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‘Now after these things the Lord appointed seventy two (seventy) others, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, to which he himself was about to come.’
As He had previously sent messengers to the Samaritans so He now ‘sent forth before His face’ messengers to all the places which He intended to visit to prepare the way before Him. They were sent two by two and amounted to seventy/seventy two in all. They may have included the Apostles, although most see ‘appointed seventy others’ as excluding them. But the exclusion is not necessary. The Apostles had not previously been ‘appointed’ they had been ‘chosen’, and ‘others’ may be in comparison with the three described in Luke 9:57-62, or the messengers of Luke 9:52. Thus there is no reason why they should not now be appointed for the mission along with sixty (fifty eight) others. It is clear from what follows that these seventy two/seventy were to have a preaching ministry.
‘Seventy two.’ The manuscripts differ between seventy (Aleph A C L W Theta f1 f13) and seventy two (p75 B D 73 - a strong combination). Both have strong support. There are also reasons both ways why an alteration might have been tempting to a copyist. But seventy two is a multiple of twelve and Luke tends to see the disciples in multiples of twelve (compare Acts 1:15). It may well be that a group of five men was allocated to each Apostle. They could still be sent two by two and some would cover the area surrounding each town as well as the town itself. While it is always possible that thirty six towns and villages to which ‘Jesus would come’ were to be visited, it is unlikely, simply because of the burden that it would place on Him, but six cities, each approached by an evangelistic party of twelve, led by two Apostles and reaching out into the area round about, is quite feasible.
The number seventy two (seventy) might have in mind the elders appointed by Moses, seeing them as seventy plus the two in the camp (see Numbers 11:16-29), demonstrating that these disciples are seen as founding the new Israel. Or seventy could parallel the seventy ‘sons of Jacob’ who went down into Egypt (Exodus 1:5), again signifying a new Israel (as twelve had also done). The fact that they are sent in twos (thus making 36 or 35 pairs) is against any idea of them representing the world of seventy/seventy two nations.
‘Two by two.’ This would be for mutual support and strength, but also because the testimony of two witnesses confirmed the truth of their message.
One more thought is worthy of consideration here, and that is the similarity of this aspect of things in Luke with that in Acts. In Luke Jesus has sent out His Apostles to the Jews, then He has sent messengers to the Samaritans, now He sends out the seventy anonymous disciples. In Acts the same pattern emerges, first the Apostles go to the Jews, then there is a ministry to the Samaritans, then the message spreads wider through anonymous evangelists, reaching out to Jews around the world (resulting in the end in outreach to the Gentiles). The pattern is therefore repeated.
The Mission of the Seventy (Two) (10:1-9).
Following Jesus’ call to the three potential disciples Jesus now appoints seventy (or seventy two) disciples to go out two by two as messengers before His face preparing the way for Him. They too are fulfilling the prayer, ‘may your Kingly Rule come’.
a After these things the Lord appointed seventy (two) others, and sent them two and two before His face into every city and place, to which He Himself was about to come (Luke 10:1).
b And He said to them, “The harvest indeed is plenteous, but the labourers are few, pray you therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He send forth labourers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2).
c “Go your ways. Behold, I send you forth as lambs in the midst of wolves” (Luke 10:3).
d “Carry no purse, no wallet, no shoes, and salute no man on the way” (Luke 10:4).
c “And into whatever house you shall enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ And if a son of peace be there, your peace will rest on him, but if not, it shall turn to you again” (Luke 10:5-6).
b “And in that 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” (Luke 10:7).
a “And into whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you, and heal the sick that are in it, and say to them, The Kingly Rule of God is come near to you” (Luke 10:8-9).
Note that in ‘a’ they were to go to every city to which He was about to come, and in the parallel they enter the city and say, ‘the Kingly Rule of God (in the person of the King) is come near to you’. In ‘b they are to pray for labourers to go forth into the harvest, and in the parallel the labourer is worthy of his hire. In ‘c’ they go forth as lambs, and in the parallel they offer peace. Central to all is their total trust in God and desire to serve with full dedication.
Jesus Sets His Face Towards Jerusalem Followed By Centring on the Lord’s Prayer For The Evangelisation of the World (9:51-11:54).
This section commences with Jesus setting His face towards Jerusalem because the time for Him to be received up (as mentioned in Luke 9:22; Luke 9:31; Luke 9:44) is approaching, and it centres around the Lord’s Prayer for the evangelisation of the world (Luke 11:1-4) which is exemplified throughout. This is apparent from an analysis:
a ‘And it came about when the days were well nigh come that He should be received up He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem’ (Luke 9:51).
b The Samaritans reject Him because of the physical place to which He is going. They do not look underneath to the heart. Nevertheless there is no woe on the Samaritans (Luke 9:52-56).
c Call to discipleship and singleness of purpose so that they may proclaim the Kingly Rule of God (Luke 9:57-62).
d The seventy go out preaching seeking men to win under the Kingly Rule of God - woes on the cities who reject them (Luke 10:1-15).
e “He who hears you hears Me, and he who Hears Me hears Him Who sent me” (Luke 10:16).
f The disciples rejoice because the devils are subject to them, Jesus declares ‘I saw Satan fallen from heaven.’ They will be delivered from serpents and scorpions (Luke 10:17-20).
g Jesus rejoices in the Spirit, God has revealed His truth to babes, and given to His Son the privilege of revealing Him (Luke 10:21-24).
h About the Good Samaritan who responds and gives good things to the one in need (Luke 10:25-37).
i About Martha who serves well and feeds Jesus and the Apostles, and Mary who chooses the better part, the presence of Jesus (Luke 10:38-42).
j The Lord’s Prayer for the evangelisation of the world (Luke 11:1-4).
i About the friend at midnight who responds and feeds his friend (Luke 11:5-8).
h God will freely give from His goodness to those who reveal their need of Him (Luke 11:9-10)
g Those who come to Him as Father will receive good things, (not serpents and scorpions), including the Holy Spirit given to those who seek Him (Luke 11:11-13).
f The Pharisees accuse Jesus of being aligned with Satan because the devils are subject to Him, and He describes Satan’s total humiliation and defeat (Luke 11:14-22).
e “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me, scatters” (Luke 11:23).
d Evil spirits are out looking for men to possess. Woe to the present generation for rejecting the Great One and His preaching (Luke 11:24-32).
c The light is shining and men should open their eyes to it with singleness of eye and let it fill their lives (Luke 11:33-36).
b The Scribes and Pharisees reject Him because He refuses to conform to their physical requirements, for they also do not look at the heart. But there are woes on the Pharisees, for they should know better (Luke 11:37-52).
a ‘And when He was come out from there the Scribes and Pharisees began to press Him hard and provoke Him to speak of many things lying in wait for Him to catch something out of His mouth’ (Luke 11:53-54).
Note that in ‘a’ mention is made of Jesus being ‘received up’ as a result of the action of His enemies, and in the parallel the Scribes and Pharisees are trying to entrap Him so that they can accuse Him. In ‘b’ the Sadducees are influenced by the physical place to which He is going, they do not look at the heart, however, no woe is to be declared on the Samaritans, but in the parallel the Pharisees are influenced by His failure to conform to their physical requirements, they too do not look at the heart, but woes are declared on the Pharisees for they should have known better. In ‘c’ men are called to follow Him with singleness of purpose, and in the parallel they are called to singleness of eye. In ‘d’ the seventy go out preaching and woes are declared on those who do not hear, and in the parallel evil spirits go out looking for men to possess and Jesus speaks of woes on the people because they reject His preaching. In ‘e’ there is a saying of Jesus, and in the parallel a similar saying is given. In f there is rejoicing over the defeat of Satan, and in the parallel Jesus is accused of complicity with Satan and describes his total defeat. In ‘g’ Jesus rejoices in the Spirit and reveals the Father to His own, and in the parallel the Holy Spirit is given to those who ask the Father for Him. In ‘h’ the Good Samaritan gives good gifts to the one in need, while in the parallel God will respond to those who reveal their need of Him. In ‘i’ Jesus is fed and in the parallel the friend at midnight is fed. Central to the whole passage in ‘j’ is the Lord’s prayer, which is reflected throughout the surrounding material.
Connections In This Passage With the Lord’s Prayer.
Central to this section is the Lord’s Prayer in Lucan form as follows:
· ‘Father.’ See Luke 10:21-22; Luke 11:11-13, the first full revelation in Luke of the special nature of the Father in relation to His special people. Compare Luke 1:32; Luke 2:49; Luke 6:36; Luke 9:26.
