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Matthew 9:35-10:8 sets us on a path of discipleship in which we have the opportunity to participate in God’s work in building the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ message is “the good news of the kingdom”, which includes personal salvation as well as a transformation of the world in which we live. It shows God’s interest in the whole of human life, from the individual through to the societal.
But while the harvest is plentiful, the workers are few. Jesus calls the disciples to pray for workers who can participate with God in building the kingdom of Heaven. You are that worker! As am I! We pray regularly, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. And we are the answer to that prayer.
And then in Matthew 10:1 & 5, we read that Jesus:
- “Called his twelve disciples to him” – the calling is individual and collective. He calls you and he calls me, and he calls all of his followers, the church.
- “Gave them authority” – Jesus authorises them to do God’s work in building the kingdom
- “Sent out” the disciples – he sends them out to do his work.
We are called, authorised and sent!
Jesus instructs them to proclaim this message: “The kingdom of heaven has come near”. The kingdom is near because Christ is near; and Christ is near, because he dwells in the hearts of his followers.
What does this look like in practice? Matthew lists four things that the disciples do. These are the same things Jesus has been doing. And Jesus does them not to show off his power, but to demonstrate the heart of God – God’s loving heart for humankind. These are:
- The ill are healed. This is about making people whole, and relieving pain and distress.
- The dead are raised. This points us forward to the resurrection of Christ, who becomes the first of the the many who will be raised to new life in Christ.
- Those with leprosy are cleansed. Leprosy was not just an illness, but also a social condition that lead to profound social exclusion and rejection. Cleansing or purification from the disease would lead to re-entry into the community, thus social restoration and integration.
- Demons are driven out. Demons oppress people, holding them in bondage. When they are driven out, people are liberated from oppression. This links to Jesus’ manifesto (Luke 4:18), where he proclaims freedom for prisoners and sets the oppressed free. In this way, oppressive power in human relationships is overcome.
The proclamation of the Kingdom being near, and the evidence of this in these four acts of service, show that God is interested in wholeness, life, social integration and liberation from oppression. These are all facets of salvation and all manifestations of God’s presence.
It is to this that we are called in this present time, a time when there is much fracturing of social relationships, much oppression, much brokenness.
We do this work out of a fullness of gratitude for what God has already done for us. “Freely you have received; freely give” (Matthew 10:8b).
Featured image from: https://thereeldeal.blog/2017/07/13/on-mission-for-jesus-mark-67-13/