Chapter 10 resumes Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. However, during this journey, Jesus sends out another group of disciples to proclaim the gospel and to heal diseases. They will return excited about their ministry and all the things they have accomplished. Jesus Himself will praise God for allowing “infants” to do the mighty works of God. As they travel along the road to Jerusalem, Jesus will be confronted by a scribe who wants to get some things very clear about Jesus’ new teaching. In doing so, he will attempt to entrap Jesus into making statements that are contrary to traditional teaching, similar to what Satan attempted to do in the wilderness. That encounter will include the parable of the good Samaritan. Lastly, Jesus will teach His friend Martha a hard lesson about priorities.
What to look for in Luke 10
As you read each paragraph ask, “How is God speaking to me personally through His word?”
Look for the specific strategy Jesus uses to prepare people to receive Him and His message when He comes to their town.
Look for the words, “Woe to you…” (NASB), to whom they are uttered, and why.
Look for the response of the seventy disciples when they return from their mission, and Jesus’ response to them.
Locate the “foremost” commandment and its associated “second” commandment.
Observe carefully the details of the parable of the good Samaritan.
What’s going on in the story about Martha and Mary?
10:1-12 This section foreshadows the spread of the gospel and the beginning of the church. Note here that God’s love manifests itself by giving hearers an opportunity to receive Jesus before they are judged for rejecting Him. To reject Jesus’ messengers is to reject Jesus.
10:1 “Now after this…” refers back to 9:51 and Jesus’ initial encounters on His way to Jerusalem (9:57-62). Whereas in chapter 9, Jesus sent the twelve out, on this occasion He is sending out seventy other disciples. This indicates there were a number of disciples following Jesus who were not a part of the twelve disciples. Note, too, that there’s a strategy involved. God’s love is often expressed through a clear plan of approach.
10:2 “The harvest is plentiful….” There are many people waiting to hear about God’s love and who will respond to Jesus’ message of love. They have already been prepared by the Holy Spirit to recognize true love when they see and hear it. Therefore, the prayer here is not that people will be open to the gospel, but that God will raise up many who are willing and able to deliver the love message to those waiting to receive it.
10:3-9 Wolves are representative of those who are under the influence of Satan. Satan will do everything he can to disrupt God’s plan. The seventy are to avoid wolves by finding those who love peace. It is those who love peace who will be receptive to the love message, as one cannot have peace unless there is neighborly love underlying it. Once the household of peace is found, the disciples are to stay there and minister by healing and by preaching that the kingdom of God is near. The lesson here is clear: those who are ready to receive the love message can often be recognized by their desire for peace among men. They will recognize that it is God’s love that brings perfect peace.
10:10-12 “…they do not receive you…” meaning they do not receive the salutation, “Peace be to this house.” Those who reject the salutation will most likely reject God’s message of love. “…dust…wipe off…” is a Jewish idiom symbolizing taking away no part of them with you and taking no responsibility for their failure to respond to your peace. Sodom, of course, came under God’s judgment, not just for their sin of sodomy, but for their sin of rejecting those who bring peace.
10:13-15 The term “woe” is a pronouncement of judgment, as well as a cry of painful grieving. This pronouncement by Jesus does not indicate an absence of love on God’s part; in fact, the term carries with it an implication of great emotional pain on God’s part; He knows the future, and therefore knows the consequences for failing to respond to Jesus. Judgment is coming, not because God is rejecting them; it is they who are rejecting God. Jesus performed many miracles in Bethsaida, Capernaum and Chorazin (a city northwest of Capernaum), yet the people did not respond to Jesus or His message. In other words, they may have been awed by the miracles, but they did not repent. Therefore, they remain under judgment, a condition that they have brought upon themselves. To emphasize the gravity of their rejection, these Jewish towns are compared to the Gentile coastal towns of Tyre and Sidon. In the Old Testament, Tyre and Sidon represented the epitome of pagan worship and idolatry. The famous wicked Old Testament queen Jezebel was a Sidonian priestess, and these towns represented the exact opposite of worshipping the One True God and experiencing or expressing His love. Jesus is saying that they, like Nineveh in Jonah’s day, would have repented, and therefore been open to Jesus and His word. Capernaum, perhaps, is under greater judgment because they did not repent even after seeing demons cast out.
The most important point to remember here is that without repentance, God’s message of truth and love can be neither experienced nor expressed. Relying on one’s religion as protection against judgment does not excuse one from the need to repent.
10:16 For the most part, this lesson in logic is as true today as it was then. However, the reader should remember that the message of Jesus’ disciples also came with the power of healing and casting out demons. Yet what these verses clearly point out is that even miracles of healing and casting out demons may not be enough to cause someone to repent and receive Jesus. Therefore, miracles in themselves are not necessary to share the love of God through Jesus Christ. If someone is going to reject God’s love, they will reject His love whether miracles are performed or not. Therefore, miracles, healing and the casting out of demons should never be relied upon, or even sought after, in order to share the gospel.
