Luke 10:1–24 . . . Bible Study Summary with Questions

“The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “Joy Comes from the Holy Spirit”

Today we'll cover two related passages. In the first, titled "The Harvest Is Plentiful," Jesus directs his disciples to "proclaim to the public rather than evangelize personally." While we usually see value in evangelizing to people personally — witnessing on a one-to-one basis — our Lord Jesus instructs his disciples to focus on reaching towns rather than individuals. Today's second passage, titled "Joy Comes from the Holy Spirit," deals with the Christian's world view. Life is affected by how we relate joy, happiness, and pleasure to discipleship, and to our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Our text will inform us of the proper source of joy, and how that joy should impact our Christian life.

Tension can be found in the text of vv. 1 and 17. In a number of Bible versions, "seventy" is cited as the number sent out, however, several versions cite the number as "seventy-two." Scholars have disputed the more correct number without agreement. What's important is that it's exciting that Jesus had so many individual disciples ready to send out to share the gospel, amen! (Note: Because the NIV is being used throughout this online study, you'll see "seventy-two" used.)

The Harvest Is Plentiful (vv. 1–16)

We ought, first, to understand what our Lord is seeking by his sending out of the seventy-two disciples, which is the goal of this missionary campaign. Second, we'll consider the methods Jesus prescribed for the seventy-two and how they relate to the goal of this mission. Third, we'll see what Luke wants us to learn from it, especially as it relates to the on-going proclamation of the gospel.

Chapter 9 is the immediate backdrop for our opening chapter 10 text: It begins with the sending out of the twelve disciples; the report of Herod's concern with the identity of Jesus is followed by the feeding of the five thousand; after this, Peter's great confession is recorded; the transfiguration of Jesus is highlighted next, followed by our Lord's return with the three from atop the mountain; then the various hindrances to discipleship are described, as we covered in last week's study.

The first few words of v. 1 in chapter 10 ("After this" ) show the close link between the twelve disciples (9:1–6) and the sending out of the seventy-two. And we'll soon see how their mission is related to the Lord's instruction on discipleship (9:37–62). What, then, is the central and unique thrust of this sending out of the seventy-two, versus the sending of the Twelve in chapter 9? Perhaps the key to today's entire text is in making one simple observation: The seventy-two were primarily sent out to reach cities and towns. Such a theme gives unity and clarity to our text; notice how many times "town" or the names of towns is mentioned (vv. 1, 8, 10–12, and throughout 13–16).

In speaking of the disciples being unaccepted, our Lord speaks more in terms of towns, streets, and houses than of individuals (vv. 8–12). In that text, we see that when disciples are viewed as being rejected by towns, those towns are symbolically warned of their coming judgment by God, just as the early-day cities (e.g., Sodom) were judged by God. The statement, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few" (v. 2) provides us with the explanation for our Lord's emphasis on reaching many towns. If the harvest is great, but only a few people hear the gospel and accept it, then the gospel must instead be more broadly proclaimed to as many people as possible. To get many people to hear and accept the gospel, the logical place for proclaiming the gospel to many people would be in the towns, where the masses congregate.

The emphasis on reaching towns and cities with the gospel helps us also to understand our Lord's instructions to "not greet anyone on the road." His words should perplex us if we take them seriously. Why would Jesus command the disciples to refrain from the normal social amenity of offering people a friendly greeting on the road? Seemingly, Jesus' intent was to proclaim the gospel "en masse," rather than one by one. If time was extremely limited (since his betrayal and crucifixion in Jerusalem were imminent), individual contact would have to be curtailed, in lieu of a more effective broadcast to the masses. Ideally, the disciples were to hurry to towns where they could present the gospel to the greatest number of people. Similarly, our Lord's emphasis on ministering to towns, not individuals, also explains why the disciples weren't to "move around from house to house" (v. 7). This may not strike you as being "warm and fuzzy," but it would have been the more effective option. And the Lord's command to prohibit the disciples from taking provisions with them also makes sense in the light of the goal of reaching the towns. On the road and in people's houses it was socially obligatory to show hospitality to travelers. For people to receive these men and their message, they'd take them into their homes. But the disciples weren't to stay in towns, going from house to house; that would delay their proclamation efforts and effectiveness.

Today, what are we to do specifically? Consider these two proposals. First, we need to have a greater sense of urgency, which comes only after we gain a grasp of what the Bible tells us is the fate of the lost, and realize that our Lord is coming soon. Second, we need to have a wider vision, a world vision; personal evangelism is a good start, and concern for our neighbor is a worthwhile beginning, but it's not enough. Christ's command was that the gospel should be proclaimed in all the world.

