Luke 10

1.  After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.

As we start into Luke 10, we find the Lord preparing for the last great stage of His ministry. He is going to be making His way to Jerusalem, though He will be stopping at many cities and places along the way. In preparation for this, He is sending some of his disciples out on a mission. This is not the same mission as that in Matthew 10, for that mission involved only the twelve, and we have already seen that mission in Luke 9. This is a later mission, and involves seventy of His disciples. This reminds us of the seventy elders of Israel chosen to accompany Moses unto Mount Sinai in Exodus 24:1.

1. Now He said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar.

This also reminds us of the seventy elders who were chosen to rule with Moses in Numbers 11:16-17.

16. So the LORD said to Moses: “Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you. 17. Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone.”

This second set of seventy may have been made up of largely the same people as the first, though they are chosen at a different time. It was this second set of seventy after which the Sanhedrin patterned themselves, having seventy in their number and the high priest leading them in Moses’ place. Now, the Lord chooses His Own seventy for an important mission He has for them to perform.

These seventy “others” are men in contrast to those at the end of chapter 9. These were ones who followed Him from their hearts, not those who sought excuses or to get away, as we read about in verses 57-62 of the previous chapter. They are to go before Him into all the cities He was about to visit. He had a specific plan as to where exactly He was going to go during these last months before His crucifixion. It is to these places that He sends the seventy. He does not send them to seventy different places, however, but to thirty-five, for He sends them two-by-two. Each is to have a companion in doing the Lord’s work. None is sent to stand alone.

2.  Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.

The Lord now speaks to these thirty-five pairs of disciples standing before Him as He prepares to send them out. This might seem like a large number to us, but when we consider the size of the job that faced them, we realize that this was a very small company indeed to carry the message to Israel. The Lord knew this, and He speaks of it. The harvest is truly great, He testifies, and there can be no doubt what He was talking about. He was not speaking of a literal farm, but using the harvest as a figure for the people who were to be reached for God. He was referring to the condition of things in Israel. There was a great company of people in that nation who were ripe and ready for the Lord’s harvest. All He had to do was to send the laborers to them. Yet the laborers were few, and it did not seem that they were enough to cover the field where the Lord had His harvest. Thus, He instructs them to pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. He was sending these out now, but a much larger sending needed to happen if all the harvest was to be reached.

There is no doubt about it but that this prayer was answered in the Acts period. There, a great company of ekklesia men were scattered out into the harvest by the persecution that arose after the stoning of Stephen. In Acts 8:1b, we read, “At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” And in verse 4, we read, “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.” Those who went out at this time were a great number, much larger than seventy. They went out into this great harvest, and they reaped it all for God. Thus, the prayer Christ commanded was answered, as all prayers of the Lord must be.

3.  “Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves.

Christ now commands them to go their way, which means to go about the business He had given them. He never pretended that serving Him would be easy. In this case, He sent these people out totally defenseless, like lambs among wolves. Yet God was with them, and He would see to it that they all returned to the Lord safely.

The word “send” here is the Greek word apostello, which we have discussed as meaning to send with authority or to commission. These men were going out under the Lord’s authority to do His work.

4.  “Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road.

Not only were they defenseless, but they were to take no possessions with them other than the clothes on their backs. They were not to take a bag with money, or a knapsack to carry things in. “Sack” here could indicate a bag for begging. Thus they were not to bring money, nor anything with which to beg for money. Even an extra pair of sandals would be too much of a burden for them at this time. On a long journey, the kind of sandals they wore at that point in history could wear through, and it would be wise to take a second pair. At the Lord’s command, however, they were not to do this, but to trust to Him that their sandals would not wear out. They were to travel light, with none of the usual baggage one would normally take on a journey. Perhaps this was to impress upon their hearers the urgency of their task.

They were also to greet no one along the road. There was a customary, elaborate greeting that travelers along the road were supposed to engage in according to the traditions of their culture. This included a long greeting, and a questioning and exchange of information regarding news of friends and relatives of each one that the other might have learned in his travels. The disciples were not to engage in this elaborate custom. If a traveler set his eyes straight ahead and did not stop to greet the other traveler, this was a sign that he was on urgent business, and could not stop to engage in the usual greeting. Again, this has to do with how urgent their mission is.

5.  “But whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’

When a traveler came to a city, it was again customary that he would spend time in the home of each person in the city. That way, he could be entertained by all, and also could pass on to all news of their friends and relatives that he may have met on his travels in various places. Yet the men on their mission for the Lord were not to do this. Instead, they were to simply enter the first house they came to, and to pronounce peace upon it. This would be the usual salutation upon entering a house in those days.

6.  “And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you.

