After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.
A few days ago we saw that Jesus sent out the twelve disciples to preach the Kingdom of God, heal the sick, and cast out demons. Now he sends seventy others, with instructions similar to those he gave the twelve. They are to live off the generosity of the people to whom they minister, whatever they provide. We often think of Jesus wandering about the countryside with just the twelve – here are seventy willing to go out and serve him.
Jesus’ words to the seventy are often quoted, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” All of us are called to bring in the harvest – it was not just the twelve who preached and served, but these seventy other followers. How can your life preach a message of love and hope, of the kingdom?
Unfortunately, pastors and missionaries sometimes feel Jesus’ next words, “I am sending you like lambs among the wolves.” But Jesus says to go anyway – and to give their peace to whatever house they entered, and if the people there share the peace, it will remain with them. Like the disciples, they are to stay in whatever place they are first invited, and not to search for wealthier persons who will provide better accommodations.
And as he told the disciples before, if a town does not welcome them, they are to leave that town, after shaking the dust off their feet in protest. Jesus says that those who did not welcome them will suffer in the day of judgment, when the kingdom comes fully. Note – they are not to judge, nor to call down lightning from heaven, as the disciples had wanted to do; judgment comes from God, and God alone.