Jesus sent his evangelists out empty-handed so that they would learn to trust the promise of his provision. But there was also another reason: Their poverty would force people to make a decision.
Either people would welcome the evangelists into their homes, or they would leave them out in the cold. But either way, they had to make a spiritual choice.
Peace or Peril
Understand what was at stake when these evangelists preached the gospel, and indeed, what is at stake whenever anyone preaches the gospel.
The 72 were royal messengers. Their message was the King’s message, and therefore the way people responded would indicate what kind of relationship they wanted to have with the King.
There would be peace for those who welcomed the kingdom but peril for those who rejected it. Jesus made this clear at the end of his instructions (Luke 10:16).
The 72 evangelists may not have seemed very impressive. All they had was the gospel. Yet that gospel came from the King himself, offering the true way of salvation in Christ.
These messengers were there in the name of the King. Therefore, the way people responded to them would determine their eternal destiny.
Some people would respond in faith and others would not, Jesus said to his messengers (Luke 10:5–6). What Jesus calls a “son of peace” is someone who welcomes the gospel message.
In Luke 10:8, he describes such people as “receiving” his messengers. They welcome both the good news of God’s kingdom and the people who preach it; it is virtually the same.
People who gave the gospel this kind of welcome would enjoy the blessing of God’s peace. The evangelist would say, “Peace be to this house!” and the members of the household would have God’s peace. These were not idle words; they were a benediction from God.
But they did not work like magic, as if the words themselves had the power to bring peace. Like any other gift from God, these words had to be received by faith to convey any real blessing. Anyone who believed the gospel message had peace with God through Jesus Christ — a peace that would last forever.
The same thing still happens today whenever people receive good news by faith. Someone comes preaching the gospel message that Jesus was born to bring salvation, that he died on the cross to pay the price for our sin, and that he rose again to give the free gift of eternal life.
That message may not seem very impressive. Nevertheless, anyone who preaches the true gospel is a royal messenger from God, and therefore anyone who receives the message by faith receives God himself.&
The King of all kings is summoning us to salvation, and if we welcome his royal summons by trusting in Jesus Christ, we will have the blessing of his everlasting peace.
People who reject this gospel message do so at their peril. Nowhere did Jesus make this any clearer than in these very instructions. First, he told his evangelists what to do when people rejected them (Luke 10:10–11).
If in a particular town no one showed the evangelists any hospitality, they were to take their message to the streets and give a spiritual object lesson. Shaking the dust off their feet was a sign of rejection and exclusion, even condemnation.
It meant that the people of that community were outside the people of God, that as far as God was concerned, their town was foreign soil.
Rejecting the Message of Jesus Christ
To reject a royal messenger is to reject the royal person of the king who sent the messenger. This is almost always a serious mistake, but never more so than when the King is the Sovereign Lord of the entire universe. Jesus proceeded to pronounce this woe against communities that rejected his messengers:
“I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works 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 bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades” (Luke 10:12–15).
The word “woe” expresses deep regret and sad dismay. Jesus uses it here to show the anguish he felt over his rejection in places where he had once preached the gospel: Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, which was his home-away-from-home.
These were towns in Galilee where Jesus performed mighty miracles. The people of those communities had every opportunity to trust him for their salvation. They saw Jesus in the flesh; they witnessed his divine power and heard his words of salvation.
Nevertheless, they remained unrepentant; sadly, they did not receive Jesus by faith. As a result, they were in grave peril.
When Jesus spoke of “that day” (Luke 10:12), he was referring to the day of judgment, when God will render his verdict on every person who has ever lived (Obadiah 15; 1 Peter 2:12). Some people will be received into his everlasting peace, but others will be condemned to everlasting destruction.
As it says in Luke 10:15, they will be “brought down to Hades,” which is not merely a place for the dead, but “a place of punishment and condemnation, which was ordained exclusively for the ungodly.”
Here, Jesus makes a sobering and surprising comparison. The day of judgment will be unbearable for any sinner who dies outside of Christ.
Sodom was so infamous for its immorality that God destroyed it by fire (Genesis 19). What city could ever be worse off than Sodom? According to the Bible, the answer is any city that ever heard the gospel but still rejected Jesus.
This is a sober warning for anyone who hears the good news about Jesus Christ but refuses to receive him as Savior and King. God holds us responsible for whatever we know about Jesus Christ: The greater the opportunity, the greater our responsibility.
Whenever the gospel is preached, the kingdom of God is near. To reject the gospel is to reject Jesus; to reject Jesus is to reject his Father’s kingdom in heaven. The more the gospel has been preached, the greater responsibility we bear for rejecting it.
We would hardly expect a bunch of pagans in a place like Sodom to trust in God. But what about people who worship in an evangelical church or read Bible commentaries? What can we expect from them, and more importantly, what does God expect?
Once we have heard that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ, we can never claim ignorance again. We will have to face the eternal consequences of our response to Jesus and his gospel. There will be no excuses.
Why Your Response to Jesus Matters
What is your response to the gospel message? By the logic of what Jesus said about Sodom and Chorazin, the day of judgment will be almost unbearable of all for people who worshipped in Bible-teaching, gospel-preaching churches but never entered the kingdom of God.
If we have heard the royal message of salvation, then we need to respond to Jesus in faith, trusting the gospel of his kingdom. Jesus could hardly make it any more straightforward than he does in this passage.
There are two and only two destinations: Heaven of peace for those who receive him by faith and a hell of peril for those who reject him in unbelief.
Once we have decided for Christ, we need to do whatever we can to get the gospel to others. This means praying for missionaries to labor in the harvest fields of the gospel. It means serving God with practical compassion so that the truth of his Word is confirmed by the deeds of our mercy.
For some, getting the gospel out will mean answering God’s call to go somewhere far away and preach the gospel. For others, it will mean living for Christ close to home and supporting the global work of the gospel through prayer and giving.
But there is something desperately urgent for everyone to do. People are dying and going to heaven or hell every day. Jesus calls every Christian to go and make disciples faithfully preaching His finished and sufficient work for the salvation of sinners.
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Dave Jenkins is the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, and the Host of the Equipping You in Grace Podcast and Warriors of Grace Podcast. He received his MAR and M.Div. through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow him on Twitter at @davejjenkins, find him on Facebook at Dave Jenkins SOG, Instagram, read more of his writing at Servants of Grace, or sign to receive his newsletter. When Dave isn’t busy with ministry, he loves spending time with his wife, Sarah, reading the latest from Christian publishers, the Reformers, and the Puritans, playing golf, watching movies, sports, and spending time with his family.