The Messenger


Biblical Truth: Because of the need, Jesus expects His followers to witness for Him.

See the Need: Luke 10:1-2.

[1]  Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. [2]  And He was saying to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”     [NASU]

Jesus appoints a number of disciples outside the Twelve to go and prepare different areas for His coming. First, the mission is a time of opportunity, but currently there are too few to do the task. Second, the mission’s growth will be determined not only by efforts in the field, but also by prayer and God’s sovereign direction. The time of opportunity is depicted by the plentiful harvest, a figure commonly used of missionary labor. It refers to gathering God’s people in the midst of the threat of God’s judgment. The reference to a plentiful harvest suggests that, although rejection will follow in Jesus’ wake, there still will be much positive response. The main problem is that there are few to help reap the harvest. Part of the mission’s goal then is to expand the number of disciples, so that the number of those who can engage in the missionary task can grow. In other words, if people receive the message, they will help deliver it. Jesus shows the disciples that they are to ask God for aid and to rely on His sovereign provision. Laborers are not to be coerced into the kingdom. The message is set out for people, and their response must be given freely [5-6]. That is, behind the scenes and alongside the proclamation, the disciples are to beseech God for more laborers. The emphasis on God’s sovereignty is seen in Jesus’ use of the title Lord of the harvest. The message’s expansion is in God’s control. He is the One who will send out laborers.

Note the beautiful balance maintained here between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. It is God, He alone, who is able to endow men with the qualities necessary to carry out the mission mandate. It is God who sends out – sometimes almost forcefully, thrusts out, for not all are immediately willing – equips, qualifies, ordains. On the other hand, this by no means renders superfluous human prayer and exertion. We must pray that it may please God to send out laborers. Also note that the harvest is His, it belongs to God and not us. Therefore we must labor according to His instructions and not according to what pleases us.

Make the Commitment: Luke 10:3-4.

[3]  "Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. [4]  Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way.”     [NASU]

This mission, however, does involve risk. While emphasizing the opportunity and the need to ask God to increase the number of laborers, Jesus explains that the Samaritan situation of Luke 9:51-56 and the discipleship call in 9:57-62 are no accident. Disciples will minister under duress. They will be as vulnerable as lambs before wolves. But, with the image comes the idea that protection comes from the Great Shepherd, God Himself. This is why, though the risk is great, survival is possible. Jesus sends them out to dangerous territory, but they are not alone. They are to depend on Him. Jesus gives travel instructions. Given the danger and urgency, the disciples are to travel light and press on to their goal. Provisions will be a concern, but purse, bag, and sandals are not to be taken, an exhortation that recalls Luke 9:3. The bag was a traveler’s bag or knapsack that often was a part of the ancient itinerant preacher’s equipment; it held supplies and indicated independence. Jesus’ restriction shows that the disciples are to rely on God’s aid. The mission must be marked by prayer and dependence. The sandal was normal travel wear. People either went barefoot or wore sandals, especially on long journeys in Palestine. Jesus seems to here forbid taking a backup pair. To lack sandals was to be identified with the poor. The urgency of the task is illustrated in Jesus’ command to greet no one on the way. Their task is important and they are not to be distracted. Luke 22:35 alludes back to this instruction about provisions. At the Last Supper, Jesus changes the instruction in light of His rejection, so that from the time of the cross the disciples are to carry provisions [22:36].

Engage in the Work: Luke 10:5-9.

[5]  "Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ [6]  If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. [7]  Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. [8]  Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; [9]  and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”     [NASU]

[5-6]  Jesus explains what the disciples are to do when they enter a town: they are to seek out a place to stay and enter with a greeting of peace. The greeting is an offer of goodwill from God. Verse 6 makes clear that it can be received or rejected. This benediction is no trivial matter. It is the beseeching of God’s favor for someone. As such, its benefit depends on the person’s response. If one is a man of peace who responds to the disciples’ offer of peace with reception and hospitality, then God fulfills the promise and resides there. If the greeting is refused, then the benefit is lost. The disciples’ mission is likewise no trivial matter. Blessing or lack of it lies in their message. The peace offered is so real that it can be said to rest on a house or return to the one who offers blessing. The offer is not merely present for a moment; it resides with the person into the future (rest on him). Power and authority exist in Jesus’ directly commissioned messengers, since they convey the message of God’s peace.

[7-8]  Jesus next notes the disciples’ conduct and provisions: they are to stay in one house and accept whatever is provided for them. The expression about workers being worthy of their wages is common in the New Testament. The spiritual benefit the worker brings with the kingdom message is worthy of support. In this context, the wage is the hospitality of food and shelter. Thus the provisionless messengers are to have their needs met in homes of peace. Jesus tells the disciples how to respond to acceptance: when a town is responsive, the disciples are to receive food graciously. The picture is of open table fellowship, not in the sense of moving from house to house, but simply responding to individual meals. They are to see such actions as God’s provision through their hosts’ kindness.

