It occurs immediately after Jesus’ teachings on discipleship (9:57-62) and right before the parable of the Good Samaritan (10:25-37).
What’s going on in this passage?
I’m just looking at the first verse, but the story is that of Jesus sending out the 72 (some versions may read 70) to preach the kingdom of God. This first verse is interesting because it reveals the real purpose (their purpose was to preach the kingdom of God, but Jesus had something more in mind) as to why Jesus is sending them out. The end of verse 1 reads, “to every town and place where he (Jesus) was about to go.” Jesus is sending these 72 disciples out to not just preach the kingdom of God, but to prepare those they visit for Him. Why would they need prepared?
Jesus reveals a radical picture of God. The Jews of His day were looking for a messiah that would free them from the Romans and restore Israel to what it was under King David. They wanted a warrior-king and a mighty kingdom to go along with it. Jesus’ kingdom differs from that. Jesus’ kingdom is like hidden treasure. It surprises you and causes you to want to sell everything you have to obtain it. The 72 sent ones are building anticipation and expectancy among those who will take time to listen to their message.
Can you imagine how excited the 72 were to be sent out by Jesus with the message of the kingdom? What’s even better is that they knew Jesus would soon be visiting the exact same places they were just preaching at. Those who scoffed at them and doubted their message about this would-be king would no doubt be doing a double-take as Jesus strolled into their towns with crowds of people following Him.
The 72 disciples had Jesus’ assurance that He would be visiting the places they were visiting. Maybe this caused them to take their task of preaching His kingdom a little more seriously. Do we ever look at the places we go as possible places where Jesus will soon visit? Do we ever think of ourselves as sent out like the 72 to people Jesus will soon visit? There is a heavy load on these disciples (see 10:16), but it is a load Jesus believes they can bear. Jesus is still in the sending out business. The Great Commission of Matthew beckons us to “go.”