Pentecost 8b

Preached: July 26, 2009

Jesus Sends Out His Priceless Gospel of Repentance
Mark 6:7-13

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit reveals our Savior, Jesus Christ is Mark 6

[Jesus] calls together the twelve and began sending them two by two. He was giving them authority over unclean spirits and commanded them that they should not take anything on the trip except only a staff -- no bread, no bag, no money in their belt -- but to go wearing sandals. “And don't wear two tunics.” He was saying to them, “Wherever you enter into a house, there stay until you leave from there. Whichever place does not welcome you and doesn't hear you, as you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony to them.” When they went out, they preached that they should repent. They were driving out many demons, pouring oil on many who were sick, and healing them. (Mark 6:7-13)

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

No doubt, you've seen the Mastercard® Priceless TVTM commercials. For example one of them called “Icons” goes like this: Broccoli: $1.79; tuna: $3.99; crescent rolls $2.39; getting everyone together for dinner: priceless (https://www.priceless.com/us/personal/en/pricelesstv/index.html).

We could make a similar commercial. It might go like this: Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal hymnal: $21; NIV Bible: $9.99; one set of service folders: $6.30; hearing the Gospel of Jesus: priceless.

The Gospel is priceless in both senses of the word. It comes to you free of cost, no price, no charge. And yet all money in the world could not purchase what the Gospel brings to you. No matter how many digits follow the dollar sign, it cannot pay for the forgiveness, for the reconciliation, for the eternal life that the Gospel brings to you who believe. The Gospel of Jesus is priceless.

Keep this in mind, dear friends, as we join Jesus as he sends out his disciples to preach this Gospel of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Then we will better understand the work of a pastor and also the response God is looking for in you, the hearers. So we focus on the theme: Jesus sends out his priceless Gospel of repentance. Part one: It comes as a free gift. Part two: Receive it with open hearts and homes.

A. It comes as a free gift

1. What's the message of the Gospel, which is preached as a free gift?

Jesus calls together the twelve disciples to send them out. This mission was to the people of Israel. He was giving them early field experience. After his resurrection he would send them out to all nations. They were to take nothing extra with them on this mission, only the sandals on their feet and the staff in their hand. Jesus gave them authority to drive out evil spirits as well as to heal the sick. These miracles confirmed that the message they proclaimed was from God and not from their own imagination and reasoning.

What was that message? Mark summarizes it: “They went out and preached that people should repent” (Mark 6:12 NIV). They were heralds who did not speak their own ideas but preached the message entrusted to them. That's what a faithful preacher does. A king does not want his heralds modifying his messages and decrees. So also a faithful preacher doesn't have his own agenda; rather, he faithfully proclaims the message of the One who sent him. Jesus directly sent out the Twelve. Through you Jesus has called me to be your pastor. He has sent me to proclaim to you his message as a faithful herald, as a preacher of his Word.

And what is that message? The same as the disciples proclaimed. Still today Jesus calls us to repentance through his heralds. God's Law confronts and convicts us. You are a sinner. You deserve to go to hell. But Christ has taken away your sin. God forgives you. Yes, he freely forgives even you. For the Father sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for all sins with his blood on the cross, including all of your sins. He's raised him from the dead to prove to you that you are justified before God through Jesus. That's the priceless good news of the Gospel. A repentant heart believes this good news: Sinner though I am, Jesus died for me. I, yes even I, am fully and freely forgiven in Jesus. How priceless the Gospel is!

Now of course, when the disciples go out before Jesus' death and resurrection, they did not know all these details. But they preached the same Gospel of the Lord's forgiveness in the coming Messiah, whom you know to be Jesus of Nazareth, crucified and risen.

Now the miracles of driving out demons and healing the sick confirmed to the hearers that this message, as amazing as it was, really was from God. For you see, only the Old Testament had been written by Jesus' day. We no longer need such miracles to show us whether a message is from God or not. For we not only have the Old Testament but we have the New Testament as well. We have the full revelation of God written down for us. Everything we need for faith and life is in the Book, the Bible. So test me, test your pastors, against God's Word. Make sure we are faithful heralds, preachers faithful to the Word, that everything we proclaim lines up in perfect sync with the Scriptures.

2. What two challenges do preachers face?

The text also present special challenges to me and all preachers of God's Word. We've already talked about the first challenge: to preach as heralds faithful to God's Word. The second challenge is to do this freely, trusting our Lord to take care of his heralds.

