Reading: Matthew 9.35—10.1, 6-8
Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’
Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These twelve he sent out with the following instructions: ‘Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.’
Yesterday Jesus reminded us of our need to have faith and to truly believe in him and in his heavenly Father. After asking that question of two blind men, Jesus restored their sight. Today’s passage from scripture starts not long after the end of yesterday’s reading. So many had been coming to Jesus for healing, and yet he did not show signs of impatience or tiredness. Instead: he had compassion for them. Jesus looked on the needs of those who were coming to him and saw lost and wandering people who were in need of leadership, protection and guidance. Jesus saw people of true faith who needed, desired and deserved his healing in their lives.
Then Jesus summoned his disciples, empowered them to carry on the task and sent them out to: cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. In fact, Jesus sent them out to do everything they had seen him do. Can you imagine how they felt? Can you imagine the expressions of doubt and uncertainty? Can you imagine the incredulous response of those twelve disciples? And yet, they went and, as we read later in the gospel narrative, they achieved all that Jesus had asked of them.
Jesus is asking us to do exactly the same things that he asked of those first disciples. So now you can stop imagining their reactions and consider your own! Jesus is commissioning all those who believe in him to go out as his disciples. Surely, as one who professes the Christian faith, that should be obvious to us all. So, why aren’t we out there curing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing the lepers, casting out demons? Of course we are not doing any of that because we struggle to believe that we can, or even that Jesus expects that of us.
We are all guilty of setting agenda for ourselves that play to what we describe as our ‘strengths’. In reality, those agenda focus on our weaknesses. We set boundaries that mean nothing to God. We decide what we can and cannot do and remain within those bounds. If we take the words literally, we can easily put a case for not being able to do any of those things. But, do we really believe that Jesus does not know that? Our sense of Christian love and service can bring about much healing, if we will only give it a try. That is, if we will only listen to God’s call, pluck up the courage and say: ‘Yes, Lord, if you ask it, I will give it a go!’
Jesus had compassion for them. That is our calling, to have compassion for all with whom we share this earthly life. We are also called to accept the authority and the challenge of discipleship and knock down the false walls that imprison us and isolate us from God.