Before this verse, Jesus tells them to go in twos, to each town and village. He tells them to travel directly to the village without stopping. He tells them to travel there without shoes or extra clothes, and he tells them to stay where they are invited to stay, and bring "peace" to that house. This is all instructed in Luke 10:2 forward. We've discussed the meaning of these instructions with each verse.
Time and circumstance
Jesus is giving specific instructions to specific students at a particular time and circumstance. It is not as if we should be imitating these specific instructions some 2,000 years later.
This is the purpose of having a living spiritual teacher - and the very reason why Jesus sent out his disciples to teach as he was doing. He wanted his students to also take on students - and pass on those teachings to others according to the time and circumstance.
Yes, each culture, each time and each location may require slightly different methodology for reaching out and communicating to others.
We can see this today as we look at the internet - and how schools and universities have changed over the centuries. Teaching methods change with the times.
But Jesus wasn't asking his students to pass on just any teaching:
He wanted them to pass on his sublime teachings of love for God.
Yes, Jesus was teaching love for God. He wasn't making these teachings up either. He didn't invent the teachings of love for God. We can see this clearly from two perspectives. First we can see that Jesus was passing on the same teachings that had been passed down from Moses to Joshua and on through the lineage of prophets:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38)This is derived from Moses' teachings, found throughout Deuteronomy, particularly this verse:
"Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (Deut. 6:5)("Strength" versus "mind" - applications of time and circumstance.)
Furthermore, we find clear indication that Jesus in fact was passing down the same teachings that John the Baptist taught. Just consider these verses:
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matt. 3:2)
From that time on [after John's imprisonment] Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matt. 4:17)
[Jesus told his disciples] "As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.'" (Matt. 10:7)This confirms Jesus' statement in Luke 10:9 above.
So we can clearly see Jesus is now instructing his students to pass on these very same teachings that John taught.
But what does this mean: "'The kingdom of God has come near to you.'"?
This translation is consistent with most other Biblical versions (NKJV, NLT, FSV, NASB, ASV, etc.).
And stated in the King James Version as:
"The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you."And translated in Young's Literal Translation Bible as:
"The reign of God hath come nigh to you."So what does this statement really mean then? What does the "kingdom of God" or "reign of God" mean and why would this be so important that not only would Jesus teach it, but John would teach it and Jesus asked his students to teach it?
First we must understand - this statement is a paraphrasing of a set of teachings. We might compare this to how a person might paraphrase a book's contents:
Let's say a book details the various battles of World War II and what each country and their generals did, and how the war was ended and who won and all the other details of the war. Such a book might be a huge book - maybe 500-700 pages long.
But then someone asks us, after we read such a book, "what was the book about?"
What would we say? Would we begin to tell the person all the details of the book - all the battles and generals and such?
No. We would simply say something like: "The book was all about World War II."
Yes, it would be a hard thing to do after we read this entire book. But it really would be the only way to capture the essence of the book without the listener going numb. And certainly, we could not narrate such a book to him.
In the same way, the teachings of love for God handed down from teacher to student over the centuries are not fully contained within the descriptions of the various prophets, nor are they all contained in the New Testament. In fact, it is clear the books of the New Testament detail snippets of some of Jesus' teachings, mostly in parable form. There are only one or two explanations of those parables, along with a few of his prayers and exchanges with people. Outside of these, the Books of the New Testament contain mostly Jesus' teachings in parable form:
He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, “ ‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’" (Luke 8:10)Or do we think that Jesus' students - or Jesus' students' students who passed along and transcribed these short summaries of Jesus' life - would disobey Jesus' instruction and broadcast all of Jesus' intimate teachings to his students?
Certainly not. Rather, they exposed primarily what Jesus exposed to the public: Enough of the teachings to bring clarity to those who are sincere in their efforts to gain wisdom, yet just enough mystery to confuse those who are not sincere. This is specifically why Jesus spoke in the public using parables, and why most of the teachings detailed within the Books of the New Testament are also in parable or summary form.
In other words, there is a distinction between Jesus' confidential teachings to his students and what was taught in public. Why is this? Jesus clearly explains the reason:
“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces." (Matt. 7:6)Note the words, "what is sacred" - the word "sacred" - coming from the Greek word ἅγιος (hagios) - means "most holy thing" according to the lexicon.
So Jesus was careful not to reveal "what is sacred" to just anyone and everyone. Rather, he understood clearly the right time and circumstance. He knew when to reveal what and to whom. How and why?
Because Jesus was passing on God's message, and God was guiding the process:
“My teaching is not my own. It comes from the One who sent me." (John 7:16)Jesus also clarified that only those sincerely wanting to rekindle their relationship with God could understand this:
"Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own." (John 7:17)We can, therefore, understand Jesus was not only selective about what he taught; but he carefully selected to whom and when it was taught - because he cherished those teachings - as they were coming from God - the Person Jesus loves.
With this in mind, and for those who have waded through the above, we can now reveal the meaning of the summarized description of the teachings that John had given Jesus, and Jesus had given his students, and now was asking his students to give to others:
"'The kingdom of God has come near to you.'"
The word "kingdom" here comes from the Greek word, βασιλεία (basileia), which means "royal power, kingship, dominion, rule" according to the lexicon, wherein it also states clearly, "not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom" - confirmed by Young's Literal Translation version above - translating it to "reign" rather than "kingdom."
