Luke 10 – Christ and the Blessing Upon His Messianic Ministry
Luke 10 – Christ and the Blessing Upon His Messianic Ministry
Jesus Sends Out the Seventy-Two (Luke 10:1-20)⤒🔗
1After 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. 2He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
5“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. 7Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
8“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. 9Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’ 10But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’ 12I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
13Woe to you Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. 15And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths.
16“He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
17The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." 18He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." Luke 10:1-20
We may be a bit surprised that after choosing and sending the twelve disciples, the Lord still appointed seventy-two others, and sent them two by two to every town and place where he was about to go (10:1). The appointing of the seventy-two is mentioned only in Luke (and some early manuscripts have differing numbers). The mandate and the accompanying instructions are similar to those of the twelve.
They were sent two by two to every town and place where Jesus was to go. This is the advance team that is to prepare the people in Judea. The reason that two were sent to each place is two-fold. Two men are able to help and support one another. Two could function as official witnesses since one could validate the witness of the other. Two witnesses were required to settle a case.
Seventy-two men is quite a larger number than twelve. But even seventy-two is hardly enough. The Lord told the seventy-two, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Matthew combines this statement with the fact that when Jesus saw the crowds, “he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). The harvest that he has in mind, then, is the people of Israel in Judea.
It is noteworthy that these seventy-two are not mentioned elsewhere, not even in the book of Acts. It would appear that these seventy-two were exceptionally called for a specific task, and when this was fulfilled, they were not needed any more. Because the appointing of the seventy-two is not mentioned elsewhere, some explainers suggest that this history is unhistorical and Luke followed the wrong source here. But Luke is writing carefully-researched history, not inventing tall tales. When this passage is left within its context, we see that the sending of the seventy-two was meant for that one time and that Luke was the only one who had found and described this event. The fact that Luke is recounting history is also supported by the information that the seventy-two return and report to Jesus. He receives their report with joy and also reminds them of the greater source of joy: “…rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (10:20).
When the Lord in this context speaks about the harvest as being plentiful and the workers being few, he is, of course, referring to the time when seventy-two went out. Many in Israel will come to faith in Christ. There will be a harvest of the righteous, but many will turn against the Lord.
Our Lord once in a parable (Matthew 13:39) said, “The harvest is the end of the age”. This is the full harvest which will be manifest when Christ will come with his faithful angels for the great Day of Judgment. But in the meantime Christ is busy adding to the number who will be saved. We read about this in Revelation 14:14-20. There will be a day when “the harvest of the world is ripe”.
- The Lord said that the harvest is plentiful. In the meantime the gospel has been preached in many lands, far and near. Can we still say today that the harvest is plentiful?
- Does the success of the harvest depend on the number of the workers?
- What factors make a good harvest impossible?
- In what ways can you today be involved in harvesting?
The Lord sends his workers as “lambs among wolves” (10:3). This does not mean that all workers will die, but it certainly indicates the dangerous nature of the work. The workers are to stay where they are welcomed. Where the workers are not welcomed they must wipe off even the dust of that place from their shoes. The preaching is still going on but not indefinitely; there comes a day when judgment is imminent. Mission work is always done under this tension: “The kingdom of heaven is near” (10:9,11). Depending on the context, the coming of the kingdom is something joyfully expected or fearfully awaited.
The Lord mentions a number of cities that have seen or will see God’s judgment. Sodom is mentioned first as a place where God’s judgment has already been. This judgment, severe as it was, will pale against the judgments that are coming over Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. These are all main cities in Galilee.
Tyre and Sidon are two pagan centres of commerce and culture in the north of Galilee along the sea. Of these cities it is said: “they would have repented”. Another example of a pagan city that would have repented is Nineveh, in Jonah’s time (see also Luke 11:29-32, the sign of Jonah).Those who could have known better and yet refused to repent will experience harder judgment. The penalty will fit the crime; that is justice.
The Return of the Seventy-Two←⤒🔗
We read in 10:17 that the seventy-two return with joy and have a very positive report. The highlight of this report is, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
Our Lord is grateful for this report. But despite the enthusiasm of the seventy-two it must be remembered that the power is from God. It is so easy to claim the miraculous powers for ourselves. Think of Simon the sorcerer whom Luke describes in Acts 8. He tried to bribe the apostles into selling him the ability to lay on hands.
Our Lord says, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you”. This is a great gift which may never be abused for self-enrichment or personal glory. If the chief demon, Satan, is defeated, his demons cannot offer real resistance either.
The Lord may be referring to the fall of Satan as described in Revelation 12:9, “The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” The devil may perhaps on earth yet have a reign of terror, but it is limited and temporal. Whenever Christ and his servants command, the demons must submit. Mission workers always go forward in the faith that the enemy has already been defeated. 1
The Lord Jesus adds another word of caution or direction. It is good that the disciples rejoice over their ability to cast out demons. “However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (10:20) The greatest miracle is not that demons are made to obey. The greatest miracle and a cause for unending personal joy is that we have our names written in heaven. We have access to heaven, where Satan has been cast out, and we have this out of grace, by faith, only in Jesus Christ. Always keep your eye on your greatest treasure: the forgiveness of sins and the life eternal.
