Everything Old is New Again
"Everything old is new again" is one of those sayings that no one knows who first said perhaps because humanity has always said it. The new craze of today has always been the old craze of yesterday. About our text though, I mean the saying quite literally. Everything in this New Testament text has roots in the Old.
The first point of our text is that Jesus is the Lord of the harvest. You probably think God the Father is. For now, I'll give you that just to highlight the fact that whoever the harvest belongs to it's sure not us. The harvest of souls no more belongs to us than that cornfield in Pflugerville I drive by does. If you ask me, most years that farmer waits too long to harvest it, but he doesn't ask me because it's not my harvest; it's his. The harvest of souls is not ours but God's. It's not our responsibility; it's His. And Jesus says He sees His harvest fields, full, ripe and ready.
Jesus says literally, "On the one hand, the harvest plentiful, on the other hand the workers few." The absence of verbs emphasizes Jesus' point. And what does Jesus say we are to do about this? Again translating literally, "You must be moved to beg therefore the Lord of the harvest that workers He should cast into His harvest." Jesus doesn't use the ordinary word for "pray" but the word meaning "beg." And He uses it as a passive imperative. We must be moved to beg that workers be sent into His harvest.
We usually look at this as if the Lord needs us to go out and plant, water, or bring in the sheaves. The only thing He commands us to do is to be moved to beg the Lord of the harvest to send workers. Yes, see the world as ripe with a harvest of souls. Don't focus on the planting, the watering, the harvesting; your part is begging. Be moved to pray daily, "Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done." Be moved to see that nothing stands between heaven and hell for the harvest but the harvest Lord sending workers.
And right after Jesus says this, what does He say? "Go I am sending you!" So who is the Lord of the harvest? Jesus. He's the Farmer who plowed these fields by having His back furrowed by whip lashes. He's the Farmer who planted these fields by the sweat of His brow under the weight of keeping the Law. He's the Farmer who watered these fields with His tears and sweat as He paid for the sins of not just the harvest but the chaff too. "Go," says the One who plowed, planted, and watered: "I am sending you."
Here's where everything old is new again. Jesus ordains 72 pastors. Why not 102? Why not 62? This number goes back to the days of Noah. In Gen. 10, in the first listing of nations recorded anywhere, there are 72. Here Jesus indicates the worldwide nature of His mission that starts in Palestine by sending out 72. When the Lord of the harvest looks at His harvest here, He sees it at all times and all places, and just as that Pflugerville farmer makes sure he brings in all his harvest, you can be sure Jesus does His.
The second point of our text is that Jesus sends workers with all that they need both physically and spiritually. He makes this point in a dramatic way. First He shows that He knows exactly where He's sending His workers. Not just into His harvest but into a pack of wolves. And He knows they go as lambs. But to show them how carefree they can be about this, He forbids them from taking the usual things any traveler would take. Jesus' workers will get all their physical needs met from the harvest.
Spiritually Jesus sends workers into His harvest with a unilateral peace treaty from the kingdom of God. That's how the harvest is found. His workers go out into the world and declare, "God has made peace between you and Himself through His Son living the innocent life you could never live and dying the guilty death you always should."
Imagine two kingdoms at war. One is vastly more powerful than the other, but the more powerful one comes declaring peace. What are the terms? What will I have to suffer in order to have it? What will I have to lose to have peace? The terms of peace are in Jesus' name. You have to suffer nothing in order to have peace between you and almighty God; Jesus suffered already in your place. The only thing you have to lose is your sin, your guilt, your shame.
Here's where everything old is new again. In the Old Testament, the Lord physically provided for Elisha through a woman. This woman eventually built him a special room where he could stay while passing through. The Lord gave her and her husband a son. The boy suddenly dies. Elisha sends his servant with his staff, the mark of his office and authority, to the boy. He tells him, "Take my staff in your hand and run. If you meet anyone, do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy's face'" (2 Kings 4:29). The 72 go out with the promise their physical needs will be met by those getting peace from them, and they go with the urgency and authority that Elisha sent his servant. Elisha sent his servant because he could go faster. Jesus sends 72 for the same reason.
