In Luke 10:1-12, Jesus commissions the Seventy, sending them out to the surrounding towns and villages to preach, teach, heal and cast out demons.
Earlier, Jesus had similarly sent out the Twelve. Just like then, He begins this commissioning with some vision casting, telling them that “the harvest is great but the workers are few.”
The Seventy doesn’t include the Twelve but is an addition to the Twelve. Luke 10:1 makes this clear. “The Lord also appointed seventy different ones.”
Were the Seventy the fruit of the Twelve being sent out earlier? Is this evidence of the Twelve multiplying? That would be conjecture. It’s very possible, and it lines up with Jesus’ priorities, but Jesus did have many others following Him besides the Twelve. He could have selected from the larger pool of disciples He had gathered.
Could some of the Seventy have been women? I’ve never really considered that thought. We know that Jesus had women followers. Would any of them have been selected for this assignment? The only hint to the gender of the Seventy is a saying Jesus quotes, “The workman is worthy of his wages.” But using “his” in this way, in my mind, isn’t strong enough evidence to argue that women weren’t among the Seventy. As a husband and a dad of six daughters, I hope they were 🙂
The Seventy returned from their assignment with JOY! They were excited to be used by God. They’d seen Jesus do all these things. Maybe they’d seen or heard about the Twelve doing these things. But oh the wonder, the thrill of being used by God for the very first time. I remember the first time I shared my faith, and many times since, experiencing that sense of wonder, joy and honor at the privilege of being used by God.
After the return of the Seventy, there are some things Jesus said that have added meaning now that I see He was saying them to the Seventy.
“He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet, will receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man, will receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones a cup of cold water to drink in the name of a disciple only, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.”
So what does all that mean? If I look at it through the lens of Jesus speaking to the Seventy, then He is affirming these “little ones” of His for their character (righteous) and for their work (prophet). And He’s making sure they know they’ve represented Him so those who have responded to their ministry will be blessed as if Jesus was the One ministering (they have a lasting reward).
After this, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you laboring and burdened ones, and I will give you rest. Take up My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, because I am meek and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, for My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Don’t those words read differently when you hear them through the ears of the Seventy. We tend to quote this passage to comfort those who are battered and beaten down by the circumstances of life.
But WHAT IF they were originally intended for harvest workers coming back from the grueling mission they’d been sent on. They were away from home. Some faced rejection. Their comforts were stripped away. They faced intense spiritual battle, sometimes casting out demons.
In that context Jesus’ words sound more like, “Great job team! I know you’re tired. Some might even be discouraged. Be with Me. Lean on Me. Depend on me. Let Me show you the way. If you do this in your own strength, you’ll falter and become frustrated. Oh, but if you depend on Me, if you do this in My Spirit’s strength, what was hard becomes easy and what was heavy becomes light!”
Context. I used to read these words as “compassionate shepherding.”
Now I read them as “strong leadership.”
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