· ‘Hallowed be Your Name.’ This has in mind the prophecy of Ezekiel 36:23-32 where we learn that His name is to be hallowed by the future outpouring of the Spirit and the transformation of His true people. See Luke 10:21 where the Spirit is connected with the full revelation of God to His people; and Luke 11:13 which refer to the Holy Spirit’s coming. But His Name will also be hallowed by the coming about of His Kingly Rule (Luke 9:62; Luke 10:9, Luke 11:20) and His judgment on sinners (Luke 10:13-15), and by His being known in the eyes of many nations (Ezekiel 38:23). If we take its wider meaning of ensuring that His name is treated with reverence and worship and is not blasphemed (Isaiah 8:13; Isaiah 29:23) we can consider Luke 11:14-52 where the hypocrisy of those who claimed to be His mouthpiece and brought shame on Him is condemned. See especiallyLuke 11:19-20; Luke 11:19-20; Luke 11:42; Luke 11:49.
· ‘Your Kingly Rule come.’ See Luke 9:52 to Luke 10:20 which are concerned with the spread of the Kingly Rule of God. Also Luke 11:20 where the coming of the Kingly Rule of God causes the defeat of Satan. The Good Samariatan can also be seen as es establishing the Kingly Rule of God (see on that passage).
· ‘Give us day by day tomorrow’s bread.’ See Luke 10:38-42; Luke 11:5-8 which speak of the provision of food. The Good Samaritan also provides the needy Jew, who represents the people of God, with his daily food. We see there an example of how God does cause His people to be fed, often through strangers.
· ‘Forgive us our sins for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.’ See Luke 10:25-37 where the good Samaritan personifies forgiveness.
· ‘And bring us not into testing.’ See Luke 10:25; Luke 11:16, the deliverance from Satan (Luke 11:14-26) and the comparison of those who will be brought into testing (Luke 11:37-53), of whose teaching the disciples must beware lest it test them (Luke 12:1).
· And possibly ‘deliver us from the evil one’. See Luke 10:17-20; Luke 11:14-26.
The Father’s special concern and something of His nature is shown in Luke 10:21-22; Luke 11:11-13. The dedicated disciples and the seventy are appointed in order to hallow God’s name and establish the Kingly Rule of God, (see Luke 9:57 to Luke 10:20), and there is rejoicing over deliverance from the Enemy (Luke 10:17-24). The Good Samaritan exemplifies the Kingly Rule of God coming to bring provision and salvation from a non-Temple source when the Temple has failed, including ‘daily food’ and the willingness to forgive others. The provision of ‘bread’ is described in different ways from Luke 10:25 to Luke 11:13, illustrating the giving of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is constantly ‘tested’ (specifically mentioned in Luke 10:25; Luke 11:16). But He will not bring His own into testing, delivering them by the defeat of Satan (Luke 11:14-26), and by His teaching as the greatest of all teachers bringing light instead of darkness (Luke 11:27-36), while He will bring the Scribes and Pharisees into Judgment where they will be thoroughly tested (Luke 11:37-53), because they have refused the light.
So it will be noted that the Section follows this overall pattern, the spreading of the Kingly Rule of God; the provision of bread, which illustrates the coming of the Holy Spirit; the confrontation with and defeat of evil spirits by the Stronger than he; the presence of the Greatest of Teachers Who comes bringing light which divides men into those who seek the light and those who remain in darkness; ending with those who remain in darkness and are condemned. And all is exemplified in the Good Samaritan who comes bringing eternal life, life to the dead.
Jesus Sets His Face Towards Jerusalem.
‘And he said to them, “The harvest indeed is plenteous, but the labourers are few, pray you therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he send forth labourers into his harvest.” ’
This is the kind of statement that we might well expect Jesus to continually repeat, especially if He saw it as a kind of commissioning. This latter is easily possible for it occurs at the appointment of the twelve (see Matthew 9:37-38), and now at the appointment here, and is very suitable for a commissioning which has in mind continual expansion. They are not to see their appointment as just for this mission but as permanent and lasting, and as committing them in the long term. It gave them a vision of what would be. They are to see their own going forth as but a prelude to others going forth in larger numbers, something for which they had to pray.
He is thus here urging them to pray for the sending forth of more labourers, to follow up their own work. In a sense it is an amplifying and making practical of the prayer ‘May your Kingly Rule come’ (Luke 11:2) describing how it is to come by many evangelists going out in the name of Jesus. Matthew has it in an earlier context (Matthew 9:37-38) at the time of the call of the twelve. But it was probably the constant burden on Jesus’ heart, repeated whenever men were commissioned to go out (there were probably a number of these evangelistic forays). He was seeking continually to pass on the urgency of its message to His disciples. He wanted them constantly to recognise that there was an abundant harvest waiting to be gathered in, but that there was a shortage of labourers (compare John 4:35-38). And this shortage was so, for He was constantly seeking to recruit more (Luke 9:57-62). But He would only do so if they came up to His standards. In the end it was left in His Father’s hands. It is the first instance we have which indicates that He longed for more evangelists.
He had previously urged this prayer on the early disciples (Matthew 9:37-38) and it had been answered to the extent that there were now seventy. So now He urges the seventy to pray for a further extension in their numbers. They too are to ask ‘the Lord of the harvest’ to send forth more labourers into His harvest. There were so many to be reached and so few to reach them, and He was conscious that the time was short. It was also another way of impressing on them the importance of their task, and the speed that was necessary in its accomplishment.
The reference to the final harvest confirms that He sees these as ‘the last days’. That was when the final harvest was to be gathered in (Isaiah 27:12; Joel 3:13 LXX; Amos 9:13; Hosea 10:12; Matthew 3:10-12; Luke 3:9; Luke 3:16-17; Luke 10:9-15). The theme of spiritual fruitfulness and harvest is a common one in Scripture.
“Go your ways. Behold, I send you forth as lambs in the midst of wolves.”
He sends them out as messengers of peace. They are to be like lambs in the midst of wolves, seeking to bring the wolves into oneness with themselves (Isaiah 11:6; Isaiah 65:25) but recognising that they might be ‘eaten’. There is a recognition here in the mention of wolves of the dangers and tribulations that they will face (compare Ezekiel 22:27; Matthew 7:15; Matthew 10:16; John 10:12; Acts 20:29), including harsh treatment from the synagogues (Luke 21:12; Matthew 10:17; Matthew 23:34; Mark 13:9; John 16:2). But they are be like lambs, not retaliating but being non-belligerent and accepting of what comes to them, in a similar way to the Servant of the Lord (Isaiah 53:7), and recognising that as His lambs God carries them in His arms (Isaiah 40:11). Ancient Jewish tradition (Psalm of Solomon Luke 8:23 /28) also says, ‘The pious of God are like innocent lambs in their midst’ (that is, in the midst of the nations of the earth).
“Carry no purse, no food bag, no shoes, and salute no man on the way.”
They are to go out in haste, trusting fully in God’s provision, and not wasting time on conventional greetings which in those days could be long and time consuming, nor in idle chatter (compare 2 Kings 4:29 for a similar idea). They are to be recognised as King’s Messengers, with their concentration set on reaching out with the Good News. All would thereby recognise the urgency of their mission and the importance of their message. And they are to be seen as having no love of possessions. Men will listen to them and respect them because they are like the prophets before them, and are not seeking for money to fill their purses. Similar restrictions were applied to the Essenes.
‘Carry -- no shoes’ indicates that they are not to carry spares. It is interesting that in the Talmud carrying all these things was also forbidden on the Temple Mount, although there too they could wear sandals. Carrying luggage would distract from the main purpose of their being there.
‘Salute no man on the way.’ It was recognised that a messenger in a hurry would not greet people (compare 2 Kings 4:29), for once he had done so he might be involved in a long delay. Courtesy demanded that the greeting be accompanied by the social niceties which could become extended (consider Judges 19:4-9 where the attitude is exemplified).
“And into whatever house you shall enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ And if a son of peace be there, your peace will rest on him, but if not, it shall turn to you again.”
And whenever they enter a house they are to wish peace on the house. This parallels being like lambs. And if the inhabitant proves to be a person who responds to the offer of peace (a ‘son of peace’), as revealed by his treatment of them and his response to their message, then their peace will rest on him. And if he turns out not to be so then the blessing will be recalled. It will be the same thing as the shaking of the dust off the feet. The suggestion therefore is that God will honour their call for His peace, and the true man and his family will find peace with God, while those who do not welcome them will find no peace. They have rejected the messengers of peace.
‘Peace to you’ was a normal Jewish greeting. But here it becomes more than that. It becomes a spiritual weapon, and gains its significance from the status of those who say it.
“And in that 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.”
Once they have accepted hospitality they are to continue in that same house eating and drinking whatever they are given, accepting it as their hire as the Lord’s labourers, whether it be rich food or poor food. They are not to move from one house to another, enjoying widespread entertainment. For their task is too urgent. And it would be insulting to the host. All their efforts must be expended on their mission, not on seeking self-comfort.
“And into whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you, and heal the sick that are in it, and say to them, The Kingly Rule of God is come near to you.”
