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8th Sunday after Pentecost

Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!  In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, there is a question that haunts every single thinking human being.  It’s a question that needs to be answered.  It’s a question that will bug and nag and bother until it is satisfactorily answered.  It’s a question that in the end has only one right answer.  The question that every rational human being at some point or another has to ask is, “Why am I here?” “What’s the point?” “What’s my purpose in this life?”  “What is it that I am here for?”  Without a satisfactory answer to that question life will soon become unbearable.  We saw it in the news this past week and we’ll hear about it in the weeks to come too.  We’ll here many different opinions as to what was going on in the head of the young man who caused the killing and disaster at the Colorado movie theater.  Now he may have some mental problem or something but finally it’s the result of a life without God and without the Creator’s purpose for human lives.  No doubt he was asking himself, “What’s the purpose?  What’s the point of this life?  Why?”  And if there is no purpose then life is meaningless and it doesn’t matter what he does.

Well, by God’s grace He has revealed the answer to that nagging question to us.  God has given us an awesome and wonderful and amazing purpose for our lives here on this earth.  What is it that we are to be doing in our lives?

Jesus shows us the answer to that question in our text this morning.  The time that our text occurred is likely nearing the end of Jesus’ public ministry.  Just before our text this morning and in the sermon text last week we were told that Jesus “went around teaching from village to village.”  The area that Jesus was in was Galilee in the northern part of the land of Israel.  Jesus had made it to quite a number of different places with His disciples and had been training them for quite some time.  However, the land of Galilee back in Jesus’ day was populated with many small towns.  Since, of course, their main mode of transportation was walking, there were many more small little villages since you weren’t always able to make it into the bigger cities.

Well, it was Jesus’ intention to spread the Gospel message to “all the lost sheep of Israel.”  In order to accomplish this Jesus called “the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.”  In amazing grace Jesus chose to use human beings in His work of spreading the message.  We notice that He sent them out 2 by 2.  Not only would this have helped build confidence and bolster each other in the good and the bad, but then their testimony or their message would be from two mouths instead of just one.  Here’s an important lesson for us too; Jesus doesn’t send us out on our mission to share His word all alone.  Rather, He gives us Christian companions and people around us to help us and support us as we do His work in our lives.  Jesus also gave the disciples authority over evil spirits.  Well, why did He do that?  Jesus’ popularity in Israel grew rapidly and if you heard something about Him you probably heard that He drove out demons or healed people.  Now, when the disciples go around sharing the Word and doing the same things Jesus did, in a way it associated them further with Jesus.  It was kind of like their diploma or their credentials that they were sent by Jesus.

So what do we learn from this?  Notice that it’s Jesus who sends the disciples.  Jesus is also the one who sends us, His 21st Century disciples.  Think about what this means.  The disciples knew that they went not on their own authority but because Jesus is the one who told them to go!  As we go out, as we talk to others about our faith, as we share the Word with others, we do so as people sent by Jesus.  Jesus didn’t assign the disciples specific cities to go to our direct them exactly where to go, He simply sent them out.  In our lives as we are with a family member or are at work with a coworker who is disconnected from God and church we don’t have to wonder whether or not Jesus wants you to share your faith or not.  Jesus has sent you and He uses whatever situation with the people that you are around to be an audience for you to share the gospel with!

Now Jesus hasn’t given us the authority to drive out evil spirits or to heal people.  Rather, He’s given us something far more powerful.  He’s given to us the most powerful thing in the world: the Gospel.  We are told, “I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.”  The message God has entrusted to us to take to others is the power of God that He uses to take people headed for eternal death and give them eternal life.  It has the power to make an eternal difference in people’s lives!  That God should pick us and entrust us with such a message…that give purpose to life!  That gives meaning to life!

Now because Jesus’ mission is so important He gave the disciples some directions and some heads up with regard to their going out.  First He told them, “Take nothing for the journey except a staff- no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.  Wear sandals but not an extra tunic.”  These might sound like surprising directions at first.  Only sandals and a staff?  Essentially Jesus is telling them to travel wisely using the things they already have – like sandals and a staff- but not burdening themselves with extras that might get in the way.  This mission the disciples are being sent on is so important that He doesn’t want them hindered and hampered by earthly stuff that will get in the way.  Rather they were to trust in Jesus who went with them and would provide for them through the generosity of the people to whom they went.  There’s no room for earthly things distracting when eternal souls are at stake.  The spreading of the gospel and the salvation of souls was to be their number one priority.

