At that time, the Lord appointed also other seventy-two; and He sent them two and two before His face into every city and place whither He Himself was to come. And He said to them: The harvest indeed is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He send labourers into His harvest. Go, behold I send you as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes; and salute no man by the way. Into whatsoever house you enter, first say: Peace be to this house: and if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon him: but if not, it shall return to you. And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they have: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Remove not from house to house. And into what city soever you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you; and heal the sick that are therein; and say to them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.
Verse 1. Other seventy-two. Most Greek copies, and the Syriac version, have seventy, as in the Prot. translation. Yet there seems no doubt but the true number was seventy-two. For seventy-two may be called seventy; but had they been only seventy, they could never have been called seventy-two. This was also the exact number of the judges chosen to assist Moses; (Exod. xxiv. 1.) though called seventy, (Numb. xi. 16.) as it is evident, because there were six chosen out of every one of the twelve tribes. In like manner the exact number of the interpreters called the Sept. must have been seventy-two; and also the just number of the Sanhedrim. — Two and two, that one might be a help and comfort to the other; as also a witness of the carriage and behaviour of his companion. Wi.
Verse 4. As Moses formerly chose twelve elders as princes and fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel, and afterwards gave to each of these elders six others, to assist them in the arduous work of governing the people, so our divine Saviour chose twelve apostles to govern his Church. He likewise afterwards gave six disciples to each apostle, which makes 72, to serve as priests, and assist in governing the Church. Tirinus. — Salute no man, i.e. go forwards promptly, and do not stay to amuse yourselves with vain compliments and useless civilities towards those whom you meet. This was a proverb. Eliseus said the same to Giezi, when he sent him to restore life to the child of the widow of Sunamis. If any man meet you, salute him not; think of nothing but of executing the orders I give you. Calmet.
1. After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. 2. Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. God had made known by the Prophets that the preaching of the Gospel of salvation was to embrace not only Israel, but also the Gentile nations; and therefore after the twelve Apostles, there were other seventy-two (Vulg. septuaginta duos.) also appointed by Christ, as it is said, After these things the Lord appointed other seventy-two also.
BEDE. Rightly are seventy-two sent, for to so many nations of the world was the Gospel to be preached, that as at first twelve were appointed because of the twelve tribes of Israel, so, these also were ordained as teachers for the instruction of the foreign nations.
AUGUSTINE. (de Quæst. Ev. 1. ii. q. 14.) As also in twenty-four hours the whole world moves round and receives light, so the mystery of enlightening the world by the Gospel of the Trinity, is hinted at in the seventy-two disciples. For three times twenty-four makes seventy-two. Now as no one doubts that the twelve Apostles foreshadowed the order of Bishops, so also we must know that these seventy-two represented the presbytery, (that is, the second order of priests.) Nevertheless, in the earliest times of the Church, as the Apostolical writings bear witness, both were called presbyters, both also called bishops, the former of these signifying “ripeness of wisdom,” the latter, “diligence in the pastoral care.”
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. An outline of this ordinance also was set forth in the words of Moses, who at the command of God chose out seventy, upon whom God poured out His Spirit. In the book of Numbers also it was written of the children of Israel, that they came to Elim, which is by interpretation “ascent,” and there were there twelve fountains of water, and seventy palm trees. (Numb. 33:9.) For when we fly to spiritual refreshment, we shall find twelve fountains, namely, the holy Apostles, from whom we imbibe the knowledge of salvation as from the well-springs of the Saviour; (Isai. 12:3.) and seventy palms, that is, those who were now appointed by Christ. For the palm is a tree of sound core, striking deep root and fruitful, always growing by the water side, yet at the same time putting forth its leaves upwards.
It follows, And he sent them two and two.
GREGORY. (Hom. 17. in Ev.) He sends the disciples to preach two and two, because there are two commands of charity, the love of God, and love of our neighbour; (and charity cannot exist without at least two;) thereby silently suggesting to us, that he who has not love to another, ought not to undertake the office of preaching.
