There were seventy-two of them though some manuscripts say seventy. On this particular day, according to the narrative, Jesus had appointed “and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go” (Luke 10:1, NIV). This was no sight-seeing city tour for He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves” (vv. 2-3), before giving them specific instructions as to what to do on their mission (vv. 4-11, 16).
We do not know how long they were on task, but after a while “the seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.'” Undoubtedly they were all excited about what they had experienced. The sick had been healed and devils had been cast out. These ambassadors of Christ were astonished at the powers they were able to exercise, all in the name of Jesus. It was in the midst of all this euphoria that the sobering voice of the Master spoke words of caution: “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (vv. 19-20). In other words, in the big scheme of things, keep the main thing the main thing.
It is instructive that Jesus did not allow them to enjoy what they had accomplished. He was no kill-joy for Luke tells us that at that time Jesus was “full of joy through the Holy Spirit” (v. 21a). However, these men were not the main show but rather the table setters. They had been sent in pairs “ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go” with the message He had given them. Maybe that is why the Holy Spirit did not see it fit to record any of their names so we could know them. No matter what we are able to accomplish in the work of ministry, it is not as important as knowing that our names are written in heaven.
This presents a challenge for some of us. We love the “bright lights” as well as the admiration and recognition (titles, special privileges, etc.) that comes with success. We feel slighted and unappreciated when our names are not mentioned, and some of us quit our God-given assignment. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to be appreciated, in God’s economy things are not always that straightforward. We are not defined by what we do, but by who we are. Sons and daughters of the most high God, eternally grateful our names can be found where it matters most. That, more than anything else, is worth celebrating. Just ask Jesus.