The same is true for us.  God doesn’t want us so distracted with the things this world offers that we forget about what is most important in our lives and the lives of others.  He wants us focused on the all-surpassing mission that He has given us: to know His Word ourselves and to take that Word to others who don’t know Him yet.  Again, that gives purpose to life!  That gives meaning to life!

Then Jesus even tells the disciples the results of their work: “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town.  And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.”  By God’s grace some people would welcome the message and welcome the messenger and be blessed.  Yet at the same time there would be some that would reject it.  Some would reject the message and also the messenger.  To those who rejected they were to shake the dust off their sandals as a testimony to them.  In these days the Jews if they traveled to a foreign, gentile city would shake the dust off when they left.  When the disciples did this to a town they would be essentially saying that Jesus’ message had been in this city but they were forced to leave and that city was no better than a gentile city that did not have God’s revealed Word.  Then that sweet Gospel message would be taken from them.

What do we learn from this?  Jesus’ mission is so important that He’s even told us what the result of our work in sharing His message will bring.  By God’s grace some will listen, by their own stubbornness some will refuse to listen.  God is telling us that when people turn away from His message we shouldn’t be floored by it, surprised by it, He’s already predicted it.  Our job is not to judge them, but to sternly warn them.  It is God’s job to judge them in the end.  What God doesn’t want us to do is to change His message to make it more palatable or make it more fitting for what people WANT to hear.  God is not in the business of changing His Word to what itching ears want to hear.  He simply wants us to spread HIS message, not ours.  Again, that gives purpose and meaning to life!

Then the disciples went out and preached that people should repent.  The disciples carried out the mission Jesus had given them.  They told people to repent.  That word is used in the NT in a narrow and a wide sense.  A narrow sense meaning to be sorry over sin, and a wide sense meaning both being sorry for sin and trusting in Jesus the Savior.  Here it is the wide sense: repent of your sin and trust in Jesus for forgiveness.  That was their message: law and gospel.  Their message was not one that they made up or changed to fit circumstances.

Unfortunately we often fail to see the importance of doing what God wants us to be doing.  We often forget about our purpose and meaning for life.  We sometimes think that the purpose in life is to make our earthly life the best that it can be and we neglect God’s purpose for our life: to know Him and make Him known in the world.  Soon after chasing the things of this world and the pleasures of this world we soon find how unsatisfying and unfulfilling they are and are left with emptiness and wonder about our purpose in life.  We begin to think things like, “I know it’s important to share God’s message, but I don’t want to say the wrong thing, so I just won’t say anything.”  “I know I should speak up, but it’s so much easier to sit back and let someone else do it, after all, God’s work will be done by someone.”  Yes, it’s true God’s work will be done, but it’s better by far when God accomplishes His work through us instead of in spite of us.  And saying this like that would be giving up and abandoning the awesome purpose and meaning for life that God has given us.  God has given us an awesome and wonderful purpose in life: to know Him and to make Him known to others, to use us to make an eternal difference in the lives of people, just like He did with the disciples.

God’s given us the faith and that faith wants to go forth!  What is it that inspired them to go?  What is it that moved the disciples to go forth?  It was seeing Jesus and hearing the words of the Savior, it was being strengthened by the gospel that moved the disciples to take that Word out and share it with others.  And the same is true for us.  Not only does God give us the faith, not only does He strengthen our faith in Him through His Word, but He also spurs our faith into action and gives our lives meaning and purpose.  How can we know our meaning and purpose in this life?  Just look at what you’ve seen through your eyes of faith: your lost and condemned and pitiful situation, you faced eternal death and punishment and torture, you and I rightly faced going to hell forever, and it would have been totally fair of God to send us there.  But what has God shown us?  What has our faith seen?  A God who loves us more than anything else, a God who in His boundless love found a way to be amazingly gracious.  We have seen our God from the very beginning, right after Adam and Eve sinned, share the promise of a Savior, throughout the OT we have seen that promise developed and explained further.  Though our sins are as scarlet they shall be as white as snow.  Then we have seen through the eyes of faith God make good on that most important promise in a stable in Bethlehem where “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you.”  Then with the disciples our faith has seen Jesus calm storms by the word of His mouth, raise the dead by saying “Talitha Koum,” we have seen our Savior keep going under persecution and rejection.  We have seen our Savior arrested, and whipped, and beaten, and finally crucified, not because of anything He had done, but because of us.  But then we saw His victory as the tomb burst forth that Easter morning proving once and for all that He has won the victory and has given that victory to us.  So, we will not die but live and proclaim what the Lord has done!  That’s what we’ve seen and that’s what we can’t help but share!  Yes, your faith wants to go forth!  Amen.