Two times in our text for this morning we hear the awesome words “The Kingdom of God has come near”. The working of God’s power and might. The reign of God in glory and honour. Right here. Awesome in their own right, when you stop to think of their full meaning, they become even more so. Consider the context in which they are spoken. The Kingdom is Near indeed, but it is near in each of Jesus’ sent disciples! For it is the disciples who are to proclaim this truth. It is the disciples who actually bring the kingdom with them. For where they are by their Lord’s authority, there He is and there He is bringing peace.
We disciples still bring the Kingdom of God near to the people of this world. Not in meetings and committees and projects, but in one person being Christ for their friend and neighbour. The harvest is plenty, but a couple of people in committee, or the pastor working on his own won’t make enough of a difference. But 60 people in the homes and in the lives of those who know them – here are workers to make a difference.
Woe to us if we sit back and assume that Christ’s call to gather in the harvest is only for those who serve on a Board, or those who sit in meetings! The kingdom of God is near, and there is no more time for letting someone else pick up the slack. It is an awesome and sometimes overwhelming notion … one with very little peace for some! Especially if we allow ourselves to be held back by the fear of what others might say, or how they might react to our efforts.
Jesus gives us solace in the text when He says The Kingdom is near and woe to those who will not see it! (10-12) “But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near. I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.” How people react to your bringing the kingdom near is of no lasting concern to you. Your own peace should never rest upon it.
Just because we finally steel ourselves to do God’s will does not mean that He will guarantee success each and every time … at least as we tend to measure success! Some people will simply not care to hear of the Kingdom of God and the peace it brings. Some will shut you out before they ever really let you in. They prefer chaos to peace, playing the victim to being accountable, having fun rather than being responsible. Never-the-less, we are still sent to bring the Kingdom near, for God’s grace is such that each is to have their chance.
(13-15) “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable in the judgement for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.”
Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum – these were all recipients of Jesus’ mighty miracles. Yet despite the great things they saw they remained cool toward Him and His message of the Kingdom in their midst. Woe to us if we should let the fear of failure keep us from acting! We have seen the peace of the Kingdom first-hand. We have lived under His rule and been beneficiaries of His grace and mercy. We have seen the mighty acts of God’s salvation played out before our eyes in the Words of Confession and Forgiveness, and in the life-changing waters of Holy Baptism, and in the body and the blood of the Holy, life-giving Supper. Woe to us if we sit back and decline to give everyone the same joys we have experienced.
For The Kingdom is Near indeed … as near as Christ in His Word and Sacraments and Liturgy. The kingdom is near to bring God’s Peace wherever it is welcomed. It is too great for us to keep all to ourselves. It is too awesome a gift to keep shut away behind these locked doors. What’s more, it is not up to us to make people worthy of hearing it. God himself prepares the field, we are simply sent out to help in the harvest.
(5-6) “Whatever house you enter, first say, Peace be to this house! And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him …” If a son of peace is there, he is there to welcome God’s kingdom through you, because God has opened up his heart and life to receive the kingdom when you come near.
Nor is Christ calling you to be the one who saves everyone! (That job’s already filled) He is asking you to be his representative to one other person or family at a time. (7-8) “And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the labourer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. That’s the secret to being a disciple active in the harvest. That’s the key to evangelism that makes a lasting difference. Get to know them, begin to share in their life. Take the good with the bad and do it all out of genuine friendship.
For only when Christ comes into people’s lives, through friends and fellowship, through Word and Sacrament … only there will a person begin to see true healing for all of life’s hurts. And there is a lot of hurt in this world in need of healing. And again, you don’t need to be the miracle worker, it is the kingdom itself that brings the peace, forgiveness, and healing. (9) “Heal the sick in it and say to them, The kingdom of God has come near to you.”
Yes, the Kingdom is Near and wherever it comes it will bring a bountiful harvest! (2) “And [Jesus] said to them, The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest” This is precisely what we pray today and every time we say: “Thy kingdom come…” We are praying that God’s kingdom of peace and forgiveness and salvation would continue always to come to us in the Word and Sacraments, but also that we might be used by God to bring that kingdom of grace and peace to the lives of those God has placed around us. The people God would claim for the kingdom are ready and waiting, waiting for you and me to bring it near them.
For (16) The one who hears you hears me.” Jesus said. And where Jesus’ Word of the Gospel is heard, mighty things will happen! The kingdom of this world and of the devil will be shaken, and tumbled. The kingdom of heaven built upon it’s ruins. (17-18) “The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name! 18 And he said to them, I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” Yes, the Kingdom is Near and wherever it comes it will bring a bountiful harvest! May the Lord grant that we might not only continue to see these mighty deeds happen, but that we might by His grace be partakers in them too!