The Mission of the Seventy(-two)


In Luke, Jesus commissioned two missionary journeys among his followers.   In the first, Luke 9:1-6, 10a, he sent out just the twelve apostles.  In the second, Luke 10:1-24, he sent out seventy-two (or maybe seventy) disciples.  The sending out of  the twelve apostles is paralleled in Mark 6:7-13, 30 and Matthew 10:1-11:1.  Several verses of this episode are paralleled in the sending out of the seventy-(two).

Mk 6:8-9 || Lk 9:3 || Mt 10:9-10a  repeated in Lk 10:4
Mk 6:10  || Lk 9:4 || Mt 10:10b-11 repeated in Lk 10:7
Mk 6:11  || Lk 9:5 || Mt 10:14     repeated in Lk 10:10-11

Matthew's version of the sending out of the twelve is much longer than Mark's.  Many of these extra verses are paralleled in Luke's account of the seventy-(two).

Lk 10:9   || Mt 10:7-8
Lk 10:5-6 || Mt 10:12-13
Lk 10:12  || Mt 10:15    (and again in Mt 11:24!)
Lk 10:3   || Mt 10:16
Lk 10:16  || Mt 10:4     (also cf. Mk 9:37 || Lk 9:48 || Mt 18:5)

The two source hypothesis would hold that Mark is the source of the mission of the twelve and the hypothetical Q source is the source of the mission of the seventy-(two).  It is hardly surprising that there should be significant overlap between the two.  It is hardly likely that Jesus would commission two missions with completely dissimilar instructions.  For that matter, it is unlikely that Jesus only sent his disciples out on only two occasions.  Jesus undoubtedly taught them much about teaching that then distilled into these two accounts.

This study will trace several of the themes present in Luke's account of the 72 through scripture.

I. Introduction

Lk 10:1-3 Seventy-two sent out two by two

Lk 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him two by two into every town and place where he himself was about to go.
Mt 9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were bewildered and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Lk 10:2 He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest. Mt 9:37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.
Mt 9:38 Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”
Lk 10:3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs surrounded by wolves. Mt 10:16 “I am sending you out like sheep surrounded by wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

Textual Notes

The ancient manuscripts are split regarding whether the number here is seventy or seventy-two.  Both have traditional symbolic meaning (7x10 or 12x6).   Moses chose 70 elders to assist him in rendering legal judgments (Numbers 11:24).  Seventy patriarchs went down to Egypt (Deut. 10:22).  Seventy-two is the traditional number of translators who produced the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures).  Seventy or Seventy-two is also the traditional number of nations descended from Noah (Gen 10; Hebrew text has 70 names, the Septuagint 72).  It has been suggested that Jesus' choice of 12 and  72(70) for the size of the two missions is symbolic of the mission to the twelve tribes and to the nations of the world respectively.  This is attractive, but since the text does not make this connection explicitly clear (and both missions were within Israel), it should not be pressed enthusiastically.

Two by Two

The missionaries are sent out in pairs in both missions.  We see this practice continuing in Paul's ministry too.  See Paul and Barnabas in Antioch (Acts 11:25-26), in Jerusalem (Acts 11:31), and then being sent out on a "tour" from Antioch (Acts 13ff), etc.  After they split up over the issue of taking John Mark with them, they each form new pairs: Barnabas with John Mark, and Paul with Silas (Acts 15:36-40).  Even Paul's letters often are from Paul and someone else (1 Cor 1:1, 2 Cor 1:1, Phil 1:1, Col 1:1, Phm 1, or 1 and 2 Thes. from three).   The evangelist does not specify a rational for Jesus' instruction, but common sense suggests numerous reasons:  safety, companionship, doctrinal protection, etc.   See Ecc. 4:9-12.

Ecc 4:9 Two people are better than one,
because they can enjoy a better benefit from their labor.
For if they fall, one will lift up his companion;
but pity the person who falls down and has no one to help him up.
Furthermore, if two lie together, they can keep each other warm;
but how can one person keep warm by himself?
Although an assailant may overpower one person who is alone,
two would be able to withstand him.
Moreover, a three-fold cord is not quickly broken.

