The seventy came back jubilant. “Lord,” they said, “with your power, even the demons submit to us!” 18 Yeshua said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Remember, I have given you authority; so you can trample down snakes and scorpions, indeed, all the Enemy’s forces; and you will remain completely unharmed. 20 Nevertheless, don’t be glad that the spirits submit to you; be glad that your names have been recorded in heaven.”
21 At that moment he was filled with joy by the Holy Spirit and said, “Father, Lord of heaven and earth, I thank you because you concealed these things from the sophisticated and educated, yet revealed them to ordinary people. Yes, Father, I thank you that it pleased you to do this.
22 “My Father has handed over everything to me. Indeed, no one fully knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.” 23 Then, turning to the disciples, he said, privately, “How blessed are the eyes that see what you are seeing! 24 Indeed, I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see the things you are seeing but did not see them, and to hear the things you are hearing but did not hear them.”
In his account of Jesus sending out the 70 messengers, Luke emphasised that they were to go ahead of Jesus in the journey to Jerusalem, into hostile territory where they would be as lambs amongst wolves, almost as if they were in a foreign country. Nevertheless their message was described as the authentic message of Jesus which was identified in turn as the authentic message of God. This was a big claim for the witness of the messengers.
Now in this passage Luke shows them returning full of joy that their work of healing and announcing the rule of God in Jesus’ name has defeated the powers of evil that diminished peoples’ lives. Doubtless this reflects Luke’s view of the power of Jesus’ name used in the church of his time.
Jesus’ reply as given by Luke is wonderfully affectionate and humourous: the 70 have done so well they have knocked Satan out of his position of power in the sky! He goes on to give them authority over all the powers that damage human life, while telling them not get carried away with this gift as their deal joy should be in knowing that “their names have been recorded in heaven.” God will not forget their good work.
Luke presents Jesus as filed with joy that his mission is succeeding. He has managed to transfer the authority that God has given him to his followers. The good news of God’s goodness on earth no longer depends on him alone. Jesus’ ecstatic gratitude to the father expresses the miracle of this transfer: the One beyond all worlds has entrusted his goodness to ordinary people, through his human child! This connection between Earth and heaven is the Holy Spirit, who empowers Jesus and his followers. Jesus’ words imply that he lives and works in the Holy Spirit, so much so that the Father’s trust in him and his trust in the Father, this unbreakable connection, is identified as the Spirit, given by the Father to Jesus so that it may be given by him to ordinary people, and indeed to the whole creation.
This very carefully worded saying of Jesus comes from the material that Luke shares with Matthew, where we find almost the same words. For Luke it is the culmination of a number of indicators of Jesus’ relationship with God, his baptism, his prayers in solitude, the so-called transfiguration, all of which set out Jesus dependence on God, but even more astonishingly, God’s dependence on him and his followers. For Luke, and for Jesus, this open channel between heaven and earth fulfills the visions of the prophets and the hopes of kings.
We are less accustomed to find in fundamental doctrines in the gospels than we are in St Paul’s letters, but without doubt this passage is intended by Luke to set out his view of the Holy Spirit, just as certainly as Paul does in Romans chapter 8. He invites all followers of Jesus to find their own experience here: that their acquaintance with Jesus has opened them to his relationship with God, enabling them to be channels of God’s goodness in the world, sharing in the Spirit’s transformation of the world.
Can I believe that in respect of my own pathetic discipleship of Jesus? With difficulty, but I’m reminded that the original disciples were sometimes pathetic also, and yet here I am 2000 years later, using their their memory of Jesus. I am asked to believe that this is Jesus’ way of revealing the Father to me, and even when I have made all the allowances possible for the defects of my discipleship and the sharpness of my scepticism, I am inclined to do so.