10:17-20 The excitement expressed by the seventy disciples upon seeing that demons are subject even to them is perhaps an expression of immaturity on their part. Rather than being excited that demons were subject to them, they should have been more excited about the people who were set free from the demons; that their lives had been restored to wholeness. It is not unusual that new converts are more excited about the process than about the person for whom the process brings new life. However, out of love for His disciples, Jesus shares their enthusiasm. Serpents and scorpions, of course, are symbolic of demons. “…And nothing will injure you” does not mean “You will never be injured.” It means that when doing the Lord’s work, demons themselves cannot result in eternal injury. (Attack yes, but not permanent separation from God.) Also, there are risks involved in rejoicing that demons are subject to you, and that risk is pride. Therefore, the disciples should rejoice more that they were specifically chosen by God to participate in bringing the kingdom of God to a lost world.
The phrase “that your names are recorded in heaven” refers specifically to citizenship. The names of citizens of a town were “recorded” (Gk. eggrapho) in a town register. The purpose of this practice was to keep track of who was descended from whom, and who owned what piece of land. Jesus is informing the disciples that their true rejoicing should be based on the fact that they are citizens of heaven. This phrase is not dissimilar to Revelation 21:27: “…only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (shall be in heaven).
10:21-22 Notice that Jesus rejoices with the disciples. This is a sign of love; that is, that one can rejoice because of another’s joy. The immediate response to rejoicing in seeing God’s hand at work is to praise Him.
Jesus’ words “from the wise and intelligent” cannot be well understood outside the context. The context is “these things.” These things are spiritual in nature and not earthly, empirical or scientific. Wise and intelligent people—by the world’s standard—are wise and intelligent concerning the things of the world. But receiving, understanding and appreciating spiritual things can only be the result of revelation, received by faith and manifested through love. It is not the wise and intelligent according to the world that will hear and receive God’s love revelation, but those who are like infants in the eyes of the world; that is, those who live by faith and not by sight, an attribute shunned and ridiculed by the world. Therefore, spiritual truths remain hidden from the eyes of the wise and intelligent of this world. Why? Because the wise and intelligent of this world will scoff at faith and deny the need for a God of love. The wise and intelligent of this world presume they have no need for faith or love. Those of the world cannot grasp the principles of the kingdom of God because they are blinded by the god of this world, Satan, and by their own pride in the flesh. This is why the apostle John writes, “Do not love the world nor the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1 John 2:15-16). And the apostle Paul writes, “…We speak God’s wisdom in a mystery…the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory….” (1 Cor. 2:7-8).
Note, too, that the word “reveal” is used twice in these two verses. God proactively hides spiritual truth from those who refused to repent, and proactively reveals spiritual truth to those who do.
10:23-24 Here, Jesus puts the disciples’ recent experiences in perspective to the past. For this, the disciples should be extremely grateful and feel especially blessed. These verses provide great hope for those who long for the return of Christ on earth. Those things we long to see with Christ’s return (e.g., swords turned into plowshares) will be seen and experienced by others whom the Father chooses, and we rejoice with their future joy.
10:25-37 Regarding the revelation of God’s love, verses 25-37 comprise one of the most important teachings in Scripture: the question raised by the scribe (lawyer), followed by the parable of the good Samaritan. Let’s first address the inquiry by the scribe concerning the great commandment.
10:25-29 What kind of a test the scribe was putting to Jesus is not clearly stated, but it is possible that the test is related to the second part of his answer, as we will see. Jesus answers the scribe’s question by asking one of His own in order to find out what the scribe is really asking. The scribe responds by quoting from Deuteronomy 6:5: “You shall love the Lord your God….” (When Deut. 6:4 is added, it is called the shema, which means “hear.”) However, Deut. 6:5 ends with “all your mind.” The second part—“You shall love your neighbor as yourself”—comes from Lev. 19:18, a somewhat obscure instruction tucked in among a series of sundry laws directed at how the Israelites are to treat one another, including foreigners. Adding Lev. 19:18 to the shema was not the common teaching among rabbis. The famous rabbi Hillel was the closest to paraphrasing this teaching, but his teaching involved an interpretation of Scripture, not Scripture itself. Therefore, it is quite possible that it was Jesus Himself who initiated tacking on loving one’s neighbor as oneself to the dogmatically accepted shema, and the scribe, as did the rich young ruler in Matthew 19, is simply quoting back to Jesus what he had heard from Him. Therefore, it is this last part—loving one’s neighbor as oneself—about which the scribe is testing Jesus. In other words, the scribe is actually questioning Jesus for including Leviticus 19:18: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If that verse is to be added to the shema and included as a part of inheriting eternal life, how exactly does one do that? Loving God with all your heart is simple to figure out—obey the Ten Commandments, obey laws concerning sacrifice, the Sabbath, rituals, dietary restrictions and keeping away from those things deemed unclean. But loving your neighbor as yourself? That’s wide open to interpretation.
