These words come near the end of Jesus' instructions to the seventy as they prepared to leave for the journey. Jesus knew that it was exciting to be a sent-one, but not every experience would be easy. Not every town would receive them, He told the sent ones. They were not responsible for results, but for obedience to share the gospel. If they were not received, they were to shake the dust off their feet and move on.
Jesus, Himself, had encountered similar difficulty. He had harsh words for Capernaum, where His ministry was centered. Peter, Andrew, and Philip were all from Capernaum and Jesus and the disciples were frequently in and out of the small town. Jesus performed numerous miracles there. Sight was restored to the blind, hearing was restored to the deaf. The paralytic was healed, demons were cast out, and withered bodies were made whole.
The people of Capernaum not only heard the words of Jesus but also saw signs and wonders. They had a choice. They could embrace the teachings of Jesus or cling to the old ways, relying on sacrifice rather than relationship. Although Jesus offered freedom and hope, most chose the old ways and rejected Jesus.
Some of the towns, like Capernaum, where Jesus had spent the most time would gain little from His presence. God had blessed them extravagantly with His presence and honored them with the works He did in their presence. Rejecting Jesus was an option, but it came with a severe price. In the judgment, Capernaum would be "brought down to Hades."
Every decision comes with consequences. Sometimes those consequences are good, but some are not. The decision to reject Jesus would have far reaching consequences for Capernaum that extended to the day of judgment. What we often forget is that every single one of our decisions has consequences, too. Every decision to obey, or not, is more than checking yes or no on a form. It has weight and significance. Embracing the truth of Jesus matters. Obedience matters.
As we begin our day, may we take advantage of every opportunity to serve Christ in obedience, embracing the freedom only Christ can give.