10 Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come.
Luke alone records this particular event. None of the other gospels mention a group of 70 being sent out. Because of the similarity between what Jesus says here and what He says in passages before He sends out the twelve on their own missionary journeys, there is speculation that Luke is borrowing from a similar source as the other gospels.
I don’t find that completely compelling, but it is plausible. Also plausible is that Jesus went over the same ground in both places to put an emphasis on the haste in which the mission was to be conducted.
2 And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.
The world is full of hurting people. Even those of us who appear to be fine, normal, and functional are often hurting. We’re just better at hiding it. But God sees it all. Every pain, every cry, every tear. The answer to the question of “where is God in the midst of all this suffering” is “where are we?” What are we doing to help? What are we doing to aid our fellow man?
Are we sitting on the sidelines waiting for God to magically make everything perfect or are we rolling up our sleeves and following the example of Jesus by getting out there, engaging people, recognizing their needs, and doing what we can to help them.
If we’re not, pray. Pray that God would show you the hurting hearts around you. Pray that God would allow you to overcome your fear and engage with them. Encourage them. And bring love and healing to them.
3 Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.
Encouraging news there, right? You’re going out into a world full of wolves. People are suffering and hurting, and you’re going to go help them, but remember that you’re surrounded by a world that will want to hurt you too. Even some you try to help may turn on you. Pain causes us to lash out at others, including those that try to help us.
And Jesus wasn’t sending them out decked out in armor and carrying a sword and spear. He was sending them with nothing but a message that the Kingdom was coming, their two hands, and a mandate to use those hands for good. They would meet opposition and they needed to be careful and wise in how they acted and responded.
4 Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ 6 If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. 8 Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; 9 and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
Their instructions are pretty similar to those given to the twelve in Matthew. But the emphasis in both is on haste. These disciples are not to even stop for a moment to greet someone passing on the road. Jesus’ time was short and He was going to stop at as many villages as He could before He had to face death.
So they’re told not to take supplies. Don’t go home and pack, just leave now and don’t stop even for a moment along the way, but go from city to city, preach the message, heal the sick, and move on. You feel the urgency.
They are to rely on the townspeople’s hospitality. Hospitality was important in their culture and good men were expected to provide it to visitors and guests. Even in Greek mythology, you’ll often find the mark of a good man vs. a wicked one is whether they extend hospitality to strangers.
Conversely, the disciples were expected to be good guests. They weren’t to move around town from house to house searching out better places. They weren’t to be picky or critical of the food given to them. They were to accept what was offered in thanks.
And they were expected to work and give back to the local communities, not just in their message, but in their work. They were to go out and heal the sick in Jesus’ name. Above all, they were to prepare the town for Jesus’ arrival, the arrival of the King.
10 But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city.
Shaking the dust off of your feet was an Eastern custom. It was, as here, designed to show contempt or disdain for a city or house. You viewed it so poorly that you didn’t even want the dirt from its streets to defile your person.
Jesus instructions are to make sure these places understand the gravity of their error by demonstrating against them publicly.
13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades!
16 “The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.”
And the purpose of the visible display is because of the opportunity and the evidence provided to them. These cities lived in a unique time when Jesus was physically present and was working signs and miracles. Whereas future and previous cities had a limited revelation of God. Thus they would be held to a higher standard when it came time for God to judge the nations.
That’s an interesting thought and I think it shows the justice of God. God doesn’t have a one size fits all punishment. People are punished according to their deeds and according to the nature of revelation provided to them. That seems a lot more just to me than the one-stop Lake of Fire that Revelation has everyone getting thrown into for all eternity.