Well we open our Bibles again to the 10th chapter of the gospel of Luke, as we continue to work our way through this wonderful account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. As an expositor of the Bible, as a preacher who goes verse by verse, obviously we take what comes. Some portions of Scripture, of course, are more penetrating, more convicting than others. Some are more practical than others. Some are more profound than others. Some are more theological than others. This is one of those portions of Scripture that is pretty simple, straightforward, and I hope it will be a help to those of you who perhaps are looking at the gospel of Jesus Christ and not certain about whether or not you want to embrace Jesus Christ. You're... You’re interested, you're inquiring, you're wondering. Perhaps there will be something in this message that will show you the importance of making the right commitment. And I also would like to encourage those of you who may be new Christians and wondering just how we are supposed to discharge our responsibility to the unbelievers around us, to look and listen to this passage and see how it is that we are called to the very important task of evangelism, of sharing the wonderful gospel of Jesus Christ with others.
For the rest of us, this is going to be a review. This is kind of a simple, straightforward passage and yet I hope an encouragement to us to be the kind of kingdom missionaries that the Lord commissioned these seventy to be during His own life. Let me read the text just because I need to fix it in your mind, starting in chapter 10 verse 1; reading down through verse 11.
"Now after this, the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every city and place where He was Himself going to come. And He was saying to them, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go your ways. Behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no shoes, and greet no one on the way. And whatever house you enter, first say peace to this house. And if a man of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And stay in that house eating and drinking what they give you, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. And whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you. And heal those in it who are sick and say to them, the kingdom of God has come near to you. But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you. Yet be sure of this: that the kingdom of God has come near.'"
Now we have already discussed verses 1 through 4 in which our Lord gives instruction to the seventy as to their motive. Now we look at verses 5 through 11 in which the instruction is primarily about their message, their message. These are not the twelve apostles, as I noted. The twelve apostles have already been commissioned back at the beginning of chapter 9. But this is the last year of the Lord's life and ministry. There is less than a year left before He will be crucified. That means less than a year for the proclamation of the good news of salvation and for the King to reveal Himself to people. This last year is a busy year as the Lord and His twelve and other disciples traverse the area of Judea. You know, they spent the prior year plus in Galilee in the north. This time is spent in Judea and trans-Jordan across the Jordan River even in Gentile areas, many towns and villages still left to touch and to reach and so Jesus wanting to reach them in the time left calls seventy together, seventy true followers of His, true believers, those who have denied themselves, taken up their cross and genuinely followed Him, and He commissions them to go out two by two into all of these towns and villages and locations and let them know that He is coming in that direction and will, if they receive Him, visit their town. He is then going beyond the force of the twelve to add seventy. As I noted last week, some manuscripts say seventy-two, we're not sure which is accurate. Most people lean in favor of the seventy. And they are sent out two by two as heralds, as announcers, as sort of forerunners like John the Baptist, to go into a town to present the gospel of the Messiah and to tell the people that the Messiah Himself is coming, preparing the way for Him.
Now these people are sort of in a sense like us. They are not the apostles. That is to say they don't bear the unique responsibility of the apostles, that very unique high calling. As we are not apostles, since there were only twelve, plus Mathias, plus the apostle Paul, we don't really follow in the line of the apostles, as it were, in the progeny of the apostles, but we're more like these seventy, just the large group of disciples sent out to do the work of evangelism in the world. All of us who are believers are given this responsibility to proclaim the gospel to the world around us, to tell people of our Lord Jesus Christ. So we find our instruction here applicable to our own lives and our own ministries as evangels for the truth of Jesus Christ.
As we look at the message in verses 5 to 11, let me just make a general comment. The actual message verbatim is given at the end of verse 9. They were to say, "The kingdom of God has come near to you." Verse 11: the last part of the verse, "The kingdom of God has come near." Now that wasn't the whole message they gave but that was basically the thrust of it. "The kingdom is here. The kingdom is here. It is available. It is accessible." To borrow an expression from elsewhere in the gospels, "It is at hand, it is,” as Jesus put it, “in your midst." Or on another occasion in the 11th chapter of Luke, "It is upon you." He is simply saying the kingdom is here. And we're introducing you to the King in that kingdom. You cannot have a kingdom without a King. And so the announcement is, "The kingdom is here because the King Himself is reigning and ruling." That is the message then. It is the gospel of the kingdom. So it is designated in Matthew 4:23. They were preaching what the Lord preached. Matthew 4:23 says, "Our Lord preached the gospel of the kingdom, the good news of the kingdom." Back in Luke 8:1 Jesus was proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God.