The Harvest is Plentiful

Jesus' parables nearly always use images from everyday life.  In the agrarian culture of the day, nearly everyone raised crops, so harvesting was something well known to all.  Jesus used the harvest in other parables too.  See the Parable of the Weeds in Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43; the Parable of the Tenants in Matthew 21:31-44; etc.  Some, like the two just cited, use the harvest imagery to refer to the general resurrection at "the end of the age".  Other passages, such as the current one or the Parable of the Growing Seed in Mark 4:26-29 refer to evangelizing, to the bringing of people into the Kingdom of God in the present. 

This is no requirement on the teller of parables to always use the same figure to mean exactly the same thing.  Caution should be used in using one use of a symbol to interpret another use.  This is especially important with this symbol since Dispensationalists usually misapply it in some passages to refer to eschatological issues when it actually refers to evangelism, but that is a topic for another study.

Since Matthew does not include both missions in his narrative, he has incorporated this saying as a preface to the Mission of the Twelve. 

An important point here is not only are the disciples being sent out to the "harvest field", but they are to pray that God send out missionaries.  This is a turn of phrase that we often miss. We often pray for the conversion of people.  We often pray for missionaries already out there.  But how often do we pray that God send people out there?  Or are we afraid that we might be the ones He sends?  Are we willing to follow Isaiah's example and pray "send me"?

Isa 6:8 I heard the voice of the sovereign master say, “Whom will I send? Who will go on our behalf?” I answered, “Here I am, send me!”

Excursus: I'm reminded of the tongue-in-cheek song by Scott Wesley Brown, "O Lord Don't Send Me To Africa"!

I Am Sending You Out Like Sheep

Matthew has an extended version of this saying which adds "so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves".  Serpents are not otherwise attested in the Bible as a symbol for wisdom.  Jesus is more likely drawing on Greek culture for this symbolism.  In scripture, serpents are normally a symbol for evil, but it is typical of Jesus to turn traditional symbols upside down, such as using yeast as a symbol for the word when it is normally a symbol for impurity (Compare Matthew 13:33 with Matthew 16:16).

Implicit in the image of sheep among wolves is the shepherd protecting the sheep.  See John 10:11.   An important theme of the following verses is going to be the teaching of the disciples to rely on the shepherd.  This line introduces that theme.

II. Rules for the mission

Lk 10: 4 Carry nothing for the trip

Mk 6:8 He instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— Lk 9:3 He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, and do not take an extra tunic. Lk 10:4 Do not carry a money bag, a traveler’s bag, or sandals, and greet no one on the road. Mt 10:9 Do not take gold, silver or copper in your belts,
Mk 6:9 and to put on sandals but not to wear two tunics. Mt 10:10a no bag for the journey, or an extra tunic, or sandals or staff,

In both missions, to the twelve and the seventy(-two), Jesus gives a list a prohibitions.  Mark's list is given as indirect speech ("He instructed them to..."), but Luke and Matthew's version is in the form of direct speech ("He said to them...").  The following table summarizes the specifics of the differences between the various lists:

Mission of the Twelve Mission of the Seventy(-two)
Mark 6 Matthew 10 Luke 9 Luke 10
    take nothing for your journey  
except a staff (no extra) staff no staff  
no bread   no bread  
no bag no bag for the journey no bag (do not carry) a traveler's bag
no money in their belts Do not take gold, silver or copper in your belts no money Do not carry a money bag
put on sandals (no extra) sandals   (do not carry) sandals
do not wear two tunics (no) extra tunic do not take extra tunic  
      Greet no one on the road

There is a plethora of variation here in wording and details.  Both Mark and Q seem to have had similar lists.  Matthew and Luke may have had other versions available too.  Over the course of three years or more, it would be surprising if Jesus didn't send the apostles and other disciples out on missionary journeys on multiple occasions.  It does not follow that he would impose the exact same rules every time.  This may account for the only difference of any significance: "no staff" in Luke 9:3 against a single staff in Mark 6:8 and Matthew 10:10.   The Byzantine text form has the plural here, "no staves", perhaps implying one is OK.  There are no early manuscripts with this reading, or with the word "extra" (as some late manuscripts have) inserted; but, it is also possible that the "no staff" reading is a very early scribal error. 

Regardless, whether the disciples were allowed to carry zero or one staff with them on one or another mission is not important.  Historically, we can be certain he put restrictions on the disciples that he later lifted.   It is the purpose and meaning of these restrictions as a whole with which we must deal. Our understanding of the their significance is not impacted by question of the exact list of restrictions on any particular mission. 

