Summary: We are warned not to delight so much in our gifts and victories as to rejoice in the fact that our names are written in heaven.
SEVENTY SENT FORTH
The first thing we might notice about the appointment of the seventy in this passage is that they were appointed by Jesus (Luke 10:1). It is hazardous for anybody to enter into ministry without the commissioning of Jesus (Romans 10:15). However, those who place themselves between a man and his calling should be careful that they don’t find themselves fighting against the Lord.
Seventy is a number of completion, and thus anticipates the universality of the mission of Jesus. The seventy are sent forth two by two, to the places where Jesus Himself would come. There are times and opportunities for all nations to receive the gospel before Jesus comes back (Matthew 24:14).
They are sent forth with prayer (Luke 10:2). Jesus instructs us to pray that the Lord would raise up workers to assist in the ripe harvest field of the gospel. We should thus pray with an attitude of willingness to participate (Isaiah 6:8).
They are sent forth with an awareness of the difficulty of the task (Luke 10:3). Nevertheless, when we go forth on Jesus’ instructions, He equips us for the task (Matthew 4:19). When we go to the places where Jesus Himself would come (cf. Luke 10:1), He comes with us (Matthew 28:19-20).
They are to politely accept whatever hospitality they are given. “The labourer is worthy of his hire” (Luke 10:7), is the only verse from the four Gospels which is quoted in the letters of the New Testament (1 Timothy 5:18). They are not to be fastidious about food laws and dietary requirements (Luke 10:8).
The seventy were commissioned to heal the sick (Luke 10:9). The word which Luke uses on this occasion suggests therapeutic healing. Elders still have a part to play in praying for the sick, and this does include ‘salvation’, the word for holistic healing more usually favoured by Luke (cf. James 5:14-15).
If a whole city refuses to receive Jesus’ messengers (cf. Luke 9:53), then they are to move on (Luke 10:10-11). However, they are to leave with a stern warning rather than with malice or vengeance. To leave saying, “Know this: the kingdom of God has come nigh to you” (Luke 10:11), may yet shame some into repentance.
Jesus concluded His instructions to the seventy with a Personal identification with their message, and with their persons (Luke 10:16). To hear the message of His faithful ministers is to hear Him. To refuse His servants is to refuse Jesus: and to refuse Jesus is to refuse God!
The seventy returned with great joy and excitement (Luke 10:17). Even the devils were subject to them in Jesus’ name! Jesus recognises the danger that we might be in when we are thrilled with the first flush of success – I watch rugby football, and a team can be quite vulnerable immediately after they have scored.
Jesus sees the bigger picture (Luke 10:18; cf. Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:14-18). Yet He does give His people power over the enemy (Luke 10:19; cf. Mark 16:17-18). We are warned, meantime, not to delight so much in our gifts and victories as to rejoice in the fact that our names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20)!