From an historical perspective (Luke 10:1-11, 16-20), “commissioning” the 70 in groups of two’s and three’s was a brilliant organizational strategy. We know all too well that John the Baptists’s movement was halted and his followers dispersed abruptly after he was executed by Herod. According to New Testament scholar, John Dominic Crossan, Jesus’ disciples were “decentralized” and were virtually unstoppable. They scattered to hundreds of places too remote for Jesus to visit during his ministry, especially now… as his face was set on Jerusalem. Crossan estimates that there were hundreds of commissioned ministers already in place by the time Jesus was crucified and unlikely to learn of his death for weeks and months. (The Historical Jesus)
The seventy overjoyed with the thrill of their first encounters were reluctant to hear or heed Jesus’ warnings, and were eager to share their joy. Jesus knew that they would be going as lambs in the midst of wolves as he too experienced rejection and death threats during his ministry, and most notably in his own home town. He knew all too well that rejection was the least of what they were going to encounter.
Yet, can’t we relate to the elation that the first wave of disciples felt as they shared their experiences with one another when they returned home? Can’t we relate to how good they felt after healing and ministering to their communities as Jesus taught. Like most of us they would be filled with hope that it all may be joyful and “fulfilling.” Yet Jesus tells us not to rejoice in citing what we’ve done, but quietly rejoice because we are living the Word to glorify God. To restate Jesus admonition: Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever accepts you accepts me, and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, commissioned his students in the Underground Church to go forth into the Third Reich and proclaim the gospel while facing the possibility of death. In so doing, he made the distinction between cheap grace and costly grace. Costly grace is that which is truly from Christ. “It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.” Cheap grace, he said, expects endless pleasantness, and is unwilling to confront powers and principalities. True grace knows that the cross is part of life in Christ. (The Cost of Discipleship)