Jesus Sends Out the 70
IT IS the fall of 32 C.E., a full three years since Jesus’ baptism. He and his disciples have recently attended the Festival of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, and apparently they are still nearby. In fact, Jesus spends most of the remaining six months of his ministry either in Judea or just across the Jordan River in the district of Perea. This territory needs to be covered too.
True, after the Passover of 30 C.E., Jesus spent about eight months preaching in Judea. But after the Jews tried to kill him there on the Passover of 31 C.E., he spent the next year and a half teaching almost exclusively in Galilee. During that time, he developed a large, well-trained organization of preachers, something he did not have earlier. So he now launches a final intensive witnessing campaign in Judea.
Jesus gets this campaign under way by choosing 70 disciples and sending them out by twos. Thus, there are altogether 35 teams of Kingdom preachers to work the territory. These go in advance into every city and place to which Jesus, evidently accompanied by his apostles, is planning to go.
Instead of directing the 70 to go to synagogues, Jesus tells them to enter private homes, explaining: “Wherever you enter into a house say first, ‘May this house have peace.’ And if a friend of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him.” What is to be their message? “Go on telling them,” Jesus says, “the kingdom of God has come near to you.” Regarding the activity of the 70, Matthew Henry’s Commentary reports: “Like their Master, wherever they visited, they preached from house to house.”
Jesus’ instructions to the 70 are similar to those given to the 12 when he sent these out on a preaching campaign in Galilee about a year earlier. Not only does he warn the 70 of the opposition they will face, preparing them to present the message to householders, but he empowers them to cure the sick. Thus, when Jesus arrives shortly afterward, many will be eager to meet the Master whose disciples are able to do such marvelous things.
The preaching by the 70 and Jesus’ follow-up work last a relatively short time. Soon the 35 teams of Kingdom preachers begin returning to Jesus. “Lord,” they say joyfully, “even the demons are made subject to us by the use of your name.” Such a fine service report surely thrills Jesus, for he responds: “I began to behold Satan already fallen like lightning from heaven. Look! I have given you the authority to trample underfoot serpents and scorpions.”
Jesus knows that after the birth of God’s Kingdom at the time of the end, Satan and his demons are to be cast out of heaven. But now this casting out of unseen demons by mere humans serves as added assurance of that coming event. Therefore, Jesus speaks of the future fall of Satan from heaven as an absolute certainty. Hence, it is in a symbolic sense that the 70 are given authority to trample serpents and scorpions. Yet, Jesus says: “Do not rejoice over this, that the spirits are made subject to you, but rejoice because your names have been inscribed in the heavens.”
Jesus is overjoyed and publicly praises his Father for using these humble servants of his in such a powerful way. Turning to his disciples, he says: “Happy are the eyes that behold the things you are beholding. For I say to you, Many prophets and kings desired to see the things you are beholding but did not see them, and to hear the things you are hearing but did not hear them.” Luke 10:1-24; Matthew 10:1-42; Revelation 12:7-12.
▪ Where did Jesus preach during the first three years of his ministry, and what territory does he cover in his final six months?
▪ Where does Jesus direct the 70 to find people?
▪ Why does Jesus say he beheld Satan already fallen from heaven?
▪ In what sense can the 70 trample serpents and scorpions?