THE SENDING OF SEVENTY OTHERS
As we progress in this Gospel, earthly things tend to recede and heaven comes gradually more into view, specially following the transfiguration (ch.9:8-36) and the Lord setting His face toward Jerusalem to be delivered up to the Jews (ch.9:51).
Yet the testimony of the Lord increased. He sent forth seventy other disciples, in pairs, to prepare the way for Him in every city to which He would come. He gave them no encouragement to believe they would be kindly received: indeed His earthly nation Israel was determined to reject and kill Him. In view of this, the laborers were few, though the harvest was great. They were not to think of themselves therefore as a select group on a higher plane than others, but to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send forth more laborers into His harvest. The term laborers is used for those on the lowest level of employment, but though having no dignified title, they do the hard work. Yet what is their work compared to His? -- for He was to come to every place where it required seventy plus the twelve to prepare the way for Him.
The seventy were sent as lambs in the midst of wolves (v.3). Again, as with the twelve in chapter 9:1-5, they were instructed not to carry provisions with them, no purse (for money) no scrip (for food), nor extra shoes, for the testimony is toward Israel, God's chosen nation, who were responsible to care for the servants of Israel's Messiah. They were not to carry anything superfluous, but also to refrain from what was irrelevant, even from saluting people by the way. They had a singular purpose which must not be hindered even by social courtesy, that is, by spending time in social conversation (not that they should be discourteous). We have before noticed that these instructions are not a commission for our day, for this was changed completely by the Lord in view of His imminent death (Luke 22:35-37). But the 70 were to expect the hospitality of the houses they visited. Theirs was a message of peace. If they were received in a house to which they came as they entered a city, then God would see that peace was effective in the house; and the servant was to remain in that house as long as he stayed in the city, and was not to be ashamed to partake of their offered provision. This was God's means of provision and their labor deserved such recognition. Simplicity and humility of faith would accept this, and not restlessly try to spread the responsibility of one's keep around to others also.
They were to eat the food given them, willingly identifying themselves with those who received them (vs.7-8). They were to heal the sick by the miraculous power given them by the Lord. This was intended to focus attention on their message, that the kingdom of God had come near. The authority of this kingdom was centered in the person of the Lord Jesus, Israel's true King, though He asserted no claim to any publicly manifested kingdom: the kingdom was among men in a mystery form. The kingdom will be public when the Lord reigns, but the kingdom had come in the person of the King, who had many who were subject to Him in heart, though He was not yet reigning.
If such a message from the King was refused by His subjects, then the servants were to leave and wipe off the very dust of the city from their feet, as a testimony against the city. It was to be a solemn act of separation and renouncing of all identification with the city that rejected their Lord. The preaching of the gospel today does not call for any such action, for the gospel is to individuals in an evil world, not to cities. The gospel has saved people out of many wicked cities, giving them a heavenly inheritance. But cities are earthly, and these cities were connected with God's earthly people Israel: as cities they would therefore suffer for the refusal of their Messiah. Sodom's judgment would be more tolerable than God's judgment on a city that rejected them (v.12). The reason is that Sodom had not known the witness of the personal presence of the Lord Jesus and was therefore not as responsible as these.
The Lord singled out three cities upon which He pronounced a most solemn sentence. Chorazin and Bethsaida had seen His great works of power, including healing the sick and casting out demons, yet their hardened consciences were insensible to the repentance this ought to have awakened. He affirmed that the Gentile cities, Tyre and Sidon would have long before repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes, if they had been given a similar testimony. This is an indication that, while Israel refused their Messiah, He would soon be received among the Gentiles and Israel's cities would lie waste. Capernaum is spoken of as having been exalted to heaven, evidently a proud, prosperous city, but was doomed to be brought down to hades, consigned to desolation.
The Lord added that those who heard His messengers did so as hearing Him: those who despised them despised Him and His Father also.
CAUSES OF REJOICING
We are not told what length of time elapsed before the seventy returned (v.17), but when returning they were filled with joyful enthusiasm, reporting to the Lord that even the demons were subject to them through His name. Actually, they should have expected this since the Lord had sent them for this. He did not encourage their excitement over the work, though He spoke of beholding Satan fall from heaven as will occur when the Great Tribulation is about to begin (Revelation 12:9-14). Divine power alone will do this at the appointed time. Meanwhile the Lord said He gave the disciples authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, referring to the enmity of demons (v.19). The disciples too would be protected from the harm that satanic power would desire to inflict. But this was not for the purpose of drawing attention to the messengers, but to Him, the blessed Lord of glory, who Himself gave this authority.
