Ver 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 to them, The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray you therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest.
CYRIL; 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 also appointed by Christ, as it is said, After these things the Lord appointed other seventy-two also.
THEOPHYL; 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.
AUG. 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, troth also c ailed bishops, the former of these signifying “ripeness of wisdom,” the latter, “diligence in the pastoral care.”
CYRIL; 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. 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 Savior; 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.
GREG. He sends the disciples to preach two and two, because there are two command; of charity, the love of God, and love of our neighbor; (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 shows in his enumeration of them. 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. Hence it is said, A brother assisted by a brother is as a fortified city.
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.
GREG. 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 you the way of the Lord, make straight a highway for our God.
THEOPHYL. 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.
CHRYS. 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. You can sow and reap the same day. As then the husbandmen 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 shows the fields all prepared for you.
GREG. But not without deep sorrow can we add, but the laborers 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 laborer in God’s harvest, because we undertake indeed the priestly office, but we perform not its works.
THEOPHYL; Now as the great harvest is this whole multitude of believers, so the few laborers are the Apostles, and their followers who are sent to this harvest.
CYRIL; As the large fields require many reapers, so also do the multitude of believers in Christ. Hence He adds, Pray you therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest. Now mark that when He said, Pray you therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers 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.
CHRYS. 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 laborers into the divine harvest, by His saving that the Lord of the harvest must be prayed to upon this account.
GREG. Hereby also the people must be induced to pray for their pastors, that they may be 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.
Ver 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; 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.
CHRYS. For their comfort amid every danger was the power of Him who sent them. And therefore said 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; 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 I lamb shall feed together.
CHRYS. 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.
THEOPHYL; 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 as 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 went 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.
GREG. 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 are sent among wolves because they preserve 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.
GREG. NAZ. 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.
GREG. 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; 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. 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.
GREG. NAZ. 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.
GREG. 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 neighbor, 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. But if any one is perplexed why in Egypt we are ordered to eat the lamb with shoes on, 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.
GREG. 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.
Ver 5. And into whatever house you 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 laborer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.8. And into whatsoever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you:9. And heal the sick that are therein, and say to them, The kingdom of God is come nigh to you.10. But into whatsoever city you 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 cleaves on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be you sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh to you.12. But I say to you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.
CHRYS. Peace is the mother of all good things, without it all other things are vain. Our Lord therefore commanded His is disciples on entering a house first to pronounce peace as a sign of good things, saying, Into whatever house you 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.
CHRYS. And hence he who presides in the Church gives it, saying, Peace to 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.
TIT. BOS. But it is said, Peace be to this house, that is, to them that dwell in the house. As if he says, I speak to 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, you are not mocked, the grace of your word has not perished, but is returned to you. And this is what is added, But if not, it shall return to you again.
GREG. 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 labor 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.
CHRYS. 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.
TIT. BOST. 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.
THEOPHYL. 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 laborer is worthy of his hire.
GREG. For now the very food which supports him is part of the wages of the laborer, as in this life the hire commences with the labor 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 labor, 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.
THEOPHYL; 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 you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you.
THEOPHYL. 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 to 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 to them, for it is far off from him over whom sin has the dominion.
CHRYS. 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 marvelous things, namely, the kingdom of God.
MAX. Which it is said is come nigh, not to show the shortness of time, for the kingdom of God comes 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 lives in me.
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 you enter, and they receive you not, shake off the dust.
THEOPHYL; Either as a testimony to the earthly toil which they had in vain undergone for them, or to show 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 labor 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 labors 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 leads to destruction.
THEOPHYL. And as they who receive the Apostles are said to have the kingdom of God come nigh to them as a blessing, so those who do not receive them are said to have it nigh to them as a curse. Hence He adds, Notwithstanding, be you sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh to you, as the coming of a king is to some for punishment, but to some for honor.
Hence it is added respecting their punishment, But I say to you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom, &c.
EUSEB. For in the city of Sodom, Angels were not without entertainment, but Lot was found worthy to receive them into his house. 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.
THEOPHYL; 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.
Ver 17. And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject to us through your name.18. And he said to them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.19. Behold, I give to you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.20. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject to you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.
CYRIL; It was said above that our Lord sent forth His disciples sealed with the grace of the Holy Spirit, and that being made ministers of preaching, they received power over the unclean spirits. But now when they returned, they confess the power of Him who honored them, as it is said, And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject to us, &c. They seemed indeed to rejoice rather that they were made workers of miracles, than that they had become ministers of preaching. But they had better have rejoiced in those whom they had taken, as St. Paul says to them that were called by him, My joy and my crown.
GREG. Now our Lord, in a remarkable manner, in order to put down high thoughts in the hearts of His disciples, Himself related the account of the fall which the teacher of pride suffered; that they might learn by the example of the author of pride, what they would have to dread from the sin of pride. Hence it follows, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.
