“In his day, Jesus called ordinary, everyday sinners. And he gave them a promise that no matter how hard or difficult following him became, they belonged to him. This promise gave them the strength to carry on. This promise is for us, too.“
Hey there Gloria Dei!
This week in our New Testament reading, we’re spending time in Matthew chapters 8-12. I hope you’re reading along. If you haven’t been able to stay with us or if you’re just now thinking about it, it’s a great time to join us. The season of Lent is here and the discipline of reading through Matthew’s Gospel with us would be a great practice to pick up.
As I was reading through these chapters this week, a number of things stuck out to me. The overwhelming number of times Jesus cures the sick, casts out demons, and does something miraculous takes my breath away. Jesus has incredible power. And amid all that, he calls his disciples to follow him and to do the work he’s been doing, as well.
Maybe more miraculous than curing of the sick and casting out of demons is the work Jesus does with his disciples. He takes ordinary, everyday people and gives them extraordinary good news: they belong to him. In Matthew 9:13 Jesus says, “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
To do the work, Jesus calls ordinary, everyday sinners. Not those “good enough” or “worthy enough” or “valuable enough.” Jesus doesn’t take the best of the best or the cream of the crop. He doesn’t take the top 10. He doesn’t call the final 15. He takes the sinners. He takes the fisherman and the tax collectors. He takes the unrighteous. The bottom of the barrel. And these are the ones he sends out into the world.
Jesus knows this won’t be easy and that it really isn’t a thing they would choose for themselves. So, he sends them. And he sends them with a warning. They will be sent out like sheep into the midst of wolves. And who would ever choose that? Jesus knows that none of them would choose that. So, he calls, and he sends. He does the work for them. Even with the power to heal the sick and cast out demons, the disciples must be sent by Jesus.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his great book “The Cost of Discipleship” these words about the challenge of being sent by Jesus. “Neither failure nor hostility can weaken the messenger’s conviction that he has been sent by Jesus. That his word may be their strength, their stay and their comfort, Jesus repeats it, ‘Behold, I send you.’ For this is no way they have chosen themselves, no undertaking of their own. It is, in the strict sense of the word, a mission. With this the Lord promises them his abiding presence, even when they find themselves as sheep among wolves, defenseless, powerless, sore pressed, and beset with great danger. Nothing can happen to them without Jesus knowing it…That is why his warning can only summon them to abide by the Word. Where the Word is, there shall the disciple be.”
In his day, Jesus called ordinary, everyday sinners. And he gave them a promise that no matter how hard or difficult following him became, they belonged to him. This promise gave them the strength to carry on. This promise is for us, too. No matter how difficult life becomes for you, you belong to Jesus. He doesn’t check to see how righteous you are, how good you’ve been, or how valuable you are. The only thing he checks is if you are a sinner. And if that’s the case, then you belong to him. He forgives you. He loves you. And he sends you into this wild and dangerous world with that simple Word to be your steady guide.
With that, let’s GO Gloria Dei!