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JESUS SENDS OUT SEVENTY-TWO

Luke 10:1-10:16
Key Verse: 10:2

Thank God for teaching us how to follow Jesus, especially helping us learn the precedence of proclaiming the kingdom of God takes over all human activities. In the previous passage we heard about the three would-be-followers. In today’s passage, it is a delight to read about a large group of sincere and enthusiastic disciples of Jesus. Jesus sends out seventy-two disciples to preach the kingdom of God. In this study we can learn of Jesus’ heart for the world, and the gospel workers’ message and attitude.

First, the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few (1-3). Look at verse 1. “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.” Here “after this” refers to after "Jesus

resolutely set out for Jerusalem," was rejected by the people in a Samaritan village, and went instead to another village. So, after the personal resolution of setting out for Jerusalem and rejection by the people, the Lord appointed seventy-two. Luke purposely wrote, “Lord” instead of “Jesus.” Luke often referred to Jesus in this way (7:19). In Luke’s gospel the Lord refers to God or Jesus (2:9-11). The one who would die in Jerusalem and whom people rejected is the Lord. After identifying Jesus as Lord here, Luke describes Jesus as Lord more often as he was approaching Jerusalem to die on the cross and then be taken up to heaven through his resurrection. Now the Lord, in his power and sovereignty, appointed seventy-two besides the twelve disciples, and sent them two by two, so thirty six teams, to every town and place where he was about to go. It was just a few months before the end of his life on earth. And this area was the Transjordan, the east of Jordan, known as the half-Gentile districts. Jesus sent out the seventy-two to the inhabitants of in this place, and he himself would visit all the towns there before his crucifixion. He truly cared for the people who lived in Gentile territories. Luke could not omit this event; he had to write it in his gospel. Thus he further stresses in his gospel that Jesus is a light for the Gentiles, as prophesied by Simeon in Luke 2.

Look at verse 2. “He told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” It is noticeable that Jesus was sending out seventy-two to every one town and place, yet he said that the workers were few because the harvest was plentiful. Surely in Jesus’ mind the harvest field was beyond Israel, covering the Gentile territories, and even the whole world. In order to understand the meaning more deeply and thoroughly, let's trace Jesus’ use of this expression. Jesus once went through all the towns and villages in Galilee. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion them, because they were helpless and harassed, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Mt 9:36-37). Another time he went through Samaria. After helping a Samaritan woman to find the Messiah in him, Jesus said to his disciples, “…I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (Jn 4:35). This time as he began the Perean ministry, Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” From Jesus’ viewpoint the world is ripe for harvest. It will be so all the more in the last days.

To Jesus’ eyes the world was ripe for harvest, but the workers were few. This was Jesus’ agony. Let’s try to imagine the situation. M. Sarah’s father ran an apple farm. At the time of harvest all the village people were invited to pick the apples. If the harvest time passed, the apples would fall to the ground, becoming damaged, and many of them would even be thrown out. Once, at my daughter's elementary school, there was a heap of free sandwiches. People were asked to come and eat freely, and even to take some home. I enjoyed the sandwiches and took some. But still there were many leftover sandwiches that would be thrown out into the garbage. At that time I sighed, “The free sandwiches are plentiful but eaters are few.” Food being thrown out is okay. But how about souls?

Then what is the harvest field of human souls like? Amos 8:11- 13 says, “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign LORD, ‘when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it. In that day the lovely young women and strong young men will faint because of thirst.’” This well expresses the situation of the world ripe for harvest. Young men and women are hungry and thirsty for the word of God to the point of fainting. Isaiah 2:2-3 says, “In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’ The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” The people of all nations will stream to the place where there are Bible teaches who can teach them God’s ways so that they may walk in his paths.

Looking at the plentiful harvest, Jesus agonized that there were few workers. In the last days many people want to hear the word of God, but there are not many Bible teachers. Then what happens to the hungry and thirsty souls, beautiful young women and strong young men? In their hunger and thirst they can hear counterfeit gospels and be deceived. Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 that the time will come for a great number of teachers to rise and say what people’s itching ears want to hear. They will try to satisfy people’s physical desires, offering a better life in this world. But Paul said to Timothy, “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” (2 Tim 4:5). God wants us to be equipped more and more to be clear and responsible Bible teachers and also pray that God may raise up such Bible teachers especially among young people. As Jesus sent out the seventy-two, he said to them to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field. In this way Jesus wanted them to participate in the heart of the Lord of the harvest, the very heart of his own.

Look at verse 3. “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” Wolves are ferocious, ready to harm and devour anyone. Evening wolves leave nothing for the morning (Zep 3:3). The world is like a plentiful harvest field, but also is surrounded by wolves. It seems that lambs are too weak to do any harvest work among wolves; rather they themselves are dangerous among the ferocious wolves. Yet, Jesus sent them out, commanding, “Go!” This reveals the urgent situation for the harvest. This can be the reality of the spiritual battle. It would be difficult for lamb-like disciples to obey the command. However, the strong point of the lambs is that their shepherd is behind them. We are also surrounded by many gospel enemies. This is a real spiritual battle going on. Yet, we believe that our great Chief Shepherd (Heb 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4) is there behind lambs among wolves.

