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.’
The joy of the Seventy is elsewhere translated ‘exhilaration’ and ‘elation’. How often do we see that in our churches – or ourselves? In many a revival, such ‘emotionalism’ has been frowned on and discouraged. Jesus here does not puncture the joy. First, he validates the experience. ‘Yes, I know!’ he says. ‘I saw the heavenly reality of the earthly work you were doing.’ In their teaching, preaching, healing, and driving out demons, the Kingdom of God had confronted Satan and won victories, a foretaste of the final victory Jesus would win on the Cross.
And lest the Seventy thought it was their achievement, in their strength, which surely would lead to many kinds of disaster, Jesus reminds them his is the authority for this work, and the protection. He lifts our eyes from what we can accomplish on our own to his enabling power.
And then he lifts our eyes higher, heavenwards to the heavenly reality of who we are in him and where our true home is, with our name-plate securely fixed. In this we can have hope and joy, whether we are triumphing over our circumstances – or not.
‘Saviour, if of Zion’s city I, through grace, a member am, Let the world deride or pity, I will glory in thy name.’
John Newton (1725-1807) Rejoice & Sing 560
Dorothy Stewart Courtis, writer and lay preacher, is a member of Wortwell URC, Norfolk