Jesus was in Judea, the southern region of the nation of Israel, with His disciples. The Feast of Tabernacles had past, but after all that Jesus said and did during the Feast, the opposition against Him had greatly intensified. The powerful religious men in Jerusalem seethed with hatred against Him. In fact, the different factions of religious leaders who had been fighting each other for years were beginning to join forces to bring down the radical young preacher from Galilee. He had to be stopped. They wanted Him dead.
There were many others in Israel who believed in Jesus with sincere hearts. Many others continued to wonder. These men who hated Jesus were the men who knew the Law of Moses. They were experts in the Word of God! Surely if their rules seemed harsh and they were distant from the common people, it showed just how displeased and distant God was, too! Many in Israel lived under a cloak of terrible shame, feeling the burning heat of Law hounding them with their every sin.
Others were more cynical. They saw how the religious leaders hoarded great wealth for themselves. They were offended by the animal selling in the Temple and wondered why the leaders were not offended as well. They understood their own sinfulness, but they knew they saw corruption and pride in their leaders as well. They had been oppressed by it for years and years.
The problems that Jesus was boldly pointing out were things many of the people had felt and seen for years. They spoke about them behind closed doors, helpless against the power of those who wanted to keep things exactly as they were.
When Jesus spoke, He made so clear the glorious wonder of God and His noble, clean and perfect ways. He seemed to take all the clutter and confusion that human sin had brought into their nation and slice through it with a bright, clean blade. How beautiful their nation would be if they honored His words. But the leadership certainly wasn’t going let Him have His way. How was it all going to end?
Jesus and His disciples had traversed the countryside of Galilee, visiting its towns and villages, proclaiming the Good News of God’s Kingdom to the people who lived in the North of Israel. Now it was time to begin proclaiming the Gospel in the South. This time, He chose seventy men to travel in pairs. They would go around the villages and towns, preparing the people for a visit from Jesus. He was their true King, proclaiming the Kingdom of God to His holy nation.
While some in Galilee had believed, the righteous response of widespread repentance and turning to the Lord did not happen.
What would happen in Judea? Would they believe the Good News and honor their King with their devoted longing to honor His words? Would they repent?
These were Jesus’ instructions to His messengers:
“‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field. Go! I am sending you out as lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
“‘When you enter a house first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages.’”
“‘Do not move around from house to house. When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.’”
“‘Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were preformed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment day than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths.’”
“‘He who listens to you listens to Me; he who rejects you rejects Me; but he who rejects me rejects Him who sent Me.’”
Wow. Jesus had just told the crowd at the Temple that He was the light of the world, and that all who believed in Him would have His light. Now these men were to carry the light of the Messiah.
There was an urgency to the spread of this message. There was a great amount of work to do, covering the whole region of Judea with the message of the Gospel. There were few workers to do it, but everyone who honored their message by taking them into their homes would receive a blessing of peace from God the Father.
Not everyone would be so kind. Jesus warned that though they went as obedient sheep of the Most High God, there were terrible wolves among the people who would want to tear His servants apart.
I wonder if His messengers nodded their heads when He said this. They were all too aware of the hatred and venom of the religious leadership against Jesus. They also knew that by proclaiming His message to the villages and towns around Jerusalem, they were claiming their allegiance to Jesus against the most powerful men in their land. It was a very, very brave thing to do, and the people would have known it. The townsfolk of Judea would understand full well that these men were putting their lives at stake with their message, and that taking them into their homes would mark them, too.
The clash between the power of the Messiah and the powers of sinful men was intensifying, and each family, each person, was going to have to make a choice. But rather than cower in fear or apologize for their message, the disciples were to declare boldly the Kingdom that Christ proclaimed.
Those who rejected one of God’s messengers was rejecting God Himself, and many would miss their chance. In Jewish culture, if someone wiped their feet off against another person, it was a very serious act. It was a symbol that they were now outside of God’s household. They were no longer in the family of God. Christ was empowering His disciples to make that declaration to all who rejected the message of the Gospel.