Summary: Jesus calls his disciples and then sends them out to continue his ministry of preaching, teaching, casting out demons and healing.
Matthew 9:35-10:8 “The Hand Off”
There are times the people image Jesus traveling around Judea and Galilee in something other than the traditional dress of the time. Instead of a loose fitting coat and sandals they picture Jesus clothed in blue tights, with a red cape and a large “S” on his chest. This might be a bit of an overstatement, but people do picture Jesus as a first-century, mid-eastern superman. He swoops done to those in need, performs whatever miracle is necessary to save them, and then flies off to the next town.
In reality, Jesus is anything but a superman. Superman was a type of lone wolf. He never needed anyone’s assistance not even Lois Lane, or Jimmy. Jesus establishes a community and works with other people. Jesus willingly shares his ministry, and he spends three years training his disciples so that they can take over his ministry after his resurrection and ascension.
Our gospel text today records a turning point in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus sends his disciples out into the “real world,” and he bestows on them the same calling, and power that he has himself. As Jesus’ later day disciples we learn a great deal from this story about how we are called to live and serve.
Our story opens with Jesus traveling around the countryside. In his description of the scene, Matthew gives us a summary of Jesus’ ministry while he was on earth. Jesus was reaching out to the people around him, proclaiming the good news and that the kingdom of God had come near, casting out demons and healing the sick.
Even though the people had many obvious physical needs, Jesus saw a greater need. Jesus perceived that the people were harassed and helpless like sheep with out a shepherd. The people were experiencing an inward anxiety. They were heavily burdened with cares that they were never meant to carry. Jesus saw their predicament and was moved with compassion.
In the person of Jesus, we discover that God is a carry God. God feels our pain, shares our tears, and walks with us through the triumphs and trials of life. His compassion motivates Jesus in his ministry, but Jesus realizes that more people are required to meet the great need that faces him. He tells his disciples to pray for more laborers in the field, because the harvest is so plentiful. After having them pray for more laborers, he tells them that their prayers have been answered and sends them as laborers out into the fields to reap the rich harvest.
Jesus sends his disciples out to supplement his ministry. Matthew lists their names for us in this story. The list is remarkable because it is so ordinary. Four of the disciples are fishermen. One is a tax collector, and another is a political/religious zealot. We’re not sure of the backgrounds of the rest. None, however, are of noble birth. Except for their association with Jesus and their role in the Church, none are historically significant.
Jesus doesn’t send angels to minister to other people. Neither does Jesus send the politically powerful or the financially wealthy. Jesus sends ordinary people, who have struggled as the people to whom they have been called to minister have struggled. It is this group of people that proclaims the good news, tells of the nearness of the kingdom, casts out demons and heals the sick.
The disciples make an impact on the lives of the people around them, because they have a purpose in life. They clearly understand what they are to do, and it is way beyond simply existing or making ends meet. Their purpose was to continue Jesus’ ministry.
Not only were the disciples given a purpose in life, they were also empowered by the Holy Spirit. They did the impossible because God moved through them.
Today we carry on the ministry of Jesus and share the same purpose and power of the disciples.
Like the disciples, we are sent out. They were sent to the cities of the surrounding countryside. When we say that we are sent out, we mean that we are called to leave this worship service and this building and enter into the world, and touch the lives of the people whom we encounter.
We have good news to share with the people around us (and they have a hunger to hear it). We proclaim God’s love, forgiveness and grace. These are more than theological concepts to us. We have experienced God’s steadfast love and forgiveness. We have been overwhelmed by God’s grace. Our lives have been transformed by our encounter with God.
We proclaim that the kingdom of God is near. Because of the cross of Jesus Christ, we are offered a new relationship with God. God’s presence in our lives is heaven on earth.