When you consider Jesus' prayer life and what he asked God to do you may find your list populated with things like: miracles, food, healing, peace, unity, understanding, and so on. Yet, as much as we usually consider Jesus' prayers as general in nature - for all of us - we often miss the very personal nature of Christ's requests to God. Especially when those prayers ask God to do something through you and I.
Case in point: Matthew 9:35-10:8. Jesus has been doing his Messiah "thing" by healing the blind, casting out spirits, curing the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years, and raising the deceased daughter of a town official. All in all, a pretty good day's work! In all of these cases, Jesus taught on the importance of faith.
Seeing is believing but belief is not faith.
Faith is different than belief. All you have to do is read a little bit of the New Testament to see that most of the people who followed Jesus did so because they believed that he could do something extraordinary. Yet, even the disciples didn't always have faith. Faith is what brought the city official, the bleeding woman and the blind fellows to Jesus. They had a faith beyond belief, a hope beyond all of the considered wisdom of what God could or would do for them. And Jesus deliveres.
Jesus looks at the whole picture.
Matthew records Jesus as making "a whole circuit of all the towns and villages in the area, teaching at their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives." Reminds me of watching the nightly news on cable tv. Here, in a matter of 30 minutes or less, the broad picture of suffering is presented by seemingly non-plussed newspeople and interrupted by commercials which promise relief/security from disease, worry, and a myriad of other things the news just showed us. Who needs faith in God when we have "gold" or some treatment for our tired bodies and waning libidos?
Jesus looks out over all the crowds of people in the land that surrounded him and you know what? "His heart broke." Seems to me that a real Messiah would have been righteously mad and did whatever righteously mad Messiah's do: wave their arms, wiggle their noses, or pronounce an end to all this injustice and suffering. Instead of all the dramatic action, Jesus instead stated the obvious "What a huge harvest" Ya think! Whoa Captain obvious, tell me something I don't know . . . like how to address this mess.
Jesus prays . . . for you.
Now, before you get all sentimental and nod your head in affirmation and consolation that the Son of God is praying for you, please note the following: Jesus is praying for "harvest hands" - field hands to go out and do the dirty work of harvesting this "crop" of misery. And so, Jesus is praying for his disciples, then and now, as preparation to send all of us out to do the work. Gee, I would have liked it better if Jesus did just wiggle a nose or wave an arm or something!
Johnny, tell the people what they just won . . .
The prize behind door #3 is power. And who doesn't like power! I'm in! But we need to look at the kind of power we are to receive: ". . . power to kick out evil spirits and to tenderly care for the bruised and hurt lives." This power Jesus offers is frightening - at least to me. Kicking out evil spirits involves addressing those spirits! And these spirits have been in power for a while and they don't move easily! And in contrast to the kicking out of one thing, there is the invitation in for those who have been hurt by those spirits. Now, you can argue this out for yourselves, but I ask this question: "What are the evil spirits in our day?" And the follow up would be "How do we care for these injured victims?" Pick your superhero, they all deal with the dual nature of power and responsibility.
Faith is belief beyond belief.
I know that any idea of God's calling us out of our comfort zone and onto the mission field can be pretty frightening. After all, what if we fail? In response to that question, I present to you the 12 stooges: the disciples who Jesus selected to serve: a couple of fishermen, a tax collector, a lover of horses, the son of a farmer, a zealot/jealous one, and a "manly" man. not to mention a Benedict Arnold. They were all as flawed as we are, but because of faith - a belief beyond belief - they were chosen and sent.
Jesus makes it "easy."
Okay, maybe not "real easy" but here is how he instructed our faith heroes:
1. "Don't begin by traveling to some far off place to convert unbelievers." In other words, start where you are and with people you know (and who know you." I would add that you don't begin by looking for evil spirits to cast out! Instead, look to heal those who are hurting and abandoned.
2. "Don't be dramatic by tackling some public enemy." Folks expected the Messiah to come into the world and overthrow the government - but Jesus didn't do that. At least not in a cataclysmic battle of good and evil :) What Jesus did do was offer an alternative to "the way things are" and renewed a belief beyond belief that God was involved to renew the entire world . While some of Christ's actions were pretty dramatic: overturning the money changer's tables and feeding thousands from a borrowed sack lunch, most of his healing and teaching came in intimate groups where he demonstrated how faith in God was supposed to work.
3. "Tell people that the kingdom is here." Now, this may seem a bit redundant until you consider that the everyday life of people isn't always in line with what we think of God's kingdom. At least until you think about Jesus' words to the disciples when he said "In this world you will have trouble. But have no fear, I have overcome the world." We will face all manner of stuff in the world that will attempt to dissuade you from believing that God is present and active. That is why ordinary people like you and I are called to the harvest as reminders that this world still and always will belong to the Creator.
4. Go. "Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood." You and I have been instructed to go . . . to those who surround us in our familiar neighborhood. Not to some country we cannot pronounce the name of and certainly not with a command to do the miraculous - although treating people with care and compassion could be a headline for most newspapers.
But wait, there's more!
While I won't bore you with the details in this blog, I encourage you to read on in chapter 10 of Matthew. there you be reassured that you won't need a lot of equipment, money, or even everyday supplies. God will be providing that, and in faith you can count on it. Unlike some of the tv commercials, what God offers beyond this offer really is incredible. Plus, it isn't offered for a limited time!
Please take a moment or two to subscribe to this blog (there is a link on the main page of the church website. Also, I would encourage you to share this via social media with your bible study classes or other groups and people that are in your circle of friends. In this, I hope you will find good conversation and that you receive both power and opportunity to test your faith. As always, please respond below and let me know what you think!