They Did Jehovah’s Will
Jesus Sends Forth 70 Disciples
IT WAS the autumn of 32 C.E. Only six months remained before Jesus’ death. Hence, in order to speed up the preaching work and further the training of some of his followers, he designated 70 disciples and “sent them forth by twos in advance of him into every city and place to which he himself was going to come.”—Luke 10:1.*
Jesus sent forth his disciples “in advance of him” so that the people would be able to decide more quickly whether they were for or against the Messiah when Jesus himself later arrived. But why did he send them “by twos”? Evidently, in order that they might be an encouragement to each other when faced with opposition.
Stressing the urgency of their preaching work, Jesus told his followers: “The harvest, indeed, is great, but the workers are few. Therefore beg the Master of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:2) The analogy to a harvest was appropriate, for any delay at harvesttime could result in the waste of valuable crops. Likewise, if the disciples were to neglect their preaching assignment, precious lives could be lost!—Ezekiel 33:6.
Jesus further instructed his disciples: “Do not carry a purse, nor a food pouch, nor sandals, and do not embrace anybody in greeting along the road.” (Luke 10:4) It was customary for a traveler to carry not only a pouch and food but also an extra pair of sandals, for soles could wear out and laces could break. But Jesus’ disciples were not to worry about such things. Rather, they were to trust that Jehovah would care for them by means of fellow Israelites, among whom hospitality was a custom.
But why did Jesus tell his disciples not to embrace anyone in a greeting? Were they to be cold, even rude? Not at all! The Greek word a·spaʹzo·mai, meaning to embrace in a greeting, may mean more than a polite “hello” or “good-day.” It may also include the customary kisses, embraces, and long conversation that would ensue when two acquaintances met. One commentator observes: “Salutations among the Orientals did not consist, as among us, of a slight bow, or extension of the hand, but was performed by many embraces, and inclinations, and even prostrations of the body on the ground. All this required much time.” (Compare 2 Kings 4:29.) Jesus thus helped his followers to avoid unnecessary, though customary, distractions.
Finally, Jesus told his disciples that when they entered a house and were welcomed, they should “stay in that house, eating and drinking the things they [would] provide.” But if they entered a city and were not well received, they should “go out into its broad ways and say, ‘Even the dust that got stuck to our feet from your city we wipe off against you.’” (Luke 10:7, 10, 11) Wiping or shaking the dust off one’s feet would signify that the disciples were peacefully leaving the unreceptive house or city to the consequences that would eventually come from God. But those who received Jesus’ disciples with kindness put themselves in line for blessings. Jesus told his apostles on another occasion: “He that receives you receives me also, and he that receives me receives him also that sent me forth. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water to drink because he is a disciple, I tell you truly, he will by no means lose his reward.”—Matthew 10:40, 42.
Lessons for Us
The commission to preach the good news of God’s Kingdom and to make disciples is now being carried out by well over 5,000,000 Witnesses of Jehovah worldwide. (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) They realize that their message is urgent. Therefore, they make the most of their time, avoiding distractions that would prevent them from giving full attention to their important assignment.
Jehovah’s Witnesses strive to be cordial with all they meet. Nevertheless, they do not simply engage in idle chatter, nor do they get caught up in debates over social issues or the failing attempts of this world to correct injustices. (John 17:16) Rather, they focus their discussion on the only long-term solution to man’s problems—God’s Kingdom.
Most often, Jehovah’s Witnesses are seen working in pairs. Could not more be accomplished if each of them worked alone? Perhaps. Still, Christians today recognize the benefit of working side by side with a fellow believer. It affords a measure of protection when witnessing in dangerous areas. Working with a partner also enables newer ones to benefit from the skill of more experienced publishers of the good news. Really, both can contribute toward an interchange of encouragement.—Proverbs 27:17.
Without doubt, the preaching work is the most urgent work being carried out in these “last days.” (2 Timothy 3:1) Jehovah’s Witnesses are happy to have the support of a worldwide brotherhood in which they work “side by side for the faith of the good news.”—Philippians 1:27.
Some Bibles and ancient Greek manuscripts say that Jesus sent forth “seventy-two” disciples. However, there is abundant manuscript support for the reading “seventy.” This technical variation should not detract from the main point, that Jesus sent forth a large group of his disciples to preach.