The King Is Coming
The king is coming; he offers peace to rebels
Hi - I’m Matt and I’m one of the leaders here. It’s my privilege to speak to you this morning.
Sometimes don’t you wish someone was in charge?
Man, this brexit thing really is a mess, isn’t it? I don’t think there’s anyone who can be pleased with how it’s gone. Who’s in charge? Clearly not the prime minister. Not clear parliament is, either. Are the people? Many would question that! Are the EU in charge, perhaps?
Don’t you wish there was someone sensible, someone principled in charge at a moment like this?
And although it’s hard to do given just how much brexit seems to have dominated everything forever here, if we were to think a bit larger, and consider something other than this one issue, on a global scale it’s really not clear anyone’s in charge in the wider world. While nation vies against nation, jostling for position, our world is ever more full of wrongs - wrongs which just aren’t being put right.
Don’t you wish sometimes there was someone in charge, someone who could sort things out?
About two thousand years ago, Christians believe something happened which fundamentally changed the world: the king came. The God who rules the universe, the one to whom everyone must bow, the one with all power, walked among us. Jesus, God himself come in the flesh.
But if that’s true, how come our world is still such a mess?
God’s plan to change the world wasn’t what everyone was expecting: they were expecting him to walk in and show who’s boss, to clean things up and take charge by force.
Instead, to change the world, he planned to change us - and he would do that through an ever-expanding movement built around a life-transforming message of peace.
Perhaps you’ve heard lots about Jesus, his message and his movement. Perhaps you’ve hardly ever heard of the guy at all. Today we’re going to take just a few minutes to dig into a section of the book of Luke which is a biography of Jesus, a telling of his life story. As a church, we’ve been working through this biography bit by bit over the last months - and today we come to a part which shows us more of how Jesus plans on carrying out this world-changing mission.
We’re going to hear a section of the bible read now by Dace - and if you’d like to follow along, the words will be up on the screen but also you can find them in your own bible or use one of our blue ones like this. Find page ____ and we’ll pick up the story at Luke chapter 10. Page _______ and then look for the big 10, chapter 10.
Jesus, called the Lord in this section, is just about to take another big step forward in his mission:
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “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. “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.” The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” He replied, “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.” At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
There’s a huge amount going on in here - more than I’m going to be able to cover in much detail this morning. If you want to dig in some more, why not plan on joining us back here at 5pm tonight when we’ll be looking at this passage again, this time in small groups. You’d all be really welcome.
What’s the big picture here? A while back, Jesus sent out 12 of his followers to spread his message; here he scales up the operation, sending out 72. He explains their mission is huge and urgent, announcing the kingdom of God has come near - but it won’t be welcomed by everyone. Then in v17, that’s the little 17, it seems this mission has been completed and the 72 come back to report, excited about the powers they got to wield - but Jesus wants them to be excited about who they have come to know instead.
Here’s what we’re going to focus in on for our time together: the message these followers of Jesus are sent with: “the kingdom of God has come near”. What does that mean? Why does it produce these two different responses, welcome and rejection? And then we’ll think just a little about what it means for us, here and today.
The Kingdom of God
The Kingdom of God
So let’s start with this “Kingdom of God” which shows up in this passage a bunch of times. What exactly is that? Well, a kingdom, simply put, is the place where someone’s king. Like the United Kingdom - well, ok, fair enough, we have a queen instead. But the point is this is United Kingdom the domain that the Queen rules. So the Kingdom of God? Well, that’s the domain where God rules.
Now I don’t know if you believe in God, but imagine for a minute you did: if there was an all-powerful God, wouldn’t it make sense - logically - that everywhere would be under his rule, so everywhere would be his kingdom? Wouldn’t he be just as much in charge in the UK as in France? and absolutely everywhere else? Isn’t that what all-powerful means? So how can we be talking about a Kingdom of God that’s coming near to people, that’s pictured here as sort of breaking into the world?
Well, the Bible tells us the story of our world has been a story of rebellion from the very beginning. And back when this was written, just like today, much of the world really is living in rebellion against God, rejecting him as king. Now he could come and take his kingdom back by force - but that’s not God’s way. Not yet, at least.
