Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Jesus Sends an Additional 72 Disciples to Preach to the World

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 9:51 - 10:12
  • Psalm 74:1 - 23
Read Bible Passages Online

Luke 9:51 - 10:12
Here we read about how Jesus sent his disciples out to preach to the world.  I read about this in Matthew 10:5 - 15 and again in Mark 6:7 - 13.  There is one distinct difference in this account than the ones before -- here we are told that Jesus chose and sent 72 disciples out in pairs, instead of just the twelve.

Needless to say, I was a bit confused when I read this. I referenced back to the previous mentions in Matthew and Mark to confirm that, indeed, the only previous talk was of the twelve disciples.  So what is the difference here? 

I found my answer in the account in Matthew, when Jesus tells his twelve disciples:
"Don't go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, but only to the people of Israel -- God's lost sheep"  -- 10:5-6
Jesus sent the 72 disciples out to "all the towns and places he planned to visit" (Luke 10:1).  So it seems that the first mission, the one to send out the twelve disciples, was targeted to the people of Israel.  This second mission, which is a separate occurrence from the first mission, was to spread the ministry ahead of Jesus to all the places he planned to visit.  These places included the territories of the Gentiles and the Samaritans. 

Jesus instructed the 72 in the same way he instructed the 12 -- they were to go without money, provisions, extra clothes, etc.  They were to stay in the same place the entire time, preach the good news, and heal the sick in the name of the Lord.  If a town refused them, they were to shake the dust of their feet and move on with a stern warning about the judgement that was to come.

As a side note, I love how I started off today's reading with the expectation that I was reading a third account of how Jesus sent out his twelve, yet in the end I learned something totally new.  You never know what is going to be housed in those few verses you read for a day.  This reading only consisted of 23 verses, yet I have a whole new understanding of this aspect of the ministry of Jesus.

Psalm 74:1 - 23
This was an interesting psalm to read in that it didn't quite follow any previous format or theme.  In this psalm, the writer (Asaph) reports the destruction of the temple and of all the places that the Lord was worshiped.

Asaph asks the Lord how long He will allow this destruction to go on and why the Lord was so angry against them?  He points out all the offenses of the enemy; how they burned down the temple, smashed everything with their axes, burnt down the places that God was worshiped and defiled the sanctuary.

Asaph tells the Lord to "Arise, O God, and defend your cause. Remember how these fools insult you all day long" (74:22).  Asaph does tell the Lord how he is his "king from ages past" (74:12), but I only see one brief reference to praise.  This occurs in 74:21: "Don't let the downtrodden by humilated again.  Instead, let the poor and needy praise your name."

I can't help but feel that this psalm is a bit haughty.  Asaph doesn't know why the Lord has rejected the people.  He tells the Lord to remember his people and remember his promises, and see the offenses occurring against him, yet Asaph offers very little praise to the Lord, and that praise seems conditional, like the people cannot praise the Lord in their current state.

The psalms of David are characterized by extreme faith in the Lord, no matter what is happening.  David also knew what to attribute his suffering to, and while he might have been desperate for the Lord to save him, he pleaded to the goodness of the Lord.  He showed his absolute faith no matter what.  He didn't tell the Lord to remember that the Lord appointed him king and save him (or at least not as far as I remember).

This psalm has been a very interesting and contrasting read, indeed!


Anonymous said...

This is an interesting set of questions: What it is the significance of 12 disciples (a.k.a.)? And 72 additional disciples? Please note that Our Lord was fulfilling the promise that God made to the Israelites in the Old Covenant/Testament. Matthew's Gospel presents Jesus as the New Moses, who also assigned 12 tribe leaders and 72 disciples. And who also 'delivered the Chosen People from bondage', and who also experienced transfiguration with 3 of his closest followers, and who also established a priesthood, and who also led his people into the Promised Land through water, and who also demonstrated command over the natural elements, and who also established a Passover whose liturgy includes the sacrifice and consumption of an unbroken lamb, who also delivered 'daily bread/manna'. By selecting these numbers of followers, Jesus was intentionally identifying himself as a New Moses in order to bring about the perfect vision of God's family. I hope this sheds light on the issue of 72 disciples.

Author said...

Wow -- that is a lot to think about, thank you! Unfortunately the way I am reading through the bible means that I lose a lot of this insight for my first pass through. I thank you for listing this out here and bringing it to my attention!