LAMBS, WOLVES, SERPENTS and DOVES

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Matthew 10:16 and Luke 10:3 (Reading Luke 10:1-17)

The New Testament records two occasions on which our Lord sent out disciples. Matthew 10 reports on the sending of the twelve and Luke 10 records the sending of seventy disciples. Missionaries generally use the passage in Luke 10 for their presentations. Luke 10:1-20 seems custom tailored for missionary presentations, covering the entire spectrum of modern missions:
* Seventy missionaries are commissioned by the Lord in verse one.
* The great need in the world and the sense of urgency for missionaries is expressed in verse two.
* The Lord sends the seventy out into missionary service ("Go!") in verse three.
* Verse four deals with missionary support levels and initial outfitting.
* Verses 5 – 11 present a detailed mission strategy.
* In verses 12 – 16, the missionaries are told what they can expect to face and how to react.
* Finally, in verses 17 – 20, the missionaries come home on furlough and report to the Home Board, where they get a debriefing.
* Luke concludes the missions challenge in verse 17 with the happy ending that people, especially Americans, delight in. The disciples return rejoicing and victorious!

Matthew skips the happy ending and adds 25 extremely uncomfortable verses. It's no wonder missionaries prefer to use the text in Luke 10! (Read Matthew 10 at home!)

But there is one difficult verse in both passages, that missionaries and pastors normally gloss over. I have never heard anyone expound on Matthew 10:16 or Luke 10:3. Jesus made virtually the same statement in both commissioning services. Why don't missionaries deal seriously with these verses?

In Matthew 10:16, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, sends his disciples out as “sheep in the midst of wolves!” Luke 10:3 says, "lambs among wolves."

You have most likely read and heard these verses many times. Have you ever paused to consider what Jesus is saying? After all, it IS part of the so-called "Great Commission." And if it is repeated in both sendings, Jesus must have felt that it was important for us to know and understand.

Of Sheep and Lambs
Sheep are fearful, clumsy and defenseless creatures. And they are also dumb. The flock is their refuge, and the shepherd is their protectorate. This is particularly true of lambs. A dozen sheep could be considered a small flock, but not 70 lambs.

No shepherd in his right mind would lead his flock of sheep or lambs among wolves, yet the "Good Shepherd" actually SENDS them! According to Luke 10:1 the Lord sends his lambs into places where he himself had not yet been. And he sends them two by two!

He sends his lambs or his sheep two by two among the wolves where he himself has not yet been! Did you get that folks?

Of Wolves
You have seen signs that say, "Beware of Dog!" We are raising a German Shepherd for The Seeing Eye. Our dog wouldn't hurt a flea - well, yes he would, but not people. Dogs descended from wolves and Thunder even looks like one! We don't need any sign to warn people!

Thunder still has that hunting instinct. We are trying to teach Thunder not to chase cats and squirrels, but it isn't easy. He has never been around sheep, but we wouldn't trust him without some intensive training.

The proverbial "lone wolf" is a rarity. Wolves travel in packs. They circle around a flock of sheep and select their victim. The hapless sheep or lamb doesn't have a chance to defend itself and is quickly ripped to shreds and devoured by the wolves. Jesus sends his lambs out 2x2 into the wolves (plural) - a wolf pack!

What makes the Lord's statement even more puzzling is the fact that other passages warn us about wolves. In John 10, Jesus says that a hired shepherd sees the wolf coming and flees. The wolf snatches his meal and the other sheep are scattered. Jesus calls himself the GOOD shepherd who gives his life for the sheep. Paul warns the church in Acts 20:29, “For I know this, that after my departure, great wolves will enter in among you, and they won't spare the flock!” In Matthew 7:15, Jesus says, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves”. In Matthew 10:16-39, where Jesus sends out the twelve disciples, he describes the wolves in vivid detail (read it!). We find in these verses a capsulated view of church history. It is similar to the account of those Old Testament martyrs listed in Hebrews 11 (read that too!). The wolves are very real! Evil men, including religious leaders dressed in sheepskins, and even your closest relatives will slander, persecute, and in some instances kill you!

The havoc wolves create can not be considered collateral damage. Wolves kill for a living! Wolves are not loved by shepherds, but they often do the flock an unintended service. The victim is frequently a sickly animal and that helps keep the flock strong, healthy and close to the shepherd. It hardly appears that this was the intent of the Lord's command to the seventy, however, for he sent them as "lambs" among the wolves!

Missionaries - A Special Breed
Missionaries are disciples, apostles, a special breed of people who receive unusual marching orders.

Missionaries are Forerunners. In Luke 10:1, Jesus sent the seventy out in pairs to places where he himself had not been. John the Baptist was the forerunner of Christ, but pioneer missionaries are also forerunners, preaching Christ where He is not yet known.

