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Our message today is by Rev Stuart Bell and virtual worship leader is Gill Watts.
God Bless x
Message - Rev Stuart Bell
HAVING celebrated Pentecost and then marked Trinity Sunday, the Gospel readings turn to Jesus’ ministry and this week, the sending out of the twelve. There are several potential distractions here: We could ponder why, given his instructions to the disciples, there are very few accounts of them curing, raising, cleansing or casting out independently of Jesus. We could look at the list of names and wonder what Bartholomew actually did; he appears only in lists of disciples in Matthew, Mark, Luke and Acts, and some of the others seem to have been peripheral to Jesus’ ministry. The short answer is that 12 was an important number, not least for Matthew who portrays Jesus as the new Moses – remember the 12 tribes of Israel. But we’re getting distracted!
Perhaps the most important phrases in this passage come before Matthew’s account of the calling and sending of the twelve. Jesus went around “proclaiming the good news of the kingdom” and “he had compassion for them”. It’s something of a cliché, but nevertheless true to say that while John’s Gospel focusses on Jesus and his theological significance – that’s the Gospel’s declared purpose, and think of those “I am” sayings – in the other three Gospels, we see rather a picture of a Jesus whose role is to declare the coming of the Kingdom of God. It’s that Kingdom which is the focus of his ministry in Matthew, not himself.
It is probably human nature to focus attention on individuals, rather than more broadly. The study of British history was for too long obsessed with kings and queens, ignoring the lives of ordinary people. Military history was too often the stories of generals, ignoring the soldiers’ experiences. “Politics” means literally “the affairs of the cities” – the primary unit of government in ancient Greece – yet there is always the temptation for it to become focussed on a few individuals, obsessing with personalities rather than with policies for the good of all people. Whether it’s DC or in DC, the contemporary evidence for that is all too clear. Jesus refused to conspire with those who would identify him as the long-expected Messiah; instead he proclaims a new Kingdom, a Kingdom which, he will later tell Pilate, is not of this world.
There’s a challenge here for all Christian leaders – the temptation to draw attention to themselves. Many of the great preachers of earlier generations knew that while their fame may lead more people to listen to them, their task was not to bring hearers to marvel at their oratory, but to help to bring people to faith in Christ Jesus. We are called to do the same; to proclaim Kingdom values, pointing to Christ, and not to ourselves.
Matthew then tells us that Jesus had compassion on the crowds because they were harassed and helpless – the Greek literally means “cast down” or “thrown to the ground”. Too easily, we can use words like “compassion” and “pity” to imply simply an emotional response. However, Matthew uses the word “compassion” three further times in his Gospel and in every case, Jesus expresses that compassion in definitive action, healing the ill, feeding the hungry, or opening the eyes of the blind. In Luke’s Gospel, the father of the prodigal son also had compassion, and again expressed that response in definitive action.
That’s the second challenge of today’s passage; not simply to look around with pity and compassion, but to respond with definitive action.