The Book of Luke, The Sending of the Seventy, Part I - Lesson 130
Luke 2:49 gives us an episode in the life of Christ which reveals an early understanding of the preeminence of the Lordís work.
Jesus Christ was only 12 years old when he upset his parents, Joseph and Mary by being absent from them for three days, causing them worry and distress.
But we see in that account that the avoidance of bringing worry and distress to his parents was of lesser concern to Jesus than was being about his Fatherís business.
For he said unto them: How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Fatherís business?
We saw in our previous lessons that that preeminent concern about his Fatherís business continued as he astounded a would-be-disciple by saying that the dead can bury the dead so that the living can continue to preach the kingdom of God.
Burying the dead is a function that a natural man can do.
But a true disciple will see the urgency and priority of preaching the kingdom of God even to the point of knowing that if choice must be made, preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God must take precedence even over burying oneís own father.
This emphasis of the urgency and priority of ministry over oneís own well being and over oneís relationships continues in our Luke Chapter 10 passage today.
Jesus Christ preached that the ministry of doing the Fatherís business takes precedence even to the point of bringing trouble to relationships.
He must be about his Fatherís business even though his parents are troubled.
A disciple must preach the Gospel even though relatives will never understand and never forgive his absence from his own fatherís funeral if that is required.
And in this passage the urgency of ministry and of preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God takes precedence over common courtesies of greeting and spending time with acquaintances that one meets in the course of oneís travel.
The message is clear, Christ is to be preeminent and his ministry is to be preeminent over all other duties.
Iím afraid this truth is woefully neglected as we tend to put Christ last and his ministry last.
What Christ many times gets is the leftovers of our lives, leftover time, leftover money, leftover thoughts, leftover talents.
But Jesus Christ, even at the age of twelve knew the urgency of the work.
He said to occupy till I come. Occupy means to busy your self in his work till he come.
How about you, how about me? Do we know the urgency of the work?
By studying this passage today in Luke 10 let us be rebuked into knowing Godís heart and by knowing his heart let him change our heart that it might be a heart of dedication and devotion where Christ occupies first place in every aspect of our lives.
Luke 10:1-16, After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. 2Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. 3Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. 4Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. 5And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. 6And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again. 7And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house. 8And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you: 9And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. 10But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, 11Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. 12But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city. 13Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you. 15And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell. 16He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.
Pryor to gaining an understanding of this passage we must recall what has already taken place in the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Luke, Chapter 9 began with the sending out of the twelve disciples followed by a report of Herodís concern with the identity of Jesus.
We then learned of the miraculous feeding of the five thousand.
After this, Peterís great confession is recorded, followed immediately by the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain.
Upon the return of Jesus Christ from the mountain, we learned of the failures in ministry of the disciples who had been left behind.
And the chapter ended with offers of would-be-disciples which indicated menís reasons for not immediately following Christ along with the admonition of Christ as to what it means to be a true disciple.
Todayís passage begins with the words ďAfter these things.Ē
So these words show the close link between the sending out of the seventy and the preceding events.
The sending out of the seventy disciples is therefore related both to the sending out of the twelve (Luke 9:1‑6) and the Lordís instructions on discipleship (Luke 9:37‑62).
The twelve were sent out in Galilee, but this sending is along the route Jesus will be taking to Jerusalem.
The twelve were specifically told not to preach to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, but there is a clear hint that this mission includes Gentiles.
This seems to be a more Gentile territory, and there would be no need to speak of what is eaten, if they were only in Jewish homes.
They were told to eat what was served in spite of the food restrictions they lived with as Jews.
The twelve were sent out in place of Jesus, but the seventy were forerunners, sent ahead of Jesus, who would be passing by this way and visiting the places the forerunners visited(v. 1).
(v. 1) and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.
The twelve of Luke 9 were sent out everywhere, and the impression is that they went to those remote, previously missed places.
But the seventy of Luke 10 were specifically sent to cities.
In verse 1 we read: into every city and place,
In verse 8 we read: And into whatsoever city ye enter,
In verse 10 we read: But into whatsoever city ye enter,
In verse 11 we read: the very dust of your city,
In verse 12 we read: it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.
In verses 13‑16: a listing of all cities which are rebuked is given.
So the thrust of the sending of the seventy on this missionary trip is reaching the cities.
Certainly ministering to individuals is included but city wide effort seems to be the emphasis here.
In speaking of the rejection of the disciples, our Lord speaks more in terms of cities than of individuals:
8And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you: 9And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. 10But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, 11Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. 12But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city. (Luke 10:8‑12).
There seems to be a corporate connection here with the cities and the disciples.
Those cities which reject the disciples are to be judged just as the cities of earlier days (like Sodom) were judged of God.
This idea of citywide evangelistic efforts is also bolstered by the Lordís statement in verse 2
The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.
Is the harvest that the Lord is talking about great in the desert?
Is the harvest great in the forest or in the vast fields of grain?
No the harvest is great where the people are and the people are in the cities.
This statement then, ďThe harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few:,Ē explains our Lordís emphasis on reaching the cities.
In order to have a great harvest much seed must be planted for much of the seed will not bear fruit.
If the harvest is to be great, then the gospel must be broadly proclaimed, to as many people as possible and where are more people than in the cities?
In the parable of the sower we see 4 seeds but only one bears fruit.
I believe that in this parable Jesus taught that the ďyield per acreĒ for sowing the gospel would be low.
If the harvest is to be great, the only way that this can happen is by sowing many acres.
The only way that many can be harvested by the gospel is for many to be sent out, covering a great multitude of people.
The city is the focus of the disciplesí efforts because reaching many is the goal of their mission.
An urgency in this mission is indicated by our Lordís instructions not to greet anyone on the road.
4Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. (Luke 10:4,).
How could Jesus command the disciples to avoid giving a friendly greeting along the road?
We would think it would be rude to ignore a passerby.
We would think the disciple would have an opportunity to witness and to win the traveler.
Yes, but we have to remember their purpose.
Their purpose was citywide, their purpose was the proclamation of the gospel to many people rather than to one by one.
The time was limited and Christ knew their tendency for taking precious time for social amenities.
If the preaching of the Gospel is more important then the burial of oneís father, certainly it is more important and more urgent than are common greetings to fellow travelers and the taking of precious time for such when the purpose was otherwise.
If the purpose of reaching the cities was to be accomplished such individual contact would have to be restricted.
I remember a sign about selling that Normaís husband, Fred, kept in the radio room.
I donít know the full poem but it started something like this:
He who yelleth down a well when he has some things to sell:
And it went on that that person will not sell anything by keeping the knowledge of his product from those who are to buy the goods.
You can take your time to personally witness one by one and this is good but when you are committed to witnessing to many then you must put all your efforts in that mission and that may be to the neglect of personal witnessing.
This is exactly what Jesus was instructing the seventy to do.
While they could have spoken of the Messiah to many individuals one‑at‑a‑time, they were directed to make much better use of their time by speaking to many at one time.
And the place to find concentrations of people is not along the highway, but in the city, where many people live and gather.
Also most likely the same people to whom the disciples witnessed would be there when Jesus finally did come to the city.
So time was not to be wasted on the way to the city.
Focus is required and that focus will be interrupted by a personal witness.
The disciples are to hurry to the city and there make the gospel known to the greatest number of people.
This urgency and mass witness is also emphasized by the instruction of our Lord that the disciples were not to ďmove around from house to houseĒ (Luke 10:7).
They were to stay at one house while in that city, not taking time to go to another house.
This was also not the time for house to house visitation.