The Seventy Sent: The Gospel Accounts: A Chronological Harmony

The Seventy Sent

The Sending of the Seventy (Luke 10:1-11)

            As Jesus had done two years prior in sending out the twelve apostles to prepare his way to teach in Galilee (Matthew 10:1-11:1; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6), Jesus sends out seventy disciples to prepare his way to teach in Judea. The greater number allowed more cities to be covered in a short amount of time. Notice the text says “seventy others.” Those sent did not include the twelve apostles.

            Why seventy? It could be related to the fact that Israel was lead by seventy elders (Numbers 11:16). Or, it could be nothing more than that was the number Jesus had available to send. Even with seventy to send, Jesus urged his followers to pray for more laborers because there was more work to be done than there were people to do it.

            Like before, these disciples were sent out in pairs. They also receive similar instruction from the Lord. They were going out into dangerous situations. They were not to take any spare money or items for the journey. The press of time was so great that they were not even to pause long enough to give greetings to another as they journeyed to their destination. (See II Kings 4:29 for a similar case.) When they enter a home to stay, they were to give a blessing upon it when they entered. If there was one deserving of the blessing there, God would bless the house. If not, the blessing would go with them as they go to another house. Therefore, they were to give a blessing before they knew how they would be received.

            As before, they were not to move from house to house within a town. They were not there to beg support. Whatever was offered was to be accepted as wages in return for the work that they were doing in that town. Besides, moving from home to home would be a distraction and a waste of time. The fact that the teaching of the gospel was a job worthy to be receive pay for doing is cited by the apostles to justify the paying of preachers and elders (I Corinthians 9:14; I Timothy 5:18).

            In return for what they are offered, Jesus instructs the disciples to heal the sick and to preach the message “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” If a city rejects them, they make sure the people knew they would not take anything with them from the city, not even the dust. But even in rejection they are to warn the people of the city that the kingdom of God has come near to them.

Judgment on Those Who Reject the Lord’s Messengers (Matthew 11:20-24; Luke 10:12-16)

            God would handle the rejection on Judgment Day (Romans 12:17-19). Nevertheless, Jesus assures them that the people of Sodom, who were destroyed by God for their wickedness, would fair better that those who rejected the Lord’s messengers. Jesus points out in Matthew 11:23 that if the same works done in Galilee had been done in Sodom, the city would have not been destroyed – implying that the people would have responded to the message.

            The Lord pronounces woe on three towns in Galilee, Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. He pointed out that if the miracles done there were done in the nearby Gentile cities of Tyre and Sidon, the people there would have quickly repented in sackcloth and ashes. Capernaum ought to have been exalted because it was where Jesus most often stayed, but the people would go to the grave because they didn’t accept Jesus. In less then 40 years, these cities and others would be destroyed by the Romans – and it didn’t need to happen if they were receptive to the gospel.

            The basic truth of the gospel message is that people will be better off for hearing it or worse off for rejecting it. Like the Lord, his message is a point of division. Jesus is pointing that the Jews were more stubborn and unrepentant that the Gentiles whom they sneered at and the most wicked city any could name from history.

The Effect the Seventy Had (Luke 10:17-20)

            Eventually the seventy returned rejoicing. With Jesus’ authority, they found that even demons were subject to their commands.

            Jesus responded that they had a mighty impact in the spiritual realm. Satan lost so much ground so quickly that Jesus described him falling like a lightning bolt. Satan’s stronghold had been breached (Matthew 16:18; John 12:31). As a result, Jesus rewards his followers with protection from harm and the right to trample those who cause harm (II Corinthians 10:3-6; Ephesians 6:10-16; I John 5:4).

            While victory over the host of evil is a cause for rejoicing, a far greater joy should be found in knowing that their names were written in heaven (Exodus 32:32; Psalm 69:28; Daniel 12:1; Philippians 4:3; Hebrews 12:23; Revelation 20:12; 21:27).

The Difference in Who Understood (Matthew 11:25-30; Luke 10:21-24)

            Jesus then prays to God, thanking Him for hiding His truth from the wise and mighty of the world and revealing it to children (I Corinthians 1:18-2:16). Recall the discussion in John 9:40-41. In this Jesus is not saying we are to be children in all aspects of our life, but we must have a willingness to learn and an innocence toward evil (I Corinthians 14:20).

            Jesus has received the Father’s authority and with God’s authority, Jesus controls who knows the Father and the Son. Jesus wants to ease our burdens by replacing the heavy burden of sin with the light yoke of truth (Galatians 5:1). In that path, learning from Jesus, we can find rest (Jeremiah 6:16).

            Privately, Jesus tells his disciples that they have been privileged to see things that the prophets and kings of old wanted to see and hear (I Peter 1:10-12).