Have you ever wondered what it would it was like to walk daily with Jesus as the disciples did? I am sure we would have some difficult days when people rejected Jesus’ message. The words of our text tell of a sad day when many people had the opportunity to hear the Gospel and receive Jesus as their Savior and Lord, but did not listen him, and consequently were lost.
Just after Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, He and his disciples went to the Mount of Olives, where he prayed in anguish and wept for those who did not accept the gospel.
One day, Jesus learned his friend in Bethany, Lazarus, had died, so He went to the grave where Lazarus’s family and friends were weeping. Jesus was moved by their grief, and the Bible says in John 11:35, that “He wept.”
Jesus and His disciples also had happy days, and that is where we want to center our thoughts today. In Luke 10:17-20, we read about seventy-two messengers who were sent out on an evangelism mission to share the message of the gospel. This is the message they revealed: People are sinful, but Christ has come. Through His vicarious suffering and death at the cross of Calvary, He took the sins of the world upon himself. Those who receive Him have the great power of knowing their sins are forgiven. They can now rejoice for their names are written in heaven.
People believed their message and were converted. This made the disciples very happy, and so they returned to Jesus, filled with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name!” Jesus replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” He was telling them that the Word has power over Satan. “I (Jesus) have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Jesus then prayed, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” His Church Ð those who understood who He was and why He came Ð was now established. “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Jesus privately said to His disciples, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”
I wonder sometimes how it would be if our states’ and nation’s leaders would search for the answers to all the perplexing problems they face by looking to the wisdom of God’s Word. It is a happy day when we realize that Someone who is stronger and wiser than us has the answers. How comforting it must have been for those who stood crying outside Lazarus’ tomb to hear Jesus say, I know you are grieving, and I grieve with you. But just remember this: Lazarus knew me as his Savior, and he is now at home with God.
There were sad and happy days for Jesus and His disciples who walked in his physical presence. For those of us who walk with Him in his Word today, this is also true.
Many years ago, I became thoroughly convinced that we had to get serious about evangelism. So we put together a small evangelism program. We trained people who knew the Lord Jesus personally to go out into the community each Tuesday night and visit the homes of those who were anxious to know more about Jesus Christ. We experienced great joy as we watched people learn of the greatest peace we can have in this life, and that their names are written in the book of life!
That is the assurance of salvation. It is a happy day when we know Jesus walks with us and will take us home to be with Him in heaven when our last breath is drawn. The more we apply this message in our churches, the more wonderful life will be.
However, some of the teams were saddened to hear the person they were visiting say, “We don’t want much of the church. We want to belong, and we come whenever it is possible, but we also want to have our freedom.” Happy days and sad days around the church.
Congregations have sad days as well. The rural population in many areas of our Midwest is declining, and people are moving to the city. As a result, some of our congregations have had to close because they could not keep their churches running financially.
Once a man took me out and showed me a section of farm land. He said, “This 160 acres is a farm. We have 3 other plots of 160 acres, and together they make up a section. At one time, four families could live on that piece of land. Those four families belonged to the church and brought their children to Sunday school. The church was thriving. Today, however, farming is much more mechanized. One farmer can farm all 640 acres himself. So now, instead of four families in the congregation, there is only one. Our congregation cannot exist anymore, and so we are closing.”
That was a sad day, and one could feel for those people, knowing what their church had meant to them. They had their children baptized there. They were married and buried from that church. They heard the Gospel on Sunday mornings, and were delighted to know they were a child of the King. But they also understood why the church had to close, and then they joined a new church with a larger congregation. Their happy days would then return.
Evangelism. What a happy day it is when we can tell the story of Jesus Christ to the people round about us and rejoice to know Christ is their Lord and Savior.
I always felt happy when we had a baptism. How blessed it is to watch the parents bring a child to the baptismal font and hear the pastor say, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” Those parents knew the Holy Spirit had planted the seed of faith in that child’s soul. It was happiness.
Then the parents take that child home and do as they promised at his baptism Ð diligently teach him the Ten Commandments, the creeds, the Lord’s Prayer, and bring him to the services at God’s house. That baptismal promise later becomes personal at a Bible camp or during daily devotions, or even in a conversation with a friend. He can then say, “Mom and dad, Jesus became real to me tonight.” Jesus used others to tell him that He is his Savior and Lord. Those are happy days when we join with Jesus in fellowship and listen to His Word.
But there are also sad times in the life of a baptized child, such as when he has gone through his confirmation instruction, then leaves the church and seldom comes back. Sadness when he realizes his life is empty, and his parents say, “Why don’t you try reading your Bible? Come back to church, even if it is a different church where you can hear the gospel clearer, go ahead and go. Let the power of the Holy Spirit speak to you.” Oh, what a wonderful day when the child says, “Yes. Now I understand!”
What a wonderful moment when it becomes clear that Jesus is not just a story in the Bible. He is your God, your Savior, and your Lord. That is the power of the Holy Spirit.
The church’s importance is to gather on a regular basis to hear the Word of God and then to carry that Word to our friends.
It has been said, “D-day has been accomplished when Jesus died on the cross and said, ÔIt is finished.’ That was a happy day. Sooner or later, however, V-day will come when Jesus takes us home to be with Him in heaven.”