The Life of the Lord Jesus Christ

By Johann Peter Lange

Edited by Rev. Marcus Dods






Section XXX

the sending forth of the seventy, and the retrospect of Jesus on his Galilean ministry

(Mat 11:20-30. Luk 10:1-16)

The experience which Jesus had just now had of the intolerance of that Samaritan village, induced Him to give up the plan of travelling with His train of disciples through Samaria. He had seen that the hostile sentiments of the Samaritans were roused at the sight of the large company, which His disciples formed, of people going up to the feast, and that, on the other hand, among His disciples themselves, the old feelings of Jewish bitterness were called into activity against the Samaritans, as soon as these appeared obstructing His own path.

He therefore resolved to turn His course towards the Jordan, going along the borders of Galilee and Samaria, with the view of continuing His journey through Perea. Yet He was not minded to give the Samaritan people entirely up. He only determined to bring before them the Gospel in another form. His disciples behoved to see in what method He Himself was disposed to take vengeance upon the Samaritans; and this method was by sending to them seventy heralds of salvation. About this time we may suppose that the disciples let fall many a remark respecting this mongrel race, or these heathens in Jewish disguise. The Lord made this view of theirs the groundwork of His proceeding, for the purpose of bringing them to a better state of feeling. It was a fixed point with Him that He would send to the Samaritans messengers of His Gospel; and as, especially just now, the Samaritans appeared to the disciples in the light of being the representatives of Heathendom (the seventy nations into which, according to the Jewish notion, the heathen world was divided),1 Jesus selected seventy other disciples besides the Twelve, for the destination of visiting in pairs the several towns and places to which He had Himself contemplated going, on His road from Galilee to Jerusalem.2 In the first place, therefore, these messengers were destined for Samaria. That the Lord about this time, when He had been in Jerusalem and in Galilee already rejected by the leaders of Judaism, should also be seen addressing Himself to the Samaritans, need create no difficulty. For He regarded them, as no doubt John the Baptist had done before Him, as partners with the Jews, and had previously put Himself into closer relations with individuals among them. As these messengers whom He was deputing were to visit all the places to which He would have gone if pursuing the ordinary route to Jerusalem, their mission must be supposed to have had its issue in Samaria.

The directions with which, according to Luke, Jesus sent forth the Seventy, look like an abstract from the larger code of instructions which the twelve apostles received when they started on their mission. But if we feel ourselves led to suppose that the two traditions may have modified each other, yet this smaller body of instructions bears marks of a peculiar character of its own. Here most especially has disappeared that former limitation of their journeyings, by which the disciples were not allowed to enter into any Samaritan town. Perhaps also the direction, that they should salute no man by the way, falls in with the distinctive character of their mission. We might, indeed, be tempted to suppose that these words present a hyperbolical expression of the haste with which they should feel bound to discharge their function (see 2Ki 4:29). But opposed to this conception rises up the consideration, that surely the disciples might do as Jesus Himself did; they might connect with such greetings on the way the communication of their Gospel message. The Lord must, therefore, have had other reasons for giving them this direction. Perhaps the true explanation is found in the necessity which had arisen, that in the districts of Samaria, which had already been in part roused to receive the Gospel, but which in general might too easily take a wrong bias, the disciples behoved to plant the kingdom of God with as little noise as possible, and in those families which should appear the best in character, and the most open to impression from the truth. In reference to the miraculous powers with which Jesus furnished them, it is deserving of notice, that they are only empowered to undertake the healing of sick people.