And whenever they enter a city and are received in friendly fashion, then they must eat what is set before them. This would be a token of friendship, and identify them with their hosts. Possibly also the idea of this seeming repetition of Luke 10:7 is to add the idea that they are not to be fussy about the ritual ‘cleanness’ of the food. Unless they have reason to think otherwise they may accept it at face value. And as far as possible they must accept the traditions of each city. This would later be applied by Paul to the problem of eating food bought in the open market which might have been sacrificed to idols (1 Corinthians 10:27).
They are also to heal the sick that are there. And at the same time they are to proclaim, “The Kingly Rule of God is come near to you.” That is the reason why they are there. Once more the good tidings will be proclaimed and the Messianic signs given by healing. “The Kingly Rule of God is come near to you” will then prepare the people of the city for the arrival of the King. For Jesus will be following on shortly afterwards in order to introduce and establish the Kingly Rule of God among them.
Indication of the genuineness of these words in context is given by the fact that unusually ‘heal the sick’ comes before the preaching. For these are only preparers of the way. Their healings will reveal that the Kingly Rule of God is here, while their preaching is only preparatory, preparing the way for the full proclamation of Jesus when He comes
“But into whatever city you shall enter, and they receive you not, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust from your city, which cleaves to our feet, we wipe off against you, nevertheless know this, that the Kingly Rule of God is come near.”
After they have made every attempt to evangelise a city or town, if they find themselves ‘not received’ they are to go out into the streets of the city and publicly shake the dust from their feet. (Their non-reception might be revealed among other ways by their being beaten in the synagogue, a treatment meted out to ‘heretics’). This shaking of the dust from the feet was something all pious Jews did on leaving Gentile territory, because such territory was seen as ‘ritually unclean’. Here it would be an indication that that city or town was to be seen as unclean by God. They were thereby cut off from the covenant. They no longer belonged to Israel. They were effectively under a curse. So while Jesus did not approve of immediately bringing down fire on men, He did recognise that they could be committed to the future judgment of God.
At the same time they were to announce to them the reason why they did it. It was because the Kingly Rule of God had approached them, but they had rejected it, and thus God had rejected them. It would thus still give opportunity to any seeking heart to seek them out and receive their message, and enter under the Kingly Rule of God.
Woes On Those Who Will Not Receive the Message of His Disciples (10:10-16).
Inevitably all the wolves will not respond, and we now recognise that Jesus’ message is not only one of mercy but of judgment. His words here are severe. If His disciples are persistently rejected they are to shake the dust of the cities that reject them from their feet. That will be a sign that they are cut off from Israel and that in the coming judgment they will be dealt with by God. For in line with what John said about Him He has come both in Holy Spirit and in fire (Luke 3:16-17). It is a reminder that although in Luke 4:19 He had closed the book after reading of the ‘the Lord’s year of acceptability’, the day of vengeance of God would one day also come (Isaiah 61:2).
a “But into whatever city you shall enter, and they receive you not, go out into its streets and say (Luke 10:10).
b “Even the dust from your city, which cleaves to our feet, we wipe off against you, nevertheless know this, that the Kingly Rule of God is come near” (Luke 10:11).
c I say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city” (Luke 10:12).
d “Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which were done in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes” (Luke 10:13).
c “But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment, than for you” (Luke 10:14).
b “And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades” (Luke 10:15).
a “He who hears you, hears Me; and he who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me, rejects Him who sent Me” (Luke 10:16).
Note that in ‘a’ they do not receive the disciples, while in the parallel by not receiving the disciples, Jesus is not received, and thus they reject the One Who sent Him. In ‘b’ the dust of their feet is wiped off against them, and yet the Kingly Rule of God has come near them, while in the parallel they think themselves exalted to Heaven but they are brought down to the dust, to Hades. In ‘c’ and its parallel are the declarations that it will be more tolerable in the judgment for infamous cities than for them. And centrally in ‘d’ is the declaration of judgment on the cities in question.
“I say to you, it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.”
Once they had done this it would bring that city or town into a position where it would be seen as worse than Sodom in the day of Judgment. For with all its sins Sodom had not rejected the Kingly Rule of God. The Rabbis would claim that the inhabitants of Sodom were so wicked that they would not rise again at the last day, for the fate of the people of Sodom (Genesis 18:16 to Genesis 19:22) had become proverbial (compare Isaiah 1:9-10). How much more doomed then the city which turned its back on the Kingly Rule of God. This does bring out how seriously their message and mission was to be viewed.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which were done in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment, than for you.”
Jesus then extended His words to cover cities and towns that He had already visited. The inhabitants of Chorazin and Bethsaida had had their opportunity. They had seen mighty works multiplied before them. But even then many of them had not turned to God in order to find forgiveness and a new life. They had had no change of heart and mind and will (they had not repented). Yet if Tyre and Sidon, famous for their arrogance against God (Ezekiel 28:0), had seen what they had seen ‘they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes’. And His conclusion is that in the day of Judgment it would be better for Tyre and Sidon than for Chorazin and Bethsaida. The words are powerful and memorable, and a reminder of the seriousness of not responding to the Gospel. They do not in fact make Tyre and Sidon’s position at the judgment any better.
By these words Jesus is emphasising the hardness of heart that there was among many Jews, and suggesting that it was less so among Gentiles, a factor which Luke no doubt expected his readers to gather, and which we will discover fulfilled in Acts. For while the point being made here is by a comparison between two Jewish towns and long past cities famed in Scripture for their failings, and is to that extent exaggerated, it is also significant that Jesus is by it suggesting that these two Gentile cities are now ripe for conversion. It is preparing for the outreach to them in the future, indicated as having taken place in Acts 21:3-6. We note also that Jews from those cities had already been seeking Jesus (Luke 6:17), and it was in the region of Tyre and Sidon that He would heal the Syro-phoenician’s daughter (Mark 7:24-31).
Sackcloth (often made out of goat’s hair) and ashes were worn, or could be sat on, to indicate deep mourning and often therefore genuine repentance from sin (see 1 Kings 20:31-32; 2 Kings 19:1; 1 Chronicles 21:16; Nehemiah 9:1; Esther 4:1-3; Joel 1:13; Amos 8:10).
On the other hand we must recognise that a number of the residents in these two Jewish towns would almost certainly have responded to Jesus and His message, (Philip the Apostle came from Bethsaida - John 1:44; John 12:21) so that His words are to be seen as really addressed to the hardened majority who had clearly proved such a disappointment to Jesus. We actually know very little about His work in these two towns (see Mark 8:22-26), a reminder of the huge amount that we do not know about Jesus’ ministry, and which is also a reminder of how much material was available to Luke that he did not use. His problem was not lack of material but having too much of it (compare John 21:25). Our uncertainty about the archaeological whereabouts of these towns may be seen as demonstrating how completely these judgments were initially carried out, although Chorazin may be the modern site Kerazeh, two miles north east of Tell Hum (which in turn may have been Capernaum). But in the last analysis it is the day of Judgment, after the resurrection, that will find them out (John 5:28-29).
‘Woe to you.’ Some would translate this as ‘alas to you’, a grief-stricken cry from the heart, although it is probably both. But either way God was dooming these cities.
“And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades.”
The same condemnation comes on Capernaum (‘village of Nahum’), the home of Peter and Andrew, which was the most influential town in the area. It would appear that Capernaum in some way saw itself as especially exalted and made great claims for itself. The vivid picture is taken from the description of the fate of the King of Babylon in Isaiah 14:13; Isaiah 14:15 who sought to exalt himself to Heaven, only to be brought crashing down. So Capernaum might exalt itself, but it also would be brought crashing down. Hades is the world of the grave (and therefore down), the world of shadows, but often used to depict the sad state of the wicked dead. That these words would grieve Jesus Himself comes out in that He had begun to look on it as His home town because He had spent so much time there, possibly because His mother had moved there (Matthew 9:1). Capernaum’s judgment would in fact begin at the time of the Galilean rising in around 66 AD, and it would eventually cease to exist altogether in 7th century AD. But the point here is that its final judgment still awaits the day of Judgment, as is true for all who reject the Kingly Rule of God and the message of Jesus. We are not even sure whether we know its genuine site although there is a good probability that it is Tell Hum.
“He who hears you, hears me; and he who rejects you rejects me; and he who rejects me, rejects him who sent me.”
Jesus then finishes off His condemnations by pointing out to His disciples that they are so much His representatives and one with Him that if people hear them it is as if they hear Him (compare Luke 9:48). But if they reject them then it is as if they reject Him, and not only Him, but also the One Who sent Him. For the Father, the Son and the disciples are one in the work. For the idea of Jesus being ‘sent’ see Luke 4:18; Luke 4:43; Luke 9:48. He had a deep sense of being sent by His Father. And they are a part of it. They too are ‘sent’. So they are very much part of God’s own planned outreach to the world, and intimately involved in it.
These disciples were thus to see themselves as ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) and, as such, citizens of Heaven (Philippians 3:20). That is why their names are written in Heaven (Luke 10:20 below).