ORIGEN. Likewise also the twelve were reckoned by two and two, as Matthew shews in his enumeration of them. (Matt. 10:2.) For that two should be joined in service, seems from the word of God to be an ancient custom. For God led Israel out of Egypt by the hands of Moses and Aaron. Joshua and Caleb also, united together, appeased the people who had been provoked by the twelve spies. (Numb. 13, 14. Ex. 12.) Hence it is said, A brother assisted by a brother is as a fortified city. (Prov. 18:19. Vulg.)
BASIL. At the same time it is implied by this, that if any are equal in spiritual gifts, they should not suffer a fondness for their own opinion to get the better of them.
GREGORY. (ubi sup.) It is rightly added, before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. For the Lord follows His preachers, since the preaching comes first, and then the Lord enters into the tabernacle of our heart; seeing that through the words of exhortation going before, truth is received into the mind. Hence Esaias says to the preachers, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight a highway for our God. (Isa. 40:3.)
THEOPHYLACT. The Lord had appointed the disciples for the sake of the multitude, who were in want of teachers. For as our corn fields require many reapers, so the innumerable company of those who are to believe need many teachers, as it follows, The harvest truly is great.
CHRYSOSTOM. But how does He give the name of harvest to a work only just now at its beginning? the plough not yet put down, nor the furrows turned, He yet speaks of harvests, for His disciples might waver and say, How can we so small a number convert the whole world, how can foolish men reform the wise, naked men those that are armed, subjects their rulers? Lest they should be disturbed then by such thoughts, He calls the Gospel a harvest; as if He says, All things are ready, I send you to a gathering of fruits already prepared. Ye can sow and reap the same day. As then the husbandman goes out to harvest rejoicing, much more also and with greater cheerfulness must you go out into the world. For this is the true harvest, which shews the fields all prepared for you.
GREGORY. (ubi sup.) But not without deep sorrow can we add, but the labourers are few. For although there are who would hear good things, they are wanting who should spread them. Behold the world is full of priests, but seldom is there found a labourer in God’s harvest, because we undertake indeed the priestly office, but we perform not its works.
BEDE. Now as the great harvest is this whole multitude of believers, so the few labourers are the Apostles, and their followers who are sent to this harvest.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (non occ. v. Tit. Bost.) As the large fields require many reapers, so also do the multitude of believers in Christ. Hence He adds, Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. Now mark that when He said, Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into the harvest, He afterwards Himself performed it. He then is the Lord of the harvest, and by Him, and together with Him, God the Father rules over all.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 32. in Matt.) But he afterwards increased them greatly, not by adding to their number, but awarding to them power. He implies that it is a great gift to send labourers into the divine harvest, by His saying that the Lord of the harvest must be prayed to upon this account.
GREGORY. (ubi sup.) Hereby also the people must be induced to pray for their pastors, that they may he able to work what is good for them, and that their tongue grow not lifeless in exhortation. For often for their own wickedness their tongue is tied. But often for the fault of the people it comes to pass that the word of preaching is withdrawn from their rulers.
3. Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. 4. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Luke next relates, that the seventy disciples obtained for themselves from Christ apostolical learning, lowliness, innocency, justice, and to prefer no worldly things to holy preachings, but to aspire to such fortitude of mind as to be afraid of no terrors, not even death itself. He adds therefore, Go.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 33. in Matt.) For their comfort amid every danger was the power of Him who sent them. And therefore saith He, Behold, I send you; as if he said, This will suffice for your consolation, this will be enough to make you hope, instead of fearing the coming evils which He signifies, adding, as lambs among wolves.
ISIDORE OF PELEUSIUM. (l. i. ep. 438.) Denoting the simplicity and innocence in His disciples. For those who were riotous, and by their enormities did despite to their nature, He calls not lambs, but goats.
AMBROSE. Now these animals are at variance among themselves, so that the one is devoured by the other, the lambs by the wolves; but the good Shepherd has no fear of wolves for His flock. And therefore the disciples are appointed not to make prey, but to impart grace. For the watchfulness of the good Shepherd causes the wolves to attempt nothing against the lambs; He sends them as lambs amid wolves that that prophecy might be fulfilled, The wolf and the lamb shall feed together. (Isaiah 65:25.)
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 33 in Matt.) For this was a clear announcement of glorious triumph, that the disciples of Christ, when surrounded by their enemies as lambs among wolves, should still convert them.
BEDE. Or He especially gives the name of wolves to the Scribes and Pharisees, who are the Jewish clergy.
AMBROSE. Or the heretics are compared to wolves. For wolves are beasts who lay in wait near the sheep folds, and prowl about the shepherds’ cottages. They dare not enter the abodes of men, they pry out sleeping dogs, absent or slothful shepherds; they seize the sheep by the throat, that they may quickly strangle them; ravenous beasts, with bodies so stiff that they cannot easily turn themselves, but are carried along by their own impetus, and so are often deceived. If they are the first to see a man, it is said, they by a certain natural impulse, tear out his voice; but if a man first sees them, they quake with fear. In like manner the heretics lurk about Christ’s sheep folds, howl near the cottages at night time. For night is the time for the treacherous who obscure the light of Christ with the mists of false interpretation. The inns of Christ, however, they dare not enter, and therefore are not healed, as he was in an inn who fell among thieves. They look out for the shepherds’ absence, for they can not attack the sheep when the shepherds are by. Owing also to the inflexibility of a hard and obstinate mind, they seldom if ever turn from their error, while Christ the true interpreter of Scripture mocks them, so that they vent forth their violence in vain, and are not able to hurt; and if they overtake any one by the subtle trickery of their disputations, they make him dumb. For he is dumb who confesses not the word of God with the glory which belongs to it. Beware then lest the heretic deprive you of your voice, and lest you detect him not first. For he is creeping on while his treachery is disguised. But if you have discovered his unholy desires, you can not fear the loss of a holy voice. They attack the throat, they wound the vitals while they seek the soul. If also you hear any one called a priest, and you know his robberies, outwardly he is a sheep, inwardly a wolf, who is longing to gratify his rage with the insatiable cruelty of human murder.
GREGORY. (Hom. 17. in Ev.) For many when they receive the right of rule, are vehement in persecuting their subjects, and manifesting the terrors of their power. And since they have no bowels of mercy, their desire is to seem to be masters, forgetting altogether that they are fathers, changing an occasion for humility, into an exaltation of power. We must on the other hand consider, that as lambs we are sent among wolves that preserving the feeling of innocence, so we should make no malicious attacks. For he who undertakes the office of preacher ought not to bring evils upon others, but to endure them; who although at times an upright zeal demands that he should deal harshly with his subjects, should still inwardly in his heart love with a fatherly feeling those whom outwardly he visits with censure. And that ruler gives a good example of this, who never submits the neck of his soul to the yoke of earthly desire. Hence it is added, Carry neither purse nor scrip.
GREGORY NAZIANZEN. (Orat. 2.) The sum of which is, that men ought to be so virtuous that the Gospel should make no less progress through their way of life than their preaching.
GREGORY. (Hom. 17. in Ev.) For the preacher (of the Gospel) ought to have such trust in God, that although he has provided not for the expenses of this present life, he should still be most certainly convinced that these will not fail him; lest while his mind is engaged in His temporal things, he should be less careful for the spiritual things of others.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Thus He had already commanded them to have no care for these persons, when He said, I send you as lambs among wolves. And He also forbade all care about what is external to the body, by saying, Take neither purse nor scrip. Nor did He allow men to take with them any of those things which were not attached to the body. Hence He adds, Nor shoes. He not only forbade them to take purse and scrip, but He did not allow them to receive any distraction in their work, such as interruption by greetings on their way. Hence He adds, Salute no one by the way. Which had long ago been said by Elisha. (2 Kings. 4:29.) As if He said, Proceed straight on to your work without exchanging blessings with others. For it is a loss to waste the time which is fitter for preaching, in unnecessary things.
AMBROSE. Our Lord did not then forbid these things because the exercise of benevolence was displeasing to Him, but because the motive of following after devotedness was more pleasing.