Compare these lists with:

Lk 22:36 He said to them, “But now, the one who has a money bag must take it, and likewise a traveler’s bag too.

Here we see that the restrictive rules applied to the particular situation of Jesus' earthly ministry, but not later. Jesus had a particular purpose for the restrictions in this particular situation, and that was for the disciples to learn depend on God.   This is an important lesson for us all to learn, but it does not mean that we should learn it by purposely handicapping ourselves as a normal part of ministry.  To do that would put one in danger of violating Deut 6:16 ("You must not put the Lord your God to the test").  We will visit this verse again below on verses 7 and 8.

The command to "greet no one on the road" is enigmatic.  Perhaps it was an idiomatic way of prescribing speed in their journeys to the various cities of their itinerary.  This may explain the difficult Mark 16:8 as well (" Mark 16:8 Then they went out and ran from the tomb, for terror and bewilderment had seized them. And they said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid." -- They must have told someone, else Mark wouldn't have known to write it.)

Lk 10:5-6 Peace

Lk 10:5 Whenever you enter a house, first say, ‘May peace be on this house!’ Mt 10:12 As you enter the house, give it greetings.
Lk 10:6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will remain on him, but if not, it will return to you. Mt 10:13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come on it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.

Luke 10:5's greeting is a traditional greeting.  Paul opened nearly all his letters with words like "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." [Rom 1:7]  The phase "son of peace" is a Semitic idiom, meaning a peaceful person, or one who brings peace.  The words are not a magical incantation however.  What they are is a prayer, a benediction.

If the person in the house is not a son of peace, the words "return"; that is, they are as though you never uttered them.  This does not mean that one is then free to be unpeaceful, but see below on verses 10 and 11 for a more detailed treatment on the proper response in such a situation.

Lk 10:7-8 Stay in one house

Mk 6:10 He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the area. Lk 9:4 Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave the area. Lk 10:7 Stay in that same house, eating and drinking what they give you, for the worker deserves his pay. Do not move around from house to house. Mt 10:10b for the worker deserves his provisions.
Mt 10:11 Whenever you enter a town or village, find out who is worthy there and stay with them until you leave.
Lk 10:8 Whenever you enter a town and the people welcome you, eat what is set before you.

Matthew ties the restrictions discussed above on verse 4 directly two this passage (Mt 10:10).  The missionary, who is working for the Lord of the Harvest, will receive his pay.  The restriction to stay in house and eating an drinking what they give you is to discourage seeking out a better accommodations.  The Gospel is not for sale to the highest bidder (compare with the story of Simon in Acts 8:9-24, where he thought he could buy the ability to confer the Holy Spirit).

Note the redundancy between verses 7 and 8.  Rather than being fictions that the evangelists make up, the preservation of individual sayings, even when they introduce redundancies in the narrative, shows the importance of their historicity to the evangelists.

Implicit in this passage is the responsibility of those who receive the Gospel preaching to support the missionary.   "Don’t we have the right to food and drink?" Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:4 [NIV].   In 1 Corinthians  9:12, he went on to say: "If others receive this right from you, are we not more deserving? But we have not made use of this right."  And in 2 Corinthians 11:8, he wrote, "I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so that I could serve you."  Paul emphasized his right to such support at the same time that he forsook it to preach the Gospel freely.

One is not obligated to emulate Paul.  By Jesus' teaching, the missionary can receive support from his flock without guilt.  The choice to do or not do so is one of wisdom, not dogma (see Jesus' reversal of the restrictions in Lk 22:36 again).

We see Paul also expanding upon the words "eat what is set before you" in the context of clean and unclean food.

1Cor10:27 If an unbeliever invites you to dinner and you want to go, eat whatever is served without asking questions of conscience. 10:28 But if someone says to you, “This is from a sacrifice,” do not eat, because of the one who told you and because of conscience— 10:29 I do not mean yours but the other person’s. For why is my right being judged by another’s conscience? 10:30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I blamed for the food? that I give thanks for? 10:31 So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.

