The mission of the seventy. The Lord ' s words to them of instruction and direction and warning.
Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy . The older authorities read here, "I have given." The only recorded instance of a literal fulfilment of this promise was in the case of Paul at Melita, after the shipwreck ( Acts 24:3-5 ). A similar promise was made during the "forty days". It seems however, best, in the case of this peculiar promise, to interpret the Lord's words as referring to spiritual powers of evil, taking the serpent and scorpion as symbols of these. It should be remembered that the subject of conversation between the Master and his servants was the conflict with and victory ever these awful powers restlessly hostile to the human race (see Psalms 91:13 ).
The mission of the seventy.
Jesus, as we have seen, is now going up on his last journey to Jerusalem , and he is anxious that the places he is to visit for the last time, and some possibly for the first as well as last, should be ready to receive him. On this account he organizes the mission of the seventy in addition to that of the twelve already noticed. They are to be forerunners, going to announce his advent in the different cities and villages. Let us study the mission as here presented to us. And—
I. THEY ARE TO GO FORTH IN A SPIRIT OF PRAYER FOR ADDITIONAL LABOURERS . ( Luke 10:2 .) The desire in the world to limit and regulate the number of laborers, to keep up wages, is to have no counterpart in the Church of Christ. The needs of men are so great, the harvest of souls is so enormous, that as many reapers as can possibly be equipped are needed and should be prayed for. Narrow-mindedness and jealousy are, therefore, out of place in Christian work. Those already laboring for God are to be the chief intercessors for more workers, and it is the inspiration of God which can alone fit men for such work.
II. THEY ARE TO GO FORTH PREPARED FOR OPPOSITION EVEN UNTO DEATH . ( Luke 10:3 .) It seems at first a foolish policy to send lambs among wolves. Will they not be torn to pieces instantly? Is it not to court defeat and failure? But it so happens that it is the manifestation of a meek and lamblike spirit among ravenous and wolfish men which wins the battle for Christ and conquers the world. Were it not for such exhibitions of meekness the world would never be won. Hence the martyr-spirit is the safety of the Church.
III. THEY ARE TO DEPEND UPON THE PEOPLE FOR SUPPORT . ( Luke 10:4-8 .) Some of the seventy, like some of the twelve, might have taken some provision or money with them. They were not all absolutely poor. The Lord himself might have brought from heaven or furnished miraculously all that he needed during his ministry on earth, but he preferred to depend upon his Father in heaven, and to accept of the loving ministrations of his friends on earth. The same rule he prescribes for his servants. They are to receive their support from those among whom they labor. And in the reception of support, they are to be content with whatever hospitality comes first. Peacefully are they to dwell in the house of their host, and they are not to be choosing some better hospitality and showing a mean and worldly spirit.
IV. THEY ARE TO GIVE THEMSELVES UNRESERVEDLY TO THE KING 'S BUSINESS . (Vet. 4.) The instruction, " Salute no man by the way," does not advise any discourtesy, but as the Eastern salaams are protracted pieces of etiquette, they are to show so clearly that their "King's business requireth haste," that such cumbrous formalities must be dispensed with. It is a great thing gained if the Lord's servants are so concentrated upon their work that nothing is allowed in the least degree to interfere with it. God's work must be paramount.
V. THEY ARE TO HEAL THE SICK AND ANNOUNCE THE KINGDOM . ( Luke 10:9 .) It is the advent of salvation to these cities and villages of Palestine; hence the healing of the sick is performed as a sign of the higher salvation which is included in the coming of the kingdom. Physical miracles are spiritual signs. The health of the soul is to follow that of the body, if the people will only trust the King. The delegated miraculous power is the sign and announcement of coming spiritual power and salvation.
VI. THE PENALTIES ATTACHED TO THE REJECTION OF THESE AMBASSADORS . ( Luke 10:10-16 .) The Lord directs them, as in the case of the twelve, to simply shake off the dust of their feet against them. This was the sign of separation complete and final. But he indicates that in the judgment it shall be more tolerable for such cities as Sodom, Tyre, and Sidon, than for the cities which reject them. Now, the doom of Sodom and of Tyre was terrible. In the one case God destroyed the cities of the plain by fire; in the other case by siege and bombardment. But for Sodom and for Tyre—meaning, of course, for their inhabitants—there yet remains a judgment in the great day. Yet their sin, though heinous, was not so great as that of rejecting Jesus and his ambassadors. Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum will experience a deeper doom than even Tyre and Sodom, because they repented not. The solemn position of an ambassador of Christ cannot be over-estimated. To speak for Christ, in his Name, in some way worthy of him, is surely a great commission. What an altitude in ministration should we reach before we can conscientiously adopt the attitude of the apostles! £
VII. THE JOY OF THE SEVENTY AT THEIR SUCCESS . ( Luke 10:17 .) They delighted in the thought that the devils had become subject unto them through the Name of Jesus. How natural it is to rejoice in the success the Lord grants! But as Jesus here shows, it is dangerous. While assuring them of triumph over Satan and all the power of the enemy, he also would have them to rejoice rather in this, that their names are written in heaven. The meaning of this seems to be that they should rejoice in what the Lord has done for them rather than what they have done for the Lord. In the one case, they are liable to be puffed up and to think highly of themselves; in the other case, they are kept in wholesome humility. Let the Lord's work and the Lord's part of the works, rather than ours, be the source of our spiritual joy.
VIII. THE JOY OF JESUS ABOUT THE ARRANGEMENTS OF HIS KINGDOM . ( Luke 10:21-24 .) While Jesus advised them to rejoice in God's salvation of them, he himself proceeds to rejoice in their successful work. His reason for this was:
1 . That it put to confusion the wise and prudent , through the revelation being made to babes. Those who are proud and self-confident miss the meaning of the gospel and the kingdom, while those who are babelike in their docility get an apprehension of both.
2 . It is in virtue of his mediatorial commission. The Father has committed all things to Jesus, and he proceeds, as Son, to reveal the Father to whomsoever he will. Without such a revelation we should never know the Father.
3 . Christ's joy is also because of the distinguished privileges enjoyed by the disciples. Many prophets and kings desired to see such things as they saw, but the prophets and kings had been passed by, and these weak ones selected. Hence it is that Jesus rejoices in such God-glorifying arrangements. The more humble we are in heart, the fuller shall be the revelation which God will make to us through Jesus Christ £ —R.M.E.