The good news then is about a kingdom. Now admittedly, we don't know very much about a kingdom in America. Never having lived under a king...and the threat of living under a king caused the American Revolution, as you know. We wanted to make sure we threw off any anticipation of England that we might come under the subjection to the king. We have lived all our lives in a republic. We have lived all our lives in a democracy. We have lived all our lives in a form of government where ostensibly the people rule through representative government, where the will of the people determines the direction of the country, where the will of the people matters, where the will of the people is consulted at almost every turn. And so for us living in a democracy and celebrating democracy the way we do in America, celebrating freedom the way we do and wanting to export it all over the planet, celebrating the concept of individual rights and freedom the way we do, understanding a kingdom may be a stretch.
Now without becoming too technical, but just very simple, let me tell you what a kingdom is. Simply put, a kingdom is a realm or a sphere or a territory ruled by an absolute monarch. That is to say, it is a form of government in which the will of the people has no role. It is a form of government that is autocratic. It is a form of government that is a dictatorship, maybe a word we're more familiar with because we see it in the media. A kingdom is a domain ruled by a single monarch who has absolute sovereignty, who functions with unilateral authority, whose will is non-contradictable, authoritative, absolute. It is not representative, it is not democratic. The will of the people does not rule. The will of the people virtually has no impact. The duty of the people is to submit. The duty of the people is to obey. The duty of the people is to fall under the standards and commands that are determined by the king and do whatever it is he asks.
This is true of the kingdom of God, as well. God does not solicit anyone's opinions. God does not do referendums. God does not have focus groups. God does not take polls. That's why it bothers me when...when people do polls to find out how to run the church. The church is the kingdom of God. God is not polling unbelievers to determine how to run His kingdom. Now you say, "Well in America we like democracy better than a kingdom." Well I suppose from a human standpoint, democracy has its benefits. But it also has its problems, as we well know, a number of those kinds of problems. Democracy has the least ability to control crime and iniquity, democracy has the least ability to control greed and materialism because once people have figured out they can vote themselves large amounts of money out of the public treasury, we're on the downslide. Then they only elect the people into power who will give them more of what they want. Democracy has its problems. The greatest form of government, the purest form of government, the best form of government is a monarchy with a perfect King who is always just, who's perfectly benevolent, perfectly just, perfectly wise, perfectly powerful, and perfectly everything else. And that's the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God has come, folks, and those of us who know Christ are in it. We are in it and the Lord Jesus Christ is our King.
And when you came into that kingdom, you acknowledged it was a Kingdom because you put your own will at the door when you went in, didn't you? "If any man will come after Me, let him (what?) deny himself." It was the end of you. It was the end of your opinions. It was the end of your dreams, ambitions, hopes and goals. And it was the beginning of your absolute submission to an absolute authority, the sovereign Lord Himself, too wise to make a mistake, too loving to be unkind, and absolutely just, perfect in His judgment. What a tremendous privilege to live in a kingdom with a perfect King. And not only a perfect King, but a perfect King who discerns perfectly how to fulfill His will and whose will is that everything work together for good to those who are His subjects. So when you become a Christian, you enter a kingdom. In fact, the apostle Paul in Colossians 1:13 says you're delivered out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son. Lest people get the wrong idea, if you're not in the kingdom of God, that doesn't mean you're free, you're just in the kingdom of darkness and you're under another sovereign, and that sovereign is Satan and you're a slave to sin. Everybody lives in a kingdom. You just live in the kingdom of darkness or the kingdom of light, the kingdom of Satan, or the kingdom of the Savior. You live in a kingdom. You are subject to the authority and the power of the enemy of your soul, or you are subject to the authority and power of the Savior of your soul. You are either in the kingdom that ends up in hell, or the kingdom that ends up in heaven. You're either a slave to sin, or a servant of righteousness. Don't be under any illusion that somehow coming into the kingdom of God takes away all your freedom. You really have no freedom except the freedom to sin. You can choose your poison, that's all.
