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Sermon Message


"Kingdom Messengers"

Matthew 10:1-15
Theme: Jesus' commission to the twelve disciples teaches us some foundational principles about the message of His Kingdom.

(Delivered Sunday, December 5, 2005 at Bethany Bible Church. All Scripture quotes, unless otherwise indicated, are from the New King James Version.)

When we come to the Christmas season, I often struggle with the question of when I should begin preaching "Christmas" messages. Many preachers preach an "advent" series around this time of year; but I have not felt led to do so. Instead, I will do what I usually do - and that is preach a deliberately 'Christmas-oriented' message on the Sunday before Christmas. And for the rest of the time, I'll try to just continue preaching as usual through whatever series I was already preaching.

But preaching as I usually do will - in this case - be very much in keeping with Christmas. On Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ the King; and it just so happens that I am preaching through Matthew - the Gospel of the King. And it also just so happens that we are today beginning a new portion of Matthew's Gospel - chapter 10 - in which the King Himself commissions His disciples to announce Him to His people.

On Christmas, we often remember the wise men who came from the East, saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him" (Matthew 2:2). And now, as we begin this new Christmas season, we also begin a study of the passage in which that same King announces to His people, "Here I am. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Your King has come; and I now offer Myself to you. Welcome Me; and come to Me that you may be saved."

So; this morning's message isn't meant to be a Christmas message. And yet, as it turns out, it fits in with Christmas very well! Isn't God's timing amazing?

* * * * * * * * * *

Chapter 10 of Matthew's Gospel is a very fascinating and very important one. Of all the discourses that our Savior gives in Matthew's Gospel to His disciples, this chapter contains one of the longest. It touches on many things that are very instructive for us, and that give us many important examples to follow.

But it's a passage that we need to interpret very carefully. There are many instructions in it that were intended for a specific group, on a specific occasion, and for a specific purpose. We wouldn't be treating this passage wisely if we were to try to apply everything that it says to ourselves.

To help you appreciate this, let's look at this chapter in terms of the broader context of Matthew's Gospel. Matthew began by introducing us to "Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham" (Matthew 1:1). That sets the tone for his Gospel. It's a very "Jewish" gospel account. It concerns itself with the long-awaited King of Israel, who was promised to come from the lineage of King David and in fulfillment of God's promises to Abraham. That's why the wise men came saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?"

As we move along through Matthew's Gospel, we see how this promised King was introduced through the ministry of John the Baptist. Then we read of how this King taught the principles of His kingdom to His subjects in the Sermon on the Mount. Then, after preaching that sermon, He proved His authority by performing miracles and wonders - all showing that He truly was the promised King of the Jews.

And now, when we come to chapter 10, we see that Jesus - the long-awaited, promised King of the Jews - calls twelve of His disciples together and commissions them to go out and proclaim Him to the Jewish people. He sends them out to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel"; and tells them to preach that "the Kingdom of heaven is at hand".

So; the things that we read in this chapter are to be understood in the context of the introduction of the King to His people. After His instructions to them are completed, we're told, in Matthew 11:1, that "it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities". It was Jesus' plan to send His twelve disciples out to announce that the kingdom is at hand, and then to follow after them to preach in the cities into which He had sent them.

* * * * * * * * * *

But here's another important thing you need to know. It was also in the Savior's plan that He would be rejected by the very people He presented Himself to. I'm sure you're familiar with what it says in John 1:11; "He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him." When this particular preaching mission to the Jewish people was over, Jesus says,

"The men of Nineveh will rise up in judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation an condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here" (Matthew 12:41-42).

One of the great tragedies of the Bible is that Jesus - the long-awaited King of the Jews - was rejected and ultimately crucified by the very people for whom He came. And since they would not receive Him, He turned elsewhere. He would one day look upon the city of Jerusalem and say,

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!'" (Matthew 23:37-39).

The kingdom - offered to the Jewish people in the Person of their King, but rejected by them through the crucifixion of their King - was to be offered instead to the Gentiles. This chapter will not make much sense if we don't remember that.

* * * * * * * * * *

But there's a third thing you need to know. Though they have rejected their King, and though He has turned instead to the Gentiles, the Bible teaches that God is by no means through with the Jewish people. They are still His chosen people; and He will never stop loving them.

In fact, it is in God's amazing plan that the salvation of the Gentiles would advance His plan for the Jewish people. Paul writes, ". . . Have they [that is, the Jews] stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles" (Romans 11:11). He tells us that "blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved . . ." (vv. 25-26). He tells us that "God has committed them to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all" (v. 32).

