20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20)
Sports have changed considerably in the past century. While professional baseball players have existed since the late 1800’s, the earliest “professional” athletes did not make much money and almost all of them held down jobs on the side. The growing popularity of television in the 1950’s and the resulting lucrative broadcasting deals of the 1960’s suddenly gave sports greater reach and a massive new revenue stream was born. Through collective agreements, athletes suddenly had more leverage and the $1 million plus contracts began to emerge in the 1970’s. In addition to the usual perk of fame, many professional athletes could now make astounding amounts of money and enjoy the advantages that arise from it.
I listened to a sports broadcast a while back where they interviewed a retired hockey player and they asked him what percentage of his teammates during his playing career played the game because of their passion for the game versus those who played for the perks that came with the game, most notably the money. I was very surprised to hear his opinion. He felt that only a small portion of his teammates actually played for the love of the game (i.e. would have played whether they were being paid or not). He felt that the driving ambition for most professional athletes today is actually the money and fame that come from playing.
In today’s scripture reading from Luke 10, we read about Jesus sending out his disciples. You’ll notice that he sends out 72 disciples, not just the 12 disciples most people think about. At this time in Jesus’ ministry there were many who were enamored by this exciting new teacher and his following grew quickly. In Luke 10 we read that Jesus sends out these new disciples ahead of him into the towns he’s going to visit (vs. 1), and he anoints them with power to even heal the sick (vs. 9). The disciples go out as Jesus commanded and they come back rejoicing: “The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’” (vs. 17). Jesus acknowledges that he gave them authority over the power of Satan (vs. 19), but he concludes with an extremely important “however”. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (vs. 20). This latter statement was critical to those disciples then and is equally critical to us today. It’s all about Jesus and the fact that we are children of God, not the shiny things that come with it. If you flip forward in your Bible to John 6:53-69, you’ll see that the large number of disciples significantly dwindles when many turn away from him (vs. 66). Jesus challenges them to fully embrace what it means to be a follower of Christ (vv. 53-58). They needed to fully embrace the resurrected Christ, not just the good teachings and the powerful acts that he exhibited.
Our family attended a church for a time that was healthy, but soon fell to the allure of “healing teachings”. Suddenly weekly professions of miracles were far more prevalent than the preaching of God’s word and the profession of Jesus’ name. If Jesus was physically present in the room, he would have said: “However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” They lost their way because they lost their focus. It’s not what Jesus can give us, rather it is who Jesus is. It is the fact that we are the children of God. Do you really want Jesus, or the stuff that comes with him?