to accept him. It encourages us to be clear about our message: that Jesus brings God’s peace. And it is clear that people will respond in their own way – whether positively or negatively, that’s a matter between them and God, not our responsibility.
May God grant peace to this house, and to us as we are sent to announce in word and deed that God’s kingdom comes in Jesus the Messiah. Amen.