The sending forth of the Seventy led Jesus to cast a retrospective glance upon His ministry in Galilee, which now He was in a position to regard as brought to a close. He had told His messengers that it would be more tolerable for the city of Sodom in That Day than for the places to which they should have brought the preaching of the Gospel and been rejected. This solemn utterance could not fail to remind Him of the heavy judgments which the towns of Galilee had prepared for themselves by the unbelief they had displayed towards Himself. Gloomy is the future which He denounces to them. Matthew mentions that He upbraided the cities in which He had done most of His mighty works, but which had nevertheless not repented. But in particular He first uttered a woe upon Chorazin and Bethsaida. ‘If’ (He exclaimed) ‘such works had been done in Tyre and Sidon as have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented in sackcloth and ashes. Therefore it shall prove more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment than for you.’ More fearful still is the woe which He utters over Capernaum. This city, which had been ‘exalted as high as heaven’ through the fulness of His miracles,3 should be thrust down to the very abyss. Nay, even the land of the people of Sodom shall find a milder doom; for this He confidently affirms: ‘Sodom would be standing to this very day if such works had been done there.’

The woe which Jesus uttered against these towns, which had been the most especial theatres of His ministry, is a proof that the actual judgment of obduracy against Him had already in those places decidedly shown itself. For, according to His earlier announcement, He was only giving utterance to such judgments as had ripened to full maturity. Every woe of judgment, however, which He utters, He has first Himself to the utmost depth felt and realized in His own heart. The woe upon His lips is a woe which streams forth from His heart. With the most profound sorrow He saw completed the inward judgments of the localities of Galilee: therefore He foretold also the outward judgments which were infallibly destined to fall upon them.

Those judgments did not fail to come. The site of the places which have thus been visited is no longer known.4 Their guilt, incurred by the manner in which they dealt with the revelation of the Lord’s glory which had been made to them, has its counterpart in their judgment: as they were exalted high, in the same proportion are they sunk low, according to the just measures of divine righteousness. Capernaum was intended to be exalted up to heaven, when the Lord of glory, who evermore was in heaven in His inward being, had taken His abode within her walls: on account of the great guilt of her unbelief, she has been plunged just as deep down into the abyss, even unto Hades.

It is quite manifest that in these words Jesus ascribes to His miracles the highest importance in relation to faith. They have the power to awaken men to repentance. Jesus, in the most distinct terms, declares that they can awaken even places such as Tyre, Sidon, and even Sodom were, to the new life. By speaking thus, he ascribes to them the most powerful efficacy; and it can only be by contradicting Him to his very face that we can represent His miracles as of no moment in relation to belief.

Such judgments, however, were not merely coming upon the places which refused to receive him personally: they were to come also upon those who rejected Him in His disciples. For such persons also were being called, through the agency of His disciples, to a participation in His glory; and the measure of the judgment is in general determined according to the measure of the grace which is despised. This Christ expressed by the maxim, with the statement of which He despatched these seventy messengers, and in which a former maxim appears to us to be given in a modified form, in accordance with the gloomier character of this later time: ‘Whosoever heareth you, heareth Me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth Me; and he that despiseth Me, despiseth Him that sent Me.’ (Compare this with Mat 10:40.) It was the most painful experience that necessitated the Lord to speak thus. And the disciples could not fail to feel this as well. It was with this feeling that they behoved to do their work; thereby their ministry gained its true earnestness, its real consecration.

It is a remarkably beautiful trait of the divine power which dwelt in the mind of Jesus, that He was able so quickly to rise out of the most mournful states of feeling and soar aloft into the most blessed; or rather, to glorify the former into the latter. This power proceeded from the perfection of His divine consciousness, wherein He was enabled, in those very circumstances of distress in which He had at first contemplated and bewailed the corruption of man, forthwith to recognize and adore the sovereign working of God in the entire majesty of His wisdom and love. The history of His life is rich in such rebounds of spirit, and those of the most manifold character. In the present case, He had indeed already, in the judgments of God which He was announcing over those unbelieving cities, glorified the sovereign working of God as contrasted with the perverseness of men. But this is not all. There is, again, another form of those soaring flights which His spirit could take—namely this, that He is always glad to leave the standing-point of the righteousness which judges, and adopt instead that of the compassion which saves. One such instance-and it is one of the most elevated description—the Evangelist has exhibited to us here.

