Jesus Sends Out the Seventy-two
[Luke chapter 10, verses 1-21]
Last week when we closed out chapter 9 of Luke’s gospel, Jesus was relating to many the cost of being his follower and believer. His instructions are abundantly clear – we must either follow Jesus exclusively, above and beyond anything and anybody else, or not at all. There is no such thing as an ‘in between’ or a ‘maybe’ when it comes to worshiping Jesus as the Son of God and being his follower – which we do by obeying his commandments. Jesus was asked about this very thing during the course of his ministry. When asked about which commandment was the greatest, Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22, verses 37-40). So if we set our minds on these two integral commandments continuously, we will all be well on our way to becoming true followers of the Lamb of God! Today as we move on to chapter 10 of the gospel of the apostle Luke, we find Jesus imparting these very things as he sends out his Seventy-two, as they are now called, to preach and teach the good news of Jesus’ coming. So let’s begin at verse one.
“After this the Lord appointed 72 others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was to go. He told them, ‘The harvest is plenty, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the Harvest, therefore, to send out workers into the harvest field. Go! I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house’. If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for a worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.’” (Luke 10, verses 1-7)
“The harvest is plenty, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the Harvest, therefore, to send out workers into the harvest field.” Send more workers! That’s us, everyone! How do we work in the harvest field Jesus described? By telling as many others about him as we can. Sometimes this is accomplished with our words, but many other times it can be by our actions. Since not everyone can be a pastor, evangelist or even a counselor, the best way to go about this is on an individual basis. Tell people about Christ and what he has done for you, especially the part about having eternal life because Jesus rose from the dead ahead of all of us. Some will receive your message of faith, while others will outright reject it. Expect that – it comes with the territory. Think of telling others about Jesus as being like making a sales call, except that we don’t ask for anyone’s money. The more calls you make, the more successful you will be.
Just to clarify my point, this doesn’t necessarily mean we all have to turn into extroverted salespeople to be effective servants of God. Oftentimes, ‘loving our neighbor as ourselves’ is the most effective way we can witness for Jesus. Which is better – to make a religious speech in front of 1,000 strangers, or to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for 10 hungry and homeless children? I don’t know about you, but I think the Lord would look more favorably on the second choice than the first one. Since there was no technology like we have today, news traveled by word of mouth, particularly since illiteracy was widespread back then. Since these 72 apostles acted as preachers, teachers and news reporters all at once, Jesus charged them as follows: “Go! I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house’. If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him; if not, it will return to you.’” ‘Don’t rely solely on yourselves when you preach the gospel’, Jesus instructed them. ‘Rely on me’! The very same thing is still true today because Jesus is eternal like his Father, never changing and always consistent! Jesus also instructed them to ‘not greet anyone on the road’. Jesus was telling them to talk only to those who would listen, and to rely on his Spiritual guidance for discernment in this area.
“Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for a worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.” Notice this is exactly the opposite of what are proudly displayed as “American values” – the Seventy-two were instructed to be dependent on their hosts for their sustenance, whereas here in America we are ‘rugged individualists’ and ‘independent persons’. Americans depend on no one, we stand alone, and we’re king of the hill! This is diametrically opposed to the instructions of our Lord and Savior, and if America does not collectively repent of this, together with its so-called “exceptional-ism” – which has its roots in racism and alleged “white supremacy” – I prophesy it will be her undoing! The Seventy-two, instead of having their own resources – they didn’t even carry luggage or a purse! – relied on the Holy Spirit, who prompted the hosts of these apostles to supply their needs. Their needs were met Spiritually instead of materially. Also, since they carried no purses, this meant they weren’t permitted to turn anything more than a minimal profit from their ministries, if any at all. I find there is a very stark contrast between that and today’s “prosperity gospel”, which alleges that Jesus wants everybody to be rich. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a lie from the stinking pits of hell!! Enough said about that. And now let’s move on to part 2 of today’s lesson, beginning at verse 8.
“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick that are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust in your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were preformed in you were performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths! He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects Him who sent me.” (Luke 10, verses 8-16)
Again, as before, Jesus instructed the Seventy-two to conduct themselves in the course of their ministries in a way that is completely contrary to the way some churches are operated today. Although this is not universally true by any means, many pastors draw very comfortable salaries for themselves compared to the working people they often minister to. While this is particularly true in large churches, when it comes to small churches, the pastors oftentimes have a day job Monday through Friday while drawing no salary from the church to keep it solvent. But the Seventy-two apostles did none of the above. They ate whatever food was set before them. They didn’t exactly order from a menu. The Seventy-two did not draw salaries, did no work except to preach and teach, and expected nothing in return. Ordinarily, people would say this is a ‘losing proposition’, but not in God’s kingdom! Evidently, the Seventy-two got all their needs met. Nobody died of hunger or thirst – on the contrary, all their needs were met by those they ministered to, whether it was food, clothing, shelter or any kind of financial assistance, and it was all done voluntarily. Also, notice that at no time was anyone asked to tithe 10% of their income. In fact, tithing is only mentioned in the New Testament in reference to the Pharisees, the same religious rulers Jesus prophesied against.
“But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust in your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town’.” ‘Whoever rejects you’, Jesus instructed the Seventy-two, ‘rejects me’. Moreover, as Jesus taught the apostles in our study of the previous chapter, “Whoever rejects me rejects the One who sent me.” It’s a free country we live in, so people are free to reject God if they insist on doing so. I will not stand in their way. In fact, having brought those individuals the Gospel of Jesus over the Internet, I have fulfilled my duty to the Lord my Savior. Whether others accept or reject my message is entirely up to them. This is the essence of what Jesus meant when he mentioned towns like Korazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum. These were all towns where Jesus had preached and performed miracles, but the people still rejected him. All these cities are little more than ruins today, especially Capernaum. And now let’s conclude this week’s study starting from verse 17.
“The Seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’ He relied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overthrow all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’ At that time Jesus, full of joy from the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.’” (Luke 10, verses 17-21)
The Seventy-two had put their commission and their faith into action, and look what happened! They “returned with joy”, which was immediately followed by the equivalent of Jesus telling them, ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet!’ But note what he says next; “…do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” That, ladies and gentlemen, is Jesus’ entire point which the apostle Luke has conveyed to us by sharing his version of the Gospel. Whether any individual serves the Lord as a pastor, elder, Sunday school teacher, or as an usher or even a janitor does not matter. The names of each and every one of those I have mentioned, plus any I may have forgotten, are “written in Heaven”! Everybody gets the same reward, which is eternal life! And then Jesus thanks his heavenly Father, remarking as he prayed that, “…you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” The “wise and learned” Jesus was referring to were the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious establishment of that time. The “little children”, are anyone who would humble his or her self and submit to Christ, making him the Lord of their life instead of themselves. We are to put Jesus in charge and trust him to lead us down the right path in our lives, just like little kids willfully following their parents. On that note, I think I’ll concluded this week’s lesson, and next week we’ll explore the second half of chapter 10.