Today's Gospel in Art - The seventy-two were sent out in pairs

  • Patrick van der Vorst

The Synaxis of the Seventy Apostles, Russian Orthodox icon, late 19th century, © Christian Art

The Synaxis of the Seventy Apostles, Russian Orthodox icon, late 19th century, © Christian Art

Gospel of 27th May 2020 - Luke 10:1-9

The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, 'The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, "Peace to this house!" And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, "The kingdom of God is very near to you."'

Reflection on the Russian Icon

Today we are looking at a Russian Orthodox icon of the 'Seventy Apostles', as they are called in the Russian Orthodox Church. Luke 10, however mentions 'Seventy-Two Disciples' instead. Luke's is the only Gospel in which this group appears, appointed by Jesus and sent out by Him on a specific mission. All figures are named in this icon and standing in pairs. Christ is at the very centre with Moses' Twelve Commandment tablets in front of Him.

Why send out these seventy-two followers in pairs? Not sure. Perhaps at times it is wise for two people to do the groundwork, so there are two witnesses, which might be more prudent? Or one would give more spiritual support, whilst the other does the more active ministry? Anyway, one can speculate, but the main thing is to remember that Jesus is sending out these men to go ahead of Him to places that He would later go on and visit Himself. I guess that simply to lay the foundations of Jesus' arrival, people would have listened more to two people telling them about Jesus, than just the one person.

Evangelisation is not a solo pursuit. The key to evangelise will always be a joint, communal effort. As pairs, we can even play off one another's strengths and complement each other's talents and weaknesses in order to become these natural mini evangelisation teams!

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