Message – Being Loud
The gospel passage read today is the most passionate telling of a pivotal moment in the life of Jesus Christ. For in this short passage, using these few words, we see the motivation that propels Christ for the remainder of the gospel of as told by the disciple Matthew.
Jesus, after the beatitudes, and after being amongst the people, sharing in their pains and hardships, witnessed the oppression they were under, he had seen and addressed their sickness and disease, he had seen that which he could not ignore. The pain of the human condition.
It is surely not an overstatement to say that this had been an overwhelming and exhausting journey that had now been experienced by God in the flesh
As Jesus retreats to the circle of his disciples, he expresses his summation of the the human experience.
‘The people are harassed, they are hopeless,’ he proclaims.
Other translations use words such as distressed and dispirited, fainting and scattered (ceased to be a people), carrying problems so great that they do not know what to do, confused and aimless.
These two verbs, harassed and hopeless, come from the root words skulló (skool’-lo) and rhiptó (hrip’-to), in their raw form mean to flay and cast aside. Cast aside we can understand but the word ‘flay’ may be unknown to you – it basically means ‘ to skin’ so in a verb form would be ‘skinned’. Think flaying a fish.
While Jesus probably did not mean that flaying was literally taking place, the people would have understood as it had been known to be a practice of torture of living humans as well as a show of disrespect to dead humans. This practice has been identified as existing as early as 800 years prior to Jesus birth.
The use of theses words, and of combining them together create a very potent and powerful image that represent, by Jesus, the pain and agony he had seen and experienced in his time with the people.
Jesus was devastated and pushed to action.
Eugene Peterson in his paraphrase of the bible, The Message, describes the countenance of Jesus as ‘his heart was broken.’
It is significant that Matthew would document that Jesus uses these two images combined to present a visual the disciples would understand as he, of all the disciples understood the oppression of the Jews as he had been an employee of the Roman government. He knew how they used fear to control and manipulate the people.
It is out of this event, that God led Jesus to a mission of doing and not just a mission of telling. It is at the point that the ministry becomes as much about now as it does about our life after this earth. His message is not just doubt God’s act of love and sacrifice being the way to heaven but even more desperately about the way being an avenue to hope, peace, and love now, on earth. It was the whole of his proclamation that the Kingdom of Heaven is near, and for his prayer, ‘Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven.’
The impression of the human experience, the pain and agony in the lives of God’s people can only be described as pivotal. This revelation, while intellectually not new, but from the perspective of the flesh was seismic. God the father had used this moment to shape the ministry of Christ and to mold his passion.
He was there for the people. Any sacrifice he would make would be for the people. His life was now being given to the people.
Jesus, now moved the disciples from mere learners to active doers. For the only time in gospel of Matthew the status of the disciples is changed to apostles, they were now living out what they had seen Jesus do and teach. Jesus was sending them to do what he did when he encountered the misery of the human experience.
Jesus sent them out because it was a need that could not be ignored.
Jesus sent the disciples, now apostles with a specific call, used very specific words and a very specific order. He used the root word ‘Go’ but in a form that meant ‘As you have gone, also, tell them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near.’
You see the ‘Go’ to tell was not their mission, it was a ‘Go to Heal’, and while you are ‘Going and Healing’ , tell them about the Kingdom. This is significant because it shows us the passion of Jesus for our ‘now’ as much as for our ‘later.’
They had seen Jesus at life, a life of caring, a life of compassion, a life of hope, a life providing peace, a live of love. When he was in front of the crowds and when he was just with them.
Jesus told them, on their ‘Go’ if they were welcomed in, if they were permitted to do the work of Jesus they were then to bring a ‘peace’ to the house.
They were called to ‘GO’ and to ‘BE’ the ‘IMPRINT’ of Jesus.
This is our multi-dimensional God, the one who cares for us now, and forever.
Modern Evangelicalism has made the call of Jesus a one dimension calling. It is a ‘Say’ calling, tell about Jesus win converts for eternity. It is easy and quick.
