Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 10:15 “Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of
Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.”
To confirm shaking dust off our feet, the ritual of ultimate urgency, is not an idle threat, Jesus added a dynamite salvo. God tolerates anything better than rejection of His free grace abundantly bestowed through His Son’s shed blood. To corroborate the gravity of this, Jesus revealed what He was seeing, a future shocker.
Looking down the corridor of time yet to be, Jesus saw that Sodom and Gomorrha, cities God destroyed by fire and brimstone for their awful wickedness, would endure less punishment on Judgment Day than any who reject Jesus’ words.
Sodom and Gomorrha, proverbial examples of debauchery, were guilty of homosexual perversion (GN 19:5), thus our term sodomy. They broke common rules of hospitality (GN 19:9), and were also guilty of pride and haughtiness, of luxuriant wealth and laziness, and of total disregard for the poor (EZK 16:48-49).
Based on our manmade criteria for judging behavior, we would deem almost everyone upright and moral compared to these two cities notorious for wickedness, but God measures differently. Our startling text teaches us four vital lessons.
First, rejecting Jesus is the only sin awful enough to separate a person from God forever. Unbelievers who reject the offer of salvation solely through Jesus rarely deem their choice a heinous sin. What they consider a minor matter is really the worst wickedness. The most serious crime against Heaven, the evil most offensive to God, is contempt for His Gospel. It is the condemning sin. What ruins people forever is not huge public sins, but simply to go on hearing without receiving, “listening without repenting, going to church without going to Christ” (Ryle).
People do not go to Heaven because they are good. They do not go to Hell because they are bad. At Calvary Jesus paid the sin debt for all humanity. Eternity hinges on whether or not an individual appropriates the salvation Christ provided for us. If we receive Jesus, we go to Heaven; if we reject Jesus, we go to Hell.
Second, our text reminds us every human being will live forever. These words of Jesus destroy any and all annihilation theories. Many believe people are like the animals, that when we die, we return to dust and have no afterlife. This is not true. Because its source is God’s very life, human life is infinitely valuable and infinitely enduring. Each human life will never cease to be. Even the wicked dead, including those of Sodom and Gomorrha, still live, awaiting final judgment.
Third, privilege entails responsibility. The higher the spiritual offer rejected, the greater the sin. “The measure of light is the measure of criminality, and hence the measure of punishment” (Maclaren). Sodom and Gomorrha had less light than any who hear the story of Jesus. The two doomed cities could at least plead some measure of ignorance, having heard only the testimony of weak Lot. To reject the witness of Jesus, the Twelve, and the Bible is far more serious.
Few prechristians ever stood in greater danger than those of the USA. Here opportunities abound to hear and respond to the Gospel. This is good news now, but will deteriorate into bad news if it does not result in conversion. Abraham said to the rich man in torment, “Son, remember” (LK 16:25). These have to be two of Hell’s most painful words. Many USA citizens will say there, “I wish I’d lived in Sodom. I wish I’d never heard a sermon. I wish I could hear one more sermon.”
Fourth, our text reminds us, in the judgment of the wicked, there will be different degrees of punishment. The level of suffering will not be the same for all. Do those who never hear the Gospel go to Hell when they die? Yes, but God always does right. On Judgment Day, when all facts are made known, and everyone will have all the pertinent information at their disposal, we will each have to admit that every decision God ever made regarding rewards and punishments was just. For all eternity, no one will ever be able to accuse God of ever having been unfair.
Matt. 10:16a “Behold, I send you forth. . .”
“Behold” is a word combining importance and surprise. Both applied here. The Twelve didn’t know it yet, but this proclamation would soon become a manifesto governing the remainder of their lives. They had jobs, interests, and hobbies, but henceforth every other concern had to fall subservient to, “I send you forth.”
These four words serve as the marching orders for all believers, the defining edict of our lives. We are not afforded the luxury of influencing only those people who happen to come our way. Sadly, too many believers don’t even do this much.
We sometimes have contact with people every day that we never tell about Jesus, or never invite to church. Some under our own roofs are often neglected.
Our calling begins at home, at work, at school, at play, in our ordinary traffic patterns of life. The Acts 1:8 directive starts with “Jerusalem,” with where we happen to be at any given moment. We begin where we are, but do not end there.
At some point we have to quit sitting, hearing, and only moving in our daily routines. “I send you forth” means we must leave our ruts to go find lost sheep.
Believers have no right to sit idly by with arms folded in indifference to the world’s woes. Don Hammer, former professor at Midwestern Baptist Seminary, on a mission trip to a war-torn Asian country where Christians face the danger of persecution, called home, saying, “It’s a 911 world out here and no one is answering the phone!” Jesus’ directive, “I send you forth,” is His way of saying we need to be answering the phone. Christ-followers are supposed to be front-line emergency response units for humanity’s hurts and lostness. Next week, at our annual Global Impact Celebration, we’ll all be asked to commit to pray, to give, to go. As Bible believers, is there any possible way we can objectively and honestly read the Scriptures and make any decision other than to gladly commit to do all three?
Our building is not a dormitory for sleep, nor primarily a school for learning or a hospital for the sick. Above all else, it is a barracks for training. We are welded together not as a block of ice to sit still, but as units of an army to go forth.
In “I send you forth” I am living the adventure of a lifetime. For me it has become the heroic crusade, a noble, epic saga. I’m grateful God gave me a cause worth giving my life for, and that He let me live on earth long enough to find it.
At a superficial level, people think they want ease and comfort. Much discontent in our lives is due to this shallow way of considering life. From our deepest, innermost essence a more meaningful voice cries out to be heard. Ultimately, only a summons to heroism in ministry and mission can satisfy a Christian’s heart.
Shackleton, in trying to reach the South Pole, asked for volunteers to join him on a trip marked by polar ice, freezing blizzards, and deathly danger. He expected few responses, but was inundated. Many wanted in on his great adventure.
The same valiant desire to accomplish the heroic resides somewhere inside every believer, especially when it comes to Christ’s worldwide missions enterprise. God the Holy Spirit lives in each believer, ever calling us to undertake the gallant challenge of going forth. He may be forced to appeal from a depth of being where we have buried Him too deep to be heard, but He is calling nonetheless.
Many believers live at the shallow level of existence. They wonder why life is boring or meaningless, yet all the while give themselves to superficial pursuits.
Believers, heed the Holy Spirit in our own breast, hear the heroic call, “I send you forth,” four words that can lift us out of a humdrum, mediocre existence.
Francis Xavier (1506-1552), one of Christianity’s most successful missionaries ever, was the Apostle to the Far East, including India, Malaysia, and Japan. He intended to launch an effort to take China for Christ, but died on the border. Though his mission tenure lasted barely twelve years, and he died at the young age of forty-six, he is one of only a handful of men whose converts numbered in the hundreds of thousands. At age thirty-four, when he first decided to carry the banner of Jesus to the Far East, friends tried to deter him from going. He told them merchants at huge expense and great peril risked sailing to India for earthly merchandise. Then he asked, “Shall I not go there for the sake of God and souls?”
Francis got it. By listening to God’s heroic call rising from deep within, he learned what it means to really live. Life unfolds many paradoxes, one being, the life you’ve always dreamed of lies hidden in the mission you’ve always dreaded.