These two chapters of Luke’s Gospel are arranged to show the initial success of both the twelve and the seventy. Jesus commissioned these two groups to spread the good news of the kingdom, and while both groups returned with euphoric reports, Jesus tempered their enthusiasm with some straight-talk about kingdom service. Most striking was the announcement to the twelve that He, the Messiah, was going to be killed and raised to life—and that the only way for them to save their lives was to take up their cross and follow Him! Jesus spoke the demands of discipleship as He resolutely headed toward Jerusalem (9.51). Luke records Jesus’ (final) arrival in Jerusalem in Luke 19.41, using the chapters between to record Jesus’ teaching on the nature of the kingdom. Luke 9-10 is structured around the commissioning of these two groups:
- The initial success of the twelve (9.1-17). Jesus sent out the Twelve in such a way that they would be totally dependent upon those who received their message (vv. 1-5//Matt 10.1-14//Mark 6.6-13). The fact that they did not go without is evidenced by the wide reception they received: “They went out and traveled from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing everywhere” (v. 6). Luke informed his readers of the degree to which the twelve were successful—so much that even Herod heard about Jesus’ ministry (vv. 7-9//Matt 14.1-2//Mark 6.14-16)! Though the twelve had been so successful, they had yet to understand that Jesus’ power could be displayed through them even to feed a multitude of 5,000 (vv. 10-17//Matt 14.13-21//Mark 6.32-34//John 6.1-15)
- Instruction on leadership (9.18-62). Jesus began to instruct the twelve more directly when He asked, “Who do the crowds say that I am?…Who do you say that I am?” (vv. 18b, 20a). Once Peter confessed Jesus as the Messiah (v. 20b), He further unveiled His forthcoming mission to the cross (cf. Matt 16.13-23//Mark 8.27-33), and informed the Twelve that their relationship with Him may cost their lives too (vv. 23-27//Matt 16.24-28//Mark 8.34-9.1). It may be that for Peter, John, and James at least, Jesus’ piercing demands of leadership were tempered by the glorious scene of Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah—and the heavenly voice that affirmed Jesus’ deity (vv. 28-36//Matt 17.1-9//Mark 9.2-10). The fact that the twelve needed instruction on kingdom leadership can be demonstrated from their unfaithfulness in casting out a demon who had tormented a child (vv. 37-43//Matt 17.14-21//Mark 9.14-29)—only to begin arguing about who among them would be the greatest in the kingdom (vv. 46-48)! It is self-evident that—despite Jesus’ injunction, “Let these words sink in” (v. 44a)—these men did not understand the events that would soon take place, nor the demands that would precede any honor of kingdom leadership. If the twelve had any spiritual sensitivity to what Jesus was saying, they would have noticed how resolute He was in getting to Jerusalem, bypassing the villages that did not give Him welcome (vv. 51-56). Jesus taught the twelve that those who would lead must first follow (cf. Matt 8.18-22). And following Him would be costly, including enduring an unstable lifestyle (vv. 57-59), limited honor from the surrounding culture (vv. 59-60) and demands so sharp they would even surpass the comforts offered by one’s family (vv. 61-62). “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (v. 62), Jesus said
- The initial success of the seventy (10.1-24). When Jesus sent out the seventy, His instructions were remarkably similar to those He gave the twelve, save the additional instruction: “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest” (v. 2), and warning: “I’m sending you out like lambs among wolves” (v. 3). Further, Jesus pronounced condemnation upon the towns that would not repent when informed of the good news of the kingdom, saying finally to the seventy: “Whoever listens to you listens to Me. Whoever rejects you rejects Me. Whoever rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me” (v. 16). The seventy enjoyed the same measure of success as the twelve, but to their wide-eyed excitement Jesus said: “Don’t rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (v. 20). Nonetheless Jesus rejoiced in the plan His Father had ordained to reveal Himself through His ministry, and encouraged His disciples with an explanation of their privileged eschatological position: “The eyes that see the things you see are blessed! For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see the things you see yet didn’t see them; to hear the things you hear yet didn’t hear them” (vv. 23-24; cf. 1 Pet 1.10-12).
- Instruction on discipleship (10.25-42). As was the case with the twelve, when the seventy returned with news of success, Jesus set forth the way of discipleship for those inclined to follow. When an expert in the law “stood up to test Him, saying, ‘Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” (v. 25//Matt 22.36//Mark 12.28), Jesus confronted the self-vindicator with the reality that loving his neighbor meant showing mercy to those who would naturally be his enemy; the standard for following Jesus was thus beyond the ethical demands surmised by the expert in the law. Indeed—as Martha discovered—discipleship is defined by a willingness to give priority to Jesus’ instruction (vv. 38-42)
Jesus’ mission in Luke 9-10 reveals that as He turned His attention toward Jerusalem, He did so in light of the record of redemptive history in the Old Testament. He was not a radical, esoteric figure, but One who understood Himself as the culmination of God’s earlier acts of revelation in the storyline of Scripture:
- The account of the Transfiguration set forth Jesus’ unique place in salvation history. When Peter, John, and James saw the change in Jesus’ appearance, Luke reported that they also saw Moses and Elijah talking with Him. The three were not discussing the exodus (Exodus 12-15) or the battle on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18), but “They…were speaking of His death, which He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem” (9.31). Jesus fulfilled the leadership and prophetic roles established by Moses and Elijah
- Jesus’ mission toward Jerusalem echoed the significance of the city of David in the Old Testament. Luke reports that, “When the days were coming to a close for Him to be taken up, He determined to journey to Jerusalem” (9.51). Jesus sent seventy disciples to journey south ahead of Him, preparing the towns and villages for His ascent to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the city of David, the center of worship since the days of David’s census (2 Chron 21.18-22.1). But after the days of David, Jerusalem descended into an idolatrous abode—a place hardened to God’s prophetic word (cf. Isaiah 6; Jeremiah 20, 26, 36). Jesus understood Himself to be in the tradition of the rejected prophets, those whom Jerusalem loathed. He was so sure that Jewish leadership would seize Him there that when He was warned along the way that Herod Antipas, the iron-fisted governor of Galilee, wished to kill Him, He replied: “…I must travel today, tomorrow, and the next day, because it is not possible for a prophet to perish outside of Jerusalem!” (13.33); if the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem had a chance to get Jesus, then even the danger of Herod Antipas would have to take second place! So significant was Jesus’ redeeming work that in the flow of redemptive history, Jerusalem becomes the place of God’s eternal dwelling with His people (Rev 21.1-3). In his prophetic vision John heard the One seated on the throne proclaim: “Look! I am making everything new” (Rev 21.5)—even Jerusalem!
- Jesus’ discussion with the expert in the law demonstrated His new, advanced proclamation of the way of salvation. He came to Jesus with the question of the ages: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (10.25); Jesus pointed the scribe to the Torah, the books of Moses; he answered that the way of salvation was found in unfettered devotion to God and love for one’s neighbor (cf. Deut 6.5; Lev 19.18). Jesus affirmed the man’s analysis of the way of salvation—in doing these, which would naturally lead to faith and submission to Jesus, the scribe would inherit eternal life. “But wanting to justify himself,” (10.29), the scribe inquired of Jesus concerning the limitations of neighborliness. His question gave birth to the parable of The Good Samaritan. It displays Jesus’ supremacy as interpreter of Old Testament Scripture, pressing the accepted standard of love beyond its limits (10.37). He instructed the scribe that inheriting salvation was concomitant with showing mercy to those beyond the boundaries of Jewish heritage. Since Messiah had come offering salvation to all nations, those inheriting it must demonstrate a similar posture
*For a complete list of references, please see scripturestoryline.com