The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road.
‘Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house.
‘Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not make you welcome, go out into its streets and say, “We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near.” I tell you, on that day it will not go as hard with Sodom as with that town.’
The seventy-two came back rejoicing. ‘Lord,’ they said ‘even the devils submit to us when we use your name.’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you. Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.’
Having just returned from a wonderful week of leave that included a World Cup soccer game and fantastic shows at the Grahamstown National Festival of the Arts, I am a feeling just the slightest patina of rust on the homiletic tools, so let me simply highlight the phrases that grab my attention for reflection in the Gospel this week.
Seventy Two Others
I am not an expert on numerology, so I will not pretend to know the significance of the number seventy-two except to note that it is a number six times larger than the original band of apostles. If this passage indeed teaches Jesus’ priorities for ministry as I believe it does, I as a ministerwould do well to remember that ministry should constantly be including more and more people in the work of the Kingdom. How else will people know that the Kingdom of God is very near to them if there are not representatives of the King, touching their lives?
Ahead of him, to towns and places he was to visit.
Don’t you find it interesting that Jesus sends these “others” to the places he has yet to go? So often I find the church only wants to send “ordinary” men and women to places where Jesus has already been, (or where the professionals have been.)
I grew up in a church culture where the expert preacher or evangelist would come to the town first and lead the “revival”. Then, and only then, ordinary members would be left to do the “follow up”. Jesus seemed to operate differently. He is the follow up after the ordinary people have gone to others and brought healing and spoken of the immanent and close kingdom.
Eat what is before you.
I wonder what happened to teaching this ministry principle in Seminary. As I look around at the culture of entitlement of so many modern ministers I begin to wonder if they have come to serve or to be served? So few seem happy these days to “eat what is before them” rather the value seems to be, “criticise what is before you and demand something different and more expensive”!
Cure those who are sick
How different were the days when healing was a spiritual process, and healers were the spiritual leaders of a community. Our society has made the physical body engineers, the doctors, the sole custodians of the healing arts. A few years ago I was praying with a patient behind drawn curtains in a hospital ward when the attending physician arrived and interrupted my prayer with, “Please stand aside and wait outside, I have work to do here”
What is most damming in my memory of this event is that I didn’t argue or protest. Like a lamb before the wolf I aquiesced and left the ward. Was I following Jesus there?
I wonder how long it will still be before we realise the bankrupcy of trying to heal the body without reference to the dis-ease of soul that makes health break down in the first place. True wholeness comes from integration of the whole person into the whole of life as an extension of our whole God.
And say the “Kingdom of God is very near to you.”
It is when we come to the complete understanding of union with God as integration and non-duality of being at all levels of this human existence that we will begin to experience the reality described as the kingdom or reign of God.
Healing is our primary task as the enrolled and registered servants of heaven’s health.