Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The glory of... ministry?

In today's New Testament reading from Luke's gospel, Jesus is en route to Jerusalem. He sends 72 of his followers ahead of him with instructions to heal the sick and cast out demons.
17The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name."

18He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
Luke 10.17-20
What is Luke telling us here? Or rather, what is the Lord saying, and why did Luke think this exchange was significant?
By the way, as someone once pointed out, Jesus did not speak in Greek. Since all the books of the New Testament, and in particular the gospels, are written in Greek, all four gospel accounts -- Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John -- are translations. So although Greek is the "original language" that the New Testament was written down in, it's not the language spoken by the Lord Jesus.
I think Jesus saw something subtle happening in his disciples. Yes, there were more blatant things too (like wanting to sit on either side of his throne in the Kingdom of Heaven), but this was a subtler trap, one that the Holy Spirit moved Luke to record for us.

Do not rejoice, Jesus said, because of your spiritual authority -- don't glory in being able to heal the sick or drive out demons or feed the starving or whatever. But why not? Shouldn't we be glad when the sick are healed, when demons are driven out, when the hungry are fed?

Here's my take on it: of course we can be glad, but we should rejoice that we are in the Master's hands, lest we pursue the use of our power just for the joy of exercising it. If I imagine a knife rejoicing in being able to cut straight and cleanly, I might also imagine saying to that knife, "Don't rejoice in making a clean cut; rejoice rather that you're part of your master's plan to feed the family (or whatever)." I would not want the knife to go cutting things that it shouldn't, for the sheer joy of cutting.

Well, that may have been rather a strange example, but it would not surprise me if that's what happened to the devil and his angels -- whoa, it just hit me now, Jesus mentions Satan just before that, doesn't he?

Well, then let us rejoice that we belong to Jesus, not in any accomplishments -- academic, professional, financial, or even spiritual.

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