‘And the seventy two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” ’
The disciples returned rejoicing because they had been able successfully to cast out evil spirits. Perhaps they remembered the time when some of them had failed to do so (Luke 9:40). But now success had attended them continually and they were delighted. They had never dreamed that one day they would have this power. Note that they did it through the name of Jesus. It was to His authority that the evil spirits had responded. This clearly struck them more than other miracles of healing, demonstrating the awe in which such spirit possession was held.
The Seventy (Two) Return (10:17-20).
The return of the disciples, rejoicing in their being able to cast out evil spirits in Jesus’ name, leads on to Jesus confirmation of the defeat of Satan and of the fact that He has given them power over all Satanic forces so that they need not be afraid of them. But He then stresses to them that they should recognise that what really matters is not these passing achievements. What matters is that their names are written in Heaven, that they are citizens under the Kingly Rule of God. That is the greatest privilege of all.
a The seventy two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name (Luke 10:17).
b He said to them, “I beheld Satan fallen as lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18).
b “Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall in any wise hurt you” (Luke 10:19).
a “Nevertheless in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
Note how in ‘a’ they rejoice because the spirits are subject to them, and in the parallel Jesus refers to this but points out that what is more important is that they are citizens of Heaven. In ‘b’ He refers to the defeat of Satan of which he has been a witness, and in the parallel confirms that that defeat renders them secure from all his powers.
‘And He said to them, “I beheld (or ‘I was beholding’) Satan fallen as lightning from heaven.” ’
Jesus replied that it was what they should expect, for He their Master had seen (or ‘was beholding’) Satan fall from Heaven ‘like lightning’. He was a defeated foe. ‘Like lightning’ may refer to the speed at which it happened, it happened in a flash, or to a vivid and symbolic picture of an angel of light (compare 2 Corinthians 11:14) falling into darkness. Lightning more suggests the latter. But the idea is metaphorical, not literal (Satan is never seen, he is a spiritual being).
‘From heaven.’ That is from the heavenly sphere. We are not necessarily to see this literally as a fall from a height, but as a movement from heavenliness to non-heavenliness. he ceased to enjoy the benefits of being ‘heavenly’. As man through sin ‘died’, so Satan through sin lost his heavenliness. He lost his authority, he lost his privileges, he lost his position, he lost the presence of God, he lost what he essentially had been. It was this loss that made spirits seek to possess the bodies of men and women.
It has been suggested that this might refer to:
1) The original fall of Satan, when, in pre-creation times, he fell from His position as an angel attendant on God through pride, which was what has resulted in His opposition to God ever since, an opposition expressed in Genesis 3:0; Job 1-2; Zechariah 3:1-5.
2) Jesus being continually aware of what His disciples were successfully doing and seeing in it symbolically the swift fall and defeat of Satan. As the Kingly Rule of God advances Satan now ‘falls from heaven’. He has no place in the Kingly Rule of God and is thrust outside and must flee before it. This would tie in with Luke 10:19 which depicts the changed status of the disciples.
3) A foreview in vision or spiritual insight, as a result of what was happening now, of the final victory He would gain over him at the cross (Revelation 12:7-9).
If we take the first Jesus is here saying that they need not fear Satan’s power because in the face of Jesus authority as the One Who cast Satan out of Heaven Satan is a defeated foe, a fact to which Jesus Himself can bear witness. This idea naturally arises out of the conversation. As the disciples rejoice in what they have seen of defeated evil spirits Jesus wants them to know that He saw, and was responsible for, an even greater defeat of evil when Satan himself was cast from Heaven. Let them therefore recognise that for them the most important thing is that their names are written in Heaven. Even though He has given them amazing powers and abilities nothing is more important than that.
If we take the second it is Jesus rejoicing with them over the defeat of Satan as He has witnessed it in their activities, in the same way as he has also already been defeated in Jesus’ own activities since His coming. He is on the run.
But essentially the New Testament sees the defeat of Satan as finally accomplished at the cross (Colossians 2:15; Revelation 12:7-9). And the reason that they are able to defeat him now, even before the cross, is because they are ambassadors of the One Whose authority is above that of Satan because of Who He is. Thus when they act in His name the forces of darkness will be defeated, for He is the One Whom all evil spirits must obey because He is Lord of all. Something on which the cross will put the final seal.
(So the idea is that Satan is to be seen as already defeated, whatever his part in world history. We are not therefore intended to see him as able to fight God. God is over all, and Satan, whether he likes it or not, must do His will. And his end is certain. But it is a reminder that when he fell God did not destroy him, any more than he destroyed man when he fell. He has allowed him to operate within the created sphere, although held on a tight rein).
“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will in any way hurt you.”
The result of Satan’s fall, whether seen as actually having happened or as potential, is that those who are in the Kingly Rule of God have authority over all his minions who can be trodden underfoot, for Jesus has given His ambassadors authority over them. And this is what they have been engaged in. There is here a glance towards Genesis 3:15 where the curse on the Serpent was to result in the bruising of his head by man as he himself struck at man’s heel. This bruising was now in process (and would continue - Romans 16:20) . The evil spirits which are symbolised as serpents and scorpions can do no harm to those sheltered under the authority of Jesus who can tread on them with impunity. Even their heels are not vulnerable. They will find this guaranteed by the fact that physical serpents and scorpions will be unable to hurt them as well (compare Mark 16:18), but this last is secondary, it is but a symbol of the real thing. For the idea of treading on serpents compare Psalms 91:13. Because they are within God’s Kingly Rule serpents have become their plaything (Isaiah 11:8).
‘The power (dunamis) of the Enemy.’ That is, the power of Satan and all the forces of evil. Though they may have to battle with him (Ephesians 6:12) those who are truly in Christ need fear nothing of him, for Christ is with them. While Satan has may have a certain ‘power’ (dunamis) Jesus has total authority over him (exousia), and He has given it to His own.
“Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
However, while they may rejoice in the spirits being subject to them they should not make this the main reason for their rejoicing, for it is theirs because of something in which they should rejoice even more. And that is that they belong to Him and are therefore citizens of Heaven, with their names written in the citizenship roll of Heaven. They are recognised citizens under the Kingly Rule of God. That is why as His heavenly ambassadors they been able to defeat Satan. We may see this citizenship roll as the equivalent of the Lamb’s book of life where the names of His own are written from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:27; Philippians 4:3). It contains the names of all who are His.
Jesus was aware of the danger of their seeing power over evil spirits as too important. It could become their fetish. They must rather see it in its place as a secondary result of what they are in Him. Primary must always be their relationship with and knowledge of Him which has resulted in them being heavenly citizens. They should thus primarily rejoice because they are men of the Spirit (John 3:1-6). As He will go on to point out, their ability to cast out evil spirits in His name, comes from their knowledge of Him in their inward hearts. Were they to lose that the spirits would no longer be subject to them
‘In that same hour he rejoiced (‘was thrilled with joy”) in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I thank you, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you hid these things from the wise and understanding, and revealed them to babes. Yes, Father, for so it was well-pleasing in your sight.” ’
‘In that same hour.’ This closely connects what follows with what has gone before. It is important that His disciples have their hearts and minds centred on what is of primary importance, and not be taken up with the idea of the casting out of evil spirits. God Himself must always take precedence over His work (compare Luke 10:42).
‘Rejoiced in Spirit.’ Note in the passage the build up of joy. The disciples returned with joy. They are rather to rejoice that their names are written in heaven. Now comes fullness of joy in that God has revealed Himself to His own.
We learn here first of all that Jesus is still ‘full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1), for He ‘rejoices’ (is ‘thrilled with joy’) as a result of the Holy Spirit at work within Him. And through the same Holy Spirit He thanks His Father, Who is Lord of heaven and earth, because it has pleased Him, while hiding ‘these things’ from the wise and understanding, to reveal it to those who are babes in wisdom and understanding. ‘These things’ include the authority and power of Jesus over evil spirits by virtue of Who He is. The disciples could do what they did because within their hearts, even if not fully in their heads, they knew Who Jesus really is. Thus the Father has given them a revelation of Who and What the Son is. And He has done it because it was pleasing in His sight. It is of His sovereign will, and not of their deserving. Thus we have here confirmation that, although they may not have been able to put it into words, they are within them aware of the full divinity of Jesus.
‘He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit.’ This is indicating in Jesus’ unique case what was previously expressed in terms of ‘being filled with the Holy Spirit’. But because He is continually full of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1) this filling is ever within Him, thus when prophesying He rejoices and exults in the Holy Spirit Who is continually within Him in full measure, rather than receiving a filling. He is unique. The Holy Spirit is not given to Him by measure (John 3:34). He continually enjoys His total fullness. These words that follow are then specifically to be seen as ‘prophecy’, the forthtelling of what comes from God in inspired form, similar to the prophecy we saw in chapters 1 & 2, but this time through a perfect channel.