The solemn words which Jesus had spoken in reference to the cities of Galilee could not fail to call forth in the soul of His disciples a deep feeling of sadness. The aspect of sorrow which their features wore, seemed, we may suppose, to ask Him, Why is it that Thy work in Galilee must needs have so melancholy an issue? This would explain how Matthew can characterize the tranquillizing words which Jesus at any rate spoke about this time as an ‘answer’ of Jesus (ἀποκριθείς, &c.) But these words of Jesus, the Evangelist Luke in part records in a different connection. According to him, Jesus spoke them when the Seventy returned from their mission. And certainly his account is in this passage very distinct. He introduces the words in question (Mat 11:25-27; Luk 10:21-24) with the distinct intimation, ‘At that hour,’ while Matthew only says, more indefinitely, ‘At that time.’ As there is unquestionably great difficulty in supposing that Jesus spoke words so remarkably significant, and characterized by so much emotion, at two several times, one after another, and, what is yet more, so soon repeated also the same prayer, in just the same form, in the hearing of His disciples,5 we seem compelled, in this case, to suppose that the more indefinite account of Matthew is to be explained by the more definite one of the other Evangelist. But, however, after the deduction of these words, which Luke transposes to a somewhat later occasion, there yet remains in Matthew, at this passage, a very remarkable and characteristic word of Jesus, which in its import seems to attach itself to His woe over the Galilean cities. This is the Gospel call of Jesus to the weary and heavy laden. Thus, on more than one occasion, He followed up the announcement of judgment with a Gospel of His grace (Luk 21:28).

It could not fail (as has been said) to come heavily home to the heart of the disciples, who were attending upon Jesus, when they heard the words which Jesus spoke relative to the heavy judgments which were to come upon the cities of Galilee. The city of Capernaum was to perish as utterly as of old the city of Sodom. The Sea of Galilee, so beautiful, so animated, so full of life, was through the judgments of God upon the cities on its shores to become desolate, and in its terrible forsakenness become like the Dead Sea. They in spirit saw their beloved home going up in flames behind them, while they were on the point of leaving it. The woe of the Lord over those beloved home-towns of theirs, which at first had saddened His own heart itself, re-echoed also in their heart like a terrifying peal of thunder. They felt grieved for their beloved home. And yet they neither felt disposed, nor were able to return; for they also were no longer at home or welcome where their Lord and Master had been so unbelievingly given up. They looked back therefore saddened and grieved, with mingled sentiments of love and sorrow. And if on the other side they would fain look forwards with the exhilaration of hope, they could not hide from themselves the fact, that the Lord had again and again characterized the path of futurity on which they had entered as a very serious and formidable one.

The Lord, seeing them in this frame of mind, addressed to them, for their consolation, the words, ‘Come unto Me, all ye who are wearied with toil, and heavy laden, and I will bring you to rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, how meek and lowly (condescending) I am from the bottom of My heart. Thus shall ye find rest for your souls. For my yoke is soft, and My burden is light.’

Them who have wearied themselves out in their endeavour to elevate themselves and others to righteousness, and feel themselves burdened alike by their own guilt and that of others, so that at the end they no longer know what they can do,—these Jesus gathers to His heart. They shall find with Him the place of rest, of disburdening and refreshment. The way by which the wearied and heavy laden are to arrive at great rest, is not by throwing their own selves away in despair, or by throwing from them their burdens, but by yet taking a last journey, the journey to Him and by their taking upon them yet one burden more in addition to all their other burdens—His yoke.

His choice of this expression was occasioned by the custom which the Israelites had, of regarding the law with its discipline as a yoke (see Act 15:10). The expression denotes that even the disciples of Jesus must not allow themselves to walk in self-will, but that with pure self-renunciation they must bow themselves to the yoke of His word and Spirit. But nevertheless they shall find that this yoke and discipline of His, and the burden of toil which is attached to it, have a peculiar character of their own. Continually more and more will they feel how easy His yoke is, how accordant with and agreeable to their innermost being. And thus shall the burden which their duty as disciples brings along with it, be also continually more and more light. Yes, they shall experience that His easy yoke blends and melts as it were into their being, making them free indeed; that His light burden becomes to them a pair of wings, which gradually will prove the highest lightener of their life, and will bear them aloft to their God.

