As he had earlier sent out the 12 apostles by twos, Jesus did so with the 70 (or, according to other manuscripts, 72). Included among them likely were Matthias and Joseph (Barsabbas, also called Justus). (Compare Acts 1:21-23.) The 70 or 72 disciples were to do a preparatory work in the villages and towns which Jesus planned to visit personally. Considerable potential existed for an ingathering of many disciples. Because there were then only a few available workers, Jesus urged those whom he sent forth to petition his Father, the master of the harvest, to send out more workers into his harvest. Not everyone, however, would welcome his disciples. On account of those who would oppose, the disciples would be like sheep that Jesus had sent out among wolves. (Luke 10:1-3)
When going from town to town and village to village, the disciples were not to carry a money bag, a pouch for supplies, or an extra pair of sandals. As they traveled, they were not to greet anyone whom they met on the way. In that culture, a greeting was not limited to a few words said while passing but involved a prolonged interchange. Therefore, their not engaging in this kind of greeting was indicative of the urgency and importance of the work Jesus had commissioned them to do. (Luke 10:4)
Upon entering a home where hospitality had been extended, they were first to wish for peace (shalom) to come upon it. This would be an expression for all in the house to enjoy a state of well-being. A “son of peace” would be a man who was favorably disposed to the message the disciples proclaimed and desired the security and well-being that resulted from an approved relationship with the Most High. About a householder who proved to be such, Jesus said to his disciples, “Your peace shall rest upon him.” The responsive individual would come to enjoy the same kind of peace or spiritual well-being as they did. If the owner of the house did not manifest himself to be a “son of peace,” the disciples were not to allow themselves to become troubled, but the peace they had wished for the household would return to them. (Luke 10:5, 6)
In whatever home they were welcomed, they were to eat and drink the things provided and not go to another home, where the accommodations might be preferable. Their staying in the home where hospitality was originally extended would show proper appreciation and also make it easier for others to find them to hear their message. It was appropriate for the disciples to receive food, drink, and lodging, for a worker is worthy of his wage. (Luke 10:7)
Wherever they were welcomed, the disciples were to eat what was set before them. While there, they were to heal the sick and tell the people that the “kingdom of God” had come near. Jesus, the one through whom the Most High purposed to reign, was then in the midst of the Jewish people, and they had the opportunity to be part of the realm where he is Sovereign. Accordingly, God’s kingdom had come near to them. (Luke 10:8, 9)
In the event they were not welcomed in a particular town, the disciples were to go into its wide or principal streets and declare that even the dust clinging to their feet they would wipe off against its inhabitants. It was customary for Jews, upon coming into the land of Israel, to shake from their feet the dust that had come from outside the land. According to ancient Jewish sources, that dust was considered to be defiling. In the case of the disciples, the act would show that the people had revealed themselves as having no relationship with God and not desiring such. The disciples thus left the place to experience the consequences from the rejection of Christ by its inhabitants, as it had been made known to them that the kingdom of God had drawn near. The very dust the disciples had wiped off against the unresponsive inhabitants would testify that they had chosen to reject the message that had been proclaimed to them. (Luke 10:10, 11)
In the future time of judgment, it would prove to be more bearable for the inhabitants of Sodom in the time of Lot than for the city that had rejected the message about the kingdom of God. (Luke 10:12) The people of Sodom did not have the opportunity to hear what the unresponsive Israelite city did and so were less accountable for their actions. Therefore, they would not face as severe a judgment. (Compare Luke 12:47, 48.)
Jesus then pronounced “woe,” grief, or distress for the Galilean cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida, where he had performed many miracles. If the non-Israelite inhabitants of the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon had witnessed the same works of power, they, in the distant past, would have repented, making visible expression thereof by putting on sackcloth and seating themselves in ashes. Therefore, it would be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for Chorazin and Bethsaida. The judgment would be commensurate with their lesser accountability. (Luke 10:13, 14)
Capernaum, the Galilean city where Peter and Andrew had their home, would not be exalted to heaven, being granted unparalleled honor. It would be debased to the lowest point—Hades or the realm of the dead. This is because the inhabitants of Capernaum witnessed more miracles than many other places and yet the majority of the inhabitants persisted in unbelief. (Luke 10:15)
The disciples represented Jesus. For this reason, when others listened to them, they paid attention to him. Whoever disregarded them, also rejected Jesus and his Father, who had sent him. (Luke 10:16)
When the 70 (or 72) disciples returned, they were overjoyed, telling Jesus that the demons had submitted to them on the basis of his name (the authority that his name represented). He knew that, through his death, the powers of darkness would be defeated. (Compare Colossians 2:15.) No longer could people be kept in a state of involuntary enslavement through fear of what malevolent powers in a superterrestrial realm could do to them. (Compare Hebrews 2:14, 15.) Therefore, he could speak of seeing Satan as having fallen from heaven like lightning. (Luke 10:17, 18)
The disciples had nothing to fear from the powers of darkness. Jesus had granted them authority to trample upon malevolent powers comparable to poisonous serpents and scorpions and, in fact, over all the power of the satanic enemy. No harm could come to them from that source. The disciples, however, had greater reason for rejoicing than the fact that malign spirits had been made subject to them. Their names had been written in heaven. This meant that they would continue to enjoy God’s favor, aid, and blessing. (Luke 10:19, 20)
In that “hour” or at that time, Jesus, under the impulse of holy spirit, was moved to thank his Father that he had hidden the precious spiritual treasures of knowledge from the “wise and the learned” and had revealed them to “babes,” persons who enjoyed no particular prominence or distinction. Among those who were regarded as insignificant, Jesus’ words found hearing ears. In disposition, they were receptive to the Son of God and the message he proclaimed. It pleased his Father to favor them with responsive hearing, allowing those who regarded themselves as wise and learned to continue in their blind state of unbelief. (Luke 10:21, 22)
The Father had committed “all things” relating to having his approval to his Son. Jesus truly knew his Father as no one else did. This is because he is the unique Son, the intimate one whom his Father alone fully knows. Accordingly, in a way that no one else could, the Son revealed the Father to whomever he chose to do so. All to whom Jesus revealed his Father came to know him as persons having an approved relationship with him as his beloved children. It was to those who repented of their sins and came to acknowledge him as the Christ, the Son of God, that Jesus chose to reveal his Father. (Luke 10:22)
Turning to his disciples, Jesus spoke privately to them, telling them that their eyes were fortunate because they could see. Their vision was not obstructed like that of the “wise and learned” who persisted in unbelief. Indicating how favored his disciples were, he told them that many prophets and kings (including David, Hezekiah, Josiah, and other faithful ones) wanted to see what they beheld and to hear what they heard. This is because the devoted prophets and faithful kings looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, whereas the disciples enjoyed close association with him, heard his teaching, and experienced his compassion and love. The disciples actually saw what the prophets and kings wanted to see but did not. (Luke 10:23, 24)
In Matthew 9:37, 38, Jesus expressed the thought about petitioning the “master of the harvest” (Luke 10:2) upon seeing the helpless condition of the crowds, who were like sheep without a shepherd.
When sending out the 12 apostles and the 70 (or 72) disciples, Jesus told them that he was sending them out as sheep among wolves. In Matthew 10:16, the term for “sheep” is the plural form of próbaton. Most manuscript readings of Luke 10:3 have the plural form of arníon, which designation can refer to a lamb, a ram, or a sheep of any age.
Jesus’ instructions to the 12 apostles and the 70 (or 72) disciples about entering a home or a town and leaving an unresponsive place are similar. (Matthew 10:12-15; Luke 10:6, 11, 12)
Jesus’ pronouncement of “woe” and comments about Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum, Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom appear in Matthew 11:20-24 and Luke 10:12-15. In Matthew, the remarks relate to a different occasion and are more detailed about Sodom.
Matthew 10:40, Luke 10:16, and John 13:20 convey the same thought about those who would receive or welcome Jesus’ disciples, but the words appear in different settings.
Matthew 11:25-27 and Luke 10:21-24 contain Jesus’ expression of thanksgiving involving the “wise and learned” and the “babes,” but the setting is different.
Luke 10:23, 24 and Matthew 13:16, 17 relate the same thoughts about seeing and the desire of the prophets. In Luke 10:24, there is also a reference to kings, but Matthew 13:17 mentions “righteous ones.”