Tacitus tells us that in 60 AD, during the reign of Nero, the city of Laodicea was ‘overturned by an earthquake’. Without any request for help from Rome her citizens went about rebuilding the city, making it even more impressive than it was before. Rome responded by rewarding her with the title of “Free City” and made her the Conventus (capital city) of the province. The Laodiceans were wealthy, had a great taste for the arts and much talent for commerce.
Two thousand Jewish families were transported to this city by Antiochus III (241-187 BC). They grew into a thriving community whose wealth is best illustrated by it’s ability to ship around 9 kg of Gold annually to the temple in Jerusalem.
We believe that it was Epaphras who first took the Gospel to the Synagogues of Laodicea and as a result, planted a thriving Christian community.
There seems not to have been much in the way of persecution or great opposition to the Gospel in the city except for the subtle persecution of wealth and worldly success.
So when Jesus inspires John to address his thoughts in a letter to the angel of their church he condemns them for their lukewarm attitudes.
Their wealth, of which they were proud, had actually made them “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked”. It had given them the delusion of self sufficiency very impressive in the eyes of the Emperor of Rome, but not so in the eyes of the King of the universe.
The small, but reliable river Lycos, upon which the city was built, meandered slowly over the plains and was easily warmed by the sun. The water also had a very high calcium content so it’s likely that a desperate gulp to quench one’s thirst in the midst of summer brought not refreshment, but an instant desire to puke.
Such was the feeling of Jesus when he looked upon the congregations in Laodicea. They suffered from a growing indifference towards the things of God. They may have been honest, respectable, well dressed and maintained a high reputation among the people of their city, but to Jesus they were a sham.
Thankfully their situation was not completely hopeless. As much as they made his stomach wrench, he was not prepared to vomit them out of his mouth just yet. He reminded them that true wealth and sartorial excellence was theirs for the asking; all they had to do was recover their devotion to God.
He was knocking at their door, desiring to enter into their lives and have genuine, intimate fellowship with them if only they would open the door and let him in. To those who overcome their drift towards mediocrity there was the promise of a warm spot next to Jesus on his throne.
How is your devotion to God? Are you hot cold or terribly tepid? Do you feel that you have drifted so far as to be beyond redemption?
Be comforted in the knowledge that his arm is not to short to save you there is nowhere in this universe you can hide. He loves you more than you love yourself and is more passionate about your salvation than you are.
So give up the self sufficiency and lukewarm devotion and invite him back home into your life where he belongs.