Jesus' instructions to the Seventy Apostles, Part 1
Mar 24, 2014
Beginning in Luke 10:2, Jesus begins to instruct the seventy apostles in regard to their mission. Verse 1 said that Jesus “sent them” ahead of Him to prepare the way before Him. The Greek word translated “sent” is apostello, that is, Jesus apostled them. An apostle is one who is appointed, commissioned, and sent on a mission.
Even as John the Baptist heralded the first coming of Christ, so also the seventy prophetically herald Christ’s second coming. So these instructions largely apply to us today as we prepare the way for Christ’s second work. This is a preaching/teaching work, as shown by “the hearing rock” in the days of Moses and also by the second call of Jonah to preach to Nineveh.
We know from Matthew 10:5-42 that Jesus had given detailed instructions to the twelve. Luke recorded only a few of those instructions. But in the instructions to the seventy, Luke’s record is as long as Matthew’s. Matthew focused upon the twelve, while Luke focused upon the seventy. Luke 10:2 says,
2 And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
This plentiful harvest is the world itself, represented in the story of Jonah as the city of Nineveh. The seventy were the few laborers in that time, but indeed, this number was destined to be increased (as we have seen) to 288,000—assuming that this is a literal number of overcomers.
The Restoration of Glory
The number seventy appears to represent the nations of the world, for in Genesis 10 we see that the family of Noah formed seventy nations. Hence, the seventy apostles represent one for each of the nations. Their mission is to restore the glory of God until His glory fills the whole earth (Numbers 14:21). The biblical number for “glory” is a thousand.
Romans 3:23 says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Adam, the great archetype of humanity, died at the age of 930 (Genesis 5:5). He fell short of the glory of God by seventy years. Therefore, seventy is the number of restoration that brings the glory of God to the nations of the world.
Jesus’ first instruction was to “beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” When He sent out the seventy, it was too late to start praying for an increase of apostles for that mission. In a sense, this was to increase later under the anointing of Pentecost, which began with 120 disciples (Acts 1:15). This increased over time, but as we now approach the second work of Christ, we anticipate a great increase of apostles. These will be empowered to prepare the way for the Stone Kingdom of Daniel 2:35, as it grows until it fills the earth with His glory.
Indeed, we held a prayer campaign from March 22-24, 2001 called “He is Building Effective Apostleship.” It is no coincidence that we have arrived at this point in our study of Luke thirteen years later on the same dates. It was not possible to plan this ahead of time. I view that prayer campaign as fulfilling Jesus’ instructions to the seventy, for we did indeed pray for an increase of apostles for the work ahead.
The Peaceable Kingdom
Luke 10:3 continues,
3 “Go your ways; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”
Many have been taught that they are to go out as lions in the midst of wolves. They say that Jesus came first as a lamb, but will come the second time as a lion. While this is certainly true, they misinterpret it, thinking that Christ the “lion” will come to tear the nations into pieces and destroy them as “enemies.” However, the two metaphors cannot be used to contradict each other. Christ’s lamb-like character is not set aside later, nor does His lion-like character set aside the lamb. He is both at the same time.
His lion-like character indicates strength and victory as He manifests Himself as the King of the World. Yet His gentleness as the Prince of Peace is never lost. He does not intend to destroy His enemies but to convert them into friends. This is seen in the story of Jonah, who went to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, to evangelize them. Assyria was soon to swallow up the Israelites (Hosea 8:8, 9), even as Jonah had been swallowed by the great fish. When Jonah was angry over the conversion of Nineveh, God rebuked him gently but firmly. In Jonah 4:4, we read,
4 And the Lord said, “Do you have good reason to be angry?”
In the story, Jonah built a “shelter” (Heb. sukkah), and God caused a gourd to grow over it in order to give Jonah shade. A sukkah is a booth, and it is the word used for the feast of Booths, or Tabernacles. This forms part of the story of the second work of Christ, which is associated with the feast of Tabernacles.
But the prophet’s anger at the mercy of God then caused the gourd to die (Jonah 4:7), and the prophet fainted from the heat. Jonah was too nationalistic and militant to do the second work of Christ properly. His attitude violated the prophetic meaning of the feast of Tabernacles, so it was removed. In this way, Jonah was much like Moses when he struck the rock instead of speaking to it. Both of them broke the prophetic type and suffered the consequences.
What does this tell us today? It suggests that we are disqualified to fulfill the feast of Tabernacles and to do the work of this new apostleship if we go out to convert men by force and to “destroy all of God’s enemies.” Instead, we are sent out as lambs among wolves. Nationalistic self-interest is a disqualifier, as we see with Jonah. Violence is a disqualifier, as we see in the story of Moses when he struck the second rock.
Those who yearn for a front-row seat to watch Jesus destroy His enemies (or the enemies of Israel) are not fit for this work of apostleship. Jesus’ instructions tell us that we are to have the heart of the lamb, even while we exercise the strength of the lion. Our warfare is not carnal, but spiritual. Our weapons are not carnal, but they are effective (2 Corinthians 10:4).
Under the Old Covenant, men had physical swords to conquer Canaan, because they had rejected the Sword of the Spirit at that first Pentecost at Mount Horeb. But under the New Covenant, the true Pentecostals who hear His voice receive the Sword of the Spirit which is much sharper than any double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). This Sword is the Word of God, which the apostles are to preach to God’s enemies until they are subdued fully by the love of Christ and the demonstration of the Spirit.
True apostleship is set forth by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20,
18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
We are not sent out as apostles of doom, nor are we to tell the world that they will soon be destroyed by an angry God. Instead, we are to tell them that God is NOT fighting them. He has raised the white flag. He has already conciliated them through Christ’s death on the cross.
The Greek word translated “reconciliation” is katallasso. It means to conciliate as a one-sided act toward another. When such conciliation receives a like response, then there is a “reconciliation,” (apokatallasso) such as we read in Colossians 1:20,
20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
Hence, when Paul speaks of the completed process, he speaks of absolute reconciliation as a two-way street, where both God and man are conciliated to each other with complete reconciliation.
The point is that in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, quoted above, the message of the apostles is not the message of divine judgment, but the message of peace, telling what God has already done by conciliating them. This is the manner in which we are to be fishers of men. We are to cast our nets on the right side of the boat (John 21:6), which is the side of mercy, and stop trying to fish from the left side of the boat, which is a message of judgment.
The Sense of Urgency
Luke 10:4 continues,
4 “Carry no purse, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way.
Jesus was emphasizing the urgency of preparing the way for the King, who was coming to town. Go as you are. Do not prepare for a long journey. Take note that the ministry of John the Baptist was short; so also the ministry of the seventy. So Jesus tells them to take no extra money, and do not bring a “bag,” that is, a beggar’s bag, because you are not sent out as beggars. Neither should you take an extra pair of sandals. Travel light.
Further, do not “salute” anyone on the way. This does not refer to Western-style greeting, where we say “hello” without even stopping along the path to talk. The word encompasses the idea of getting to know people, making new friends, and going through the social rituals of Eastern culture. Jesus was telling these apostles that they were to avoid distractions that might sidetrack them from their urgent mission.
Sending out the seventy seems to have been the final preparation for Jesus last trip to Jerusalem, where He finished the work on the cross for which He had come. When this is reapplied to the second work of Christ, we may understand that the second preparation work is also short and intense. There will yet be a greater work after the return of Christ, but meanwhile, there is much work to be done.
This is part 1 of a mini-series titled "Jesus' instructions to the Seventy." To view all parts, click the link below.
This is part 52 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones