Chapter 10 - Commentary on Luke's Gospel

10:1-17 Church Growth

DISCIPLES - How does a church grow? Jesus' method was to find any who wanted to learn, and enroll them to be taught among his disciples. This is the normal method in any school or university. People are first enrolled and then they are taught. In the Messiah's school of the Holy Spirit the first thing the new disciples learned after being baptized was that God accepted them and forgave them. Then they learned about the power of the Holy Spirit. Inevitably there were drop outs : John's Gospel reports that at one time "many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him" (John 6:66). And the reasons for this are pictured in the parable of the sower. But there is also much fruit, "Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold" (8:8).

In any school you know very little when you are first enrolled. When Peter and James and John began they knew very little, and it took two or three years before Peter realized who Jesus really was. "You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God" (9:20, Matthew 16:16, Mark 16:16).

Meanwhile the number of disciples was growing rapidly. In fact John records that "the Pharisees had heard that Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John the Baptist - although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized" (John 4:1-2). Jesus must have baptized the first few disciples himself, but then left his own disciples to do the baptizing. At first he personally taught the new disciples, but soon he trained up his trusted disciples to do this.

In Jesus' day the harvest was the large number of people who were willing to be taught in Galilee, and then later in Judea. In our case we should think of the Lord building the church in our city and the surrounding area (in the New Testament there is only one church in each city and the villages around: Antioch, Ephesus, Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens, Rome). But the Lord's church in our city meets in many locations and with different forms of worship (rather like a large farm with a barley and wheat harvest, fig and olive trees, and grape picking). Rather than ask for more people to attend our own particular local congregation to help us pay the bills, we should ask for workers for all that needs to be done in our area among all denominations.

10:1 The twelve apostles had been sent out previously (9:1-2). But there were still remote villages that needed to be prepared for the Messiah's coming. So these seventy additional apostles were sent in pairs (as the twelve had been, Mark 6:7). Wherever they went those who wanted to learn would be baptized and given some preliminary teaching. Later Jesus would come and gather a larger group together (on a mountain or elsewhere) for more intensive teaching about the Kingdom. In this chapter we see how another seventy apostles were sent out and returned with joy, saying "Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us" (Luke 10:17).

10:2 As noted in the introduction above, the harvest is the large numbers of disciples who need to be taught in our city and the surrounding country. The harvesting is hindered by the lack of those who will baptize and teach disciples. Jesus says these can be provided , not by appointing committees, or by making the existing workers feel guilty about the vast need, but by prayer to the Lord of the harvest. This makes us personally involved in his work. But we are not to concentrate on our own particular meeting place of whatever denomination but the Lord's work in the whole area (in his case Galilee, in our case all the denominations and home groups in our city and its surrounding villages).

10:3 Those sent out on a mission should expect opposition, but they are to be as defenseless as the eternal Lamb of God (John 1:29,36) chose to be in his mission. But though the Lamb works by apparent weakness, he will triumph over the persecutors (Revelation 6:16, 7:14, 8:1, 14:1, 17:14).

10:4 The weakness and vulnerability of the Lamb's mission workers is expressed by not depending on the usual resources of human expeditions.

10:5-6 It has been proved all over the world that a willingness to depend on the hospitality of what seems to be a very poor home often results in the people of that area being willing to enrol as disciples. The approach is with a greeting of peace (shalom), not assuming that the people are wicked sinners and possible enemies. If the peaceful greeting is rejected, another home will be visited, but if there is total rejection by a whole community a different response may be needed (see 10:10-11).

10:7-9 Where there is a welcome in one home, workers are to stay there till the end of the mission (say three or four days). In exchange for lodging and food the apostles are to be active in praying for the sick in that town, and teaching about the loving purposes of the King in his Kingdom.

10:10-11 As a result of healing and preaching in a town there might be rejection. It was part of the understood language of the day that shaking off the dust from one's sandals was an expression of wanting nothing more to do with that town at that time. The sign was used by Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:51). "The kingdom of God has come near" means that the apostles of the Messiah King, Son of God, Lord of Hosts (e.g. Psalm 5:2, 8:9, 9:7, 10:16, 11:4-7 and referred to throughout the Old Testament Prophets ) have come to teach and to heal among them (see 11:20).

