5 May 2015

Jesus’s Ministry and Ours

matthewOver the last couple of Sundays, I’ve been speaking on Jesus’s message of ‘the Gospel of the Kingdom’ from Matthew 4 and 5. One thing that you notice about the first chapters dealing with Jesus’s ministry is that Matthew summarises it in two places. First in 4:23:

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.

Then again in 9:35:

And Jesus 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.

Both summaries emphasise the same components to Jesus’s ministry: proclamation of good news, teaching, and healing.

The correspondence is striking between these two verses which are, let’s face it, quite far apart! That in itself reminds us that we need to be attentive when we read God’s word, and that only ever reading chapter-sized chunks can prevent us seeing these much broader connections. As I’ve said before, we need to read across the chapters, and we need to be able to pick out these significant ‘summary verses’. The Gospels are literature: they’ve been shaped, formed. The message isn’t just in the words themselves, it’s in the shape and the structure.

These two summaries in 4:23 and 9:35 point us to what lies between them. Between these two verses we find Jesus’s proclamation of the ‘Gospel of the Kingdom’ in the Beatitudes (5:3-12); Jesus’s teaching on the Kingdom in the rest of the Sermon on the Mount (5:13-7:27); and then a series of stories about Jesus’s healing of the sick and those under the influence of evil spirits (chapters 8 and 9). Within the brackets of the summaries we find Jesus’s proclamation, teaching and healing.

Right after the second summary (the closing bracket) we find these words of Jesus:

“The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.”

Immediately afterward, The Twelve are sent out. The labourers are called to follow the example of their master. Jesus is the exemplar. Our ministry to the world should mirror that of Jesus: proclamation of the Good News of the Kingdom (and of Jesus as King), teaching about the Kingdom (and about Jesus as King), and practical care through which we declare the coming reality and goal of the Kingdom (and the heart of the King) in the here and now.

This is how we bring in the harvest. This is how disciples are made.