Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Last time we saw Jesus’ determination to go to the cross in Jerusalem. As He began that journey we saw the five great struggles we as humans experience when confronted with the challenge to follow Jesus to His cross. They are:
- The struggle with the truth of the gospel itself (9:52-53)
- The struggle with opposition to the gospel from others and what that does to our faith (9:54-55)
- The struggle to repent and make Jesus Lord (9:57-58)
- The struggle of wanting what this age offers as security, intimacy and purpose before what the next age offers. (9:59-60)
- The struggle of wanting to have it both ways—the things of the world and the things of the Lord (9:61-62)
Jesus told one of those He came across to “spread the news of the kingdom of God”—that is, that the King in God’s kingdom has arrived. Then Jesus demonstrated what that sharing means by example—the Samaritan town who rejected them, and the three individuals who struggled with their commitment. So why does Luke record these here? I think in part because Jesus was preparing His men and women for the kinds of responses they will get when they share the gospel, the kind of opposition they will face, and the type of resistance they will encounter.
Now He wants the disciples to have the same experience on their own. As we’ll see, He sends 70 of them out on a short term mission trip. What they were to do, what they experienced, and how Jesus frames it, will help us as we also follow the Great Commission to share the good news of the gospel with those around us.
1 – 2
Earlier in Chapter 9 Jesus sent out the Twelve in a similar manner. It was a “test” mission. They were to share the gospel but not tarry where they weren’t needed but to make it clear that their message was the only way to avoid judgment by God.
Now Jesus enlarges the number to 70. This is a significant number. In Numbers 11, Moses was trying to do all the work of God amongst the people of Israel and it was too much for one man. So God told Moses to appoint 70 men from among the leaders. When they appeared before God it says: “He took some of the Spirit that was on Moses and placed the Spirit on the 70 elders.” These men then shared the workload with Moses.
So here, these 70 go out in pairs, and in the power of Jesus to represent Him in the work of God in spreading the gospel.
One man can’t do it alone. Even 70 men would not be enough to share the gospel with the whole world. So after, after the ascension of Jesus, He gave His Spirit to all who belonged to Him so that we would be empowered to do the same thing.
What does Jesus tell them to do? Not cajole people into going, not argue with them, not shame them—but pray for the Lord of the harvest, to provide more workers. Though later He will point out the current opposition to the gospel, here Jesus says “the harvest is abundant.” What’s lacking are pickers. We should constantly pray for God to prick the hearts of those pickers He wants to go out, and then pray for the fruit itself—the minds of those in the field, that they would be open to hearing the good news.
3 – 4
When Luke writes that Jesus is determined to go to Jerusalem to be crucified he uses a word that suggests a firmness of purpose knowing that the path will be dangerous. Our determination to follow Jesus and share the good news of the cross is also fraught with danger. That’s why He says we are “sheep among wolves” which was a common metaphor in Judaism to speak of a dangerous situation.
Why is it dangerous? Because of number 1 and 2 of our earlier list of struggles sharers of the gospel will encounter: a lack of understanding of the gospel itself and opposition to the good news.
In Matthew’s account there is a little more of what Jesus says here:
Matt. 10:16 “Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves. 17 Because people will hand you over to sanhedrins and flog you in their synagogues, beware of them. 18 You will even be brought before governors and kings because of Me, to bear witness to them and to the nations. 19 But when they hand you over, don’t worry about how or what you should speak. For you will be given what to say at that hour, 20 because you are not speaking, but the Spirit of your Father is speaking through you.
21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will even rise up against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of My name. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered. 23 When they persecute you in one town, escape to another. For I assure you: You will not have covered the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. 24 A disciple is not above his teacher, or a slave above his master. 25 It is enough for a disciple to become like his teacher and a slave like his master. If they called the head of the house ‘Beelzebul,’ how much more the members of his household! (HCSB)
A couple of things here:
They were to be “shrewd” as a serpent and “innocent” like a dove. The disciples were to be wary of danger and avoid it when they could (see Matthew 3:7-9) and not use violence to answer persecution. But it won’t always be possible to avoid trouble as we go out to share the gospel—so Jesus says to expect opposition (because He experienced it) and trust that when the time comes you’ll know what to say by relying on the Holy Spirit (just as Jesus did).
This is a short term mission, so they were not to take up permanent residence in the towns they visited. Nor were they to tarry (greet anyone on the road). They were not to be sidetracked but focused.
