After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. 2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. 7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.
16 “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
My father served a rural parish in Nebraska when I was a young child. One of my classmates invited me to his home one day to play. It was everything you might imagine a farm to be. There were animals, there were barns, tractors, and much more. There was also a dog, a very large and quite ferocious dog. He was quite gentle with the members of the family, but he had issues with anyone who was not part of the family on the premises. This worked well for the farmer and his family, most of the time. Playdates were not such a good time. The dog had a collar and on the collar was a ring, and that meant the dog could be chained to the side of the barn. He was chained for my whole visit.
My friend explained this to me. There was a danger zone, a semicircle of area which the dog could reach. Outside of that, we were safe. Inside of that, I was not. We were careful to stay well outside of that zone. The dog would bark and strain against the chain, but he could not reach us.
Jesus tells his jubilant disciples upon their return from this mission that they indeed have something to rejoice about. It is not that the demons were subject to them; although, they were subject to them. Rather, he tells them to rejoice because their names are written in heaven, far beyond Satan’s reach, safely in the book of life. Christ saw Satan fall from heaven like a bolt of lightning, never more to return. His chain will not allow it (Rev. 20:1-3). In baptism your name was written in heaven. This mortal life we live now is well within the reach of our enemy. He may torment you with disease, terrorize you with violence, or darken your world in an effort to make you despair, but he cannot touch that name which Christ wrote in heaven in His blood in that book of life. Eternal life and God’s favor are forever yours.