JESUS CHOOSES 70 DISCIPLES AND SENDS THEM OUT TO PREACH
It is now late in the year 32 C.E., about three years since Jesus’ baptism. He and his disciples recently were at the Festival of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. They likely are still nearby. (Luke 10:38; John 11:1) In fact, Jesus spends most of the remaining six months of his ministry in Judea or across the Jordan River in the district of Perea. Preaching is needed in these areas too.
Earlier, after the Passover of 30 C.E., Jesus spent some months preaching in Judea and traveling through Samaria. Then about the time of the Passover of 31 C.E., Jews in Jerusalem tried to kill him. For the next year and a half, Jesus taught mainly up north, in Galilee. During that time, many became his followers. In Galilee, Jesus trained his apostles and then sent them out with the instruction: “Preach, saying: ‘The Kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’” (Matthew 10:5-7) Now he organizes a witnessing campaign in Judea.
To start this campaign, Jesus chooses 70 disciples and sends them out by twos. Thus, there are 35 teams of Kingdom preachers in the territory, where “the harvest is great, but the workers are few.” (Luke 10:2) They are to go in advance into places where Jesus might follow. The 70 are to cure the sick and spread the same message that Jesus has been proclaiming.
These disciples are not to focus on teaching in synagogues. Jesus tells them to go to people’s homes. “Wherever you enter into a house,” he instructs, “say first: ‘May this house have peace.’ And if a friend of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him.” What is to be their message? Jesus says: “Tell them: ‘The Kingdom of God has come near to you.’”
The instructions Jesus gives the 70 are similar to those he gave when sending out the 12 apostles about a year earlier. He warns them that not all will receive them well. Their efforts, though, will prepare receptive ones so that when Jesus arrives shortly afterward, many will be eager to meet the Master and learn from him.
Before long, the 35 pairs of Kingdom preachers return to Jesus. They tell him joyfully: “Lord, even the demons are made subject to us by the use of your name.” This fine report surely thrills Jesus, for he responds: “I see Satan already fallen like lightning from heaven. Look! I have given you the authority to trample underfoot serpents and scorpions.”
Jesus thus assures his followers that they will be able to prevail over injurious things, symbolically trampling on serpents and scorpions. Moreover, they can be certain that in the future Satan will fall from heaven. Jesus also helps the 70 to see what is really important in the long run. He says: “Do not rejoice because the spirits are made subject to you, but rejoice because your names have been written in the heavens.”
Jesus is overjoyed and publicly praises his Father for using these humble servants of his in such a powerful way. Turning to his disciples, he tells them: “Happy are the eyes that see the things you are seeing. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see the things you are observing but did not see them, and to hear the things you are hearing but did not hear them.”
It was no accident that Jesus spoke about the Kingdom more than any other subject.