This is how you must view the spiritual realities of life. We enjoy earthly democracy. It provides certain liberties for us, certain things that we enjoy. You might think it's a better way to live than living in a kingdom. But I will tell you, even a terrible kingdom, even a tyrannical kingdom, even a God-hating, Christ-hating kingdom is more likely...is more likely to have in it a pure church than the kind of democratic society in which we live, where there's virtually no price for your convictions. And you might as well get used to living in a kingdom as a Christian, because it's all you're ever going to know. Someday Jesus is going to come back to earth and establish a kingdom on earth for a thousand years, and after that there will be the new heaven and the new earth which will be the eternal kingdom in which we will live in joyful, willing, happy, blissful submission to our sovereign King.
I wish when we preached the gospel we talked more about it like that. We talk so much about sharing Christ, like you're inviting people to get in on something that's the sort of superficially enjoyable. What we're asking people to do is to come into a kingdom and submit their lives entirely to a King, an absolute monarch who has the right to determine everything without our consultation and who has revealed His will to us in the pages of the Word of God and calls on us to live in absolute submission and obedience to that revelation. It's not about your self-satisfaction. It's not about your self-promotion or your self-fulfillment. It says: We've been saying about self-submission and self-suicide, it's the end of you because you've had enough of you. You refuse to associate any longer with the person you are. You're sick of the kingdom of darkness, you're sick of the kingdom of sin and Satan and you are now ready to submit yourself to the benevolent, gracious, loving Lord and King Jesus Christ who will give you forgiveness of your sins and the promise of eternal blessing in His perfect kingdom.
There is a sense in which God is King over the whole universe, His kingdom rules over all, Psalm 103 says. But we're not talking about that sort of universal kingdom, the realm of His creation. We're talking about the spiritual kingdom in which He rules over the souls of those who have come to Him through Christ. This is what we preach, but we preach a kingdom and nothing less and we preach a King and no one less and this King is an absolute monarch. That is why it says in Romans 10 that if you want to be saved, you must confess Jesus as (what?) Lord. And Lord is the name above every name. Lord is the name in which every knee bows. Lord is a synonym for King.
The seventy then went to preach the kingdom. When we preach we usually use the word "gospel." We say we preach the gospel. We give witness to the gospel. And that's right. “Gospel” is used a hundred times in the New Testament so it's the right biblical word. And it means good news. And the news is good. The news is very good. Your sins can be forgiven. You can be reconciled to God. You can come into a relationship with God which is blissful and joyful and provides everything we need both in time and eternity. God becomes your friend. God becomes your comforter. God becomes your sustainer, your supporter. God becomes your very life. God one day takes you through death, out the other side into the eternal home that He's prepared for you. It's good news. But it is good news about a kingdom and a King and it must be viewed that way. And so the seventy, as we must, went out to talk about the kingdom of God and the King. And, of course, there were two possibilities. Either people said yes to the good news of the kingdom, or they said no.
And that's what comes out in this very simple little passage. The message of the kingdom and the gospel of the kingdom is either for peace or punishment, just two points to the message this morning, peace or punishment. Very simple, very straightforward, you believe the message and you receive peace, peace with God with all of the eternal benefits that come along. Or you reject the message and you receive punishment, punishment from God with all the eternal terrors that come along.
Now as we noted last time, just looking back at the text, the Lord sent the seventy out two by two. There were certain attitudes they needed to have. We went over those, last time. They then were to proclaim this message. And we see here exactly how each of those two options might unfold as the Lord prepares them for this mission. Let's look at the first one.
The positive response to the kingdom message which brings peace, verse 5: "Whatever house you enter, first say peace to this house." Now let me stop you there for a minute. And this is pretty simple and yet I need to kind of fill in so you know what's going on here because as often in the Scriptures, particularly in the accounts of the gospels, you get a kind of a summary and you have to look a little deeper to see the full intent of these things. Whatever house you enter... Remember the seventy were itinerant preachers. They were sent out because the judgment harvest was coming and there weren't very many laborers so the Lord calls seventy and He sends them out two by two and their labor is to go into the harvest, that is into the lives of those people who are headed toward judgment, realizing, verse 3, that they would be like lambs in the midst of wolves. In other words, there was going to be a lot of hostility and a lot of rejection to the gospel of the kingdom as there still is.