In Jesus' context, the question of whether the food was unclean nor unclean does not enter into it, since the disciples are being sent to Jews.  Nor does the writer even give a hint that the verse might be applicable to unclean food.  So much for skeptical critic's view that the Gospels are the invention of the later church, reflecting the situation of that time rather than the time of the Historical Jesus!   Further we see time and again Paul betraying knowledge of Jesus' teaching although he seldom explicitly cites Jesus as the authority behind them.  Instead he teaches in the same style as Jesus, speaking with authority, instead of in the style of the Jewish legal experts (Mt 7:28-29).

Lk 10:9 Heal & Preach the Kingdom

Lk 10:9 Heal the sick in that town and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come on you.’ Mt 10:8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.
Mt 10:7 As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’

Has anyone noticed that every time I teach, the Kingdom of God/Heaven is a central theme, and that in each instance it is not a reference to a future afterlife nor to a eschatological millennium, but is something that was dawning there and then in Jesus' ministry?  I hate to sound like a broken record, but here it is again.  Notice that the harbinger of the kingdom of God here is not political power (something today's political leaders should take more note of), but rather acts of compassion: healing the sick.

Matthew's version expands this to other acts of compassion: raising the dead, cleansing lepers, casting out demons, and freely giving whatever they receive.  

Matthew uses the circumlocution "heaven" for "God".  The use of such circumlocutions for references to God were common (and still are) in Jewish culture.  Adonai (Lord) was always spoken instead of the divine name (Yahweh), and even today, Jews will often write "G-d" rather than completely spell out a reference to Divinity.

Questions for Reflection/Discussion

Are only specially commissioned missionaries supposed to spread the word by way of acts of compassion, are is that encumbrant upon all Christians?

How can we fulfill this in our daily life?  In our politics?

Lk 10:10-11 If they don't welcome you

Mk 6:11 If a place will not welcome you or listen to you, as you go out from there shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” Lk 9:5 Wherever they do not receive you, as you leave that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” Lk 10:10 But whenever you enter a town and the people do not welcome you, go into its streets and say, Mt 10:14 And if anyone will not welcome you or listen to your message, shake the dust off your feet as you leave that house or that town.
Lk 10:11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this: the kingdom of God has come.’

We return to the theme of what happens if a son of peace is not found.   The action is symbolic.  Lightfoot (vol 2, p. 185) cites Rabbinical tradition "They bring not herbs into the land of Israel out of a heathen land....They take care, lest, together with the herbs, something of the dust of the heathen land be brought, which defiles the tent, and defiles the purity of the land of Israel".  By shaking the dust off their feet so that they don't track it into the rest of Israel, they were effectively calling the city Pagan: no longer part of Israel.

This has important eschatological implications as well.  It says that the Jews who reject Christ are no longer the true Israel;  rather the church is.  There is no separate plan for Jews as Dispensationalists would have us believe.  To be part of true Israel, you must receive the message preached by the Apostles.

And there's that pesky kingdom of God thing again.  It has some regardless of the response of any given town.

III. Responses

Lk 10:12-15 Woes on cities

Mt 11:20 Then Jesus began to criticize openly the towns and cities in which he had done many of his miracles, because they did not repent.
Lk 10:12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town! Mt 10:15 I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that town! Mt 11:24 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for the region of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you!”
Lk 10:13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. Mt 11:21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
Lk 10:14 But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you! Mt 11:22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you!
Lk 10:15 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be thrown down to Hades! Mt 11:23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be thrown down to Hades! For if the miracles done among you had been done in Sodom, it would have continued to this day.

To underscore the point of verses 10 an 11, Luke includes a series of sayings that compare Israelite cities to pagan cities.  Matthew has a version of one of these in his account of the mission of the Twelve, but puts the rest in another context.  We see here an example of how the evangelists arranged sayings topically instead of chronologically.

In verse 12 "that day" refers not to the calendar day that a town rejects the apostle's message, but to the eschatological day of judgement.  This is explicit in Matthew's version of the saying, and made clean in verses 13 through 15 of Luke's.

Jesus is brutal in his judgement here.  He says Sodom (and Gomorrah in Matthew) will not be judged as harshly.  Jesus was not the first to use the image of Sodom and Gomorrah as a judgment.  See Moses (Deut. 29:23, 32:32), Isaiah (1:9, 10, 3:9), Jeremiah (23:14), Ezekiel (16:46-56), etc.