In another sense, everything old is new again. When Moses needs help in the Old Testament, the Lord takes the Holy Spirit that rested on Moses and gave it to 72 others. Jesus, as true man, had the Spirit the same way as Moses, as gift given to Him. While Moses couldn't transfer the Spirit to others, Jesus could. Why? Because Jesus won the right for all flesh and blood to have Him. He kept the Law in our flesh and blood, in flesh and blood that was tempted in all the ways we are yet never sinned. Not guilty though Jesus was in flesh and blood, nevertheless Jesus suffered in flesh and blood in place of all flesh and blood people everywhere and in all times.
The Man Jesus won the right to do what Moses could not. He can give the Holy Spirit to flesh and blood men. He breathed on the apostles and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit." He commands baptizing to give the Holy Spirit to flesh and blood of all nations. His Words that you read are Spirit to flesh and blood. This Bread you eat and this Wine you drink because it is Jesus' Body and Jesus' Blood you eat and drink not just Bread-Body and Wine-Blood but His Spirit.
The third point of our text is that to reject Jesus' workers is to reject Him and the Father who sent Him. Imagine if the east wall here was emblazoned with the words from our text "He that hears you hears Me." Imagine if this green parament had those words before your eyes Sunday after Sunday. That's how it used to be in many LCMS churches (Government in the Missouri Synod, 197). This was a reminder to celery and congregation alike that when the pastor speaks from here he speaks authoritatively not opinionatedly. And that's a great thing.
What would my opinion about your sins matter? What if I just thought your sins were paid for by Christ and in my opinion should be forgiven? Try finding comfort in my opinions when faced with real guilt, real shame, real sin. Try finding strength against sin, death, and the devil in my opinion that you have overcome them in Jesus' name. Try finding anything at all any rebirth in Baptism, any forgiveness in Absolution, any Body or Blood in Communion in an opinion of mine that all three are there.
No when I speak God's Word I am to be believed. My words are His Words. My forgiveness is His forgiveness. It's not me who baptizes your babies; it's Jesus. It's not my hands giving you Jesus' Body and Blood; it's the hands of Jesus. To not listen to me is to not listen to Jesus. Every time you choose to stay at home rather than hear me it's not only me you're not listening to but Jesus. And if you reject what I speak to you in Jesus' name as being my opinion whether it be God's Law, God's Gospel, God's peace, you are rejecting Jesus and the heavenly Father who sent Him. And when you do that know that the kingdom of God is here and you're outside of it.
Many of you are rightly upset by the open acceptance and promotion of gay marriage by churches and government, but it's a worse sin to reject my ministry. Staying away from Word and Sacrament even when you do it politely, only some of the time, is worse than promoting or accepting homosexuality. That's what Jesus says in our text: "It will be more bearable on judgment day for Sodom than for the town that rejected His workers."
Go read Genesis 19. Read how the whole town accepted, promoted, and reveled in homosexuality. Austin's Gay Pride parade has nothing on them. Yet Jesus says it will be more tolerable for them come judgment day than it will be for the town that didn't welcome the kingdom of God. Why? Because when you don't welcome the kingdom, you don't welcome the King, Jesus, or the peace of His forgiveness. By such rejecting, such not listening, such unbelief you're sinning against the only cure there is for sin, for death, and for the devil.
Everything old is new again in this way. God didn't number the Commandments when He gave them, but He gave them in the order we have them. The Third has always come before the Sixth. The Third which commands God be in your ears has always been before the Sixth which forbids sexual sins. We would be devastated, horribly ashamed, maybe even suicidal if we were exposed as being involved in a sexual sin, but not listening to the sermon, thinking the pastor is just spouting his opinion when he preaches, where's the pain or shame in that? "Hey, it's not like I'm a Sodomite." No, you're worse.
Of course the most important way that everything old is new again must be in the Gospel. The same Gospel that preserved Lot and his daughters in Sodom in the true faith is able to preserve you. The same Gospel that told them their sin of not listening to God's messengers and their sexual sins had been on Christ and so carried away from them and punished on the cross tells you that about your sins. So, though you may have rejected the peace of God that has been given to you in Jesus' name a thousand times, I can still say, "Peace be to you," and you are to believe that not only is the kingdom of God near but you're in it. Your old sins have passed away in the new forgiveness that has come. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (20130707); Luke 10: 1-12. 16