In verses 1-3, we read that Jesus sent followers “into every town and place where He Himself was about to go” (1). He prepared them for the importance of the mission by saying, “The harvest is plentiful” (2). He prepared them for the difficulty of the mission by saying “the laborers are few” (2). He prepared them for the danger of the mission by saying, “Go your way; behold I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves” (3).
This morning we will be encouraged to enter into this important, difficult, and dangerous mission because our “names are written in heaven” (20).
Rejoice! What does it mean to have your name written in heaven? Paul says it this way in Philippians 4:3, “help…the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” There is a book of life in heaven that contains the names of those who follow Christ. The book of life does not contain the names of those who do not follow Christ. Revelation 13:8 says, “everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the lamb who was slain.” John in Revelation 20:12 saw the “dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and the books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life.” John continues in verse 15, “if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
If you have had your sins forgiven by Christ and by the grace of God placed your faith in Him; your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. God knows who you are and you are adopted into God’s family. Let the Word of God encourage every follower of Christ to enter into the plentiful harvest and be willing to be among the few that labor as lambs in the midst of wolves because your name is written in heaven. In fact, let the fact that your name is written in heaven compel you to joyfully enter into the harvest!
Instructions for the Mission. In verses 4-11 we read about specific instructions Jesus gave to His followers. The specifics of the instructions are not for us to emulate today, but the spirit of the instructions are just as relevant now as they were then. Jesus told His followers, “Carry no money bag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road” (4). Not carrying a moneybag or knapsack or sandals spoke to the urgency of the mission. This also helps us understand the meaning behind not greeting anyone on the road, for these greetings were usually long and drawn out. Also, the shaking of the dust demonstrates a clear conscience in the discharge of their duty. Pilate used the act of washing his hands as a means to show his “innocence” in Matthew 27:24.
These specific instructions do not need to be emulated exactly, but we must remember that we today have a sense of urgency in our mission to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). We also must proclaim the gospel faithfully and truthfully so that we can have a clear conscience. Paul says in Acts 20:26-27, “I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”
Jesus Conquers. As we have already seen in verse 20, the best reason to rejoice in the harvest is because our “names are written in heaven.” Another reason to rejoice is because the enemy is defeated. Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (18). The disciples returned and said, “even the demons are subject to us in Your name” (17). Jesus tells them that He has given them authority “over all the power of the enemy” (19). Jesus has conquered death, hell, and the grave. We should be compelled to go into the harvest because our mission will succeed because our enemy is defeated.
Let us also remember Jesus’ words in verse 20, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Let’s close by putting everything into perspective by making a checklist:
- Plentiful harvest that requires much labor
- Few laborers for the harvest
- Few laborers in the plentiful harvest that is dangerous
- Defeated enemy!
- Name written in Heaven!
Every follower of Christ should not only know they should follow but should desire to follow. If we can remember that our enemy may be strong but he is defeated we can have boldness to go into the harvest. But more importantly than that, if we can remember that our names are written in heaven we can have boldness to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God.
Questions for Reflection
- Why is there a sense of urgency in evangelism and missions?
- Why is it important to proclaim the gospel faithfully and truthfully?
- If Jesus has conquered the enemy, why should His followers fear the enemy?
- What is the best reason for a Christian to rejoice?
- What does it mean to have your name written in heaven?