In this chapter we are provided various viewpoints of the Gospel. It begins with a group viewpoint, not only of the seventy disciples sent out by Jesus, but for the many cities they visited. This is followed up by the more personal viewpoints first of a lawyer who does not appear to immediately be in Christ’s camp, and then Mary and Martha who undoubtedly are. The impact of Christ’s teaching is seen from the viewpoint both of those for and against Him as well as those active working for and against Him. There are lessons here not just in how we are supposed to handle the teaching of the Gospel and its relative acceptance by others, but in how we are to personally apply it. We must never become so labored in our work to share the Gospel that we begin to allow works to become more important than the personal application of the message.
Read verses 1-16
Q: Did Jesus send the seventy out to any place they wanted to go?
A: No, it states that He specifically sent them “to every city and place where He Himself was going to come”. (v.1)
Point: Both times when Jesus told the disciples where to cast their nets, it was an illustration that we are to go into the world where He directs. We are to be prepared to witness about our faith at any time, but we are supposed to seek His guidance as to where He wants us to carry the Gospel.
Q: What are the three terms Jesus uses to describe the disciples’ roles in spreading the Gospel?
“Laborers”. (v.2) They are sent out as harvesters in a field that has been neglected.
“Lambs” (v.3-6) They are lambs among wolves and messengers of God’s peace.
“Laborers”. (v.7) They are servants who are carrying out their Master’s business.
Point: All of these describe someone living IN the world but not OF the world and someone who is no longer concerned with living for their own life but in exclusive service to Christ their Master.
Q: What was the expected result of their ministry?
A: Depending on how the people responded, their ministry in a city would bring blessing or judgment.
Application: Have you considered that even when people are unresponsive to the Gospel that God does not see that as a total failure, that He has provided them with the opportunity they most need? The Gospel accomplishes its purpose whether in acceptance to experience blessing or in rejection to experience judgment.
Q: Why would the way each city treated the disciples be important?
A: They way people treat them is the way they would have treated Christ Himself if He were there. (v.16)
Q: Did Christ have personal experience with cities who rejected Him?
Chorazin was a small town in the hills about two miles away from Capernaum. In spite of performing miracles there they did not repent and believe.
Bethsaida was the hometown of Philip, Andrew, and Peter (Jn. 1:44) This was where Jesus healed a blind man (Mk. 8:22) and very near which He healed multitudes and fed the 5,000. (Lk. 9:10-17)
Capernaum was the place Jesus made as a kind of new “home town” from which He centrally operated His earthly ministry after being rejected in Nazareth. He frequently taught in its synagogue (Mk. 1:21; Lk. 4:31-38; Jn. 6:59) and performed many miracles there including the healing of the paralyzed servant (Mt. 8:5-13), the paralytic carried in by his friends (Mk. 2:1-12), Peter’s mother-in-law (Mt. 8:14-15), and the nobleman’s son. (Jn. 4:46-54)
Application: Signs and wonders in and of themselves never automatically induce people to accept the message of the Gospel. They most often have the effect of accelerating the direction one’s heart is already going in, whether toward Christ for those inclined to accept Him and repent, or toward judgment for those inclined to reject Him and ignore the message.
Read verses 17-24
Q: What is even greater than experiencing spiritual victory in the course of this life?
A: Obtaining spiritual victory for the next life. “…rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven”. (v.20)
Q: Especially in the context of His sending them out, why is this the most important point?
A: This is the ultimate example of what they are preaching. Having themselves accepted Christ they have obtained the very thing they are encouraging others to obtain for themselves. The message is not, “Join with us and you can do signs” but “Join with us and you can have the assurance of eternal life”. The message is greater than the signs.
Point: The verb “recorded” in the Greek is used in the perfect tense to convey the fact that Believers’ names not only stand in heaven, but always will be written in heaven.
Q: What is being taught in v.19-20?
A: Jesus describes the worst possible physical (“serpents and scorpions”) and spiritual (“all the power of the enemy”) hardships that can be encountered in the course of this life, providing the assurance that for those who have accepted the Gospel “nothing will injure you”. The context is that because our eternal soul is secure, nothing in this life can have ultimate victory over us.
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith
— 1 John 5:4
Q: What might be theologically significant about v.21?
A: All three members of the Trinity are mentioned.
Q: What are “the things” Jesus is referring to in v.21-24? How might this be important within the overall context of what has been going on?
A: “The things” cannot be referring exclusively to signs and wonders performed since everyone would have seen them, but rather to the message of the Gospel. This is the only means by which someone “knows who the Son is” as He has revealed Himself.
As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.
