The 70 disciples play key role in overthrowing worldly powers

By Glen Argan

Empowered by Jesus, 70 disciples – that is, all of us – head out in pairs into “the midst of wolves” to prepare the way for Jesus and to proclaim, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” They return later, giddy with the success of their mission: “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!”

Theirs is a mission of eradicating evil, leaving it to Jesus to bring salvation. Jesus shares in the joy of the returning disciples. “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.” He has given the disciples authority to tread on all demonic forces, including “the power of the enemy.”

However, the greatest rejoicing should be over the reality that the disciples’ names “are written in heaven.”

Surely, in the Gospel of St. Luke, which is the source of Sunday’s Gospel, personified evil exists. But Luke has an over-arching concern with political and economic oppression in first century Palestine. He is concerned with social status and how it its possessors use their status to exclude the poor and “sinners.”

That does not mean that his Gospel is a political-economic tract which abandons religious concerns, concerns with the transcendent. But spiritual light and darkness are reflected in the common life of the people. History reflects the cosmic battle between good and evil.

If Satan is a spiritual being, so too is he enfleshed in the structures and forces of societal domination. The “enemy” is Satan, but that enemy is seen in the Roman occupying forces and the ruling power of the Jerusalem Temple.

If this is the enemy, what then is salvation? Scripture scholar Joel Green offers a succinct description: “Salvation is, pre-eminently, status reversal, and this includes not only the raising up of lowly persons whom Jesus encounters in the Gospel, but also the people of Israel as a people, promised liberation from the oppressive hand of Rome. Salvation is also the coming of the kingdom of God, then, the coming of God’s reign of justice, to deconstruct the worldly systems and values at odds with the purpose of God. Salvation also entails membership in the new community God is drawing together around Jesus….” (The Theology of the Gospel of Luke, 94)

Jesus gives the 70 – all Christians –a major role in bringing about salvation. We do not have the power to save, but rather are called to clear away the debris of evil to the extent we are able. How do we do this? We go before Jesus, living simply, proclaiming the kingdom, accepting hospitality and curing the sick, but always resolute in moving forward – “greet no one on the road.” (Luke 9.1-6; 10.3-11)

Today, we are overly focused on power; we see power as necessary to accomplish great things. Jesus’ message is different. Change comes not through complicity with the powerful, but through solidarity with those on the fringes of society. Those who receive no benefit from society’s structures are open to the ways of the kingdom. They may be sinners from the world’s perspective but are also the ones most open to sharing in God’s purposes.

Sunday Readings for July 7, 2019, the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 66.10-14 | Psalm 66 | Galatians 6.14-18 | Luke 10.1-12, 17-20

(See more articles like this at On the Threshold)

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