Friday, June 02, 2017

go and ...

This is part two of a series talking about Jesus's calls to come and to go and the relationship between them. You can read the first part, "Come and See," here.

Image result for child imitates mom computer
Image from healthland.time.com
We learn things by being around other people, and they learn things by hanging out with us. That's the way it works. The first people we learned things from were members of our family. Children are natural imitators and they mimic the behaviour and attitudes they see in their parents and other influencers present in their lives (for better or for worse). Growing up on a farm, I learned how to care for animals, how to plant and harvest, how to embrace the seasonal nature of life, and how to shovel manure. Like I said, for better or worse. Not all of the ideas we assimilate are helpful, and as responsible adults, we need to honestly evaluate learned behaviour to see if it contributes to a flourishing life, a good life, a life consistent with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Nevertheless, imitation is a very effective teaching tool. Jesus invited his disciples to come and see, to hang out with him and observe what he did and how he interacted with people. They witnessed sermons, healings, conflicts, and impromptu feasts. In other words, they learned what it was like to love the world. In Matthew 9, we find a record of what Jesus's followers saw and heard.

Jesus went through many towns and villages. He taught in their synagogues. He preached the good news of the kingdom of God. He healed every disease and sickness. Whenever crowds came to Him, He had compassion for them because they were so deeply distraught, malaised, and heart-broken. They seemed to Him like lost sheep without a shepherd. Jesus understood what an awesome task was before Him, so He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send more workers into His harvest field.” (Matthew 9:35-38, The Voice).

But let's not stop reading. There is an important development that follows, and we have to ignore the imposed chapter division in order to fully appreciate it.

Jesus called His twelve disciples to Him. He endowed them with the authority to heal sickness and disease and to drive demons out of those who were possessed. These are the names of the twelve apostles: Simon (who is called Peter, which means “the rock”) and his brother Andrew; James, son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew (the tax collector); James, son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot (who would betray Him). (Matthew 10:1-4, The Voice)

Let me spell out the development. Jesus invites people to follow him, to come and see his ministry, mission, and method. Those who take up this call to come and see become his disciples, pupils and learners. After they have followed Jesus around for some time and borne witness to his ministry to the sick, the oppressed, the downtrodden, Jesus gives his disciples the authority to do exactly what he has been doing, to carry on the work of the kingdom of God. After this, the language changes. No longer are they called disciples (learners, pupils) but apostles (sent ones, delegates). Their identity is changed. They remain disciples, for they will never stop being followers of Jesus, but they also become representatives of Jesus, doing what he does and bringing the good news of God's kingdom to the world. Responding to Jesus' call to come and see naturally leads to Jesus's commissioning to go and do, or perhaps a better way of putting it, go and be like Jesus.  

So what does it mean to be like Jesus, to do the work of Jesus? What follows in Matthew 10 is a list of instructions for the twelve apostles. The details do not translate directly into our context, but we as contemporary followers of Jesus and "sent ones" can draw some principles from these directives. Below are a few of the specific instructions along with a corresponding general principle for us today.

1. "Jesus sent out these twelve with clear instructions. Don’t go to the outsiders or to the towns inhabited by Samaritans, a people whose Jewish ancestors married Gentiles. Go instead to find and heal the lost sheep of Israel." Start where you are. Before we rush out to save the world, we should look at bringing healing and wholeness to those around us: our families, friends, coworkers, neighbours, and city.
2. "As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, and cleanse those who have leprosy. Drive out demons from the possessed." Our message of hope, demonstrated in our actions, is that God is near, God is a healer, God brings life, God is a restorer, God brings freedom.
3. "You received these gifts freely, so you should give them to others freely. Do not take money with you: don’t take gold, silver, or even small, worthless change. Do not pack a bag with clothes. Do not take sandals or a walking stick. Be fed and sheltered by those who show you hospitality." Let us be generous with what God has given us, and allow others to be generous with us. Let us travel light, live simply, and trust God to supply everything we need.
4. "Listen: I am sending you out to be sheep among wolves. You must be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves. You must be careful. You must be discerning. You must be on your guard." We can expect opposition and expect to be treated badly. We should never assume that everything will go our way. Let us learn wisdom. Let us cultivate discernment. Let us practice faithfulness. Let us be courageous. Do not fear. We can trust God in all circumstances.

Jesus's invitation to come and see, to participate in the life of Jesus and in the lives of others, is always linked to Jesus's commissioning to be delegates, to bring the life and love of Jesus wherever we go. The Greek word, erchomai, means both "come" and "go." This is the dual invitation of Jesus. 

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