‘You hid these things from the wise and understanding, and revealed them to babes.’ In Psalms 8:2 we read, ‘Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings you have established strength.’ Jesus may well have had these words in mind in the form in which He cited it in Matthew 21:16, replacing ‘strength’ with ‘praise’. The babes praise because they are given the understanding that others lack, compare Luke 18:16-17, and thereby are made strong for God.
For the whole principle of comparison between the weak and the strong in God’s purposes see 1 Corinthians 1:18-20; 1 Corinthians 1:26-29. The wise and understanding from whom such things are hidden include the chief priests, the Scribes and the Pharisees. And even past kings and prophets did not know them because they had not yet been revealed (Luke 10:24).
Jesus Rejoices Over The Fact That His Father Has Revealed The Spiritual Truth Of Who He Is To His Disciples (10:21-24).
As a result of His disciples’ victory over the forces of Satan through the authority of His name, Jesus rejoices in what it is clear that His Father has revealed to them, otherwise they could not have done it. And what has been revealed is Who and What He is as ‘the Son’. They are entering into the truth of Who He is. This recognition of Jesus as the only and true Son of God is the sign by which all His own can be recognised (1 John 5:13). For this distinctive description of Jesus as ‘the Son’ compare Mark 13:32 and regularly in John. In the same way He reveals to them Who and What the Father is. The Father and the Son are by this separated off from the remainder of reality. They are unique and in a unique relationship.
Note the prayer to ‘Father’. This is partial preparation for the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:1-4) which will shortly follow. Yet it is expressed in a slightly different way (with the article) reminding us that Jesus’ relationship with the Father is distinctive. He speaks as ‘the Son’ to ‘the Father’.
a In that same hour He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I thank you, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you hid these things from the wise and understanding” (Luke 10:21 a).
b “And revealed them to babes” (Luke 10:21 b).
c “Yes, Father, for so it was well-pleasing in Your sight” (Luke 10:21 c).
d “All things have been delivered to Me of my Father, and no one knows Who the Son is, save the Father, and who the Father is, save the Son” (Luke 10:22 a).
c “And he to whoever the Son wills to reveal Him” (Luke 10:22 b).
b ‘And turning to the disciples, he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things that you see” (Luke 10:23).
a “For I say to you, that many prophets and kings desired to see the things which you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and did not hear them” (Luke 10:24).
Note that in ‘a’ the things are hidden from the wise and understanding, and in the parallel they are hidden from prophets and kings. In ‘b’ they are revealed to babes, and in the parallel the disciples are blessed because they see them. In ‘c’ this is the Father’s good pleasure and in the parallel it is the Son’s will. And central to all is the great truth so revealed, the mutual self-knowledge of Father and Son.
It should be noted that this chiastic format indicates that this saying is a unity, spoken by Jesus at one time, even though Matthew has split it to suit his literary purposes. Luke has simply introduced into it ‘and turning to the disciples, He said privately’ in order to emphasise that the last words were only intended to apply to them.
“All things have been delivered to me of my Father, and no one knows who the Son is, save the Father, and who the Father is, save the Son, and he to whoever the Son wills to reveal him.”
In His prayer/prophecy He now reveals that the Father has put all things in His hands, including full knowledge about Himself, so that He can communicate it to others in as far as they can receive it. All things absolutely have been delivered to Him, that is transferred to Him for Him to apply (compare the use in Matthew 28:18). This can only be because He is Himself God, for none but God could know and transfer the fullness of the knowledge of God. This includes what the Father knows about the Son, about His very being, as well as what the Son knows about the Father, and about His very being. Note how this is based on the argument that a natural father and son can fully know each other in ways that no other can. That is because there is a unique affinity between them because they are ‘of one blood’. Because they are uniquely of the same stock they have a knowledge of each other that no other can share. In the same way the Father and the Son are ‘of one spirit’. They have a unique relationship that no other can share, apart from the Holy Spirit. They are the divine threeness in unity, of the same nature and essence. So the full knowledge of the situation of what each is within the Godhead is available to Him for Him to deliver to His disciples. But He has been able to reveal it to His disciples because the Father has been pleased to do so. The revelation has therefore come to them from both Father and Son.
Note that the Father’s knowledge of the Son is equated with the Son’s knowledge of the Father. That Jesus had the same knowledge of the Father that the Father had of Him puts Him at the same level of omniscience as the Father. Such a conclusion is unavoidable. There is therefore here a full revelation of His Godhead. But also, on top of that, there is the confirmation that it is known to His disciples, even if they cannot put it into words.
So in His relationship with His Father Jesus has a knowledge greater than that of the fathers, greater than of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, than of Moses and the prophets. He has a direct source of knowledge, even though it is also partly communicated through the Scriptures.
, ‘All things have been delivered into My hand.’ Compare here John 3:35. ‘The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand.’ There it includes the Spirit Who is not given to Him by measure, and the very words of God, and the result is that He offers eternal life, life under the Kingly Rule of God, to those who believe in Him. In this passage also He has the Holy Spirit in Whom He rejoices, and the knowledge of His Father which He can pass on to His own.
‘And turning to the disciples, he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things that you see,” ’
Recognising this He turns to His disciples from His exalted state in the Spirit and says privately, “Your eyes are blessed at seeing what you have seen.” For they have seen in Jesus in their inner hearts the coming of the mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), God’s beloved Son (Luke 3:22; Luke 9:35), His chosen One (Luke 9:35), in Whom He is well pleased (Luke 3:22).
“For I say to you, that many prophets and kings desired to see the things which you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and did not hear them.”
This was something that many wise men of understanding, many prophets and kings, have desired to see, and have not seen it, have desired to hear and have not heard it (compare 1 Peter 1:10-12; Isaiah 52:15). They saw it in part but they could not know. But they, the disciples, have heard it and seen it and are therefore truly blessed. This is therefore what they should primarily rejoice in. Note the introduction of the idea of ‘hearing’. Hearing His words is constantly central in Jesus thinking. Having ‘seen’ Him as the beloved Son they must hear Him in His role as the introducer of the last days, of the acceptable year of the Lord (Luke 4:19), as the revealer of the mind of God.
‘And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and made trial of him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” ’
A Scribe approaches Jesus to ‘test Him out’. This may signify an attempt to make Him make a false move, or it may be a sign of genuine interest and a desire to discover His calibre. His question goes right to the heart of Pharisaic thinking. One of their main aims was to discover how they could receive eternal life. They believed that if only they could fully fulfil the covenant then they would receive it. That was what all their regulations and rule were aimed at. Seeking to ensure full compliance with the covenant of Moses so as to seal their place as the people of God. Possibly he expected Jesus to repudiate Moses, or possibly he had a genuine problem that he hoped would be resolved.
‘Inherit eternal life.’ Canaan had been Israel’s inheritance. But now that inheritance is replaced by ‘eternal life’, the life of the age to come, life under the Kingly Rule of God. That now was what all Israel sought for.
The Testing of Jesus And the Parable of the Good Samaritan (10:25-37).
We should note that this passage, and the parable it contains, follows directly on the idea of the previous self-revelation of Jesus. It gives us the clue that within it Jesus is revealing more of Himself. And this is confirmed by the fact that it is itself followed by a further three examples of where seemingly simple stories bring out great spiritual truth. That confirms that this is thus to be seen as a section containing revelation about the work of God in bringing great spiritual blessing, for here we see that the physical food provided by Martha (Luke 10:38-42), the daily bread of the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:1-4), and the pleading for the food at midnight (Luke 11:5-8) are all symbolic of the reception of greater spiritual blessing, namely, Mary receiving ‘the good part’ (Luke 10:42), the seeking of ‘Tomorrow’s bread’ (Luke 11:3), and the asking for and receiving of the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:9-13). In conformity with this therefore we should expect to see, and should look for, some deeper truth underlying this passage also. This also is a parable with a dual significance.
The self-revealing of Jesus and full appreciation of the Father now leads on to His revealing something of His Father to ‘a certain lawyer (one of Luke’s words for a Scribe/Rabbi) in the parable that follows. The lawyer is said to be ‘making trial of Him’. This has in mind that Jesus will shortly be teaching His disciples to pray, ‘do not bring us into trial’ (Luke 11:4). Yet trial is always present for those who serve God.
But the Scribe here receives far more than he is expecting. He is not only to receive an important lesson on who his neighbour is, but he is also to be given an overall picture of what Jesus has come to do for those who are His. The parable that follows will also be an example of one who forgives others, not holding their sins against them, and provides daily bread, thus relating it to the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:4).
However, central to the whole thought here is of knowing and loving God, and as a result their neighbour. And the story that follows not only reveals who our neighbour is, but it also reveals a man whose life revealed his love of God, and what the love of God will supply to His needy people, thus providing the reason as to why we should love Him. For the overall search behind this passage is not just for an understanding of who our neighbour is, important though that may be. It is a search for eternal life, and how this may be enjoyed.
