"Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and
scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any
means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are
subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in
heaven" (Luke 10:19-20).
Our Lord makes this promise and gives this solemn warning, in the first
place, to the seventy disciples that he had sent out to preach the Gospel
in what amounted to the first mission of the Church. We should take special
note of our Lord’s choosing seventy men to represent him, since this number
corresponds to the seventy helpers of Moses (the Great Law giver) who became
the basis of the Jewish council called the Sanhedrin. Seventy was also
the number of bullocks offered during the feast of Tabernacles for the
conversion and salvation of the Gentile nations.
When we consider that our Lord had already named twelve Apostles, his
intentions become clear. The twelve Apostles were the fulfillment of the
twelve patriarchs of the Old Testament. Jesus Christ is the Living Law
of God himself, whose ministry fulfills that of Moses to the Old Israel.
The first seventy missionaries are appointed as fulfilling and expanding
the work of the old Sanhedrin. They are seventy, also, because they are
a reasonable and living sacrifice, far more precious in the sight of God
than the sacrifice of any bullock, for the conversion of the Gentiles.
Their service is aimed, then, not just at the maintenance of the earthly
Israel, but at the expansion of the New Israel of Jesus Christ, to which
every person in the world is called that he or she may live eternally with
By these early appointments and actions, our Lord is laying out the
foundation of his Church, of which he himself will be the chief cornerstone
that holds all together. His promises and warnings, therefore, to this
embryonic Church, are meant as much for us as for the men and women of
those times. Even more so, since we have the great advantage of coming
to Jesus Christ after his glorious resurrection and ascension and after
the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Church that Christ had founded.
Under these circumstances, it is amazing how much of the Church today
is so timid about the Gospel, if not actually apologetic to the pagan religions
of the world for troubling them with the Truth of God. Christ has promised
us his own power to tread upon "serpents and scorpions, and over all the
power of the enemy," meaning, of course, all the powers of Satan himself.
This promise belongs to us as Christians, as the members of Jesus Christ’s
Church. It is necessary to us, and our use of the promised power is necessary
to us, in order that we might be Christians.
But there is a difference between a true humility as the beneficiaries
of the gifts of God through his Son, and a false humility that makes us
falsely humble about the honor of God or about the absolute truth of his
absolute claim on the life of every human being. Our Lord describes the
true and proper humility by telling us not to rejoice that we have been
given power and dominion over evil spirits, but that our names "are written
in heaven." The profundity of this definition of true humility only becomes
clear when we consider along side it the words the God gave earlier to
the Prophet Malachi:
Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another:
and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written
before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name
The primary divine gifts of life, repentance, and faith become visible
in the praying, teaching, and witnessing of those who have submitted themselves
to God. Those whose names are written in heaven are those who have made
God the center of their thoughts, fearing to dishonor or to disobey God
more than they fear anything else. It is only then that they are prepared
to take up the gifts of power that allow them to oppose Satan, his evil
spirits, and the powers of this world, and to overcome them in Jesus Christ.
But "fear" is the key. Each human being must necessarily choose between
the life-giving fear of the Lord and the death-dealing fear of everything
else. And here we confront the greatest Satanic lie—that death in this
world is always his victory, that it is the total destruction of a life,
the utter failure of the good, and the end of everything for that person.
Thus, says Satan, it is useless to love and fear God in this world or in
any other conceivable world.
The antidote to such a poisonous lie is the truth. And the Truth is
this—that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead victorious, and that he
will come again in glory to judge the quick and the dead, bringing with
him a new heaven and a new earth with no place for Satan and no place for
those who do not honor his Father in heaven or fear displeasing him. There
is no reason to fear, then, anyone or anything but God.
When we tread on serpents and scorpions in his Name, one of two things
will happen. Either we will receive the immediate miracle of passing over
them harmlessly, because such a miracle serves God’s purposes of saving
mankind by the revelation of his power. Or, if it should appear in the
normal way of this fallen world that the serpents and scorpions may do
us harm, the Satanic malice behind their power to hurt has already been
defeated by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we will rise
and live as he has risen and lives now. Nothing can harm a Christian forever,
but his own abandonment of God.
It should be clear, however, that we do not always have to wait for
miracles. The following brief story appeared in the November 9th "Current
News Summary," published by the editors of ReligionToday.com on the Internet.
Its subject is the work of Christian missionaries in India:
Hindus think Christians are paid to convert because they observe them
become more prosperous. Christians in the bush are better off because they
wear shirts and pants provided by the church, as opposed to loincloths,
Reuters said. Others have nicer homes and "lead a better life because they
stop smoking and drinking and buy medicines for 10 rupees instead of paying
1,000 rupees to the witch doctor," Gladys Staines, wife of murdered missionary
Graham Staines of Australia, said.
Here some of the poorest people in the world, often described by secular
economists and so-called "population control experts" as "the hopeless
poor," give their lives to Jesus Christ, and in the fellowship of his Church
and in the discipline of Christian living, begin living a new life, a better
life, immediately, just as our Lord has promised. This is no accident or
coincidence, since the same drastic change in the life of a people occurred
in the 18th century when John Wesley preached the Gospel in the slums of
And what is the response of the pagans around them? The central belief
of Hinduism, perhaps the most devil-ridden of all the "world religions,"
is that life is vain and hopeless, and that no one finds peace until he
gives up life itself. Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the other hand, came that
those who believe in him "might have life, and that they might have it
more abundantly" (John 10:10). And so the pagans hate the new Christians
who put the lie to their hopelessness and vanity, and they kill the missionaries
that bring the only true hope, the Truth of Jesus Christ, into their world.
Mrs. Staines, who testified to this change with the joy of faith, lost
not only her husband, but also her two sons, in this glorious struggle
for life and truth. Is she a failure? Were her martyred husband and sons
failures? Not according to Jesus Christ, and not according to the lives
of those to whom they brought the Gospel. Their names are written in heaven,
and they will live with Christ forever. They will be raised on the Last
Day as our Lord rose on Easter. Jesus Christ has given us power to live
and to spread the Gospel. We have nothing to fear and nothing to apologize
for, when we do so. We have everything to fear if we do not.
Please note: These sermons are offered for your meditation.
If you wish to use them for some other purpose or republish them, please
credit St. Andrew’s Church and Dr. Tarsitano.