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JESUS THROWS OUT THE APOSTLES TO FREELY GIVE TO THE HARASSED AND HELPLESS!
TEXT: MATTHEW 9:35-10:20
Preached by Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

In the Name of Jesus; Amen.

Have you ever wondered what type of fathers the apostles were? On a Father’s Day scale of 1 to 10 how would they rate? We know that Peter was married but aren’t told if the couple was blessed with children. Paul in speaking of his rights to the church at Corinth implies that the apostles who had wives generally took them along with them (I Cor. 9:5). That would imply the presence of their children as well.
JESUS THROWS OUT THE APOSTLES TO FREELY GIVE TO THE HARASSED AND HELPLESS!
TEXT: MATTHEW 9:35-10:20
Preached by Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

In the Name of Jesus; Amen.

Have you ever wondered what type of fathers the apostles were? On a Father’s Day scale of 1 to 10 how would they rate? We know that Peter was married but aren’t told if the couple was blessed with children. Paul in speaking of his rights to the church at Corinth implies that the apostles who had wives generally took them along with them (I Cor. 9:5). That would imply the presence of their children as well.

On this Father’s Day consider what their life must have been like? As the apostles left their former vocations, as they went from place to place preaching the Gospel, as they faced persecution and opposition, as they were imprisoned, and finally as they met with violent death, we might describe the lives of their dependents as unsettled and uncertain. On a Father’s Day scale of 1 to 10 perhaps a score of 2 or 3 would be in order. Allowing that their fatherly intentions were good, a different line of work would certainly have provided more security and stability. Jesus’ description of the multitudes as harassed and helpless seems painfully accurate for the apostles and their dependents.

Conversely, His depiction would have seemed far from the mark for many in the crowds Jesus portrayed. The casual observer would never have seen the harassed helplessness that Jesus saw. The people who came to Him were from all walks of life – some wealthy and high in status, some youthful and strong of body. On the outside there were politicians with poise and businessman with bucks and fathers with self-confidence. But Jesus saw them on the inside and He saw them all in an identical way. When He saw the crowds, His insides were moved for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Beg the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to throw out workers into his harvest field.

The word for “harassed” literally means to be skinned or mangled. The word for “helpless” literally means to be thrown down, lying helpless and unable to get up. The two words together paint a picture of extreme distress and desperation. It would be the kind of desperation outwardly mirrored by a family from Wisconsin or Iowa or Indiana rescued from the raging waters of a flood as their house and all their earthly possessions are swept away. It would be the helplessness imaged by a teenage boy scout whose body is bloodied and whose bones are broken by a tornado as he is carried away on a stretcher barely conscious of his four fellow scouts who lie dead in the rubble.

That’s what Jesus saw when He looked at the lost sheep of the house of Israel. That’s what Jesus sees when He looks at this fallen world. That’s what Jesus sees when He looks at you, apart from His care.

Not seeing the crowds of this world as Jesus sees them is sin! Not seeing yourself as Jesus sees you is sin! When a human heart has an attitude of self-reliance and self-help over against God’s holiness – that heart is chained by sin. It is the most common, most comfortable, most condemning of sins. I’ll just live my life and do the best I can, enjoy the good things, deal with the bad things. I’m not feeling harassed or helpless – in fact I’m and pretty successful and pretty strong. I may take a few bits of religious advice here and there, but all in all, I can stand before God in eternity quite well. I’m certainly not in desperate need of the voice and the food of the Good Shepherd. Dear Christians, this is the sin of unbelief and it is damning sin!

If Jesus’ judgment is wrong then what he said and did next is foolish and of no importance to you. If Jesus’ judgment is divinely right, as you know it is, then what He said and did next is of eternal importance to you. He called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction…These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them…proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand…

These are Jesus’ eyewitness. These are the ones He gave authority to lay the foundation for building His church (Eph 2:20). Freely you have received, He said freely give” and He threw them out into His harvest field. The phrase “sent out” is a mild translation of a word that literally means to “cast out” like Jesus “threw out” the money changers when He cleansed the temple (Matt 21:12).

