Sermon for Trinity 1 ‘The Call to discipleship’. Psalm 116, Romans 5:1-11, Matthew 9:35-10:8 by Revd. Tudor Vaughan Roberts. Sunday 14th June 2020
The context for today's scripture focus, Matthew 9:35-10:8 is Jesus’s proclamation of the gospel and his healing ministry. In Matthew 9 Jesus heals the paralytic and pronounces him forgiven, he calls Matthew to follow him and leave his tax booth. He teaches his disciples about true fasting and goes on to heal a woman and raises a girl from death. He heals two blind men and a man who could not speak and in our reading he:
“went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction”
Research is showing that many people in the UK are at breaking point, exhaustion, the ‘known and the unknown’ of when will this pandemic end, not having taken holidays, and then its Covid 19 one moment and then our screens are filled with another global issue, it is no wonder that people have coined a phrase ‘Covid blues’
We are made as human beings needing work, rest, restoration, interaction with others, play and down time, and many are finding our work life patterns are all haywire. Many are feeling helpless and harassed if you are not then please send in your way of living and your discovery! ( of course, many have been refreshed by creation and nature, I certainly have, but the uncertainty of these times especially for the young, those with economic responsibilities, those in teaching and the NHS and in commerce, indeed for many people has been hard)
Jesus as Matthew tells us has an answer to what so many people feel in the face of unrelenting difficulties “When he saw the crowds , “he had compassion on them” Note that in Matthew 9 vs 35 it says that Jesus went throughout the cities and villages teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. We know only about some of the miracles that Jesus did, but Matthew today tells us something new, even after all this healing Jesus had compassion on them. There was something they needed more than healing.
Now Compassion is a strong word, My Webster dictionary says compassion is a ‘deep feeling for and understanding of misery or suffering and the concomitant desire to promote its alleviation’. In Matthew 15:32 when Jesus sees the crowds who have had nothing to eat for 3 days Jesus has compassion for them. ‘Compassion’ in Greek is ‘splanhnos’ it means 'moved to my very bowels and kidneys', it is no ‘passing whim’ and simple ‘pity’, it involves all of Jesus caring for all of the people with all that he is and has. What a pastoral model for you and me, and Jesus has compassion because they are not being led rightly. They are a people with no real shepherds, their religious leaders have failed to care for them properly. They are literally helpless and harassed. In Ezekiel 36.5 it says ‘So they were scattered because they became food for all the wild animals’. So what Jesus is saying in Matthew 9 is that it is as if the people have been ‘torn apart by wild animals’ and it is this situation of helplessness that brings about Jesus compassion, he genuinely cares for his people. In Numbers 27:17 The Lord’s parting words to Moses as Joshua came to succeed him were “Let the Lord of the Spirits of all flesh appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd”.
In 1 Kings 22:17 Micaiah get this word
“I saw all Israel scattered on the Mountains as sheep that have no shepherd” So here in Matthew 9 and 10 Jesus can see what the problem is; no proper leadership, his solution is calling people to follow him and replicate what he has been doing:
Taught in their synagogues.
Proclaimed the gospel of the Kingdom.
Healed every disease and affliction.
His solution to ‘mega need’ is very simply ‘get his disciples to do the work’.
So, he opens his disciple's eyes to the vastness of the task. He changes the metaphor from ‘Shepherd’ to ‘gathering in the harvest’
The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few, therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the Harvest to send out laborers into his harvest field.
Jesus’s answer is:
Recognition of the task.
Prayers to the Father.
People who hear being thrust out into mission.
Jesus calls men and women to follow him, there is no other way. Stanley Hauerwas said
“Christianity is not a philosophy that can be separated from those who embody it”
So how does Jesus achieve this?
The word ‘sends’ can seem a bit benign, actually the word means ‘thrust out’ it's the same word that was used to describe how in Jesus's day people, to get rid of rubbish, would go up on their flat roof and throw as hard as possible with all their might their rubbish off their roof as far from their house as possible.(Please do not try this at home”!) Sometimes you and I need as one author said a fire lit under us to thrust us out of our comforts into the mission field.!
Paul in our Epistle reading that Theo read says “and Hope (Romans 5;5) does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit”
Jesus does something profound when he calls a man or woman.
Stephen Williams author of 'The Election of Grace' writes “We believe that we truly see in Jesus Christen the merciful face of God and nothing in that face is deformed or distorted, save by the pain of the cross where justice and mercy meet. We must ever keep in mind the way scripture brings to our attention the glad election of grace and the sad reality of resistance2
Jesus makes sure that where the 12 tribes of Israel failed his 12 disciples will succeed, of course Judas Iscariot betrays him, Peter denies him, and Thomas has problems at first with the resurrection being fact, but we are pretty sure that of the eleven who did not betray him 10 were martyred for their faith, and John went into old age and wrote 3 Epistles ( 1,2, and 3 John , one Gospel (John), and Revelation), In leadership terms that means Jesus was some Leader! And he is honest and truthful about the cost
In Matthew 10:16 ‘I send you forth as sheep amongst wolves’
15;24 ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’
24: 31 ‘And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call and they will gather his elect from the four winds from one end of heaven to the other’
So, Jesus is completely focussed. He says go to the house of Israel (the call to global mission to all tongues and tribes (Matthew 28 ) will come later after the cross and after the resurrection. For now, it is his 12 Disciples/Apostles who will go the remnants of the 12 tribes and bring them the Good news of the Kingdom.
“And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to cast them out and to heal every disease and every affliction, the names of the twelve apostles are these; first Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax Collector, James Son of Alpheus and Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.”
Simon is first even though Simon had his weaknesses he was Jesus’s chosen instrument to lead the twelve
Matthew here is mentioned as an ex Tax collector
Some of the others are not so well known but reliable history has it that everyone bar Judas Iscariot who was killed by suicide, and John who died in old age, died the death of a Christian Martyr.
One of them Simon, was a Zealot i.e. from a very angry group of people.
Tax collector’s, fisherman, zealots, unreliable people like Judas Iscariot, its not a promising bunch is it? but under God they were mightily used even Judas during those three years of mission.
In Matthew 10 it says Jesus sent them out instructing them to go not to the Gentiles nor to the Samaritans, but to the lost house of Israel.
What mercy and patience Jesus shows! Many Jews would reject this mission, but many accepted it too. And Jesus equips them to do exactly what he did and in Acts they replicate Jesus’s ministry, after the resurrection no healing of lepers is mentioned in Acts, but everything else they do, and we are expected and invited and called to go out likewise.
They are called here ‘Apostles’ ‘sent ones’
And they go out two by two, 2 X 2.
Simon means one who hears, Peter means Rock
How wonderful that they went to heal and raise the dead, and cleanse people, and cast out demons not amongst pagans but amonst Jews,God's people, and so today people in the Church need healing, people like you and me need deliverance, and we need evil cast out, we need cleansing (though rightly today this ministry happens under authority and with training, in the C of E those especially authorised by the Bishop ) just as Jesus gave his disciples authority and he trained them.
Read Romans 5:1-11 and we see Paul give us the basis for doing such a work being filled with hope, being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
And problems come in ministry (as the disciples found out) but says Paul we rejoice in hope of the Glory of God
"We rejoice in suffering knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces hope and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us".
So, let us in the midst or us being harried and under stress take courage, Jesus our Good shepherd wants to lead us heal us and then use us for his Glory. All Praise be to his name.