Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 9) July 3, 2022
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. 2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. 7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. 13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to Heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. 16 “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.” 17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 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. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in Heaven.”
IN THE NAME OF JESUS.
Rejoice, says our Lord.
He knows our world. He knows what troubles us, what troubles you. He could say, “Here, let me tell you how to take care of that problem. Let me show you some methods to improve yourself. Here, let me show you what your life could look like, if you changed yourself.”
But he doesn’t. He says, Rejoice.
The fear you have of sickness, of death? Rejoice.
The despair of guilt stinging your conscience? Rejoice.
The division in your life over against neighbor, over against friend? Rejoice.
Don’t look for your rejoicing in victories you think you can pile up. Don’t rejoice in being on track to get everything under control. Don’t rejoice in trying to change your life and make yourself clean before God.
“Rejoice,” says our Lord, “for your names are written in Heaven.”
And [Jesus] 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.”
When did this happen? When were our names written in Heaven? When was your name written in Heaven?
But before that question, when did Jesus see Satan fall like lightening from Heaven? On what day did that happen?
Satan, the old evil foe. The great serpent. The tempter. The liar, always the liar.
When did he fall from Heaven, and what was he doing there in the first place?
He didn’t start out as Satan. Satan is a Hebrew word. It means the accuser. This angel, he’s the prosecuting attorney bringing the charges. The evil messenger delivering the message of God’s Law to accuse us—staining our consciences, making us unclean.
But it didn’t start out that way. It started out with him being Lucifer. Lucifer means bearer-of-light. It’s Latin, but it’s translating a Hebrew word meaning shining-one or bearer-of-light. Thus: Lucifer, this angel created to bear light to us humans by delivering to us the Word of light from the Throne of God.
But we know what happened. Lucifer fell. Lucifer and the other angels who fell with him becoming to us not these angelic messengers bringing light from Heaven, but bringing the Word from Heaven to us damaged, as a lie. Telling us what God speaks to us, but twisting it, perverting it, making this Word from Heaven to be no longer light, but now darkness, and death, and dirty.
So Lucifer, a most beautiful word meaning bearer-of-light now becomes the dark one, the fallen one, the liar, and his name is now Satan—the Hebrew word for accuser. He brings God’s Law to our conscience to tempt us, then to accuse us, and always to leave us unclean.
The tempter, the accusing one. He has a place in Heaven, a station at the throne room, as we see in the book of Job. He has this office to bear the words from Heaven to us here on Earth because he was created for that. He was created as messenger, which is why he has access to our consciences, to our thoughts. When a creature falls into sin, he doesn’t cease being a creature with his created duties. He is just now a creature doing his created duties badly, sinfully, evilly.
When did he fall from Heaven?
Because, after all, he, the devil, and his unclean angels, they are still tempting us, still tormenting our consciences, still accusing and making unclean. So when did he fall from Heaven?
The cross. The Son of God from Heaven, son of Mary on Earth, baptized by John the Baptist to be the Lamb of God bearing the sin of the world.
The cross, where God the Son bearing your sin and mine, shed the blood to atone for us, to redeem us, to cleanse us, to make us his own.
The cross, where Jesus, bearing the sin of the world, though he himself had no sin, took the accusation and bore the condemnation due us, so that by the blood of the cross, Satan is robbed of his accusation against us.
Emptied out is his accusation. Emptied out is his standing at the throne of God to say, as he said of Job, Look, God, that one, the one in the pew, the one bearing your name in Baptism, the one seeking your grace, that one is unclean.
To that accusation, the voice from the Throne, the voice of God, says: The cross.
The cross is the retribution fully met. The judgement fully paid. The guilt atoned for. The shame wiped away. The cross, Satan, leaves you with no accusation against those whose names are written in Heaven.
Satan, robbed of accusation, with no more authority, fell from Heaven.
It’s the cross. On that day under Pontius Pilate when he who had no sin willingly bore our sin to the cross, Satan’s accusation is emptied.
But we still hear his accusation in our consciences. He still tempts us.
Jesus took the justification of his cross up into Heaven. Jesus presented his atoning blood to his Father. Jesus took his place in Heaven at the right hand of God the Father.
What Jesus accomplished on the cross belongs to eternity. Jesus accomplished the forgiveness of the sinner, the justification of the sinner, the cleansing of the sinner.
That word of justification reigns in Heaven. It belongs to Adam and Eve who lived before the cross as much as it belongs to Mary who was at the foot of the cross. It belongs to you and me who are living after the cross, as much at it belongs to the justified thief crucified alongside Jesus on Golgotha.
It reigns in Heaven, never to be torn down, never to be retracted or pushed back. The sinner is justified by the blood of God the Son. That sentence belongs to the courtroom in Heaven and now reigns over all time, over every generation.
But now you and I are living in time. Living in our sinful flesh. Living in wait and anticipation of the Last Day of the resurrection of the body.
While we live in time, awaiting the consummation of all time, we still hear the voice of Satan and his fallen angels.
We hear the temptation. The message of doubt. The conversation of the liar who wants to rob us of confidence in the promise of God. We hear the liar.
But it is a lie. The accusation has been emptied out—that’s the cross. The sin has been atoned for—the cross. The sinner is justified by the word of Christ—that’s the cross. The lie does not stand. The accusation of the Law does not stand.
Our sinful flesh still hears the accusation of the Law, and must hear the accusation of the Law, for the sinful flesh is daily put to death in repentance.
But the ears of faith, the heart cleansed by the Gospel, the sinner now justified, hears only the promise of God.
The promise: your name is written in Heaven.
Rejoice in that. Rejoice in your name written in Heaven.
When was your name written in Heaven?
Your name, stained by your sin, brought into dishonor by your shame—when was your name removed from the stain and the dishonor, and written in Heaven?
The cross. When Jesus atoned for you sin and emptied Satan of his accusation, he wrote your Name in Heaven. So your name has been written in Heaven all along.
For Jesus, having atoned for your sin by his cross, has taken that atonement up into eternity, before the face of his Father, so that the Father has known your name all along.
He has known your name and has known the justification belonging to you by the word of his Son, all along, even from your mother’s womb.
And that decree in Heaven that the sinner is released from the accusation and is justified, that verdict that you are forgiven of all sin and counted righteous, that promise that you belong to the cross and your name is written in Heaven, that’s your Baptism.
Baptism, where Jesus put his Name on you, so that if he is in Heaven for eternity, then you are in Heaven for eternity, or his Name is not true.
Baptism, where, though you now live in your sinful flesh and rightly hear the accusing voice of the Law, you, at the same time, belong to the promise of Baptism, the Name of Baptism, so that as surely as Christ put his Name on you, he put your name in Heaven.
Rejoice in that.
In the Name of Jesus.