Do you know what Juneteenth Day is? (I shared it with you once before). The Civil War had just reached its end. On April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee arrived at Appomattox Court House to sign the Confederacy’s formal surrender. Then, a month later, on May 9, 1865, President Andrew Johnson reaffirmed that the North and South still remained one United States of America. So then, what is the importance of Juneteenth Day? Well, on June 19, 1865, those bound in slavery finally heard that they were set free.
Now, if you remember your American history, you realize that something about statement sounds odd. Yes, it is true that slave-labor continued an extra two months and two weeks after the war had officially ended. However, on January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln announced slavery’s end with his Emancipation Proclamation. Even though the nation was divided, Lincoln’s presidential words still applied to both the United States and the Confederacy. Yet, no one shared the joyful news with the slaves. In fact, no one told them until June 19, 1865 (Juneteenth Day) that they were set free— and that in reality, they had already been set free for 2 ½ years.
Can you imagine waking up each day stuck in slavery simply because no one told you that you were actually free? You slave away each day, wishing for relief from aches and pains, longing for the long hours to end, craving a life without fear— even though, in reality, you already have those things! The news of freedom would transform life!
That is why Jesus Sends You Out. The good news of freedom from hell has reached your ears, but that good news has not reached everyone. Many still remain slaves to guilt, pride, and uncertainty, living life as though Jesus accomplished nothing. So, Jesus Sends You Out with the message you freely received and with an opportunity to freely give.
When you look at our reading, just imagine what Jesus witnessed. [He sees] the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. God had appointed priests to share his love with the nation. Instead, those priest strut down city streets with Bible pages tied to their heads and their noses held high with pride. They added over 400 rules to God’s original Ten Commandments— rules that almost no one but a priest could fulfill. It left every worshipper uncertain of their standing with God! Repentant prostitutes and cheating tax collectors are shunned simply because a priest felt they were too bad to be forgiven. The needs of the crippled and deformed, sick and diseased, orphaned and widowed are ignored because they look so lowly. Still others carry such low respect for worship, they quit caring about their standing with God altogether! No one heard about forgiveness from a Savior! Massive crowds lived unaware of the freedom Jesus brings!
Freely [they] have received! Priests do not carry the Scriptures because they are not prostitutes. They do not preach because their children love them. They do not study Old Testament prophecies simply because they do not have deformities. Jesus chooses to put the free promise of forgiveness into their hands. Freely [they] have received, freely give!
This is the reason why you share your faith. Jesus points out a fact: Freely you have received and then concludes with a command: freely give.
Parents, you have received the good news of a Savior from sin. You trust this message; you believe it. God has blessed you with children. He has even instructed you: “Fathers [and mothers] bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Do you? Or are you tempted to let them find God’s freedom on their own— at a later age, at another church, whenever they want— if they want it?
Friends, you are a friend— a person God has placed into the life of someone else so that you can be a blessing to them. You build memories. You share interests. You complement their abilities. Yet, when your friend wonders why their mom has terminal cancer, do you give an answer… for the hope that you have? (1 Peter 3:15). Or does it feel like life after death is not as serious as it sounds?
Christian, when you sit at a group event and a member wonders why someone shoots congressmen, do you point out the brokenness of the world, but a brokenness healed by relying on Jesus?
Two thousand years ago Jesus signed the proclamation of freedom from sin— and the devil still fights with all his strength to silence his cross and keep the world locked in spiritual slavery. His most loved ploy in covering up the message is to get you to ask: “Why me? Why not someone else?” He knows if you consider the good news of forgiveness as something only you get to enjoy, then no one else will hear it. He knows if you think someone else will share Jesus with a friend, then that friend might never believe. He knows if you try to treat the joys of earth equal to the joys of heaven, then you will never offer spiritual comfort in a decaying world. If only he can convince you that you somehow deserve God’s forgiveness, then you can start placing restrictions on who you share it with. You can keep it to yourself.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Thousands of years ago, Jesus saw you, here, living in a world fighting to fix itself. He saw you—and the times you would doubt his presence when sick. He watched you reeling from your harsh words, dealing with the aftermath of your actions. He saw the long, weary, anxious face as friends break another promise, as your hope for government to make things better wisp away, as you search for meaning. He has compassion on you.
