One could easily hear from the Greek verb “ἀποστέλλω” (apostellō) one of the most familiar words in the gospels- apostle. For that is what it practically means to be an apostle, one who is sent. Throughout both the Old and the New Testaments, in theologically significant contexts, the word highlights the divine initiative in providing specially chosen persons in order to bring about the fulfillment of God’s redemptive purposes, like the prophets in the OT. In the NT it refers to the Father sending Jesus as the one ultimate redeemer of his people (Mt 10:40; MK 9:37; Lk 4:18; John 3:18, 6:29, 17:3,18). In turn Jesus sends his apostles to preach and heal, to continue his mission (Mt 10:1f; Mk 6:7f; Lk 9:1f).

But only Luke narrates a separate sending-out of “others” aside from the apostles, referred to also as the Twelve (10:1-20). Because of the abundance of harvest the mission will not be restricted to the Twelve; “others” will share the mission. (Note that later in Acts, the role of the Twelve eventually becomes insignificant). Seventy(-two, depending on the witness of the different manuscripts), recalls the seventy elders chosen by Moses to assist him (Ex 24:1; Num 11:16,24), the seventy offspring of Jacob (Ex 1:5; Dt 10:22), or the nations of the world (Gen 10:2-31) and would symbolize the evangelization of the Gentiles to come. Furthermore in this mission-charge disciples are instructed not only to go forth to preach and to cure but to beg God for laborers enough to cope with the abundance of the harvest. The success of the harvest will depend not only on the disciples’ cooperation but also on their prayer.

Considered as a “doublet” of the rules for the missionary activity already set forth for the Twelve in 9:1-6, the details here seem more specific. Two important notes here are urgency and hostiliy. The mission is urgent, thus there is no time for ordinary greetings, scruples over what sort of food one eats, or searching for better quarters. Their concern for God’s kingdom must be that of reapers confronted with a harvest that is to be gathered in before it spoils (10:2). The mission is dangerous because they are being sent out like lambs among wolves, i.e. defenseless, weak creatures, whose status will always be precarious when strong confrontation and attack are imminent (10:3).

The rest of the verses deal with the conduct of the disciples in houses (vv5-7) and with that in towns (vv8-9). Another Lucan addition is the appended account of the return of the disciples, their elation at the success of their mission and Jesus’ threefold comment on their report (vv17-20). In the last remark (v20), Jesus puts the mission in its proper heavenly perspective. It is not just that satanic evil has been eclipsed (vv18-19) the reason for their joy. Rather the real reason for it is that God himself has inscribed the names of these representatives of Jesus in the book of life. Possessing power over demons or spirits is no guarantee of life; but being registered in the book of life is.

The mission to proclaim the Gospel is urgent still and the world’s values and culture remain hostile to it. As Christ’s disciples are we up to the challenge? If we are our names will be written in heaven.

VeritasPH - The Word, The Truth