#76 – What the Gospels Teach – The Compassion of Christ – Matthew 9:35-38

Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He *said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. "Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest." (Matthew 9:35-38 NASB)

This is an important text to consider and a simple reading of it may reveal some areas of failure in American Christianity, especially within the Church growth movement, and prosperity movement.  Jesus is traveling as an itinerate preacher from synagogue to synagogue preaching the gospel of the kingdom (repentance and faith).  Moreover He is healing sickness and disease.  I have labored much over this on this blog, but it is critical to see the balance of Christ’s ministry, teaching and preaching the Gospel and service to the sick and in need.  It is always both and.  If you neglect proclaiming the gospel you are a humanist service org, and if you neglect service you are a resounding gong.  We read that Jesus sees the people and has compassion on them... what people?  The distressed and dispirited... In response to what He sees He tells the disciples that the harvest is plentiful and to seek God to send out workers.  Who is the harvest?  The distressed and the dispirited.

The reason I say this text has serious implications to American Christendom and particularly the Church Growth movement is that in most Growth focused ministries it is not the distressed and dispirited that are harvested.  People take surveys, find the growing areas, look at financial statistics, and so on, then they plant a church where it is most likely to grow.  Look!  The Church is not about growing, it is about harvesting.  Jesus did not say look there is fertile soil, go plant... He says there is a harvest go pluck.  Again, in our strategizing we look for people who will be able to financially support growth, once that is shored up we will go to the distressed and dispirited, and we end up harvesting the wrong crop into our barn.

Does God desire that those who are affluent be redeemed?  Well He certainly does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked, but if He desires the affluent, spirited, and non-distressed to be redeemed, He will redeem them thru the witness of the Church going to the distressed!  Our job is to seek conformity to Christ in all things, and that includes serving and seeking those whom He commanded us to serve and seek.  I could ramble on forever on this.  For instance, we go all seeker sensitive, should we be the seekers of the lost.  We know from scripture that no one seeks God, but instead that God seeks them, and He sends us into the harvest for that.

I have to end here due to time.


#75 – What the Gospels Teach – The Accusation Against Christ – Matthew 9:32-34

As they were going out, a mute, demon-possessed man was brought to Him. After the demon was cast out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed, and were saying, "Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel." But the Pharisees were saying, "He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons." (Matthew 9:32-34 NASB)

This passage gives us a little bit of insight into how Jesus was received, and we would do well to understand this little bit.  First, when the crowds saw what He did they were amazed, seeing that one who was possessed was exorcised and could speak again.  The initial reaction of the people was positive to Christ’s ministry.  At the same time the Pharisees injected doubt into their minds, saying that it is by the ruler of the demons that Jesus cast out demons.  Notice that the Pharisees cannot deny what Christ has done, but they can deny how and why He has done it.  Ultimately the Pharisees stance on Christ will gain more adherents than the truth about Christ will gain, and He will be nailed to a cross in light of that.  There is a lot to be considered here.

First, we need to have a biblical understanding of persecution.  Christ clearly was being persecuted by the Pharisees for the entirety of His ministry on earth, but notice how the persecution came.  Jesus was not persecuted overtly for righteousness sake, instead the Pharisees conjured up doubt in the minds of the people around Him.  It was not at all that they were opposed to the works of Christ, they were opposed to the person of Christ, and more than that the Father who gave Him the authority to perform those works.  If we are to be persecuted we will not be persecuted as ‘Christians’, or ‘for our good deeds’.  We will not be persecuted on the basis of truth, but on the basis of lies.  Jesus did not cast out demons by the ruler of demons, but that was accusation.  Unfortunately Christians have a very false sense in these days of what persecution is really going to be like.  We have a thin skinned view that somehow taking ‘In God We Trust’ off money, or removing the pledge of allegiance from the schools somehow amounts to persecution.  We are too busy fighting the wrong battles.

Real persecution when it comes will come more in the form of lies.  Maybe we will be accused of being pedophiles, or murders, or homophobes or whatever.  When you see people talking about how Christians are out shooting up abortion clinics, even though the death of Dr. Tiller was the first clinic shooting in nearly 10 years, that is a form of the persecution that is to come.  When everything said by the secular and unbelieving religious community about genuine Christians becomes lies then we know real persecution has arrived.  We need to shed this romantic view of persecution that we have, because it is not the biblical view.  When we are persecuted it will not be some glorious suffering in the eyes of the world, or even our brethren, no it will be embarrassing lies, half-truths, and misconceptions that are spread about us.

Jesus was not criticized for what He did, instead He was lied about.  We ought to expect the same.


#74 – What the Gospels Teach – Jesus not Stopping - Matthew 9:27-31

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!" When He entered the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus *said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They *said to Him, "Yes, Lord." Then He touched their eyes, saying, "It shall be done to you according to your faith." And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them: "See that no one knows about this!" But they went out and spread the news about Him throughout all that land. (Matthew 9:27-31 NASB)

This text brings forth a couple interesting points.  First, notice that the blind men were following Jesus, and followed Him all the way to a house.  The chronology of this, can be missed if we read it too quickly.  We have this assumption that Jesus sees these two blind men has mercy on them and heals them, but the passage says something altogether different than that.  Two blind men were following Jesus and crying out “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”  We have no indication of how long they followed, or how far this house was away, but we do see that at the house they caught up to Him, and then He healed them.  It is important to notice the unique nature of all of these healings.  In one case we have a woman touching the garment of Christ, another where a man calls Christ to His home to raise His daughter, some healing of the unclean, and other miracles performed for Roman leaders, the healings are all very unique.  In the case of this healing the blind men had to pursue Jesus crying out, and eventually had to catch up to Him.  This is not the typical image we get of Jesus, normally we think of Him stopping to serve all and not walking on to His next stop while people in need are crying out.  You cannot call this healing the ‘normal’ method, but at the same time you cannot call it abnormal either.  The point is that there is no standard protocol for healing.  God is not going to be manipulated or convinced to heal based on your 12 steps, or your specific program.  Healing is unique and not bound to a system.

The second point is Jesus’ stern warning. “See that no one knows about this!”  Why was Jesus stern?  Was He avoiding these people for a reason, and then giving in and healing them, but not without issuing a stern warning?  Why would He give a command He knew they wouldn’t keep?  Was it sin when they went and spread the news?  The sternness of Jesus’ warning should at least give us a clue that He meant business, this was not a trite, “let this be our little secret” type thing, but instead it was a forceful command.  This healing is enigmatic to me, the only compassion Jesus’ offers is the healing itself, but the time leading up to the healing He is walking away from them, and the time after the healing He is issuing a stern warning.  There is no forgiveness of sin mentioned, no looking upon them with compassion, it was more of a cold healing.  Did these men ‘use’ Jesus?  Did Jesus know that these men were yet unregenerate and did not want them proclaiming Christ so as to cause His name to be blasphemed?  Obviously these are questions I have no answers to, but I do think this healing deserves more than a cursory look, as its uniqueness is important to the Gospel narrative.

On a side note, I have been posting much less lately and I really miss it.  Writing has kinda fallen out of my routine as I have begun pursuing Greek.  At the same time Greek has fallen out temporarily too, and I have been wasting time laying in bed until 7 or later.  Lack of discipline leads to all sorts of malady and lack of joy so I resolve by the grace of God to shed this temporary apathy.  Not promising more posts, but hopefully that will be a result of this resolve.