BASIL; He is called Satan, because he is an enemy to God, (for this the Hebrew word signifies,) but he is called the Devil, because he assists us in doing evil, and is an accuser. His nature is incorporeal, his abode in the air.
THEOPHYL; He says not, ‘I see now,’ but referring to past time, I saw, when he fell. But by the words as lightning, He signifies either a fall headlong from the high places to the lowest, or that now cast down, he transforms himself into an angel of light.
TIT. BOST. Now He says that He saw it, as being Judge, for He knew the sufferings of the spirits Or He says, as lightning, because by nature Satan shone as lightning, but became darkness through his affections, since what God made good he changed in himself to evil.
BASIL; For the heavenly Powers are not naturally holy, but according to the analogy of divine love they receive their measure of sanctification. And as iron placed in the fire does not cease to be iron, though by the violent application of the flame both in effect and appearance, it passes into fire; so also the Powers on high, from their participation in that which is naturally holy, have a holiness implanted in them. For Satan had not fallen, if by nature he had been unsusceptible of evil.
CYRIL; Or else, I saw Satan as lightning fall from heaven, that is, from the highest power to the lowest impotence. For before the coming of our Savior, he had subdued the world to him, and was worshipped by all men. But when the only-begotten Word of God came down from heaven, he fell as lightning, seeing that he is trodden under foot by those who worship Christ. As it follows, And, behold, I give those you power to tread upon serpents, &c.
TIT. BOST. Serpents indeed at one time under a figure were made to bite the Jews, and kill them because of their unbelief. But there came One who should destroy those serpents; even the Brazen Serpent, the Crucified, so that if any one should look on Him believing, he might be healed from his wounds and saved.
CHRYS. Then lest we should suppose this was spoken of beasts, He added, And over all the power of the enemy.
THEOPHYL; That is, I give you the power of casting out every kind of unclean spirit, from the bodies possessed. And as far as regards themselves, He adds, And nothing shall hurt you. Although it might also be taken literally. For Paul when attacked by a viper suffered no injury. John having drunk poison is not harmed by it. But I think there is this difference between serpents who bite with the teeth, and scorpions who sting with the tail, that the serpents signify men or spirits raging openly, scorpions signify them plotting in secret. Or serpents are those which cast the poison of evil persuasion upon virtues just beginning, scorpions which go about to corrupt at last virtues which have been brought to perfection.
THEOPHYL. Or serpents are those which visibly hurt, as the evil spirit of adultery and murder. But those are called scorpions which invisibly injure, as in the sins of the spirit.
GREG. NYSS. For pleasure is called in Scripture a serpent, which by nature is such that if its head has reached a wall so as to press upon it, it drags its whole body after it. So nature has given man the habitation which was necessary for him. But by means of this necessity, pleasure assaults the heart, and perverts it to the indulgence of immoderate ornament; in addition to this it brings in its train covetousness, which is followed by lust, that is, the last member or tail of the beast. But as it is not possible to draw back the serpent by its tail, so to remove pleasure we must not begin with the last, unless one has closed the first entrance to evil.
ATHAN. But now through the power of Christ boys make a mock at pleasure, which formerly led away the aged, and virgins steadfastly trample upon the desires of serpentine pleasure. Some also tread upon the very sting of the scorpion, that is, of the devil, namely death, and fearing not destruction become witnesses of the word. But many giving up earthly things walk with a free step in heaven, dreading not the prince of the air.
TIT. BOST. But because the joy with which He saw them rejoice savored of vain-glory, for they rejoiced that they were as it were exalted, and were a terror to men and evil spirits, our Lord therefore adds, Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject to you, &c.
THEOPHYL; They are forbidden to rejoice in the subjection of the spirits to God, since they were flesh; for to cast out spirits and to exercise other powers is sometimes not on account of his merit who works, but is wrought through the invocation of Christ’s name to the condemnation of those who mock it, or to the advantage of those who see and hear
CYRIL; Why, O Lord, cost not you permit men to rejoice in the honors which are conferred by You, since it is written, In your name shall they rejoice all the day? But the Lord raises them up by greater joys. Hence He adds, But rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
THEOPHYL; As if he said, It becomes you to rejoice not in the putting down of the evil spirits, but in your own exaltation. But it would be well for us to understand, that whether a man has done heavenly or earthly works, he is thereby, as if marked down by letter, for ever fixed in the memory of God.
THEOPHYL. For the names of the saints are written in the book of life not in ink, but in the memory and grace of God. And the devil indeed fell from above; but men being below have their names inscribed above in heaven.
BASIL; There are some who are written indeed not in life, but according to Jeremiah in the earth, that in this way there might be a kind of double enrollment, of the one indeed to life, but of the other to destruction. But since it is said, Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, this is spoken of those who were thought worthy to be written in the book of God. And in this way a name is said to be put down in writing or blotted out, when we turn aside from virtue to sin, or the contrary.