The former owner of the Leeds United Football Club, Massimo Cellini, gave an interview published in THE TIMES yesterday about a football manger, Gary Monk, and his agent that the newspaper has been investigating. In the interview Cellini revealed the reason he refused to sign a player the manager wanted. Wages too high? Too old? No good? No, he refused to sign the player in question because he had worn the number 17 shirt at his previous club, a number Cellini considers to be unlucky. “I didn’t want to sign him”, he said, “because the number 17 brings me bad luck.”
Mike Ashley, eat your heart out!
Numbers appear frequently in the Gospel. The number 70 is quoted in today’s reading. It describes the number of people – 70 – chosen by Jesus to become his missionaries after he had previously chosen the 12 apostles. The choosing of the Twelve was to represent his mission to the 12 tribes of Israel. Now the mission of these 70 disciples was to the nations of the world which, according to Jewish tradition, numbered 70.
The instructions to the 70 disciples contained curious restrictions -no walking sticks, no backpacks, no sandals (footwear) and no greeting people on the way. Why these restrictions? Without a staff or big walking stick you would be defenceless on road notorious for muggers and robbers. Without a bag or rucksack of some kind, you’d have no way of carrying a change of clothes or some food for the road. And no matter how tough your feet were, you couldn’t run from danger on that rocky Palestinian terrain without something on your feet.
The force of the instructions is that Jesus wanted them to travel lightly and have a serious and urgent sense of purpose in carrying out the mission he gave them. Hence, ‘salute no one on the road’ i.e. don’t waste time chatting or gossiping with people.
So what does that text have to do with our efforts to be followers of Jesus today? Perhaps it is that we too need to travel lightly on our journey through life? After all, this is not our permanent home – we are just passing through. So of all that we already own, how much is really needed? After all, how much of it can we take with us?
Holy Name Jesmond
7 July 2019