Jesus the Coach

By Mark D. Roberts

February 11, 2021

Scripture – Luke 10:17-20 (NRSV)

The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”


Jesus was an effective coach for his disciples. After they returned from their mission trip, Jesus listened to their report, offering both affirmation and correction. In particular, he underscored the value of relationship with God. Doing good works for God matters, but belonging to God for eternity matters even more.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.


Earlier this week we were focusing on a passage in Luke where Jesus planned and organized his kingdom work, delegating key responsibilities to seventy of his disciples (10:1-12). Unfortunately for us, Luke does not describe what happened when the seventy went out to do what Jesus has given to them. We do, however, get a snippet of their report to Jesus when they returned from their mission trip. “Lord,” they said, “in your name even the demons submit to us!” (Luke 10:17).

Jesus’s response to these disciples is not what we might expect. No “Great job” or high five. Rather, Jesus said, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightening. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:18-20).

When we unpack this odd saying of Jesus, we see him in the role of a coach. At first, he speaks words of affirmation. When his disciples were exercising authority over demons, Jesus “saw” the defeat of Satan. He could sense in his spirit that Satan’s kingdom was coming to an end as his followers vanquished Satan’s minions. It was as if Jesus was saying, “What you experienced was actually far more than demons submitting to you. This was evidence of the eternal downfall of Satan.” That’s pretty strong affirmation if you ask me.

Yet Jesus didn’t just affirm his disciples. He also corrected and redirected them. Yes, the spirits were subject to their authority. But far more important than this was the fact that the names of the disciples were “written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). This meant more than just the salvation of their souls. Having their names in the book of life signified permanent relationship with God. And this, Jesus said, is a fantastic reason to rejoice.

When I consider the affirmation and the correction offered by Jesus as a coach, I’m impressed by what he urges his disciples to value most of all. Beyond performance, even impressive demonstrations of spiritual power, relationship matters most. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be pleased when we are able to serve the Lord in tangible ways. But in our performance-driven society, we can easily let what we do for God matter more than our relationship with God. Jesus coaches us to care most of all about the fact that we belong to God for eternity. When we do, our joy will not be dependent on our success, but rather on the love of God that never lets us go.


Have you ever had an excellent coach, perhaps when you were involved in athletic competition or in your work history? What made this coach excellent?

Might Jesus be coaching you as he once did with the seventy disciples? Do you care so much about your performance that you neglect the joyous wonder of belonging to God?


Take some time to imagine what Jesus might say if he were coaching you as he once coached his disciples.


Lord Jesus, thank you for that way you once coached the seventy whom you had sent out. Thank you also for the way you coach me. You speak to me through Scripture. You stir in my mind and heart through the Spirit. You bring people into my life who help me to grow as one of your disciples. Thank you.

Lord, you know how focused I can become on my performance. I don’t want to be just a disciple of yours. I want to be an über-successful disciple, one who does great things for you. That I want to serve you isn’t wrong. But I confess that I can easily focus too much on my actions. Help me, I pray, to rejoice that my name is in your heavenly book. May my life be grounded by the fact that I belong to you for eternity. Amen.

P.S. from Mark

Next week we enter the Christian season of Lent, a 40-day time of reflection and preparation for Holy Week and Easter. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, a day to remember our mortality and need for a Savior. The De Pree Center has a number of resources to help you grow in your relationship with the Lord through observing Lent, including Ash Wednesday. You can find these resources, including our new devotional guide based on the Stations of the Cross, at this link.

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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. A video on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Christians in Education Discuss Their Work (Video)

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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