What if the first house they came to was not a place where a son of peace dwelt? What if the people there would not receive them and their message? The Lord gives them their instructions to meet such an eventuality. God assures them that He will honor these words of theirs if a son of peace really lives in the house they speak of thus. Yet if not, their blessing will return to them unanswered.

We must be far more careful what things we bless, and what things we speak well of. We have no guarantee from God that our blessing will return to us if it was given hastily or unwisely. If that which we bless is not worthy of blessing, we might find ourselves being associated with things and people which dishonor us and harm our reputation and our own testimony for the Lord. No, we should not hastily pronounce our approval of anything. Yet these men could do this, for God promised to remove the results of their blessing if it proved to be misplaced. What authority these men had!

7.  “And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages.  Do not go from house to house.

Again, they are to only stay in the first house they enter, not going from house to house as the custom was. Moreover, they were not to pick the house for how good the food and drink in that house were. Certainly as travelers returned to a city, they might have learned who in that city fed them well, and whose food was not so good. They might be tempted to spend extra time in the houses that fed well, and maybe to even pass over the houses where the food was not good. Yet these people on the Lord’s mission were not to do this. They were to just accept whatever food the first house they came to had to offer. The laborer is worthy of his wages, the Lord tells them. Whatever food this first house gives them is their wage, and they are to be satisfied with it. They are not to go from house to house. Again, this was a sign of the urgency of their business, not to follow the usual custom.

8.  “Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you.

Now He speaks of the cities they enter that receive them. First off, they are to eat such things as are set before them. They are not to be picky, or to refuse the food they are offered. All houses in Israel would serve food clean according to the law, so there was no reason they could not do this. All too often in our country full of opulence we fail to do this when we eat at the table of others. A better impression for the Lord we will make if we are gracious about what we are given, rather than acting like spoiled princes and princesses.

9.  “And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

In this city that receives them, they are to heal the sick there. Then, they are to say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” This is the only message they are to give. They are not there to preach some great sermon, or to present Jesus as the Messiah. Their mission does not even call upon them to say anything about Jesus Christ. Rather their message and their mission is spreading the news about the nearness of God’s government. It was near at that time, and they could reach out and take hold of it for themselves and guarantee themselves a future place in its blessings, though it was not yet physically present upon earth.

Yes, the government of God was near at that time. Yet that which draws near can move away again, and, alas, the Kingdom of God on Earth is now in abeyance. Yet we know that it will come to our planet again someday, perhaps very soon. When that day comes, we too as believers will have an opportunity to participate in it. May God speed the day!

10.  “But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say,

Now the Lord gives instructions as to what they are to do when they arrive at any city that does not receive them. Of course, this would largely be a result of the actions of the leadership of that city. When this occurs, they are to go into its streets to make an official pronouncement, for the Lord has given them permission to do this, and thus it would be very binding upon that city.

11.  “’The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you.’

This symbolic act of wiping off the very dust of a city was a sign of complete and total rejection. Though this was a seemingly unbelievable message they were to believe, yet God expected everyone to believe it because of the accompanying miracles that proved it. Therefore all those who refused to believe it brought themselves under the severest judgment of God, and the chance for mercy was lost to them forever.

Such a possibility does not exist today, as the proclaiming of God’s message in our day is never accompanied by miraculous proofs. Moreover, we do not have God-sent men like these seventy proclaiming it. If anyone shook the dust of a place off his feet, it would only be meaningful in his own mind. God is not pouring judgment upon men today, but rather is showing forth the riches of His grace.

The rejection of the message on the part of a city could not change the inevitable fact. The government of God had come near them, whether they would believe it or not. In the same way, the government of God is coming on earth, though many in the world, and even in the “Christian” world, do not believe it will ever happen. Their rejection of the truth does not change reality. If anything, it only affects their own place in it.

12.  “But I say to you that it will be more tolerable in that Day for Sodom than for that city.

There is no doubt about it but that the city of Sodom had a bad reputation in that day, as it has still. Yet the Lord now makes a startling contrast. He tells them that it will be more tolerable in that kingdom day of judgment for Sodom than it will be for the city against which they shake off the dust of their feet! This seems a shocking statement indeed. We know that the only way the judgment could be more tolerable for Sodom is if not all in Sodom will be condemned to destruction.

This seems most strange indeed. How could anyone from Sodom survive God’s judgment, that city upon which He rained such utter destruction, as we read in Genesis 19:24-25. “Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens. So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.” If the Lord did this in the past, how could He spare anyone from that city in the future?

As strange as this might seem, this is not the only passage in Scripture that declares such a thing. In fact, a much more positive statement in this regard is made in Ezekiel 16:53-55. He is telling Judah here that they are wickeder than Samaria and Sodom.

