The Best Reservation
I remember returning from my first missionary trip. God had opened an amazing door for ministry into Ukraine, remarkable things happened, and when we got back, our lives had been changed forever. There was one big idea: the gospel of Jesus really works!
In Luke 10:17-20, a group of missionaries returns to Jesus and gives him a report. He had sent them out as a kind of ‘front team’ to go and proclaim the message of the kingdom. And while Jesus endorses their celebration of God's power, he points them towards something much more important: Be sure you make the best reservation.
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” Luke 10:17
There is something rewarding about facing into something difficult, getting it done, and then being able to look back on it with satisfaction. We often make upcoming obstacles bigger than they are, and when we get into them, we find a way to get them done, and we come out on the other side. It’s not surprising that these 72 missionaries were filled with joy; they had a successful mission.
Several thing stand out about this report.
First, they return with joy – it’s been a good trip. Second, they call Jesus Lord, recognising his role and authority in their lives. Third, they note that the demons are subject to them Though it’s not mentioned when he sent out in the 72, in Luke 9:1, he ‘gave [the disciples] power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases’. If we understand how darkness can weasel its way into a person’s life, it is a GOOD THING that people are set free from darkness and oppression. Fourth, this authority is in the name of Jesus. This becomes a theme in the book of Acts:
But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” Acts 3:6
And when they had set them in the midst, they enquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them … let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. Acts 4:7-10
Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. Acts 16:18
God has baked power and authority into the name of Jesus. His name represents his identity, who he is, and his authority. Again, as we read in Philippians 2:9-10:
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Luke 10:18
It is not clear whether this is a vision Jesus saw or if he is describing what is happening in the spiritual realm. In either case, Jesus indicates that Satan’s authority and power over people has been decisively broken. The exorcisms by the disciples show Satan’s defeat. God promised the ultimate defeat of Satan in the garden; immediately after Adam and Eve had sinned, God says to the serpent:
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15
Jesus himself is the fulfilment of this prophecy; he's the seed of the woman is going to crush, destroy and annihilate the serpent. Jesus paints this picture by drawing on language from Isaiah 14:12:
How you are fallen from heaven,
O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground,
you who laid the nations low!
Although the decisive blow to Satan’s power would be accomplished in the crucifixion and resurrection, the disciples’ current ministry of casting out demons in the name of Jesus demonstrates the power and authority of Jesus.
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. Luke 10:19
Note the key points in this verse:
First, Jesus reaffirms the authority the disciples have. The authority is over serpents and scorpions which refers to physical dangers the disciples will face in their mission. They are also symbols of demonic oppression. They have the right, they have the authority, to overcome hostile creation and overcome Satan’s power.
When Jesus says that nothing shall hurt you, he is referencing ultimate destruction, not temporary pain in this life. This is similar to a saying later in Luke:
You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name's sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. Luke 21:16-18
This is interesting because – he says, ‘some of you will be put to death’, but then he says, ‘not a hair of your head will perish’. So, some will be put to death, most will not be put to death, most will be protected.
The point: when it comes to evil, the disciples can overcome anything that opposes them, for Christ’s authority overcomes the enemy’s power.
The Main Thing
Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:20
The word nevertheless indicates contrast; the contrast is between everything he just said, and what’s coming afterwards. Jesus says, ‘don’t rejoice in this, but rejoice in that’. Don’t rejoice that the spirits are subject to you. RATHER, rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
The point: there is a greater joy than power of darkness; the greatest joy is to have your name written in heaven. The GREATEST THING we can experience is forgiveness, NOT power.
In this verse, forgiveness, or a right relationship with God, is equated with ‘having your name written in heaven’. The books of heaven are a fascinating thread running through the Bible; there are various books (for example, the book of deeds), but the most important one is the book of life. Look at these two verses:
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. Revelation 20:12
And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:15
So – having your name written in the book of life, GOOD! You’re name not written in the book of life, BAD! Let me bring this home: the most important question you can answer: is my name written in the book of life? If it is, you have something to rejoice about! If not – you’re in trouble.
In New York state there’s a famous restaurant – the waiting list fluctuates between 5 and 10 years. Imagine what it would be like to take your spouse on a date to this restaurant – after coronavirus – you make the reservation – for 2025!, you book the flights, hotel, taxi … and after a really long wait, you finally get there, you walk in, it’s packed … and your name isn’t on the list. Oops!
If you think that ‘oops!’ is bad, imagine being left out of the book of life; imagine missing out on the most important reservation ever. Don’t make the mistake of missing a reservation in eternity with God. Not just because the alternative is terrible (more than you can imagine!), but because an eternity with God – the supreme goodness and love in the universe – is better than you can imagine.
Scripture promises, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13). Make your reservation today by repenting and believing the good news of the gospel.