Luke 10: 1 – 12
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. 2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you.7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say,11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless, know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
Even though I have had the title of “missionary” for over 25 years, this passage is still a challenge for me. Here are some observations about these verses, that are simultaneously based on personal experience and also reminders for myself.
1.Chapter 10 begins with “after this”. So we look back at the end of chapter 9 and see that Jesus has been helping individuals in the crowd that follows him around to discern their priorities. Apparently, at least 70 (or 72) are chosen by him to make a third preaching tour of Galilee. Jesus had already sent his core group of 12 out on a healing and preaching tour and now he is giving more of them the opportunity to get some experience in ministry. When the Lord gives us the opportunity to step out in service, let’s get our priorities in order and take it.
2.They went two by two. Working in teams doesn’t have to be a hard and fast rule, but is a good principle to follow. If you feel like the Lord is telling you to go out in his name, it is a good idea to bring someone with you. If another one or two people aren’t able to physically join you in the work, make sure you have one or more going with you spiritually in prayer.
3. Jesus sent them to places where he himself was about to go. I like that extra emphasis—he himself. He would be out there keeping his eye on them. At that time, he was limited by his human body. In John 16:5, Jesus told his disciples that it was better for them that he go away because he would be sending the Holy Spirit to be with them and convict the world of sin. We should be always thankful that we have the Holy Spirit who is present with us in every situation wherever we are sent by God.
4. Jesus says the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. So what does he tell them (and us) to do first? His first command is to pray (and pray earnestly) for more people to join in the work, and his second command is to go. We don’t have any excuses not to obey his command to pray.
5. In this instance, Jesus was sending them out into towns among their own people. When he talked about the harvest in John 4 with the woman at the well, he was looking out at the people in her own community. Later he sent the disciples out to the ends of the earth. Whatever the destination, we want our attitude to be “planning to go where God send us, but willing to stay” rather than “willing to go, but planning to stay.” Can you sense the difference?
6. Whether the place God sends us is next door or in another country, no matter how beautiful or comfortable it might look, we can be sure that there will be wolves of all shapes, size and disguises. Satan doesn’t want the gospel to spread.
7. Jesus’ instructions as he sends them out into first century Palestine can sound pretty obscure to us in the 21st century, but it could be boiled down to travel light, you’re on an urgent mission and keep the main thing, the main thing!
8. What is the main thing? The kingdom of God has come near to you. God’s power has power to heal the needy ones and in it they will have a glimpse of his kingdom, but even those who they heal will eventually die. Those who believe that Jesus is the Saviour will wake in heaven to experience God’s kingdom fully and those who do not will be eternally separated from God. As John Piper has expressed it, “Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering.”
9. God places physically and spiritually needy people in every Christian’s life and we need to be faithful and persevere in the task he has given to us. But we can be sure that miraculous healing is not going to convince everyone to believe and neither is a clear proclamation of the gospel. Sometimes God gives us the freedom to “shake the dust off our feet” and move on. We surrender those people to the Lord and emotionally let go. We are only responsible for our obedience to God, not for the results.