Luke XXXVII: Lk. 10:1-24
One of the most important lessons of the Bible is that things are not always what they seem. Here, we have the relatively unassuming record of Jesus sending out the seventy to proclaim peace, heal the sick, and announce the arrival of the kingdom of God, but in this event, the seventy realize that something much deeper and darker and more profound is taking place. Related to this vision of the world is the way the Bible describes the history of the world as a series of dramatic ascensions and descensions or exaltation and falling or being cast down. In every story, some are being exalted and ascending to glory while others are being cast down and falling.
The Text: Jesus sends out the seventy, two by two, as harvesters and as lambs (Lk. 10:1-3). As with the apostles, the seventy are sent out without provisions, dependent on the hospitality of the cities and houses they enter (Lk. 10:4). Some commentators speculate that this episode may have happened around the Feast of Tabernacles, at the end of harvest. During this week long “thanksgiving-like” festival Israel was supposed to welcome foreigners and neighbors to the feast (Dt. 16:13-15). This would explain why it would be right for them to expect to eat and drink and be received hospitably (Lk. 10:5-8). And it may also explain the severity of judgment that Jesus pronounces against those cities that reject the seventy (Lk. 10:9-15). But the particular curse is the judgment of Sodom, which was also related to hospitality (cf. Gen. 19:1-5) and the refusal to receive the seventy is synonymous with the refusal to “repent” (Lk. 10:12-13). Likewise, this rejection is reckoned as a form of self-exaltation, and Jesus announces that because of this attempt at exaltation, they will be brought down to Hades (Lk. 10:15). It’s in this context that the seventy return rejoicing that the demons are subject to them, and Jesus seems to agree but expands the image to include Satan falling from heaven and authority over all evil (Lk. 10:17-19). Finally, Jesus exhorts them to rejoice that their names are written in heaven, and He rejoices in the Holy Spirit to His Father that the disciples are being exalted through Him (Lk. 10:21-22). Jesus blesses the disciples, saying that they are seeing what the prophets longed for (Lk. 10:23-24).
Spiritual Forces of Evil in the Heavenly Places
In Isaiah, the prophet announces the destruction of Babylon with language that has traditionally been understood to be describing the fall of Satan (Is. 14:12). The parallels between this prophecy and the words of Jesus are striking: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of the Dawn… You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven… But you are brought down to Sheol (Hades)… you are cast out…” Daniel’s visions of the rise and fall of empires and kingdoms glimpse something similar. At one point, Daniel sees a vision of an angelic warrior who tells Daniel that he has been in conflict with the “prince of the kingdom of Persia” but Michael “one of the chief princes” came to help him (Dan. 10:5-14). He has come to confirm the visions that Daniel has seen, and he leaves Daniel saying that he’s going to fight against the prince of Persia, and then the prince of Greece will come but Michael “your prince” fights by his side (Dan. 10:20-21). These are somewhat cryptic messages, but an angelic figure named Michael appears again in the book of Revelation: “Now a war arose in heaven, Michel and his angels fighting against the dragon… and the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world – he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him” (Rev. 12:7-9). Add to this what Jesus says in John’s gospel: “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ And this he said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die’” (Jn. 12:31-33). Putting all of this together, it seems that the demonic powers once hidden behind the old empires, had begun to be exposed through the ministry of Jesus, culminating in the cross. Here, as the time for Jesus to “ascend” has come, having fixed His eyes on Jerusalem, His disciples are being exalted over the demons, and the cities who reject the Kingdom of God are aligning themselves with Satan, seeking power through imperial grasping.
Conquering Through the Blood of the Lamb
There are a number of hints that this “mission trip” wasn’t exactly successful in terms of numbers of conversions. Jesus sent them out as lambs among wolves (Lk. 10:3), and while there is some possibility that the cities will receive them, much of the rhetoric assumes rejection. All of this makes the disciples’ exclamation and Jesus’ confirmation regarding the fall of Satan more curious. How is the rejection of Jesus and the seventy a moment for rejoicing that Satan is falling from heaven and the demons are subject to the seventy? The point seems to be that it is precisely in the rejection of the seventy by many Israelite cities that Satan and his angels are being “drawn out” into the open (in order to fall). While the seventy returned this time, many of them will ultimately lose their lives and conquer the dragon and his angels through the blood of the Lamb and their testimony (Rev. 12:11). It is the crucifixion of Jesus which draws out the full fury of Satan and his angels, and it is the cross the strikes the crushing blow to Satan’s head. Satan is the accuser of the brothers, but by the blood of Jesus our Lamb every accusation falls flat (Heb. 2:14). Satan, the accuser, resents every whiff of innocence. It is innocence that brings the demons out like wolves for the kill, and this is why bold, forgiven sinners are the best Satan-bait there is. But we belong to the kingdom of God (Lk. 10:22).
Conclusion & Application
It is sad to see our culture in such a steep decline, but the more clearly people reject Jesus and those who follow Him, this passage teaches us to rejoice and to see through the politics and see the demons drawn out and subject to us, to see Satan falling and raging, and the Church rising and ascending. The ultimate difference is between those driven by accusation and those driven by grace. When the accusations fly, we are here as lambs among wolves. This is not pacifism; this is how the saints conquer. But our joy is not merely in God’s ultimate triumph; our joy is in the fact that our names are written in heaven. We have fellowship with the Father and the Son through the Spirit. We have seen and heard what many prophets and kings longed to see and hear. In Jesus, we have seen Satan fall, we are forgiven, and now nothing can harm us.