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God’s Word for You

Luke 10:1-2 Pray for more workers

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, June 11, 2018

Jesus Sends out the Seventy-Two

10 After this, the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.

After Jesus started his long journey toward Jerusalem (9:51), he sent out a large number of disciples—perhaps all or nearly all of the men who were following him—to go in pairs to prepare to the towns and preach the gospel ahead of him. They were to be like John the Baptist in three dozen batches.

There are strong opinions but no consensus as to whether the number of these disciples was seventy or seventy-two. Commentators who wish to see symbolism in the number prefer seventy, since “the number of examples of ‘70’ in the Old Testament is overwhelming: 70 souls in the house of Jacob, 70 elders, sons, priests, and 70 years that are mentioned in chronological references to important events” (Kurt Aland, editor of the Greek New Testament, 1st–5th editions). The Lutheran Andreas Osiander (1498-1552) thought that the 70 reflected (as an antitype) the seventy men the Lord chose as helpers for Moses in Numbers 11:16. On the other hand, there are no examples of 72 in the Old Testament that would have any bearing on symbolism of any kind except the Septuagint’s total of pagan nations in Genesis 10 (the Hebrew text has 70). Since there is no reason to insist that this number is symbolic of anything, it seems better to take it as a factual number of the disciples Jesus had on hand, and whether it was 70 or 72 does not affect our understanding or application of the text.

2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. So ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.

Why would Jesus tell the very workers he was sending out to pray for more workers? The answer is here in the text, but we need to understand what he means by “harvest.” The harvest is not the size of the field. Certainly, the world is a big place, but Jesus is talking about people, not acres or miles. The number of people increases from generation to generation, and no worker—nor even any group of workers—can preach the gospel to everyone. So no matter how many workers are sent, twelve, seventy-two, or seventy thousand, there will always be more work to be done. So, workers, pray for more workers.

Never forget that the people around you belong to the Lord, not to you. He is the one who is “Lord of the harvest,” and it isn’t up to us to say whether this or that person is deserving of the gospel. The Lord sends out his workers to work, to preach, to teach, to baptize, with whatever gifts we have. Luther wrote: “He sent out the seventy-two disciples to heal the sick, to preach, to work miracles, and to baptize in his name. From this we can infer that they were outstanding and not insignificant men; for they proclaimed the message of Christ, baptized, and wrought miracles” (LW 23,186).

We may not think of ourselves as either “outstanding” or “significant,” but the Gospel we preach certainly is. It is the most outstanding and significant thing that exists, because through it souls are saved. It is the tool God has given us to convert souls. Pray for more workers to use this wonderful, miraculous tool, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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