The Seventy Perform Signs and Wonders
Numbers 20.1-13 (NRSVA)
The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Have you ever taken credit for something you didn’t do? I’m not the biggest football fan in the world but I do find it funny when a player has a goal set up for them to essentially tap in gently (you know, the ones you can’t possibly miss – but somehow people do!), and they go wild and celebrate that they’ve scored, soaking up all the attention when there were definitely 8 or 9 other players involved!
I used to work for a Christian theatre charity called In Another Place, and the large events we produced were great fun and a massive team effort. But the praise from visitors was often directed towards those in management positions like I was, which is nice of course…but I learnt the importance of recognizing the vital contributions of the 100s of other volunteers before my own. After all without them the events would never have happened.
Last night saw the 93rd Oscars awards ceremony in Hollywood, which recognises the contributions of all the different people who make the best movies appear on our screens. We used to celebrate our volunteers with a mock ‘Oscars’ event with all kinds of hilarious awards. It was fun and not very serious but it important to do, it gave us the chance to say thank you, and gave all of us the chance to thank the one person who made it all possible, which was God of course.
It takes great humility to honour others above ourselves even if we’ve had a share in making something happen. But we can be remarkably quick to ignore the way in which God moves, and this passage from Luke is a good reminder that it’s always God’s mission that we join in with, rather than our own.
As the 72 ventured out on mission they were equipped with nothing but the authority of the name of Jesus to cast out demons and heal the sick. And they came back buzzing. “Look what we did!” they said. “We had power even over demons!” they exclaimed.
Jesus is quick to ground them. He affirms their joy in the power imparted to them, but reminds them that they ought not to look purely to earthly success but to remember their heavenly reward. Rejoice that your names are written in heaven he tells them – rejoice and give God the glory that you did this thing in His name, with His power and not your own.
God’s power is just that, His power. It’s more powerful than the enemy’s power, it’s the most powerfullest power there is. But it’s not ours. It’s His power that he delights to work through us by his Holy Spirit.
So today let’s rejoice in the gifts God gives us, the power of His Holy Spirit at work within us. But let’s also remember not indulge our egos when we see good things happen. Instead let’s give God the glory, for it’s his mission that we join in with and his power that enables it.
(Town Centre Hub)