We have just heard Jesus tell would-be disciples how costly it will be to follow Him. Now, He sends out 72 and repeats some of the instructions He gave earlier to the Twelve (Luke 9:1–6).
Jesus announces that it is harvest time (v. 2). You don’t need many labourers for sowing, but you need them at harvest time. Jesus is announcing that the days of promise for Israel are over, and now each person must individually respond to the coming of the Messiah (v. 16).
Proclaiming the gospel to a hostile world can be dangerous. Jesus announces, “I am sending you out like lambs among wolves” (v. 3). A shepherd’s job is to protect the sheep, but here Jesus is announcing that He is sending them into the part of the field where the wolf pack prowls. Sheep are weak and wolves savage. What a stark picture of Christian mission. The Book of Acts records the many sufferings the apostles faced. Today, thousands of Christians are in prison or suffering because they boldly preach Christ. Of course, our Good Shepherd is always with us, but a commitment to gospel preaching is a commitment to suffer.
The 72 return triumphantly from their successful mission (v. 17), but Jesus reminds them not to lose perspective. First, they should not be surprised at their authority over demons. Indeed, Jesus saw the ultimate downfall of Satan (v. 18). Satan is the great serpent (Genesis 3; Revelation 20:2) and here Jesus similarly describes his demonic followers as snakes and scorpions (v. 19). He’s not referring to literal snakes, as the disciples have just come back and seen the demons subject to Jesus’ name. He is speaking of our triumph over the forces of darkness.
Second, Jesus reminds us that greater than seeing success in our Christian ministry is the unspeakable joy of knowing that before the foundation of the world, God picked up His pen and wrote our names in His book of life (v. 20). It is wonderful when people are blessed through your ministry, but more thrilling is that God has set His eternal love upon you.
What causes Jesus joy? Read verses 21–22. Why is God’s grace to the humble such a cause of joy for Jesus?
What causes you joy? What are some of the ways in which we can rekindle or deepen the joy of our eternal salvation?