In this part we see Jesus’ view of the world as the harvest field and his heart for the people of the world, ripe for harvest, which is also his vision for the world. He wants us to participate in his heart and vision and pray, and also take part in his harvest work as workers sent into his harvest field.

Second, instructions for harvest workers (3-9). Look at verse 4. “Do not take a purse or a bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.” Harvest workers must depend on God for all the necessary provisions. And they should not show unnecessary kindness, but focus on their given mission. Eastern salutations were particularly elaborate and time-consuming. A further contemporary application can be to avoid unnecessary parties and other kinds of distractions and social interactions.

Look at verses 5-6. “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.” The gospel is called the gospel of peace. Ephesians 6:15 says that the feet of the gospel servants should be fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” And God is the God of peace (Ro 16:20). God’s peace is different from the peace the world gives (Jn 14:27). When Jesus was born, there was the heavenly chorus of angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.” God’s peace comes from the reconciliation between God and men through his Son Jesus, who died for man’s sins. God’s peace was costly. In Luke 19:41-42, as Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. God’s peace is hidden from the eyes of people of the world. So harvest workers are to keep God’s peace and bring God’s peace to the harvest field. The world is troublesome and turbulent, not because of the many problems, but fundamentally because of the rule of Satan, the prince of the world, who is in enmity with God. But in Jesus people can have true peace, and gospel workers should share this peace with the people of the world.

Look at verse 7. “Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.” As you know, Jews are very cautious about food. Orthodox Jews eat only Kosher food. But gospel servants were to eat everything that would be offered to them, even in the Gentile territory, accepting the hospitality and believing that the food was God’s provision. Gospel workers should not try to find a better environment moving around from house to house.

Look at verses 8 and 9. “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’” Again, the eating matter is emphasized. Gospel workers are not to seek a comfortable life in this world of better eating and better lodging. Healing the sick shows God’s mercy. But they should not stop at healing the sick. They are to tell them, “The kingdom of God is near you.” The kingdom of God is the main point of Jesus’ message on earth and also the kingdom of God is the focal message of the gospel workers. Through the coming of Jesus the kingdom of God has come. Jesus’ first message on earth was, “The time has come; the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe.” And the kingdom of God would be completed through Jesus’ death and resurrection. As Jesus was approaching Jerusalem to die on the cross, the kingdom of God would come close to the completion and so reality. “The kingdom of God is near you” is a very personal message. The kingdom of God is universal and at the same time very personal. It is for all people of the world and is for me. The kingdom of God is the place where God rules. Man’s heart can be ruled by God or Satan. There is no neutrality in man’s heart. The heart of a man cannot be a neutral zone. When God rules our hearts, there is true peace and joy and love and kindness. When Satan rules, our hearts become the dwelling of demons and various kinds of evil spirits and so are full of dark thinking, trouble, strife, hatred, etc. And the kingdom of God is also the place where we can go after departure from this world. The kingdom of God is paradise, the place of perfect environment and the kingdom of love and righteousness in Jesus. A certain religion depicts the kingdom of heaven as the place where men can enjoy many wives, and so as the extension of this world, enjoying the extreme pleasures of this world. This, actually, cannot be a paradise, but another kind of hell. It's really satanic. The kingdom of God is the place where there is no more sin and Satan, but holiness and righteousness and true love and joy through the reign of the holy and righteous and loving God. May we always have the kingdom of God in our hearts and share the message, “The kingdom of God is near you” with the students in our campuses.

Third, the consequence of rejecting the gospel (10-16). Look at verses 10 and 11. “But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’” Gospel workers should know the superiority of the gospel and never be daunted, even when they are rejected. When Jesus sent out his twelve disciples, he also said to them, “If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them.” When the Jews came back from their traveling in Gentile land and entered the land of Israel, they shook the dust off their feet so that no unclean or unholy things might come to their holy land. So shaking or wiping the dust off their feet meant to treat those who rejected them as Gentiles. Gospel workers should have such clear attitudes toward those who reject them and their message of the kingdom of God. Their rejection never means that the kingdom of God is far way. They should make sure that the kingdom of God is still near and real. While they reject, some others will accept and possess the kingdom of God, and they themselves forever will be rejected from the kingdom of God, and so have no part with the kingdom of God.

Then Jesus said, “I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.” Sodom was a terrible city that was destroyed by fire because of their immorality. Historically, they were known as the worst sinners. But in God’s sight, those who reject the gospel and his servants are worse sinners, because the people of Sodom did not have a chance to hear of the gospel of Jesus and the kingdom of God. We know that the destiny of sinners is the same, that is, eternal condemnation. However, Jesus used this comparison to teach us that when one rejects the gospel of Jesus and his servant, God’s heart is most broken.

Now Jesus denounced unrepentant cities: “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been 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.” Here we learn that we should not receive God’s grace in vain. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 6:1, “As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.”

And finally Jesus said, “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” Gospel workers are ambassadors of Christ Jesus and represent God. They are to be aware of this solemn identity particularly at the time of rejection and also bear their consequent duty.

We thank Jesus who appointed seventy-two and sent them to Transjordan, half-Gentile districts, showing his heart for the world. Thank God for his view and heart for the world: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” May God help us to really participate in his heart and vision and also in his work, carrying the message of God’s peace and his kingdom to the harvest field.

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