After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. Luke 10:1, NIV
In His ministry, Jesus specifically “sent out” disciples at least three times.
First, Jesus sent out the Twelve closest disciples [Matt. 10, Mark 6:7-13, Luke 9:1-2]. You have to read all three accounts to get a clear picture, as some give details that others do not. He gave them power and authority along with instructions on what to say and do. They were to proclaim the Kingdom of God and heal people. They were to go in pairs. And sometimes we forget the Judas was one of the Twelve that went out preaching and doing miracles. Just because someone appears to have a great and effective ministry doesn’t mean they are a true disciple of Jesus Christ - as we have seen recently.
Second, Jesus sent out seventy-two [or seventy depending on your translation] disciples, giving them the same anointing, instructions, and message as the Twelve. This is only mentioned in the Gospel of Luke. For a period in His ministry, Jesus had many disciples.
Third is the most famous ‘sending,’ known as the Great Commission [Matt. 28:16-20]. Here all the disciples are sent out to make disciples. Now, after the resurrection, the Kingdom of God had arrived! It was time to begin living in it, introducing others to it and teaching them how to live Kingdom lives in this present world.
I wanted to focus on the sending out of the seventy-two. This number is significant. Because the Jewish nation had been the womb through which the Messiah came into the world, they were to be given the first opportunity of entering the Kingdom of God before its worldwide launch. This explains why Jesus ministered almost exclusively to the Jews, and why for about 3 1/2 years after the resurrection the message went to the Jews. However, the plan of God from the very beginning has always been to reach the world. His heart is too big to be limited to one small group of people. In the sending out of the 70/72, we have a foreshadowing of what was coming.
The Jews believed that the seventy nations descended from Noah [Genesis 10] represented all the nations in the world. Therefore, when Jesus sent out the 70/72 disciples, even though those disciples were staying in Israel, the picture would have been formed in their minds of an outreach to the nations. Jesus was illustrating that the Kingdom of God was a world-wide kingdom.
Another critical point is that Jesus sent them out two-by-two. God never designed for us to live or minister alone. There is strength, protection, and encouragement in numbers. There must always be accountability. Someone afraid or unwilling to be accountable to anyone is a dangerous person. When we work together, we have mutual encouragement and strengthening. This is one reason why I believe it is vital to be involved in a local Godly church. At this time, when most services are online, it is to ‘pick and choose’ what suits our fancy. We need to be involved in a local church whether we prefer the worship or sermons of a church three states away or not. Under the illusion of protecting us from Covid, government regulations have made personal connections difficult in many places. Nevertheless, we must seek God as to how we can remain interconnected.
Notice, these disciples were preparing the way for Jesus in what they were doing and saying. Sometimes we feel under pressure or guilt because we take on too much responsibility. We are not responsible to ‘convert’ people. That is the job of the Holy Spirit, and it is a job only He can do. What we can do is prepare the way. We can be instruments through our lives and our words of helping people become receptive to receiving the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. We may be the ones who sow or reap [or do both], but ultimately the harvest is from the Lord. As long as we have faithfully done what He has asked us to do, we have successfully completed our mission. Of course, it is a lot more exciting and fun when we see the results of our work and sacrifices. But some will have to wait until heaven to see that [which is why it is important to have partners to encourage us in discouraging times].
I want to conclude with some thoughts on witnesses and testimony. Sometimes we are told that all we have to do is tell what Jesus has done for us personally. I believe that is only partially true. Jesus told parables, and the Gospels and Acts contain many personal stories of how Jesus worked. It is important to share what Jesus has done in our lives personally. That grabs interest. It helps people imagine what Jesus could do in their lives. It appeals to emotions. Of course, it is something very dear to us and something with which we are very familiar. I don’t want to downplay personal witness/testimony. It is certainly an important part of evangelism and encouragement.
However, neither is it the whole story. Jesus often wanted people to decide to follow Him because they reviewed the cold, hard facts [count the cost/take up your cross, etc.]. People deside primarily on emotion can ‘undecided’ when the emotions waver or disappear. [This is why many marriages fail.]
Jesus did not send out His disciples to tell their personal stories; He sent them out to proclaim that the Kingdom of God [and therefore the King] was near. In the Great Commission, we are not told to go write autobiographies but to make disciples. Personal stories are great for introducing people to the King and encouraging them [and us] along our walk. But they are not going to build and maintain strong disciples. We need Godly, systematic teaching in the principles, ways, and laws of King Jesus. Not everyone is a teacher, but we should all be willing to learn and share what we are learning with our circle of influence.