In this post I want to look at the beginning of Luke 10, this passage raises some important issues for the Church today. I have heard people in the past using this passage especially Jesus words to the disciples about rejoicing that their names were written in heaven to downplay the power of God. The argument goes that salvation is more important than power. Is this what Jesus is really saying? I don’t think so, I believe that Jesus is reminding the disciples that their power and authority are there because they are saved. Salvation is not just some intellectual acceptance of the gospel but putting our whole trust in the person of our Lord Jesus, in this sense salvation emphasises a living relationship. When we become power orientated we tend to lose sight of our relationship with Jesus. When Jesus is at the centre, we look to him for power and authority, Christian discipleship is one of utter dependence upon the Lord. Let us now look at Luke,
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two a others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He 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. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do 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.” 6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay there, 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 offered to you. 9 Heal those there who are ill and tell them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 “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.” 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
In this passage Jesus commission the seventy-two for mission, he makes it quite clear to them that they go in his power and authority, this is evidenced in the fact that they are told to say that the Kingdom of God has drawn near to all those they minister to. They go out depending upon god’s provision for them as they minister, they go out in poverty knowing that God will provide through those they are witnessing to, many modern missionaries have proved the same faithfulness of God as the disciples did long ago. They have received the authority to declare the good news which includes the fact that God heals today and that he delivers from the power of the evil one. Their message is one that bring wholeness and healing to the whole person, it is not just words but rather power-filled words which accomplish God’s mission. It is vital that we see that this as true today as it was for the disciples, many of us have seen God’s healing power in our own bodies and also experienced deep emotional healing as the Lord has set us free. My own testimony is on this site see http://pneumaandlogos.com/2012/05/23/god-healed-megod-saved-me-god-called-me-a-personal-testimony/. It is vital therefore that we see the reality of God’s power in the lives of believers today. Robert Gundry in his commentary on Acts 10 says,
Luke refers to Jesus as “the Lord” to identify him as “the Lord of the harvest” in 10:2. The appointment of seventy-two in addition to the already chosen Twelve (6:12–16) points forward to a worldwide mission in the book of Acts. The Twelve have already gone on a mission (9:1–6). The mission of the seventy-two therefore marks an expansion. Jesus’ sending them “by twos” prefigures the pairing of his witnesses in Acts 3–4 (Peter and John), 13–14 (Paul and Barnabas), 15:40–18:22 (Paul and Silas [compare Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15 on the sufficiency of testimony by two or three witnesses]).
Gundry, R. H. (2010). Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation (p. 273). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.
These comment helpfully show that this is an illustration of what the outworking of the Great Commission would look like. Luke record this account not just because it is history but because it fits the structure of his theology of mission which he sets forth in Luke-Acts. The Western Church has tended to see the fulfillment of the great commission in terms of preaching and it will always include that but it also must include the powerful working of God the Holy Spirit as he glorifies Christ through word and deed.
Those who receive the good news are blessed indeed but those who reject it are in an awful position under the judgement of God, we tend to tone this down today but Jesus is quite clear that judgement will come upon all who reject the gospel. Listen to what Jesus has to say,
13 ‘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. 14 But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.
16 ‘Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.’
We must note the seriousness of these warnings that Jesus strongly but lovingly gives. Jesus has ministered to these areas showing the love and compassion of God but in many cases he finds unbelief. The Lord takes this very seriously and so should we. Note that he does not just denounce but first he shows the love and graciousness of God to them and it is only after this is rejected that he denounces them. Some people start with denouncing the sinner before showing God’s grace, attempting to frighten people into the kingdom but Jesus denounces after the good news has has been rejected. Jesus tells the disciples that whoever rejects them also is rejecting him, this is because the disciples mission is the mission of Jesus. We need to realise that as we fulfill the great commission in words and deeds we are participating in the mission of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, we also have the promise that Jesus will be with us to the end of the age. This story is not just one that applies to the times of Jesus but one that applies to today, realising this we need to look at how Jesus dealt with the results of that mission.
17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’
18 He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’
21 At 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 is what you were pleased to do.
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.’
23 Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. 24 For 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.’
The disciples come back rejoicing in the fact that the spirits submit to them in Jesus name and we can understand this but Jesus wants them to rejoice in the great facts of their salvation. their names being written in heaven should give them great security because Satan has no access to heaven, they are protected by the power of God.
It is important to notice that when Jesus rejoices in what has happened to and through the disciples it is because he is filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus shows us what it means to be a Spirit-filled man. Sometimes people think that being Spirit- filled will make them weird that is not true, being Spirit-filled will make us more like Jesus. The mission of God can only be accomplished through the Holy Spirit as he imparts to us the authority and power of the risen Christ. This passage shows to us what can be accomplished by ordinary people when they take the commission of Jesus seriously, may we be such people.