After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them
on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to
go. The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, in your name even the
demons submit to us!" He said to them, "I watched Satan fall from
heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on
snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will
hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you,
but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
In chapter 9 verses 1 to 6, Luke described Christ sending
the twelve apostles on a mission to preach his gospel in the towns and villages
of Galilee. Besides, the twelve apostles, he had many followers who went with
him. Among these, the seventy-two, mentioned her, seem to be a somewhat select
group. They have learned more of his teaching, perhaps, than others. Therefore,
he sends them out to preach and to prepare the way for his coming to the
various towns and villages. The instructions which he give them as to their
behavior, is similar to that given to the apostles.
We should note that the number of the apostles was
restricted to twelve, possibly to signify that they were the leaders of the new
twelve Tribes of Israel. The seventy-two or seventy may represent the seventy
elders chosen by Moses to be his helpers in governing the people. This he did
at God’s command (Numbers 11:16).
God’s ways of dealing with us mortals are amazing when we
think over them. He calls on men to help him bring themselves and their
fellowmen to heaven, when he could do this far more effectively himself with
any help from man.
The Son of God when he was on earth, could have worked some
extraordinary signs or miracles which would have made the whole Roman Empire,
as well as the Jews, sit up and take notice. He could have stayed longer on
earth, and could have preached his gospel in Greece and Rome. He could have
converted the leading lights in the empire, and this have made the spread of
his gospel so much easier and quicker.
Instead, he chose weak, human creatures who spent years
doing work which could have done in a month or less. Today’s gospel is an example
of this method. One half-hour of Christ in the towns and villages, in which
these seventy-two disciples spent some weeks, would have been far more
He could have brought those people to his feet by one word
of command. Yet, he still depends on mere humans to bring the good news of his
gospel to their fellowmen, and to bring these fellowmen to heaven. Instead of
this slow and often unsuccessful method, he himself could have appeared for a
short period over each country in the world and addressed the people. He could
have proved to them by a startling miracle or two that it was he. He could have
made it clear that unless human beings carried out his commands for the rest of
their lives he had power to see to it that the remainder of the life of those
who disobeyed would be very brief indeed.
Yes, God and Christ, who is God’s divine Son, could do all
the things suggested. God’s ways are not our ways. Thank God for that too. He
could, without the slightest difficulty, force all men to accept his gospel and
live according to it. Men have done harder things when a powerful fellowman was
standing over them. What would they not do if their Creator and Lord was
standing menacingly over them?
The fact, of course, that God wants no forced-labourer in
heaven. He wants free citizens, who have elected to go there of their own free
will. Nor would those men, forced to live the gospel through fear of the
all-powerful master, earn heaven by this kind of obedience. It is because God
wants all men in heaven that he leaves each one absolutely free to choose the
path that leads there. Only thus can men enjoy heaven.
He has marked that path clearly and vividly for all who wish
to see. He has placed marked human guides (his pastors) along the way to help
the weak and warn travelers of possible wrong turnings.
In other words, he has dealt with us humans in a very human
way. He acts, even with his prodigal sons, as a loving father, ever ready to
help them as he would help those who remain at home near him. He is almost
readier still to welcome back the spendthrifts and wastrels, and lay on a
home-coming party for them.
Plaintively, rather than authoritatively, he tells us all in
today’s lesson that he needs more helpers to help their fellowmen. This is not
only a loving call to the priesthood and the religious life. It is a call to
all true Christians. He needs guides on the long road to heaven. The layman or
laywoman who is traveling that road can be, and is, as good a guide as the
priest or religious. This call from the loving heart of Christ is intended
today as much for them as for priests and religious. Up to now, how much have I
done to help Christ bring men to heaven? No one can get to heaven unless he
loves God. No one can love God unless he loves his neighbour. No one can love
his neighbour, and look on without concern while that neighbour is wandering
miles from the road which Christ has marked out as the road to heaven. If I am
a true Christian, I am thereby a disciple also. I am called on today to do the work
of a disciple. Amen.