But He says to them in verse 4: "Carry no purse, no bag, no shoes; greet no one on the way." You don't take any money. You don't take any supplies. You don't take any food. You don't even take extra sandals. You go dependent because I want you to learn you can depend on Me and I'll meet your needs. These itinerant preachers would go into every town virtual strangers. Most of them were Galilean, not Judean. People wouldn't know them. They weren't supposed to stop and make relationships. They were going, time was short. They had to cover a lot of towns. It's not about social amenities. It's not about quote-unquote “friendship evangelism.” It's about preaching the message clearly. Don't stop to make friends and acquaintances. You're going to be dependent on whoever will receive you.
By the way, when the Lord commissioned the twelve, that commissioning is recorded in Luke 9, but also in Matthew 10. And in Matthew 10 He gave similar instructions to the twelve when He sent them out, "Into whatever city or village you enter inquire who is worthy in it and abide there until you go away." Soon as you go into a town, find out who's worthy. We have the same thing in verse 5. "Whatever house you enter, first say peace be to the house." That's how you find out who's worthy. Now what did it mean in Matthew 10 "worthy"? Well somebody worthy of the message. Who is worthy of the message? Well we would say someone in the vernacular of the New Testament like Simeon who was looking for the consolation of Israel, who was looking for the redemption of Israel, who was living in the midst of messianic hope. We would say in the parlance of Romans 2, a true Jew, who is one inwardly, a Jew who really knew the God of Israel, a Jew whose trust was in the true and living God and he was looking forward to the coming of Messiah. Perhaps someone who had been baptized by the baptism of John, whose baptism of repentance had prepared people for the coming of Messiah.
So when you go to evangelize, go to the ready heart, go to the eager heart, go to the prepared heart. Go to the one who is seeking to know the kingdom and the King. That's what worthy means. It's not just about being a house that's not immoral. All the inns and things were all brothels so people didn't stay there. It's not just a house of good reputation, a house of kind people, a house where you wouldn't be embarrassed to have an association. It's more than that. You want to go where there's an interest in the message of peace, peace with God. Isaiah, you remember, had prophesied that God would bring a time of peace, that God would make peace, that Jesus would even be chastised for our peace with God, as Isaiah 53:5 says. And they knew that there would be a time of peace in the future, that Messiah would come and bring peace. Isaiah 54:10 talks about that as well. So find that worthy house. And that worthy house would be determined by whether or not you went there and offered them peace.
Now somebody might look at verse 5 and say, "Wait a minute, isn't, ‘Peace be to this house.’ just like saying ‘shalom’ to somebody when you meet them on the street? I mean, aren't you getting carried away and maybe loading this with too much content?"
No, and I'll show you why as we look at the next verse. And if a man of peace is there, you're going in and you're saying peace, and when you go in with the message of peace, when you proclaim that you come as messengers bringing true peace, the peace that comes to those in the kingdom of God through the Prince of Peace, who is Jesus Christ, when you say that, if there is there a man of peace, then your peace will rest upon him. In other words, the message will find a home if you find there a man of peace.
By the way, the little phrase, "man of peace," really should be translated "son of peace," huios eirn. It is son of peace. “If you find there a son of peace...” Now that...that's a sort of slam dunk for the interpretation because wherever you see in the Jewish vernacular "son of" that is a strong identification between that person and whoever it is that's viewed as their father or their progenitor. In other words, in the Old Testament when people are called sons of Belial, that is to say they have a nature that is like Satan. To say, for example, about Barnabas, that he is a son of comfort is to say the man has a disposition or a nature that is consistent with comfort. And there are a number of those kinds of things in the Scripture. A son of peace simply means a person who is enjoying the peace of God. In other words, you're going to find a true Jew. You're going to find someone whose nature is in perfect accord with the divine peace that God provides to those who know Him. This then is again a true Jew. Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, had in his great Benedictus at the end of Luke 1, said that when the Messiah comes, He's going to lead us in the way of peace. That's how he ended that statement in verse 79. He's going to lead us in the way of peace.
And so the message was simply this, the kingdom is near because the King has arrived and He's coming to bring you into His kingdom of peace, peace with God. The long war with God is over for those who come into that kingdom through faith, repentance and submission. That's why Romans 5:1 says, "We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
And so they came and they presented this peace, the Prince of Peace, the kingdom of peace. And if there was there a huios eirn, a son of peace, then He says your peace will rest on him; the message will find a home.
When you go out to evangelize, folks, when you go into a new area to evangelize, look first of all for that worthy one, that one with the open heart. Lest you be rebuffed by someone else and leave, thinking everybody's like that, start your search to find the open heart. Find that...that one whom God has prepared or the Spirit has convicted. He says find that worthy house. Go into that worthy house, give the message of peace and see if there is there a son of peace, a ready heart. And if there is in that house a son of peace, one who already belongs to the peace of God, a true Jew, he's going to embrace the truth about the King and the kingdom.
On the other hand, verse 6 says, "If not, it will return to you." You offered peace, he didn't want it; you leave. That's all. Matthew 10:13, when Jesus sent out the twelve He said the same thing. "If the house is not worthy, let your peace return to you." That's an old sort of ancient Near Eastern expression signifying the removal of favor, the withdrawal of favor offered. You came, you offered them this; they didn't want it. Don't waste it on them, go somewhere else. It's not that it's given to them and taken away, it's that it's offered to them and refused and you're free to leave. Jesus is saying, "Look, when you've gone there and you've presented the truth and they don't want it, it comes back to you, take it somewhere else." This is very much like Jesus said in Matthew 7 in the Sermon on the Mount, "Don't cast your pearls before (what?) swine." Don't throw holy things to dogs. When there's already determined and fixed response, take your peace somewhere else. Jesus said in John 5:40, "You are unwilling to come to Me that you may have life. You're unwilling to come that you may have life." What a sad thing. I mean, if anybody knew the nuances of personal evangelism, Jesus did. If anybody knew how to preach, Jesus did. And human, sinful hearts are so hard that people didn't respond even to the Son of God Himself, the greatest preacher who ever lived...who ever lived, the man who had the perfect insight into every heart, knew exactly how to approach every single person and how to communicate the truth to every single person. Still the hardness of heart reigned. In fact, in Matthew 10:14 again back at the commissioning of the twelve, this is so important, Jesus said: "And whoever doesn't receive you or heed your words, go out of that house and out of that city." Take your peace and leave. And He says, "Whoever doesn't receive you or heed your words." That expands the idea a little bit. When they went and said "Peace" they were more words than just "Peace," they were giving them the message of peace through the Prince of Peace. And if they don't heed those words, take your peace and leave. So the acceptance here, you stay. The rejection, you go. If you find a worthy house and a son of peace, you open the good news and they receive it, stay there.
Now why would He say to stay there? Why not go somewhere else and somewhere else and somewhere else? Well verse 7 He says, "Stay in that house eating and drinking what they give you." These people were human and they might be looking around town as the days went on and find nicer accommodations and better food. Don't look for anything better. The same thing was said back in Luke 9 at Luke's record of the commissioning of the twelve. Verse 4, "Whatever house you enter stay there and make that the center of your operations, go out from there but stay in that house." And I'll tell you why, there's a very good reason why. This was all about authenticating the integrity of the messengers because it was very typical of false prophets, false teachers everywhere who were itinerant, they were like ants, they were all over everywhere. And they were looking for the...for the most comfortable situation. They were looking for the place where they could get the most money. They would go into a place; they would go into a home. They would take whatever the home had to offer. They would then go somewhere else. They would keep moving up the ladder, taking money from as many as they could and bettering their circumstances. That was the pattern. False teachers are always in it for the money. They're always in it for filthy lucre. How often do you meet a false teacher, long-term false teacher who hasn't managed to make money off his lies and deceptions? That's why they do what they do. Some of them make an awful lot.