The fact of their having this authority was not a matter to rejoice over, for the spirits who were subject to them would be consigned to the darkness of eternal judgment. They, on the other hand, had cause of eternal rejoicing: their names were written in heaven. The grace of God is the true reason for our rejoicing. Yet there was no earthly inheritance in view for these messengers. If they thought the power then present would mean the introduction of the kingdom to Israel, He corrected this thought by the assurance that their names were written in heaven. Little did they understand His words.
Verse 21 is deeply precious, as the Lord Jesus Himself rejoiced in spirit at the contemplation of the Father's love and wisdom in revealing the truth to "babes." "The wise and prudent" by the world's standards were left ignorant while babes (those who took a lowly place of subjection) had revealed to them what was of eternal, vital value. Those who think of themselves as being wise usually consider that only what they can reason out is worthy of their acceptance. They are stumbled by the very simplicity of what God makes available for His creatures, while the unquestioning faith of babes accepts and understands without difficulty. By such unpretentious wisdom the Father sees fit to humble the pride of mankind.
The Lord then adds what is usually more characteristic of John's writings. If His unique subjection in Manhood is evident in verse 21, yet He is the Man of God's eternal counsels and therefore more than Man: He is the Son of the Father, to whom all things are delivered by the Father's hand. This is not only things earthly or in connection with Israel, but inclusive of the entire universe. He is the Man to whom all must answer, for He is God. He alone of all men knew the Father: this is a vital, fundamental knowledge in perfection, an eternal knowledge such as no other could possibly have. As to the Son also, none could possibly know Him but the Father, for both are eternal, infinite, supreme. Yet the Son does reveal the Father and those therefore know Him to whom the Son is pleased to reveal Him. His knowledge is of course inherent in His very nature: ours is only by revelation from Him. Babes have been given such a revelation, not to enable them to understand the greatness of the mystery of the Person of Christ, but in faith to know Him and adore Him, apart entirely from the reasoning of intellect. They willingly give Him His place of infinite greatness, immeasurably higher than human understanding, and they gladly keep their own place in lowly subjection to Him.
He then turned to His disciples privately (v.23), not to the great and noble men of the earth, but to those virtually "babes," and told them that their eyes were blessed in seeing the things they were seeing: theirs was a marvelously unique privilege such as many prophets and kings had desired to see and had not seen; and also to hear what the disciples heard, and were not so honored. How little did the disciples realize and appreciate the wonder of having in their midst the great Creator come down in gracious Manhood, the One in whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily! Why indeed should these few men be chosen "that they should be with Him?"
We too have cause to marvel at God's amazing grace in blessing us with the magnificent gift of the Holy Spirit sent into the hearts of all who by faith have received the blessed Son of God. We are blessed greatly today with infinite blessing such as could never have been known in previous dispensations. At least the eyes of our hearts (Ephesians 1:18) are greatly blessed, and our ears too by the Word of God now made known.
THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN
In verse 25 a wise man of the world (not one considering himself a "babe") decided to test the validity of the Lord's understanding. How little prepared he was for the humbling answer, an answer simple enough for a little child! The Lord knew that when the lawyer asked what he should do to inherit eternal life, he thought he knew the answer, therefore the Lord turned the question back on him: he was a lawyer: what did the law say about this? (v.26).
The lawyer's answer (from Deuteronomy 6:5) was the best the law could possibly give, for it is a most striking summing up of the whole law. But how strong and uncompromising are its demands! Who has loved the Lord God with his whole heart, his whole soul, his whole strength, his whole mind? It is impossible to think of this being true of anyone except the Lord Jesus Himself. Similarly, who else could claim that he loves his neighbor as himself?
The Lord did not face the lawyer with these questions. He told him that, as to the law he has answered rightly. Then he applied it to the lawyer himself, "do this and you will live" (v.28). He did not say this would give the man eternal life, but rather that, as long as he continued perfectly fulfilling these requirements, he would continue living on earth.
However, the man's conscience must speak. Did he really expect to go on living on earth for eternity? He felt he must defend himself somehow. He ignored completely his responsibility toward God, which he had rightly quoted (perhaps assuming that he could just take this for granted), and focused on his neighbor in an effort to justify himself. "Who is my neighbor?" he asked. This was really an admission that at least there were some people he did not love as himself. Did he expect the Lord to say that only those people whom he liked best were his neighbors? But if he -was looking for a theological, intellectual argument, he was completely stripped of any material for this by the Lord's simple and pointed illustration which we call the story of the "Good Samaritan."
