Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Matthew 9 - Part 6


Read Matthew 9

Here is what was happening in this last section of chapter 9.

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.

That was Jesus in action.  That was surely a testimony to the world about who he was, but what about that world?

Here is what Jesus saw when he looked at the people. Let’s start a word list.  Actually, it’s a pairing of words that we find in the various translations of this section.  Here we go.

·       Harassed and helpless

·       Faint and scattered

·       Weary and scattered

·       Distressed and downcast

·       Confused and helpless

·       Hurting and helpless

·       Worried and helpless

·       Weary and worn out

Jesus saw people who were like sheep without a shepherd.  Jesus diagnosed and then he prescribed.  The people were weary and worn out like sheep without a shepherd.  What must be done?

Send out the workers into the field for the harvest.  It seems like a bit of a mixed metaphor.  The sheep have no shepherd so let’s harvest the crops.

The people are hurting.  They need a shepherd.

The people are lost without their shepherd.  As Jesus called the fishermen to be fishers of men, he called his disciples to harvest men as well.

It’s a pairing of metaphors only a Marine could love.  We begin from the sea, go to the land, and get a little air support, hey we’re good.  Where’s the air support?  Remember that the Greek world for air is the same as for Spirit.

Enough for rabbit trails.

The people that Jesus saw were distressed and downcast.  They needed help.  They needed God.  They needed the One whom God had sent not to condemn the world but to save the world through him.

They needed Jesus.  The disciples had just received their warning order.  They were about to be sent into the world.  The harvest would begin with 12 workers.  We know that more were sent after the resurrection.  But at this time:  The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

Disciples have been sent into the world for 2,000 years.  We too are sent.  Let’s think about being sent in our time.  I will proffer a dichotomy.

Are we to strengthen what remains or go into the world with the good news of life and life everlasting in Christ Jesus?  Let’s put it this way.

Remnant or Revival?

Are we heading to the end of the age as a remnant of the church?  Are we positioned to take the gospel everywhere we go in anticipation of God’s Spirit being poured out and revival?

Are we to close ranks or invade a godless world with good news?

Remnant or Revival?

I believe the answer is yes.  In many ways we are called to close ranks and strengthen our defenses against the onslaught of evil that thrives in this time.

But our commission has not expired.  We are still to deliver hope to a hopeless world.  We are to bring light into the darkness.  People should taste the goodness of God when they meet us.  We are to be known by our love.

Look around you.  Some seem so set against God and against his kingdom and against his righteousness, but if we look closely, we see people who are:

·       Harassed and helpless

·       Faint and scattered

·       Weary and scattered

·       Distressed and downcast

·       Confused and helpless

·       Hurting and helpless

·       Worried and helpless

·       Weary and worn out

We see sheep without a shepherd. 

So we should strengthen what remains.  We should be more closely knit now than ever before.  We should trust in the Lord as never before.  We should discount our own understanding in favor of what the Lord has told us.

We must trust and obey.

We must acknowledge God in everything we do, in every experience we have, in every blessing, and in every trial.

We must read his word more now than ever before and sharpen one another in study groups and accountability partners.

We must pray without ceasing.  Prayer is not an event in our lives.  It is ongoing.  It is as natural as breathing in and out.

We must strengthen what we have and what we know and believe.

·       God is real

·       God is good

·       God loves us

·       He is holy

·       He is righteous

·       He is the one true God

·       He knew us before we were born

·       He made us a creature of wonder

·       He has good plans for us

·       He has given us a good deposit on his promises—the Holy Spirit

·       We are his people, the sheep of his pasture

·       We are to be known by our love

·       We are made in his image

·       We know his voice

·       We sin

·       We are saved by grace through faith

·       We will be with God for all eternity

·       We long for our Master to say, Well done good and faithful servant

·       God gave us directions for our own good

·       God grants forgiveness for no one has ever lived by all the directions

·       God loves us with an everlasting love

·       God sent his Son and by his blood we are made right with God

·       Jesus is Lord

·       Jesus is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords

·       Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth

·       Jesus commissioned us

·       Jesus sends us into the world

·       Jesus—mostly in the Spirit of God—goes with us into the world.

While we must strengthen what remains; we must not forsake our commission.  Some may have noted that the words strengthen what remains come from the instructions to the church in Sardis near the beginning of the book of Revelation.

Let me give you what precedes and follows.

Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.

We as the church are to awaken from our apathy and malaise and strengthen what remains, not let it die, because we have unfinished business.  We have not finished our work.  We are not to strengthen what remains just to go into hiding.  We have work to do.

Look around you.  What do you see?  Do you see sheep without a shepherd? Do you see the unfinished work of the church?

Do you see people who are angry, confused, disheartened, downcast, and distressed?  Do you see people jumping on bandwagons of causes, some surely good and others calling for violence, destruction, and even killing those in authority?

So many are sheep without a shepherd but they find the first shepherd that offers them something to feed their ego or justify lawlessness or fill their emptiness.

They need the One we know as the Good Shepherd.

We knew that the times were coming when men would call evil good and good evil.  Though we are in the beginning of those times, we still are called to the harvest.  Men and women may still come to redemption and salvation in receiving Jesus Christ as Lord.

We may not think that we are ready, but ready or not the time is here.  Remember that God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  If you have been following Jesus as his disciple, you are ready to be a worker in the harvest.

Do not worry about who receives your invitation.  That part is not in your hands.  You will not always be well received.  You will surely have trouble along the way. You may have to shake the dust off your sandals on occasion, but you are sent.

Consider God’s own people and how they rejected God time and time again.  Consider how perfunctory their worship had become.  Consider the people of today who endure affliction because they will not see God.  They will not receive God.  That’s their choice but we should not leave them in ignorance.

God did not leave them in their condemned state.  He sent Jesus.  He sent Salvation. He sent his one and only Son not to condemn but to save.

And now, you are sent!

You are sent with good news.  You are sent to the weary and downtrodden, the helpless and confused, the worried and worn out.

Some will reject you and your message, but some are looking for a shepherd to gather them and protect them and save them.  We know that Shepherd.  We know his voice.

In the next chapter, we see the sending of the 12 on their first mission.  Jesus was yet to be crucified and resurrected and taken up into heaven, but he gave these disciples a mission.  If we could have asked these men, I would think that they would have said, “we’re not ready for this.” Stay tuned.

For now, realize that we must strengthen what remains and that we are sent into the world with good news.  The church still has unfinished business. We are the workers of today’s harvest.

We sing, Here I am Lord.  Is it I, Lord?  And the answer is yes.  It’s us.  Send us.

Lord, send us into the harvest.


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