Jesus—His Life and Message: The Mission of the Seventy-Two (Part 2)
August 28, 2018
by Peter Amsterdam
Jesus—His Life and Message: The Mission of the Seventy-Two (Part 2)
In the previous article, we saw how Jesus spoke about the judgment that the towns which didn’t receive His seventy-two messengers would face, which would be greater than that of the Old Testament city of Sodom, which was destroyed by fire from heaven.1 He continued with the theme of judgment, directed toward specific towns in Israel which had rejected Him and His message.
Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.2
Jesus compared two specific towns to the ancient cities of Tyre and Sidon. Bethsaida was located on the northeast side of the Jordan River, about five miles from the town of Capernaum. The location of Chorazin is unknown, though commentators suggest that it was also near Capernaum.
The fate of Tyre and Sidon referred to here by Jesus is described in the book of Ezekiel:
Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will bring up many nations against you, as the sea brings up its waves. They shall destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers, and I will scrape her soil from her and make her a bare rock.3
They will break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses. Your stones and timber and soil they will cast into the midst of the waters.4
Behold, I am against you, O Sidon … I will send pestilence into her, and blood into her streets; and the slain shall fall in her midst, by the sword that is against her on every side.5
Wearing sackcloth and ashes was a way of expressing contrition, mourning, and repentance. Sackcloth was made from goats’ hair and was very rough. Ashes were sometimes placed on the head or were sat upon.6 Jesus’ statement that if such evil societies as those of Tyre and Sidon had seen Jesus’ miracles they would have repented, in comparison to Chorazin and Bethsaida which had not repented, is a powerful condemnation of these two cities of His time.
Jesus then focused on Capernaum:
And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.7
All four of the Gospels speak of Jesus spending time in Capernaum. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus resided there:
Leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali.8
This is echoed in the Gospel of Mark.
When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.9
It was there that He healed the centurion’s servant,10 where the tax collectors asked if He paid the two-drachma tax,11 where He taught in the synagogue on the Sabbath,12 travelled to with His mother and brothers,13 and sailed to from across the lake.14 He was well known in Capernaum, and most likely did a number of miracles there. One author states that Capernaum served as the center of Jesus’ ministry.15
Despite all the exposure to Jesus that Capernaum had, for the most part it apparently remained unmoved by His message. Therefore, the city’s fate was going to be similar to Chorazin and Bethsaida. It seems that people there thought quite highly of themselves. Perhaps this was because Jesus spent so much time there or performed miracles there. The answer to the question of whether Capernaum would be exalted to heaven is a very clear no. They were headed in the opposite direction: You shall be brought down to Hades. In the New Testament, the Greek proper name Hades is translated as the grave, death, and hell in the KJV. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew name Sheol is translated as underworld, grave, and hell in the KJV. Both refer to the place of punishment for the unrighteous dead. The fate of these cities that rejected Jesus would be the same.
Jesus then gave a final word to the disciples as He sent them out on their mission.
“The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”16
This emphasized the importance of the messengers, who represented Jesus to others. When they spoke, they spoke Jesus’ words, and when people listened, they were listening to Jesus. Likewise, people rejected Jesus if they rejected His messengers or their message. Even more importantly, if they rejected Jesus, they were rejecting God Himself—the One who sent Jesus.
Having received their commission, the seventy-two headed out to preach the message. We’re not told how long the thirty-six teams of two were gone; we only know that they were instructed to go, to pray for laborers, to take no supplies, and to accept the hospitality of those who offered it while they preached the gospel and healed the sick. They were sent to represent Jesus and His message far and wide, and their mission was successful.
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”17
While Jesus had given them instructions before they left as to what to do if they faced rejection, the mission of the seventy-two seems to have been met with success, as they returned joyful. They were most excited about their authority over demons. The power to exorcise demons wasn’t specifically mentioned in Jesus’ instructions when He sent them out, but as Jesus’ representatives, they had power over demons. Casting out demons in Jesus’ name means that, like the twelve, the seventy-two did this by His power. He called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases.18
In response, Jesus said to them:
“I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”19
Jesus remarked that the disciples’ authority to cast out demons showed Satan’s defeat. The concept of Satan’s fall from heaven is found in the book of Isaiah:
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.”20
While Isaiah was most likely writing about the original fall of Satan, most other verses about Satan’s fall refer to his future defeat.
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.21
The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.”22
Jesus saw preaching the gospel, healing the sick, and casting out demons as part of a series of events which lead up to the ultimate defeat of Satan.