— 1 Peter 1:10-12
Application: The disciples had the greatest privilege of serving Christ and even performing miracles, but they were also witnesses of people who although they saw the signs still rejected the message. The Gospel carries with it an inestimable blessing for those accepting it, and judgment for those rejecting it. In reality, the Gospel is not “successful” only if there are those who accept it as it works both ways in both cases.
Read verses 25-37
Q: How does the lawyer’s question fit with the ministry of the seventy?
A: By the message and actions of their ministry they were in effect answering the exact same question.
Q: Why would Jesus direct Him to the Law?
A: Being a lawyer it would be most logical in terms of his office and position, and it has the most direct bearing on his question, “What shall I do?”
Q: What can we divine about this lawyer from his answer?
A: He already knows the correct answer.
Q: And from his rebuttal, “And who is my neighbor?”
A: Although he knows the Law intellectually he does not know how to apply the Law spiritually. In fact, the caveat “wishing to justify himself” (v.29) tells us that the situation may be even worse, that he knows the Law, knows what He should be doing to live it, but is willfully choosing NOT to obey it.
Q: What age-old debating trick is the lawyer attempting to employ?
A: The one where they invoke, “Define your terms”.
Q: How does Jesus avoid getting bogged down into a discussion of abstract terms?
A: Jesus instead provides a concrete case, an irrefutable practical example of the issue. This not only answers the question in terms of how to apply the Law, but specifically addresses the man’s attempt to “justify himself”.
Q: What is significant about the three passers-by Jesus uses in his illustration?
“A priest” (v.31) would be someone who knows the Law the best of anyone at that time.
“A Levite” (v.32) is someone who knows the Law and whose whole life is governed by the Law.
“A Samaritan” (v.33) is someone considered by Jews to be unclean and completely without the Law. Ironically he is the only one properly applying the Law.
Point: This would have been particularly powerful to a lawyer. Jesus effectively shows that the lawyer is in violation of the Law he knows so well because he asked “Who is my neighbor” when instead someone attempting to put the Law into practice should be asking, “To whom can I be a neighbor?”
Application: It is easy to get side-tracked into theological and semantic debates. Doctrine must always be applied to real-life situations because God’s Word is ultimately about relationships, whether it is our love for Him or our love for others. Biblical love is not theoretical but practical. The Law carries with it the greatest responsibility to put love into practice.
Read verses 38-42
Q: In the Gospel record we find three visitations of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. (Lk. 10:38-43, Jn. 11; Jn. 12:1-11) What is unique about Mary in each of these?
A: She is always found to be in the same place: at the feet of Jesus.
Q: Was it wrong for Martha to want to serve Jesus?
A: No, but the fact that she is described as “distracted with all her preparations” indicates something wrong with her personally.
Q: What is the essential difference between Mary and Martha?
A: Mary is occupied with Jesus, Martha is occupied with herself.
Application: Do we sometimes become so preoccupied with our own “burdens” that we overlook what is really important in Christ?
Q: How might Martha’s dinner preparations relate to Mary’s “listening to His word”?
A: The repeated metaphor throughout Scripture for teaching or the Word is food, such as the true purpose of manna (Dt. 8:34) or Jesus’ teaching, “I am the bread of life”. (Jn. 6:35) Jesus establishes that the need for spiritual nourishment always outweighs the need for physical nourishment.
Q: How might this lesson relate to the mission of the seventy as well as the question of the lawyer in the previous sections?
A: In the case of the seventy it was the choice of those they encountered whether or not to respond to the Word they carried; in the case of the lawyer it was whether or not to put into practice the Word; here again the priority is given to the Word.
Application: How well do we realize what we do WITH Christ is more important than what we do FOR Christ because submission is what ultimately leads to obedience and service?
This chapter is full of comparisons and contrasts. For instance, when it comes to the Gospel…
In the experience of the seventy is seen the contrast of those who see the signs but reject the Word.
In the encounter with the lawyer is seen the contrast of those who see the Law but without the application of love.
In the encounter at Mary and Martha’s home is seen the contrast of choosing works over the Word.
We are also presented with different aspects of the Gospel at work:
In the return of the seventy we see the work of confession.
In the Parable of the Good Samaritan we see the working of obedience.
In the women’s home we see the working of separation from the world.
And we are presented with different aspects of rejecting the Gospel:
Ignoring the message in the face of accompanying signs.
Ignoring the spirit of love behind the message to cling to legalism.
Ignoring the message in the name of supporting the message
For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.
— 1 Corinthians 1:26-29
Finally, there are three “greatest” attributes exhibited in this chapter:
Carrying the Word to others is the greatest privilege.
Applying the Word in love is the greatest responsibility.
Possessing the Word personally is the greatest blessing.