10After 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. 2He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town. 13“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14But at the judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. 16“Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”
17The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 18He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
What I Am Learning:
In Luke chapter 9, Jesus and his band of men and women was heading through Samaria on his way to Jerusalem to confront the the Roman officials and the Chief Priests. Some of the Samaritans refused to give them hospitality by giving them food and lodging for the night. The Samaritans were probably reluctant to support them because they were going to Jerusalem instead of going to worship on Mt. Gerizim where the Samaritans worshiped.
To refuse hospitality was a big deal. It was a root value of all people in the Mediterranean world.
In response to this, James and John suggested that they might call down fire from heaven to consume the Samaritan village. There was precedent for this, as Elijah called down fire upon some soldiers a few times. Jesus refused to allow this to happen, rebuked them in the strongest terms and encouraged the disciples, both men and women, to go on and find another town. The text suggests that they found another village in Samaria willing to offer them hospitality.
When Jesus sends out the 70 (or 72) out to proclaim that the reign of the Roman domination culture was nearing an end and that God's way, or God's kingdom, was beginning he told them that they would be going out in a very vulnerable way: no purse for money, no bag for food, and no sandals for their feet. This would mean that they would go out totally dependent on the hospitality of others. He did this after the Samaritan village had refused him and his band of disciples, women and men, hospitality.
But they would also have the companionship of each other on the way. Bonhoeffer talked of the blessing of community, please excuse the male oriented language:
“It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed. Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren." Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
This number seventy reminds people of the 70 (or 72) that Moses shared the leadership of the People of Israel with. Jesus is the new Moses, for Christians.
When they were received well, they were to stay with the one house and not move around from house to house. This probably was a way to say, "Don't make hosting you a competition between families that would leave a wake of anger after you leave."
In these welcoming villages, they were to heal the sick, cast out the demons and proclaim that the kingdom of God has come near.
Jesus is clear that they would not always be welcomed. Early in his instructions he told them they were sheep in the midst of wolves. This is not a great recruiting message! Then he gave them instructions for how to handle it when a village did not receive them. They were to do this:
10But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’
Notice that the proclamation is the same: The kingdom of God has come near, it is not far away, it is available to you!
Instead of calling down fire from heaven to destroy them as James and John wanted they would do a simple, powerful and nonviolent symbolic act: wiping off the dust of the town from their feet. This was a well known symbolic act in which faithful Jews would wipe the dust off their feet when leaving a gentile city. It was a way of saying that the city was making the wrong choices and were separating themselves from God, the true source of life.
When the disciples wiped the dust off their feet it did not signify a final judgement on the city, but rather was symbolic attempt to tell the truth: that that city had chosen the Roman bullying culture over the partnership culture Jesus lived, died and rose to establish and support.
And these were the stakes: did people want to live their lives by and to build a competitive, domination, bullying culture and its values, or did they want to live by and to build a compassionate, mutual and partnership culture and its values. The stakes were high. We can all see the results of a domination culture around us. The earth, air, oceans, animals, plants and human beings can all feel the results. Domination cultures keep on using and exploiting until all is ruin.
Jesus also helped to prepare them for when things seem to go well. When they came back he told them not to rejoice that they were able to free people from the power of Satan, that is, the power of domination and competition. They were to rejoice because their names were "written in heaven." This is not the list of those who get to go to heaven when they die, but rather the roster of God's agents in the world, a roster given by the grace of God.
Jesus continues to send his 70 disciples out.
You and I are among them. The choices are still the same, to live by and to build a kingdom of domination and bullying or a community of partnership and mutuality. We are still vulnerable and need the companionship and the hospitality of others.
Of course, we all waffle bit on all of this. Both are in us. Both call to us.
To which vision will we listen? To which vision will we respond to?
God is still writing names in the roster of those who work for God in the world. God will continue until all names are in that book of hope.