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God’s Word for You

Luke 10:16-20 Whoever hears you hears me

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, June 15, 2018

In verses 10-11, Jesus commanded his disciples to be witnesses that if his gospel was rejected by a town, none of his blessings would come to that place: the kingdom of God had come and had gone once again, or as Luther explained: “What it hits it hits; what it misses it misses.” In verses 12-15, Jesus expanded on this to show that rejecting the gospel would have an impact even on degrees of suffering in hell. Sodom’s people—always the example of a whole city condemned to hell—would have it easier in their eternal suffering than places like Capernaum and Bethsaida where the gospel had been heard in detail and rejected. Now Jesus explains further that whether Jesus himself is the one who brings the gospel message is not the vital factor. His messengers must be believed and obeyed as if each of them was Jesus himself.

16 Whoever hears you hears me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

This verse is an excellent example of the differences between law and gospel in the Holy Scriptures. It is both, but it must be applied correctly.

It is Law. The law applies in two ways. First, anyone who hears the gospel of Christ crucified for our sins must not distinguish between the various messengers. God’s will is that parents will teach their children, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6), and that a called teacher will instruct a class and a called pastor will instruct a congregation: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11). Therefore, the people of a congregation must not go church-shopping for a man who is funnier, more personable, or more eloquent than the pastor they called to serve them. In the same way, a child cannot search for a more adequate mother, or a more disciplined father, and the will of God is that a husband will not go looking for a younger or prettier wife, and that a wife will not tire of her husband, but that they will love one another and learn about what it means to love along the path of their lifetime.

This passage also preaches the law to pastors. A pastor must never think that whatever he spews out of the pulpit is the word of God or else his word will become as valueless as so much vomit. He does not make the meal, he only serves it. Just as a waiter in a restaurant does not add tomatoes from his own garden to the food the chef prepared and which he only serves, so the pastor must serve only what is given to him; only the word of God itself. His own study of the word, the experiences of his life, and his knowledge of the congregation might impact the way he presents the word of God, but not the content of the word in any way. What Jesus says is: “Whoever rejects you rejects me.” A pastor must never, ever, twist this into, “Everything I say, think and imagine becomes the word of Christ.” This is where many pastors have turned away from the word of God. Praise God that the Scriptures are still read aloud in those churches. God have mercy on those poor people who must say, “I know Jesus, and I will put up with some of the things my pastor says.” It will go better for Balaam son of Beor in the judgment than for pastors who shepherd their people so poorly.

It is Gospel. Jesus’ wonderful words, “Whoever hears you hears me,” proclaim the gospel in two ways. First, this is the gospel for Christians as they listen to their pastor preaching and teaching. He does so by the divine call from the Holy Spirit, and with the promise of Jesus. Luther explains this in a wonderful way, using the moment when the pastor places the communion wafer into our hands or on our tongues, or in the moment when the water of baptism touched our heads:

    “God wants to come to you, plant Himself before your
    very eyes, press himself into your hands, and say: ‘Just
    listen to me and take hold of me, give me eye and ear;
    there you have Baptism and the Sacrament of the Altar.
    Open your mouth, let me place my hand on your head.
    I give you this water which I sprinkle over your head.”
                                              (LW 22, 420)

We hear this when the pastor or liturgist raises his hands following the weekly confession of sins and says, “By the authority of Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins.” This is not your pastor’s opinion, it is the judgment of God upon your life.

It is also the gospel for the pastor. A pastor may never invent any doctrine, he can only apply it. He does not need to dream up a way to explain; he has the word of God, and only needs to proclaim it. On Judgment Day, he might be asked by Christ, “Did you preach my word, or your own?” And he can say with relief, “I preached your word, not mine.” Luther had this in mind when he said in a lecture: “God does everything through the Son. For when the Son preaches the Law, the Father himself, who is in the Son or one with the Son, preaches. And when we preach about this same decree, Christ himself preaches, as he says: ‘He who hears you hears me’ (Luke 10:16). (LW 12, 43)

17 The seventy-two returned with joy. They said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name!” 18 He told them, “I was watching Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

Luke doesn’t describe any of the individual excursions of the seventy-two. What he tells us is that all of the pairs of disciples had the same experience. They healed the sick, they cast out demons, and they preached the gospel. As their excitement bubbled over, they told him how they were able to cast out demons. Jesus’ reply was, “I was watching Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” Sometimes we use this passage to describe the original fall of Satan from heaven. This is also described in Revelation: “The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” (Revelation 12:9). But in this context, Jesus is primarily describing the fall of each demon as they were cast out by the disciples. The devil and his angels fell and fell like a lightning storm—the ferocity was not in the falling demons, but in the power of God that hurled them down.

19 Realize that I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy. Nothing will harm you. 20 But don’t rejoice that the spirits submit to you. Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Now a matter of caution from the Lord: God will be with his messengers. But what we should rejoice about is not the seeming power one has over nature (snakes and scorpions) or the supernatural (the power of the enemy), but that we are God’s children, with a place in heaven. What he chooses to do through one or another of his people is for him to decide. No Christian is to be more or less honored than any other of God’s saints simply on account of miracles God wrought through them. But God is praised over all.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.