Summary: Long before Jesus stood on the hillside outside Jerusalem to commission the disciples, he commissioned them in Galilee for a ministry with a message, a method and a means to fulfill it.
Luke 9: 1 – 6
Do you remember the first time you rode a bike without training wheels? Or, do you remember your first day of school? Perhaps you remember your first date. Maybe you remember the time you left home for college, or the first time you moved into a place of your own or got your first real job. There’s always a first time for everything we do in our lives, and firsts are often met with awe and wonder, but also with challenge and anxiety. There are times in all our lives when we must learn to do things on our own. We can watch others do it. We can look and say, “That’s easy.” Yet, there is something in us that evokes just the least bit of fear, and fear brings nervousness in the midst of the excitement and anticipation. I wonder if that’s how the disciples felt the day Jesus called them and gave them the commission to launch out into ministry on their own. We said last week that Jesus went and then Jesus sent, and as he sent them, he gave the disciples a charge to keep. Before Christ stood on the mountaintop to extend to his disciples the Great Commission, he gathered them around himself in Galilee and commissioned them for service in his Kingdom. As we read these words we are tempted to think that this is a limited commission given to Jesus’ original disciples. Yet, there are eternal principles that we can discover here that will encourage and empower us to carry out the mission entrusted to us? I see three things to note as Jesus commissioned his disciples. Jesus commissioned the disciples with a message, a method and the means to fulfill the commission.
Jesus commissioned the disciples with a message to preach. The message Jesus gave the disciples was a simple one: preach the Kingdom of God. We, too, are commissioned to preach the Kingdom of God. Instruction about ministry is especially important today because of the misconceptions that exist about ministry. The greatest misconception is that the ministry is something that the preacher or the staff do, that ministry is for the ordained personnel of the church. When we use the word minister we usually mean the professional, the preacher. While it is true that God has called some to the ministry as a profession he has called all of us to be ministers. So, yes, as a disciple, we’re all called to preach! Didn’t know that did you?
What exactly do we preach? What is the Kingdom of God? For anyone who has been a Christian for even a small amount of the time the question “What is the kingdom of God?” may seem strange. Christians talk about the kingdom all the time, and we try to focus our lives on the kingdom and we even pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. “Kingdom” is probably one of the most commonly used words in the vocabulary of believers. That doesn’t make it any less hard to define does it? If you had an “elevator speech” could you tell someone what the Kingdom of God is? You know what an elevator speech is, right? You’re in an elevator for two minutes with another person. What can you say in two minutes that might change a person’s life? I’ve spent the past two days in interviews with this year’s candidates for bishop in the UM Church. In our session on Friday, each of the candidates was asked about their elevator speech. Did they even have one? Yeah, I think defining the Kingdom of God in a two minute elevator speech would be nearly impossible. Yet, Jesus had one. It comes from the prophet Isaiah, and he used it when he began his earthly ministry. We find it recorded in Luke’s Gospel:
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[f]
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4: 16 – 20 NIV)