Typically the itinerant preachers would take advantage of as many people as they could, as many houses as they could and as many comforts as were available. Jesus says when you find a worthy place, you find a son of peace, for the sake of fellowship, for the sake of comfort, for the sake of discipleship and for the sake of integrity and sincerity and honesty and as an example that sets you apart from false teachers, stay there, don't seek a better place. Don't seek any other food than what they give you. If the food is meager, so be it; if it's unappetizing, tough luck. If it's different than you're used to, you'll have to learn to endure it. Whether it's clean or unclean, whether it's idol food, whether it's a Jewish house or a Gentile house, stay there, accept the accommodations and accept the food. Don't be discontent. Let them see that you live for the peace gospel; you don't live for your own personal gain. This will set you apart from false teachers very rapidly.
On the other hand, somebody might say, "Well, but it might be a burden on them. It might be asking too much to stay in one place and have one household have to take care of us." And so in verse 7 He says, in case you might be thinking that, "Stay there, take what they give you and remember the laborer is worthy of his wages." This is a principle. The laborer is worthy of his wages. By the way, the same thing was said by Jesus to the twelve when they were sent out in Matthew 10:10, "The worker is worthy of his support." Don't be reluctant to receive support for preaching the gospel. Receive support from people who believe the gospel, a son of peace. They should support you. You are laboring at the greatest work in the world. The laborer should be supported. That is also a reminder to the church, in 1 Timothy 5:17 and 18, that elders and pastors should be supported, those who preach the gospel. Also 1 Corinthians 9 says, "Should live of the gospel." Those who do the work of the Lord should be sustained and supported in that work. It's good for people to learn to do that. Whoever is taught should share, as Galatians says, in all good things with the one who taught him. That's a principle. So don't be reluctant to take that. Don't use that excuse to get some better food or a better bed. Stay there.
And He adds, "Do not keep moving from house to house." A little bit of cynicism in that, that's what the false teachers did, to get as much as they could from as many as they could.
So there was going to be a credibility issue here. The message was the right message but why are the people going to believe it? First of all, they're going to see that there's something about these people that is completely different than what they're used to in itinerant preachers. There's a life integrity. There's a selflessness that's not normal.
He goes beyond the house to the city in verse 8. "Whatever city you enter and they receive you eat what is set before you." You go into a city, it might be a Gentile city, it might be a Jewish city, whatever it is, and the whole city might receive you. There could be some cities where the influence of godly people has pervaded the city so that there's a whole city that is open to the gospel of peace. I guess you could say a whole town of sons and daughters of peace. And if you find such a place, go there and just take whatever they give you. Eat whatever they give you. Don't be picky. Don't demand this or that. Don't ever give any impression that this is about you. You know, when that translates into ministry today, it's a good thing to remind young people who are going out into ministry or going on short-term mission teams, or going out to do evangelistic work, do not...do not demand anything. Accept whatever it is that people give you with a heart full of gratitude. And that in itself will set you apart from what people are used to in those who are false. Don't ever set a price on your ministry. Don't ever demand a certain kind of accommodations. Don't ever demand a certain kind of food. Don't ever demand a certain kind of care, a certain kind of treatment. Go because you're going in the name of Jesus Christ to preach the gospel of peace and it's not about you, it's about the gospel and you know that whatever the situation when you get there, the Lord is going to provide everything you need to sustain you because you're doing His work. Right? You don't need to pad your own bed. The Lord will take care of whatever bed He wants you to sleep in.
I often think I should have wrote a...should have written a journal on all the beds I've been in through the years. Even in the modern world, from one end of this earth to the other, it would...might be make a fascinating story. You're going to be different.
"What about the Jewish dietary laws?" somebody might say, "weren't they supposed to be faithful to the Jewish dietary law?" Not anymore, that's all passing away. Jesus already has taught it's not that which goes into a man that defiles him, right? It's that which comes out of the man that defiles him, it's what's in his heart that defiles him. And Jesus already setting aside those dietary laws, Jesus already doing things, eating food without washing His hands, ignoring the rabbinical ceremonial washings, Jesus doing whatever healing He wanted to do on the Sabbath day, as it were, spurning the traditions that had grown around the Sabbath. In the book of Acts it becomes very clear in the vision that Peter has where he sees a sheet come down and all the clean and unclean animals are there and the Lord says, "Rise, Peter, kill and eat." And Peter says, "I can't eat what's unclean." And the Lord says, "Don't you dare call unclean what God has cleansed." That's the old economy, this is new. All the old Judaistic ceremonial laws are falling away. Go anywhere, eat anything; stay in the house that first receives you.
