Sculptures of sexual symbols splattered the landscape. Erotica was brazenly displayed as part of home decor. Orgies were common and homosexuality was a lifestyle. Sounds like a pornographic novel but sexual sculptures, erotic decor and orgies were common in the Roman empire that held Jesus’s people captive.
Yet I’ve been struck by how not one of Jesus’s messages were directed at this sexually saturated kingdom that makes America’s promiscuous culture look tame. Not once did He preach against the orgies. Not once did He start a campaign against the erotic art that was common in Rome.
His messages of redemption, a new kingdom and restoration were for the people who His father had a covenant with. How did Jesus and 12 men leave an X-Rated empire in the dust? I believe this scripture says it all:
“As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[a] drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” (Matthew 10:7-8)
Let’s break this scripture down to see the keys to overcoming an empire:
- The kingdom of heaven has come near. The disciples and their followers believed the kingdom of heaven was near. I believe that the martyrs – the children, men and women who wore torn by lions, crucified, stabbed and tortured for their faith had found the reality of the kingdom of heaven breaking in now. The kingdom of heaven or God’s government, God’s empire was more real to them then the Roman soldiers that patrolled their villages.
- Heal the sick. When you heal your enemy, you’re more likely to convert them then trying to convince them that their orgies are an offense to God.
- Raise the dead. Who can argue with raising the dead? Even the most cold-hearted, selfish person who has no interest in God may be intrigued after seeing someone they love raised from the dead by a Christian.
- Cleanse those who have leprosy. They were commissioned by Jesus to go to the untouchables, the outcasts, the diseased ones of Israel who had no hope. Their command was to cleanse, not reject, not cast out, not mistreat, but to bring freedom from a death sentence that left them out of temple life.
- Drive out demons. Don’t negotiate with them. Don’t accommodate them. Don’t analyze them. Drive them out.
This the Gospel in action that left an Empire extinct. Jesus and his followers were captive to one cause – the cause of the Father to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons. The Father broke into the filthy sludge of an X-rated empire and change was on the scene.
Change came when men, women and children followed Jesus lead and laid their lives down for each other. Change came when they lived like the kingdom of heaven was near. Change came inside and showed outside hundreds of years later when the Roman empire fell.
I’ve always been struck by the fact that Jesus and His followers didn’t mount a political campaign to clean up Rome. Instead, they called for those who had already had a covenant with God to clean up inside. The people of covenant had become sick and demonized with leprosy.
Today’s church is sick, demonized with the leprosy of worldliness, sin and selfishness. Until we act like the kingdom of heaven is near and obey the command Jesus gave His disciples – heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and drive out demons – we will be powerless in the face of a greater power. We don’t need another political campaign, another gimmick or fad. We need to do the works of the one who sent us.