Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Sermon / Homily on Luke 10:1-24

Gospel Analysis: Commissioning the Seventy

by Pastor Edward F. Markquart, Grace Lutheran Church, Seattle, Washington

Scripture: Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Editor's Note:

The following Bible study is from a larger course entitled, THE LIFE OF CHRIST: A Study in the Four Gospels.

Basic text for the course: SYNOPSIS OF THE FOUR GOSPELS, Kurt Aland, English Edition, P. 165-167.

177. Commissioning The Seventy (Mostly Q)

Matthew 9:37-38, 10:7-16, Luke 10:1-12

- After this the Lord appointed seventy others It was the Lord Jesus who appointed the leaders. It was as if Jesus knew which people were the ones who possessed the right attitudes to be his first missionaries.

Some ancient Greek manuscripts tell us that the Lord appointed seventy; other Greek manuscripts tells us that the Lord appointed seventy-two. The NIV uses the number seventy-two: "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." There is good textual support from other ancient Greek manuscripts for the number seventy-two, but the NRSV uses the number seventy.

The number seventy is reminiscent of the seventy elders of Moses in Numbers 11:16-17. Just as these seventy men were destined to become the leaders of the Old Testament community, the seventy missionaries/disciples in Luke were destined to become the leaders of the New Testament community. In the Old Testament, the Lord God said that he would "take some of the Spirit that was on Moses and put it on them/the seventy that they could also bear the burden of the people." In the New Testament, the implication is that the Spirit of Jesus would be transferred to these seventy missionaries/disciples, and that they would be equipped for leadership in the new movement of faith.

The seventy become the hands, feet, legs, hearts, and minds of Jesus. That was the way it was originally and still is true today. For Jesus to complete his mission in today's world, he needs hands, feet, legs, hearts, and minds. The harvest is overwhelmingly great and Jesus needs willing hands, willing hearts, willing minds and willing spirits. Jesus gets work done today through his disciples who are committed to doing the work.

These were not religious professionals or rabbis, etc, but common and ordinary people who were to be the leaders of the mission of outreach in their community.

- and sent them on ahead of him in pairs In Mark 6:7, the Lord sent his twelve disciples out two by two. The twelve were sent out two by two. The seventy were sent out two by two.

Today, we think of young Mormon missionaries going out two by two. Why two by two? It gives courage, confidence and strength to go out with a partner. One reason Mormon missionaries are the most effective missionaries in the world today is because of this simple method. They are trained in missionary faith and then they are sent out two by two.

That simple formula made for effective evangelism two thousand years ago and still works today. Some scholars trace the roots of the concept of going out "two by two" to the Old and New Testament injunction to have two witnesses in order to ascertain the truth (Deuteronomy 19:15; Numbers 35:30, Luke 10:10-15.).

Discussion Question:

Why do you think the disciples/leaders were sent out two by two?

Have a group secretary to record the answers and turn them in after the class.

One class' responses were as follows:

Support and encourage each other
A shared synergy and energy
Safety in numbers; draw strength and security from one another
Shared knowledge about Christ
Two heads better than one; two people see things differently
Keep each other from straying from goals
Hold each other accountable
Learn from each other e.g. a new witness learns from a more experienced witness
Perseverance, less willing to quit
Flexibility in dealing with varieties of people
Easier when two handle everyday details e.g. food, lodging
Help each other out during times illness or death

- to every town and place where he himself intended to go. Jesus wasn't going to send his disciples into places where he himself was not intending to go. Similarly today, Jesus sends us into places and situations where he wants us to go and where he himself plans to be present.

- When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, (Only Matthew 9:36) The Greek word for compassion refers to deep, emotional feelings located in "the bowels" of one's humanity. We find that Jesus was compassionate in many circumstances. Jesus was consistently described as being compassionate but that word was never used referring to the crowds. Jesus was moved to compassion when he saw the crowds of people who were like sheep without a shepherd (9:36), the sick (14:14), the blind (20:34), those gripped by demons (Mark 9:22), the mother at Nain whose son had died (Luke 7:13), when Jesus saw the hungry crowd of 4,000 people to be fed (15:32). Christians, who are effective evangelists today, also have compassion for people around them who may not know the gospel. Christians are to have compassionate attitudes rather than carping criticism or petty faultfinding against those who are not followers of Christ. Some so-called Christians even threaten "outsiders" with hell and damnation. On the other hand, Jesus preached the word of the gospel and did deeds of mercy with the spirit of compassion, and we Christians are to do the same today.

- Because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Only Matthew 9:36) A dominant metaphor in the Old Testament is that God and the leaders of God's people are compared to a loving shepherd. Jesus, of course, becomes the good shepherd who loves the people so much that he is willing to die for them. Meanwhile, the masses of humanity are like aimless and helpless sheep, who are in need of a loving and guiding caretaker. The Latin word for shepherd is "pastor." Some sheep do not have a "pastor" to feed them, care for them, defend them, and lead them on the simple paths of God-pleasing, right relationships (righteousness.)

He said to them, "The harvest is plentiful/ripe, but the laborers are few; (From Q.) The teachings are exactly parallel in Matthew and Luke and there are no similar words in Mark. That means we are in Q, which is the earliest strata of the New Testament.

The primary metaphor is of the word, "harvest." In Jesus' day, people intuitively understood when the fields were ripe for harvesting. Plowing, planting, watering, caring for, weeding are all different activities before harvesting. Harvesting means that the plants are ready to be gathered in or picked off the tree or from the field. Jesus was saying that people were ready to be harvested.

This was certainly true in Jesus' day: a myriad of people were ready to belong to the kingdom but what was needed were more workers. Jesus then told parables that the harvest was ripe and ready, but he needed workers and harvesters.

Here in the state of Washington where I live, it reminds me about when the strawberries are ripe and ready to be picked. You need the workers to do the job or the strawberries will start rotting on the plant.

So also Jesus believed that the masses of humanity around him were ripe and ready for the gospel, ripe and ready for the kingdom, ripe and ready for God to rule their lives. The time was ready. The time was ripe.

The same is true today in the twenty-first century: there is a whole world of people all around us who are ripe and ready for God to begin to rule their lives. The laborers are few. That is, there are numerous people who are "part of the crowd" who want to be a member of the church, sing in the choir at church, be on the council at church, work on social projects at church, and do everything at church except work at helping someone to know the love of God in Christ Jesus.

The church here in America has plenty of people who are willing to do church work in order to keep the church running smoothly, but there are very few disciples willing to do evangelism work to help people know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

This theme from the lips of Jesus still rings true today.

therefore ask/pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. (From Q) What is the first thing the church is to do when seeing so many millions of people who are ripe for the gospel? Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send workers. Prayer for workers is a crucial part of making new disciples for Jesus Christ.

Our prayer is for other workers in this movement where we know that all peoples' lives need to be ruled by the love and compassion of our Lord.

Go on your way. (Only Luke) Yes, rather than sitting in a pew or remaining in our little church group and lingering around a campfire, Jesus sent and still sends his people on our way, to be the hands, hearts and heads of Jesus, into a world around us that needs to be ruled by the values of God, the values of the kingdom of God.

See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. (From Q, parallels in Matthew 10:16) We are aware that Jesus was sending and is still sending people out into situations where others may attack. Lambs NEVER feel safe and secure when wolves are around to attack them and eat them up; Christians NEVER feel safe and secure among folks who intrinsically may be hostile to the gospel, who may be resistant to having Christ rule their lives with love and compassion.

This teaching, repeated often by Jesus, warns Christians that we are to anticipate rejection by the world which is essentially hostile to the love of Christ ruling their lives.

Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. (From Q, parallels in Matthew 10:9-10)The Spirit of Christ is given to us, and we cannot buy that Spirit of Love. The Spirit of Christ and his love is freely given and is not for sale nor can it be purchased with any amount of money.

The disciples are told to carry no gold or silver with them and they are to dress simply. One tunic. Two pairs of sandals. That's all. What is behind this? I am convinced that Jesus is aware that some people may be attracted to Christianity for the wrong reasons e.g. Christianity will make you healthy, wealthy, and popular. Fancy clothes and bulging wallets may send the wrong message. The only thing the disciples have to offer is the kingdom of God, the power and presence of God to heal their lives, to make a difference in the way they live. Nothing more. Jesus' advice to his original set of disciples rings true for us today.

From a sermon:

"What happened is that those disciples first went to a village or town. Those first disciples planted a church, and then went to a second village or town, and planted a church. They went to a third village or town and planted another church. They ... whoops. We have to go back to that first village or town and look more carefully. We have to go back to that first village, because before the disciples went onto the second village, they left a group of people in that village who were committed to Jesus Christ. The Greek word is "laos." They were called the "laos", which means, "the laity," "the people," "the people of God." The Apostles always left common and ordinary towns people and villagers whose hearts were on fire, whose tongues were on fire, who hadn't gone to the seminary, who hadn't seen Jesus face to face, who hadn't talked with him in the flesh. These were not the Apostles. These were not the twelve disciples. These were the people of God in each village who spread the Gospel from house to house, and neighbor to neighbor and friend to friend and family to family. That's the way it always is. That fundamental principle is always true; it is the laity, the people of God, who become inspired by the Holy Spirit. They are the ones, not the twelve, not the Apostles, not the pastors. It is the laity, the people of God, who go about winning souls to Jesus Christ and nurturing those souls into maturity.

How do the laity do this? Do they do this by their own enthusiasm? By their own intelligence? By their own seminary training? I kid you not. Do you know why the laity are able to do this? I'll tell you why. "Nothing but fire ... If YOU want to set someone on fire, YOU have to ... A burning heart will soon find for itself ... "

Well, that's what happened in that first century. The first century was a great century of Christian expansion. The Church went to Ephesus, Rome, and was going onto Spain within thirty years. From farm to farm, from village to village, town to town. It was absolutely incredible, spreading across the whole known world. It was like a spreading flame.