Lk 10:16 He who listens or rejects you

Mk 9:37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” Lk 9:48a and said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me, Lk 10:16 “The one who listens to you listens to me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” Mt 18:5 And whoever welcomes a child like this in my name welcomes me. Mt 10:40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.

Luke includes two variations of this saying as well as a syntactically relate saying.  We have the saying in both positive and negative forms.

The positive (paraphrasing to emphasize the parallels):

Whoever welcomes a child in my name, welcomes me; whoever welcomes me, welcomes the one who sent me

Whoever listens to you, listens to me

Whoever receives you, receives me; whoever receives me, receives the one who sent me

And the negative:

Whoever rejects you, rejects me; whoever rejects me, rejects the one who sent me.

There is no room for equivocation here.  Had Jesus only used the positive form, there might have been some wiggle room for someone to say they reject Jesus, but accept God;  or to reject scripture (by which we listen to the Apostles), and still receive the one who sent the Apostles.  It just don't work that way.   Receive God, Jesus who he sent, and the testimony of the Apostles, whole, or reject the whole thing.

IV. After the Mission

Lk 10:17-20 The 72 return

Lk 10:17 Then the seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name!”
Lk 10:18 So he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
Mk 16:18 they will pick up snakes with their hands, and whatever poison they drink will not harm them; they will place their hands on the sick and they will be well.” Lk 10:19 Look, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions and on the full force of the enemy, and nothing will hurt you.
Lk 10:20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names stand written in heaven.”

Satan Falls

The advent of the Kingdom of God has great theological importance.  In the Old Testament, we see Satan in heaven acting as Job's adversary before God (Job 1:6-12).  We see Satan in a similar role in Zechariah 3:1-2.  But in Revelation 12, after the Messiah is born and the Dragon (Satan -- Rev 12:9) battles against Michael and the angels in heaven, we learn:

Rev 12:8 But the dragon was not strong enough to prevail, so there was no longer any place left in heaven for him and his angels.

He is cast out of heaven down to the earth.  The Kingdom of God inaugurated by Jesus no longer tolerates Satan to be our adversary before God.  Our sins are covered by the blood of Jesus.

Snakes and Scorpions

What does Jesus mean by treading on snakes an scorpions here?  Does he mean literal ones?  Notice that the snakes an scorpions are part of a list that goes on to include "the full force of the enemy".  The enemy here is Satanic forces:  the demons that submitted to the missionaries an the Satan that fell from heaven in the prior two verses.  Compare the use of these animals here to Matthew 23:33 and Luke 11:11-12.  They are symbols for evil.  The reference is to the authority they had over demons cited in verse 17.

Excursus: Mark 16:18 also has a reference to snakes "they will pick up snakes with their hands" that is obviously literal.  However there is strong evidence that Mark 16:9-20 is not part of the original Gospel of Mark, written later to make up for a perceived missing end after Mark 16:8.  The author of this spurious passage was probably influenced by Luke 10:19.


The source of joy is not to be one's personal power over demonic forces.  This would lead to vanity, and defeat by those powers.  Rather our salvation, upon which we rely on Christ for, is to be the only true source of joy.

Lk 10:21-24 Jesus rejoices and blesses

Lk 10:21 On that same occasion Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your gracious will. Mt 11:25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent, and revealed them to little children.
Mt 11:26 Yes, Father, for this was your gracious will.
Lk 10:22 All things have been given to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone the Son decides to reveal him to.” Mt 11:27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone the Son decides to reveal him to.
Mt 11:28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Mt 11:29 Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Mt 11:30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.”
Lk 10:23 Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! Mt 13:16 “But your eyes are blessed because they see, and your ears because they hear.
Lk 10:24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” Mt 13:17 For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

Prayer is a recurring them in this passage.  See verses 2 and 5 above.  He directs them to pray to be sent out and to pray for the peace of the house they enter.   Here Jesus prays in thanksgiving.  In Matthew the context is not a particular mission.  Whether Jesus prayed it on such an occasion, or at some other time, is unimportant.  It does touch on themes relevant to the mission.  Jesus' mission is democratic.  He didn't come to the "righteous" elite, but to the "little children", the uneducated poor masses of the villages to whom the missions were sent to.