Joy Comes from the Holy Spirit (vv. 17–24)

Keeping the world view in mind, you'll soon see that this second passage also deals with the Christian's world view. Our eight-verse text will highlight the proper source of joy and how joy should impact Christian life. It's a vitally important issue that affects every one of us in many ways.

The passage can be divided into two joy-related parts: (1) the disciples' joy and salvation (vv. 17–20) and (2) the Lord's joy and their salvation (vv. 21–24). In both parts, three themes are intertwined in this text: joy, salvation, and the sovereignty of God. In vv. 17–20, Jesus urged the disciples to find joy in their salvation, not in their authority over demons; in verses 21–22, Jesus expresses his own deep joy, based upon the sovereignty of God in the salvation of man and in the part he's to play in this salvation; in verses 23–24, our Lord turns the disciples' attention to the saints of old who yearned to see God's salvation but who weren't privileged to see what the disciples' eyes were seeing.

From our vantage point, imagine the reticence of the seventy-two as they went out to proclaim the gospel from town to town. Think how you'd have felt if you were sent out, after being told these things: You were being sent out "like lambs among wolves" (v. 3); Jesus had spoken a great deal about rejection (vv. 10–16); you were sent out with no provisions (v. 4); and you were told to eat whatever you were served (vv. 7–8). Honestly, our going out under those circumstances would have been undesirable. This isn't very different from what many missionaries face; nevertheless, it's a fearful assignment.

The Disciples' Joy and Salvation (vv. 17-20)  The apprehensions that the seventy-two had felt likely had much to do with their enthusiasm on their journey's return; they come back jubilant; they were seemingly successful. Thus, Luke sums up their success in one statement: "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name" (v. 17). Their proclamation mission far surpassed their expectations. With demons submitting to them, they probably sensed their ability to cast out demons was the ultimate evidence of the power and authority they exercised in Jesus' name. And it's easy to see how they might have reached that conclusion; after all, nine disciples were previously unable to cast a demon out of a lad in 9:37–41. Their success was cause for great joy.

Jesus' response to the joy of the seventy-two is warm and affirming as he shared in their joy. Interestingly, while their joy may have been misplaced, they weren't rebuked. Before our Lord refocuses their joy, he informs them that their ability to cast out demons was evidence of even greater issues than they'd imagined. The authority that the Lord had given to them included power to overcome Satan and the opposition to their proclamation and preaching of the gospel. Their authority in Jesus' name included the ability to "trample on snakes and scorpions" (v. 19). But in v. 20, our Lord turns the disciples' attention to a better basis for joy. In a very gentle way, Jesus told them that they should rejoice in the fact of their salvation, rather than the fact of Satan's downfall and defeat.

The Lord's Joy, the Disciples' Salvation (vv. 21-24)  Jesus' dramatic words express his great joy, even though he was resolutely set on going to Jerusalem where he'd be rejected and killed. In what could our Lord rejoice? What was the source of his joy?

In v. 21, the Lord's praise is directed to the Father while the disciples looked on. In v. 22, he speaks to the disciples, yet his words relate to his words of praise to the Father in the previous verse. The basis of our Lord's joy is severalfold: (1) The Lord Jesus had abundant joy through the ministry of the Holy Spirit; (2) He had great joy in the salvation of his men; (3) He had great joy in the sovereignty of the Father, which resulted in his revealing his salvation to some and concealing it from others; (4) He further rejoiced because it was the Father's "good pleasure" to accomplish salvation for some through Jesus.

The disciples were to find joy in their salvation, not in demon submission. This joyful salvation is viewed from one last perspective — of Old Testament saints who looked forward to it (vv. 23–24). The disciples have many reasons to rejoice in their salvation: Their names are written down in heaven and their salvation is eternally certain and secure because it's the good pleasure of the Father and the cause of the Son's rejoicing. They've been privileged to recognize and receive Jesus as the Messiah, though the wise and learned haven't. Now, the disciples are told that they can also rejoice in that salvation. What they've seen and heard is what the Old Testament saints yearned to see, but didn't. What a privilege these men were given; being able to see with their eyes and to hear with their ears the fulfillment of the hope of the ages. What a wholesome and meaningful reason to be joyful in life!

It Makes You Wonder . . .
  • Q. 1  Why does Jesus pair up the disciples he sends out (v. 1)? What application does this have today?
  • Q. 2  What was it that prompted Jesus to be filled with joy in v. 21?

This Week's Passage
Luke 10:1–24 (Lukas)

New International Version (NIV)
[To view it in a different version, click here; also listen to chapter 10.]

Jesus Sends Out the Seventy-Two

10 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

5"When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' 6If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 7Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

8"When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. 9Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' 10But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11'Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.' 12I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

13"Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. 15And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.

16"Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me."

17The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name."

18He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

21At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

22"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."

23Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. 24For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it."