The Sending of the Seventy

July 7, 2019


“God’s kingdom is right on your doorstep.”

This is a paraphrase of the message that Jesus wants his followers to share in the towns and countryside into which he is about to travel.  These seventy followers are given the mission of preparing the people for the arrival of Jesus and his good news message of God’s love for his people.

You see Jesus wants to get word out that he will soon be arriving in their area, and so in a sense these seventy followers are sent out on a marketing campaign.  They were to let people know that God’s kingdom, in the person of Jesus was coming soon.

I bet you have never thought of Jesus as a marketing executive before, I hadn’t either, but not only is Jesus acting out the part of an Ad exec, he’s also playing out the role in the “Mission Impossible” T.V. show and movies of the taped message that set out the parameters and impossibility of the assigned mission, for Tom Cruise or whatever agent was to take it on.

I say this, because as you hear Jesus’ instructions to his followers for how to undertake the given mission, it seems as if he is putting as many obstacles in their way as possible.  Obviously their mission will take a number of days, and yet Jesus says, “Do not take a [coin] purse or bag or [extra] sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.”

In the Biblical paraphrase, “The Message” it reads, “Travel light.  Comb and toothbrush and no extra luggage.”

All of this, immediately after these words of warning, “On your way!  But be careful-this is dangerous work.  You’re like lambs in a wolf pack.”

At this point, we need to stop and ask the question, “What is Jesus truly seeking to accomplish with this mission for his followers?”

Like most things that Jesus did and said, I think this mission work has multiple layers to it.  Most basically, as I said before, Jesus is sending the seventy out to do public relations work for his coming visits to this region. But this mission journey is about more than simply spreading the good news of the Kingdom, it’s also about learning obedience and living in faith.  Jesus wants his followers to learn to follow instructions, to be obedient to what he asks, for then things go the way they should.

To understand this better, look back at the story of Namaan and Elisha that Sirkka read for us this morning.  Namaan wants to be cured of his leprosy, but gets mad when Elisha sends out the simple instructions to, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.”

Why does he get angry?  Namaan is upset because he wants to be cleansed in some magical way, or have instructions that require a heroes quest to achieve.  He does not want to simply be obedient.  It takes his obedient servant to point out the easy course in front of him, instructions that he finally follows, and by them, God makes him whole.

Jesus is teaching the seventy the same lesson, listen and be obedient to God.  God’s will is then more easily accomplished.

When Jesus’ followers obediently hit the roads, and declared themselves as followers of Jesus, then even the demons cried out in recognition of the Lord’s name and were cast out of their victims by Jesus’ disciples.  The gospel of Luke reads, “The seventy returned with joy and said, “’Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’ and, ‘The Message” reads, “The seventy came back triumphant.  ‘Master, even the demons dance to your tune!’”

What his followers discovered through this experience was that action flowed from their obedience to, and faith in Jesus.  Through the giving of this hard mission what Jesus was forcing the disciples to do, was to obey him and trust in him for all their needs.  By not allowing them to take any provisions or extra clothes they had to have faith that by coming in peace in Jesus’ name, and throwing themselves upon the mercy of those whom would accept them, all their physical needs would be provided for them.  Their obedience paid off!

And as we’ve read, in their obedience to Jesus they were given spiritual power, the evidence of which we see in their triumphant encounters with the spiritual forces of the world. Jesus’ name spoken in obedience and faith was all the power they needed.

And so, a mission that seemed to be akin to a “Mission Impossible’ was not only possible, but successful because of the seventy’s faith in Jesus and obedience to what he was asking of them.  Thus we see that what Jesus was seeking from the seventy was that they go out, into the world, depending upon Him and when they did they made a difference in people’s lives.  They were not simply telling the people about Jesus’ imminent arrival, but in a way, they themselves were the arrival of God’s kingdom to these people and communities, weren’t they.  For as we read, upon the disciples return to Jesus, we understand that as they went out with Jesus’ message in Jesus’ name, they went with Jesus’ spirit and love, and people’s lives were changed.

How all of this relates to you and me, in this age is actually very close to what was asked of the seventy followers that Jesus sent out like lambs among the wolves.

Life as a follower of Jesus is still dangerous in our day and age.  There are many who will not accept our offer of ‘peace.’  There are many who do not want to hear the name of Jesus, except as a swear word or expletive.  And yet, as the disciples discovered there are just as many who will accept our offer of ‘peace’ and our stories of how faith in Jesus has changed our lives.

For you see, we are being called into mission, into a journey of faith and sharing.  As Jesus says right at the beginning of today’s reading, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”

We are called to be obedient to Jesus. We are called to step forward and to depend upon Jesus for all that we need. We are called to be workers for the kingdom of God. We are called to be God’s Kingdom by sharing God’s peace and the love of Jesus with those whom we live in this world.  We need to seek to share the love, the forgiveness and the hope that we know, with people in all aspects of our lives.  Our faith is not our own, but rather something to be cast out upon the fields of the earth, as the farmer sows seed.

Paul wrote in Galatians, “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.  So then, wherever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.”

Like the disciples discovered in their mission journey, as they obediently walked the road in faith, trusting that all would be provided; from the opportunities to share, to the very words to speak, they not only announced the coming kingdom of God, they brought it with them in the name of Jesus.  Go, and obediently be God’s Kingdom in the world.  Great things will happen!


Bible References

  • 2 Kings 5:1 - 14
  • Luke 10:1 - 11
  • Luke 10:16 - 20



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