14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C
Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
What Makes You Rejoice?
Jesus sends out seventy-two. Look closely at that number. He doesn’t send out the twelve. He sends out seventy-two! Why seventy-two? It’s a specific number, a detail scholars generally say demonstrates the writer was there and wants the reader to know it. It’s also a number that is used several times in scripture when God’s people are being told something. Regardless, seventy-two is a lot more than twelve! All seventy-two were able to heal and drive out demons in Jesus’s name. I think the largesse of the number seventy-two also means we are included. If we tap into Jesus as well, we too can do great things in His name.
Jesus sends them out with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They are to live off the people they serve. Though the gospel doesn’t record how they felt about this, that must have been a little scary, especially when Jesus adds the detail, “I am sending you like the lamb among wolves” (v. 3). Jesus ought to know; He is living out that very scenario.
But to their amazement, the seventy-two come back thrilled: “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of Your name!” (v. 17). They would go into villages poor and needy, and yet the power and authority they displayed in Jesus’s name bowled people over. I bet people lined up to have one of the seventy-two stay at their homes. I bet they cooked their favorite foods and served the seventy-two on silver platters (or the Jesus-time equivalent). It must have been heady. It would be hard not to get a bit puffed up.
Jesus knows all that authority is intoxicating. He knows personally because He had to face it down in the desert right after His baptism. Satan showed Him the whole “world in a single instant) and offered, “I shall give to you all this power and their glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me” (Luke 4:5-6). Jesus absolutely knows what it is to contemplate power and authority and renown.
But He turned it down, and He counsels the seventy-two to do so also: “do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (v. 20). In that sentence, Jesus acknowledges the challenge the disciples face — rejoicing “because the spirits are subject to them”. He also reminds them the reason they should be rejoicing is because they are part of God’s kingdom. He doesn’t even add that they only reason they can perform the miracles is because of His authority. That’s not what’s important here. The important thing is their membership in the family of God.
I think Jesus was also reminding them that even if the power and the authority desert them, they should still rejoice. Their names are still written in heaven. They still have an ultimate home. And so do we.
Written by Ansley Dauenhauer, Coordinator of Elementary Faith Formation