The best definition of the Greek word translated "disciple" is "apprentice", one who learns from the Master and attempts to follow his example.

Jesus left his glorious home in heaven to be born into a world of wolves. The Lamb of God was sent to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" but not a few were wolves. Jesus expects the same of his disciples. Jesus told his apprentices, “Just as the Father hath sent me, so send I you!”

Missionaries live exciting lives. If 70 sheep attacked a lone wolf, the wolf might be intimidated and flee, but sheep don't do that and wolves travel in packs. Jesus sends his lambs out two by two into a pack of wolves, but the results are often surprising!

Missions is always unpopular, often dangerous, and sometimes deadly. Missionary victims of the wolves occasionally make headlines, but most casualties go unnoticed by the press. Several Avant missionaries were involved in that fateful attempt to reach the Auca Indians in 1956. That incident was reported in the media, but I personally know of a dozen Avant missionaries who were killed, taken hostage or victimized in the line of duty that got little or no press coverage. Every day around the world, Christians are persecuted and killed.

I too have had exciting experiences among wolves in Austria. A drunk once threatened to kill his wife and I tried to talk him out of it. He told me not to meddle in his personal affairs and pressed a knife against my chest to emphasize the point (pun intended!).

Working with drug addicts was not without its dangers. I had threats on my life, the door of our home was once smashed, and one of our converts was murdered by a drug dealer who feared betrayal.

Four decades ago, In May, 1972, young people from all over Austria converged on Salzburg for the annual Pentecost Youth Retreat. It was planned well in advance - not by us, but by God himself! The date was on the calendar and it was Salzburg's turn to host the annual affair. In order to stimulate off-season business, city authorities arranged for the youth to eat Sunday dinner in the Airport Restaurant for reduced prices. They gave us nearly every room in the public youth hostel. The Police Department granted us permission to conduct a street rally in the heart of the city. We only planned the sessions.

When our youth arrived, however, the city was buzzing with excitement. Policemen where everywhere. Long black limousines filled with diplomats, politicians and secret service agents cruised the streets. U.S. President Richard Nixon was in town on his way to a summit conference in Russia! Before "Air Force One" landed, police cordoned off the airport and allowed no one to get near unless they had valid airline tickets - with the exception of our 180 youth! We had a perfect view of Air Force One from the windows of the Airport Restaurant while 600 radio and TV reporters were kept at a distance. Crowds of chanting radicals stalked the streets, angry that authorities had forbidden them to stage public demonstrations in Salzburg. They bore posters which declared, "NIXON IS A MURDERER!" and "AMIS OUT OF VIETNAM!" We even saw several youth burning an American flag. When we gathered to conduct the planned street rally, policemen immediately surrounded us. We showed them our permit and they stared in disbelief. We were permitted to sing our gospel songs and invite people to the evangelistic meeting that night. Radical members of the Baader-Meinhof Group attempted to grab our microphone, but I was able to ward them off and engage them in a discussion about their spiritual needs.

The same year, in late August, we invited a group of Arabs to our youth center in Linz who seemed to have nothing to do. They attended night after night, hearing the gospel and testimonies of our youth. A Jewish girl who had become a Christian also gave her testimony. One of the Arabs seemed close to salvation, but the next night, he was missing. The others said that he had gotten sick and gone home. We never saw the Arabs after that night, but on September 5, a group of eight Arab guerrillas broke into the Olympic Village in Munich, three hours from Linz. They took eleven Israelis hostage. All the Israelis and five terrorists were killed. We had likely been hosting terrorists!

In the eighties, an Austrian extremist was sending letter bombs to foreigners and those who worked with refugees. We fit both categories and were very cautious about opening our mail. The letter bomber was finally captured after killing ten persons and maiming many others, including the Mayor of Vienna.

Missionaries Return
If missions is such a difficult and dangerous task, why do they keep at it? Why do they return and make a career of missions? They don't do it for fame or recognition. They may be heroes back home, but not on their field of service! Nor do they do it for money! Most have a college education and could earn much more at a secular job.

What is even more significant, is that the children of missionaries often become missionaries. And most astounding is the fact that a large number of widows and orphans of missionary casualties, also return to missions. Avant missionary, Dave Osterhus, crashed his light plane in the jungle of Ecuador and lived to tell about it. Several decades later, his only son was killed when his plane crashed a few miles from where his father's plane went down. His widow continued serving the Lord in the jungles of Ecuador and, although long past retirement age, Osterhus Senior is still busy recruiting for missions and making frequent mission trips to Ecuador. Two other missionaries were killed in that fateful plane crash and their spouses also continued serving as missionaries. Another Avant missionary, Gil Reimer, was murdered in Mexico, but his widow continued to serve.