The placement of this parable is very important, for at first it seems almost out of place, and that in a writing where the writer places everything consummately. But a second glance reveals the very opposite. The growth of the proclamation of the Rule of God has been described, together with the defeat of the one who held men in his sway (which is then dealt with in depth in Luke 11:14-26), a defeat which in itself reveals that the Kingly Rule of God is here (the deliverance of the captives, and the release of those who are oppressed). Now that is revealed in a man who exemplifies what it is for a man to love God with all his heart and his neighbour as himself. To the poor broken man attacked by robbers (Isaiah 42:24), despised by the Temple, comes an unorthodox heretic (the main idea in the minds of Jews about Samaritans) from the north, who brings him life and good things, and will provide for his full restoration when he comes again. In context it is difficult not to see in this that Luke intends us to see the coming of the Son of Man, the Prophet from the north, to defeat Satan and release his victims (Luke 11:14-26), setting aside the Temple, and bringing light in the darkness (Luke 11:27-36) and delivering from the power of Satan to God (Acts 26:18 for the whole)
The passage may be analysed as follows:
A certain lawyer stood up and made trial of him, saying, Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 10:25).
· He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” (Luke 10:26).
· He answering said, “You shall 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 your neighbour as yourself” (Luke 10:27).
· He said to him, “You have answered right, this do, and you shall live” (Luke 10:28).
· But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” (Luke 10:29).
· Jesus made answer and said, “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead” (Luke 10:30).
· “By chance a certain priest was going down that way, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side” (Luke 10:31).
· “And in like manner a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side” (Luke 10:32).
· “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was, and when he saw him, he was moved with compassion” (Luke 10:33).
· “And came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on them oil and wine. And he set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him” (Luke 10:34).
· “And on the morrow he took out two denarii, and gave them to the host, and said, ‘Take care of him, and whatever you spend more, I, when I come back again, will repay you.’ ” (Luke 10:35).
· “Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbour to him who fell among the robbers?” (Luke 10:36).
· And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” And Jesus said to him, Go, and behave in the same way.” (Luke 10:37).
We note that in ‘a’ the question is what he shall ‘do’ to inherit eternal life, and the reply in the parallel is ‘show mercy’ in the same way as mercy has been shown (to him). In ‘b’ Jesus asks him a question, and in the parallel He does the same. In ‘c’ he answers that he is to love God with all that he is and has, and his neighbour as himself, and in the parallel the Samaritan shows love to his neighbour with all that he is and has. In ‘d’ he is told that if he does what he has outlined he will find life, and in the parallel the Samaritan restores life to the dying man (a picture of Jesus restoring life to Israel). In ‘e’ his question is ‘who is my neighbour?’ and in the parallel the reply is a description of the ‘neighbourly’ Samaritan. In ‘f’ the man is robbed and left half dead and in the parallel we have the Levite passing by on the other side. And central to the passage in ‘g’ is the fact that the priest also passes him by on the other side, presumably because he wants to avoid defilement, an indication of the Temple failing to provide mercy. The fact that this last is central confirms that Jesus sees in His parable a description of Israel like a half dead man, robbed by its foreign rulers, and despised by its priests and their hangers on, waiting for a ‘foreigner’ from unorthodox Galilee to come to its rescue. (Note that elsewhere Jesus can be described by people like the questioner as ‘a Samaritan’ (John 8:48). The name was used of those seen as heretics, outcasts or breakers of the Law).
‘And he said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” ’
In dealing with his question Jesus followed a favourite technique of the Rabbis and replied with a question. He asked him what he thought the Instruction (Law - Torah) of Moses taught on the matter. Note His emphasis on ‘written’. He is not thinking of the traditions of the elders but of the Scriptures, and particularly the Law of Moses. He is pointing to that as the sole arbiter of religious response and behaviour.
‘And he answering said, “You shall 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 your neighbour as yourself.” ’
The reply of the Scribe possibly mirrors a standard reply on the subject which was prevalent in Judaism, although we have no actual evidence of the use of the latter part in this way prior to the time of Jesus unless the relevant parts of the Testaments to the Patriarchs are to be seen as this early. But it is equally possible that he may have heard Jesus give this same reply to similar questioners (see Mark 12:30; Matthew 22:37, and compare Luke 18:18) and cites back His own words. In that regard it was probably Jesus standard reply on the question of the meaning of, and response to, the Law, and one given by Him many times. The text cited comes from an unknown version, and differs from citations in Mark and Matthew. Those are, however, made on different occasions. Here it may, however, simply be a translation of the words of Luke’s source.
The Scribe points first to the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:5), which was repeated twice daily by every pious orthodox Jew, and was borne by many on the forehead in a leather pouch at the hour of prayer, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind.” That was seen to be at the heart of the Law. Then he pointed to Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” If the latter was not seen as a recognised reply for one of the reasons suggested above he may have introduced it in order to lead up to his next question. But the probability was that it was a standard reply and that his real test was to be as to how Jesus would define one’s neighbour. Would He restrict it to those who ‘lived rightly’ among the Jews or would He include some of the outcasts and sinners that He was prone to mix with? His concentration was all on who was to be seen as his neighbour. Perhaps in his self-satisfaction he had convinced himself that his love for God was demonstrated by his life.
‘And he said to him, “You have answered right, this do, and you shall live.” ’
Jesus replies that his answer is correct and (in context) that if he does this he will find eternal life. At first this might seem as though Jesus is saying that ‘all he has to do is to do this and he will merit going to Heaven’, but that is not what He is saying at all. For two reasons. Firstly because both He and His questioner are aware of the impossibility of fulfilling these requirements (for all but Jesus). This was indeed what the more genuine Pharisees did strive after and had failed to achieve (compare Romans 9:31; Romans 10:3), and that is why in their striving for its achievement they had turned them into a nightmare of regulations and a continual quest for ritual purity. By doing so they had lost sight of the emphasis on love and compassion, as Jesus had to point out to them again and again (Luke 11:42; Matthew 9:13). If anyone did, they needed deliverance.
And secondly the Scribe’s answer is correct because it is a true summary of the Christian life. One who loves God and his neighbour like this will only be able to do so because he knows God (see Luke 10:22), and because he has responded to Him in loving faith. It is this knowledge of God in his heart (resulting from coming to Jesus) that will result in such a love for God. This is in fact Paul’s point in Romans 9:30-32. True faith which responds to God and finds forgiveness and eternal life will produce love (compare here Luke 7:36-50), and that love should then grow until it conforms to what is described here. To do this then will certainly reveal that a man has eternal life, because it will reveal the work of God that has taken place in his heart (Luke 11:13). But it did not solve the Scribe’s problem, for the question still arose, ‘but how can I do this?’.
Jesus’ words were true, and perfectly orthodox. No Jew could have denied them. The Scribe could not fault Jesus on this. However, how to achieve them was another question. For who could possibly show the perfect love for God that was required, and how could it be brought about?
‘But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” ’
But the Scribe wanted to justify his coming to Jesus so he asked a crunch question, “And who is my neighbour?” ’ He quite possibly saw this as a prelude to a long discussion, and even as a means of tripping Jesus up. If Jesus gave the same reply as a Pharisee, all the ‘sinners’ who followed Him would be dismayed, if he gave any other reply He would be opening Himself to attack..
There was once a philosopher called Socrates. When his opponents attacked him he would ask them questions and when they answered he would show up their folly. By common agreement he had a brilliant mind. But in point of fact much of what he said was simply common sense which any student could agree with him about. The difference however between Socrates and others was, and this was what made him stand out from everyone else, that no one had thought about it that way until he did. With his simple questions he showed up man’s folly. That is why he is famous.
The same is even more true of Jesus, and nowhere more so than here. Here He was facing a man who was strong and firm in his own beliefs, bigoted, present there with Jesus probably in order to criticise whatever He said and prepared to attack Him on it, and who despised sinners (those who failed to follow the Pharisaic rules of cleanliness) and outcasts, and even more hated and despised Samaritans and Gentiles. He probably wanted either to have his own view confirmed, or to debate the question as to whether marginally some few among the ‘sinners’ might be included in a widening of his idea of a neighbour, or to show Jesus up totally in the eyes of His listeners. What then do you think will be the chance of him saying within two minutes of Jesus beginning to speak that a Samaritan could be his neighbour? That would be impossible. It would require genius.
It should be noted here that we should not just look at Jesus’ reply and see it as an illustration from which to draw a conclusion (although it is that). Nor is it simply a varying of the question. Looked at from the point of the crowd it contains a direct reply. The man had asked ‘who is my neighbour?’ and Jesus answers his question by getting the man himself to say publicly that the Samaritan was neighbour to the Jew, and necessarily therefore to all Jews, and therefore also to him. That was a major reason for it. His aim was to get this proud Scribe to admit in words that a Samaritan could be his neighbour in front of the whole crowd. And it succeeded. Jesus did not just leave him to think about it theoretically. He actually got him to say it. Now some scholars may not recognise the fact that the Scribe had been made to say that the Samaritan was his neighbour, but the Scribe certainly knew it, as his reluctant reply reveals, and so did the amazed crowd. And then some scholars try to say that the story does not fit the context!
