before the Face of God

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Gospels / Lectionary / New Testament / Year C

The following is a reflection on Luke 10:1-11, 16-20, the Gospel lesson appointed for Proper 9, year C of the Revised Common Lectionary.

Detail from “Gratia in Procella,” acrylic on canvas, by Rick Morley.

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.

Two observations:

1) Jesus was planning on going to certain places, but he sent 70 followers to go first.

In one sense this is like an advance-team. They were going to go, put up the posters, rent a venue, and set up the PowerPoint projector before the Boss got there. That sort of makes sense.

And yet, because none of those things needed to be done. . . it also sounds highly inefficient. What could the disciples do that Jesus couldn’t? If he were going there, why did they need to go?

Why not send these 70 to OTHER places that Jesus wasn’t going to get to. I mean if they were going in 2’s, we’re talking about 35 locations.

That’s a lot.

If Jesus had taken those 35, and sent the disciples on to another 35 places that he couldn’t make it to, Jesus could have doubled his exposure.

But, Jesus “intended” on visiting the places that were already visited by his followers.

Hmmmm.

2) In the Greek, they weren’t just going before “him,” but literally, before his “face.” Prosopon means “face,” not just “him.”

They were going ahead of his face.

Their faces were going to get there before Jesus’ face got there.

In chapter 7 of Luke when Jesus is talking about John the Baptist, and doing so by quoting Isaiah, he says: “See I am sending my messenger (John) ahead of you (Jesus),” what he literally says is that he is sending his messenger “before his face.”

Of course, it’s a common use of the ancient Greek language to speak like this, but when you think how much of Story of God happens without human beings ever being able to see the face of God—to then realize that we are sent BEFORE the face of God-Incarnate is something quite astounding.

Couple that with the fact that we don’t go in lieu of God going, but are sent ahead—and well, we begin to see how much trust God places on us when He calls us to minister in His Name, before His Face.

When we are called to ministry, by virtue of our baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ, we claim our heritage as creatures made in God’s Image, and we bear that Image to places that God hasn’t gotten to yet, but will.

Sure, God could go there first. Jesus could have led the way into those 35 towns and places, and cleaned up all the messes, and healed all the broken. And then the seventy could have followed him, and seen the signs and wonders for themselves.

Two by two they could have been amazed.

It would have been great.

But, then the Image of God that they bore wouldn’t have had the time to work it’s wonders. Those disciples, two by two, wouldn’t have gotten their hands dirty, or witnessed suffering, or held the mourning, or seen health and life wash over illness and death like a cool breeze on a hot summer day.

And the people living in those towns and places would have missed the touch of the disciples, and the gift of being healed by couples of humans who were broken and bumbling themselves.

Yes, the face of Jesus is wonderful. And it would be a great exercise this week to prayerfully visualize the face of Jesus behind you as you move before him in ministry.

Jesus sends us. Before his face. Because there’s meaning there. Because we need to heal and be healed in the healing. Because we need to see Life, and know defeat, and fail miserably, and touch people we wouldn’t touch by our own choice, and see the face of God in the midst of the grace and craziness.