Most translations have the number as seventy-two in verse one and in verse 17, but some have it as seventy. There are many old and reliable manuscripts that have it each way, and there is no effect on doctrine either way. The laborers are those who proclaim the gospel, and their harvest is in gaining more laborers to further God’s kingdom. “Peace” in verses 5-6 has a deeper meaning than we associate it with, and carries with it a blessing – in this case, the blessing of salvation (see also Luke 7:50, 8:48), but only if it is received (accepted). “Greet no one on the road” in verse 4 is most likely an expression of the urgency of the mission, as in 2 Kings 4:29 when Elisha sent his servant to the Shunammite’s son. Likewise in verse 7, they are not to waste any time going from one household to another, but accept the hospitably provided because the laborer deserves his wages. Paul refers to this in 1 Corinthians 9:14, and quotes it as scripture in 1 Timothy 5:18. In verses 10-16, those who do not receive them are rejecting Jesus, and so are rejecting the one who sent Him – God.
When they returned, they were filled with joy at the success of their mission, noting that “even the demons are subject to us in your name!” Jesus may be speaking in verse 18 of a heavenly vision He saw while they were about their business, or of something more specific. The message is that their use of the authority He had given to them had diminished the authority that Satan had. In verse 21 of His prayer, he is thanking God that those who were children in His kingdom had been given these gifts of understanding, favoring them over those who are wise in their own eyes (Job 37:24). Verses 23-24 are a reminder of how long the prophets have been looking ahead to these times when the Messiah would come and work these wonders, yet these disciples have been blessed to see it with their own eyes!
Verse 25’s beginning with “lawyer stood up to put him to the test” suggests another occasion or location in which others were sitting while Jesus taught. He asks what he should do to inherit eternal life. Note that Jesus does not tell him that being saved is a result of his own actions. Rather he asks the counter-questions “What is written in the law?” and “how do you read it?” The lawyer then quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, which Jesus approves. In verse 29, though, the lawyer is trying to define the meaning of “neighbor” in a narrow way, so that he can be justified in not treating most people with that sort of love and compassion.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan that Jesus answers with in verses 30-35 is one of the most famous. But it is much more than a simple story of a good-hearted man helping a stranded stranger on the side of the road – which is what most people associate with it. It is the story of a man who was undoubtedly Jewish (traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho), who was beaten and left for dead by robbers (who could also have been Jewish). He was passed by, and his dire situation ignored by first a Jewish priest, and then a Levite. By definition, all would certainly be his kinsmen and his neighbors. But the one who does help him is a Samaritan, a group of people that Jews had anything but love for, and the feeling was mutual (John 4:9). Yet, the Samaritan not only had compassion and came to stop the bleeding and clean the wounds. He then carried the man back to town to an inn, and stayed with him overnight, caring for him. The next day, he gave the innkeeper his own money to look after him for a couple of days while he is gone, promising to stand good for any other expenses.
Being a compassionate neighbor in this case meant this Samaritan giving no small amount of time, effort and money to help someone in need, when that person most likely would have considered him an enemy. So if we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, we must truly love even our enemies (Matthew 5:44).
Side note: Though the Bible does not tell us where the inn was, a site has been identified and associated with the parable, and has become a museum. You can read about it in this article at BibleArchaeology.org.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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