* * * * * * * * * *

So, these are the things you need to keep in mind before you can really appreciate what's happening in the tenth chapter of Matthew's Gospel. In verses 1-15, He gives His commission to the twelve apostles; and they were to go and preach strictly to the Jewish people. What He says in those beginning verses applies particularly to them and their ministry.

The King that they proclaimed, however, would be rejected by the Jewish people; and so, what Jesus says in the rest of the chapter has to do with the ministry of Jesus' followers AFTER He was crucified, raised, and ascended to the Father. It speaks there of our ministry of proclaiming the King - not only to the Jewish people - but throughout the Gentile world. What Jesus says in the later half of chapter 10 began to be fulfilled in what we find in the Book of Acts. It was there that He told the disciples, ". . . You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

This morning, then, I'd like us to focus on just the first fifteen verses of this chapter - where Jesus gives what I would like to call "foundational instructions" to the "foundational preachers" of His kingdom.

* * * * * * * * * *

Let's go back to the subject of Christmas for a moment. As you know, we are living in a time when the true meaning of Christmas is being very aggressively ripped from the holiday season. Many are very actively seeking to remove all reference to Christ from our culture - even in references to Christmas. There is a strong effort to turn Christmas into a secular celebration.

It used to be that this just happened when people got wrapped up in materialism and "forgot" what Christmas was about. But more and more, we're hearing of a growing hostility toward the true meaning of Christmas; and we're feeling more and more pressure from our culture to keep silent about any references to the One whose birth it celebrates.

And I remind you that, as Christians, we cannot keep silent about Him. Jesus said, "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32-33). We are to be unashamed and unintimidated by the growing secular pressures of our culture; and we are to boldly, confidently, and lovingly proclaim Christmas as the birthday of Jesus Christ - the Son of God and the Savior of the world. We should never become hostile or offensive in doing so; but neither should we shrink back from faithfully confessing Jesus - and letting those who might take offense at Him hear of Him anyway.

I suggest to you that these first fifteen verses give us great encouragement in making such a faithful witness to the world. The situation of Jesus' commission to the twelve in this chapter does not apply to us; but Jesus' words to them nevertheless have many lessons to teach us. His words show us how the foundational messengers of the kingdom of Jesus Christ were called to do their job - and to do so before a people who, by and large, would not receive the message!

* * * * * * * * * *

Let's look at this passage verse by verse. And as we do, let's first notice . . .

1. WHO WAS SENT (vv. 1-4).

Matthew tells us,

And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaues, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him (Matthew 10:1-4).

There is so much we could say about these twelve men that I'm quite sure I could preach a whole sermon just on each of them! (Perhaps one day - Lord willing - I will.) But for now, just take notice of them as a group. They were not really "remarkable" men - not by this world's standards, anyway. But Jesus called them to Himself; and because He did, they went on to change the world!

* * * * * * * * * *

Notice what they are called 'as'. They were first called as "His twelve disciples" (v. 1). To be a "disciple" is, basically, to be a student of a teacher. There were many "students" under Jesus at this time; but these twelve were the ones that He called to Himself for special service.

And notice what they were called 'to be'. Matthew tells us that "the names of the twelve apostles are these . . ." (v. 2). To be an "apostle" is to be (as the word literally means) a "sent one"; and He was about to send them out to be His representatives, with an authoritative commission to proclaim the kingdom to the Jewish people.

Their role as "disciples" was not unique. We share that with them today. But their call as "apostles" was unique. In Judas' place, Paul was later called to be an apostle; and together, the testimony of these twelve concerning the Lord Jesus formed the "foundation" upon which His church was built (Ephesians 2:20). No one else has shared that unique, "foundational" call since. But the thing to notice is that, before they were "sent", they were first "taught". Before they were "apostles", they were "disciples".

And there's a lesson for us in that. Before our Savior commissions someone to the great work of proclaiming Him, He calls them to first be His student. We cannot effectively be His "sent ones" into this world unless we've first spent some time in 'the school of Christ' - sitting at His feet, as it where, getting to know Him and learning from Him, and being His disciple.

* * * * * * * * * *

And a second thing to notice - and this too is something quite unique to them - is the endowment He gave them for their particular ministry. Matthew tells us that, when He called them, "He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease" (v. 1). Those were the same kinds of things that He had been doing (4:23-24; 8:1-17, 28-34; 9:1-8, 18-35); and in doing them, He was clearly identifying Himself as the promised King. And now, as He sends these twelve out, in advance of Himself, to announce His kingdom to the cities and villages of the Jewish people, He gives them the power to do the things that He did.

