(Luke 10: 1-12, 17-20)
In today’s gospel, we read an account from Luke of the sending out of the seventy (two) disciples. Translations vary on this number, but scholars see the number seventy as casting Jesus in a prophetic role like Moses who appointed seventy elders to assist him. Seventy was a sacred number in the Bible and suggested the totality of things. So in Luke’s story the sending of seventy disciples was not a random number. It signified a prophetic completeness.
They were sent with a purpose, which differed in an important way from the mission of the twelve that we read about in Luke’s previous chapter. They were to go ahead of Jesus in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. And where were these places? We get a big clue at the end of Luke’s previous chapter. Chapter 9 : 51 states: “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And this journey to Jerusalem would take him through the hostile territory of Samaria.
Into that hostile territory, the seventy disciples were sent to prepare the way for Jesus. Even though it was hostile, the harvest there was plentiful. They were to go bearing peace, and where they found peace they were to stay, heal the sick and proclaim to the people that the reign of God was near to them. In order for their message of God’s reign to be credible they must go with nothing but that peace and become part of the community wherever they went. That is how Jesus would follow.
Jesus warned them that they would not be welcomed everywhere. Jesus had a simple solution for dealing with rejection – ‘move on’.
Aren’t we all numbered among the seventy, the symbolic number of completeness, part of the prophetic group? And don’t we have the same common purpose – to go out and to prepare the way for Jesus, even into hostile territory, with the assurance that the harvest is plentiful. Instead of taking all our trappings, we are simply asked to carry peace and offer it to whomever we meet. Where it is accepted, we stay awhile, heal wounds and proclaim God’s reign. Then like those seventy disciples, come back together in joy to heal and share God’s reign with one another.
The mission is so simple. You would wonder how we ever got it out of whack and stressed so long about what we are called to do.
In the next verse, after today’s excerpt, we find Jesus rejoicing in the Holy Spirit because God has revealed so much to the simple, the mere infants.
Elizabeth Ferguson, OP