Jesus had 72 disciples. Think about that. There were 72 disciples Jesus sends out to spread the word of the Gospels. It’s written that Jesus gives a sermon to 5,000, which alludes to the fact that there could’ve been more than 72 who were going around and preaching his word. His ministry in gaining followers grew, but the number of laborers eventually diminished. He even notes that the “harvest is plenty, but the laborers are few.”
All but the twelve abandoned him. The 72 didn’t like the message anymore. Why? They didn’t like it because it was hard. He drew them in by touching something in their spirit. He spoke truth and truth touches the heart like no other spirited idea can. It resonates and inspires; it ignites creativity and motivates us to use our lives like artists; it opens the spickets of grace and tickles the mind to laugh new ideas into existence; truth feeds the poor to see more in life and to use life as a tool for spiritual growth; it inspires virtues that breathe the oxygen of love and hope while dissipating the deadly carbon dioxide clouds of fear and doubt. Truth gives life.
When Jesus taught them what they needed to do to maintain it, they slipped away. Jesus asks Peter, “Do you want to leave me, too?” Peter responds, “Yes, we do but where else can we go? You have the words of everlasting life.” Something stays with Peter. He’s cultivated his heart enough to know there’s no turning back. Truth has inspired him to know no other teaching will nourish him.
When we look at what the world has to offer, this is a message for our times. Young people are turning away from church. They don ‘t like the message. They don’t like the hypocrisy of those who support dividers. Those who worship become cafeteria Christians. They pick and choose what they like the most and disregard the rest.
The scriptures can be interpreted a number of ways. But any scripture that disregards the cry of the poor is not the “good news.” The good news was initiated to claim hope for the poor. Jesus says it in the synagogue with his first appearance. He reads from the scroll the words of Isaiah and proclaims, “I have come to bring good news to the poor.” Jesus has come as a unifier to bring rich and poor alike into one community. Some claim this was his ultimate undoing. He rose to a position of power that was a threat to the rich. They are right.
I see so much potential in our world. I also see people abandoning morality in the name of being served by the pleasures of this world. It’s easy to get angry and give up. It’s easy to blame government or others when things are not going our way. But this does not warrant abandoning the suffering in the name of personal security.
Many have bought into the idea of rugged individualism and selfishness. Each man for his own. My rights matter more than the rights of the vulnerable. I support the dissolution of law and order in society in the name of gaining what is good for me. Some have relegated the goodness of Christ cultivated in the heart to a place of denial and hide it away in the name of gaining more for themselves.
The Christian message is not about each man for himself. The system is rigged for needing others. When we’re young we depend on our elders to feed us and nurture us. When we are old, we depend on the young to do this in a unique way. There’s a reason for this. We cannot survive without one another.
There is no justification for being a bully and the bullying of others. There is no justification for downplaying injustice and allowing for autocratic manners in our world or supporting dictators who commit injustices by murdering activists. Nowhere in scripture will you find Jesus supporting bullies who divide. He is a community builder who inspires people to use their gifts for the benefit of community. St. Paul recognizes that we are called to be “one body in Christ.”
He knew implicitly that the power of community could overthrow the indecency of Ceaser.
I think about those 72 and I wonder how many turned to their own will for survival. How many were able to incorporate the power of community into their lives? Who turned back to allowing their own self will to sustain them?