Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Church

The Mission of the Seventy

by Rev. Fr. Dr. Parackel K. Mathew

Devotional Thoughts for Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

Gospel Reading: Luke 10.1-16

The first three gospels have our Lord commissioning the Twelve Disciples on a mission of preaching and healing. .Luke alone includes in addition a mission of Seventy (Luke 10.1-16). The constitution of the number 'twelve' and their being sent strictly to the lost sheep of Israel are indicative of how our Lord regarded the 'Twelve' as the nucleus of the New Israel and those of Israel who have not accepted His discipleship as 'the lost sheep of the house of Israel'. The constitution of the 'Seventy' calls for comparison with the seventy elders Moses appointed to assist him in the administration of Israel. (Numb.11.16). This is also reflective of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Ruling Council of Seventy. Seventy was traditionally held to be the number of nations in the world. The mission of the Seventy apparently foreshadows the future universal mission of the Church.

The Twelve were sent out with delegated authority and to realize how receptive the people were to their Master. The Seventy were sent out to test the ground as how fertile it was to the Master's own ministry to follow (Luke 10.1). Jesus included a wider circle than the Twelve and associated them with Him in His ministry. These were people who unreservedly responded to Jesus' words: The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. (Luke 10.2). People are everywhere in need of spiritual and physical healing, ripe for ingathering into the Kingdom. The Seventy were appointed laborers to represent Jesus in the ministry of preaching and healing.

Even if the conditions would be unfavorable, their dedication to duty should be strong. They would have to face hostile responses like lambs in the midst of wolves (Luke 10.3). Their mission is urgent and they would have to set aside their personal needs and physical comforts: take no purse, wallet or sandals, and there is no time to greet any one on the road. (Luke 10.4). They are reminded of uttering the regular Oriental Semitic greeting wherever they enter: Peace be to this house. This greeting now is not just a wish, but a blessing they convey from the Lord. They should seek hospitality and enjoy in full wherever it is provided, for the laborer deserves his pay (Luke 10.7). The greeting makes the occasion for a momentous decision of acceptance or rejection of the Lord's laborers. If rejected, the proffered peace returns to the giver. The Lord foresaw some villages and towns to be reluctant to heed their words. When rejected, the laborers should follow the Jewish custom of shaking the dust off their feet before leaving the place. (A Jew if happened to step into a non-Jewish or Samaritan area would do this to ward off defilement). The reception or rejection of the Lord's ministers is in effect as of the Lord Himself and God the Father who sent Him. The rejection invites judgement.

The basic content of the mission has been the same during the public ministry of our Lord, in the life of the Church in history and in the Church's continued outreach. People are everywhere in need of physical and spiritual healing. The harvest is plentiful. Laborers are still short. The Seventy were appointed to call men to Christ. To call the reluctant Christian back to Christ is as important now. Mission and evangelism have always been the heartbeat of the vibrant Church. The apostolic mission of the Church is for every Christian to share. When our Lord appointed His followers what distinguished them were: 1.They had a personal commitment to Christ, setting aside their personal wellbeing. 2. They had themselves a unique fellowship in Christ, together responding to His call. 3. They had a clear task, being sent out to preach and heal. Consider the various ministries the Christian is called to do at home, in the Church, the society and the world. How committed, how united and truthful we are to the cause? In our mission we often become overly concerned with our wellbeing and forget the Lord's provision of His laborers' deserving pay. Christ still calls us to call men to Christ. He equips us, guides us and reaps the fruit of the harvest. While being laborers, let us also pray the Lord to send more laborers in the field.

See Also:

Lord of the Harvest by Jose Kurian Puliyeril

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