Jesus Sends the 72

The Father dispatches Jesus into our world. Later, Jesus sends out others to continue His mission: first, the Twelve, followed by the seventy-two. The Gospel for today focuses on the second, whom Jesus “appointed” with His authority and mandate. Though His journey to Jerusalem is still underway, Jesus directs a larger group of disciples into the Jewish areas of Galilee.

The number 12 is significant, representing God’s chosen: the 12 tribes of Israel and later Jesus’ 12 Apostles. Though 70 corresponds to Moses’ choice of 70 elders (72, counting Eldad and Medad, if you remember them). With “the power of the Spirit,” they upheld Israel’s leader, supporting him to guide the people during their wilderness wanderings. So, 70 testifies to Jesus one day establishing His ministry, with others charged to do His bidding.

Though Jesus unfolds another lesson to these Jewish men—His life-bestowing Word will soon spread into the Gentile world. For 70, likewise, matches the number of the nations listed in Genesis 10, something Jews well-studied in the Torah realize. The Greek version of the Old Testament lists 72. Both numbers represent the fullness of the Gentiles.

The significance is the same whether Jesus sent out 70 or 72 disciples. First, He will inaugurate a ministry in which others are to voice His message, preaching repentance into forgiveness until He returns. Through His preachers, He’ll deliver His life and salvation. Second, this proclamation is for everyone, not only Jews.

The crop is ready, and Jesus commands laborers into the harvest fields to pluck what is ripe for the picking. Yet, this task bristles with risk since they’ll go out as lambs among wolves. Is this strange? No, because Jesus is the Lamb who goes to His sacrificial death.

So Christ sends them as prey to the predator. Dependent on Him and carrying only His words, they travel without a purse, backpack, or extra pair of sandals. These emissaries proclaim peace, giving what Jesus says. More than hostilities ending, this entails everything in its proper order and harmony. Of course, this heavenly concord comes from the forthcoming cross, from Christ’s soon-to-be inflicted crucifixion.

“Heal the sick,” Jesus announces, granting them authority to alleviate sickness, signaling God’s kingdom approaches. Did Jesus not come to bear our illnesses and whatever sin did to destroy our eternal well-being, including within our bodies? With Christ now ascended, He offers us a different sign—His body and blood to strengthen and preserve us to life everlasting. The “medicine of immortality” and divine peace.

To embrace and welcome any of these 72 is to receive the God-given peace and health Jesus gives. So, He doesn’t risk plucking you up and transporting you to His kingdom; no, He brings His saving kingdom to you! Now, you needn’t wonder if you did enough or traveled the distance to make sure you’re in His immortal realm. The kingdom of God is nigh, and He leaves nothing to chance.

How does God’s rule and sovereignty come to you today? Through the preaching of the Word, Jesus’ words entering your ears through another’s mouth. Other Scripture passages show baptism and His Supper are His Word united to physical elements. Don’t find this peculiar, for Jesus joined Himself to human flesh in His incarnation. In these ways, Jesus delivers and keeps us in His kingdom by forgiving our sins.

The closeness of Christ’s Words brings this certainty—you are part of the Kingdom of God. How can you be sure? Not by your words or works, but by your proximity to Jesus. Where Jesus’ words are—whether they come to you in preaching, baptism, or Holy Communion—the Kingdom of God comes to you. In His Word, Jesus offers forgiveness, protection, and eternal life—each a gift of His Kingdom.

The kingdom of God breaking into our world is an extraordinary event, revealing itself by the Messiah’s arrival. So, we can be beside Him, but He doesn’t first demand us to utter a prayer, fulfill a deed, or be holy enough to earn His love. Remember, Jesus is doing the doing.

Yet, if we didn’t need Jesus’ goodwill and favor, why did He become incarnate, an act so intimate where He wears our skin to redeem us? Today, the message remains the same: “The Kingdom of God is near,” which means worship centers on God coming to save you, not you doing something for Him.

Proper preaching is but countless variations on a single theme—God’s kingdom is here in Jesus. Faithful proclamation focuses on God’s faithfulness, not on what you must do to merit His favor. In Luke 24, Jesus states the purpose of each sermon: to preach turning away from sin toward His forgiveness. Yes, Law and Gospel, pointing us to the life our Lord gives, bestowing eternity into our bones and being, made real by Him.