So what’s being described when we read about this “kingdom of God” breaking in, coming near to people - like these messengers of Jesus are told to announce in verse 9 - is like a re-invasion of a country by it’s true king; a liberation mission.
When these followers of Jesus are sent out, they’re like the paratroopers dropped in ahead of the army, announcing the true king called - and he wants his world back. That’s why Jesus pictures their mission as him “sending [them] out like lambs among wolves” - v3 - outnumbered, outgunned and on hostile territory.
Rejecting the king
Rejecting the king
And when this message arrives in these different towns there are two responses described for us here. Some people welcome Jesus’ messengers - but others reject them flat out. Why? Why do you think people reject this message that the Kingdom of God has drawn near?
Perhaps some of the people hearing it don’t really think there is such a king. So this is just a false alarm with no significance for real life. It can seem like a lot of people think this way today: no such thing as God - just physics and chemistry, a lot of time, and freak chance. Nothing was created, it just always was and then evolved. There’s no point, no purpose, no sense, no rules, no king. It just is what it is.
But I think a lot of us have a sense there’s more going on - more to this world, more to life - and I think a lot of people did back then too. A recent survey showed over 70% of people in the UK would pray if their back was really up against the wall. So perhaps it’s not so much rejection because we’re confident there’s no king.
Perhaps it’d be more honest to say we reject this idea of a king coming back because we want to be king. We want to be the ones calling the shots, making the rules. We want to be free to do what we want any old time. And you know what someone else coming in, claiming to be king means for that? Trouble.
I think that’s probably more of what drove these towns back then to reject Jesus’ messengers. I think that’s probably more of what drives us today when we turn away. “I’ll have no king but me.”
But need to take an honest look at the world that this has made for us. When we say we can do what we like, when we declare ourselves king, no-one to rule over us, we leave the evil in our own hearts unchecked. We leave the evil in our world unchecked. And there is a lot of evil in this world. Perhaps you’re fortunate enough not to have met it face to face yet. But I suspect many of us have seen the darkness in this world - some of us have felt it directly. This is what comes from us rejecting our king: a broken world.
But it’s worse than that - you see, like Jesus says here, when these towns are rejecting his messengers, they’re not just rejecting the messengers - they’re rejecting the one who sent them. In Luke 10:16 Jesus says this: “whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
“Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
And they’re not just rejecting the king, they’re rejecting the king who is coming. These messengers Jesus sends out, when they’re rejected they’re told to give a warning: verse 11 “the kingdom of God has come near.” Make no mistake, people: the king is approaching.
Jesus talks about a coming day of judgement here - when those who reject this king will face the consequences. He talks about how they’ve been given an amazing chance to choose peace instead of war, to bow the knee - but now, by choosing to continue in rebellion, they’re lining themselves up for the coming face-off, setting themselves in opposition to God when he comes in all his power.
Welcoming the king
Welcoming the king
But there’s not just rejection here - Jesus makes it clear some are going to welcome this coming king too. What does it mean to welcome him? It’s got to mean bowing to the king and his authority, right? It’s got to mean recognising him for what he is: master, Lord, ruler, the one who has all authority. Accepting you’re a part of his kingdom.
But we have a problem: what about the story so far? What about the fact that we’ve rejected this king and rebelled against his ways time after time already? When he comes, won’t we need to tremble in fear, expecting his anger at the mess we’ve made of everything?
That’s not the message Jesus sends his disciples out with. Where they’re received, these disciples’ message begins with peace. Look at verse 5 - the first thing they are to say is “Peace to this house”. The very first word off of their lips when they’re received is peace rather than vengeance.
The king is coming - but to those who would receive him, even to lifelong rebels, his first message is peace. Jesus, verse 22 tells us, reveals God to us - and the God he reveals is not some distant tyrant who makes rule after rule to spoil all our fun; a God who will crush us under the burden of his demands. The God Jesus reveals to us is a God of mercy: not giving us what we deserve; a God of grace: giving us what we don’t deserve. He is a good king who loves us and will lead us into the best way to live, a king with a plan to renew and restore this rebellious world.