Jesus sent out his disciples with nothing extra. They were to trust that they would be taken care of. They were certainly not to use God's message as leverage to get something out of the people. Matthew 10 gives us a fuller description of Jesus instructions. There he says, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8 NIV).

When you call a pastor there are no salary negotiations. He doesn't send you his list of fees for services or hourly rates. How different this is from the way the jobs out in the world work with unions, salary negotiations, bids, contracts, fees for service, hourly wages, and the like! “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8 NIV). A pastor is to trust that he and his family will be taken care of.

Yet how Satan tempts a pastor, like me, and his family! He tempts su not only with worry but also with thoughts like these: “Considering the hours I put in, I could be earning so much more if I were doing . . . instead of serving as a pastor.” “What I'm paid just isn't fair compared to what other pastors or professionals get.” But those very thoughts try to put a price tag on what I do as a pastor and go against the priceless Gospel. “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8 NIV).

Jesus sends out his priceless gospel of repentance through sinners like me. He gives me the time to study and share that priceless Gospel without having to have a different job to make a living. He allows me to work with his people in building his kingdom. What a privilege! He has freely given me this privilege. What right do have to expect reward in return?

Now also consider whether there is someone in your life or maybe even you yourself, who could prepare for the full-time, public ministry and likewise serve when the Lord calls him through his people. “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8 NIV). The priceless Gospel is a free gift to give away.

B. Receive it with open hearts and homes

1. Why do we support faithful preachers of the Gospel?

But maybe the old self in you is now thinking: “If you, pastor, are suppose to give the Gospel away for free, why are we paying you anything at all? It would be a lot easier to meet the church budget if we cut out the pastor's salary, benefits, and housing.” And that brings us to the second part. For the text indicates the way believers are to receive the priceless Gospel and those who faithfully preach it. Receive it with open hearts and homes.

Jesus tells his disciples, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them” (Mark 6:10, 11 NIV).

Note how Jesus provided for the disciples. He provided for them through those who heard the message and believed it. So also the Lord provides for me and my family through you. In Jesus' day, the hearers welcomed the disciples into their homes, providing them the same standard of living they had. What you do is similar although the mechanics are different. Instead of inviting my family to live with you, you provide us a home. You give me a salary allowing us to live at about the same standard of living as many in the congregation and community. That follows Jesus words in Matthew 10 which gives more details. There Jesus says: “The worker is worth his keep” (Matthew 10:10 NIV)

But don't think of it as paying for the Gospel or paying for pastoral services. For you see, even your whole paycheck couldn't pay for the Gospel. The ministry of the Gospel brings you eternal life. How can you put a price tag on that? Think of how much we pay doctors to extend our earthly life a little bit. We even pay hundreds of dollars a month when we're healthy for insurance in case we get sick. So how could you put a price tag on life that does not end, life full of joy and peace? The salary you pay me is not payment for services but your way of taking care of me and my family so that I can keep on sharing the Gospel with you. It is your expression of thank to our Lord who has called me through you to serve you with his priceless Gospel.

2. How are open hearts that gladly hear the Gospel supporting the pastor?

And that is why it is so important for you to receive the Gospel with open hearts as well, hearts that are ready to gladly hear and learn his word. Note what happened when people refused to listen to the disciples. They were to leave, shaking the dust off their feet. Although the townspeople at the time may have thought, “Good riddance!” what a dire judgment that is for God to withdraw his word! May that not never happen to you. For without the Gospel there is only sin and death and hell forever.

Consider the opposite as well, when you gladly hear and learn the Gospel that is not only a benefit to your faith, but it also encourages me, your pastor, and your fellow believers. Isn't the priceless Gospel worth our time to gladly hear and learn it? Yes, it certainly is. How frustrating empty pews in church and empty chairs at Bible class can be! A pastor spends much time preparing the sermon and Bible classes, for he knows that the God's Word is living and active. He knows how precious the Gospel is. How disappointing when members are not there to hear it because they had something else to do!

So receive the priceless Gospel, dear friends, with open hearts that gladly hear and learn it and with open homes that joyfully support those who faithfully preach it.

We can put a price tag on many things, but the Gospel and its ministry is not among them. Yes, the Gospel is a free gift, no strings attached, no hidden fees or costs, no fine print. With a repentant heart, believe the Good News of forgiveness in Jesus. And keep on receiving the Gospel with open hearts and homes, supporting its faithful preaching and gladly hearing and learning it. Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and mind sin Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313

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