The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
(Luke 10:17-24 ESV)
Jesus sent seventy-two of his disciples out on a mission. Luke 10:1 says he appointed them. Many have said he sent them by twos for protection. But in the law-based Israel of Jesus’ day it is clear they were sent in pairs because the things they were going to see and do wouldn’t be believed if only one came back and testified. Any matter could be established in a court of law in Israel on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
Their mission was to find people of wholeness – shalom – and do something very simple: eat with them. It is at our dinner tables that our peace, our graciousness, our generosity, our hope, our love, our fellowship are seen. Or else, it is at our dinner tables that our anger, our bitterness, our bigotry, our contentiousness come out. Truly, people aren’t as black or white as all that. Both are present at each table. Grace is not something you say at the beginning of a meal. It is something you experience as you dine with others. That is the beginning of real communion.
Jesus had also given the seventy-two one other instruction: heal the sick. Their ability to heal arose from coming in peace, dining in peace, and abiding in peace. A person who is contentious or striving cannot offer healing because they can’t take the time to really listen, either to the sick person or to the Lord. Their attention is focused elsewhere.
When the disciples returned, they didn’t mention the long hours at tables, the wonderful times of fellowship with people whose hearts were turned toward peace. Rather, as they checked back in with Jesus, one after another of the 36 pairs who had gone out told how demons fled at their word.
“Look. I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven,” Jesus said. And as great an experience as it probably was when Jesus’ own shalom – his wholeness, his peace, his communion with the Father and the Spirit caused Satan to fall so dramatically, that was a mere byproduct of the pure joy communion with God was for Jesus.
It is a real thrill when people thank you for how you touched them with your words or healed their heart or helped them in their need. I suppose that’s why pastors and teachers are so prone to ego trips. But Jesus warned his disciples not to get intoxicated by the high of having demons subject to them. You want a real trip? Get high on this:
Joy to the world; the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heav'n and nature sing.
Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns,
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains,
Repeat the sounding joy.
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness,
And wonders of his love.
--Psalm 98, metered by Isaac Watts, 1719