Address Thirty-six The Mission Of The Seventy

* * * *

“After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before His face into every city and place, whither He Himself would come. Therefore said He unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth labourers into His harvest. Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again. And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house. And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you: and heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city. Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell. He that heareth you heareth Me; and he that despiseth you despiseth Me; and he that despiseth Me despiseth Him that sent Me. And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through Thy name. And He said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nothwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven”—Luke 10:1-20.

* * * *

We should recognize the fact that In this entire passage we have to do with a former dispensation, and we cannot carry everything in that dispensation over into the present age of grace. There are, nevertheless, important lessons here from which we may draw help and instruction as we seek today to do the will of God.

We have already seen how the Lord commissioned the twelve apostles and sent them out to the cities of Galilee. Now we read that He appointed seventy others. These did not have the official standing that the twelve had. Their commission was for a limited time only, the period during which they would be going from city to city ere His final rejection by the people of Galilee. He sent them out two and two, because He recognized how much they needed fellowship with each other. The preacher in the book of Ecclesiastes tells us that two are better than one, for if one should fall the other can lift up his fellow; and so it seems to be according to divine order, generally, that Christ’s servants should labor two or more together. One alone might make many blunders and be discouraged, whereas two could confer together and each be cheered and encouraged by the other.

As the Lord contemplated the multitudes who were as sheep without a shepherd, and to whom He desired His disciples to go with the message of the kingdom, He impressed upon them the need by saying, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few.” He bade them pray the Lord of the harvest that He would thrust forth laborers into His harvest. On another occasion, when He sat at Jacob’s well, after having revealed Himself to that poor, needy woman who had come to draw water, He turned to His disciples and said, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” That great harvest-field was constituted of the multitude who did not as yet know Him as Saviour, Messiah, and Lord. It is still true, though we live in a different dispensation, that there are vast multitudes, not only in our own land but in all the regions beyond, who need Christ and who are waiting for the messengers of the Lord to go to them with the precious truth of the gospel. We may therefore apply His words to the present time as well as to the past. He still bids us to pray that laborers may be sent out to reap the harvest that is waiting to be garnered.

In verses 3-7 we have the direct commission given to the seventy. The Lord Jesus said, “Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.” They were to go in simple dependence upon Him, trusting in the power of God to sustain them, and not retaliating in any way if they were ill-treated. Neither were they to make provision for a long journey, for their mission would be ended within a very short time; therefore He added, “Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way.” It would be folly to take these words out of their connection and make them obligatory upon servants of Christ today. The seventy were sent to the people of Israel; they were Israelites themselves. The nation was waiting for the manifestation of the kingdom, and these disciples were to go forth and proclaim the near approach of that kingdom. They had a right to expect entertainment and consideration from those to whom they carried their message. Because of the shortness of the time they were to hasten on their way, and were not to stop for the customary, lengthy, Oriental salutations. They did not need a large sum of money, extra shoes, nor clothing, because the circumstances in which they were found did not demand such provision. In this we may see how different were the circumstances in which they were placed from those in which the average missionary of the cross is found today.

The seventy had a right to expect to be received by their Jewish brethren as they went to them to declare the presence of the King among them. The Lord said to them, “And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again.” They went forth to proclaim the coming of the Prince of peace, and their salutation was in accordance with this. If the owner of the house was indeed a son of peace, he would gladly welcome His messengers. In that case they were to abide in this house during the time they preached in that particular city or village. If, however, the son of peace did not dwell there, that is, if there was no one in that home who was ready to recognize the mission of the Lord Jesus and to welcome His messengers accordingly, their peace would return to them, and the owner of the house would have lost his opportunity. Alas! When Christ came to the house of Israel the son of peace was not there, and so we read that, “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.”

These messengers were not out on a pleasure tour, and so they were warned against anything that would look like selfishness or the pursuit of personal enjoyment. They were to remain in the house where they were received, eating and drinking such things as were given to them, recognizing the fact that the laborer is worthy of his hire. They were laborers in Jehovah’s great harvest-field; it was for his people to receive and provide for them. They were not to go gadding about from house to house, seeking better entertainment. They had a perfect right to expect the people to receive them as the King’s representatives, and therefore they need not feel ashamed to accept whatever entertainment was given them; but they must not give way to indulgence.

During this present age of grace, servants of Christ have no right or reason to expect the world to receive them into their homes or to provide for them in any way; and so this scripture, in the fullest sense, could not be applied to the present day. We read in the Third Epistle of John of traveling brethren, evidently ministers of the Word, who went forth for the name’s sake of the Lord Jesus, taking nothing of the Gentiles. The apostle Paul refused to seek his support in the way of taking gifts from the heathen world. He would far rather labor with his hands in order to properly provide for himself and those with him. Conditions were different while our Lord was on earth and ministering to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. His representatives were not trying to impose upon the people when they accepted the accommodations offered. They recognized that it was in this way the people responded to the message of the kingdom, and so whenever a home was opened to them they were to enter into it and gratefully accept the provision offered. It was the duty of the disciples to emphasize the grace of the King. The Lord gave them special power to work miracles in His name. Their message was ever the same: “The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.”

