When playing against a fast defense, football offensive coordinators seek to use that speed against the defense. They run misdirection plays – plays that start off in one direction, but then in various ways reverse the direction that the ball is being moved. The goal is to get an fast and aggressive defense to begin pursuing the ball in one direction, only to find that it has over pursued and is out of position as the play suddenly goes in the opposite direction.
If you read the little introductory paragraph to the bulletin this morning you saw that after talking about how Christ gives us forgiveness through the Means of Grace, it went on to say, “Today’s Scripture readings remind us that Christ’s love is not to stop when it reaches us. Instead, we are to reflect that love to others in word and deed as we bear witness to Jesus Christ in the world.”
In the reading of the Gospel lesson this morning, you heard the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan. In Children’s Catechesis, I talked about the parable of the Good Samaritan that is in the Gospel lesson. And now I have just announced that the text for our sermon is the Gospel lesson.
No doubt you are now sitting back, ready to hear a sermon on the parable of the Good Samaritan. Except … that’s not what my sermon is about this morning. I’m running my own misdirection play; my own fake in one direction when I am actually going in another one.
The sermon this morning is on the Gospel lesson. But it’s not about the parable of the Good Samaritan. Instead the sermon is going to focus on the first two verses of the text where we hear: “Then turning to the disciples he said privately, Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
The first two verses of our text today are actually the conclusion of what has happened thus far in chapter ten – events sent in motion by what happened at the end of chapter nine. In verse fifty one of chapter nine we are told, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” This is the great turning point in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus begins his journey towards Jerusalem for the purpose of suffering, dying and rising on the third day. In Luke’s Gospel much of Jesus’ teaching is set within this journey to Jerusalem.
Jesus has entered into a new and final stage of his ministry. Time is of the essence, and so Jesus sends forth seventy-two disciples in pairs. They are to travel light and fast. He says, “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.” Their mission is simple. Jesus tells them that when they arrive at a village they are to: “Heal the sick in it and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.”
Our Lord prepares the disciples for the fact that they will also meet with rejection. He says, “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.” No matter whether the Gospel met with acceptance or rejection they were to say the same thing because the response did not change the fact that in their proclamation the kingdom of God – the reign of God had come near.
A little later we are told that the seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” Jesus replied by saying, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” Our Lord described how the proclamation of the Gospel was driving Satan out of people and a world that did not belong to him.
And then Jesus said: “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
These disciples had been doing amazing things. Jesus told them that they would do more amazing things and his statement points forward to what we find in the book of Acts. But our Lord also told them not to focus on those amazing things. Instead, they were to rejoice that their names were written in heaven – they were to rejoice in their status of being the children of God because of faith in Jesus.
Jesus speaks about rejoicing. And then, immediately before the start of our text, we learn that Jesus rejoiced. We hear, “In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Jesus rejoiced that God the Father had not revealed the things he was doing to the wise and understanding – to those who thought they were wise; those whom the world considered to be wise. Instead, he had revealed it to the disciples – to little children. And here we need to recognize that in the ancient world little children were not considered to be cute and adorable, but rather dumb and useless.
Then in the first verses of our text Jesus follows this up by saying to the disciples, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” Our Lord calls attention to the unique moment in which they were living. They were seeing the fulfillment of what the prophets and kings of Israel’s past had longed to see.
The first two verses of our text and their immediate context call us to reflect upon what we have received. We need to do this, because it can be easy to overlook it. We see a culture that is increasingly indifferent and even hostile to the Gospel. We hear about the miracles and wonders that were performed by Jesus and the early Church in the book of Acts and we feel cheated. After all, why doesn’t God do that for us now? That would certainly wake people up!
But of course, this overlooks the fact that Jesus performed miracles and yet people still rejected him. The disciples performed miracles and yet people still rejected their message. When the disciples returned, Jesus told them not to focus on the fact that the spirits were subject to them, but instead to rejoice that their names were written in heaven. Our Lord rejoiced and gave thanks to the Father that the reign of God had been revealed to children – to those who were dumb and useless. And then in our text he says to the disciples, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
Like the disciples in our text, your names are written in heaven. You know this because you have been baptized. You have been born again of water and the Spirit. You were nothing. You were children. You could not by your own reason or strength do anything. It was the Holy Spirit who called you by the Gospel and enlightened you with his gifts. He was the One who called you to faith and gave you a share in the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The first verses of our text then force us to consider how we view these things. You see, you have heard the Gospel because you live at a unique stage of the history of mankind. You live in the time that was begun by the death of the incarnate Son of God and his resurrection from the dead. You know about the things the many prophets and kings only hoped to see. You know what has happened and you know what it means because, as Peter said when the Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost, you are living in the Last Days.
However, does your life look like this is the case? In the Gospels you have the inspired accounts of these events. In the epistles you have Lord’s apostles telling you what the events mean for your salvation and the way you live. When was the last time you read them at home? When was the last time you studied them here at church? And beyond that, when was the last time you told someone else about them?
We see in our Gospel lesson this morning that you are blessed. You are blessed because you know about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. You are blessed because you know that your name is written in heaven – salvation is yours because of your baptism into Christ. The things that many prophets and kings longed to see now gives you the status of being a child of God. It gives you peace in the present. It gives you hope for the future. That’s just too good to take for granted. That’s just too good not to share.