Even these two numbers, as well as the difference in the functions of the two classes of messengers, seem to indicate that the Twelve symbolised the princes of the tribes of Israel, while the Seventy were the symbolical representatives of these tribes, like the seventy elders appointed to assist Moses. We can trace it in the LXX. There was something very significant in this appearance of Christ's messengers, by two and two, in every place He was about to visit.
As John the Baptist had, at the first, heralded the Coming of Christ, so now two heralds appeared to solemnly announce His Advent at the close of His Ministry; as John had sought, as the representative of the Old Testament Church, to prepare His Way, so they, as the representatives of the New Testament Church.
In both cases the preparation sought was a moral one. It was the national summons to open the gates to the rightful King, and accept His rule. Only, the need was now the greater for the failure of John's mission, through the misunderstanding and disbelief of the nation. Matthew's Gospel of part of the address delivered on the Mission of the Seventy, immediately after the record of Christ's rebuke of the national rejection of the Baptist.
Matthew, who as well as St. Mark records not the Mission of the Seventy - simply because as before explained the whole section, of which it forms part, is peculiar to St. Luke's Gospel - reports 'the Discourses' connected with it in other, and to them congruous, connections. We mark, that, what may be termed 'the Preface' to the Mission of the Seventy, is given by St. Matthew in a somewhat fuller form as that to the appointment and mission of the Twelve Apostles; 10 and it may have been, that kindred words had preceded both.
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Partially, indeed, the expressions reported in St. Luke x.
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This constituted the ultimate ground of the Mission of the Apostles, and now of the Seventy, into a harvest that was truly great. Compared with the extent of the field, and the urgency of the work, how few were the labourers!
Yet, as the field was God's, so also could He alone 'thrust forth labourers' willing and able to do His work, while it must be ours to pray that He would be pleased to do so. On these introductory words, 13 which ever since have formed 'the bidding prayer' of the Church in her work for Christ, followed the commission and special directions to the thirty-five pairs of disciples who went on this embassy. In almost every particular they are the same as those formerly given to the Twelve.
It was not. Nor were they armed with precisely the same supernatural powers as the Twelve. We mark only three peculiarities in those addressed to the Seventy.
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The direction to 'salute no man by the way' was suitable to a temporary and rapid mission, which might have been sadly interrupted by making or renewing acquaintances. Both the Mishnah 16 and the Talmud 17 lay it down, that prayer was not to be interrupted to salute even a king, nay, to uncoil a serpent that had wound round the foot. If any parallel is to be sought, it would be found in the similar direction of Elisha to Gehazi, when sent to lay the prophet's staff on the dead child of the Shunammite.
The other two peculiarities in the address to the Seventy seem verbal rather than real. The expression, 21 'if the Son of Peace be there,' is a Hebraism, equivalent to 'if the house be worthy,' 22 and refers to the character of the head of the house and the tone of the household. In St.
Luke's Gospel, the address to the Seventy is followed by a denunciation of Chorazin and Bethsaida. Matthew's Gospel, it stands for a reason already indicated immediately after the Lord's rebuke of the popular rejection of the Baptist's message. The denunciation of Chorazin and Bethsaida is the more remarkable, that Chorazin is not otherwise mentioned in the Gospels, nor yet any miracles recorded as having taken place in the western Bethsaida.
From this two inferences seem inevitable. First, this history must be real. If the whole were legendary, Jesus would not be represented as selecting the names of places, which the writer had not connected with the legend. Again, apparently no record has been preserved in the Gospels of most of Christ's miracles - only those being narrated which were necessary in order to present Jesus as the Christ, in accordance with the respective plans on which each of the Gospels was constructed.
As already stated, the denunciations were in proportion to the privileges, and hence to the guilt, of the unbelieving cities. Chorazin and Bethsaida are compared with Tyre and Sidon, which under similar admonitions would have repented, 30 while Capernaum, which, as for so long the home of Jesus, had truly 'been exalted to heaven,' 31 is compared with Sodom.
And such guilt involved greater punishment. The very site of Bethsaida and Chorazin cannot be fixed with certainty.
The former probably represents the 'Fisherton' of Capernaum, 32 the latter seems to have almost disappeared from the shore of the Lake. Jerome places it two miles from Capernaum. The site would correspond with the name. If so, we can readily understand that the 'Fisherton' on the south side of Capernaum, and the well-known springs, 'Chorazin,' on the other side of it, may have been the frequent scene of Christ's miracles. This explains also, in part, why the miracles there wrought had not been told as well as those done in Capernaum itself.
In the Talmud a Chorazin, or rather Chorzim, is mentioned as celebrated for its wheat. Whether or not the Seventy actually returned to Jesus before the Feast of Tabernacles, 35 it is convenient to consider in this connection the result of their Mission. It had filled them with the 'joy' of assurance; nay, the result had exceeded their expectations, just as their faith had gone beyond the mere letter unto the spirit of His Words.
As they reported it to Him, even the demons had been subject to them through His Name. In this they had exceeded the letter of Christ's commission; but as they made experiment of. And, as always, their faith was not disappointed. Nor could it be otherwise. The great contest had been long decided; it only remained for the faith of the Church to gather the fruits of that victory.
The Prince of this world must be cast out. So to speak, the fall of Satan is to the bottomless pit; ever going on to the final triumph of Christ. As the Lord beholds him, he is fallen from heaven - from the seat of power and of worship; for, his mastery is broken by the Stronger than he. And he is fallen like lightning, in its rapidity, dazzling splendour, and destructiveness.
For still is this fight and sight continued, and to all ages of the present dispensation. Each time the faith of the Church casts out demons - whether as formerly, or as they presently vex men, whether in the lighter combat about possession of the body, or in the sorer fight about possession of the soul - as Christ beholds it, it is ever Satan fallen. For, he sees of the travail of His soul, and is satisfied.
And so also is there joy in heaven over every sinner that repenteth.
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The authority and power over 'the demons,' attained by faith, was not to pass away with the occasion that had called it forth. The Seventy were the representatives of the Church in her work of preparing for the Advent of Christ. As already indicated, the sight of Satan fallen from heaven is the continuous history of the Church. What the faith of the Seventy had attained was now to be made permanent to the Church, whose representatives they were.
For, the words in which Christ now gave authority and power to tread on 40 serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the Enemy, and the promise that nothing should hurt them, could not have been addressed to the Seventy for a Mission which had now come to an end, except in so far as they represented the Church Universal. It is almost needless to add, that those 'serpents and scorpions' are not to be literally but symbolically understood.
It is beautifully in the spirit of all this, when we read that the joy of the disciples was met by that of the Master, and that His teaching presently merged into a prayer of thanksgiving. Throughout the occurrences since the Transfiguration, we have noticed an increasing antithesis to the teaching of the Rabbis.
But it almost reached its climax in the thanksgiving, that the Father in heaven had hid these things from the wise and the understanding, and revealed them unto babes. As we view it in the light of those times, we know that 'the wise and understanding' - the Rabbi and the Scribe - could not, from their standpoint, have perceived them; nay, that it is matter of never-ending thanks that, not what they, but what 'the babes,' understood, was - as alone it could be - the subject of the Heavenly Father's revelation.