In recent years, Middle Eastern Chris- tians have suffered intense persecution. The Week reported that in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere, believers “are murdered in mob violence or by militant groups. Their churches are bombed, their shops destroyed, and their homes looted. Laws are passed making them second-class citizens, and the majority of them eventually leave.”
Christ told His followers to expect persecution (see John 15:20). Suffering is part of being entrusted with the gospel. In today’s reading, Jesus sent out seventy-two of His followers with the good news of the kingdom. Since the table of nations in Genesis 10 lists seventy-two entries, some scholars think this number might symbolize the global scope of God’s plan. Jesus warned these followers that they were going out as sheep among wolves, and some people would greet them with hostility (vv. 3–12).
Despite any opposition they had faced, the seventy-two had returned with a successful ministry report. In the name and with the power of Jesus, they had cast out demons and done other miracles (vv. 17–19). They were not to take pride in this, because it was all the work of God, but rather to rejoice with eyes of faith (vv. 23–24).
The Son set the example for them by praising the Father in the joy of the Spirit (v. 21). The message had gone out and God had been glorified! Eternal life (having one’s name written in heaven) cannot be gained through human wisdom or power but only through the Son and His perfect revelation of His sovereign Father. As two Persons but one in essence, the Father and the Son have perfect knowledge of one another and the perfect plan to show God’s love to the nations (v. 22).
Apply the Word
Faced with the power of God, Satan is helpless. In this spirit—in the Spirit—pray for the persecuted church around the world. Ask that these believers would be given “authority to trample on snakes and scorpions” (figures of speech for demons and evil spirits) and opportunities to continue to spread the good news of the kingdom.