Jesus’ Praise for the Father (Luke 10:21-24)←⤒🔗
21 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.
22“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
23Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. 24For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”Luke 10:21-24
The return of the seventy-two with their positive report leads our Saviour to experience great joy through the Holy Spirit. At that time, he said full of the Holy Spirit, “I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” (10:21)
Perhaps in some ways the report of the seventy-two disciples was very encouraging. But there is also unmistakably the element that many will not commit themselves to the kingdom of heaven, and many learned men and leaders of the people are opposed to the Lord and the gospel. This element must have been troubling to the Lord. For it means that ultimately he will be rejected, betrayed, tried, and executed.
I am sure that it was troubling. Perhaps a reality check is in order, or rather, a spirituality check. Therefore it is good to read that the Lord Jesus did not become disillusioned or depressed, but found room to rejoice in God! As a matter of fact, the Lord Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, broke out in a word of praise and thanks to God. The Gospel may be hidden to the learned and wise, but it is revealed to little children. Many common people have received the Gospel in childlike faith. This is not a matter of circumstance, but Jesus knows, “Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure” (10:21). Everything is still going according to Gods good pleasure.
We should let these words sink in. Great learning, deep dissertations, high academic training does not make anyone more open to the Gospel. In fact, it may sometimes be a hindrance. Those who opposed the Gospel were mostly not from the rabble that did not know the law, but came from the ranks of the learned and privileged.2There are exceptions, of course, like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, but they are truly exceptions. One has to receive the Gospel as a child.
The Lord makes clear that the rejection of many people is not because Christ has failed as the Messiah. On the contrary, “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (10:22). Christ knows that God’s stamp of approval lies upon him. There is still full unity and common purpose in the Holy Trinity, especially at this important point when the scene is shifting to Judea. Christ does not need accolades from people for he has the confidence of the Father and the Sprit.
The Lord also wished to let his disciples share in the enthusiasm at this point. It says that “Then he turned to his disciples and said privately ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.’”(10:23)
The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)←⤒🔗
25On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’’”
28“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.Luke 10:25-37
This particular account is not specifically dated. It says, “On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus.”3“Teacher”, he asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (10:25) This testing was going on all the time. The plan was to see if Jesus could be embroiled in a false teaching or a misapplication of accepted doctrines. There were many such occasions, and we note that Jesus rose above them all. Often the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees were put to shame by the clear and powerful answer of the Lord.
Note the use of the word “inherit” (10:25). In this case the word might be used to convey a certain right. An inheritance is received through being a true heir. But the Jews who demanded their “rights” as heirs did not act with compassion to less fortunate others around them. What action does the word “inherit” suggest?
The question itself was rather common among the Jewish intelligentsia: What must we do to be saved? Usually the one who asked the question wanted to hear the minimum. The teachers of the law have invented so many precepts, but what is enough, perhaps, the bare minimum?
The Lord countered this question with one of his own, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” (10:26) The man answered promptly, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.” (10:27)
This type of question was put before the Lord more often, for example, “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36) And then the Lord refers to the prophets of old, to the combined teaching in the Old Testament.
The Jews were constantly debating which commandment was the greatest. Everyone had their own interpretation, and there were various schools of thought. Hence the question of the Lord, “How do you read it?” Someone can only be saved by giving perfect love. The man gave the proper answer. Therefore Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:28) If only we could give sinless and perfect love, we would not need a Saviour.
We can never save ourselves by keeping the law. It must be perfect obedience, and because of the fall into sin, we are unable to give this to God or our neighbor. The Law of God which is itself just and right, is for us a stumbling block.
Compare this man’s question with one posed in the Heidelberg Catechism (Lord’s Day 5, Q & A 12,13). There we ask, “Since, according to God’s righteous judgment we deserve temporal and eternal punishment, how can we escape this punishment and be again received into favour?” The answer is, “God demands that his justice be satisfied. Therefore we must make full payment either by ourselves or through another.” “But can we ourselves make this payment?” “Certainly not. On the contrary, we daily increase our debt.” We cannot earn eternal life. It must be given out of grace and through faith in Christ.
When we are faced with the parables – as here and in many coming chapters of Luke – we must understand that each parable brings an undeniable reality to the fore. The parables were used because of the unwillingness of the Jews. There is in the parables a simplification of doctrinal truths, in such a way that the truth is rather painfully obvious.
At the same time, a parable has the ability to offend people or give them the notion that in some way they are implicated. Therefore a parable can lead to stubbornness and anger. Nobody likes to be put on the spot. Christ uses parables not to embarrass the hearers, but to bring them face to face with the truth.
- Does the parable pertain only to fellow members of the church, or to people outside?
- Are you aware of any needs in which your neighbor is lacking?
- Should we go to the less pleasant areas of our town and help the needy, the homeless, and the mentally ill?
- Do you feel guilty when reading this parable?
With respect to this parable, the question must be asked who our neighbor is. What has Christ done for his neighbour? What is the significance of the fact that the helper is a “Samaritan”?
