As kids, we dreaded the naughty list. No one wants to wake up on Christmas morning with a lump of coal in their stocking. I remember hearing my parents — and everyone else’s — say things like, “If you don’t clean up your act, you’ll end up on Santa’s naughty list” or “Keep that up and you know where your name will be”. I’ll admit, it wasn’t the most properly-motivated style of discipline, but a lot of times, it worked. We would do anything we could to be considered “nice” on December 25th.
Bethsaida and Chorazin? Not so much. Capernaum? Definitely not.
In today’s reading, Jesus sends out and welcomes back seventy-two of His choice servants. They went to do His work, and they returned with a report. While gone, they were given divine power to heal and cast out demons. Clearly, based on verses 17-24, the Lord blessed and they were highly successful. Three towns, though, were like what Jesus described in verses 10-12:
But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘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.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. (Luke 10:10-12, ESV)
Jesus, upon hearing their report, was not the slightest bit thrilled. They were on the naughty list, and there was no longer an opportunity to reconcile. When Jesus pronounced those “woes”, it was a done deal.
When we were in Israel (2010 & 2012), we were able to pass by these towns. While the rest of Israel has been rebuilding and on the rise, guess what? They are still in ruins. We’re not sure exactly when these cities fell. We know that they were once booming areas, both in commerce and politics. But sometime after Jesus condemned them, they were never since rebuilt. In fact, we found out that a number of different business people and hotel chains tried to get things started in Capernaum. Some ran out of money, some gave up. I guess Jesus gets the last word!
Here are a few thoughts for application today:
1) You are sent. Just as Jesus sent out the seventy-two, all of us who are in Christ are given mission and ministry by Him. That’s a part of the 2 Corinthians 5:17 new life. We embrace Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8 while living 1 Peter 4:8-11.
2) Don’t let what you do for God go to your head. The most important thing is that your name is written in Heaven (Luke 10:20). Nothing you do can trump the truth that you are in the family of God.
3) There is an urgency to the Gospel. The condemned-by-Jesus towns would tell you, if they could, that now is the time to believe in Jesus. Now is the time to tell others about the hope and life offered in Him. You may not get a second chance… and once you get a “woe”, there’s no return from God’s eternal naughty list.
By: Todd Thomas — College & Worship Pastor