What Makes Jesus Want to Vomit?
To the southeast of the ancient city of Laodicea, the mountainous region of Hierapolis contained hot mineral springs that were believed to have healing qualities. To the northwest of Laodicea were the mountains of Colossae, out of which flowed streams of ice cold water that came from melting snow.
Streams from both of these regions flowed down into pools outside of Laodicea, where they combined to form stagnant ponds of tepid water—neither hot (and good for bathing) nor cold (and good for drinking).
Either hot or cold is good but lukewarm is no good for anybody.
Just consider coffee. Is there anything better than a piping-hot triple-shot Americano in the morning? Nope.
Unless it’s an ice-cold salted caramel cold foam cold brew in the afternoon.
I love hot coffee, and I love cold coffee. But if I find a cup of coffee that is room temperature because it’s been sitting out on the counter all day, then the thought of drinking it makes me want to vomit.
To my knowledge, Jesus wasn’t a coffee drinker. But Jesus uses this very image to describe the believers in Laodicea:
“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth.”
(Revelation 3:15–16 CSB)
You are lukewarm, he says, characterized by neither the warm passion that fuels sacrifice nor the awakening refreshment of a cold shower. There is nothing distinctive about you. You feel just like the environment around you. You claim to flow from me, but you feel and look more like your environment than me.
Next, he explains why they are lukewarm: “For you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing’” (Revelation 3:17).
Just how rich were the Laodiceans?
In A.D. 61, there was an earthquake in the valley that would have measured 8+ on the Richter scale. Every city in the region was destroyed, and Roman federal funds were granted to each one so they could rebuild. But the Laodiceans wouldn’t take it, saying, “We don’t need your money. We can handle this ourselves.”
(In the history of government, I have to imagine this was the only time federal aid was simply turned down.)
The Laodiceans were so proud and self-sufficient that they turned down free money, and that sense of self-sufficiency pervaded the church. They weren’t people who cried out desperately for God because they thought they had it all under control.
They needed a different kind of wealth.
Isaiah 55:1–2 says,
“Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the water; and you without silver, come, buy, and eat! … Why do you spend silver on what is not food, and your wages on what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and you will enjoy the choicest of foods.”
There is a food that satisfies, garments that cover, treasures that give security—but you can’t gain it through money. You have to receive it by faith and surrender.
We tend to think of Revelation 3:20 in the context of salvation: “Behold! I stand at the door and knock.” But what is Jesus doing standing and saying this on the outside of the Laodicean church? The Laodiceans have become so self-sufficient, so complacent, and so satisfied with their riches, that they don’t even realize Jesus is not inside anymore.
And here’s why that should bother you: We are Laodicea.
Can you think of a better picture of believers in the American church? When Christians in poorer parts of the world come to the U.S. and visit our churches, they’re appalled by our lukewarm-ness—by how little we pray, how little we give, how much we spend on ourselves, and what we think we can’t live without. They are appalled at how afraid we are to identify ourselves as Christians in public when some of them are being persecuted for their faith.
They are appalled at how much we look like Laodicea.
To the Laodiceans—to us—Jesus doesn’t say he’s angry or disappointed. He says, “You make me want to vomit.”
I have to think Jesus has such a visceral and personal reaction because this kind of apathy tells the world such a pernicious lie about him.
The single biggest cause of atheism is people who claim to know God but are not distinct in any way from the world. They might have grown up in Christian homes and in church, but they were around people whose passions were not boiling hot for Jesus, nor was their behavior and their morals like an awakening cup of cold water in the face. Those Christians were the temperature of everyone around them.
This should be a sobering thought for every believer. If our passion for Jesus is pathetic, that means we’re telling the world that there really isn’t much to be excited about with Jesus. Our lukewarm temperature tells the world that yes, in fact, it is completely appropriate to be bored with Jesus.
We’re telling our hell-bound friends and family that heaven isn’t all that great anyway.
The good news is, even if our affections have grown cold, Jesus still stands and knocks. He will not let us remain in the lukewarm middle.
The good news is, even if our affections have grown cold, Jesus still stands at the door and knocks. He will not let us remain in the lukewarm middle. So open your heart to him again today. Ask him to transform your life into one of wholehearted devotion to him, so that every detail of your life—your morals, your giving, the way you spend your time—will scream, “He is worthy!”