The Commissioning of the Seventy(two)*
- *This is an example of where different early manuscripts say different things, and so this has been carried through in our different translations of the Bible.
This passage is a mirroring of the commissioning of the twelve in Luke 9:1-6 and the parallels in Matthew 9: 37-38; 10: 7-16 and in Mark 6:7-13.
However, this commissioning of a larger group is a story found only in Luke.
That the disciples were sent in twos is possibly linked with the law of the day. Two witnesses were required for testimony to be credible. These teams were sent “ahead of him” (v 1) to prepare the way for Jesus in the villages.
For the prophets of the Old Testament ‘harvest’ is a metaphor for the judgement at the end time. The use of the ‘harvest’ metaphor implies a sense of urgency about this sending out and the work that is to be done.
Interestingly the disciples are not given any instructions as to how they are to deal with any of the obstacles they might encounter on the journey. They are given instructions about how to receive hospitality, they are to stay where they are received. Being ‘received’ says important things about the host. Extending the greeting ‘peace be with you’ is a realising of the peace that is promised in the story of the birth of Jesus. To become a ‘son of peace’ implies a relationship with the parent, to share some of the same qualities as the ‘parent’. That is to have a relationship with God.
The phrase “the labourer deserves to be paid” (v7) implies that the disciples should receive hospitality, that is shelter, food and drink. It also implies that social barriers are removed in the process of the disciples accepting the offering of this hospitality.
There are three instructions about the work that the disciples are to do. (v 8-9)
They are to
- eat what is provided (that is share in the abundance or poverty of the provision of that community)
- heal the sick,
- announce the kingdom.
In other words, attend to the three facets of mission that build community.
- share table fellowship,
- take care of physical needs,
- proclaim the gospel.
This is how they are to continue Jesus’ work in Galilee.
This passage reminds us that Jesus sent out followers beyond just the twelve disciples. He commissioned them with a specific charge around mission and the way they were to conduct themselves in carrying it out.
This passage also reminds us that to be on Christian mission can be a place of rejection. Disciples will be received with hospitality in some places and very inhospitably in others.
Rejection of the missionaries is rejection of Jesus and ultimately, rejection of the one who sent Jesus into the world. A rejection of the hospitality of God.
Rejection is painful. How do we deal with it when that is what we experience?
How do we share and celebrate the joy, when, as in this story, the disciples return having been successful?
Rev Alison Whish
(Presbytery Meeting Resources 2010)