Sent Before His Face in the Ministry of the Word

by The Rev. Dr. Rick Stuckwisch

There is both an important similarity and a significant contrast between the Twelve Apostles and these “seventy others” who are sent by Christ in the Holy Gospel appointed for the Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist (St. Luke 10:1-9). 

The seventy are called, ordained, and sent by Christ Jesus, in His Name and with His authority, to every place where He Himself would go.  So Jesus goes nowhere apart from those whom He sends.  This sending is the continuation of the Apostolic Ministry of the Gospel of Christ; also to this very day, and also to you within His Church on earth.  It continues on the foundation of the Scriptures, including those recorded by St. Luke.  Interestingly, some traditions hold, not unreasonably, that St. Luke was one of those seventy sent ones described in this Holy Gospel. 

In every case, it is the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, who calls and send the Ministers of His Word into His harvest.  And it is the same Lord who provides for them through the agency of His Church and through His people in each place. 

Because they are His Ministers, His sent ones, they bear the Gospel of His Cross; not only in what they say and do, but in their very bodies and life.  They are themselves, He says, like sacrificial lambs sent out among wolves.  They live and work in a hostile world, which would crucify them, as it does Christ Jesus.  Even in this they embody and convey the Gospel, which is of the Cross of Christ, unto repentance and forgiveness, life and salvation, peace and rest. 

So, too, it is by and from and with the Cross of Christ that St. Luke the Evangelist has recorded the Holy Gospel, and also the Acts of the Apostles as the continuation of the Gospel of Christ within His Church.  This Gospel is not simply an historical report, but the living and active Word and work of Christ Jesus Himself, the Good Physician of both body and soul, unto the life everlasting. 

In the Holy Scriptures recorded by St. Luke, it is the voice and the Word of the Lord Jesus Christ that is speaking, and which continues to speak unto the world.  Just as He promised to the seventy sent ones: “He who hears (and listens to) you, hears (and listens to) Me.”  Nor is it possible to know or believe in Christ Jesus apart from the Word that He has spoken and recorded by His holy Apostles and Evangelists.  Faith comes by hearing this Word of Christ.  The Holy Spirit calls you by this Gospel. 

It is on the basis of the inspired record of the Gospel that the called and ordained Ministers of the Word are still being sent to speak and act in the Name and stead of Christ our Lord.  They are sent to speak the “Peace” of Salvation to the household of His Church in every city and every place where Christ Jesus thereby goes.  They are sent to cast out demons, to heal the sick, and to raise the dead, in the name of Jesus; not for immortal life in this sinful, dying world, but for the resurrection of the body to eternal life with Christ and His Father in heaven.  Hence, they are sent to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins by the external Word of the Gospel of Christ.  They are sent to baptize, to absolve, and to commune His disciples, and with these means of grace to give them His real and abiding life in place of death. 

In a way particularly fitting to a physician like St. Luke, the ministers of Christ are sent to administer His medicine of immortality, that is, the Gospel-Word and Sacraments, for the health and strength of body and soul, unto the life everlasting in Him, in His victorious Cross and glorious Resurrection. 

It is by this Ministry of the Gospel that the Kingdom of God comes near to you, and is both among you and surrounding you in the life of the Church on earth; because Jesus is thereby with you, in person and in the flesh.  Therefore, also, it is by this Ministry of the Gospel-Word and Sacraments that Satan continues to be cast out and defeated; although he storms about like a roaring lion, and slithers about like a slippery serpent, seeking to entice you, to capture you and devour you forever. 

To hear and receive this Ministry of the Gospel, is to hear and receive your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ -- and in Him, your dear Father in heaven -- and the Holy Spirit, for divine, eternal life.  So also, then, to reject this Ministry of the Gospel, is to reject Christ Jesus and the Kingdom of God, and to bring down the wrath and judgment of God upon yourself. 

This is a sobering confrontation with which you are met in the Word of God, one that is to be taken with the utmost seriousness.  But you are not thereby cast upon yourself and your own strength, wisdom or resolve.  The Word that is spoken to you, and the Word by which the holy means of grace are administered to you, is no ordinary Word.  It is no mere body of information for you to process and act upon, but a Word that does and accomplishes (for you) and gives (to you) what it says.  It is a sharp, two-edged sword -- of the Law and of the Gospel -- which cuts you to the quick, and puts you to death, and then raises you to new life in Christ 

This Word is the scalpel of a Good Physician and expert Surgeon, who cuts you and “kills” you, in order to heal you and make you alive. 

It is especially the Word of the Gospel -- incarnate, crucified, and risen in the Person of Christ Jesus, the Son of God -- which Prophets, Apostles and Evangelists proclaimed and recorded in the Holy Scriptures by the authority and inspiration of Christ and His Spirit -- which your pastors, even now, are called, ordained and sent by the same Lord Jesus Christ to preach and proclaim to you -- it is that Word which forgives all your sins (including even your sins of stubborn disobedience and prideful opposition to the Word of God).  By this forgiveness, this Word of the Gospel grants you life and salvation (in place of death and damnation).  It grants you the healing and vitality of the Lord's New Creation; the peace that surpasses human understanding; and the Sabbath Rest of Christ. 

The Word of the Gospel does all of this, not in some vague or abstract way -- out there somewhere, someday, over the rainbow -- nor like some warm, fuzzy feeling in your heart, which could just as well be heartburn).  The Gospel, rather, bestows genuine peace and reconciliation with God, the Lord of heaven and earth, and the real life everlasting of both body and soul. 

Thus do we give thanks to God for St. Luke and the other Evangelists, for the holy Apostles, and for the Ministry of the Word of the Gospel in every age and every place.  In our own time and place.  And so do we rejoice in the Holy Communion of Christ that we share with St. Luke, with angels and archangels, and with all the company of the Church in heaven and on earth, both now and for ever.   

In the Name + of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Created: October 16th, 2008