A.W. Tozer spoke of Christians in the harvest field of ministry when he wrote, “We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum.”
Like me, you have probably seen the viral video clips of so-called pastors and evangelists who compromise the message of the gospel for their political agenda, or to gain popularity and wealth, or because they fear the repercussions of straying from the “politically correct” themes of the day.
In Jesus’ message to His 72 followers recorded in Luke 10, He not only gives instructions to the messengers about their mission and their conduct, but he delivers some very detailed and specific directions for the message they are to say.
The gospel is not just an invitation; it is an ultimatum.
“But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near’” (Luke 10:10-11).
Jesus’ command here is not to quietly warn the unrepentant person about the consequences of their action, or to whisper a suggestion that they should reconsider. This is a public pronouncement of God’s judgment against the town that rejects the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This word Jesus used for streets is not a side-street, but a well-traveled, public thoroughfare. To modernize the meaning, Jesus isn’t talking about your quiet neighborhood cul-de-sac, He’s talking about the Interstate.
This message of judgment will not be popular in our culture today; you will be mischaracterized and maligned when you deliver it. You might be labeled “bigoted” “narrow-minded” “intolerant” or even “unloving.”
What could be more unloving that knowing someone is speeding toward their imminent, eternal demise and doing nothing to stop them or even warn them? The need is great; time is of the essence; the eternal future of lives is at stake. We must share the gospel, even the unpopular parts, to a world with no other hope or future.
Jesus continues in verse 12, “I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town (the town that rejects the message)."
Now this would have stunned everyone who heard Jesus’ words.
Sodom was that infamous town in which sexual deviancy and homosexuality was rampant, until the angels of the Lord rescued Lot and rendered a unique judgment of fire and brimstone against that town (Genesis 19).
As far as the Jewish people were concerned, no one was more deserving of God’s judgment.
But Jesus says here that in the final day of judgment, divine judgment will be worse for those who hear the good news of the gospel and reject it than for Sodom.
As an aside, this verse provides strong evidence that there will be levels of judgment in hell based on sin and in the mind of the Lord, sexual sin isn’t the worst one. In other words, people who lived in Sodom will face lighter judgment than the people sitting in the synagogue every Saturday. The audiences to whom these 72 appointed men will preach face a more severe judgment should they reject the gospel. Why? Because the greater the light, the greater the judgment.
Someone who clearly hears the gospel, understands it, and then rejects it will face the most severe punishment for their rejection. That’s the judgment Jesus is commanding these men to pronounce; that’s the same ultimatum in our gospel message today.
The gospel is not about you; it is about God.
One of the unique elements of the brief mission trip of these 72 men is that Jesus empowered them to perform signs and miracles to authenticate the message they preached. Throughout Israel, they healed the sick, brought sight to the blind, and raised up the paralyzed.
It would be easy for a passerby to see the commotion, see the miracles taking place, and assume that one of these 72 men was the Messiah, not merely the representative of someone else. That’s why Jesus commands them, “Heal the sick … and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you’” (Luke 10:9).
These men were going to become the celebrities of the nation— showered with gifts, invited into the homes of the rich and powerful; they would be the talk of the town. So, Jesus effectively tells them, “When people are talking about what you have done, make sure to redirect all that praise back to God.”
Maybe you are part of a successful ministry, or you are known in your community for your character and faithfulness. Maybe you’ve sparked a revival in your home or town. Satan would love nothing more than for you to take credit for these accomplishments. He’s skillful at using flattery and compliments to sow the seeds of pride in your heart.
When God gives you success beyond your wildest dreams, make sure He gets all the credit. He alone is worthy of the glory, the honor, and the praise.