The Gospel of Luke - Part 43: Laborers for the Harvest — Luke 10:1-12
(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for connection class leaders at Hoffmantown Church.)


Today we open Chapter 10 of the Book of Luke. In our last lesson (three weeks ago, if you remember that long ago), we finished Luke Chapter 9 where Jesus taught the Disciples and us who he really was:

As Luke writes Chapter 10, he changes focus a little, or should I say that Jesus changes focus on what He is teaching. Chapter 10 is sort of a continuation of the result of Jesus being our Lord, our king, whom we want to please. It deals with what His followers do, how they carry out the ministry.

On the Job Training:

In both Chapters 9 and 10, Jesus really focuses on the training and preparation of His disciples. Jesus is very aware that his remaining time on earth is short, that He will soon be gone. His disciples need to share His values and understand the way He does ministry. It's important to note that Jesus didn't train the Twelve in a classroom. He didn't find a synagogue that would lend Him some space and set up classes.

Instead, Jesus provided His disciples with "on the job" training. Mark 3:14 is a very important verse in understanding Jesus' approach to the training of the Twelve.

And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach. —Mark 3:14
Jesus' method of training was to use the "with Him" principle — the disciples were continually "with Him" seeing what He said and did, listening to Him, learning from Him. Next, He would "send them out" (in Chapters 9 and 10) for limited independent ministry. Finally, He would turn the ministry over to them and allow them to minister on their own (after Pentecost).

This is why "one on one" and small group discipline is so important. This approach much more closely reflects the example Jesus gave us. A class is no substitute for the "with Him" principle — that is, disciples meeting individually or in small groups with a discipler until the disciples reach a point where they too can disciple others. This approach is called spiritual multiplication and we need to have it functioning within every class in our church.

In this chapter, as Jesus continues training the Twelve and other disciples and us, He teaches them three things that should characterize every disciple, today just as much as then. Each thing is both taught by Jesus and illustrated by the events. These describe the Twelve Disciples and also New Testament Christians.

The question is: Do they characterize you or me as well?

Though some of the teaching in this chapter is found in other Gospels, some of the events recorded in chapter 10 (the 70 sent, the story of the good Samaritan, and the incident with Mary and Martha) are found only in Luke.

We will see that:

A.   Disciples Labor
B.   Disciples Love God
C.   Disciples Love People
D.   Disciples Learn.

Let’s start with:

A.   Disciples Labor:

Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. —Luke 10:1

Though the sending of the 70 is found only in Luke, it is consistent with what we know of Jesus and His ministry. We know that there were others who were probably just as devoted to Jesus as the Twelve. Remember back in Chapter 8?

Soon afterwards, He began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means. —Luke 8:1-3
There were a lot of followers, other than the Twelve. Luke tells us in Acts 1:15:
At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said... —Acts 1:15
After Jesus’ ascension, there were about 120 believers who, along with the disciples, prayed and waited for the coming of the Spirit.

One unanswered question here is: Did the Twelve go out again on this trip or did they stay with Jesus? We aren't told.

Why 70?

(Or 72 as some translations read.) The English Standard Version and the NIV and a few others translate the number as 72. I have not been able to find out why this difference. The commentators say that there is good textual support for both numbers and they don’t spend a lot of time on the question, because the issue is that there were a bunch of followers and a big group of them were sent out. It is immaterial whether it was 70 or 72.

Though scholars speculate about why Jesus picked the number He did, Jesus didn’t tell us why He chose to send out this number. But there is an important lesson here — Jesus’ Great Commission applies to all of us, not just to the Twelve. God wants all of us, all of His followers, to “go and make disciples.” This expectation is not just for the Disciples or just pastors or just teachers.

Back to verse 1:

Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him... —Luke 10:1
There are a couple of points here:

1.   This verse tells us why we “go.”   We go because we have been sent by Jesus:

I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor. —John 4:38

As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. —John 17:18

So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” —John 20:21
It’s important that we understand that Jesus has commanded all of us to “go.” We won’t really go to the lost unless we understand that we have been sent by Jesus. He told us to, He instructed us to, He commanded us to go.

2.   Jesus didn't send them out alone.

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. —Ecclesiastes 4:9
Jesus sent them in pairs because we need to partner with other Christians. We need to be part of a team. We reinforce each other. We also hold each other accountable, to go and to accurately spread the gospel.

Jesus wants every believer, every one of His followers to be involved in the work of telling others about Him, so:

Back to the text:
Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. “Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. —Luke 10:1-3
Let’s see what can we learn from what Jesus says in verses 2-3?

The Need — The harvest is plentiful:

Someone once wrote a book titled, What's Wrong With The Harvest?. When people aren't coming to Jesus, when our fellowship is not growing, we think the problem is with the harvest. But Jesus says that the harvest is plentiful:

“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.” —John 4:35
The Living Bible says:
"Do you think the work of harvesting will not begin until the summer ends four months from now? Look around you! Vast fields of human souls are ripening all around us, and are ready now for reaping.” —John 4:35 (Living Bible)
We'll never know how plentiful the harvest is, how open people are to spiritual things, until we start talking to people about Jesus.