53. “When I bring back their captives, the captives of Sodom and her daughters, and the captives of Samaria and her daughters, then I will also bring back the captives of your captivity among them, 54. that you may bear your own shame and be disgraced by all that you did when you comforted them. 55. When your sisters, Sodom and her daughters, return to their former state, and Samaria and her daughters return to their former state, then you and your daughters will return to your former state.”

So Ezekiel declares that even the city Sodom will someday be restored in the Kingdom of God! If this seems too impossible to us, we need to remember several things. First of all, consider the words that the Lord spoke in Matthew 11:23. “And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.” The Lord knows that Sodom could have and would have responded under other circumstances. Also, consider that not all who lived in Sodom were alive at the time of its destruction. It may not always have been as wicked as it was at the end. Thus, the Lord will still find it in His heart to show mercy to Sodom in the future government of God.

But let us bring the discussion back to the issue at hand. The Lord is telling His messengers that those cities who refuse to hear the message of these seventy are, in God’s eyes, guilty of a worse crime than Sodom! This shows us that the crime of unbelief (or faithlessness) is perhaps the worst crime of all in God’s sight, worse even than the grossest of moral sins.

13.  “Woe to you, Chorazin!  Woe to you, Bethsaida!  For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.

Now the Lord in His address to His followers makes an aside to these two cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida. The Judge of all the earth was speaking here, and He tells us in His infinite knowledge what the people of Tyre and Sidon would have done in different circumstances, if they had actually seen the miracles the Lord had been working in these Israelite cities. He says they would have submitted long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes, that great sign of mourning and submission. Tyre and Sidon were famous cities at that time, known for their unrepentantly wicked ways. That the Lord would use these cities in His comparison was meant to be a shocking example.

“Repented” here is a form of the Greek word metanoeo, which we have said means “to have the after-mind.” The idea of after-mindedness is that you make up your mind right now, and you will not change it later no matter what comes after. We have suggested the words “submit,” “yield” or “ease” (in the sense of easing yourself of a burden) as good English translations of this word in various contexts. It always carries with it this idea of after-mindedness, of submitting yourself to another.

This is a very interesting passage, and shows us that God can judge people not just on what they have done, but also on what they would have done in other circumstances. Thus God as Judge is able to do something that no other judge is able to do…make all things equal before making His judgment. Because He can see all possible outcomes He can know all possible might-have-beens. And we can be certain that when He judges all men He will not only do so fairly but also graciously, judging not only on what a person did or didn’t do but also on what he would have done had he gotten the chance.

I do not know what it was that the Lord saw in Sodom and in Tyre and Sidon that convinced Him of this. Yet I do know that the Lord proclaimed as a principle what is written in Luke 16:10. “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.” Perhaps there was something in the life of some of those in Tyre and Sidon, some small thing, that told the Lord what these people would have done had they been given a much bigger opportunity like this one. Regardless, we can know that He was right, and that these wicked people would have responded had they been given the opportunity.

14.  “But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.

Again the One who will be the ultimate Judge tells us what His judgment will be. It will be more tolerable for these famous, wicked cities than for those cities that failed to believe the message He was sending them. Once again, lack of faith is the ultimate sin in God’s sight.

15.  “And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades.

Now the Lord speaks against Capernaum, His new hometown after He was rejected in Nazareth, and where He apparently owned a house. In spite of all His contact with them there, they had not received Him. Thus, He pronounces this doom against them.

We do not believe that the Lord was speaking literally in His pronouncement against Capernaum here. Any who believe that Capernaum will literally be brought down to Hades, we would ask them then if Capernaum was literally exalted to heaven at that time? The answer to this question will tell us how we are to take this passage.

I believe that “heaven” here indicates the very highest place. Proverbs 25:3 declares, “As the heavens for height and the earth for depth, So the heart of kings is unsearchable.” Here we learn that the heavens can be put for height, and that is how they are used in this passage in Luke. Capernaum was exalted on the heights, not least of which was because the Lord dwelt there. Yet He says they will be brought down to Hades. Hades here is put for oblivion. Apparently the city of Capernaum will not exist in God’s Kingdom because of its terrible crime of rejecting the message of God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Though some of its people may be in the kingdom, yet because of the overall rejection of the city, particularly on the part of the rulers of that city, there will no longer be a place by that name under God’s government.

16.  “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.”

The Lord makes these unequivocal statements about these men. They were identified with Him, and to such an extent that those who heard them heard Him, and those who rejected them rejected Him. Not the least of the reasons for this is that they spoke the message given to them by the Lord Jesus Christ. In all that they did, they acted with the power of God and spoke with words inspired by God. They were truly identified with and merged with Him, to the extent that these statements were true.

The word “sent” here is aposteilanta, a form of apostello. As we have discussed previously, it means to send with authority. The Lord had been commissioned by God for the work that He was then doing, even as He was now commissioning these seventy.