And then verse 9 He adds, "And heal those in it who are sick." Obviously we can't do this. This was delegated authority from the Lord Jesus Himself to the twelve and to the seventy. And it may not have been a permanent thing. It may have lasted only as long as this particular period of time, this particular venture of evangelism. We do know that they had the power to heal because Jesus says that here. And down in verse 17, the seventy, when they came back from their first trip, said, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name." So they had the power to cast out demons as well as heal the sick.
Why did the Lord delegate that power to them? Very clear: because they were itinerant preachers. How do the people know they're telling them the truth, right? You could have 100 preachers coming in and out of your town in a number of months, how do you know who's telling you the truth? First of all, you look at their character, right? And you see these people are utterly selfless, they're not concerned about anything for themselves. They're content with whatever is given to them. Secondly, they have this amazing power to heal and cast out demons which nobody else has, and that authenticates their message. So first of all, their character is verified in their contentment with whatever's given them. And then their message or their content is verified by virtue of supernatural miracles and powers. And that's what I was reading in Hebrews chapter 2 today that the message of the gospel, the salvation we shouldn't neglect, was confirmed by signs and wonders and miracles. And here we see them being validated by that. Today our ministry is validated by one great miracle. My ministry is validated every time I preach. Every time you witness your ministry is validated by one great miracle. And that's the miracle of inspiration, that's the miracle of the Word of God against which your message can be always compared to see if it's true.
Then He says at the end of verse 9, "And say to them, the kingdom of God has come near to you." This is your message. You preach that the kingdom has come near, the kingdom is at hand, In the words of Matthew 4:17. In the words of Luke 11:20, as I said earlier, the kingdom has come upon you, it's here because the King is here. It has arrived. Eggiz is the Greek verb. It has arrived and nothing can stop it. I don't know if I can give you the picture, but the kingdom is moving and it's moving through human history and finally the acceptable year of the Lord has arrived, the Messiah is here, the kingdom has come in the fullness of the very King Himself. And for the people who were sons of peace, this was the fulfillment of all their dreams, all their aspirations, all their hopes, all their longings, all their desires. The kingdom had come for their peace. The kingdom had come for their peace. It's here now today and for all who believe in the King and submit their lives to Him, all who repent of sin, trust Christ and submit to Him, they enter into the kingdom. The kingdom is peace to them. We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. When you embrace the King, you enter the kingdom of peace.
So in our ministry as we go, first of all, we direct our efforts toward those who are eager to hear. We make it clear, secondly, that we seek nothing for ourselves. Thirdly, we validate our message not by some miracles which we're able to do, but rather by the miracle of revelation, the Word of God. And we minister with compassion to people as those did who healed the sick and cast out demons. But we preach the gospel of the kingdom which is the gospel of peace, peace with God. And wherever we find prepared hearts, sons of peace will embrace the truth. And so our ministry will be a ministry unto peace.
But secondly, it is also a ministry unto punishment. You cannot ignore this, verses 10 and 11. It's a brief passage, direct and straightforward. But it presents the other side. Where there is not reception of the King and His kingdom but rejection, the kingdom brings not peace but punishment. Verse 10, "But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you," that's going to happen. You're going to go to places they won't receive you. We already saw one back in chapter 9 verse 52, Jesus sent messengers on ahead of Him, they went, entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him, they did not receive Him. James and John said, "Do You want us to call down fire from heaven” and burn them to a cinder? Jesus simply turned and went to another place. There were going to be towns like that that wouldn't receive Him, where the pervasive influence of wicked people had conquered the village or the town. When you go to that place, and the assumption is you've given the message, because how are they going to be rejecting you until you've given the message, so you go into the town, you give the message, you proclaim the kingdom and they receive you not. Here's what you do. Don't steal away quietly in the night. “Go out in the streets and say..." Go right in the middle of the street in that place and make a public announcement. Expose that rejection at the widest level possible.
