Seventy Sent into the Harvest

Every Christian, in one sense, is an apostle. Like the 72 found in this reading of Luke (Luke 10.1ff), we are “sent ones.” In the mose generic use of the term, we are apostles, sent ones, sent by the Lord “before his face” or “ahead of him” in order to prepare a people for the Lord. Indeed, the word used for “sent” in v.1 has its root in the word “apostle.” These are apostles, but not apostles like the Twelve for the Twelve are distinct from any other sent ones who have been or ever will be. So there is that distinction.

Jesus “appointed” these 70 or 72 (depending on translation). He hand selected these men from among other men to be ambassadors, preparing the places he was about to go. Now about this 70 or 72 business: which is it? It depends on which manuscripts you use. Some say 70, others 72. One commentator said that the “good” manuscripts have 70 (hence, the RSV reads 70). What number it is makes very little difference unless you are trying to make something of the numbers. For example, some say it was seventy for the seventy elders of Israel on whom the Spirit descended upon (Num 11.24, 25). Others say it has to do with the number of nations from the genealogical record in Genesis 10 where the Hebrew has 70 and the Septuagint has 72. Whatever significance it may have had, we know that Jesus had a busy itenerary before him, for these men went to the cities he was no doubt about to visit.

Their Assignment

The mission Jesus sends them on is great. First, they must pray for laborers. Jesus says the harvest (lit. the summer time, when the fields ripened) is plentiful (or excessive) but the workers are few. Hence, whom can we turn to for help? None other than the proprietor of said harvest: the Lord. Jesus warns, though, their mission will not be an easy one for there are many wolves. “The simile points to the danger and the helplessness” of the situation. The disciple cannot rely upon his own strength; instead, there must be full reliance upon God to take care of you, even in the wolves den. Also, he is the God who provides for the everyday needs. Therefore, there is no need to take equipment of any kind. No money bag (purse), or a clothing bag, or even sandals (probably an extra pair). What about not greeting people? Is Jesus advocating we not be friendly? Not at all. Instead, he is saying not to engage anyone with a long, drawn out greeting, such as was common for the Pharisees of his day. In a way, Jesus is condemning their practice by saying this (cf. Mark 12.37-40, esp. the part about being “greeted in the marketplace.”).

Second, the disciple has somoe business to take care when he arrives at a house. There is a blessing of peace upon the the house and those who live in the house. The “man of peace” is one who is “inwardly prepared to embrace the message of peace.” He is a peace-lover, one ready for the Messianic lordship of Jesus in their life. If there is no man of peace in the house, the peace bestowed on the house would return. I think the message is clear: these sent ones will not bless those who are not willing to receive it. If they do not want the blessing, then they won’t get the blessing. Jesus is very clear to stay with those whom these disciples have blessed, eat what they feed and he tacks on the principle of why this is acceptable: the worker deserves his wages. No need to move around a lot; just find a good place and stick with that family, the two parties enjoying the harmony in that house. Oh, a good principle to live by: eat what they feed you. But Jesus is digging deeper than that – he is saying don’t wrangle over the food set before you. Some of these disciples were probably headed for Gentile cities and some of the food set before them may not have met the rigorous standards they held. So Jesus is in essence saying what Paul said in Rom 14: don’t destroy the work of the kingdom over food.

Third, these disciples were to preach the good news of the kingdom. The confirmation of the word spoken (as always in Luke) was the miracles that were worked. Healing the sick, they preached the kingdom. However, if they were not welcomed, they were to shake the dust off of their feet as a testimony. And even if they did not accept the message, keep preaching it (v.11b). It is at verse 12 that Jesus begins to denounce these cities who would deny or had already rejected the message Jesus or his disciples had been preaching.

Even the wicked town of Sodom would have it easier than those who rejected the word of God at that time. This was serious business. Jesus pronounces woes upon them. If you recall the Sermon on the Plain study where Jesus used the same word, this is to say how horrible, dreadful it will be for them. These cities have been found wanting or lacking something (faith, it would appear, in this case) and thus they are to be considered a thing of horror. Korazin was a town north of Capernaum near the Sea of Galilee. Apparently “miracles” had been worked there presumably by Jesus. Also, Bethsaida is included in this woe. Interestingly named, Bethsaida means “house of fish” (or fishing) at it was here that Jesus fed five thousand (9.10ff). However, the house of fish refuses the one who fed them from the two fish and five loaves. If the miracles performed in these two cities alone (nevermind the rest of the marvelous things Jesus had elsewhere) had been performed for the cities of Tyre and Sidon, their inhabitants would have donned the garments of repentance and repented. On the day when the Lord comes in judgment, it will be much more devestating that what Tyre and Sidon had experienced. Indeed, this “judgment day” has come for these cities, for Korazin has been all but wiped from the planet, leaving nothing but a desolate lot of ground and some ruins. And Bethsaida is also in ruins, “completely destroyed.” Don’t forget Capernaum. The woe pronounced on this city by the Master was so severe that the site of this city has been disputed by scholars for some time. Only recently has it been identified as Tell Hum. Indeed, this city went down into Hades for their unbelief.

Their Authority

Certainly the miracles attested to the fact that these disciples had authority. But Jesus presses the issue more by saying that the words they speak are nothing short of the word of God. Jesus says that those who “hear you hear me.” Hence, those who reject Jesus, reject his word which is the Father’s word and by so doing they reject God. When Jesus authorizes someone tospeak on his behalf, that person speaks with divine authority. The responsibility of the disciple is to accurately and boldly proclaim the word of Christ. The responsiblity of the hearer is to respond appropriately to what he hears.

As disciples of the Lord today, we do not need to confirm the word ourselves; that word has been done by the seventy, by the Twelve and by the Lord himself. Hence, our responsibility to be ready to give a defense for the hope that is within us to anyne who asks (1 Peter 3.15). We have heard the word of Christ and it was as if Jesus spoke it directly to us. We heard his disciple which is to hear the the voice of the Lord. We have responded appropriately and now we seek to speak the word of the Lord, that others may experience the peace that is in our house and in our hearts. God has raised up to walk in newness of life and to be laborers, co-workers with him in the harvest. But this harvest is so great, we cannot do it alone. We need the Lord. We need to communicate to him our thoughts and feelings to him and express our need for more workers in the harvest field. And then rejoice when he answers that prayers.

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