In Luke 10, we see Jesus send out his disciples. Very often, we find that Jesus does his ministry work in a way that is different from how we might think to do it, but this story is a strange one indeed.
Reading through the story initially, it appears that Jesus is sending his disciples out to evangelize within the towns where he is about to go, putting into practice many of the things that he has been teaching and showing his disciples as they have been following him. But is that truly what is going on? Let’s take a look at the story and see if we can determine what Jesus is doing here.
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. He 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. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘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.’Luke 10:1-11
If you would like, you can also see the story (although all of the way to verse 24, not just verse 11) in this video:
OK, so let’s take a look at what is happening in this story and see if we can ask a few questions that will help us to understand what is happening.
What is the first commandment?
Jesus is sending the disciples out to all of the places where is about to go. But after they get into groups of 2, what is the first thing that he tells them to do? He tells them to pray. They are supposed to pray for workers to go into the harvest field.
But wait a minute… Where are these workers supposed to come from? Remember, there are no other workers at this time. There are no pastors. There are no evangelists. There are no missionaries. And yet Jesus tells them that they are supposed to ask the Lord of the harvest for workers.
Obviously, Jesus isn’t speaking of a harvest of plants or grains. He is talking about a harvest of souls, of people who will believe in him. But workers are needed to collect and bring in the harvest, so this is the first thing that Jesus wants them to do – ask for workers!
What should they take with them?
At this point, the disciples are completely dependent upon the words of Jesus, and for their physical needs, the provision that they may receive from the people that they will stay with when they arrive. They don’t have a specific place that they are expecting to go yet. Instead, they are supposed to take nothing – no purse, no bag, and no sandals. They will just go and everything that they need will be provided for them.
Who should they speak to?
OK, here is where I think that the story takes a turn and becomes a little difficult to understand, especially if we aren’t sure what Jesus is doing. Who should they speak to on the way? No one. Jesus tells them that they shouldn’t even greet anyone on the road.
When they arrive in the town where they are going, how many houses should they go into? One! Jesus says that they shouldn’t move around from house to house.
So we at least have to ask the question… What kind of evangelism is this? If you are evangelizing and telling people about the Kingdom of God, aren’t you supposed to tell everyone? Shouldn’t they be stopping everyone on the road? Shouldn’t they be going from one house to the next, telling every house the message?
Jesus decides to have his disciples do evangelism differently. He says that they should offer peace to the owner of the house and then stay there, if the owner will accept them. But why? Why just stay there?
Return to the beginning of the story
Let’s not forget what Jesus told his disciples to do in the beginning. The first commandment is that they are to ask the Lord of the harvest – God – for workers for his harvest field. We also said that there are no other workers at this time, so if there are going to be new workers, the workers must come from the harvest field.
In this situation, the harvest fields are the towns where Jesus is sending his disciples. And the workers that Jesus tells his disciples to ask for are those with whom the disciples will be staying.
So often, as we think about evangelism, we might get a picture in our minds of famous evangelists such as Billy Graham, Charles Spurgeon, or Jonathan Edwards. In these scenarios, though, we see one person preaching the Gospel to hundreds or thousands of people at one time. We see people repenting and coming to Christ to be saved. And this is good!
But we can also lose sight of one of the most important parts of evangelism. We aren’t just supposed to be looking for new believers. We are supposed to be praying and looking for new workers. The work of the ministry isn’t supposed to just be formed around us. It is supposed continue to spread as one disciple makes a disciple of another.
Let’s think again about the situation with the disciples that Jesus sends out. If they were to go from one house to the next, how easy would it be for them to talk to all of the people in that town? It wouldn’t be easy! Why? Because they don’t know all of those people.
But what if the disciples stay there in the one house and speak about the Kingdom of God, healing the sick as they do to help the people and confirm the message of the Kingdom? If they do this and the people in that house then tell others what they had heard while the disciples were there, how much greater would the effect of their work be?
I believe, therefore, that the lesson for us is that we must also pray for workers to be sent out into the harvest fields. As we look around us for new disciples, sharing the Gospel with others, we must remember that Jesus is calling us to not only find new believers, but to find new workers.