There were seventy-two of them though some manuscripts say seventy. On this particular day, 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 power they were able to exercise, all in the name of Jesus. In the midst of all this euphoria, 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, stay focused on what is most important.
It is instructive that Jesus did not allow them to enjoy their accomplishments. He was no killjoy, 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 act but the table setters, the supporting cast. 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” and the admiration and recognition (titles, special privileges, etc.) that come with success. We feel slighted and unappreciated when our names are not mentioned, and some of us quit our God-given assignment. We often fail to realize that, like the disciples, we are the table setters, living our lives and serving God all for His glory. Bible scholar Matthew Henry was right when he said, “Our duty as Christians is to always keep heaven in our eye and earth under our feet.” While nothing is wrong with wanting to be appreciated, things are not always that straightforward in God’s economy. 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.