The point is that the disciples were not whole-hearted volunteers. These twelve men didn’t do talent inventories and then apply for the position, saying, “I have that gift, I can do that.” Rather, this one man called them to Himself, gave them His authority and said “go”! As you go, preach this message: The kingdom of heaven is at hand. He gave them His very words to speak. He gave them His authority to heal to confirm the apostolic word.

You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold nor silver nor copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics nor sandal nor a staff, for the laborer deserves his food…and if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.

Notice how Jesus calls your attention to Sodom and Gomorrah. When God sent two angelic messengers to Sodom, the townspeople did not welcome them but instead attempted homosexual rape (Gen 19). This sexual perversion had gone from seeking acceptance and equality to demanding superiority. It is the very struggle seen most clearly at present in the Nordic countries and in Canada. Christian pastors and laity are being prosecuted for speaking the apostolic word condemning homosexual sin. The level of moral decay in our own country is not that far behind. Evil never stops with equality, rather it seeks to control and involve others in the evil. That’s why the guests of Lot were targeted for community-approved homosexual rape. That’s why the dust that God shook off against them was complete destruction by fire and brimstone (Jude 7, II Peter 2:6; Rev. 11:8).

Beloved, take note for you and I and the crowds of Wisconsin are not without responsibility over against Jesus’ sent ones today. To refuse apostolic teaching is to refuse Jesus. Jesus sent them out into this world of dying sinners with words of truth and gifts of healing and forgiveness and life. To refuse His words through the twelve is to choose wrath such as rained down on Sodom and Gomorrah. But even that ultimate judgment on unbelief does not garner ease and safety for Jesus’ sent ones.

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to the courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

Two things are clear. First the apostles spoke and wrote Jesus’ words, not their own words. Second, the personal result of their preaching would not always be desirous. Scripture and church history record bitter struggles and brutal endings for most of the twelve – like sheep among wolves they were left bloodied and torn and dead. John’s exile to the barren island of Patmos is the best earthly outcome for those Jesus threw out into His harvest field.

So did the apostles fail as earthly fathers? Certainly – just as all human fathers do. They were in desperate need of the forgiveness of sins that comes in the kingdom of God. They were helpless in the face of their failings except for the Word the heavenly Father sent them to proclaim. He is the Father who showed His love for them and us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He is the Father whose free gift of grace abounds for them and us through that one man Jesus Christ. He is the Father who justifies them and us by the blood of His Son and saves us from His wrath against sin. He is the Father who did this by condemning His harassed Son, His flayed and mangled Son, His bruised and wounded Son in your stead on Calvary.

But even there, crucified, dead and buried, Jesus was not helpless, unable to rise. No, indeed! On the morning of the third day His insides moved in compassion again for this whole dying world. On the morning of the third day He spoke peace to apostles who not only failed as fathers but failed also as His followers. In the word of His forgiveness He gave them a 10 on a scale of 10, “peace be with you”, and sent them out again! “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…”

Today, by His command, Donovan and Rhiannon and Kimberly are baptized in His Name and washed in His blood (even as you are baptized and clothed in Him). Today and each week He comes among us harassed and helpless ones to serve us the healing medicine of the New Testament in His blood, to truly give you in your vocation His 10 on a scale of 10. Today, He continues to call men from the priesthood of all believers to proclaim His holy word and administer His holy sacraments.

God give the young men studying to be pastors the compassion of Christ, for still today they are sent out as sheep among wolves. God give us prayerful and generous support of them (Gary, and Roy and Chris and Jacob and Ben and Michael and Kevin and others). Do you ever wonder what manner of persecution the vicars and seminarians you now support will face in the next 25 years in this country? It is so different and more openly hostile than when I began a quarter century ago. If they stand faithful in our culture of death and immorality, if they are imprisoned for speaking the apostolic Word will you stand with them?

God give to you, His church, His kingdom of priests the compassion of Christ to intercede on behalf of a world torn by death and brokenness and the compassion of Christ to extend His kingdom of grace. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beg the Lord of the harvest to throw out laborers into his harvest. Amen.