So, Christ-centered preaching doesn’t focus on you, stating what you must speak or act. No, “the Kingdom of God is near,” bearing fresh hope and joy. These arise inside you and develop roots, originating and forming virtuous works. How? By going to war with your sinful and fleshly desires, generating new aspirations to live according to God’s leading and guidance. This working within us even gives us the strength to tell others of Jesus.

With God’s continued rule among us in our reality and time, you can now convey more to your friends and neighbors. For starters, the life Christ gives, which won’t disappoint because He supplies this, not you. The joy of Jesus uniting you with Him, so His righteousness becomes yours, ensuring eternal life. These help show that Jesus requires no one to climb to Him. No, He approaches us.

How? Through His people. From His pastors who proclaim His message. So invite others to Sunday School and the church service. Yet, Jesus works through His laity, not only preachers. Through you speaking His Words, He comes to your family and acquaintances.

The only real problem occurs when rejecting Jesus. For those who rebuffed the seventy-two, the dust clinging to their sandals testifies against them. To be left out is to refuse. Don’t miss the woes, the warnings Jesus speaks. Only by rebuffing and refusing Jesus do we become the outsider. How terrible for the wicked towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum!

These are Jewish places where Jesus taught and performed miracles. The people refused repentance, and now they suffer more than Tyre and Sidon, two pagan Gentile cities. Worse than Sodom is their fate, the wayward town destroyed by fire and brimstone.

Ponder what makes the unpardonable sin unforgivable. Not its intrinsic evil or destructiveness, but its state of being, which rejects God’s love and reprieve in Jesus Christ. Whoever persists in such unbelief cuts themselves off from God’s grace and mercy and can expect only judgment.

Heavenly amnesty is here on earth—as near as the Word preached, the water of baptism, and the bread and wine upon the altar. These are Jesus’ chosen ways for His kingdom to come to you. To scorn these gifts is to reject the Giver, Jesus, who died to redeem and restore you. To snub those whom He sends to you is to incur God’s displeasure, for He comes to you through them.

The seventy-two returned from their mission to find Jesus waiting for them, overjoyed at the reception they received. “Why the demons submitted to us in your name,” they swept with pride. A person’s authority is the permission to act, given by another. Yet, this intrinsic power doesn’t dwell in the messengers, but in Him who sanctioned and sent them.

At His baptism, the voice of the Father spoke, “You are My Son, whom I love; with you, I am well-pleased.” Mere moments before his martyrdom, Stephen referred to Jesus as Him, in whom “we live, move, and exist” (Acts 17:28). Still, Jesus Himself, with full “authority in heaven and earth,” didn’t act on His own, but only as God directed Him.

Don’t let your self-importance deceive you. The realm of God revolves, not around whoever is speaking or doing, since each receives as Lord deems fit and what is best for His people. Your life in God’s dynasty doesn’t depend on your deeds and doings, but on Jesus.

The kingdom’s pulsing heart is love received, expressed in your daily lives for God and neighbor. How do we live this reality out in our lives? For those forgiven, you forgive others. Speak the truth, not to win an argument, but with respect, compassion, and understanding. Bring Jesus to another by your words and deed where God places you to serve. Is this not the Christian life?

Celebrate! The sacrificed Lamb, Jesus, wrote your name in heaven’s book with His blood shed for you. So you’re inscribed in His heavenly realms, as sure as your baptism in water, your Savior’s absolution, and His Banquet nourishing you to life everlasting. Rejoice, for You will be with Jesus in His Father’s house.

The Father sent His Son into this sin-corrupted world as His Bringer of reconciliation and life. Later, Christ commissioned His ministers, His agents, to proclaim the kingdom of God is here. Yes, Jesus is near you, and His enduring restoration is yours, and He’s written your name in eternity. This nearness guarantees His goodness is for you, which never shall leave or forsake you.

Cherish and trust in the words of Jesus, today and every day. For they are as reliable and sure as He is, who pledges, “Whoever listens to you, listens to me.” Amen.