GREGORY NAZIANZEN. (ubi sup.) The Lord gave them these commands also for the glory of the word, lest it should seem that enticements could more prevail over them. He wished them also not to be anxious to speak to others.
GREGORY. (ubi sup.) If any one would have these words taken also allegorically, the money shut up in a purse is the hidden wisdom. He then who has the word of wisdom, and neglects to employ it for his neighbour, is like one who keeps his money tied up in his purse. But by the scrip is meant the troubles of the world, by the shoes (made of the skins of dead animals) are signified the examples of dead works. He then who undertakes the office of preacher ought not to bear the burden of business, lest while this presses down his neck he should not rise to the preaching of heavenly things; nor ought he to behold the example of foolish works, lest he think to shield his own works as by dead skins, that is, lest because he observes that others have done these things, he imagine that he also is at liberty to do the same.
AMBROSE. Our Lord also would have nothing human in us. For Moses is bid to loose off the human and earthly shoe when he was sent to deliver the people. (Exod. 3:5) But if any one is perplexed why in Egypt we are ordered to eat the lamb with shoes on, (Exod. 12:11.) but the Apostles are appointed to preach the Gospel without shoes: he must consider, that one in Egypt ought still to beware of the serpent’s bite, for there were many poisonous creatures in Egypt. And he who celebrates the Passover in figure may be exposed to the wound, but the minister of truth fears no poison.
GREGORY. (ubi sup.) Now every one who salutes on the way does so from the accident of the journey, not for the sake of wishing health. He then who not from love of a heavenly country, but from seeking reward, preaches salvation to his hearers, does as it were salute on the journey, since accidentally, not from any fixed intention, he desires the salvation of his hearers.
5. And into whatever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. 6. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again. 7. And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give; for the labourer s worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house. 8. And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you: 9. And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. 10. But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, 11. Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. 12. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 35. in Matt.) Peace is the mother of all good things, without it all other things are vain. Our Lord therefore commanded His disciples on entering a house first to pronounce peace as a sign of good things, saying, Into whatever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house.
AMBROSE. That in truth we should convey the message of peace, and that our very first entrance be attended with the blessing of peace.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 32. in Matt. Orat. cont. Jud. 3.) And hence he who presides in the Church gives it, saying, Peace unto all. Now holy men ask for peace, not only that which dwells among men in mutual intercourse, but that which belongs to ourselves. For oftentimes we wage war in our hearts, and are disturbed even when no one troubles us; bad desires also frequently rise up against us.
TITUS BOSTRENSIS. But it is said, Peace he to this house, that is, to them that dwell in the house. As if he says, I speak unto all, both the greater and the less, yet should not your salutation be addressed to them that are unworthy of it. Hence it is added, And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it. As if he says, You indeed shall utter the word, but the blessing of peace shall be applied wherever I shall deem men worthy of it. But if any one is not worthy, ye are not mocked, the grace of your word has not perished, but is returned unto you. And this is what is added, But if not, it shall return unto you again.
GREGORY. (Hom. 17. in Ev.) For the peace which is offered by the mouth of the preacher shall either rest on the house, if there be any one in it predestined to life, who follows the heavenly word which he hears; or if no one be willing indeed to hear, the preacher himself shall not be without fruit, for the peace returns to him, while the Lord gives him the recompense of reward for the labour of his work. But if our peace is received, it is meet that we should obtain earthly supplies from those to whom we offer the rewards of a heavenly country. Hence it follows: And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give. Mark, that He who forbade them to carry purse and scrip, allows them to be an expense to others, and to receive sustenance from preaching.
CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) But lest any one should say, I am spending my own property in preparing a table for strangers, He first makes them offer the gift of peace, to which nothing is equal, that you may know that you receive greater things than you give.
TITUS BOSTRENSIS. Or else; Since you are not appointed judges as to who are worthy and who are unworthy, eat and drink what things they offer to you. But leave to me the trial of those who receive you, unless you happen also to know that the son of peace is not there, for perhaps in that case you ought to depart.