So, now that the scribe has confirmed Jesus has included loving one’s neighbor as a part of the formula, he tests Him by raising a very difficult question, one that certainly began raising debate among the rabbis: who, exactly, is my neighbor? In other words, “Get Jesus Himself to tell who we should consider is our neighbor.”
(After the scribe’s answer, Jesus adds, “Do this and you will live,” a quote from Lev. 18:5.)
What follows is not what the rabbis and scribes wanted to hear. It is the parable of the good Samaritan.
10:30-37 The parable of the good Samaritan is a familiar story that many Christians can recount. However, the key question—“Which one of these three proved to be a neighbor…”—is often answered incorrectly. Many people believe the parable is teaching that the victim is the neighbor, and therefore the parable is about showing mercy to those who fall victim to misfortune. However, that conclusion is not only incorrect, but it misses the point of the original question, “Who is my neighbor?”
The neighbor is “The one who showed mercy….” This answer changes everything. In the parable, the Samaritan, despised by Jews, is the neighbor, and the clear teaching is that the scribe is to love even a Samaritan if he shows mercy. So, the requisite for loving one’s neighbor as oneself is not based on race or religion, but upon the person’s willingness to demonstrate mercy to others. The parable does not teach that Christians are to love everyone as themselves—although love itself is to be shown to all people. The issue of one of intensity. Love everyone—as the Samaritan did—but love the one who shows mercy as intensely as one loves oneself.
“Go and do the same” continues the scriptural instruction, “Do this and you will live.” Getting the answer right about the parable of the good Samaritan is not enough. Now one must live out the answer with action and good works. The scribe may have realized suddenly that loving one’s neighbor as oneself is much more difficult than simply following a set of laws and rules, especially if the neighbor is someone you’ve always been taught to hate.
The ultimate lesson here goes even beyond two separate commandments. At first glance, one could conclude that Christians are (1) to love God, and (2) to love your neighbor. But Jesus’ teaching here opens up a whole new dimension concerning loving God. The principle should not be “Love God and love your neighbor,” but “Love God by loving your neighbor.” This new teaching on loving God will not become evident until the writings of Paul and James, the Lord’s brother
10:38-42 We know from the Gospel of John that the village is Bethany, the home of Lazarus, just outside Jerusalem. The contrast between Martha and Mary, and Jesus’ words to Martha, is a lesson on busy-ness, as well as a lesson about priorities. The lesson for Christians in the church is clear: do not let activity interrupt one’s time with Jesus. Whether in the activities of the church itself or in the privacy of one’s home, busy-ness is an enemy to spending intimate time with Jesus and His word, which should be every believer’s top priority. Quite simply, Martha’s busy-ness, though well intentioned, was keeping her from the greatest opportunity one could have—sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to His words.
Jesus’ answer to Martha addresses her fretting and disapproval of Mary. This scenario is often witnessed in the classic firstborn vs. second-born sibling rivalry. When Jesus tells Mary, “…only one thing is necessary,” He is actually letter her off the hook in regards to fixing a sumptuous, time-consuming seven-course banquet. He is essentially telling Martha that a bowl of fruit or a slice of bread is all that is needed. Instead of spending hours laboring in the kitchen trying to impress your guests or fretting over whether they will have a satisfactory dinner, He is saying, “Sit and listen to My words. My words are the bread of life. One enjoys a meal for only a little while, but My words will bring pleasure and joy for a lifetime.”
Questions for Your Personal or Group Reflection
In this chapter, how has God spoken to you through His word? Of the many principles presented in chapter 10, what principle stands out most to you? Once you identify the principle, what do you intend to do about it in the form of action?
Identify the strategy that Jesus used to prepare the people ahead of His journey to Jerusalem. Are you able to come up with a specific plan of action? It may be a short plan, or it may be a prolonged plan that charts out your future intentions of how to serve Jesus, such as going into ministry, becoming a missionary, or raising godly children, or being a witness in the workplace. What is your plan? (Perhaps you might want to pray about this.)
Concerning the villages that had witnessed Jesus’ miracles, reconcile Jesus’ judgments with His love. Are God’s love and God’s judgments incompatible? How would you explain that to a friend who says, “How can a loving God also be a God of judgment and wrath? And here is an even more important question: is God able to love you and discipline you at the same time? (You might want to refer to Hebrews 12.)
Read verse 20 again. Is your name recorded in heaven? On what basis do you say “Yes”?
Recount the incident when the scribe approaches Jesus with the question of how to inherit eternal life. If someone came up to you and asked you, “How can I inherit (receive, find, get) eternal life, how would you answer? Would you hand that individual a tract? Would you attempt to have them recite a “Believer’s Prayer,” or something of that nature? What is the real answer to that question, according to Jesus’ teaching in this Scripture? (The answer may surprise you and not what you’ve always been taught.)
Recount the parable of the good Samaritan. Have you identified the neighbor? How is this answer going to affect your behavior, and how is this answer going to affect those to whom you show love? Is there a difference of intensity towards those to whom you will show love? (Tough question.)
Is “busy-ness” interfering with your time with Jesus? If it is, what do you plan on doing about it?