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What don’t you understand?

I was speaking at church this morning on Luke 10:1-20, when Jesus sends out 70 (or 72 – original manuscripts have some variation but the two numbers are very close) disciples on mission. A while ago, I gave a message where I encouraged the study approach of reading around the passage to see if there is anything to be learned from the context. I did that briefly again today but I also introduced another tool: look through and ask yourself what you don’t understand.

Some things you can figure out an answer to. For example, why does the settlement of Chorazin get “woe” pronounced upon it (v. 13) when, unlike Bethsaida and Capernaum, we don’t read of any signs and wonders taking place there? I checked on various maps and it turns out the distance between all three, clustered on the northern shores of Lake Galilee, is very small. In local terms, it is about the same as that between Loughborough and nearby Hathern and Shepshed. You could easily walk to all three in a day so the inhabitants of Chorazin had just as much chance to take heed of what Jesus was doing as their neighbours.

Other things you have to accept you don’t know for sure. When Jesus tells the returned missionaries that he saw Satan “fall like lightning from heaven” (v. 18), does he mean before the Fall, during the mission or looking prophetically to what lies ahead as the result of the mission of Jesus? You can speculate but I don’t think it is possible to be completely sure (at least I didn’t reach a firm conclusion in the time I spent looking into it). That’s fine – we don’t have to know everything and it doesn’t hurt our humility to remember that we can’t provide a watertight answer every conundrum.

I made something of the challenge to walk by faith and obedience but tempered what can be a challenging passage with a final observation. However daunting the brief seemed, all of those sent out came back overflowing “with joy” (v. 17). May that be true for us, too, as we respond to God’s leading to step into things we are worried might be beyond us.

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