I have had some considerable experience of taking questions from hostile sceptics at Speaker’s Corner in London, and had I been faced with this question before Jesus was I would probably have presented a huge number of arguments, all of which would have been dismissed, and we would have finished up with both holding the same opinion as before. Yet in two minutes Jesus left that man admitting in words, and totally unable to get away from the fact, that all his previous conceptions had been completely wrong. If that is not answering the question I do not know what is. The early church would never have come within a hundred miles of thinking of an answer like this. As in the case of the replies of Socrates, it required genius.
But there seems little doubt that as we consider the well known story we may also be expected to draw from it other conclusions which Jesus included in it, such as that it shows us, as it showed the Scribe, how we too should behave, ‘go and do the same’. This was his second lesson. But do not see it lightly. Jesus is not just saying, ‘Go and do good’, He is saying, ‘Go and make sure that your whole attitude towards life ,and towards sinners, and towards foreigners, and towards the battered of Israel, is different from now on’. The man was facing a revolution in his life.
And we should also note that as well as accomplishing this, Jesus’ words did also illustrate for all time the requirement for inter-racial and inter-religious tolerance and compassion from us all, not by forsaking what we believe, but by holding it firmly and yet showing love to all.
But, and herein was the further genius of Jesus, we can see even more from this parable, for it is based solidly on Old Testament references which referred to God’s intentions for His people, and its context reveals that that is how we are to apply it. The Good Samaritan was the fulfiller of the Lord’s Prayer. For here is a picture of Israel in its need, as bruised and battered by robbers (Isaiah 42:24), and of how its need could be met (the Samaritan is clearly deliberately contrasted with orthodox religion). ‘Who gave up Jacob to the spoiler, and Israel to the robbers? Was it not the Lord against Whom we have sinned, in whose ways they would not walk, and whose law they would not obey?’
So in line with His other parables it contains messages below the surface, and He left its lesson to be gathered by those who would see it. But any discerning listener knowledgeable in the Scriptures would soon recognise what it was saying. For this Jew in question clearly stood as a representative of his people as being battered and bruised by robbers (Isaiah 42:24). The priest and the Levite clearly represented the hierarchy and teachers of Israel who could not and would not meet the man’s need, and the foreign stranger, the ‘Samaritan’, represents the unorthodox religious ‘outcast’ who yet was faithful to God’s Law, and especially represents the prophet from out of the way, unorthodox ‘Galilee of the Gentiles’ (see below) Who had come to seek and to save those who were lost. In the end He represented the Great Physician Who had come to save the sick (Luke 5:31), the Provider of ‘daily provision’. The One Whom the Judaisers called ‘the Samaritan’ (John 8:48).
And even further to this Luke no doubt hoped that his readers would gain another lesson from it, and that was that all those ‘foreigners’ who truly responded to God could become members of the new Israel, and be welcomed as such by Jesus.
‘Jesus made answer and said, “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead.”
The picture would be a familiar one to all Jews. There was always a possibility when travelling the mountain roads of Palestine of meeting robbers and bandits, and it was especially so on this road, as it twisted and turned through rocky mountainous country, surrounded on all sides by bandit hide-outs, which descended rapidly to Jericho and provided many good places of ambush. And many a Jew had been found lying in this mountain road, either dead or dying, stripped of all his possessions. Foolish or impoverished was the man who walked it alone. And it is a vivid picture of Israel who had also been stripped bare by robbers. Isaiah could ask the question, “Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? Did not the Lord, He against whom we have sinned? For they would not walk in His ways, neither were they obedient to His Law” (Isaiah 42:24). And Jeremiah could add that even God’s Temple itself had become ‘a den of robbers’ (Jeremiah 7:11). Being made a spoil and being robbed very much pointed to Israel.
“And by chance a certain priest was going down that way, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.”
As we see above this verse is central to the chiasmus indicating its central importance. It is thus to be seen as of prime significance in the passage. In the first place it was an example of total lack of compassion and of pure self-interest. The priest saw the half-dead man lying there (note the deliberate connection with the idea of death) and passed by on the other side. And this a priest who served in the house of the Lord, who taught the Law, and who was called on by the Law to love his neighbour as himself including ‘strangers’. But Jesus probably intended us to see more than that. And that is that one reason that the priest passed by on the other side was because he was going up to the Temple to worship, and he thus did not want to be rendered unclean by tending one who was on the way to becoming a dead carcase. He saw his religious purity as more important to him than the man’s need and persuaded himself that he was justified in leaving the man lying there because of the importance of his ritual duties. For it was clear to him that if the man was not already dead, he soon would be. And if he were to touch him he would then be unable to minister in the Temple. This is why he passed by ‘on the other side’. Ritual was to him more important than compassion and a human life.
And again there is in this the lesson that the whole priesthood of Israel had failed Israel, and that that was why Israel was like the victim of robbers. Their concentration on ritual had overridden their ideas of compassion and mercy. Indeed they themselves had become servants in a den of robbers. When it came to the need of Israel, they thus passed by ‘on the other side’.
‘By chance.’ The expression shows that Jesus had no problem with speaking of ‘chance’, that is of random uncontrolled happenings.
“And in the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side.”
The lesson is doubly rammed home by then speaking of a Levite who did the same thing, for the same reason. Levites were cultic officials and served in the Temple as ‘servants’ to the priests. They too would not want to become ‘unclean’. This is therefore a doubly-emphasised witness to the failure of the servants of the Temple. And the fact that Jesus included only Temple servants as illustrations suggests that He wanted to emphasise the lesson of the corruption of the Temple and those who served in it, and prevents us from seeing this as just a story with one simple point, although it is true that a large number of the officials working in the Temple did in fact live in Jericho. We should remember that in the not too distant future He will call that Temple also ‘a den of robbers’ (Luke 19:46).
“But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was, and when he saw him, he was moved with compassion,”
When Jesus introduced a Samaritan into the story (possibly the Scribe was expecting a Pharisee next) he must have stiffened. He probably did not like the way this story was going. But gritting his teeth he listened on. And Jesus told how the Samaritan as he journeyed, came where the man was and when he saw him was moved with compassion. Note the emphasis on compassion. It was precisely that that Jesus constantly accused the Jewish authorities and teachers of lacking (Matthew 12:7). But this man had compassion, even though he was a Samaritan, (and the fact that he was so is emphasised in the Greek).
(Now to be fair we must acknowledge that this man was an unusual Samaritan. Most Samaritans would have spat as they passed by and have thought that it was a good thing that there was one less Jew. But in all races and religions there are men of compassion, and here was one of them).
It is difficult to see how in one word Jesus could have found a better description of Himself than a Samaritan. It was the jibe thrown at Him by the Judaisers which they saw as an accepted description among them (Luke 8:48). Samaritans also believed firmly in the Law of God, and a Samaritan would have agreed with the need to keep Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. Yet like Him they were seen as unorthodox. But that was a thought at the back of the parable to be considered later by those who had eyes to see. To this Pharisee the man described was a literal Samaritan.
“And came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on them oil and wine, and he set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.”
And the Samaritan took up the man and bound up his wounds, and treated them as best he could with what he had available, with oil and wine. These two items are both well attested as being used for healing purposes. And then he put him on his own ass and bore him to a wayside inn and took care of him.
The picture is all one of someone who is revealing the love of God and a heart full of compassion. And that is certainly how we should first see it, and as the Pharisee saw it. But behind the picture lies the description of the One Who was all compassion, and had Himself come out of compassion in order spiritually to do this very thing.
‘He came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on them oil and wine.’ He sued what mean he had to hand. But we may note that abundance of oil and wine is very much to be an indication of the last days (Joel 2:19; Joel 2:24). So this one who had come pouring in oil and wine is a symbol of the ‘the last days’. The days of the Messiah are in mind here.
There are also points of contact between this aspect of the story and 2 Chronicles 28:15. There members of the Northern kingdom of Israel (Samaria and Galilee) returned men who had been taken captive to Judah, providing them with food and drink, anointing them with oil, and bearing them on their asses. There too ‘the people of God’ had been cared for by unorthodox people from the north, from Samaria and Galilee. Thus Jesus may well have expected the Scribe and His other listeners, once they considered His words more deeply, to make the connection and see that the Samaritan represented the northern kingdom of Israel including Galilee, and was therefore a picture of the unorthodox, rejected, Prophet of Galilee introducing ‘the last days’.
Here then was a picture for all to consider of the One Who had come as a physician for sick Israel (Luke 5:31) in order to make them spiritually whole and provide them with oil and wine.
“And on the morrow he took out two denarii, and gave them to the host, and said, ‘Take care of him, and whatever you spend more, I, when I come back again, will repay you.’ ”
In the chiasmus this verse parallels, ‘You shall love God with all your heart --- and your neighbour as yourself’. Nothing could be greater revelation of that than this love that the Samaritan showed for the Jew. He not only paid his costs at the inn for at least a month, but guaranteed payment for any future costs, and it was all of grace, with no thought of compensation, a fitting picture of God’s love offered to Israel through Jesus Christ.