The Old Testament prophets had spoken of this coming kingdom. They had told of One who was to reign in righteousness, and for centuries Israel had been waiting for His manifestation. Now the King was in their midst, and there were few who recognized Him. One can imagine these couriers going from place to place ministering to the needs of the people, and declaring, ‘The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you,” as the folk gathered together. “The Messiah has already appeared and calls upon you to receive Him. The kingdom of God is about to be established in your midst.” The great majority spurned the message and refused the claims of the Lord Jesus Christ and would not have Him reign over them. They knew not the time of their visitation, and so they lost their opportunity. Because of not entering into the blessedness of the kingdom, the time came when the Lord, as it were, shook the dust off His feet as a testimony against them, and said to them, “The kingdom of God is taken from you and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” And for the time being Israel has been set to one side, and there has been brought in an altogether new dispensation. During all this period those who know and love the Saviour are called to represent Him in the world. This is the time when God is taking out from among the Gentiles a people for His name. He is proclaiming peace by Jesus Christ, and though bloody warfare has marked all the centuries since Christ returned to heaven, those who have trusted Him have found lasting peace, even in the midst of trouble. They have proven the truth of the word, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.” The kingdom is still in the future. The Lord has gone into the far country to receive for Himself a kingdom and to return. Until the day of His Second Advent, His servants are to be busy calling on men to be reconciled to God.

Our scripture deals with a very important time in Israel’s history. It was a time of crisis. Everything depended on the attitude of the people toward our Lord Jesus. Would they receive Him? If not, they must remain in their sins, and they would never enter the kingdom for which they had been waiting. There were comparatively few who opened their hearts and homes to the messengers and their message, but to them came blessing. As for the rest, they were left in their sins. The very dust of their cities was a witness against them. Nevertheless the fact remained that the kingdom of God had come nigh unto them.

In the next few verses we hear the Lord pronouncing the judgments that were to come upon the cities in which He had done the most of His mighty works, which had the best opportunities to know Him, and yet had refused Him. Of all such, He says, “I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.” From where He was standing He could probably see the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida; and as He looked upon them, He said, “Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.” These cities, cities which had been blessed by the personal presence of the Lord, and whose people had seen His face, heard the wonderful words which proceeded out of His mouth, and beheld His mighty acts; yet had turned coldly away and even scornfully refused to acknowledge Him as King and Lord. Today Chorazin is merely a ruin, and until recently it could not be positively identified. I remember when traveling in Galilee I noticed some ruins off to one side as we drove down toward Samaria, and turning to my guide, I said, “I see the ruins of a city over there; do you know what city it was?” He was an Arab. He said to me, “That is the city that is called Chorazin in your Bible.” That is all that is left of it, because its people failed to receive the King when He came among them in lowly grace. Bethsaida still remains, but it is a poor, little fishing village on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. I was told it is almost impossible to find a Christian there.

Capernaum was called our Lord’s own city, for there He made His home when in Galilee after leaving Nazareth. Surely the people there, who had every opportunity to become well acquainted with Him, would receive Him. But, no! He sadly exclaimed, “And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell.” It was in Capernaum that the Lord had delivered some of His greatest discourses. The Sermon on the Mount was probably preached on the tableland just back of the city. It was there that He found Matthew the publican, and called him away from the tax-collector’s office to become one of His apostles. It was there that He restored Peter’s wife’s mother to health when she was sick of a fever; and there He raised the daughter of Jairus, and healed the poor woman who said, “If I may but touch His garment, I shall be whole.” Many other wonders had been done in that city, and yet its people rejected Him; and so, though exalted to heaven in privilege, it was to be thrust down to hell, that is, to hades, the unseen world. So completely was this prophecy fulfilled that for over 1500 years no one knew positively the site of the city of Capernaum. It is only within our own times that it has been uncovered. During those long centuries it was covered over with the sands of the desert, and travelers passing by saw only a low mound. But during the time of the First World War, a group of German monks, interned in their monastery on the side of that hill, began to dig in the ground, and little by little they uncovered the ruins of Capernaum. It is just as true of cities as it is of individuals: judgement comes if they spurn the mercy offered to them. It is a terrible thing to trifle with spiritual realities. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” These words are as true of cities and nations as of individuals.

To refuse to accept the testimony of one who comes bearing the message of Christ is the same as refusing Him. Jesus said, “He that heareth you heareth Me; and he that despiseth you despiseth Me; and he that despiseth Me despiseth Him that sent Me.” We should realize that listening to one of God’s servants as he reads the Word of God is the same thing as listening to our blessed Lord Himself. What responsibility this puts upon us to take heed how and what we hear!

In verses 17-20 we read of the return of the seventy after they had fulfilled their mission. They evidently had experienced a wonderful time in spite of the indifference of many to them and to their message, for they returned to the Lord with joy, saying, “Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through Thy name.” He saw that they were too much taken up with their own accomplishments—and there is always the danger of those who preach the Word to take too much credit to themselves for any results that follow—but as these disciples talked of the subjection of the demons, Jesus looked forward in spirit to the hour when Satan will be finally cast out of the heavens, and He exclaimed, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” Then He added, “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” That He meant this to be taken literally is evident from what we read in the book of Acts, when the apostle Paul was cast on the island of Melita. He and his companions had made a fire in order to warm themselves, and a serpent came out of the fire and fastened upon Paul’s hand. He thrust the venomous beast into the fire and was unhurt, due to the preserving power of God over His own when they are actually in His will. This of course is very different from deliberately handling poisonous snakes as some fanatics have done in our day in order to demonstrate their faith.

There is something far more blessed, however, than working miracles. That is the knowledge that one is right with God! The Lord Jesus told these exuberant disciples not to rejoice simply because demons were subject to them, but rejoice rather because their names were written in heaven. This is true of all who have trusted Christ for themselves. All such have their names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and these names will never be erased, but will remain for all eternity.