Then Jesus continues in verse 2:

But the laborers are few:

The great shortage today is not people who are open to the Gospel, it's Christians who are willing to work! Jesus expects every believer to be a laborer.

What is a laborer?

A laborer is someone who is involved in the process of helping people come to faith in Jesus and then grow to spiritual maturity. In Mathew Jesus said:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” —Matthew 28:19-20
Within the church, Christians have come to see the ministry as something that is reserved for and the responsibility of the clergy. So when we think of "laborers,” we think of pastors, preachers. But a laborer is someone who is actively involved in the process of making disciples of Jesus. God's plan is for every believer, every Christian to be a laborer. This is what we see in the book of Acts. Take, for example, the church at Antioch. The Apostles didn't establish this church. It was Christians who moved to Antioch and began sharing their faith. By the way, the word "preaching" in the New Testament is not reserved for preachers! It's used of anyone who sharing the message of Jesus with non-Christians. The Greek word for "preaching" is ευανγελιζο [euangelizo] meaning "to proclaim good news.”

The story goes that a young man applied for a job as an usher at a theater in the mall. The manager asked him, "What would you do in case a fire breaks out?"

The young guy answered, "Don't worry about me. I'd get out okay." That's how we respond sometimes. "What would you do if Jesus came back tomorrow?" "Oh, don't worry about me. I'd be okay." But you're an usher! It isn't enough just to get out yourself. You are responsible for helping others get out.

So what is the solution?

Everyone ought to be involved in the process of spiritual multiplication. Every one of us ought to be discipling at least one person or ought to be being discipled by someone with the goal of discipling someone else. In Second Timothy Paul says:

The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. —2 Timothy 2:2
Billy Graham said, “Every generation is strategic. We are not responsible for the past generation, and we cannot bear full responsibility for the next one; but we do have our generation. God will hold us responsible as to how well we fulfill our responsibilities to this age and take advantage of our opportunities.”

The first thing we need to do is Pray. Jesus said in verse 2:

...therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest...
Some translations use the word ask. “Ask” may not be the best translation of this Greek word δεομαι [deomai]. The word seems to be stronger. It can also be translated “to entreat, to beg, to implore, to beseech.” These words communicate an intensity to the praying. Here he clearly tells us to be praying for laborers, for God to mobilize His people to the work of spiritual multiplication. We should be praying for ourselves as well — that we become laborers in the harvest.

After we fervently pray, We need to labor. Jesus continued: send out laborers into His harvest.
What does the word “labor” imply to you?

The Greek word here, εργατες [ergates] was the word used of a common laborer or field hand. It doesn’t imply any particular skills; it does imply someone who is working hard out in the hot sun.

We need to understand that evangelism and discipleship are hard work. It’s not always fun or easy. The Bible often refers to ministry as hard work. In John Jesus says:

“I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.” —John 4:38
Luke records:
“In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” —Acts 20:35
In the book of Revelation, Jesus is quoted as saying:
I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false. —Revelation 2:2
We need to go: —  As in “go and make disciples” —verse 3.

What does "go" imply?

Jesus doesn't just want them to pray; He also wants them to go! So He sends them out two by two to tell others about Him, and he tells them how to go:
“Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’  If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you.  Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house.  Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’  But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city." —Luke 10:3-12
His instructions to the 70 are basically the same as what He said to the Twelve back in Chapter 9 when He sent them out by themselves.

1 — Maybe He wanted the people who were responsive to the message to be shown by their willingness to show hospitality to the disciples.

2 — Maybe He wants His disciples to learn to trust Him to provide for them. And He wants to give those who hear the opportunity to demonstrate their response to the message by how they treat the messengers.

In verse 4, He says, “...and greet no one on the way."

This is apparently a figure of speech (“Don’t stop and chat”) meaning don’t let anyone delay you or sidetrack you from the task I have given you. It communicates a sense of staying on track and also of urgency to the task. There’s no time to waste.

In verse 7 He says, “Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages"

Jesus is establishing the precedent here (and other places like Luke 8:1-3) of people funding others so that they can be full-time in the ministry. Luke 8:3 is where there were women traveling with Jesus who were providing financial support for Him and His disciples.

In verse 9 He tells them, ...and heal those in it who are sick.

He had empowered this larger group to be able to “heal the sick”. Jesus never ignores physical needs. We need to care for people, looking for ways to serve.

Why? Is it so all illness can be eradicated?

As we help people, they become more open to hear the message. Showing God’s love for them opens them up to the gospel.

...and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ —Luke 10:8
The sequence here is important — we serve people first and then proclaim the gospel. But it’s also important to understand that just serving people is not enough. We need to engage people in spiritual conversations, looking for opportunities to talk about Jesus.
But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you... —Luke 10:10
Jesus doesn’t tell us to force the Gospel on anyone. If they welcome the message, we share. If they don’t welcome us and/or the message, we don’t preach at them anyway. We are not to beat people over the head with the gospel.
...I say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city. —Luke 10:12
We need to leave judgment up to God. He has promised that He will hold everyone accountable. Paul tells us in Romans 14:2:
So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. —Romans 14:12
Let’s stop here for today. We will pick up next week and continue with the study of Jesus sending out the 70 followers.

Please re-read Luke chapter 10 to prepare.