We should note here that this illustration of offering care is then in context followed by one of Mary choosing spiritual food from the Lord rather than literal food, by the Lord’s prayer where the bread sought is probably ‘Tomorrow’s bread’ (the bread of life) rather than just literal daily bread, and by an illustration where the neighbour seeking food at night turns out to be a picture of seeking the Holy Spirit. The idea behind all these passages is thus seen as to bring out the search for spiritual truth. Here then is a picture of One Who cares for His own and provides to him what is needful, and the picture of one who receives this blessing.
“Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbour to him who fell among the robbers?”
And then having revealed the extreme generosity and compassion of the Samaritan Jesus asked the crunch question. “Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbour to him who fell among the robbers?” Notice His tact. He knows that the Scribe is going to find the next few moments difficult. So He does not say, ‘who then is your neighbour on the basis of this story?’, He says ‘who was neighbour to him who fell among robbers?’ It will make the reply a little easier. But they are both really the same question, and the answer will be the same.
Had He suggested to the Scribe two minutes earlier that he would admit to a Samaritan being his neighbour he would no doubt have looked at Him as though He was mad, and probably written Jesus off as weirdo, and have stalked off without more ado bristling with indignation. Now he could only look at Him in dismay while his own senses were reeling. The whole of his past rebelled against the answer that he knew that he was expected to give. And even then he could not bring himself to say ‘the Samaritan’.
And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” And Jesus said to him, Go, and behave in the same way.”
So he salvaged some pride by saying, “He who showed mercy on him.” If we think that was easy for him to say that we do not know human beings. By that he had admitted that a Samaritan could be his neighbour, and that took some doing. True it was a Samaritan of compassion and mercy but that was not the point. The point was that this proud Jewish Scribe had had to admit to a Samaritan being his neighbour. For if he was neighbour to one Jew he was neighbour to all Jews. Even the Scribe would recognise that. In two minutes Jesus had swept away all his religious arguments and all his racial arguments and had consigned them to the dust. Only genius could have accomplished that.
Then Jesus turned to him and said, “‘You go and behave in the same way.” How? By treating men of all religions and races who were in need in the same way, that is as his neighbours. By acknowledging that all good men were his neighbours. By putting aside years of pride and prejudice and becoming a different man. He was demanding a life changing experience
Jesus left the deeper meaning of the story to be thought about by all who heard it. It had not only answered the question as to who his neighbour was, but it had answered his deeper question, how were men to obtain eternal life. For it had shown how men could inherit eternal life by recognising in the Good Samaritan a picture of the One Who came from Galilee seeking and saving the lost, and by putting themselves in His care.
‘Now as they went on their way, he entered into a certain village, and a certain woman named Martha received him.’
The certain village is almost certainly Bethany, which was less than two miles (three kilometres) from Jerusalem (John 11:18; John 12:1-3), but Luke deliberately avoids mentioning it so as not to disturb the sequence of the theological ‘journey to Jerusalem’. Here lived Jesus’ friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus. And here He, and probably His disciples, was received into her house by Martha, certainly for a meal and possibly to stay. Note the stress on the fact that Martha ‘received Him’. Luke does not want her seen as anything but responsive to Jesus. She was delighted to see Him. (‘Into her house’ is a probably a copyist’s comment)
At Home With Martha and Mary (10:38-42).
As Luke is building up to the eventual giving of the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:1-4) we have seen how He has prepared for ‘Father’ (Luke 10:21-22; Luke 11:11-13), and ‘Hallowed be your name, your Kingly Rule come’ (Luke 9:52 to Luke 10:20). He has also given an example of a man who had forgiven the one who had trespassed against him. We now have the first of two passages which cover, ‘give us today tomorrow’s bread’. In this first passage Jesus is provided with His daily bread by Martha, but He speaks also of how much more important it is for someone to obtain Tomorrow’s bread, the bread of the Kingly Rule of God, through His words, which was what Mary did. ‘Mary has chosen the better part which shall not be taken away from her’.
There is a further contrast here which connects with Luke 10:27. Martha exemplifies loving one’s neighbour, but Mary exemplifies one who loves her Lord with heart, soul, mind and strength. Both are required and must not compete with each other.
It is noteworthy that Jesus’ name is not mentioned in this passage, when in view of the friendly atmosphere we might have expected it, reference being made to Him continually as ‘the Lord’. But He is always ‘the Lord’ to Martha and Mary. Compare John 11:3; John 11:21; John 11:27; John 11:32; John 11:39. This distinctive feature may suggest that Luke obtained these details from Martha and Mary and has carefully recorded it as it was told to him.
The placing of this account, emphasising spiritual food in contrast with literal food, and following the parable of the Good Samaritan, must be seen as bringing out that the Good Samaritan brought more than just food and comfort to the wounded man, he brought light and salvation.
a As they went on their way, He entered into a certain village, and a certain woman named Martha received Him (Luke 10:38).
b She had a sister called Mary, who also sat at the Lord’s feet, and heard His word (Luke 10:39).
c But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she came up to Him, and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me” (Luke 10:40).
b But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41).
a “But one thing is needful, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42).
We note that in ‘a’ Martha received Him, and in the parallel Mary receives His word into her heart. In ‘b’ Mary sits at the feet of Jesus and in the parallel Martha is anxious and troubled about many things. And central in ‘c’ is that Martha is serving the meal, and seeks that her sister will cease come and assist her and cease sitting at the feet of Jesus, thus putting physical bread before spiritual bread.
‘And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at the Lord’s feet, and heard his word.’
But while Martha was busy preparing the meal, wanting to give the Lord the best she could, Mary her sister sat at ‘the Lord’s feet’ and listened to His teaching. She not only received Him but also ‘heard His word’. Note the use of ‘Lord’ in what seems such a homely context. She was sat there because He was her Lord, not because He was her friend (although He was both). It represented total submission. Many Jewish teachers would not teach the Law to women, but Jesus knew no such restriction.
‘But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she came up to him, and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.” ’
Martha, however, was finding the burden of so many guests too heavy for her, and very much distracted (too distracted to give time to listening to Jesus even though she wanted to) came to Jesus and pointedly suggested that Mary should come and help her prepare the meal. Indeed she half rebuked Him, even if politely, and she asked ‘the Lord’ to tell Mary to do her duty. No doubt she was suggesting pointedly that after all they would all shortly want their meal.
‘But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,” ’
Jesus replies gently but firmly. The double use of her name, "Martha, Martha", indicates His caring attitude, as such a phenomenon does elsewhere (see Luke 6:46; Luke 8:24; Luke 13:34; Luke 22:31). The Lord sympathises with her for her busyness, and the effort that she is putting in.
But at the same time the narrative draws attention to the fact that the cares of this world are preventing her from seeking what is most important. She is too taken up with what she is doing and letting it get on top of her. ‘Anxious.’ She is overburdened within and too particular. ‘Troubled.’ She is too externally agitated. The idea is that perhaps a simpler meal and more attention to the Lord might have been better. She was so anxious to do the very best for the Lord, that it had become an unnecessary burden to her, when He would have preferred a simple meal and for her to be at peace and heed His words.
“But one thing is needful (some see it as ‘only one course of food is needful’), for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
He then points out that Mary is busy about something better, ‘the one thing needful’. She has chosen the better part. She has chosen to feed on His word. And that is so important that it must take precedence. It must not be taken away from her. She will have many opportunities to cook and prepare once He has gone, but she will have few to sit at His feet and learn
We must, of course, recognise that Jesus recognised here the deep sincerity in Mary’s desire for His word. For her all idea of food was put on one side because she was hungry for His words. And that was why He replied as He did. It was not giving her an excuse to avoid work in daily living. And it also brought home to all present that while daily work was necessary, as was daily bread, spiritual work and spiritual bread were even more important. For ‘man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord’ (Deuteronomy 8:3)
We should note, however, that there are many places elsewhere where Jesus does teach the importance of doing, not just listening (e.g. Luke 6:46-49). He would have had no time for indolence. The point here is that Mary would have few opportunities to hear Him, so here it was different.
Almost certainly had we been present in that house we would have found that Jesus did later take Martha privately to one side and commend her for all she had done. He would not have left the situation as it is here. But it is so described here so that the important lesson is drawn out. That while daily bread is necessary, receiving His word is more important. Man shall not live by bread alone (Luke 4:4). He needs most of all the bread from Heaven.
‘One is needful.’ This may be saying ‘there is only one thing that is absolutely necessary’ (to hear His word) or it may be saying to Martha, ‘only one course was necessary, if you had remembered that you would have been able too listen to Me too’. Mary had recognised this because she was so eager to hear His words. But whichever way that was, the stress is on the importance above all else of hearing His words before anything else.
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Luke 10". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent