Sermon outline for October 12:

Toward Jerusalem and the Cross, Luke 10:1-42

Jesus has embarked on His “way” toward Jerusalem (9:51). Like the angel of Yahweh who went before Israel into the land (Exodus 23:23), so Jesus sends “messengers” before His face as He travels (Luke 10:1). Along the way, He teaches the disciples by His word and example about the “way” of the Lord.

“After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. Then He said to them, ‘The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few’ . . . .” (Luke 10:1-42).

Jesus has already sent out the Twelve on a mission that mimics His mission in Galilee. Here, He sends out an additional seventy in pairs to prepare the way for His journey. The number is significant. According to Genesis 10, there were seventy nations of the world, and from that point the number becomes a symbol of the nations. Importantly, when Israel went into Egypt there were seventy descendants of Jacob among them (Exodus 1:5), and later we learn that there are seventy elders that share in Moses’ spirit (Number 11:24-25). These passages indicate that though Israel is a nation herself, she is a microcosm of the “seventy nations” of the world. Jesus adopts this same symbolism: The people who gather to Him are a new Israel (ruled by twelve) and a new humanity (represented by seventy).

The instructions to the seventy are much like those to the Twelve (cmp. 10:4, 10-11 with 9:3-5). One of the main differences is the accent of judgment in the mission of the seventy. Those who refuse to receive the seventy have rejected Jesus, and they are in danger of a judgment worse than the judgment of Sodom (vv. 11-16). Jesus gives the towns and villages of Galilee one last chance to receive His message, but then they will be left to the devastating judgment that the Romans will bring within a generation. Capernaum in particular is singled out; she has been exalted by the presence of Jesus, but, like Babylon, she will be brought to Hades (v. 15; cf. Isaiah 14:13-15). Jesus has been sowing the word of God, but soon the harvest will come and the wheat will be separated from the chaff, which will be cast into the fire.

Little is told about the results of the mission of the Twelve (9:10), apart from the fact that Herod was curious and anxious about Jesus (9:7-9). The mission of the seventy seems more successful. Though Jesus did not explicitly give them authority over demons, they are delighted and surprised to find that the demons are subjected to them (v. 17).

Jesus shares their enthusiasm, saying that He watched Satan fall from heaven like a bolt of lightning (Luke 10:18). “Satan” means “accuser,” and throughout the Old Testament Satan is found in the presence of God, always ready to accuse saints (Job 1-2; Zechariah 3:1-5). When he was not bringing false accusations, he was inciting people to sin so that he would have something more to accuse them of (cf. 1 Chronicles 21:1). Satan’s position in heaven gave him authority.

But Jesus and His missionaries are breaking the foundations of Satan’s house, and Satan is losing his position of authority. Satan’s fall from heaven does not destroy him. Peter warns that the devil is a roaring lion prowling for prey (1 Peter 5:8). But Satan’s fall puts him without our reach, which is why Jesus immediately goes on to say that His apostles have authority to tread serpents and scorpions (Luke 10:19). For the first time since the garden of Eden, Satan is now close enough for us to crush his head.

By the Spirit, the Son praises the Father (Luke 10:21). The great things that are happening — the fall of Satan, the coming of the kingdom, the formation of a new Israel — are hidden from the wise of the world, whether scribes, Pharisees, Herods, or Pilates. The Father instead has been pleased to reveal these things to babies. Above all, what is going on is that the Father is handing over all things to the Son (v. 22). These things are known only by the Son, and whoever wants to know the Father must receive that knowledge from the Son (v. 22).

Despite the success of the mission of the seventy, not all respond in faith. Some want to challenge Jesus and catch him in a trap (v. 25). The lawyer hopes that Jesus will say something contrary to the law, which will enable him to gather evidence against Jesus. Instead, Jesus affirms the law by affirming the two great commandments (vv. 27-28). The lawyer is not satisfied, and wants to win the debate (“justify himself”), so he asks Jesus to define “neighbor.”

As He usually does in response to enemies, Jesus answers with questions and stories, which are designed to trap the lawyer who wanted to trap Him. Jesus’ story is not simply a moral tale about doing good to those who are in distress. The story of the Good Samaritan redefines the “location” of neighborliness. The lawyer wants to define a “neighbor” by reference to another person, a family member or fellow Jew; Jesus lays the emphasis on being a neighbor to whoever comes into your path. Certainly, Jesus intends to gall the lawyer by holding up a Samaritan as an example of a good neighbor. Certainly, too, Jesus is ultimately telling a story about Himself: He is the Good Samaritan, who comes after the Levite and Priest have passed by, to heal the wounded man, and to take the burden of the man’s care upon Himself. God has made Himself a good neighbor to us.

The brief story that ends this chapter has been well-beloved for generations. Throughout the Middle Ages, it was a way of symbolizing the distinction between the active life (Martha) and the contemplative life (Mary). To be sure, part of the point is about Martha’s business, and her preoccupation with lesser things.

Along with this, the story gives insight into the sort of community that Jesus is forming. In first-century Judaism, the roles and places of the sexes were rigidly segregated. Within a house, there was a men’s area and a woman’s area, and men and women mingled only outside the house or, if married, in the bedroom. What Martha complains about is not only that Mary refuses to help her, but that Mary has taken a “man’s” place at the feet of Jesus (v. 39). This is the position of the disciple, who sits at the rabbi’s feet so that he can learn to become a rabbi. It is clear from elsewhere in the New Testament that women are not supposed to exercise office in the church (1 Timothy 2:11-15), but it is equally clear that Jesus does not want women to be excluded from His teaching. In this respect, Paul’s slogan holds: “In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave or free.”

Catechism for Little Saints

Where was Satan in the Old Testament?
In heaven, accusing the faithful people of God.

Why did Satan fall from heaven?
So that we can smush him under our feet.

What does it mean to be a neighbor?
To help anyone who comes across our path and is needy.

For Further Study
1. Why does Jesus mention Tyre and Sidon in his warnings about judgments (vv. 13-14)? Compare to 4:26.
2. The Samaritan put wine and oil in the wounded man’s wounds. Where else in the Bible is this combination of wine and oil found? What does this tell you about the Samaritan’s actions?