How He gave them this power, we're not told. But just think of what an unprecedented thing it was that He did so! Luke tells us that they returned to Him later with joy; saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name" (Luke 10:17). And even after Jesus had ascended to the Father, their authority as His apostles continued to be authenticated by such things (Acts 5:15-16; 28:8-9; 2 Corinthians 12:12).

But as unique as this endowment of power and authority was, there is yet another lesson for us in it. It's in the Lord's power not only to do these things, but also to give that same power to whomever He wishes for whatever task He calls them to. We cannot claim divine power to ourselves. It is only ours if given to us by Him and for His purpose. But we can be sure that, whatever it may be that He calls us to do in His service, He is able to give us the power and authority to do it.

Without Him, you and I can do "nothing" (John 15:5); but we can do "all things" through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).

* * * * * * * * * *

A second thing to notice is . . .

2. WHERE THEY WENT (vv. 5-6).

After He called them to be His apostles, and endowed them with power and authority, He didn't command them to go out into the world in general. Rather, He sent them to a very specific field of service. Matthew tells us;

These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying, "Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (vv. 5-6).

Jesus called them "lost sheep". When I read that, I can't help thinking of what Jesus had just said at the end of chapter 9. There, we read,

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest" (Matthew 9:35-38).

It can't be mere coincidence that, just after having expressed great pity on the multitudes who were "weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd", that we're told He then sends out His twelve to minister strictly to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel". The people of Israel may not have viewed themselves that way; but He - their Shepherd and King - did!

* * * * * * * * * *

And it's very important to notice that it was to the Jewish people that the kingdom was to be announced first. He was their promised King; and it was their promised kingdom that was at hand.

This, by the way, was always the pattern of the apostle Paul. Whenever he would enter a city in the Gentile world to proclaim the gospel, he would always go first to the local synagogue and proclaim it to his Jewish kinsmen; and it was only after they rejected it that he turned to the Gentiles. The message of Christ that he and Barnabas were proclaiming was being fiercely opposed by the Jewish people in Antioch; and so they grew bold and said,

"It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us: 'I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth" (Acts 13:46-47).

This was always Paul's pattern - to go to the Jews first; and only go to the Gentiles after they rejected the message of their King (see Acts 18:6; 19:9-10; 28:25-28). This was crucial to Paul's understanding of the preaching of the gospel message. He said, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek" (Romans 1:16; see also 2:9-10).

Now, the call is different for us today. The commission that the Lord Jesus has given to us is to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). But I wonder if one of the lessons we need to learn from this is that, in the fulfillment of the Great Commission, we must not forget the Jewish people! They are the Lord's beloved 'chosen' people; and He still loves them and has a plan for them.

Some people mistakenly believe that if we share the gospel with Jewish people, we are somehow doing something 'anti-semitic'. But to believe that would be to very badly misunderstand the real intent of the preaching of the gospel! We must not forget that the gospel we proclaim to the nations was intended for the Jewish people first! It is their King that we worship! We must not neglect to share the Messiah with our Jewish friends, and pray for them to receive Him.

* * * * * * * * * *

A third thing to notice about the commission of the twelve is . . .

3. WHAT THEY DID (vv. 7-8).

Matthew says that Jesus told them to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel;

"And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand'" (v. 7).

This was the same message that John the Baptist preached (Matthew 3:2); and it's the same one that Jesus Himself preached (4:17). And now, they were to preach that message as well. They were to be "going" (as a literal translation would have it); and as they went, they were to preach the offer of the kingdom.

But notice that 'preaching' was not the only thing they were to be doing. He went on to say that, as a part of their ministry, they were to

"Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons" (v. 8a).

They weren't just to walk around with sandwich-boards and megaphones, screaming on the street-corners in isolation from the needs of people. They were to make sure that their proclamation of the kingdom was one that touched lives in a compassionate and personal way. It was to be accompanied by works of ministry. They were to care for people - just as Jesus did.

And notice also that they were to do this with a spirit of generosity and grace - just as Jesus also did. Jesus added this wonderful word of instruction:

"Freely you have received, freely give" (v. 8b).

