This blog provides a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily reading along with a headline from world news:
Osaka Mayor says “comfort women” were necessary for welfare of Japanese Troops
J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)
Jesus now despatches thirty-five couples to preach and heal the sick
10 Later on the Lord commissioned seventy other disciples and sent them off in twos as advance-parties into every town and district where he intended to go.
2 “There is a great harvest,” he told them, “but only a few are working in it—which means you must pray to the Lord of the harvest that he will send out more reapers.
3-7 “Now go on your way. I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Don’t carry a purse or a pair of shoes, and don’t stop to pass the time of day with anyone you meet on the road. When you go into a house, say first of all, ‘Peace be to this household!’ If there is a lover of peace there, he will accept your words of blessing, and if not, they will come back to you. Stay in the same house and eat and drink whatever they put before you—a workman deserves his wages. But don’t move from one house to another.
8-12 Whatever town you go into and the people welcome you, eat the meals they give you and heal the people who are ill there. Tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is very near to you now.’ But whenever you come into a town and they will not welcome you, you must go into the streets and say, ‘We brush off even the dust of your town from our feet as a protest against you. But it is still true that the kingdom of God has arrived! I assure you that it will be better for Sodom in ‘that day’ than for that town.
13-15 Alas for you, Chorazin, and alas for you, Bethsaida! For if Tyre and Sidon had seen the demonstrations of God’s power that you have seen, they would have repented long ago and sat in sackcloth and ashes. It will be better for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you! As for you, Capernaum, are you on your way up to heaven? I tell you, you will go hurtling down to hell!”
16 Then he added to the seventy, “Whoever listens to you is listening to me, and the man who has no use for you has no use for me either. And the man who has no use for me has no use for the one who sent me!”
Jesus tells the returned missioners not to be enthusiastic over mere power
17 Later the seventy came back full of joy. “Lord,” they said, “even evil spirits obey us when we use your name!”
I think the implication of Luke’s narrative here is that the Kingdom will come when Jesus comes. The missionary pairs are preparing the way. Indeed God himself, the Lord of the harvest has planted the crop. Now it’s harvest time. Jesus means that God has created people for his purposes, and now wants to gather fruitful lives into a new community. For Luke, the time of the church is a new era of human history when the rule of God will spread throughout the world. Jesus ministry, life, death and resurrection are the means by which God gathers people into his church. The mission of the 72 is a kind of dress rehearsal for the later mission of the church. Their whole manner of proceeding demonstrates the urgency of their task: the verbal announcement that the kingdom is near; and the practical demonstration of its power in the healing of the sick. Taking heart from Jesus’ faith, they discover that when they act in his “name” that is, his character, evil spirits are subject to their healing authority.
People are asked to take sides with Jesus or against him. There’s no middle way.
This can be true still. There are times when the challenge of the gospel is to choose between heaven and hell, life and death. As in Jesus’ day, disciples are asked not to water down the gravity of their mission by worldly behaviour or modes of persuasion. There are times when the children of peace have to declare themselves by welcoming the messengers of peace and trusting in God’s rule. This is for example true today in the clash of religions where, as in Nigeria, believers are being asked to slaughter others in the name of God. The children of peace are asked to make a hard choice and a costly witness.