Jesus then spoke about the authority He had given to the disciples:
Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.23
In Scripture, snakes and scorpions were symbols of evil.
Deliver me, O LORD, from evil men; preserve me from violent men, who plan evil things in their heart and stir up wars continually. They make their tongue sharp as a serpent’s, and under their lips is the venom of asps.24
King Rehoboam spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to it. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.”25
What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?26
The snake is also a symbol of Satan.
I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.27
And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.28
The idea of the disciples treading on—or crushing—serpents and scorpions conveys the authority given them to overcome Satan’s power.
Jesus went on to say:
Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.29
While He had given them authority and power, Jesus pointed out that the real grounds for rejoicing is that their names are written in heaven. The Greek words translated as “are written” convey the idea of something permanently recorded.30 The concept of names being written in heaven or in the book of life is found throughout Scripture:
The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life.31
I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life.32
Jesus encouraged the seventy-two, who also represent all those who believe in Him, that God has written their names in heaven.
Not only were the seventy-two joyful when they returned, but Jesus was as well.
In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”33
According to the definition of the Greek word translated as rejoiced, Jesus rejoiced exceedingly at the Holy Spirit’s direction. Earlier in this Gospel, we’re told that the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form34 and that He was full of the Holy Spirit.35
Jesus called God His Father and Lord of heaven and earth, showing both God’s love and compassion as Father (Abba),36 as well as His sovereign power as Lord of heaven and earth. The “things God has hidden” refers to the presence of God’s kingdom and Satan’s fall. The “wise and understanding” probably refers to the religious leadership—the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes who opposed Him. It could also refer to other arrogant and supposedly wise and learned people who rejected Jesus’ message. The “little children” to whom Jesus revealed these things are the seventy-two whom He sent out. Jesus later said, Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.37
“All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”38
Jesus states that His Father has placed all things under His command, that the Father’s authority resides in the Son. This is seen elsewhere in Scripture:
The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.39
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God ...40
The statement that no one knows who the Son is but the Father, and who the Father is but the Son, shows Jesus’ unique relation to the Father as the Son—a relationship no one else has. It’s only through Jesus that anyone can come to truly know the Father and be saved.“There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”41 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”42
Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”43
After Jesus’ prayer, He spoke to the disciples privately. This indicates that His earlier words were spoken in the hearing of others besides the disciples, including the seventy-two. He then addressed them privately, and pointed out that they were especially blessed to be eyewitnesses to such great events, to be in the special situation of being with Jesus.
Many others, including both prophets and kings of old, looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, to witness God’s presence on earth and His mighty works. The spiritually-minded people of Old Testament times awaited God’s promises, but the fulfillment of those promises only came with Jesus.
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar.44
The disciples were blessed as they were given the privilege of seeing the fulfillment of what had been promised throughout the Old Testament. The promised age had come, and the disciples rejoiced to be part of it. We too can rejoice, as we are beneficiaries of God’s promises and their fulfillment in Jesus.
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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1 Genesis 19:24.
2 Luke 10:13–15.
3 Ezekiel 26:3–4.
4 Ezekiel 26:12.
5 Ezekiel 28:22–23.
6 See Job 2:8 and Jonah 3:6.
7 Luke 10:15.
8 Matthew 4:13.
9 Mark 2:1.
10 Matthew 8:5–6.
11 Matthew 17:24.
12 Mark 1:21, Luke 4:31.
13 John 2:12.
14 John 6:17.
15 Darrell L. Bock, Luke Volume 2 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1996), 1004.
16 Luke 10:16.
17 Luke 10:17.
18 Luke 9:1.
19 Luke 10:18.
20 Isaiah 14:12–15.
21 Romans 16:20.
22 Revelation 12:9–10.
23 Luke 10:19.
24 Psalm 140:1–3.
25 2 Chronicles 10:14.
26 Luke 11:11–12.
27 2 Corinthians 11:3.
28 Revelation 12:9.
29 Luke 10:20.
30 Leon Morris, Luke (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 204.
31 Revelation 3:5.
32 Revelation 20:12.
33 Luke 10:21.
34 Luke 3:22.
35 Luke 4:1.
36 For more on Jesus calling the Father Abba, see https://directors.tfionline.com/post/spiritual-disciplines-prayer/.
37 Luke 18:17.
38 Luke 10:22.
39 John 3:35.
40 John 13:3.
41 Acts 4:12.
42 John 14:6.
43 Luke 10:23–24.
44 Hebrews 11:13.