Jesus reveals God to us, reveals God’s heart to us, by going to Jerusalem, going to the cross, going to die in our place; that’s how he can be just and yet not give us what we deserve: by taking the punishment in our place. That’s how he can be just and yet give us what we don’t deserve: by uniting us into Jesus who does.
Some reject the coming king - but he’s still coming; some rebels welcome him - and find peace.
So what? We always like to ask this question: we’re reading a book that’s thousands of years old. What does it really have to say to us still today? Well I think there are two key messages for us in today’s reading:
First, there’s an invitation to receive God’s peace.
The king is coming. He’s coming to put an end to the long rebellion against him. We don’t know when, but that day is nearer than it was yesterday. He’s coming to rule - and those who reject him will pay the price.
But today his offer of peace is still open to us all. Like an invitation on your desk, still in its envelope, waiting for you to reply. Jesus has made this offer of peace possible - at the cost of his own life. He loves us so much that he stretches out nail-pierced hands toward us in invitation.
The Kingdom of God has come near you today as we’ve been together. You’ve heard some of it’s message; you’ve seen some of what it means. God is bringing a kingdom of peace, a kingdom of restoration. Please don’t just walk away - because the king is coming.
This a kingdom for the weak, not the wise - that’s what verse 21 tells us; a kingdom revealed to little children, powerless and helpless, needy and trusting - not a kingdom for the those who understand it all and have it all together. It’s a kingdom for those who know they don’t know it all, who know they can’t do it all, who are humble enough to listen to the invitation and accept it.
We would love to help you explore this kingdom. We’ve got books here that can help you explore - they’re all free - just take one. if you came with someone, why not ask them to explore with you. If you’d like to chat things through over a coffee, I’d be delighted. Just ask.
So first, there’s an invitation to receive God’s peace.
Second a call to join God’s plan.
God’s plan is to offer peace to this broken and rebellious world. God’s plan is to restore our relationship with him through Jesus’ death on the cross. God’s plan is to establish his good rule among us.
And God has set about doing all these things through multiplying disciples: through calling more and more followers of Jesus to share in this mission, announcing the coming king and offering peace with him.
There’s real encouragement here: though some may reject his message, many will respond. Verse 2 tells us the harvest is plentiful. That’s a word-picture for people responding to this message. It can seem hard to believe many will respond when stats show us less than 3% of Scotland have truly welcomed this coming king. But Jesus has his stats right when he says the harvest is plentiful so we should seek to see more with his eyes than with our own discouragement.
There’s an encouragement - but there’s also a challenge in that same verse: the workers are few. There are not enough ambassadors at work announcing the coming king; the harvest is so large that we few who believe the king are totally insufficient for it.
How should we respond? That verse tells us to pray - “to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out more workers” in the word-picture; to pray for more people to join Jesus’ mission of sharing God’s message. So we are to pray - but then notice that it is the people he asks to pray in verse 2 that he also sends out in verse three: “Go! I am sending you” So sure, pray for others to go. But we cannot ignore the fact that God has also sent us.
To put this is Christian language, Jesus isn’t looking for converts, he’s looking for disciples. Even as he sends these early disciples out to share the message, they are working and hoping for a response which isn’t just people accepting the message, converts, but a cascade of people responding to it, and themselves hearing Jesus’ call to go join the mission. Jesus isn’t after converts; he’s after disciples.
And this is our heartbeat as a church: everyone who follows Jesus here, we want you take this mission and message of Jesus with you everywhere you go - and we want to support and encourage you to pursue it with everyday steps, small things all of us can do, small things that can make a difference in helping Jesus’ message of peace reach more people’s ears - and their hearts.
And we hope in turn to see them, too, join the mission.
How can you, personally, join God’s plan? If you have no idea where to start, let us help you. Part of what we talk about when we’re gathered together again each Sunday evening is how this mission can really be a part of our everyday life. This evening we’ll have some real, everday stories of what this looks like to share. Why not join us - even just once, tonight?
The king is coming; he offers peace to rebels; so receive God’s peace; so join God’s mission.