The Joyful 70
Last week we saw in our studies that Jesus is now heading from the northern Galilee area of Israel, down south through Samaria towards the southern region where Jerusalem is located. And at this point he’s traveling with a large group of followers. He had sent messengers ahead to make arrangements in a Samaritan village they would be passing through along the way, but the village rejected them. We saw that this rejection greatly angered James and John particularly, so much so that they wanted to see fire fall from heaven and burn up the people. And from there we took a closer look at the neutral emotion of anger, and emphasized that anger should be used to save lives, and not destroy lives. If you missed last Sunday, I would highly encourage you to get online and listen at our website, or listen to the podcast on iTunes- the message is entitled “The Angry Sons of Thunder.”
In this morning’s passage, we’ll see that Jesus ended up sending out additional messengers to the places where He would be visiting. And this time, as these messengers return, the emotion that results is not anger, but rather joy. Now I found it really helpful to look at how anger needs to be addressed in my life, but I also realize I could probably use some help with the emotion of joy as well. This morning, I pray God’s word will speak to us and give us insight into how to obtain more joy in our lives. Let’s read together in Luke 10, verse 1 through verse 16.
Before we get to the joy part, there’s some nuggets of truth here in these verses that I’d like for us to look at. In verse 1 I want to note that these were 70 (or some of your Bibles might say 72) OTHERS, so this group was a separate group from the 12 apostles. The 12 apostles had already been out on similar trip in Mark 6 (verses 7-13) with similar instructions, but this time it’s 70 others. Many missions agencies have adopted much of what Jesus says here as protocol for their missionaries. There’s wisdom in traveling in pairs, 2x2 for accountability, safety, and companionship. And like Jesus’ previous charge to the 12, here again to the 70 He tells them in verse 2 to first pray. Prayer is the first order of business. To pray to the Lord to send out laborers. I chuckle wondering if the 70 knew they were about to be sent out or not when Jesus asked them to pray. I think it’d be humorous if they had prayed for workers immediately after Jesus’ command, and upon saying “amen” He then says “Go! I’m sending YOU out! You are the workers!” in verse 3. And the rest of that verse sounds a little scary- “lambs in the midst of wolves,” but it’s really not that scary considering that Jesus had just very recently taught the parable of the Good Shepherd, recorded in John 10, that we looked at two Sundays ago. In that parable he had taught them that He is the Door that protects against thieves and robbers, and that He is the good shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep in order to protect them from the wolf.
Verse 4, He instructs them for this particular mission to rely just on God’s provision through the hospitality of the people and that they aren’t to greet anyone. Now He wasn’t telling them to be rude and unfriendly, but rather to stay focused on their mission at hand, especially since this was going to be a fairly quick effort done in limited time, before Jesus came passing through. Now by “greeting,” Jesus probably wasn’t referring to a quick American Hey-head-nod, but rather the long, formal, traditional, cultural, type of greeting that occurs in the middle east. The type of greeting that Jesus mentions might have gone something like this: Greetings! How are you my friend? Praise be to God, I am doing well! How are you doing my friend? Praise be to God I am doing well. How is your family? My family is well, thanks be to God. How is your family? My family is well, thanks be to God. How are things in your village? All is well in my village, to God be the glory. How are things in your village? All is well in my village, to God be the glory. You must come have dinner with me. No, I’m sorry, I can’t, I must hurry on my journey. My friend, you would dishonor me if you don’t at least have a sip of tea with me. It would dishonor me to dishonor you, so I will have a quick cup of tea with you. And this same conversation would potentially happen over and over again. The disciples would have never made it to the villages Jesus wanted them to get to had they not made the effort to not greet anyone.
When you choose to be obedient to Jesus- when He gives you a task to complete- there are going to come distractions, even good/worthy distractions, that will attempt to keep you from carrying out the primary mission He has for you. When God lays on your heart a task, a mission, a purpose, a conviction- don’t treat it lightly, see it through with excellence and laser beam focus. If he convicts you during a worship service, as soon as you leave your seat or this building, there is more than likely going to be a battle to distract you from carrying out and doing that which He convicted you about. Be aware of this tactic from the enemy, and don’t be defeated by distraction.
