Summary: The return of the seventy-two disciples from their short-term missions trip in Luke 10:17-24 shows us the reasons for their joy.
After Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, which lasted perhaps for as long as two years, “he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). Jesus continued to teach while on his journey to Jerusalem. He also sent seventy-two disciples in pairs on a short-term missions trip. We are not told how long they were gone, but it was probably at least a few weeks long.
Today, we will examine Luke’s report of the return of the seventy-two disciples from their short-term missions trip.
Let’s read about the return of the seventy-two in Luke 10:17-24:
17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
23 Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” (Luke 10:17-24)
Last time I told you a story about the China Gospel Fellowship, also known as the Tanghe, in David Aikman’s book titled, Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity Is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power. The Tanghe is a large network of Chinese house churches.
Early in 1994 the Tanghe began collecting money for a special missions trip. They commissioned seventy young people to go in pairs to each of China’s thirty provinces to proclaim the good news of the gospel and to plant churches. The Tanghe modeled their missions trip on the mission of the seventy-two disciples who were sent out by Jesus in Luke 10:1-16.
Six months later all seventy missionaries returned overflowing with joy and with the wonderful news that through their ministry new churches were established in twenty-two of China’s thirty provinces! Here is how one leader described the joyous celebration upon the return of the seventy missionaries:
It was a testimony meeting. We had given the missionaries one-way tickets. We told them, “You can’t fail. If you are not successful in planting churches, nobody will give you money to come back.” When we heard their testimonies, everybody was crying. They lived in ditches and in forests. Some of them lived with pigs. In the meeting, God showed his love to us. We were joyful because they all came back alive.