The seventy have returned to Jesus from their missionary work. They are full of themselves! Proud and excited and a bit boastful at the work they have accomplished. Jesus tells them to be cautious about how they think about what they have just accomplished. These first missionaries were amazed at their own power to turn people from evil ways. Jesus says these fine folks should not be whooping-it-up about the power granted them from God, but instead to rejoice that your names are written in heaven. Jesus is asking for a shift of focus. To let God's work through them be known and seen, but they need to know that those great things are God's doing not their own. Their rejoicing should be focused on God and those gifts given.
Jesus recognizes the allure of ego and power that all of us have within. Jesus knows how easily that can corrupt that which he is trying to establish by the sending of those seventy on their missionary work. Jesus also knows that there are times when those to whom we reach out will not respond, and if we have the wrong focus, we can take those "failures" personally. The work Jesus sends those seventy (and us) out to do is not about us. Period.
But Jesus also rejoices today, thanking God for the workings of the Holy Spirit, and turning to the disciples, Jesus tells them that their eyes are blessed for seeing what so many have yearned to see: God's intimate involvement in the world.
There is a delicate balance that Jesus is asking his followers (us) to adopt in our understanding of our works done in his name. The accomplishments are not about us and our work in spreading the Good News. What we should rejoice in is knowing that our attempts are enough, whether successful or not. And that is enough.
Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: On the Mall, January, 2009.