There likely were cases similar to the one the Lord described in verse 30, yet how aptly it illustrates the history of man a man left Jerusalem (defined as "the foundation of peace," that is, a city of righteousness), and went down toward Jericho, meaning "fragrant," attractive to the natural senses, but a city under the curse of God (Joshua 6:26). The descent is very steep -- 3,624 feet (1,100 meters) in a distance of 13 miles (21km) --just as man has descended since first leaving the place of obedience to God. Attacked by satanic power, he has been robbed of everything, left helpless, destitute, dead in sins. Perhaps the lawyer was too self-righteous to recognize himself in such a condition spiritually, but it was as true of him as of all mankind.
By chance a priest came down that way, he who was versed in the ritual of the law with it sacrifices and ceremonies, one whose work it was to have compassion on the ignorant and those who were out of the way. Merely seeing the poor man was enough for him; he passed by on the other side. What can the law's rituals do for one who is totally destitute and helpless?
A Levite, arriving at the place, at least came and looked at him, but also passed by (v.32). He was the servant connected with the priests, to do the manual work this service required. But if mere formal ritual is of no value in this sad case, neither is it possible for man to save himself by good works: he was too far gone for the Levite. Instruction in worship and service is useless to a dying sinner: he needs a Savior!
Then a Samaritan (one despised by the Jews as having an inferior religion), as he journeyed, came where the man was, and was moved with compassion toward him. This beautifully illustrates the mercy of the Lord Jesus, though He was not a Samaritan. Yet He was treated as such by His own people, the Jews, who contemptuously spoke of Him in this way (John 8:48). the man needed help from completely outside of himself, and the Samaritan did everything for him.
Binding up his wounds, he poured in oil and wine. Are we not reminded that Christ "was wounded for our transgressions?" (Isaiah 53:5). Thus He is qualified to bind up sin's wounds for us. The oil speaks of the Spirit of God given us by pure grace; the wine, the blood of Christ which cleanses from all sin and brings joy in place of misery, for wine speaks of joy also. Setting him on his own beast indicates Christ putting us in His own place, that is, we are "accepted in the Beloved One" (Ephesians 1:6), seen by God as "in Christ" by His marvelous grace. The inn to which he was brought is typical of the Church, the dwelling of God on earth.
The host speaks of the Spirit of God who presides in the Assembly, the Church of God, and to Him the Lord commits the keeping of our souls until the day that He will come again. The Samaritan took full responsibility for the man, as the Lord Jesus does for us. Wonderful indeed is His gracious provision!
The Lord knew the lawyer would not understand the significance of all this, but the simple narrative itself was enough to have serious effect upon him. How pertinent was the Lord's question as to which of these three was actually a neighbor to the man who fell among thieves. There could be no argument about this. But the lawyer did not answer, "the Samaritan" since he hated that name: rather he said, "He who showed mercy on him."
The Lord's reply is beautifully appropriate: "Go and do likewise." There was nothing more the lawyer could possibly say, but he was left with that which should have deeply searched his heart. Did he have such an attitude toward others, in fact toward Samaritans? Had he humbly received the mercy he needed? We hear nothing more of him, but if the Lord's words did cause him later to see himself as the man who fell among thieves and therefore to trust in the mercy of the Lord Jesus, then he would indeed be in a position to have a real heart for his neighbor. The story has lessons that both unbelievers and believers may deeply take to heart.
IN MARTHA'S HOUSE
The story of the good Samaritan shows us how honorable service can be, and predominantly so in the history of the Lord Jesus. Yet among believers, service may become irksome if the proper motives are not active, and this is seen even in Martha who gladly received Jesus into her home. She evidently forgot for the time the principle of self-denying love that moved the Samaritan to do that which was of considerable self-sacrifice. While Mary, Martha's sister, sat at the feet of the Lord Jesus to hear what He had to say, Martha was preoccupied and distracted in preparing and serving the meal (v.40). Concentrating only on her service, she was making it too hard for herself. How much better to at least have a restful spirit, no matter how much work there may seem to be! Her irritation built up until it came to the breaking point.
She not only criticized her sister, but laid the blame on the Lord for not caring that Mary had left her to serve alone. Does this not emphasize that a complaining spirit is always against the Lord? Whatever the occasion, the Lord is over all things, and we always imply by our complaints that the Lord is not caring for us properly. The Lord could not accept her reproof, yet He was most gentle in reproving her for being full of care and troubled about many things.
Many things occupied her mind and her hands, but He said, "One thing is needful." Did all her serving mean more to the Lord than the genuine communion of her heart? Communion is both hearing Him and speaking with Him, and this is vital if we are to serve Him in a proper way, as well as in a calm, restful spirit. Mary had chosen that good part which would not be taken from her. He did not say "better part," for there is no need for such comparisons. The good part she chose would result in her doing good. The Lord speaks positively, but not comparatively. Did Martha learn from this? We believe she did, for her service later (John 12:23) was without complaint.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Luke 10". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
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