Please read Luke 10:1-12 – The harvest awaits!
Ask the Holy Spirit for help in understanding God's Word.
V1. The seventy-two sent out.
Luke now records that Jesus sent out seventy-two men to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God. As with the Twelve, they go in twos. Before we get into what Jesus tells them, I want to make a couple of brief observations. First, given what we considered yesterday regarding what it takes to be a follower of Jesus, it is noteworthy that seventy-two men were in a position to be sent out. It is an indication that some do get what is involved in such following, by the grace of God. Second, these men are to go into "every town and place," where Jesus is about to go, which tells us something about the amount of work that lies ahead of Jesus. These thirty-six groups of men were to cover the same ground as Jesus would subsequently cover himself. When following Jesus, no one is asked to do more than what Jesus did himself.
Luke 10:2 is a well-known verse. It's a saying that Jesus used more than once and in different forms. He had said it when John the Baptist was still alive, see John 4:35. He has also said it before sending out the Twelve, see Matthew 9:37. So this was something that was frequently on his mind throughout his ministry.
Note that Jesus does not speak of the size of the field nor the seed's sowing. His focus is solely on the great harvest. Why? Because the harvest has already been produced. As Paul writes to the church at Ephesus, "As he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love: Who hath predestinated us, to be adopted through Jesus Christ in himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherewith he hath made us freely accepted in his beloved." Ephesians 1:4-7. Yes, the sowing needs to be done, and that can be hard gruelling work, but it is work that always has an end – the harvest. The harvest is that of the elect being effectually called throughout all ages. It is a harvest that is huge in scale, humanly incalculable in number, as numerous as the stars in the heavens and the sand on the seashore. We tend to look at the church now, and she appears weak and insignificant. I preached this past Lord's day evening on the need for us to mourn the state of the Bride in our nation. It is something we must do, and yet as we do so, we must also remember, as I said at the end of that sermon, that she will be presented one day as a glorious, radiant, vast community to the Lord.
The other striking aspect of what Jesus says is his highlighting of the 'fewness' of the workers. It is immediately followed by the command to pray to God for more harvesters. Literally, 'beg the Lord of the harvest to throw more workers into the field.' This prayer is to be engaged with earnestness. It is directed to the Lord because he is the one who owns and controls all things, and the ingathering of this great harvest of the ages has been placed solely into the hands of Jesus. So, it is Jesus, and Jesus alone, who can and will provide the men to do the harvesting. It is Jesus who sends out men with the message that they are to proclaim in his voice, and it is Jesus who prays for the ingathering of his elect lambs. We are to pray so that our hearts will be joined with God's desire for his harvest. This is something we are going to have to start doing more frequently.
V3. Be going.
In Matthew 10:16, the same thing is said to the Twelve, but here we have 'lambs' instead of 'sheep'. As we have found before with Luke, the use of the word 'behold' or 'lo' is an indication of the shocking nature of what Jesus is about to say. Who would ever, in their right mind, think of sending lambs into a pack of wolves? What hope would they have? How long would they last? And yet, that is exactly what Jesus is saying he is doing to these seventy-two men. Every servant who is sent into the harvest is exposed in the same way. The attacks upon the minister of God's Word and prayer, and those whom he loves, are serious and real at times. However, they can be withstood, but only in the name and by the power of Christ. Apart from Christ, none of his lambs are safe, especially those he sends out into the harvest field.
V6-7. Take nothing with you.
The instructions to the seventy-two are different but of a similar nature to those given previously to the Twelve, Luke 9:3-5. The thinking is the same; this is a matter of urgency and trust/dependency. Urgency in getting the message out, and trust not merely in the message the Lord has given them, but also in his ability to provide for them.
That is the challenge of our lives – to trust the Lord. To trust that Christ's message will reap the harvest, and trust in his provision while we engage in the reaping of that harvest. The church too often fails in either one or both of these areas. We need to be constantly schooling ourselves in the power of the gospel and the King's provision. We need to exhort one another, that Christ will build his church as his Word is faithfully preached, and that we don't need to be sitting with tens of thousands of dollars in the bank for a 'rainy day'.
V8. The blessing of the Gospel.
Jesus' command to announce, "Peace be to this house!" is not merely an instruction to remember to be polite when entering a home. It is much more than that. This "peace” is an objective gift given by God to the inhabitants of that home. Specifically, it is the gift of the hearing of the gospel. To those who will receive it by God's grace, it will bring eternal true peace with God. Rejection of this free offer of the gospel will result in no peace being experienced.
Again, as with the Twelve, the instruction is given to stay in the home where they are welcome and not move about from home to home. To do otherwise would only cast reproach on the Lord and his message. Yes, they are to be provided for by those receiving the gospel, but they are not to abuse that. The health and wealth 'leeches' of our time must be an anathema to Jesus.
V9. The warning of rejecting the gospel.
The task of those sent out by Jesus was always the same – heal the sick and proclaim the good news of the Kingdom. Just as the task of preaching the gospel was always the same, so the response to the message proclaimed was always the same, i.e., twofold. There are fields, hearts, where the seed takes root and produces a harvest forthcoming. But there are also fields, hearts, where the seed is rejected, and that cannot go unaddressed. When these men experienced that, they were to give both a verbal and visible response because rejection of the gospel is no light matter. A fact that is to be demonstrated by their taking nothing from that community, not even the dust on their sandals. It is also to be made clear to the inhabitants what it is that they have rejected, namely the good news that the Kingdom of God has come near. The bottom line is that such people have drawn down upon themselves the judgement of God. The gravity of that judgement is declared with the voice of authority, "I tell you," and is defined in devasting terms by way of comparison with Sodom. Reading Genesis 19:23-29 is frightening. To think that come the Day of Judgement it will be more bearable for the inhabitants of Sodom than the inhabitants of villages, towns and cities who reject the gospel is very sobering.