1After 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. 2He 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. 3Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
5"When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' 6If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. 7Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
8"When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. 9Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you.' 10But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11'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.' 12I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
13"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. 14But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. 15And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. 16"He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me."
17The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name."
18He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
21At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.
22"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." 23Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. 24For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it." (NIV)
1. God is sovereign in salvation.
a) He is the One who sends, and He uses whomever he wishes to be his gospel-messengers (vv. 1-2). As we saw in the last passage, Jesus allowed a "non-twelve follower" to cast out demons in his name, and now we see that he expands the number of his "sent ones" by another seventy-two. What's more, he asks these seventy-two to pray that He would send more. Therefore, God has all power to send out as many workers as He chooses, and we should pray towards this end (and even be open to consider ourselves among them).
b) He saves those whom He wishes (vv, 21, 22). He chooses some of no reputation ("little children"), while He hides the truth of the gospel from the so-called "wise" and "learned" so that they can't accept it (v. 22). See also 1 Cor 3:5-7.
Discussion Q #1: What is the proper response of those whom God has sent towards God's freedom in sending? What is the appropriate response of all Christians toward God's freedom in saving?
2. Yet, those who reject the gospel are responsible for the unbelief (vv. 10-15).
God's sovereignty does not remove man's responsibility.
What's more, we see here that God's condemnation is stronger upon some than it is on others. As this passage shows, the judgment for rejecting God's message is worse upon those who witnessed Christ and his miracles - such as Korazin and Bethsaida - then even some of the most evil cities in the Old Testament: Sodom (Gen 19:1-29); Tyre (Eze 28:1-19) and Sidon (Eze 28:20-24).
3. In the activity of making God known to others, His people are called to do this task with urgency, and to expect hostility while doing so (vv. 3-4).
"do not greet anyone" (v. 4) - greetings in Eastern cultures can be very time-consuming, and may even involve visitors being invited over to people's homes. But the disciples were called by Christ to be focused on their task, and not to let "lesser" things take up their time. Similarly, Paul tells the Ephesian church (and all churches, for that matter) to "be very careful how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is" (Eph 5:15-17).
"sending you out like lambs among wolves" (v. 3) - the disciples could count on opposition from some. So must all of God's people through the ages (1 Jn 3:13; 2 Ti 3:12-13)
4. Jesus gives us the privilege of being his ambassadors, and being used by Him. Yet, a far greater grace awaits us (vv. 17-20).
"It is so easy to rejoice in success. Our self-identity may become entangled with the fruitfulness of our ministry...the danger, of course, is that it is not God who is being worshiped...when faced with such temptations, it is desperately important to rejoice for the best reasons - and there is none better than that our sins have been forgiven, and that by God's own gracious initiative our names have been written in heaven" (D.A. Carson, For The Love of God - Book One; 1998, Feb. 24 entry).
Discussion Q #2: Besides success, what other "lesser joys" (or concerns, for that matter) can distract us from thinking about the blessings awaiting us in heaven?
5. God's people living at the time of Christ, or afterwards, are particularly blessed - and so should be grateful (v. 23-24).
In saying, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see...", Jesus is reminding his disciples that the prophets of the Old Testament did not have the clarity of revelation that God's people have enjoyed over the past two millenia.
Peter would later come to a fuller realization and appreciation of this, as evidenced by these thoughts: "Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things" (1 Pe 1:10-12).