10:12-15 Chorazin was the next town to the north of Capernaum, and Bethsaida was the other side of river Jordan as it descended into the Lake of Galilee. Just as Sodom was destroyed (Genesis 19:13, 24) and Tyre (Ezekiel 26:1-6 - Sidon was only 22 miles away), all three cities were leveled to the ground and the people massacred as the Roman legions moved down from the north for the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. But rejecting the good news of the Kingdom deserved a worse fate than Sodom's.

10:16 Rejecting the message of an ambassador is counted as rejecting the king who sent him, so rejecting those who are sent out by the Messiah (Paul was an ambassador, 2 Corinthians 5:20) is the same as rejecting him. And since the Son of God was sent into our world by the Father, it is the very love of God that is being rejected.

10:17-24 The Privilege of Christian Service

Perhaps as a result of a personal interview, Luke gives us the report of the seventy apostles when they returned from their mission (10:17-20). And together with Matthew he includes Jesus' thanksgiving for what they were able to do (10:21-24, Matthew 11:25-27). This section therefore gives us an insight into the Lord's personal concern for those he sent out, and joy in their spiritual growth.

10:17 The seventy were astonished that the demons who had such terrible power to torment people submitted to the Messiah's name and authority (as in 9:1,11:20).

10:18 The Greek imperfect should be translated "I kept watching (during the mission) as Satan fell like lightning flashes from the sky." As we struggle against evil powers (Ephesians 6:12) the Lord who triumphed over them, keeps watching and supporting us.

10:19 Snakes and scorpions can refer to natural hazards, but they are also metaphorical for satanic attacks of every kind (as in the longer ending of Mark 16:18 and perhaps in Psalm 91:13).

10:20 But it is important not to place our confidence in the successes we may have had over Satan's power in our ministry. Our assurance is that God loves and accept us as citizens of heaven.

10:21 Luke precedes Jesus' thanksgiving with "he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit," and Paul will remind us that all genuine prayer is the Holy Spirit praying deep within us (Romans 8:26-27). Jesus is thankful that the spiritual illumination, which the wise and intelligent of Jerusalem failed to grasp, was revealed to those who were like little children in the Kingdom (see 11:13, 18:17, Matthew 18:1-4). Paul is also astonished at the insight we have been given into the mystery of God's plan (Ephesians 1:9-10), and he knows this can only be imparted the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:-10, 13).

10:22 The Son of God is given full authority to reign on earth (John 5:22, 1 Corinthians 15:27-28). Hearing this prayer, the assembled disciples must have wondered about this close relationship of mutual knowing between Jesus and his Father. This was hard enough for the apostles to understand, but John described how incomprehensible it was for the Jewish theologians 5:17-23, 6:36-44, 8:14-19, 28-29, 54-55, 10:36-38).

10:23-24 Here the disciples seem to be the inner circle of the twelve. They had the privilege of understanding what the Old Testament prophets and kings like David and Solomon never had the opportunity to imagine. Abraham, Moses, and Elijah experienced occasional glimpses of the eternal Son of God, the disciples came to know him personally when he took birth in our world.

10:25-37 The Meaning of Love

The word "love" has many meanings. A boy says "I love ice cream." A musician may say "I love the Bach fugues." There is the falling in love of romantic love. And the making love of a one night stand. The love of a couple on their fiftieth wedding anniversary is something else. Parents love their children, and children love their parents. All religions prescribe love of one kind or another. In this section we have a typical Pharisee's definition of love as love for God and love for one's neighbor. The problem was that the rules for doing all that was required to love God had become so complicated and demanding that ordinary people could not cope with them. And love for neighbors had been reduced to certain duties toward respectable Jews, mostly to the exclusion of foreigners and half castes such as Samaritans. What the theologian wanted was a definition of one's neighbor. Is it the family next door? Or all those in the neighborhood? To answer that Jesus tells the story of good Samaritan love. It teaches us the language game for the ordinary love that cares for a neighbor of any race who might be in trouble on the road.

But the lawyer should have asked the more basic question. How does one love God? And if he had asked that Jesus would have responded with the question "How does a little child love his daddy or mummy?" Does he earn his parents' love by thinking up elaborate prayers? "Thou are the ineffable source of our family patrimony." Is it by making a list of every possible rule he was meant to obey? (The Pharisees had collected 613 laws and rules from the Old Testament torah). We love God the way a little child runs to his parents when he is in trouble, tells then all that he has found and enjoyed doing, cries and laughs with them, plays with them, listen to stories, and just enjoys being with them. It is not a question of "What must I do to obtain eternal life?" But knowing that God loves me totally, and eternal life is accepting and enjoying that love.