Verses 5-6 We as believers are to speak peace to others, to any home we enter, and I believe God enables us at times to give peace and rest to those with whom we interact. God blesses those who bless us. And if their blessing is withdrawn from us, then God’s blessing to them will be withdrawn as well.
Verse 7 A worker shouldn’t be ashamed to be provided for, he should accept whatever hospitality and provision is offered, and be content with his lodging, not seeking better accommodations. Verse 8 is similar, but I believe the context is rather that the worker should be content with whatever he is offered, even if the offered food is not so great- in South America that might mean boiled monkey, in China that might mean roasted dog, in the middle east that might mean baked goat stomach- but the point is- to be content and thankful for whatever hospitality you receive, whether that be hospitality you think you don’t deserve, or hospitality that you don’t want to deserve.
Verse 9, Jesus gave these 70 the power to heal, and their message was the same that Jesus had been proclaiming- The Kingdom of God is near to you. Jesus is the access to that Kingdom, and one moves from being “near it,” to “in it” when he/she accepts Jesus’ message and repents of their former life.
Verse 10 and 11- a worker is to move on if the message is rejected. This is a tough teaching, but I believe Jesus’ heart is that there are others who will receive the message, and they won’t get to hear if the worker stays hanging out with those who reject. Don’t be discouraged by those who reject a relationship with Jesus. Move on and find someone else who does want a relationship with Him.
And in the following verses, (12-16) Jesus proclaims that there will be a fierce judgment for those who had clear access to the Gospel, but yet chose to reject it. I can’t help but think about just how much more accountable we are before the Lord living in a city with churches on every block, with access to so many resources and tools designed to help us grow in the Lord and be obedient to Him. What excuse could we possibly have if somehow our lives are left unchanged by the true gospel message of Jesus?
And with these words of Jesus, the 70 went out- on their first mission trip ever. The trip might have been just a few weeks max, and let’s look and see what happened upon their return, verses 17-20.
Now surely these 70 experienced some opposition as lambs among wolves. I’m sure it was unnerving at times carrying no money and staying with strangers and pronouncing peace upon their homes. More than likely they may of, at some time, felt they were imposing on a family that provided for them, and probably at some time they had to stomach some strange meal presented to them. Some probably experienced rejection at some point and had to move on to another town- and yet despite all of this- what was the resulting emotion? Anger? No- joy! Joy resulted as they were able to transfer their focus from the physical circumstances to focusing on the spiritual circumstances. As they were perhaps losing in the physical realm, they were winning in the spiritual realm. They realized their power was not over physical accommodations, but over spiritual accommodations. This was a powerfully exciting, joyful revelation!
Jesus had shocked his followers recently by his authority over the spiritual realm with the man possessed by the legion of demons, and there were others too, mentioned throughout the gospels, that He freed from demonic influence. And now that authority was not only His, and not only His 12 apostles, but now that authority belonged to 70 other disciples. Jesus’ church was being built and growing, and despite difficult experiences- there was joy that resulted in knowing they had been given the ability to win where it most counted.
These laborers had been sent out as ambassadors for the King- his own representatives. Generally, when kings make decrees, they themselves aren’t the ones traveling around to the villages announcing those decrees. Rather a king sends out his representatives, who declare his decrees, in his name. Several ambassadors would be sent out to various places, and they would travel to each town center and announce loudly “In the name of the King…” These ambassadors wouldn’t announce their own personal thoughts and feelings, but would announce only what the king himself in his authority had decreed. That’s what these 70 did, and I believe this same joy the ambassadors experienced when proclaiming King Jesus’ decrees, is available to all believers as we proclaim His decrees.
In verse 18 Jesus says “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning.” Bible commentators have varying opinions over what He meant by this statement. Some say He was referring to how Satan fell from Heaven before the creation of Man, some see it as a prophetic statement concerning the future defeat and fall of Satan, and others that he was seeing both these past and future events in the present moment. The Greek words from which we derive “was watching” indicates that as the 70 were experiencing power over demonic forces, that in that moment Jesus was at that time watching Satan fall like lightening. Yes, Satan fell from Heaven before creation, and yes he will fall again, and yes Jesus can see past and future all at once, but the wording and context of this verse seem to indicate that what the 70 were doing not only immediately affected minion demons operating on Earth, but also immediately affected their leader Satan in a realm we can’t see. One pastor suggested that perhaps every time the disciples exercised Jesus’ spiritual authority, that Satan fell again like lightening. As lightning crackles, and spreads, and repeats, perhaps each victory for the 70 was another blow, and crack!- another blow- and pow!- another blow, leading up to what will one day be the complete and final defeat of our enemy Satan.
