The Kingdom of God is near! Are you picturing the guy standing on a street corner, yelling at people? Sadly, the “Kingdom of God is near” message is often wrapped up in the language of condemnation and wrath. And to be clear, it includes judgment. But that is not the heart of the message. Judgment is what happens when you reject the message; when you say something like, “What a load of garbage!” The heart of the message of the kingdom is healing; restoration. It is a therapy session. And here is the thing, healing cannot take place if you want nothing to do with the therapist – the healer. If you refuse to sit on the couch, rejecting the very concept of the couch, then don’t complain when you cannot receive the benefits offered on the couch. The therapy session has begun. The only question is whether or not you will join in.
Luke 10:8-16 is the second half of the message Jesus gave to the seventy who were being sent out. It is a message about reception and rejection. If they are received by the citizens of the city, they are to eat what is set before them. This is deeper than food. It is an appreciation of reception. Don’t spurn the gift. I watched a group of college age kids giving away the dinner that had been provided for them in Honduras. To their credit, they didn’t just throw it away. They gave it to some children. But think of the people who graciously prepared that meal for them. Eat what is set before you. Appreciate the effort of welcoming you. And if they are welcomed in the city, they are to heal the sick. The word “heal” is the word from which we get the English word “therapy.” Put on a therapy clinic. And then proclaim, “the kingdom of God has come near upon you.” It is possible to translate that the kingdom has arrived. This may be more than a preparing the way. This may just be a statement about the arrival of the kingdom. Healing is a sign that the kingdom has come to their town. The therapy session can happen because the kingdom is breaking into their reality.
And if the messengers and their message is rejected by the citizens, they are to get themselves into the main streets of the city and very publicly denounce that city. The clinging dust of the city will be wiped off. This was a well-known statement: I want nothing to do with you or your dust. As earlier (9:5), this is probably a prophetic symbol: just as I shake off the dust of your city, you will be shaken out of the kingdom. The kingdom of God has still arrived. The difference is that the city will receive none of the benefits. They will know nothing of therapy – of healing. It seems significant that the message to the cities who reject the message is still that the kingdom of God has arrived, but it has not arrived upon them. The kingdom comes whether you accept it or not. The coming of the kingdom of God is not dependent upon your approval. Now, whether you enjoy healing or not, well, that does depend upon your approval.
Then Jesus emphasizes the point by saying that it will be more tolerable in the day of judgment for Sodom than it will be for the city of rejection. What? Sodom had become a symbol of God’s judgment; a symbol of the worst of cities and therefore worthy of destruction. How will it be more bearable for them? The punishment will be the same – eternal separation from the kingdom. The difference? Knowledge. So, Jesus pronounces a good ol’ fashioned woe upon some current Jewish towns who were witnesses to the power of the kingdom; of the therapy session of Jesus. If the notoriously pagan cities of Tyre and Sidon had been blessed to be witnesses they would have repented. So, there they are, outside of the kingdom. Tyre and Sidon can at least say, “But we didn’t see the Kingdom of God walking our streets.” Woe to you Chorazin (we really don’t know where this was), woe to you Bethsaida! You saw the power of healing; the sign of the kingdom; and you rejected. And Capernaum, just because you were a base of operations for the kingdom, that doesn’t mean you can reject the message and be okay. You will, instead, be like the king of Babylon, thinking you can exalt yourself to the heavens only to discover you have been plummeted to Sheol. It is all about welcoming the kingdom and its therapeutic impact.
The kingdom of God has arrived and Jesus is still operating a therapy clinic. But therapy is sometimes unpleasant; not what we expected or want. The Bible sometimes refers to this as being pruned. Ouch! You and I are messengers of the kingdom. We are inviting people to join in and get themselves therapied. If they listen to us, they are actually listening to the one who sent us – the Great Physician. If they reject us, they are really rejecting Jesus and God. Welcome the kingdom and be healed. Grace.