In the shadow of the disciples question of who is the greatest (Luke 9:46), and the Apostle, John, demanding that others who were not of the Twelve keep themselves from using Jesus’ name in casting out demons (Luke 9:49), Jesus sent out the Seventy ahead of himself into towns and villages, as he journeyed toward Jerusalem.
Earlier, Jesus had sent out the Twelve into the cities and towns of Galilee, and they created such a stir that Herod wanted to see Jesus (cf. Luke 9:1-9). Now (Luke 10:1), Jesus was sending out seventy, as he went to Jerusalem, and these men created such a stir that the heavens themselves were shaken, and Jesus beheld Satan fall to the earth like a bolt of lightning (Luke 10:18). The accumulation of spiritual power has the effect of, not only stirring the enemy (Luke 9:9), but defeating the him (Luke 10:18). Thus, the Apostles were shown the value of cooperative effort of groups within the Body of Christ. It is not a matter of who is the greatest, but rather the efforts of all in a cooperative effort to lift up Jesus.
It seems that Luke intends for us to understand that these seventy men (Luke 10:1) were appointed to preach the Gospel just as Jesus had formerly appointed the Apostles (Luke 9:1-2) to preach the Gospel to communities in Galilee. Although Luke doesn’t mention it here, it seems the Apostles were either numbered as part of this group or were sent out in addition to the Seventy to preach in those same villages (cf. Luke 22:35). I am inclined to believe the former, that the Apostles were numbered as part of the Seventy.
Some Bible students believe that, because Jesus appointed seventy men, Luke is pointing to the 70 nations of Genesis 10. It is from this Scripture that the Jews understand that the gentile kingdom consists of 70 nations. Therefore, since Luke is presumed to be a gentile, he intends for us to believe Jesus was in some manner pointing to the salvation of the gentiles in this Scripture. Nevertheless, I don’t believe this is true. If Luke intended for us to have the gentiles in mind, why only seventy? This provided only one man per nation. Yet, Jesus sent them out two-by-two, because by the mouth of “two” or “three” witnesses the matter would be established (Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:16). One witness per nation doesn’t make sense in this context.
On the other hand Luke could be pointing to Numbers 11:16-25, where God told Moses to appoint seventy men to act in his stead as judges for the nation. This does fit the context of judgment in Jesus command (cf. Luke 10:10-16). Moreover, the Jewish court system, the Sanhedrin, was modeled after the seventy in Numbers 11.
The context, as we shall see in later blog posts, is one of judgment. This judgment, however, doesn’t appear to include the gentiles. Rather, the gentiles seem to be placed in contrast to the cities into which the Seventy are sent (cf. Luke 10:12-15). Therefore, Jesus, through Luke, points to the coming judgment upon the Jewish nation in 70 AD.