He is born for no other reason than to set you free from fear of death, from the eternal consequences of sin, and from the devil’s crushing accusations. In plain sight hangs a Savior who suffers unfairly, but does not accuse his Father of wronging him. You have a Savior who does not curse his accusers, but begs for their forgiveness. You have a Savior who does not restore a government, but rather establishes a kingdom in heaven. He opens the doors to paradise with his blood. He rises to life to enter and reign in this kingdom. He sends out the good news that you are free to join him!
This message transforms life! This message is free; you have freely received it. The reason why Jesus Sends You Out is two-fold: (1) You received forgiveness by God’s grace alone and (2) You know this message of forgiveness. So, Jesus Sends You Out with an opportunity to freely give.
Jesus gives two ways how you can put these words into action. (1) First, As you go, preach this message: “The kingdom of heaven is near.” Maybe you have asked yourself: “What do I say to my friend about God? There’s so much: baptism, Christmas, forgiveness, prayer, law, gospel… what do I say?” Chances are, you don’t have 24 hours to instruct someone in the Christian faith. So what do you say? Show them Jesus.
Show them Jesus because only he brings spiritual freedom. Tell of a Savior who snaps the chains dragging you to hell and places you in his kingdom forever! Give your confidence and your joy that the kingdom is near. Jesus has already suffered, died, and risen again. The very moment he enters heaven, the countdown clock starts; he can return at any moment. Eternity gets closer each day—and you eagerly wait to stand in the presence of Jesus forever.
So, preach this message. Do all of those in your circle of friends or family rely on Jesus? Look at this FRAN-card (friends-relatives-acquaintances-neighbors). Think about those who are searching for answers in this world. Befriend those who were wrongly hurt by their old church. Show them the free, forgiving love of Jesus—a love without any conditions or rules attached to it.
You can do that because, well, you have already shared Jesus. You bring your children and your grandchildren to worship. You are freely filling them up with the love of Jesus. You follow God’s command as you raise your children in the Lord. Continue doing so! Be the one to share the message of freedom with them!
Or you share Jesus with your spouse. That’s why you invite them to worship. That’s why you share home devotions. That’s why you encourage them to explore the Bible’s teachings. God has chosen to use you to lead a soul from death to life.
Sharing your faith grows into something more automatic. It does not need to be this conscious effort— where you set aside two hours a week for faith-sharing time. Make it a part of your life. Tell people plainly that you spend Sunday mornings here and they are welcome to join you. Share your faith on particular subjects. If someone asks: “Where do you go when you die?” tell them.
(2) Second, Jesus urges you: Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. How much easier can it get? Ask him in prayer to raise up young men who are willing to serve in the pastoral ministry. Ask him for opportunities in your community where you can openly express your faith. Ask him for the personal courage and boldness to take the step and invite the one person on your mind to worship. Ask him to bless our offerings as we work together as a synod, where we join with other like-minded congregations to carry out mission work all around the world. Ask him to bless our efforts to reach the lost.
Pray that you might be the one to share Jesus. Ask God to give you the “right” opportunity to speak. Ask God to give you the words to strike the heart. God has placed you and me in a mission field—with so many souls waiting to be gathered to the Savior’s side. And, by God’s grace, he chooses to use you and me to gather. Invite friends to learn about Jesus. You know these people. You know their interests, their backgrounds, their jobs, their family-life, their worship-life. You know what they believe and don’t believe. You are the answers to the prayer: “Send out workers.”
Continue praying. After all, if Jesus is serious about making such a request, would we not want to make use of this encouragement daily? Jesus Sends You Out with an opportunity to freely give.
No one really knows why it took so long for the news to reach those in captivity. Some think the messenger might have been murdered. Others wonder if the slave-owners knowingly withheld the information in order to continue receiving free labor. Still others suggest that federal troops withheld the news just long enough for plantation owners to finish harvesting (http://www.juneteenth.com/history.htm). Regardless of the reason for the delay, multitudes lived life under slavery even though they were truly free.
The good news of freedom from hell has reached your ears, but that good news has not reached everyone. You freely received a message. This message is for your benefit—and for the benefit of others. And God graciously works through you and me to lead others to comforting freedom of his love.
That’s why Jesus Sends You Out with the message you freely received and with an opportunity to freely give.
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