Luke 10:13-24 “Private Talk With Christ”
I want to start with the really difficult part of this scripture for us, then move on to the easier stuff. Let us talk about snakes and scorpions. They are metaphors. WE are not supposed to go out looking for snakes and scorpions to somehow prove our faith in Jesus Christ.
You may have heard about some churches that employ live venomous snakes in the midst of their worship experience. They make the point that the bible tells them to do this! Honestly, and I do not mean to be judgmental here, but that idea is just plain nuts. And, just like “being plain nuts” is a metaphor, that is to say we are not really an actual physical nut that falls from a tree, so we are not to go around treading on venomous creatures either. Metaphor: the bible is filled with it as is all human language!
That being said, let me share with you some of my own real life experiences with snakes and scorpions that were not metaphorical in nature, but had meaning to my faith in Jesus. First, when we lived in Thailand in we had a lovely snake that lived under the house. She was truly beautiful. She was a yellow and white python, full sized. She would curl herself up into the lotus bush right next to our front door—kind of like a guard dog. When visitors came by, we could always tell because of the shriek of seeing that python in the bush.
When we first moved into that house, besides the house being solid teak wood, it was rather dilapidated. Fixing it up and bringing the infrastructure up to modern standards became my pastime as a missionary. I hate to see a good teakwood house go to waste! One project was to upgrade the wiring. That meant I had to crawl under the house to install new gray line conduit. That python kept me company the whole time. It did take a little faith not to get spooked by the snake.
By the way, that python gave us the assurance that we would never see a rodent in the house. We never saw a mouse or a rat. The python took care of us. She was a strange blessing in a way. I wish we had a python at our current parsonage. Please, do not repeat that sentiment to the Hawaii Agriculture department! It might get me in trouble.
Concerning scorpions, right after Easter 2005 I was here visiting this church. I had not been called yet as the pastor here. Alan and Irene Kennett put me up in the guest cottage at the Gay & Robinson manager’s house. In those days, it was still surrounded by beautiful green sugarcane fields. So much has changed during our time here.
So, on the day that I was flying back to the mainland after that first trip, I was confronted with the question as to whether I would accept the call that had been extended by the Search Committee, headed up by dear now-departed Jim Cassell. I said that I would think about it, consult with the wife and kids on the mainland, and then make a decision.
Before going back out to the airport, I thought I would like to take a shower—get all that red dirt off. Now I do not even notice the red dirt anymore. I pushed back the shower curtain on the bathtub and there was the biggest scorpion I have ever seen on this island. I mean scorpions are naturally bigger in California and Texas, but this one in the bathtub that day was the largest that I have ever since seen here in Waimea. And, he was just staring me down.
“Well, hello Satan!” I responded. “You don’t want me here, do you?” I pretty much decided for myself then that this was the right call for me. If Satan did not want me coming, and sent a scorpion into my bath, then this was a good thing. Whenever you sense Satan attacking, then you have to say to yourself: “I must be doing something right by the Lord!” So, that is my snake and scorpion theological insights today.
Moving onto the better parts of the text, I have to point out the huge miracle that takes place that most everybody misses in this reading. 70 are sent out. 70 return. Did you catch that? In those days, when you went on a journey—a journey in this case of not taking any money or extra clothes with you—and you come back perfectly fine, then that is a miracle. Multiply that by 70, then you have miracle of miracles!
During my time, I have been shot at, stalked by a homeless person with a knife, survived the shelling of Chiang Dao by the Kung Sa army, a yellow rain attack near the Laotian border, crash landed twice in planes, and even survived Covid. Not to mention a python and a scorpion or two. We Christians are tough! We have to be—we need to survive church business meetings! I count these as miracles.
When you have a miracle, then of course naturally you rejoice for God’s grace protecting you in your life! The scripture for today is full of joy. Everyone is rejoicing. The 70 are rejoicing. Jesus is rejoicing. The 12 disciples are rejoicing—or are they? Something must be amiss because Jesus needs to have a private talk with those Twelve.
“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. . . .” is what Jesus tells his crew in private. Remember that the word “blessed” here in Greek (makaroi) literally means “happy.” Really Jesus is saying, “You should be happy to see these 70 apostles having returned from the mission field to be here with us again. Whatever else was showing up in the 12 disciples’ eyes, apparently it was not the expected happiness.
Okay, Jesus, maybe it is time to pull me aside so that I can have my own vision adjustment. I mean, I would love to have that private conversation with Jesus that straightens me out again. Actually, I know I have had some in the past.
I like the idea that all twelve are getting the private time with Jesus all together. They are all getting their vision adjusted—without which they cannot see the joy of the successful ministry of the seventy.
What do they have to see and hear? What is it that Jesus is trying to get across in this moment when speaking privately? Is this the message we need to see and hear now in our lives? It is so plain to see. Check out the verse 15 question! “Will you be exalted in heaven?”
I will direct you to open your bibles now to Mark 1:35-39. This passage is also found in Matthew and Luke, but I really like the wording in Mark and the fact that it is found in the very first chapter—that is because Mark does not include the birth story of Jesus: “”In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And so Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’ He answered ‘Let us go on into the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also, for that is what I came out to do.’”
What did Jesus come from heaven to us here on earth to do? He came to tell give us the Good News of Great Joy that heaven is opened for us! Now as we have read half way through Luke, we have a reminder. See Jesus. Hear the Good News. Your lives are going to be exalted up into heaven.
I really love this short list of places that Jesus mentions here, too. Chorazin is the area around Cana where Jesus is famous because of the miracle of changing water into wine. Jesus did other great miracles of healing there too. Bethsaida is the area where the feeding of the five thousand took place. This is again a tremendous miracle that so many witnessed. But, from Bethsaida, if you stayed on the shore after the feeding of five thousand, you probably got a glimpse of Jesus walking on the water. Imagine that. Then if you were in Capernaum, where Jesus did the early miracle of healing Peter’s mother-in-law, you would have seen that from the point of Jesus walking on water, he and the sailors “suddenly appear” there out of nowhere—like they were teleported in a science fiction movie.
The people in these places, thousands of them, have seen the miracles of Jesus Christ, yet they don’t get it! The disciples themselves have seen all of these things, yet they seem to need a gentle reminder of what it is that Jesus came to do. He came to “exalt us to heaven.”
The reasoning behind this is simple. Even if you are doing miracles in the name of Jesus Christ, you cannot get to heaven unless you are accepted by Jesus. Nothing you can do, no matter how amazing, is going to let you earn your way in the Kingdom of God.
So it is that pagan cities outside of Israel can be saved, by the acceptance of God’s grace through His Son Jesus Christ. Tyre and Sidon in the land of Lebanon could be more acceptable by the grace of God than those cities that have experienced the miracles of Jesus.
So, this is what that private talk with Jesus with me might sound like: “Olaf you have seen a lot of grace and a ton of miracles happen in my name. But, between you and me, I did not go to the Cross and die for you so that you can see some miracles. It is all about this other thing that you need to accept right now. God wants to exalt you into the kingdom of heaven. Have joy in that!”
Let’s keep our eyes on the prize! Ear to what’s near! This is the Good News of Jesus Christ for all of us that can accept it!