The Lord Jesus said to the expert in the law: you have answered well. Do this and you will live. But the man was not satisfied. He felt attacked and wanted to justify himself. He does not ask how he can love God better, but he asks, “And who is my neighbor?” (10:28) Perhaps he thinks that he truly loves God, and gives God due worship and ample praise. The area of concern lies with loving the neighbor for he is not really sure who his neighbor is. The “who is my neighbor?” question perhaps might change the topic or make the discussion more general. Discussions about general matters are great because they usually do not require a specific or immediate personal action.
Who are my neighbors? Are we willing to identify them, help them, and serve them? The Lord Jesus answered this question with a parable, the one about the Good Samaritan. The parable comes to a different question. The man asked: who is my neighbor? But Jesus asks: are you a (good) neighbour? (v.36)
A man on the way from Jerusalem to Jericho is beaten and robbed, and left for dead. Note that the priest and Levite who passed by should have been the first responders. But they cross to the other side of the street. Keep going, don’t get involved, it’s none of your business, the man’s probably dead already, and besides it could be a trap.
But a Samaritan of some wealth and much pity comes by and attends to the wounded man. He dressed the man’s wounds and took him to an inn where he paid in advance for lodging for the victim, saying that he would reimburse the innkeeper for any extra cost on his way back. He left behind two silver coins (denarii) which covered a few months of stay at the inn. I’m sure you know the parable well.
The Lord asks the question, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” (v.36) The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him”. We read that Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.” A general question has now become a personal mandate (Luke 10:37).
At the Home of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42)←⤒🔗
38As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. 40But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"
41"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, 42but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
The Lord and his disciples travel onward and come to village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister named Mary. From other places we know that this was the town of Bethany where also Lazarus lived, of whom we learn in John 11:2 that he was a brother to Mary and Martha. This family was very dear to the Lord Jesus.
As Jesus and his disciples arrive at Bethany, they come to the house of Mary and Martha, where Christ finds opportunity to teach (10:38). We learn that Martha is the industrious woman who undertakes to serve the many guests who are present. We read that Mary, her sister, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he said (10:39).
Some explainers suggest that this is a matter of crossing male/female boundaries. Mary begins to act like a man. She is sitting at the feet of a rabbi as if she were his student. This is not her place. Women were usually in the kitchen or in a room with the children. They did not mix with the men in the public setting. Mary is behaving scandalously and Martha wants the Lord to call her to order.4
I do not think that this is a matter of gender. Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She did not have time to sit down and listen. In the course of time Martha becomes somewhat upset with her sister and perhaps also with the Lord, because no one is helping her. Maybe she had tried to get Mary to help her, but she received no compliance. Her unhappiness festered for a while until she had enough. She approached the Lord and says, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (10:40)
The Lord is moved by Martha’s request. For he knows how she loves him and how she would like to hear his teaching. But he says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (10:41,42)
Was there some sibling rivalry here? Perhaps Martha did not have the patience that was needed. Was Mary really crossing gender borders? I get the impression that it was a more matter of character: Mary was more interested in listening rather than taking action. We see this also later, when Jesus comes to Bethany after Lazarus has died. Martha rushes out to meet him and tells him plainly and simply that he is too late (John 11:20,21). Mary waits patiently until Jesus meets her.
Are you inclined to agree with Martha? It is not nice when your sister lets you do all the work. But that is not the case here. It is not unwillingness to work, but the desire to learn that moves Mary. She’s not lazy but she is attentive. Mary is the one who also anointed Jesus feet with expensive nard and dried his feet with her hair (John 12:1-3). She also now focuses on what is the most important: what she can learn from the Lord for eternal life.
Therefore when Martha approaches the Lord and rebukes him as well for not telling Mary to help her, our Saviour gently calls Martha to order. “Martha, Martha”, the Lord says, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (10:41,42) Some might feel sorry for Martha, because she is deeply misunderstood.
But Martha is not innocent here. The original language shows that Martha was making her discontent known for quite some time already.5She was maybe banging some plates and cutlery, and making audible sighs. Some people work like that, suffering loudly so you will know how difficult things are.
The Lord twice uses her name, “Martha, Martha”. This shows his deep love also for her. She is always worried much about unimportant things. “There is only one thing that is really needed.” I have the impression that the Lord has been in this home more often. He certainly knows this family.
What is it that is needed most? What is this special and unique matter? What the Lord means is an eager and reverent listening to the Word of the Lord. Take time for that. The Word of God cannot be taken away from us, is inalienable and incorruptible. This Word will guide us and comfort us in all of life’s blessings, responsibilities, and trials. Whoever seeks this word should not be reprimanded but commended.
Our many duties stay with us all our life through. They will vary from time to time. We can be worried about all kinds of important domestic things. But one thing is truly necessary: listening to the Word of God.
- Is it right to be busy with daily, domestic things? When does the time come to lay down the work and be busy with other things?
- Did Mary cross the lines of gender and do what a woman may not do?
- Should we not be careful to share all duties together? Should Mary not have been addressed regarding her duties?
- Does this passage give us any direction regarding our family worship?
- How are we to teach our families in being attentive to God’s Word?
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