Verse 22 ties back to verse 16, the "chain of command".  The Father authorizes the Son, an the Son reveals the Father to who he will.

The final two verses tie back to my last lesson. 

Lk 7:28 I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he is.”

How is it so that the least in the kingdom of God (and by that Jesus means us) is greater than John?  Jesus answers that here.  Jesus is overtly claiming that in himself something unprecedented is happening.  The prophets and kings up to John's time could only look forward to what was happening.  Now that the kingdom of God has come, we have this reality: the advent of the Messiah and his revelation given through the apostles!


Funk et al wrote in The Five Gospels, "The two pictures painted by John and the synoptic gospels cannot both be historically accurate.  In the synoptic gospels, Jesus speaks in brief, pithy one-liners and couplets, and in parables.... In John, by contrast, Jesus speaks in lengthy discourses or monologues, or in elaborate dialogs" (p. 10).  This statement sounds very attractive and pleasing to the person who wishes to discount the relevance of Jesus.  It's logic is flawed.  Would one seriously suggest that the 95 Theses and Luther's Sermons are not both written by the same man because the former is a list of short statements of theses covering a wide variety of topics while the later are long draw-out essays covering narrow topics?   Of course not!

Further the differences between of the Jesus in the synoptic Gospels and John are exaggerated.  The speeches in John are full of short sayings that in isolation are no different than any saying found in the synoptic Gospels.  And in the synoptic Gospels,  Jesus' sayings are combined together into longer speeches just like is present in John.  The synoptic writers knew Jesus spoke in extended speeches and John knew he used short sayings.  Both are necessary techniques in teaching.  One is more memorizable, the other ensures the short sayings are understood.

Here in Luke we see Jesus speaking a monologue.  We also see that the internal structure of the monologue consists of a series of shorter sayings that are linked together.  In verse 1, Jesus sends them out two-by-two.  In verse 2, they are admonished that there is much work to be done an few to do it, so they are to pray to be sent out to the "harvest".

In verses 3-8, Jesus sets them up to need to depend on God:  They are sheep among wolves (v.3), they are to go out without supplies or luggage (v.4), they are to give any house they come to a benediction of peace and hope they will be received (v. 5), they are to stay with whoever first offers them lodging and eat whatever is offered (vv. 6-8).

In verse 9, they are to proclaim the kingdom of God in word and deed in any town that will accept them.  In verses 10-11, they are to proclaim the kingdom of God even if the town doesn't accept them.  In verse 12-15 Jesus warns of the dire consequences for rejecting him in verse 16, he teaches that God, Jesus, and the Apostles are a package that is accepted or rejected as an organic whole.

It takes just two minutes to read these verses aloud.  Would anyone seriously suggest that Jesus spent only two minutes preparing the disciples for the missionary journey?  Of course not.  Rather, each saying is certainly a distillation, a thesis statement if you will, reinforced by frequent repetition and by exposition.   We see this reflected explicitly in the parables where Jesus teaches the crowds with a series of enigmatic parables, but later the disciples come to Jesus, ask for, and receive further explanation (Mark 4:10-14 ff, Matthew 15:15-16).   These later two passages are an embarrassment for the Jesus Seminar.  They reject the authenticity of these passages creating a caricature of Jesus who only speaks in short enigmatic sayings and never provides any explanation.  Rather than becoming a revered teacher, such a person would more likely be thought of along the same lines as people thought of the lunatic Legion.

The themes Jesus touched on here make their presence known throughout the New Testament.   The principle of evangelizing in pairs (v. 1) is seen in Acts and Paul's letters.   The harvest metaphor (v. 2) is  used by Jesus in many parables.  Prayer is emphasized in vv. 2, 5, and 21.  The responsibility of the convert to support the missionary in Paul reflects Jesus' teaching about the missionary relying on God (v. 7).   Paul's teaching about unclean food ultimately derives from Jesus admonition to eat what is set before them (v. 8). The casting of Satan out of heaven (vv. 17-18)  is reflected again in Revelation.

And finally, we live in a blessed time (vv. 23-24).  The prophets of the Old Testament only had the hope of a coming Messiah.  We have the Messiah who has come, sacrificed himself for us, sent his Apostles out to teach us his final revelations, has sent the Holy Spirit to us as a advocate and comforter, and will return at the end of the world to resurrect us for eternal life.