5 – 7
Shalom is a common Jewish greeting. While it means “peace” it also suggests wholeness, or well-being. So in essence Jesus is saying that if the people you are staying with are willing to hear and respond to the gospel – then great. If not, then you carry the peace available with God through Jesus with you away from them. But don’t go house hopping—just because they aren’t open to the gospel doesn’t mean you won’t accept their hospitality. We live in the world—we have jobs and friends. We don’t cloister ourselves away in a bubble. But at the same time we realize not everyone will be open to hearing about Jesus.
Also note here that Jesus says it’s all right to receive benefit from sharing the gospel. Paul later quotes this in 1 Timothy 5:17-18 to suggest that ministers should get paid for their work.
Now we come to the activity of what they are to do on this mission trip:
8 – 12
First Jesus tells them what to do in a town that is open to the gospel. Don’t quibble over the small stuff (like whether their food is kosher) but let the main thing be the main thing—the gospel. In those towns they were to heal (which included healing from demon possession) and preach what Jesus had been saying all along, that God’s kingdom was near.
For those towns where there was no opening the preaching still happened, but not the healing. Sometimes you are going to share your faith in Jesus with someone and they will reject you soundly. The kingdom of God has still come near, but they rejected it. Instead of calling down fire from heaven, they were simply to let them know that we’ve given the message, but we’re not going to linger and argue the point. It was a literal demonstration of what had happened spiritually—they are left with their opinions and opposition and even the dust of their roads, but are not healed of the disease of sin.
Why does He say that it will be more tolerable to Sodom and Gomorrah? Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of their sin. But Jewish interpretations of Genesis 19 focused on the people’s lack of hospitality towards the angels. Remember, they wanted to have homosexual sex with them and the angels had to blind them in order to escape. In that sense, the judgment against those who reject God’s emissaries with the gospel is worse because the judgment of Sodom was physical destruction. The judgment of rejecting the gospel is spiritual destruction of the soul.
So then Jesus goes on to speak of cities that are examples of those who reject His message:
13 – 16
Chorazin and Bethsaida were Jewish towns in Galilee near Capernaum. Jesus is saying that if the gospel and the miracles that attested to it had come to Gentile cities, they would respond. But the Jews considered themselves above the need for repentance. Capernaum was Jesus HQ in Galilee but the townsfolk (not all of them of course) felt so superior that they would not accept the idea of a sinner in need to healing.
The principal here is that as you are going about living the life of a Christian and sharing the good news and experience rejection, it isn’t really you they are rejecting but Jesus and ultimately the Father—and all hope of salvation.
17 – 20
So the 70 go on their trip and return. God has done amazing things through them. They even experienced demons obeying them. Why did they experience this? Because the real battle here is for the loyalty of souls—and Satan and his forces want to keep people from hearing, understanding, and accepting the gospel by any means necessary.
But with the Messiah, Satan is defeated. Jesus quotes Ezekiel 28:16-17 which speaks of Satan’s initial fall from heaven when he tried to become equal with God and speaks of the fact the the gospel pierces even the enemy’s strong defenses. The gospel is powerful enough to overcome satanic forces that Jesus describes as “snakes and scorpions”. Heb. 4:12 “For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart.”
But what can happen is that we start focusing on that power instead of what’s really going on here, that lives are being saved and names are “written in heaven” in the Lamb’s book of life (Phil 4:3, Rev 3:5).
The ultimate end is not to be powerful but to bring the grace of God to as many as will receive it.
What can we learn then about what our own experience will be when we live our Christianity on the outside—either by our lifestyle, character, or sharing the gospel verbally.
- You are “sent ahead” of Jesus (vs 1). We are ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), emissaries of the king. We plant seeds, but it’s God that causes the growth in the heart (1 Corinthians 3:6).
- You are never the only one doing this both spiritually (Lord of the Harvest and vs 16 – if they reject you they reject Me) and physically (going out in pairs vs 1)
- If you can’t go personally, you can go in prayer (vs 2)
- You will be opposed so don’t be surprised (vs 3)
- Keep the main thing the main thing (vs 8-9). Don’t get bogged down in arguments about the minutiae.
- Focus on the open hearts, not beating down the hard ones (vs 10-15)
- Know who the real enemy is (vs 18-20) Ephesians 4:17-19 – the enemy has darkened the understanding. Though people are the actors, the writer and director of their words and actions in opposition to you is Satan.