The year is now 1998, and the flame of Jesus Christ is still spreading. It is still spreading like wildfire. The spreading flame of Pentecost is greater in this century than in the first century. I want to repeat that so you clearly hear it. The spreading flame of Pentecost is greater in this century than in the first century. The spreading flame of Jesus Christ is spreading more rapidly in the twentieth century than in the first century. The spreading flame of Jesus Christ is greater in this century than in any other century of Christian expansion. The twentieth century has been the greatest century of Christian expansion. You and I have lived in this time, this great era of Christian growth."

Whatever house you enter, first say, "Peace to this house!' In Jesus' day, there were traveling lay evangelists who visited different villages and homes within those villages.

Christians always come in the spirit of peace and not condemnation, self righteousness or with an attitude, "I have something good that you don't have." Or with an attitude of spiritual superiority. Jesus always brings peace. Peace is an attitude that results in a manner of being, a quality of inner personality, a communication to another that I bring safety, harmony and calm.

A house can be any space where another person is living, working or being. Think of the word, "house," as being a person's space.

And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. As person enters a home, office, or space of another in the spirit of peace, you sense whether or not you are being welcomed with a sense of peace.

Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, Again, do not think narrowly of visiting someone's house, condominium or apartment. Think of space, that someone is in a space while you are in conversation with them. They are often in "their space" and not "your space." It is their turf, their territory, their neighborhood.

The point is: remain there and enjoy what food and drink they share with you.

for the laborer deserves to be paid. This phrase has often been used to justify paying preachers a salary.

Do not move about from house to house.

Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; In all cultures, eating is a form of hospitality. Eating together is a way of being with others. We all know that it is socially pleasing to eat what the host serves.

cure the sick who are there, Help people with their diseases.

and say to them, "The kingdom of God has come near to you.' Here is the core, the kernel, the center, the heart, the hub. The kingdom of God. The kingdom of God was the number one teaching of Jesus and still is. That is, the kingdom of God is wherever the Lord rules a person's hearts and habits with love, compassion and justice.

The primary prayer of all of us is that people around us (including ourselves) will have God ruling our lives.

The peace and love of the Lord God wants to rule our hearts, and the peace and love of God is so near to us, as close as the invisible Presence of God in this moment.

"Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me." Near the word, "me," write in the word, "Jesus." Jesus is the presence of God, the love of God, the compassion of God, the Way of God. The Lord God sent Jesus to this Earth to be an embodiment of God's love for all people. When people reject Jesus and his love, they are rejecting the Lord God who sent Jesus to Earth in the first place.

The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!" He/Jesus gave his disciples power and authority over the demons and unclean spirits. The disciples were more effective when they knew that they had been invested with authority. With authority, the disciples told about the power of God in their lives. Jesus had an inner spiritual authority which drew people to him. The opposite of having power and authority in one's faith is to have a doubting, half believing faith. A doubting, half believing faith lacks credibility, power and authority.

People are more effective when they know that they have been invested with authority. They spoke the gospel with authority. They told about the power of God in their lives with authority. The opposite of having power and authority in one's faith is to have a doubting, half believing faith that lacks credibility, power and authority. Jesus himself had an inner spiritual authority, and people listen to him because he had that authority.

This principle is still true today. When laypeople speak with conviction about Jesus Christ, there is authority in their voice and in their stories and their reasoning. Being authoritative is not being autocratic or domineering. This turns people off.

He said to them, "I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. It was as if Jesus saw Satan as Satan was cast out of heaven by the archangel Michael. We hear a description of Satan being thrown out of heaven by God via the archangel Michael in Revelation 12. It is as if Jesus was there and was watching that event.

See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Deep inside, Jesus knew and knows that he has authority over the power of evil. Jesus gave this authority over the power of evil to his servants, the seventy followers. Jesus promised to the seventy disciples (and to us) that we have power of the enemy/the evil in our lives and that the power of evil cannot hurt/kill/destroy us.

Some literalist interpreters of this passage believe that Jesus granted authority to walk on poisonous snakes and not be bitten by their poisonous venom. We read about such literal interpreters (especially in the southern parts of the United States) enacting a ritual where they walk through a pit of poisonous snakes and are not bitten.

Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the (evil) spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. "This verse is to be highlighted and underlined: That God's spirit in us is stronger than the power of evil in us. That our names are written in heaven, in the book of eternal life. That is a cause for great joy.

Some basic principles of evangelism that are derived from this gospel lesson:

The disciples were to each out to people who knew their need of God and their need for the ways of God.
The disciples had an attitude of compassion and not criticism nor condemnation.
The disciples were not religious professionals but common and ordinary people.
The disciples prayed to the Lord of the harvest to give workers who would do the work of harvesting, not people whose primary passion was working to maintain the church.
The disciples were sent out two by two.

Discussion Question:

Historically and even today, why do members of the mainline denominations do such a poor job at eveangelism?

See Also:

Sermons and Homilies on Luke 10:1-24

Sermons and Homilies for the 4th Sunday Following Pentecost

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