Sunday October 28, 2007 | Greg Boyd
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 the head of the house loves peace, your peace will rest on that house; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for workers deserve their wages. Do not move around from house to house.
“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there 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.
Our modern, Western way of thinking can easily blind us to the reality of the spiritual world. We are called to revolt against this cultural tendency by waking up both to God’s constant presence in our lives and to the spiritual war around us. We also learn that Jesus has given his church authority over demonic powers in this world, and that no matter what we experience in this life, our hope and joy is rooted in the love of God!
In this passage, Jesus’ disciples return from their mission and enthusiastically report to Jesus about their success in casting out demons. Jesus uses this opportunity to teach them further about the Kingdom of God.
In the latter part of the passage, Jesus teaches them that the “wise and learned” have not recognized the coming of the Kingdom, but that “little children” have understood God’s revelation. As Greg emphasized in his sermon, this does not mean that God arbitrarily revealed his Kingdom to certain people, while intentionally blinding the minds of others. Rather, the “wise and learned” in Jesus’ world were primarily the religious leaders. While some of these people came to believe in Jesus, most of them missed the messianic revelation due to their own self-imposed blindness. The Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ was “hidden” from them because they refused to allow their own religious worldview to be stretched or challenged. They were so certain of their “theological correctness” that they missed “seeing” the coming of the long-awaited Messiah!
In our world today, we experience certain “cultural blinders” that cause us to miss seeing and understanding the Kingdom of God. One of these cultural forces is “Naturalism.” “Naturalism” is the belief that only the physical world of our five senses is real. Naturalism denies the reality of the spiritual world. When naturalism is fully embraced, it leads to atheism. Now, in the Christian world, we reject naturalism because we believe in God. However, naturalism can still affect us. One of the ways in which it affects Christians in the modern Western world is by causing us to lose our awareness of the wider spiritual world, including the spiritual war that always rages around us. We must “revolt” against naturalism by constantly “practicing the presence of God” in our lives, and by opening our eyes to the spiritual realm that surrounds us.
In this passage, Jesus tells his disciples that, as they were doing the kingdom mission, he saw Satan “fall like lightening from heaven.” This refers to Satan’s fall from heaven which is mentioned in other biblical passages such as Isaiah 14:12 and Revelation 12:9. Although Satan’s complete and final defeat will take place at the return of Christ, Jesus and his disciples were already witnessing the beginnings of that defeat, just as we do today when we advance God’s Kingdom in this world. Jesus gave his first disciples “authority to trample on snakes and scorpions” (here, “snakes and scorpion” represent the demonic powers of darkness in this world). And he has given that same authority to us as his church today!
Finally, Jesus reminds his followers that their highest joy should be found in the fact that their names are forever “written in heaven.” This is a reference to the heavenly “book of life” (see Philippians 4:3; Revelation 21:27). Here, Jesus is reminding his followers that, no matter what happens to us in this fallen world, “nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:39)!