Jesus statement of the lack of laborers has been used to propagate this one dimensional calling of Jesus. Other aspects, aspects such as care, compassion, mercy, peace, and even love have all taken a back seat to the ‘tell’ the ‘say’.
This is the call, to be ‘Doers’ because God is a compassionate and loving God, we know this because Jesus, the election, exact imprint of God, was a compassionate and loving human being.
The ‘Say’ the telling that the ‘Kingdom is Near’ becomes a natural privilege as the compassion and love have already been communicated by our lives. The communicated message then, just ties up the loose ends.
This is an act of living out the great commandments:
Love Others as Yourself.
Jesus directed his now apostles to go the the lost Jews. He gave a strict instruction to not go to the Samaritan or the Gentiles. This was not a slight on either of these groups, they will have their moment with the compassion of God. Now, however, is the time of need for the Jews.
This time is not just because of the pain of their lives, it is even more needed because their division keeps them from being unified, from the greater power that comes with community.
Much like now they are also divided. Like now they have slapped labels on each other. Labels like liberal and conservative, progressive and fundamental, traditional and contemporary, boring and exciting, among just to name a few. Just like today, these labels kept them from helping and encouraging each other in their times of need. They kept them from strengthening each other in their times of misery.
Jesus send the apostles to unify them. Much like he proclaims his goal of unity in his prayer just before he was arrested.
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
They couldn’t help each other because they did not consider themselves brother and sisters with each other. They had failed to remember the common element of their faith was to look for the promised Messiah and therefore they had missed Jesus.
Their politics, their chosen religious leaders, their own agendas had all kept them from seeing and addressing the pain of all their other same faith neighbors. They could not see beyond the roadblocks of themselves.
Let explain it through a real life, this week, story.
Illustrative Story of justifying actions of cop and responding with accusation against the cope. This is the problem – instead of us taking a knee to understand the pain expressed about this incident, we have ran to our own corners to defend our politics and stance. It is not about Mr. Floyd, it is not about this police officer, it is about centuries of a people in pain that we have refused to make the sacrifice of our own roadblocks in order to cure and heal.
We are in a time where the entire world is sharing in a suffering that we do not have the power to overcome. I am sure that Covid is not a judgement of God but that God is going us the opportunity to be apostles of God’s compassion, his mercy, and his love. In the midst of this shared struggle we are divided with many even dismissing the reality of the deaths and the pain.
Add to this more of the same racist tragedies have taken place with African Americans suffering unneeded loss and pain. Our politics and out complacency ha has kept us from responding since the founding of our nation. This, along with Native American, and many other people groups have been oppressed and persecuted. The church outside of these communities have said little. We have gone to our sides, we have said ‘NO’ to Jesus shock at the suffering and pain.
We have refused to consider the pain of the past of the African Americans forced to come to America resulting in a passing down pain and misery generation to generation. We seldom accept the responsibility for the brutal treatment of the Native American, who also cannot help but down their pain. When children began arriving at our borders unaccompanied by their parents we immediately complained about parents who would send their children on such treacherous journeys alone without any consideration of how bad their lives must be to permit their loved ones to go. We continue to listen to false religious prophets who lead us from compassion and concern and toward hatred and dismissal of the very pain that led Jesus to transform his disciples into apostles.
Our call is not to speak but to ‘BE”. Our call is too be appalled at the human persecution of any group of people to such an extent that we cannot help but be appalled and outraged. Our call if to “BE” the compassion and mercy of Jesus revealing his love, peace, and hope to those who are oppressed and mistreated. Our call is to live our life out loud, it is time that we take an honest look and say “this is not right!’. Our call is to live the life Jesus sent his apostles to live. A life where our mission is to heal the hurting, to rescue the harassed and mistreated, to show mercy and compassion, to love and bring peace. It is to let the imprint of Jesus be unavoidably seen in our actions, our heart, and then, our words.