THE SEVENTY-TWO AND YOU
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
January 21, 2018
1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. 2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, Peace be to this house!’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. 7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. 13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. 16 “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” 17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
— Luke 10:1-20, ESV
Luke’s Gospel brings us into a serious discussion about discipleship. One cannot be a Christian without being a disciple, for the two terms are biblically synonymous. Yet while the cost for becoming a Christian is paid in full by Christ, a disciple must carry his or her own cross and pay a dear and ongoing price.
In this passage, Jesus finds seventy-two (or seventy, depending upon the translation) willing to count such a cost and pay any price. They also reap an abundance of rewards. I trust that you are one of them. If not, I hope you will join them, today.
In addition to His twelve true followers (of which one was not), “The Lord appointed seventy-two others.” That these are real Christians and true disciples is not in question by the end of the story. It begins, however, with Christ choosing them, putting them in teams, and calling upon them to pray.
Let it be said here and often that Christianity begins not with your choice to follow Jesus but with Jesus’ choice to make you His follower. The seventy-two were “appointed,” as are all of us who receive eternal life from the Lord (ref. Acts 13:48). Jesus would later remind the Apostles, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit” (ref. John 15:16). Sovereign grace is hard for modern man to swallow, but if you belong to the band of believers, know you are singing a tune that was written for you. As a matter of fact, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (ref. Ephesians 1:4; also, see Luke 10:22). I don’t know where you were at the dawn of creation, but I wasn’t there to choose God. He was there and He chose me. Hallelujah!
Note also that when Christ calls someone to follow Him, He does not commission him or her to be a lone ranger. Christianity has always been communal, a group exercise, a partnership with Christ and Christians, in the body of Christ we know as the church. We need the Lord and we need each other, as public worship and active discipleship cannot be conducted alone. Who is your “two by two,” and who is your “seventy-two?” I hope you have a ministry partner and a worshiping church, for this is the will of God for believers.
And, they prayed, as the Lord taught them to pray. In this case, it was for God to “send out laborers into His harvest.” Have you ever prayed such a prayer? Then, watch out. In the case of the seventy-two, they became an answer to their own prayer. So will you, when your pray for souls to be saved. You have to do more than pray for them. You have to go to them. This is exactly what the seventy-two did as they went out into the world to share the love and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
That’s the seventy-two. Now, let’s look at their work in the world, their mission field. It was dangerous, difficult, and diverse. And something greater than their reputation and success was on the line.
You know your heading into trouble when you are “lambs in the midst of wolves.” It would be nice to say that Jesus was speaking metaphorically, but two thousand years of Church history (especially the first three hundred, and the last hundred) have made it an accurate analogy. Discipleship cost the lives of some of the seventy-two, no doubt, and the lives of millions of other believers in the ensuing centuries. As the setting changes to twenty-first century America, however, the danger of dying for your faith seldom touches us. In other ways, however, our field is just as difficult as theirs.
Jesus prepped the seventy-two by sending them out, at least in the short term, without provisions, only the gospel and an offer of peace with God. Those who were receptive to the message would take care of the messengers, Jesus said, and those who did not were to be cursed. That’s right, cursed, with warnings and woes. Jesus gave specific examples.
Their mission unearthed a mixed harvest, some good and most bad. Some people were hospitable, most were not. Some people believed the gospel, most people did not. Some people punched their tickets for Heaven, most people remained on the road to Hades. The gospel scales always tilt this way, with the light side right and the wrong side heavy with those on the broad road that leads to destruction (ref. Matthew 7:13-14).
At the end of the day, success or failure could not be counted by the numbers. Faithfulness to God’s word is all that matters. For when we accept, live, and share the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is God’s reputation, not ours, on the line. “The one who hears you hears Me, and the one who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me,” says the Lord. Therefore, discipleship is a unique game in which, whatever the response, you always get rewarded.
“The seventy-two returned with joy.” They had been accepted and rejected, met with converts and critics, yet they were unanimously filled with the joy of the Lord. An old Michael Card song springs to mind, “There is a joy in the journey, there's a light we can love on the way. There is a wonder and wildness to life, and freedom for those who obey.” One of the greatest blessings of genuine Christianity is that if offers rejoicing without results, at least the way the world counts results. Bigger is not always better with God. It is the purity of heart, the simplicity of obedience, the joy of loving God and serving others, that truly count.
Protection from real spiritual enemies like “Satan” and human enemies referred to as “serpents and scorpions” was granted to the seventy-two, at least until their mission was accomplished. Another great reward of serving God is that you are indestructible until God ordains for your mortality to put on immortality. Someday God will allow for the veil to be pierced with martyrdom or disease or old age, but as long as it is today, serve the Lord with joy and gladness. Then go to your greatest reward, of which you can have an immediate taste.
These seventy-two are with the Lord right now, I have the assurance of God’s word on it. Their “names are written in Heaven.” We cannot imagine the infinite reward that awaits us in Heaven, but we can have assurance of it right now, which is perhaps our greatest reward in this life. But assurance only belongs to the Christian who is actively engaged as an obedient disciple of the Lord.
The Seventy-Two and You
Well, that’s the seventy-two. What about you? Are you following Jesus and following in their footsteps? Is your name “written in Heaven?”
Only if you are a Christian who has been saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. And assurance is alone for those who are busy being disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Get the grace. Pay the cost. Join the seventy-two in Heaven.
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org