Sunday, June 26, 2016

He Sent How Many?

The gospel reading for Proper 9/Ordinary 14 tells us of the seventy apostles that Jesus sent out in pairs to the villages Jesus was planning to visit (Luke 10:1-20). They are the advance party...the local arrangements committee, perhaps. They are sent with specific instructions about what they are to do, where they are to go, how they are to act. The seventy return to Jesus filled with wonder about the power that is available through the name of Jesus.

Seventy seems a fair number. Having seventy in the youth group or in the choir would be a rousing number indeed. Having seventy people on the visitation team or at the church clean-up day would surely provide the many hands that would make light(er) work. It seems a good number - not just in its relationship to other Biblical numbers (Moses had seventy elders who shared in his spirit and helped him govern) but also in itself. Seventy, after all, is six times more than Jesus' original disciples. Imagine a 600% increase in staff.

But we might think of the number in a larger context. The population of the city of Rome during the time of Augustus (he of the census in Luke's gospel) has been estimated at 1,250,000. 1.25 million. What does a million look like? The composition of the silkscreen print below is made of a million dots.
Michael Hegedus. One Million Dots. Silkscreen. 2011. http://hegedusart.com/portfolio-item/one-million-dots/

Add another 25% to these dots and you will have roughly the number of people in Rome at the time of Jesus. It's a lot of dots. They all seem to blend together, though by looking closely, we can see the individual dots. If this print conveys almost the population of Rome (never mind the population of the Mediterranean World), what does seventy look like by comparison?

Below is a detail of the large print. There are 70 dots. This detail is larger than the scale in the whole work above, but it is enough to give you an idea of the the overwhelming odds faced by this small, yes, small, collection of apostles...if their "mission field" were only Rome.
Their mission field was not just Rome; it wound up being the known world. The harvest did indeed appear plentiful, but this little group of 70 looks like a very few laborers. Nevertheless, they were sent and they returned, enthusiastic about the gospel. No matter how outnumbered they might have been.

2 comments:

  1. I a not a great art fan but thanks for this illustration. Very sobering while illustrating the necessity for us to be focused in our ministry. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I a not a great art fan but thanks for this illustration. Very sobering while illustrating the necessity for us to be focused in our ministry. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete