When Lambs Beat Wolves

Sermon 1811 Luke 10.1-12, 16-20 July 3, 2022

I “get” underdogs. I admire it when a few songbirds so harry a hawk by wheeling over him and clawing into his back that he flees their nesting area. You see it when little brothers so torment their big brothers that they abandon the desired toy to little brother and go outside to ride a bike. I can understand that. Persistence. Determination. It even explains the outcomes of some wars—“the fighting spirit” can overcome long odds. But there is no earthly explanation for when lambs beat wolves. Lambs, not even grown sheep, rams and ewes, that could butt and bluff and stomp after circling the wagons. Lambs.

I have no explanation for it. But it happens every day. I can’t explain it. There is no explanation for it save the one Jesus gives.

When Lambs Beat Wolves

1. A powerful sending (1-7).

2. A powerful message (8-12, 16-17).

3. A powerful result (18-20).

More than twelve disciples followed Jesus. Luke tells us Jesus appointed seventy-two others to send them as his advance men.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road (2-4).”

The workers are few? Were there no priests? No Levites? Weren’t the towns crawling with Pharisees, scribes and teachers of the law? You could say the same about America, infested with clergy, priests, deacons, ministers, rabbis, preachers, teachers, swamis, gurus, witches, warlocks and personal life coaches. For a filing fee anyone can be clergy in some states. If that were not enough we have “clergy” from clergy-free religions running the show in their gathering houses. Of all nations, perhaps we are the most spiritual. Here’s to you, America! No time like this weekend for some chest thumping and back patting!

Yet Jesus says the workers are few. Few are those who preach the Gospel. Few are those who trust in God’s forgiving grace. Few are those who dare to share the word of salvation with others. To our sinful human nature this seems as exciting as sparklers and smoke bombs. Bring on the M-80s and sky rockets! How blind we are! We deserve to be left to the hirelings, the charlatans and conmen. Yet Jesus sends out workers into his harvest field. He tells them the harvest is plentiful. There’s a world of sinners out there. He asks them to pray. They pray the Lord send harvest workers into the field, Gospel missionaries with the message of sins forgiven through faith. Then he tells them they are the answer to that prayer. “Go!”

Jesus still works that way today. He has taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come.” We pray it, every day we pray it. The Holy Spirit powerfully answers that prayer as we open our mouth to invite someone to meet us at church or take them ourselves The Holy Spirit moves us to be the answer to our own prayer whenever he moves us to offer a word of godly advice in a world torn apart. The sending is so powerful, even lambs respond. The sending is so powerful they leave their pastures and go into forests full of wolves. They are not prey. They are predator as the forces of Satan are on the run, losing ground every time someone believes that message of forgiveness.

When lambs beat wolves it is because of a powerful sending. That sending rests on you. It rests on me. It will rest on the man we call this Wednesday evening to be our next pastor.

When lambs beat wolves it is because of a powerful message.

“Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town (8-12).”

The kingdom of God is near you. The kingdom of God is Jesus working through and on the hearts of his believers with his Gospel, the one and only Good News of sins forgiven. It is not an earthly kingdom, like Luxemburg or Australia. It is not a nationality or tribe, like the French or Latinos. It is not an earthly way of thinking like Boomers or Gen X. It is a kingdom built on the truth of God’s Word, needing no police force to impose its will, no courts to hold anyone accountable. It is the working of the Holy Spirit on the hearts of men to create, nourish and strengthen faith, hope and love, faith in God’s good Gospel promises to us, hope of eternal life and love for God coupled with love for our fellow man. That’s the kingdom of God.

It is near you when you hear it proclaimed, preached, taught or discussed. Like keys forgotten on the table, it is yours for the taking as you dash back from the garage because the car won’t start on your good looks and swell intentions. Like a blue moon ice cream cone mom holds out and draws Junior’s hand to it.

That’s a powerful message. The word of life to those who believe it. And if they don’t believe it, it is still the promise of God in their lives, the constant offer, the ever-present gift of grace. If not today, maybe tomorrow. If not tomorrow, maybe the day after. It is there, a witness to the goodness of God in the face of human stubbornness and pride. And, if the offer is never taken up, worse for those who were offered it than for those of Sodom, swallowed up for their perversity by the sulfur rained down on them from heaven.

So whether people believe or do not believe, it is a powerful message, the sweet savor of life for those who are saved or the stench of death to those who are perishing. With this powerful message lambs beat wolves.

Is that possible? Can just a message, an idea, make a difference? Did the idea of liberty and justice for all make a difference? Did the idea “of the people, for the people and by the people” preserve a nation stretching from sea to shining sea? For all its warts and wrinkles, did that idea of democracy lift up the voice of every man and woman, no matter their race or creed? Did equal representation under the law protect the weak from the strong? You know it did. We are living that idea--people from every corner of the world could pledge their allegiance and bind their fortunes to one nation, indivisible, guided by wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed. Because of this, people from all over the world want to live in America. We don’t have to encourage them. We are hard-pressed to keep them out. We are a city on a hill, a beacon to the world. If you want to succeed, if you want to flourish, let freedom ring. If the idea of America is dynamite, then the kingdom of heaven can be nothing short of a nuclear blast. Wonder not that the lambs beat the wolves. Wonder why wolves put up any resistance at all!

When lambs beat wolves, it produces a powerful result. The seventy two return. They have had tremendous success. Not a twosome had been lost or mugged. Not a pair had gone hungry or been shamed. Indeed, even demons obeyed them.

“I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven (18-20).”

What more powerful results could you ask for? Satan himself, falling from heaven to hell because of the message of sins forgiven, cherished in believing hearts! What more powerful results could you ask for? Christ’s own assurance that the seventy-two had been given power over all the forces of evil, here symbolized by snakes and scorpions, in all of their lives lived with him!

Oh, but there was one result more powerful. Don’t rejoice in Satan’s downfall. Don’t rejoice in your beating the forces of evil each and every time you take the field. Rejoice, rather, that your names are written in the Book of Life. Rejoice rather that you are saved and are going to heaven.

When Lambs Beat Wolves

1. A powerful sending (1-7).

2. A powerful message (8-12, 16-17).

3. A powerful result (18-20).

Who are you? Are you an underdog? Are you one of the strong and mighty? I hope by now, with all this talk of lambs, you have put away those thoughts of, “I’m an important person. I’m a doctor. I’m a lawyer. I’m a banker. I build roads. I’m a leader. I’m a CEO.” Who are you? Soon, perhaps 90 days after this time, if it is the Lord’s will the next time, but certainly sometime, I will be able to say “I was a pastor.” The sharp listener will ask, “What are you now?” “I’m me.” “And who is this me?” “The same little lamb I was before I became a pastor, a child of God, a saved sinner standing in the power of the cross.” And if they are really sharp, they will conclude, “That’s a really good thing to be.”

Yes it is.

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