Cutting Room Floor: Transition, Sending & Posture
Transition: Take Away:
It’s a weird scene. Jesus is walking, two blind men call out for healing. They call him “Son of David,” a Messianic title, a special title that only ought to be used for the long-awaited Messiah who would make good on God’s promises to his People. All of a sudden Jesus goes indoors–apparently there’s a building near there–he heals them in secret, and tells them not to tell anyone, but they do.
And if you want to take away something from this, take this: Jesus doesn’t steal back the sight he gave these two because they immediately disobey him. And thank God that often in our lives, God doesn’t snatch out of our hands blessing because we simply disobey him, as quickly as we receive it.
But it makes sense for the Pharisees to think what they think. If you believe, fundamentally, that the bad things people are facing in the world are things they have earned, they have brought on themselves, and are really punishments from God, then if someone heals these people, that person can’t be working for God. Isn’t that messed up? The truth is that these Pharisees, whether intentionally or not, they are the ones who are working for the devil, by attributing God’s saving, healing power to God’s enemy. And I am convicted as to how often I dismiss good, no matter where it comes from, because I don’t think it’s coming from God. What if it is?
Transition: Ministry Summary
35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
This is summary stuff. This is a moment in the Gospel where you close the book, tell your six your old daughter you’ll read more tomorrow, turn the lights out, and think about it as you fall asleep.
It summarizes not just what Jesus is doing, but the attitude he’s taking as he does it: he’s embodying, by word and by deed, the Good News that the Kingdom of Heaven is arriving on earth, right wherever he is, and he’s doing it all with compassion.
So often the Church has neglected one or the other of these, the work or the compassion. Jesus holds these things together. The work and the spirit that energizes the work. So far, I’ve met almost no one that’s good at both in equal measure, or cares about both in equal measure. It seems instead as if we believe one is more important than the other, the “most important” thing about what it means to be like Christ.
Matthew’s small congregation, when they first read this Gospel, are invited to recognize in their way of life and what they had personally experienced some bigger realization of this small mission the twelve were sent on. Matthew was in on it, you know, doing what Jesus did, and he was their pastor; more than likely, some of the church that received this Gospel could tie their return to God, their discover of Jesus, back to that time the disciples came through town.
And let’s just be honest: All over the world, even in America, people are healed miraculously, diseases and sickness are disappeared in miraculous applications of God’s power, and whatever we believe about “impure spirits,” about the antagonistic, unseen world that has both angels and demons in it, eyewitnesses are telling stories of people freed from evil spirits, from possession and the like.
These things weren’t just prefigured in the mission of the Twelve, or spread out as the Spirit came upon the earliest Church: They are happening now. North American Evangelicals spill gallons of ink talking about why they don’t happen more often in our society, and the sort answer is something like “rationalistic science-based worldview,” something about what we really truly believe in and what we don’t.
But my point is simply that in this mission of the twelve they were given Jesus’ authority, but we have been, too, if we trust Christ. The Spirit has come upon us, and to be a biblical Christian is to spend enough time in scripture that we figure out how to use the authority, the power, that we have in the world.
Sending: This is what it is.
Christians have not been blind the past 2,000 years to the way Jesus gathers followers around him, teaches them, creates learning opportunities for them, has a few disciples with special status who are closer than others. This isn’t secret knowledge. But at some point in the last 40 years well-meaning Christians, influenced by the increasing corporatization of the church, saw in Jesus’ way of life something they labeled as “leadership,” and distilled down his life with his disciples into “methodology” that could be overlaid in any environment, no matter what it might be.
And I guess nothing is wrong with this–I guess–but we have to be very careful about the point of this passage. Jesus is not, in this passage, presenting us with a step in a method for reorganizing our business practices or church staffing policies or any of this.