10:25 Normally a teacher would be seated, and his hearers would be seated listening attentively around him. But here an expert in religious law stands up to ask the common test question among the rabbis. What is the one thing we must do at any price to inherit eternal life?

10:26-27 Jesus responded respectfully by asking him as an expert what was written in the Old Testament torah. Among the hundreds of rules and commandments of the Old Testament law, the lawyer picked as the first essential the need to love God. "You shall love the Lord your God with all you heart, and with all you soul, and with all your might" (Deuteronomy 6:5). The lawyer added the words "with all you mind" to express the Jewish ideal of careful study. The second requirement was "You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18).

10:28 Jesus said he was quite right, but that did not in any way clarify what would be involved in loving God. That was already hinted at in the stories Luke has collected . The sick love God by accepting his healing (Luke 4:40, 8:43-48). Sinners love God by accepting his forgiveness (Luke 5:30-31,6:17, 7:37-48). Those who wonder what life is about love God by hearing the good news (6:17-18). It is not a question of doing things to earn God's love but rather welcoming the love of God like a little child with loving parents (see introductory note to this section)..

10:29 Rather than face the implications of what love for God might mean, the lawyer decided to show his own cleverness with a trick question. "Who is the neighbor we are to love?"

10:30-32 As he often did, Jesus answered by telling a story. We call it the parable of the Good Samaritan. The road to Jericho is a 21 mile downhill walk, but you had to watch out for robbers. On this occasion a Jewish man has been stripped, beaten, and left half-dead. Obviously robbers were still lurking around, and a priest felt he had to hurry home from important duties in Jerusalem to his family in Jericho. A Levite (assistant priest or deacon) saw the wounded man but did not want to risk getting involved.

10:33-35 Samaritans were a despised people that the Jews had no dealings with (John 4:9). But this Samaritan was "moved with pity," and in spite of great danger he did the needful to get the wounded man to the inn in Jericho. Not only that, but he paid the innkeeper to take care of him till he came back from his business trip. Obviously this only illustrated one way in which we might be involved in loving our neighbors. One could love by being a caring innkeeper, or setting up a police service or a first aid post on the Jericho Road, or by proving alternative work or education for the robbers. God lets us choose how and where we do our loving, but as we saw in the last chapter we should put our hand to our loving, and not look back (9:62).

10:36-37 To the question which of the three was neighbor to the man who had been robbed, the lawyer admitted it had to be the hated Samaritan. The lawyer did not get detailed laws and rules to obey, and his trick question was answered by Jesus' very practical "Go and do likewise."

10:38-41 What about Women Disciples?

We have already seen how the baptism of women after the day of Pentecost can only be explained by the fact that Jesus and his apostles baptized women to be disciples on the same basis as men (see note on 8:1-3, Acts 5:14, 8:3,12, 9:2, 16:15). With children to care for and other duties at home, women could not easily go out to be taught. Luke has given us some exceptions (8:1-3). Now he wants to give us a picture of teaching two women in their own home.

10:38 John identifies this home as located in Bethany (John 12:1-2). It was a two mile walk from Jerusalem on the east slope of the Mount of Olives (21:37). Martha was in charge of the house, perhaps because her husband had been excluded as a leper (Matthew 26:6, Mark 14:3).

10:39 Mary is clearly a disciple sitting at her teacher's feet and listening attentively to his teaching. Among the rabbis the tradition was that women should never be taught the torah. Only men were suited to study the sacred Scriptures. Jesus decisively broke with this male chauvinism, and made it clear that this was not what God had in mind. As a result Paul not only baptized and taught women (Acts 16:13-15), but in his teaching of the church as a body made it clear that the Holy Spirit made no distinction between men and women in assigning his gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:7-11,13).

10:40-42 As head of the house Martha was right to be concerned for her guest. Her problem was that Jesus would have been satisfied with a simple meal ("there is need of only one thing"), but she fussed and wanted to serve an array of side dishes and delicacies. As a result she left no time for listening to Jesus' teaching ("the better part"), and she tried to make Mary feel guilty about not helping her. "The better part" is the charter for women who choose to be involved in studying the Word of God. And we have seen that, having begun to learn, disciples could also become teachers (as in 1 Corinthians 12:8, 28 where membership in the body is not divided by gender differences, as in Ephesians 4:16, 5:2).

Chapter 11 .....