You can just imagine how, if someone could heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, and cast out demons, they could charge - and would certainly receive - a high price for such miracles. But Jesus taught them not to have that kind of an attitude. They were to remember that they themselves had freely received all that the Lord had given them (and was yet to give them!); and this would be the motivation for freely giving! We too must freely give when we remember that we have freely received.

* * * * * * * * * *

Now again, the command to perform these miracles was something specific to the apostles. They were the ones who were given this divine endowment of power and authority. Only they could have performed such a ministry.

But there is still a lesson in this for us, as we fulfill the commission we have received from our Lord. We need to do as the apostles - the foundational kingdom messengers - did, and make sure that our preaching is not done in words alone. It is also to be done in the context of an active, personal, compassionate ministry of meeting people's needs. As the apostle John said - who, by the way, was among that group of twelve - "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18).

The lost and hurting people of this world will be more inclined to believe the truth of the gospel when its preachers not only proclaim it to them in Jesus name, but actively minister to their needs in Jesus' power.

* * * * * * * * * *

A fourth thing we see about these foundational messengers is . . .


Jesus told them,

"Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs . . ." (vv. 9-10a).

Here, Jesus urges them not to "stock-up" supplies for themselves in their work of proclaiming the kingdom to their kinsman Jews.

This, of course, isn't to say that they were not to provide anything for themselves at all. They obviously would need to bring a tunic; they just weren't to bring two tunics. They would need to wear sandals; they just weren't to bring an extra pair. It was normal for a traveller to carry a walking stick; they just weren't to bring a staff on which to carry burdens. And this may be, in part, to keep His kingdom workers from becoming overburdened with distracting matters. As Paul says, "No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier" (2 Timothy 2:4).

But I suspect that there was another reason. Jesus went on to explain, ". . . for a worker is worthy of his food" (v. 10b). The King that the apostles were proclaiming was the King of the Jews. And the kingdom that the apostles were announcing was their promised kingdom. It was to them that the offer was being made - and all in accordance with the promises of God that were given them in their scriptures. It was a kingdom to the Jewish people and for the Jewish people; and it was being proclaimed to the Jewish people by their Jewish brethren at the command of the Jewish Messiah. And so, since it was - as we might say - an "in house" operation, the Lord ordered that the apostles had a right to expect to be supported in their mission by the Jewish people themselves.

It might even be that the receptivity of the Jewish people to the proclamation of the kingdom would be exhibited by their willingness to provide for the needs of those who had been commissioned to proclaim it. They were the workers of the kingdom; and those who were the subjects of the kingdom should be expected to support its workers.

* * * * * * * * * *

Now again, our situation needs to be understood a little bit differently than theirs. Obviously, when it comes to those who serve in the church, the church has a duty to support them materially. Paul once wrote to the Corinthian believers and said,

Do you not know that those who minister in the holy things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:13-14).

But clearly, when it is to the benefit of the spread of the gospel, there are also times when we are called upon to minister at our own expense. Paul, for example, had a right to expect to be provided for in the work of his ministry; but he did not use this right when it would help spread the gospel. He went on to tell the Corinthians,

But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me; for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void. For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship. What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel (vv. 15-18).

May I suggest to you that a good way of determining who is a false prophet and who is a true one is by this question of material support? A teacher of the truth of the gospel is under compulsion. He MUST preach! He will preach whether he is financially supported or not. But a false teacher will disappear as soon as there's no longer any money to be made from his falsehood! Take the money away, and the false teacher will disappear. But a true servant of the gospel - once identified as such - should expect to be supported by those to whom he ministers.

But there's a general principle that we should take from these words of our Lord. As Paul says in Galatians 6:6, "Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches."

* * * * * * * * * *

Another thing we see concerning these foundational messengers of the kingdom is . . .

5. WITH WHOM THEY STAYED (vv. 11-13).

Now this point is somewhat related to the previous one. Jesus told His apostles,

"Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out" (v. 11).

Travel in those days was dangerous business. And very often, the inns that a traveller might stay at were not places that it would be good for a man or woman of God to be. It would be appropriate for the kingdom preachers to expect to be given lodging during their mission in the home of those who would welcome their message.

They weren't to just enter town and go to the first home that offered them hospitality, though. Jesus told them to make inquiry as to which household was "worthy". "Unworthiness" is exhibited elsewhere in the Bible by such things as blaspheming and openly opposing the apostolic preaching of the gospel, rejecting God's word, and refusing the offer of eternal life (Acts 13:45-46). Therefore, I believe we should understand "worthiness" to be determined by a genuine receptivity to the message the apostles proclaimed, and a genuine faith in the King they announced.