[9]  Jesus summarizes the message and ministry of the disciples. As later sections of the journey material will make clear, acts of healing are signs of the in-breaking of the kingdom [Luke 11:14-23]. Given the power to heal, the disciples are to heal those who receive them, as a tangible example of God’s blessing coming on those who respond. Disciples heal and declare the kingdom’s nearness. Such healing recalls Elijah’s ministry [1 Kings 17:17-24]. This key passage in Luke’s kingdom theology demonstrates the nearness of the kingdom via Jesus’ commissioned followers. John the Baptist had declared the approach of a decisive time, and now that time has come near to them.

This is not to say that everything associated with the kingdom has come. It has only begun. Luke 24:49 speaks of the coming of the Father’s promise, Acts 2 declares the promised Spirit’s arrival as a fresh fulfillment of promises made to David, and Acts 3:18-24 shows that some events are still expected in association with God’s kingdom program. Jesus’ point in Luke 10:9 is that the kingdom program has begun to demonstrate the initial phases of fulfillment. In a confirmation of this inauguration picture, in 10:17-18 Satan is seen falling from heaven as a result of the mission’s healing ministry. A key characteristic of this phase of the kingdom is its function as “rule”; the exercise of God’s saving power upon humans in the face of opposing forces. Again, Acts 3:18-24 looks to a day when Jesus will return and physically demonstrate that rule in accordance with all that the Old Testament prophets promised. Thus the kingdom comes in distinct yet related stages. The kingdom arrives with Jesus, and the reality of its arrival is reflected in these events of power. However, the kingdom’s more lasting personal benefits are really inaugurated with the bestowal of the Spirit promised by the Father [Luke 24:49; Acts 2:16-36]. Nothing can stop the kingdom from coming. Jesus’ ministry is the transition into its arrival. The king is here, and images of His power are present. It is time to respond and enter in.

Recognize the Stakes: Luke 10:10-12,16.

[10]  "But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say,

[11]  ‘Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ [12]  I say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city. [16]  The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me."   [NASU]

[10-12]  How does rejection contrast with reception? What happens when rejection occurs? The disciples are to make only a simple public, prophetic proclamation. It is a sign of God’s rejection, as is clear from Luke 10:11. The public character of the declaration is seen in the reference to streets, a main, broad, well-traveled street. Jesus specifies what the disciples are to do if rejected: they are to announce rejection by shaking the dust from their feet and declaring their response to the people, an action that declares their separation from the city. They are also to declare the kingdom’s nearness. The kingdom is said to come, but this time Luke does not include to you as in 10:9. The point is that the people are culpable for their decision in this crucial time, and thus judgment comes against them. The kingdom comes regardless of their response. They have missed out because of their refusal. The declaration’s seriousness is underlined by the solemn introduction: yet be sure of this. The parallelism with Paul and Barnabas’s actions in Acts 13:51 is significant and shows continuity between the precross message and the postcross message – a continuity that strongly equates the two messages. Though the message in Acts has more detail and focuses on Jesus, it is essentially the same: God’s reign is inaugurated in the promised Messiah’s coming. For in that reign, God’s deliverance comes and His full, future rule is guaranteed.

Jesus closes His instruction with a solemn word of judgment for the city that rejects His disciples. On judgment day, Sodom, the most despicable of ancient Gentile cities and a symbol of unrighteousness, will fare better than the city that rejects the kingdom message. Besides the physical judgment that Sodom received in Genesis 19, there is God’s eschatological judgment, which it must face with cities of all periods. Cities that reject these messengers will have a more severe judgment, because more and greater revelation has come to them, making their sin worse. The passage assumes God’s universal sovereign authority and the extreme importance of the kingdom message for humankind. Jesus’ direct declaration of judgment shows His exalted authority in the midst of that message. These remarks set up the specific woes of Luke 10:13-15.

[16]  A final word to the disciples legitimates and underlines their authority. The remark looks back to 10:8-10: to receive the disciples is to listen to them, while refusing to receive them is to reject them. But more than messengers are present. The disciples represent Jesus: the one who listens to them listens to Jesus; the one who rejects them rejects Jesus. The stress of the passage is on rejection, since the second line emphasizes that to reject Jesus is to reject the one who sent Him, an implicit reference to God [Luke 4:43]. The disciples are important because they carry the message of God’s kingdom.

Notice again the thought of mission: Jesus has been sent. The thought is that of the outworking of one great divine purpose in which the Father, Jesus who had been sent by the Father, and the disciples who were being sent by Jesus all had their part. They were so closely connected that any honor paid to the disciples had to be regarded as something that overflowed to Jesus and to the Father. At the same time, any rejection of the message delivered by the disciples is to be regarded as a rejection of Jesus and of the Father. Of course, this places a burden of responsibility upon the disciples to maintain a strict conformity of their spoken message to the message given them by Jesus. Only when their message is actually the message of Jesus is rejection of their message to be regarded as rejection of Jesus and the Father.

Questions for Discussion:

1.         Describe the balance between divine sovereignty and human responsibility in these verses.

2.         What travel instructions does Jesus give to the seventy? What lessons does Jesus intend for his followers to learn from these instructions?

3.         What do we learn about the kingdom of God in this passage?


Luke, Darrell Bock, Baker Books.

Gospel According to Luke, William Hendriksen, Baker Books.

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