Some of our questions from the last passage are answered in this one; Luke now tells us that Jesus was about to send 72 of those following Him on a mission. No, there isn’t time to bury the dead or go home to say goodbye, and you will be taking nothing on this road trip…
To be clear, this doesn’t negate the principles found in the last passage, but it does finally give them some context. In serving God, we are to place our trust and faith in Him alone. And so, Jesus sends these 72 out ahead of His party to prepare His way. Like the adventures the Twelve had experienced, they were to take no provision, for they would be depending upon God who blessed them on their journey.
That part is simple enough.
But there is a larger context than that in play here; an apocalyptic context: The Kingdom is coming near.
Jesus tells them:
“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. (10:5-7)
They are being sent on an urgent mission, there isn’t time for messing around and extra socializing. They are to bestow God’s peace upon any house that will receive them. This is the customary Jewish greeting, but if their host is not receptive to their message, God’s peace will not remain on them. The missionaries are not to move about from house to house, they are to be about God’s purpose only.
When they enter a town that is receptive to their message they are to tell them that the Kingdom of God has come near, and heal the sick in the town. However, if a town does not receive their message…
…go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. (10:10-12)
Jesus continues this line of thought…
“Woe to you, Chorazin! 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. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.
“Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
It’s helpful for us to bear in mind that Tyre and Sidon were Gentile towns; Jesus has found more actual faith among the Gentiles than among the Jews, and His point is that when the great day of the Lord comes, being Jewish isn’t going to change the fact that they rejected their Messiah, and they will be doomed.
You see dear reader, this whole “Kingdom” thing is very serious business.
Off went the 72; we’ll hear their report next time.