The idea is not to pronounce some quiet judgment on rejecters but a public judgment. Declare openly God’s absolute displeasure with that rejection. Make it as public as it possibly can be made. And make it known that they have rejected the King and the kingdom of peace and then say this, verse 11, "Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you." Can you imagine that vivid thing going on? They stand in the middle of the town wiping off the dirt from that town from their feet? That in the ancient Near East was the most demonstrative expression of disdain. When the Jews went into a Gentile country and came back, they shook the dust off their garments. They washed the dust off their feet so they didn't bring Gentile dust into the holy land. That showed their hatred, their disdain for the Gentiles. And here are the servants of the King, the kingdom messengers, missionaries who came in with the message of grace and a message of peace and a message of salvation and they leave town with a message of judgment, of warning, of condemnation, of disdain, a message literally of punishment. We will have nothing to do with you and symbolically, of course, and neither will the King, except to treat you in this same way with the same disdain and the same rejection that you have treated Him. "If they don't receive you" means as back in chapter 9 verse 5, "as for those who do not receive you as you go out from that city, shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them." The apostles did it and now the seventy are doing it. Show God's displeasure openly before the whole town and do it with an object lesson.
Why would they... Why would they do that? That is a final call. That is a last effort. That is an end gesture, a last appeal; nothing left to say because they rejected what was said. Just tell them that they are being rejected by the King that they themselves have rejected. Do this in protest against you, or better, as a testimony against you. It is literally the testimony of God against those rejecters that they are acting out. You can't let people sort of come into the church and hear the gospel, or go to them and give them the gospel and then they don't receive and quietly go away. It demands a strong, final gesture, effort, proclamation of the reality of the implications of that rejection. That is the last appeal, you see. You have to understand what you're doing.
As I was saying in talking to a prominent person not too long ago, at the end of our two-hour conversation, I just said, "You have to understand the consequences. You have to understand the consequences. To reject Jesus Christ is to be rejected by Jesus Christ and that is to spend all eternity in torment in the punishments of hell." I don't discharge my responsibility if I don't say that. That in itself, while a statement of judgment, is also a last appeal.
So this is the message and this is the messenger's responsibility. Find those who hear, give them the truth, and the kingdom will come in peace. When you find those who don't hear, you give them the truth and the kingdom will still come but will come in punishment. Look at the end of verse 11, how interesting, "Yet be sure of this," even where a rejection occurs, "be sure of this, the kingdom of God has come near." You know, the picture is this, folks, the kingdom of God is moving inexorably through history and you are either getting swept up in the kingdom or crushed by it. That's it. It is the dominant reality in existence in the spiritual realm. The kingdom of God is moving. It is moving through the world and it is gathering those who bow to the King in peace and it is crushing those who reject it. That is the gospel. It is good news. But it is the worst news to those who refuse it. The kingdom moves. Preach the kingdom. It's no effort to change the strategy. There's no effort to...nothing here that says, "You know if they reject you, go back and retool the gospel. Hang around and make some friends." It doesn't say that. Give the gospel, the gospel is the gospel. When heard is either believed or rejected. When believed it brings peace. When rejected it brings punishment. But be sure of this, you will not avoid the kingdom. You will not avoid the King. Every human being, whoever has lived on the planet will stand one day before the King and either that King will say, "Enter into the joy of your Lord," or He will say, "Depart from Me, you workers of iniquity." But He will render the final judgment on everyone because there's only one King in the world, there's only one King in the universe, the King of kings and Lord of lords. His kingdom is for peace or it is for punishment. It is for salvation, forgiveness and heaven, or sin, guilt, judgment and hell. We are this generation's kingdom missionaries and God calls us to this same challenging task.
Father, as we close this morning, just the reminder of these great realities is compelling to us because we get so caught up in the world, we get so caught up in the trivial and the passing things of life. Help us to be able to strip ourselves of the encumbrances. Help us to get a little bit of that no-purse, no-bag, no-shoe, no-stopping mentality so that we move through the world intent on the real purpose. And, oh God, how we pray that You would raise up many more laborers because the harvest is so great and the laborers seem so few, who can go as messengers of the King to proclaim the kingdom of peace and warn of the kingdom of punishment. May we be faithful to stand in the line of these who were faithful 2,000, we too commissioned by our Savior and given the Holy Spirit and because of Him we are now witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost part of the earth. Use us, we pray, oh God, to serve our King. We pray in His name. Amen.
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