Their chief object, however, will be to become acquainted with that fulness of meekness and lowliness of heart which characterizes Him, and through the help of His Spirit to imbibe those same qualities themselves. Just before, He had uttered that woe upon the proud cities of Galilee. There was shown in that utterance a certain severity and elevation of spirit; but that severity and elevation they must not misunderstand, must not confound with hardness and pride; rather they should discern the fundamental characteristic of His boundless love, as it branches off into that meekness and lowliness which belong to Him, in the circumstance that He so patiently suffers Himself to be despised, and that through successive steps of continual rejection by all the world, He is going down to the lowest depth of humiliation in the cross. Let them only get to know and receive Him in this feature of His character; they will then gain His whole life. Before all things, they gain that rest of soul which descends immediately as the peace of God upon the meekness and holiness of every true disciple’s heart.

The connection in which Matthew introduces this invitation of Jesus, would lead us, in the wearied and heavy laden whom He invites to Him, to view at the same time the babes to whom the heavenly Father reveals the things of His kingdom. This seeming contradiction is solved by the consideration of the character of those who are truly qualified to receive the Gospel. Those who take life in earnest, will certainly, in their strivings after righteousness apart from Christ, toil and weary themselves unto death, and feel themselves ever more and more laden with distress and guilt. But then, as greybeards, who have already one foot in the grave, they will, in spite of the failure of their whole life, yet trust the prophecy of an eternal peace to be realized in their own heart and in the dealings of God towards them, and will take their stand before the mystery of their future, neither with that contempt of life which is the dictate of a spurious spirituality, nor with that despair of any good which is apt to be the result of long worldliness, but, like babes and children before the not-yet-opened chamber of their Christmas-tree, in all the freshness of early life and of youthful hope.



1. Respecting the objections which have been urged against the probability of the sending forth of the Seventy, cp. Ebrard, 322. In reference to this body viewed collectively, Ebrard observes, ‘According to the narrative of the Gospels, these Seventy were chosen for a particular emergency, so that afterwards the association would naturally fall asunder again.’ Rightly as this observation obviates the supposition that the Seventy must of necessity have maintained its continued existence as a particular order throughout the Gospel history, yet for all that, it cannot be denied that the Lord imparted to them even for aftertimes an especial call to the evangelistic ministry, which distinguished them, next after the apostles, above all other disciples. This surely is shown by the expression, ἀνέδειξεν ὁ κύριος καὶ ἑτέρους.

2. Sepp, in his above-cited work (vol. ii. p. 279), launches the notion, that under Chorazin no particular town is meant, but ‘the mountain-district to the north and west of the Sea of Galilee, the woodlands, together with their pasturages, which belonged to the tribe of Naphtali.’ In another passage, on the other hand (vol. iii. pp. 33 seqq.), he seems to regard Chorazin as a place which has now perished. According to Jerome, Chorazin belonged to the towns on the coast of the Sea of Gennesareth.



1) [For confirmation of this, see Lightfoot (Hor. Heb. on John vii. 37). Among other quotations, he cites from the tract Succah, There were seventy bullocks, according to the seventy nations of the world. These were offered in sacrifice during the feast of Tabernacles. ED.]

2) Lachmann reads οὗ ἥμελλειῖι αὐτὸς ἔρχεσθαι. The expression, therefore, does not imply that He must actually have afterwards visited those places. Cp. Acts xii. 6.

3) This sense of the expression can surely be hardly inconsistent with the humility of Jesus, as Stier assumes (ii. 104). As to the splendour or pride of Capernaum, this could not well be described by so strong an expression, which would have been more suitable for Babylon or Jerusalem. It cannot, however, be denied that the reading of Lachiuann, ιὴ ἕως οὐρανοῦ ὑψωθήσῃ, might favour btier s explanation.

4) See Robinson, ii. 400.

5) This difficulty does not appear to us to be obviated by Stier s observations, iii. 484. Comp. also Neander on the passage.