ON MISSION Luke 10
“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go” (Luke 10:1).If we are to serve Jesus, we must have a sense of mission as well as a message.
Two by two.
The Sanhedrin regularly sent pairs of representatives to Jewish communities throughout the Roman world. The messengers were typically rabbis or sages, whose mission was to communicate calendar dates set for the year’s annual religious festivals. They also frequently served as judges to settle disputes that arose between fellow Jews. One reason for sending such messengers out in pairs is found in Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15. There had to be at least two witnesses to establish a fact in any court of Jewish law. Thus two witnesses to any official communication of the Sanhedrin were required. Jesus also sent out His disciples in pairs. But there were three witnesses to the testimony that they bore to Him. There were the two disciples—and the miraculous power that Jesus gave them to cast out demons in His name. God still provides supernatural witness to the authenticity of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit working in and through us confirms the truth to all who heed.
Jesus commissioned and empowered 72 (10:1–20), and praised God for His privilege of revealing the Father to men (vv. 21–24). He told the story of the Good Samaritan (vv. 25–37), and later rested at the Bethany home of Mary and Martha (vv. 38–42).
Understanding the Text
“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers” Luke 10:1–2. The goal of evangelism is multiplication. As the 72 ministered they were to pray not simply that those who heard would believe, but that they would become workers. The world remains a harvest field. And our goal is not simply to bring others to faith, but to bring them to maturity so they might win others too. “Do not take a purse or bag” Luke 10:3–5. These instructions are found in each Gospel’s report of sending out any disciples as special messengers. Jesus’ representatives called on others to depend on God. They had to demonstrate dependence on the Lord by their own lifestyle. The principle remains the same today. We must practice what we preach. Our lives witness to the reliability of our words. “The kingdom of God is near” Luke 10:8–16. “Good news, bad news” wasn’t invented by a modern comedian. We have a classic case of it here. What’s the good news? “The kingdom of God is near you” (v. 9). OK. What’s the bad news? “The kingdom of God is near” (v. 11). What makes the difference isn’t the message, but whether or not the messengers were welcomed. Those who gladly received Jesus’ messengers, and thus He Himself (v. 16), would have a place in Christ’s kingdom and know His joy. But those who rejected the messengers, and thus the King (v. 16), could expect only judgment. The other day Ted Turner, the builder of the cable TV empire that includes WTBS, CNN, and TNT, told an audience of cable system owners that he didn’t need anyone to die on a cross for him. Sure, he’d had a few women and done some other things, but if God wanted to send him to hell for that, he’d go. For Ted, the Gospel of Jesus is bad news. He’s heard the message that millions have welcomed with joy, and rejected it. He now faces a judgment that is all the more severe (vv. 13–15). We have an awesome responsibility to present the Gospel as clearly and lovingly as possible. For what is Good News to those who receive it is bad news indeed for those who scoff. “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven” Luke 10:17–20. What gives a person joy is a measure of their values, and of their spiritual maturity. I can understand why the 72 were excited about power over evil spirits. That must be exhilarating! But Jesus suggested it was not an appropriate cause for rejoicing. It’s like stuffing a pearl in your pocket and jumping up and down over an ordinary oyster shell. What Jesus suggested is that while we appreciate our gifts and achievements, if we want to know real joy, we should reach into our spiritual pockets and pull out the pearl of salvation. As we gaze at it, and realize our names are written in heaven, we will know joy indeed. “But he wanted to justify himself” Luke 10:25–29. Those “experts in the Law” we meet so frequently in Luke are rabbis, or sages, who devoted themselves to a study of the Old Testament and the massive body of interpretations which by this time had grown up around it. The master interpreter of Judaism who now approached Jesus made the typical mistake of members of his class. He asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” When Jesus asked him his opinion, he rightly answered that Scripture calls us to love God supremely, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. These two requirements do sum up the religious and moral message of the Old Testament. But being “right” created a terrible problem. For Jesus then said, “Go and do it!” “Go and do it” are words that confront everyone with the impossibility of earning salvation. Many of the world’s religions have a high moral vision. But none provides believers with the ability they need to “go and do” the good that faith defines. In telling this expert in the Law of God to “go and do” what he knew to be right, Jesus forced him to face the fact of his own inadequacy, and invited him to look at the Scripture with new eyes. What every person must seek is not more rules to follow in a vain attempt to earn salvation, but a forgiving and loving God, who has made a way for confessed sinners to come to Him. “Only one thing is needed” Luke 10:38–42. People have speculated what the “one thing” in this story is. Was Jesus telling Martha, so flustered and upset as she rushed around preparing a meal for Christ and His disciples, that she was doing too much? “Just a casserole, Martha. Not a smorgasbord!” Perhaps. Certainly we need to stop at times and ask, are we doing so much that we haven’t time to sit at Christ’s feet and learn? Too busy for Jesus is too busy—whatever we’re about.
Who Is My Neighbor?(Luke 10:25–37)
Leviticus 19:18 says it: “Love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” The expert in Old Testament Law who came to Jesus was right when he plucked this command out of a lengthy list of specific commandments, and held it up as one of the Old Testament’s two foundational requirements for a righteous life. Despite his motive (Luke 10:29), the question the legal expert asked, “Who is my neighbor?” is a good one. Just who is it you and I are to love “as ourselves”? To answer, Jesus told of a man who was beaten and robbed on the 17-mile journey from Jerusalem to Jericho. Two fellow Jews, bound to the beaten man by race and religion, a priest and a Levite, saw him lying there—and left him! They were going away from Jerusalem, and by implication had just come from serving in the temple. They thus represented the “greatest” commandment, showing love for God. The fact that they were going away left them without excuse: if they had been going up to Jerusalem they might have claimed (wrongly) that worship of God had precedence. The Samaritan, on the other hand, had no ties to the Jews. In fact, a long racial and religious hostility marked their relationship (cf. Luke 9:51–56). Yet the Samaritan “took pity on” the man, helped him, and even paid for his care while he recovered! When asked, “Which . . . was a neighbor to the man?” the legal expert answered uncomfortably, “The one who had mercy.” And he was right. So then, who is our neighbor? What we learn from Christ’s story is that being a neigbor has nothing to do with how near we live to others, or how similar our religion or race. Being a neighbor depends simply on our humanity—and on need. Anyone you or I come in contact with who has a need is our neighbor. And to love our neighbor means to care enough to reach out, and help in any way we can.
“Jesus told him, ’Go and do likewise’ ” (10:37).
“Because we cannot see Christ we cannot express our love to Him; but our neighbors we can always see, and we can do to them what, if we saw Him, we would like to do to Christ.”—Mother Teresa