This statement of the Lord’s is true of no man on earth today. Men might hear my words, but this would not mean that they are hearing the Lord Jesus Christ. Other men might reject me. I am not always the most lovable person on earth, I will admit, and sometimes in my desire to declare the truth I might not be as careful of people’s feelings as I might be, or I might not hear what they are saying as well as I could. Yet for these to reject me would have nothing to do with whether or not they reject the Lord Jesus Christ, and the One Who sent Him. These things were only true because these men were commissioned by God with a God-given message. As such, they were the true and rightful representatives of God. Therefore, to reject them was to reject God Himself. Imagine having such a position in the sight of God!  This is something that none of us can claim even the tiniest fraction of today.

17.  Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.”

The seventy go out now and accomplish their mission. Remember, with thirty-five groups of them, this probably did not take too long, for the Lord could not have had that many cities that He was still planning to visit before He came to Jerusalem and the close of His ministry. Thus, it is not too long before this mission is accomplished and the messengers return.

The seventy are delighted at the power they had, even to command demons. The Lord had only told them to heal the sick, and yet since demon-possession was one form of malady at that time, they were able to extend their commission even to this. It would be a wonderful thing to be able to command these dark servants of the enemy. Of course, they had the power to command them because God had given it to them, and God is far stronger than any rebellious being.

Here “in Your name” means in Your authority. One’s “name” meant one’s reputation, and when you did something in someone’s name you did it according to their reputation, in other words, with their permission. These men had God’s permission to command demons, and even His great reputation was staked upon their actions because of it. Many men take it upon themselves to command demons in the power of the Lord’s name today. Yet we would question whether or not what they command are always demons, and if those who do this really have the Lord’s permission to use His name in this way. It is not a light thing to use the Lord’s name without permission. Remember, there were many who believed in God at the time of Christ, yet only some of His disciples were given this power. Just because we know the true God does not mean we automatically have power over Satan, particularly in regards to the life of others.

18.  And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

The Lord now speaks of the great enemy who commands these demons, the one called Satan. He testifies to the fact that He has seen something that no man saw, and that was Satan fall like lightning from heaven. This cannot literally mean the place called heaven, because Satan is not literally cast out of that place even now, and will not be cast out until the period of time called the tribulation, when Revelation 12:7-9 takes place. The word “heaven” here is singular, and tells us that Satan fell from the heaven. We must remember that “heaven” means that which is lifted up or exalted. Although it often means the place that is lifted up or exalted, it can also mean a person who is lifted up or exalted. Thus, in this case, it means that Christ saw Satan fall from the Heaven Person, that is, God Himself.  He was there when Satan in a flash like lightning fell from God. This tells us something about Satan and his fall that we would not know otherwise. The Lord’s point here seems to be that He had seen Satan fall in the first place, He now had power over Satan, and He will be there when Satan is defeated and his rebellion brought to a final end at last.

19.  “Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.

These men were traveling, and oftentimes they would have to sleep outside at night. Serpents and scorpions were common in Israel, and it could well be that a serpent or scorpion could crawl in next to them at night, feeling the warmth. If they rolled over on it or disturbed it, they could well be bitten and die right there. Yet this was not going to happen. The Lord gave these men authority over serpents and scorpions, and they could trample them heedlessly and never have to worry about harm, even though they might be bitten.

Yet I believe there is a deeper significance to what Christ is saying here. After mentioning serpents and scorpions, He also mentions “all the power of the enemy.” Thus He had more in mind than just the serpents and scorpions that we know. These things are harmful creatures, yet we have no reason to believe they are part of Satan’s army. Christ may have been referring to demons and evil spirits who are like serpents and scorpions. Satan himself is first introduced to us in Scripture as a serpent, a “shining one.” Thus it is against his serpent- and scorpion-like forces that the Lord gives them power. Christ was there when Satan fell, and Christ will be the One to defeat him at last. Now He gives these men authority to lord it over the Wicked One.

20.  “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

Although we can understand why such power would be very exciting, the Lord Jesus reminds them that even this is not the most important thing, but rather that their names are written in heaven. Here “heaven” is plural, and thus indicates the place, not the Person. Their names are written in the heavens. I believe that this indicates that they are recognized with God. This has nothing to do with them going to heaven someday, or that heaven is their ultimate destiny. These men have a place in God’s future kingdom on earth, as the Lord clearly indicates. My own name is written in many places, some of which I do not even know about. There are places I do know, such as my bank. My name is written there to indicate that I have an account there. This guarantees my place at that bank. Even so it is with these men. Their names were written with God, and this means they will have eternal life and a place in His government. Without eternal life even such power as they had would be meaningless. We can understand this well if we remember that Judas Iscariot was given such power, and yet his name was not written with God! Related to this is having your name in God’s book, as we read about in places such as Exodus 32:32-33.