Thus we find this reveals the fallacy of the interpretation of sectarian institutions - that this statement relates to an end of the world scenario. Because this word βασιλεία (basileia) is not describing a physical kingdom or territory, it cannot refer to the annihilation of the physical world.
Furthermore, the word "near" - coming from the Greek word ἐγγίζω (eggizō) - does not have anything to do with time - as in the time the end of the world is coming. Rather, according to the lexicon, the word means, "to bring near, to join one thing to another;" and "to draw or come near to, to approach."
Thus we can conclude the sectarian interpretation of this phrase - suggesting it relates to the end of the world coming - is simply not true.
Instead, the phrase: "'The kingdom of God has come near to you'" means we have the opportunity to let God rule our lives: We have the opportunity to surrender to God's will. We can - if we choose - elect to do God's will instead of our own will.
Doing so will in fact bring us - as individuals - under the "reign" or "dominion" of the Supreme Being. Should we choose to do what God wants us to do - rather than what we want - then we will in fact become one of God's servants.
This is about loving service. It is not about slavery. A person who chooses to do God's will does so out of freedom. We are never forced to serve God. If He wanted to force us, He could. But He doesn't. God wants us to make the choice - because love requires freedom.
And God wants our love. He wants to exchange love. This is what gives God pleasure.
And it is what gives each of us pleasure too.
Just think about what we do in our lives. Besides the quest to keep the body alive - survival - we are perpetually engaged in relationships. We want to exchange love with others. We want others to love us, and we want to share loving relationships with others.
This is also why almost every movie and book is about love. This is why people want to have and be a part of a family. This is why people search for their 'soul mate.' Because we are seeking love and loving relationships.
We have this tendency because we are God's children. We come from Him. He is the Master at loving relationships. He is the Master at love and exchanging love. So we've inherited the need for love.
And He is the Soul Mate of each of us.
Yes, this seemingly innocuous paraphrasing of Jesus' and John's teachings runs deep. It has the breadth and the expanse of the universe for those who can perceive it. It has the heart of God within it for those who see it.
Jesus is teaching that each of us can turn to the Supreme Being now. He is right here next to each of us, waiting patiently and lovingly. We can turn to Him and give our lives to Him and fall in love with Him and lovingly serve Him. If we choose to.
So what about the healing thing? Why did Jesus also tell his 72 students to heal the sick? ""Heal the sick who are there..."
The word "heal" comes from the Greek word, θεραπεύω (therapeuō), and the word "sick" comes from the Greek word ἀσθενής (asthenēs).
The primary meaning for the word θεραπεύω (therapeuō) is "to serve, do service." Only its secondary meaning is "to heal, cure, restore to health."
And the only meaning for the word ἀσθενής (asthenēs) according to the lexicon is "weak, infirm, feeble."
So while we can certainly interpret this as healing the sick, a better, more broader and more literal translation would be:
"serve the weak."
Jesus is talking about caring for those who are weak, feeble, or otherwise humbled in life. Does this mean they have to completely heal their diseases? Do they each have to perform miracles?
Remember this is being instructed to 72 disciples. Were all of Jesus' disciples able to perform miracles of healing as Jesus did? We certainly cannot limit them to not being able to. But to expect all of them to be "miracle workers" would be rather unrealistic.
Thus we can accept that Jesus was not expecting all his students to do miracles. Rather, Jesus was wanting them to care for people. To serve those who were weak and feeble. Those who needed assistance. If a man was elderly and bed-ridden and needed some water, Jesus expected his students would care for the man and get him some water.
But this phrase, "serve the weak" also goes further. It also relates to reaching those who are humble. And those who have less opportunity than others due to their humility and stature.
We must remember Jesus' purpose was not to heal everyone's physical body. This is the physical world and every physical body gets sick, and every physical body gets old and dies. Then the spirit-person leaves the body. Jesus was focused upon healing the spirit-person within. Yes, Jesus may have performed some miracles to bring attention to those teachings, but his intent was to heal the person within: The person who will be leaving the body at the time of death.
And Jesus didn't want his students to travel to villages and become the servant of some rich landowner or otherwise become the sidekick of some wealthy, powerful person. He wanted his students to provide service to the lowly, and teach those who were humble. Why?
This reflects the mercy of God. It reflects the care and nurturing that the Supreme Being has for us. He is always there for us - particularly during times of trouble and humility.
And those who are lowly, feeble and otherwise humbled in any society are also often more receptive to hearing the teachings of love for God. Because they are dealing with some of the realities of physical existence, they have more opportunity to see through the illusions of wealth, fame and power. Not necessarily - but more likely.
Those who are chasing wealth, or chasing fame, or otherwise striving for power or the affection of others, are often so involved in this illusory chase that they will not stop and seriously consider whether their chase will result in happiness. But those who have been through the chase and have come out the other side so to speak, are often ready to hear the truth as handed down from teacher to student - coming from the Supreme Being - which resolves the questions of physical suffering - healing the person within.
These reasons are why Jesus wanted his students to 'serve the weak.'
But as for trying to imitate these instructions - as many ecclesiastical teachers attempt as they display their evangelist showman miracle healings in order to increase their followers - we can understand this was condemned by Jesus, with a caveat:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Matt. 7:21-23)