Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Luke 10:8-16

When you enter any town, and they welcome you, eat the things set before you. Heal the sick who are there, and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near you.’ When you enter any town, and they don’t welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘We are wiping off as a witness against you even the dust of your town that clings to our feet. Yet know this for certain: The kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes! But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will go down to Hades! Whoever listens to you listens to Me. Whoever rejects you rejects Me. And whoever rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.”

It is significant that Jesus did not send out only the twelve disciples on a mission to heal the sick and preach the gospel. In these verses he is sending out 70 (or 72) men to enter various cities proclaiming the word and performing miracles. We are not apostles of Jesus, there were only ever 12 of them (plus later Mathias and Paul), and they clearly had a special commission. But these  70 were commissioned to prepare the way for the Lord, to lay the groundwork for his coming. Christ does not give us the same power to heal and cast out demons, but we do carry the same commission to preach the message.

And what is the message? "The kingdom of God has come near you." It's as simple and complex as that. The kingdom of God is not far off, accessible only through ritual, available to only a select few. The kingdom has come near to you! You need not seek it afar. No work or merit of your own will bring you to its door. It is here if you will only open your eyes. But even if you will not recognize it, the kingdom is here. There is no PC "What's true for you may not be true for me" nonsense.

When Jesus' listeners heard about a kingdom they likely idealized the notion. A kingdom would bring peace and prosperity. But the truth of a kingdom is that you owe total allegiance to the king. Committing your life to the kingdom of God is agreeing to submit your life entirely to a king - an absolute monarch to whom you give control of every aspect of your life. So many churches operate as democracies where members decide everything from carpet color to theology by a majority vote. Others are dictatorships led by wolves in sheep's clothing. But as Christians we are members of a kingdom where only one ruler makes the decisions. But make no mistake, if you deny the kingdom of God you are not free but still a slave to sin and the kingdom of darkness. You can find peace in his kingdom or punishment for your refusal.

Sodom was known for its destruction for sinfulness in the book of Genesis. From Isaiah 23 and Ezekiel 28 we learn that the king of Tyre was associated with Satan himself and a stronghold for idolatry. Amos writes that the people of Tyre and Sidon sold the Hebrew people into slavery. The prophet Jeremiah foretold their punishment at the hands of an angry God. But Jesus says these nations were better off than the Jewish towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum who had received the message and miracles of Jesus and still chose to deny him.

Some scholars interpret the second paragraph of this scripture as implying that there will be comparative punishments in hell depending on the amount of exposure one has received to the gospel. Perhaps this is the case, or perhaps Jesus is speaking allegorically. Either way, we cannot interpret the passage to mean that people are better off without hearing the gospel. Punishment is still punishment, regardless of the intensity. Those on the wrong side on the Day of Judgment will equally yearn for a chance to make a different decision.

When you share the gospel and people reject the message, they are rejecting Christ, not you. But it still feels like rejection. It did then to the 70, and it does now to us. Be encouraged that you do the will of God and fight for his kingdom, knowing that the results are in his hands, not yours. Fully commit yourself to serving him in his kingdom today!

If you do not plan to live the Christian life totally committed to knowing your God and to walking in obedience to him, then don't begin, for this is what Christianity is all about. It is a change of citizenship, a change of governments, a change of allegiance. If you have no intention of letting Christ rule your life, then forget Christianity; it is not for you.
- Kay Arthur

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