Missions is Fun!
The writer of Hebrews said that our Lord suffered the agony of the cross for the joy that was set before him. Missionaries share in that joy. Missionaries may be aware of the dangers, but they also know the excitement and joy that accompanies the job. Missionaries know how much fun it is to enter a wolf pack with the gospel! It is an exciting and rewarding experience. Try to picture a pair of crazy sheep running toward - not away from - a pack of wolves! They are forerunners, remember? Can you imagine the confusion that creates in a wolf pack?

The light of a tiny candle is capable of dispelling the greatest darkness, and the light of the gospel, the Holy Spirit's conviction and blood of the lamb can overwhelm the greatest sinner. Look at what happened to Saul of Tarsus. Saul was a promising young Pharisee of the Pharisees, who had Roman citizenship and carried credentials of the High Priest. He successfully jailed a bunch of Christians and assisted in the stoning of Stephen. But Saul and his wolf pack were no match for the Lord's lambs. Saul became Paul and from that time on, HE was the one getting jailed and stoned.

Now read the letter he wrote from jail to the Philippians! No trace of a martyr's complex or remorse. He writes, “I count it all joy!” The prisoner Paul told King Agrippa and his entourage that he wished they could all be just like him – except for the chains.

I would like to insert my opinion here.  I believe that Saul was sincerely trying to serve God when struck down on the way to Damascus . He had observed the turbulent religious situation in Israel, the rapid growth of what he believed to be a dangerous sect, and he agonized with God for guidance about what should be done. I believe that he wanted, more than anything else in life, to do what was right. How else could we explain the manner in which God dealt with him on the road to Damascus? God would never violate a man's free will! God was answering Saul's prayers. He sent one of his lambs - Ananias - to deliver the gospel message and baptize Saul.

When the seventy returned for their first furlough (all 70 did return!), they were really excited and rejoicing. "And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name." (Luke 10:17) Jesus had to chide them a little about their exuberance.

So, don't ever feel sorry for “poor suffering missionaries.” And if you should hear one of them seeking your sympathy, pray for his spiritual condition! "There is joy in serving Jesus!"

Missions in America
Missions is everywhere because wolves are everywhere - including in America. They are in politics, business, sports, the work place, schools, society, the military, the police force…!

Is Missions for You or Your Children? People who learn that we are raising puppies for The Seeing Eye, often ask, "How can you give up a dog after spending 12-15 months raising and loving it?" We answer, "Our parents raised us for the Lord and to serve others. They rejoiced when we went to another country as missionaries." We raised our own children for the Lord and to serve others. Our children are serving the Lord and we are praying that our grandchildren will give their lives to Christ and perhaps become missionaries.

Christians rightfully want to protect their children from the wolves. But if parents view the church youth group or Christian schools as safe havens for their kids, they may be shocked to discover that there are wolves even in these institutions. They may be dressed in sheepskins, but they are nonetheless wolves.

The job of the military is not to keep soldiers out of harm's way. The purpose of Christian schools and youth ministries should be to prepare kids to go out and confront wolves with the gospel, not to provide a safe haven. Christians are not to be OF the world, but we are definitely IN the world. Jesus even commanded us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Jesus not only loves his sheep and lambs; he loves wolves. There are Christians who avoid wolves during the week and try not to get fleeced on Sunday. There is nothing more pitiful than a sheep that dies of old age and never got shorn. I have watched sheep frolicking in the pasture after they were shorn!

Snakes and Doves
Jesus mentions four creatures in Matthew 10:16: "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." When theology students see the word, "therefore," they are taught to ask what it is there for. Because we are sent as lambs among wolves, we are to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. If you never heard a sermon on lambs and wolves, you probably never heard one on serpents and doves. Ever since the Garden of Eden, snakes have gotten a bad rap. They are feared, despised, hunted and killed by people, but they manage to survive. The snake is clever and wise. It can make itself nearly invisible even when moving and hunting for prey.

Drunks, criminals, child molesters, terrorists and other despicable specimens of humanity may be despised by others, but Jesus loves them and died to save and convert them into useful disciples. In four decades of missionary work, we learned that wisdom (characteristic of the snake) is better than brute strength, and friendliness (think of the dove and the lamb) wins more than accusations. Enemies of the gospel often attempt to silence us and prevent us from sharing God's Word, but wisdom, honesty and love are very effective tools in winning the lost.

Conclusion
After five decades of missionary work, we can honestly say, "The lambs win!" Is God perhaps asking you to get on his team? We are now raising dogs to guide the blind. It's not as difficult to give them up as you think. Our next puppy is already on order. Parents, are you willing to give your lambs to God for missions? I repeat: "The lambs win!"

Ralph V. Harvey