The Gospel reading in Sunday, the 14th in Ordinary Time, has the disciples able to ‘try out’ the discipleship that has been the focus of teaching in recent weeks’ readings.
The try it out, and their work is succesful. Jesus himself sees Satan fall in consequence of what they do.
The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road.
‘Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house.
‘Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not make you welcome, go out into its streets and say, “We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near.” I tell you, on that day it will not go as hard with Sodom as with that town.’
The seventy-two came back rejoicing. ‘Lord,’ they said ‘even the devils submit to us when we use your name.’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you. Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.’
The discipline of the disciples mean that they remain on message, and focussed on the ministering of the Gospel – healing the sick, and assuring, preaching, that the Kingdom of God is very near to those to whom they speak.
The fall of Satan is testimony to its very nearness: the world, the communities to whom they go is restored to its original purpose of closeness to God. What Israel was called to, but again and again fails to live up to; what the disciples before and after this episode again and again find difficult to keep hold of and live – here in this prescious moment is achieved. The power of disciples to make a difference is demonstrated and assured.
Pass it on.
Interior of a typical hillside 1st C Palestinian home. Taybeh, Palestinian Territories. (c) 2012, Allen Morris.