In verse 19 Jesus confirms the spiritual authority He had given the 70, with serpents and scorpions representing demonic forces, not real serpents and scorpions as some might contend. The immediate context here is spiritual authority over demons and Satan, and serpents and scorpions throughout history have represented evil. I believe this authority over the spiritual world has been given to all of Jesus’ followers. We are His ambassadors, who carry with us the decrees to proclaim in His name, and our mission is to, in His power, defeat the spiritual forces of darkness. Every one of you who profess Jesus is a part of this team, you are a part of this winning force. You have been given a role in the victory, and you are promised success! No matter how much defeat you have suffered in life’s battles, you are promised victory in the one battle that truly matters for all eternity. I believe if we could only focus less on the defeats in this life, and focus more on the spiritual victories we could be having- we would have so much more joy!
My translation of verse 20 would be: “You have joy from the victory over spiritual powers, but that’s small peanuts compared to the joy you should have over the fact that your name is listed as being an heir to the Kingdom of Heavens riches.” If we focus less on the defeats in this life, and focus more on the spiritual victories we could be having- we would have so much more joy! But really, there’s even more joy to be had in realizing how impossible it is for us to be considered worthy of the incredible gift of God’s Kingdom. Your name is written in Heaven, you are a citizen there, not here! Find joy by fighting the winning fight in the spiritual realm, and find even greater joy that you will one day reign with Jesus in His Kingdom. (Rev. 20:6)
If you get a chance to spend time overseas in other countries, you will probably notice that in most of the world there is a more heightened sense of awareness concerning the spiritual realm. And many people, for many years, have lived controlled by fear of these spiritual forces. Fear of pleasing the good spiritual forces, fear of being attacked by the bad spiritual forces. In America, this concept of good and bad spiritual forces is downplayed and is likened to childish beliefs in the boogey man and Santa Claus. But God’s word tells us that the spiritual world is very real, in fact, it is portrayed as being more real than the temporal, physical world we see now. And whenever we are tempted to lose heart, become discouraged, to be robbed of joy, we need to be reminded of this. We need to be reminded that: we are the church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against us Matthew 16:18; if we submit ourselves to God and resist the devil, the devil will flee from us James 4:7; greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world 1 John 4:4; we are not waging war according to the flesh, but according to the spirit and we have divine power to destroy strongholds 2 Cor. 10:3-5; if we are born of God, we overcome the world 1 John 5:4-5.
You might say, but what about the times when God might allow demons to apparently do harm to believers as they did to Job and Paul? Yes, we do have biblical examples where the forces of darkness were allowed to cause trouble- for a time- in a believer’s life. But here’s the thing, even then we are not really harmed. Job and Paul were only refined by the enemy’s tactics- they weren’t harmed! If we remain in Christ, with the proper perspective, then any attack on us will only backfire to the enemy, and we will still come out victorious, strong, and blessed.
I think many of us might be missing out on joy because we are not properly engaged in spiritual battle. We’re not telling the darkness to flee, we’re not announcing Jesus’ victory and authority, we’re not submitting to God and resisting the devil. If only we could see for a moment the spiritual activity that is constantly taking place around us and around the world- we would be compelled to be more engaged in the fight, and we would obtain the promised victory- and perhaps a joy bigger than this life would fill our hearts.
We as the church, Glady Branch, have fought for the preservation and health of this family. And God has given us success in that fight. It’s time to fight the bigger fight, it’s time to take things to the next level- for us to fight for the Kingdom. Another pastor and I were talking last week, and he mentioned that it’s possible to grow the church, but not grow the Kingdom. But if we grow the Kingdom, more than likely we will grow the church. We have been given authority in the spiritual kingdom realm to destroy strongholds, and it’s time we realized the victory that has been given to us and the joy there is in that victory.