This report is peculiar to Luke, especially in that a larger group of disciples is mentioned and given apostolic work. Luke may have in mind one of several mentions of seventy in the Old Testament:
1st Reading (Track 1): 2 Kings 5:1-14
Elisha has taken the place of Elijah as the preeminent prophet in Israel (2 Kings 2). The prophet is involved with the regional political and military affairs (ch. 3), and personal healings (ch. 4). Now he finds himself involved not only in healing, but also in “international” affairs, with a commander from Syria, Israel’s greatest enemy. What follows is an amusing story, but also rich in scriptural themes. First of all, the Lord is implicated in Syria’s victory over Aram! Second, leprosy (which in biblical terms refers to any skin disease and results in social censure) is healed. Third, the prophet is not impressed with Naaman’s status; he is healed by what amounts to an Israelite folk remedy. Lastly, the great man must humble himself to the word of the Lord.
5:1 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. 2 Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4 So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. 5 And the king of Aram said, “Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.” He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. 6 He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.” 8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.
Psalm 30 (Track 1)
Psalm 30 is identified in its title as being for “the dedication of the Temple.” That means not only the original dedication but the yearly Festival of Dedication (the roots of modern-day Hanukkah). Interestingly enough, the psalm never mentions the Temple, but is a psalm of thanksgiving by an individual. Perhaps its place was as a defining summary of the Jewish relationship with God.
1 I will exalt you, O Lord, because you have lifted me up *
and have not let my enemies triumph over me.
2 O Lord my God, I cried out to you, *
and you restored me to health.
3 You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead; *
you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.
4 Sing to the Lord, you servants of his; *
give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.
5 For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye, *
his favor for a lifetime.
6 Weeping may spend the night, *
but joy comes in the morning.
7 While I felt secure, I said, “I shall never be disturbed. *
You, Lord, with your favor, made me as strong
as the mountains.”
8 Then you hid your face, *
and I was filled with fear.
9 I cried to you, O Lord; *
I pleaded with the Lord, saying,
10 “What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit? *
will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?
11 Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me; *
O Lord, be my helper.”
12 You have turned my wailing into dancing; *
you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.
13 Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing; *
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks for ever.
1st Reading (Track 2): Isaiah 66:10-14
The Book of Isaiah ends with words assuring salvation and comfort for Israel. This remarkable passage uses female imagery both for Jerusalem and then for God. This would have been an extraordinary thing in such a heavily patriarchal culture. The Mother God promises care and comfort for her children.
66:10 Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her—11 that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious bosom. 12 For thus says the Lord: I will extend prosperity to her like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse and be carried on her arm, and dandled on her knees. 13 As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. 14 You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bodies shall flourish like the grass; and it shall be known that the hand of the Lord is with his servants, and his indignation is against his enemies.
Psalm 66:1-8 (Track 2)
Psalm 66 is a psalm of thanksgiving for God’s mighty deeds. The whole world (“all you lands”) is called to join Israel in this song of gratitude.
1 Be joyful in God, all you lands; *
sing the glory of his Name;
sing the glory of his praise.
2 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!” *
because of your great strength your enemies
cringe before you.
3 All the earth bows down before you, *
sings to you, sings out your Name.”
4 Come now and see the works of God, *
how wonderful he is in his doing toward all people.
5 He turned the sea into dry land,
so that they went through the water on foot, *
and there we rejoiced in him.
6 In his might he rules for ever;
his eyes keep watch over the nations; *
let no rebel rise up against him.
7 Bless our God, you peoples; *
make the voice of his praise to be heard;
8 Who holds our souls in life, *
and will not allow our feet to slip.
2nd Reading: Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16
Paul’s final words of the Letter to the Galatians include a series of instructions concerning life together as a Christian community. Bear one another’s burdens (the message of vv. 1-6). Beware of self-indulgence and pride. Practice generosity. And then he goes back to the controversy that had been the impetus for the letter. The summary line of the whole letter is: “For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!” “See what large letters” reveals that Paul used a scribe.
[6:1 My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. 4 All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. 5 For all must carry their own loads. 6 Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.]
7 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. 8 If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. 9 So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. 10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith. 11 See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. 14 May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! 6 As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
Gospel Reading: Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
This report is peculiar to Luke, especially in that a larger group of disciples is mentioned and given apostolic work. Luke may have in mind one of several mentions of seventy in the Old Testament: Seventy nations reported in Genesis 10, Moses’ selection of seventy elders to be his helpers (Numbers 11:16-25), or the non-biblical story of the seventy translators who worked seventy days to translate the Old Testament into Greek (the Septuagint), the language of the Gentiles. Note the message is the same to those who want to hear and those who do not: “The Kingdom of God is near” (or “at hand”).
10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2 He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ 16 Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” 17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 18 He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 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. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission. All rights reserved. The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer. Commentaries are copyright © 2019 Epiphany ESources, 67. E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843, www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study. Bulletin inserts are available. For more information, go to our website.