The apostles weren't to find the nicest house, or the wealthiest family. They were simply to find those who were "worthy". A poor and humble family might prove more "worthy" than a wealthy one. And once they found that worthy household, they were to stay with them the whole time they were in town. They weren't to go bouncing around from house to house - "trading-up", as it were.

There is, of course, a principle suggested for us in this; and that is that we be should be ready to practice good Christian hospitality, as lovers of the Savior's cause, toward those who are serving His cause faithfully. We become a crucial part of the work when we do so. John once praised his friend Gaius by saying,

Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well, because they went forth for His name's sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth (3 John 5-8).

* * * * * * * * * *

Apparently though, Jesus let His apostles know that not everyone who seems "worthy" at first will actually prove to be worthy in the end. He went on to tell them,

"If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you" (v. 13).

Their blessing of peace was very important; because it truly was "peace" they were proclaiming. Jesus Himself is the Prince of peace! But if the household proved, in the end, to be unreceptive toward the Savior the apostles proclaimed - if in the end, they proved to hypocritically view the presence of the workers of the kingdom to be some kind of "good-luck charm"; but practiced no genuine faith and repentance - then the apostles were to view the blessing of peace as returning to them.

This may be something similar to the strong words Jesus spoke in Matthew 7:6; "Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces."

* * * * * * * * * *

Those sobering words lead us to one final thing we notice about these apostolic messengers . . .


As we know - not only from reading the Scriptures, but also from hard experience - many people are very hostile to the message of Jesus Christ. And so, Jesus goes on to tell His apostles,

"And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet" (v. 14).

Now, I've seen this done. (I have to tell you the truth - it has even been done to me!) But I don't believe that it was meant by our Savior in the spirit that I've seen it done. I don't believe that Jesus meant it to be an angry, insulting expression of malice. Rather, I believe that Jesus meant it to be a way of the apostles saying to their fellow Jews who rejected the message of the kingdom, "We have come to you in obedience to the King, and have offered you the invitation to welcome His kingdom. But you have refused His offer. You have rejected Him, and have clearly expressed that you do not accept His offer. Then according to your wish, we will go. We will take nothing; but we will even leave your dust from off our feet."

It is, in a sense, a way of giving the kingdom-rejecter what he wants - that is, your complete departure from him. But that departure is, itself, a form of judgment. In Luke 10:11, we're told that Jesus tells them to say, "The very dust of your city which clings to us, we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you."

Paul the apostle once did a similar thing to the Jewish people of Corinth. When they opposed his preaching of the gospel in the synagogue and blasphemed against the Savior, he shook his garments and said, "Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles" (Acts 18:6). It was a way of giving them what they wanted - which, itself, was a severe judgment from God.

* * * * * * * * * *

Concerning those who so rejected the offer of the kingdom, Jesus added these very hard words:

"Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!" (v. 15).

Sodom and Gomorrah, of course, are ancient cities that were legendary for their sin - as every Jewish person would readily agree. And yet, when the kingdom is offered to one of the Jewish people's own cities, and they coldly reject it - forcing the proclaimers of that message to dust their feet off and move on - then God will judge that city more severely than He will judge Sodom and Gomorrah! Sodom and Gomorrah didn't hear the message of eternal life; but these other cities did, and rejected it.

* * * * * * * * * *

The apostles clearly proclaimed the message that the King had indeed come, and that His kingdom was then being offered to the Jewish people. The final outcome wasn't up to those who faithfully proclaimed the kingdom. The people could either accept it or reject it; and the apostles left it to God to deal with the choice the people made.

And again, I suggest there's a lesson in this for us. We are to proclaim our Savior to the world around us - especially during the season in which His birth into this world is celebrated. And yet, we will often find that the message we proclaim is fought against and fiercely opposed. In spite of that opposition, we are to faithfully proclaim the truth about Jesus Christ at every opportunity the Lord sets before us. We're must not try, however, to force people to accept it. They can either accept it or reject it. It is their choice. And if they reject it, then we're to leave them to their decision and let God deal with them.

Let's make sure that, when we share the message of Christ, we ourselves are not offensive in the way we do so. But let's also make very sure that we so clearly and lovingly give the message of the gospel that, if they reject anything, they are rejecting the clear offer of the gospel. Let's make sure we never accommodate the message or change it in order to avoid offending the people who need to hear it - and, perhaps, even need to be offended by it. Let's make sure we faithfully and truthfully proclaim the Savior.

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