8 “Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘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.’”
When Jesus sent his disciples out here in Luke 10, he gave them an interesting mission. They were to go to new towns and find a place to stay. They were to stay in those homes contentedly, not bouncing from place to place to find more comfortable accoutrements. They were to supernaturally heal the sick, a clear sign of their being empowered by God. And they were to tell the people that God’s kingdom was near. And, if the people did not respond in faith, they were to leave the town reminding the people that God’s Kingdom was still on its way.
Does this look like a modern mission trip or church evangelism plan? On the one hand, healing, doing acts of kindness, sounds like what we often see. But really, this may have as much to do with validating the authority of the disciples to deliver the message as it does to do with persuasive acts of kindness. There is nothing in what Jesus says that would make us say that the healing was an attempt to soften people up for the sale.
But when you look at the message, this is where this passage does not look like the message we often preach. Often on mission, and in personal evangelism at home, we will shape the message around an attempt to persuade a lost person of God’s love and of their need for Jesus. That may be included in Jesus instructions to his disciples that are not mentioned here. Or it may be that this was not the heart of the gospel message that Jesus told the people to deliver. Could it be that the message of the disciples, “The kingdom of God has come near to you,” is simply what it sounds like? God’s kingdom has come. You are invited to become a part of it. Make ready. Come humbly.
I’m not, of course, belittling God’s love. Nor am I trying to argue against modern missions or evangelism. I’m actually a big fan of missions and evangelism. Neither am I trying to suggest that we be unloving in evangelism. All I’m wondering is, from the context of this passage, is the message simpler and more direct than we sometimes make it? God’s kingdom is coming. You need to be in it. You can be in it. Come to God’s Kingdom through Jesus. He will welcome you if you are willing to get under his kingship. If you will not get under his kingship, he will judge you. Either way, the Kingdom is still coming.
So, what’s the difference? This message is not sappy. It is not filled with emotional appeal. It is simple and direct. It is a call of command from the King of kings. It is still loving, but not in a “Jesus is just begging you to give him a try” sort of way. It’s not harsh, to be sure, but it is pointed. There is one way to God. God invites you to come to him and be part of his Kingdom. Will you come?
If it is true that the message that the disciples presented is as clear and straight-forward as it seems, how might this impact our modern evangelism? What would it look like for us to be so simple, so non-sappy, so boldly direct? What would it sound like to make a simple declaration of the gospel? This does not mean a lack of passion or concern on our part, nor does it mean a lack of communication of the deep and amazing love of Jesus that he proved with his death on the cross; but it surely might mean a lack of complication in the message. How would this change our presentation? Should it change our presentation this way?