Throughout church history there has been some sort of clergy / laity distinction. That is, in every era of church history there has been a recognition between those who are set apart for vocational ministry (ie, elders / pastors) and “ordinary” church members. Some traditions have maintained a strong separation and reserve various responsibilities and privileges for those who are ordained while other traditions insist on little to no distinction for those who are ordained. One extreme is often a reaction to the other extreme. Rather than look at the correct position (which is, of course, somewhere between the two extremes), I want to look at “ordinary” ministry.
In Luke 10 Jesus sends out 72 disciples. I’ve long thought this included the twelve—you know, the Big Twelve, the holy apostles. As I read this chapter this morning I was struck by a single word: others. Luke 10:1 says,
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.Luke 10:1 ESV
The Twelve were not among the 72. Where were The Twelve? In chapter 9 we read,
And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.Luke 9:1 ESV
That makes sense. The Twelve were sent out with power and authority over demons and the power to cure diseases and the power to proclaim the kingdom of God. Then in the next chapter Jesus sends out 72 others. What are they sent to do? They are sent to preach the gospel, just like The Twelve (Luke 10:2–12). They are given a high calling, for Jesus goes on to tell them this:
“The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”Luke 10:16 ESV
To receive the 72 is to receive Jesus and to reject the 72 is to reject Jesus. They are 72 very ordinary followers of Jesus, yet they represent Jesus. That is remarkable! When they return from their trip something extraordinary happens.
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 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.”Luke 10:17–20 ESV
In Luke 9 The Twelve, the big guys, are given authority over demons and the authority to preach the gospel, yet in Luke 10 Jesus gives the same power and authority to 72 others, 72 who are not The Twelve—72 very ordinary followers of Jesus. He did not tell them he was giving them this authority; they discovered it along the way. These very ordinary followers of Jesus were given authority over the demons and were given authority to proclaim the gospel and they reaped a great harvest in Jesus’ name. These are the followers who show up most Sundays and sit in the pew, who give faithfully, who pray for the church, who volunteer to read Scripture, who serve in the nursery, who sing or play an instrument, who bring a dish to share with their City Group, who help collect the offering and serve communion, who offer to pray for others’ requests during our worship service, who offer an encouraging word to those who are hurting, who gladly greet visitors, who teach and serve in the childrens’ ministry, who set up and clean up for church-wide meals, who take care of the church’s lawn, who run audio / visual equipment.
While the twelve are needed as they serve in a specific role, the reality is that the mission Jesus has given to his church has been given to his church. The church is made up of the very ordinary followers of Jesus who work very ordinary jobs and serve in very ordinary ways, yet who are able to see God do extraordinary things. While you and I are very ordinary followers of Jesus, Jesus is a very extraordinary Savior, and the combination means the mission of Jesus on earth cannot be stopped.
As we pray today, let’s pray for one another, for our part in the mission of God on earth. Pray for one another as we work and interact with those who do not know Jesus. Pray for one another as we interact with neighbors and friends and family members who do not yet believe the gospel. Pray for our faithfulness in living out the truth of the gospel and for opportunities to share the good news of Jesus with others. Pray that we will reap an incredible harvest with the authority Jesus has given us.
Pray for our missionaries. Kizombo and Wababili serve in Congo. Pray for their continued faithfulness, even after several decades of ministry. Pray they continue to reap an incredible harvest with the authority Jesus has given them. Jonathan and Noella serve in Italy. Pray for their faithfulness. While they are only in the beginning stages of ministry there, pray that they will reap an incredible harvest with the authority Jesus has given them.
We are all an ordinary people, yet we have an extraordinary Savior. Let’s ask him to show us his greatness in the days and weeks ahead.