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Trinity XXIV

Let us pray:
BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Amen.

Book of Luke, chapter 10, verses 17-24:

Good Morning,

We start the second reading this morning with the proclamation that
“..the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.

I know many here travel often – we all get back from running about and finally return, exhausted.  How often do we land with joy, though? We are relieved, usually to be done with the business of travel, but joy?
Consider also, these were the same 70 odd (some say there were seventy, some seventy-two) that Jesus sent off at the start of Chapter 10, with spare provisions and haste.  They walked to their destinations and back again, and were joyful about the result, exhausted though they were.
However, the word seemed odd - I wanted to be sure that the translations used the right word, here – they all did say ‘joy’, and although that word being everywhere should appear to confirm it, I wanted to verify it for myself. 
Sure enough, the Greek word used in this part of the text is ‘charas’, (chaa-rra) which is translated in many parts of the New Testament as ‘gladness or joy,’
So here they were, rejoicing that. “Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.”
So they were happy unto joy that they could command demons? Again, this doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense if you look at it from our present day. 
But from the perspective of a convert in the time of Jesus, there was cause for joy and celebration,  of what they had seen, and of what they had done!
Here they were, part of a new and exciting movement, but they were continually challenged.
Consider the religious leaders, the “establishment” of that time.
The Sadducees pressured the new believers – they were criticized by Jesus for their management of the Temple.    They had a similar problem with the Pharisees – they scoffed at the new movement, yet were annoyed with Jesus’ criticism for their tinkering with the Law and how to obey God.
These seventy-odd had to go out amongst the people, and against the criticisms, and show that this was a real movement.

 Jesus sent them by saying “Go, I send you as lambs amongst the wolves and then commanded them to heal the sick and bless the towns they travelled to.
And so they did, and as they mentioned in verse 17, they did this in His Name, which showed the basis of their belief.   They went out amongst the people and healed the sick, and drove out demons. That showed many, and converted them.
In the next verse,18, Jesus notes that he saw “satan fall as lightning from heaven”  This seems out of place here – what could he mean by that?
True, satan was banished from heaven, and Jesus would have been aware when that happened, but in this case, as one commentator notes, Jesus was watching these disciples via the interaction of the Holy Spirit.  What He now described was the effect that the seventy-odd’s ministry had on the power of satan and his influence on the people. The commentator mentions the lightning and the fall from heaven as sudden and abrupt and that describes the speed with which the power of satan was reduced.

What a vivid illustration of the triumph of the Kingdom of God!
Jesus then goes on, in verse 19,  to elaborate on the authority they had been given when they were sent out – to, ultimately,  ‘overcome all the power of the enemy and nothing will hurt you’. He even warns them to consider that their abilities to drive out demons should not be too central to their thinking      by this He reminded them that it wasn’t their power, but a result of their belief and, ultimately, their promised place in His Kingdom.
In the next verse, Jesus is infused with joy by the Holy Spirit and celebrates the witness these disciples presented.  In verse 21, one can sense how He laughed about the educated of that time,   “the Wise and Learned” not seeing the Truth, yet the Father showed it all to the unlearned masses.   Jesus then notes that this has all transpired according to God’s Plan.

Wait, hold on – that kind of makes no sense, either. Why would God not want to reveal the Kingdom to the “Wise and Learned” of that time?  They had the ear and eye of the people, they were in power – the spread of the message would have been assured.

Because they abused their power – the Sadducees were the ones Jesus chased from the Temple – the money changers! They profited over the faith of the Hebrews.

Also, the Pharisees consider the minutae, the tiny amounts of things which they hounded the people to adhere to in order to keep the Law. Jesus reduced these to two commandments.

These ‘rulers’ lived to make the system of worship in Israel more complicated and, in so doing, corrupted the practice – and the people knew and understood them, better, probably than they would have preferred.
So, God wanted to avoid the leaders to lend realism and clarity – the message of Jesus could come from the regular people, the sinners, to show He meant to reach out to everyone!
But, also, consider that God wanted a sense of purity to be present with the Message of His Son. These rulers would have made any new revelation suspect. The sudden conversion of someone that was not perceived as a manipulator or poseur as the majority of those religious rulers appear to have been seen, would have removed that doubt from an observer’s mind.
Jesus then continues His thank you to His father in verse 22 by expressing the mystery of faith to the unbeliever.  He says that
All things are delivered to me of my Father:   and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father   ; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him
Until we believe in Jesus, in His true, redeeming work on the Cross, in Who He is, and what He means to the world, we can’t understand the Loving Father who sent Him to us, to reclaim and restore us.
Finally, in the last two verses 23 and 24, Jesus talks to these disciples and tells them to consider how fortunate they are to be living and experiencing their mission,  and how those ‘Wise and Learned’ people longed to see the power and the wisdom that was hidden from them.

That power, that wisdom.

Consider the commission to the disciples that Jesus clarifies in verse 19:
Behold, I give unto you power… over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
This is HIS promise to us as well. As members of the Body of Christ, He grants us this power over the enemy and He PROTECTS us!

But, consider, how often do we take that authority and use it? How often do we run from talking about faith, about doing ‘church- type’ things? How often do we know and realize we are protected?
When I reflect on this myself, I am guilty of this as well as the next -  Like the four-year old caught in the act of mis-behaving, I “promise I’ll do better”.  And I am forgiven.
Like everyone, this plays out over and over – He forgives and calls us back, and embraces us, and sends us out to the snakes and scorpions again, and we are loved, and protected.
But, consider, that’s OK – God calls those of us that can admit it, that can say “Whoops, I goofed”, rather than being haughty, as those Wise and Learned” people might react.

We are, with all our foibles, those that God has called and sent out. We don’t all preach or teach the same, we don’t all say things clearly sometimes, but we are His, and we are all ordinary people.
From that simple point, the people see our lives, and the way we live, as real people, and they see a difference in Who we believe in and what we hold in reverence.
Since we are people just like them, they can come to us and ask how to live with such belief in something so different.
We point them to the Cross, to Him who saved us from ourselves, and the Kingdom continues to grow.  It has been this way since before the seventy or seventy-two were sent ,     and returned,     and it continues.
And we can hear Jesus echo in the background, each time someone comes to know Him this way ‘ Yes, Father, this was how You were pleased to have it happen.

Let us pray…
LORD of all power and might, who art the author and giver of all good things;
Graft in our hearts the love of thy Name,
increase in us true religion,
nourish us with all goodness,
and of thy great mercy keep us in the same;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Charlie Niemi

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