THEOPHYLACT. See then how He taught His disciples to beg, and wished them to receive their nourishment as a reward. For it is added, For the labourer is worthy of his hire.
GREGORY. (ubi sup.) For now the very food which supports him is part of the wages of the labourer, as in this life the hire commences with the labour of preaching, which in the next is completed with the sight of truth. And here we must consider that two rewards are due to one work of ours, one on the journey, which supports us in labour, the other in our country, which recompenses us at the resurrection. Therefore the reward which we receive now ought so to work in us, that we the more vigorously strive to gain the succeeding reward. Every true preacher then ought not so to preach, that he may receive a reward at the present time, but so to receive a reward that he may have strength to preach. For whoever so preaches that here he may receive the reward of praise, or riches, deprives himself of an eternal reward.
AMBROSE. Another virtue is added, that we should not go about easily, changing from house to house. For it follows, Go not from house to house; that is, that we should preserve a consistency in our love towards our hosts, nor lightly loose any bond of friendship.
BEDE. Now having described the reception from different houses, he teaches them what they ought to do in the cities; namely, to have intercourse with the good in all, but to keep from the society of the wicked in every thing; as it follows, But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you.
THEOPHYLACT. Although they be few and poor, ask for nothing more; He also tells them to work miracles, and their word shall draw men to their preaching. Hence he adds, And heal the sick that are therein, and say to them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. For if you first heal and then teach, the word will prosper, and men believe that the kingdom of God is come nigh. For they would not be cured unless by the working of some divine power. But also when they are healed in their soul, the kingdom of God comes nigh unto them, for it is far off from him over whom sin has the dominion.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 32. in Matt.) Now mark the excellence of the Apostles. They are bid to utter nothing relating to sensible things, such as Moses and the Prophets spoke of, namely, earthly goods, but certain new and marvellous things, namely, the kingdom of God.
MAXIMUS. (Cap. Theol. 191.) Which it is said is come nigh, not to shew the shortness of time, for the kingdom of God cometh not with observation, but to mark the disposition of men towards the kingdom of God, which is indeed potentially in all believers, but actually in those who reject the life of the body, and choose only the spiritual life; who are able to say, Now I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. (Gal. 2:20.)
AMBROSE. He next teaches them to shake off the dust from their feet when the men of a city have refused to entertain them, saying, Into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, shake off the dust.
BEDE. Either as a testimony to the earthly toil which they had in vain undergone for them, or to shew that so far from seeking any thing earthly from them, they suffer not even the dust from their land to cleave to them. Or by the feet is meant the very labour and walking to and fro of preaching; but the dust with which they are sprinkled is the lightness of worldly thoughts, from which even the greatest teachers cannot be free. Those then who have despised the teaching, turn the labours and dangers of the teachers into a testimony of their condemnation.
ORIGEN. By wiping off the dust of their feet against them, they in some sort say, The dust of your sins shall deservedly come upon you. And mark that the cities which receive not the Apostles and sound doctrine have streets, according to Matthew, Broad is the way which leadeth to destruction. (Matt. 7:13.)
THEOPHYLACT. And as they who receive the Apostles are said to have the kingdom of God come nigh unto them as a blessing, so those who do not receive them are said to have it nigh unto them as a curse. Hence He adds, Notwithstanding, be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you, as the coming of a king is to some for punishment, but to some for honour. Hence it is added respecting their punishment, But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom, &c.
EUSEBIUS. For in the city of Sodom Angels were not without entertainment, but Lot was found worthy to receive them into his house. (Gen. 19.) If then at the coming of the disciples into a city there shall not be found one to receive them, will not that city be worse than Sodom? These words persuaded them to attempt boldly the rule of poverty. For there could not be a city or village without some inhabitants acceptable to God. For Sodom could not exist without a Lot found in it, at whose departure the whole was suddenly destroyed.
BEDE. The men of Sodom, although they were hospitable in the midst of all their wickedness of soul and body, yet were there no such guests found among them as the Apostles. Lot indeed was righteous both in seeing and hearing, yet he is not said to have taught or worked miracles.