Luke 10: 1 – 24 Jesus sends out the seventy-two
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
‘When you enter a house, first say, “Peace to this house.” If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
‘When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal those there who are ill and tell them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, “Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God has come near.” I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.
‘Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.’
The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’
He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I 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.’
At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘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 is what you were pleased to do.
‘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.’
Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, ‘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.’
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“The kingdom of God has come near to you.”
This sentence is right at the heart of the passage. Whether the disciples are welcomed or rejected by a town, the kingdom of God has come near to those people.
There will be blessings for those who welcome the disciples; their peace will rest on the household who accommodate them, and those in the town who are ill will be cured.
But there are severe warnings for those who do not accept the disciples, because, “whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.” Those who do not accept Jesus are rejecting God the Father. Indeed, Jesus speaks about judgment, and identifies Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum as condemned for their lack of faith.
As I said yesterday, I have difficulty with doctrines of judgment. I’m trying to find a way of reconciling punishment with a loving God. Evidence is mounting that a positive, loving approach to people is far more effective at changing their behaviour than punishment. It’s clear that many criminal and anti-social acts arise from mental illness and often from poor upbringing. The justification for punishment either for reform or retribution looks increasingly ethically untenable. I’ll keep wrestling, and praying!
Then we have this rather obscure passage:
“At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘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 is what you were pleased to do.”
At first glance this reads as though thinking about our faith is being discouraged. I don’t think that’s the case, though. Rather, I think it’s more to do with how we welcome God, and love, into our lives.
A small child is totally dependent on its family, and it knows this. It accepts and returns love instinctively. So far, so good.
It accepts what it is taught about the world without question. Without question? Yes, surely. But why does a parent teach their child about the world? It’s so that the child, as it matures, can live independently of the parents.
I think what this passage is teaching us is that we have to accept Jesus simply, as a child would, and trust him to teach us what we need to know. And as we grow up and mature, we have to keep going back to Jesus for understanding.
“The kingdom of God has come near to you.”
Yes, we can be sure of this. And one of the things that I believe it means is that Jesus is close to us. Just like a small child, I can rest on him. I can be confident of a loving reception when I pray, or study, or worship, or just hold onto him in my thoughts.
Praise God for such love!
Thank you that your kingdom is close to me. Please help me to trust you and your teaching, and guide my understanding.
In Jesus name, Amen