New Testament in 6 months – day 7

8 Apr

Bit of a busy Sunday and Monday, so it’s 1 now at a late hour, another tomorrow morning and then another later on and, hopefully, normal service resumes after that!

Matthew 9:18-10:20
While he was saying this, a ruler came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples. Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter, ” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed from that moment. When Jesus entered the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd, he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. News of this spread through all that region. As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”“Yes, Lord, ” they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith will it be done to you” and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region. While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.” Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep. “Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. “Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

I am struck by the intensity of Jesus’ ministry and the charge He gives to the 12 (and thus also us).

A man comes to Jesus and says his daughter is dying, so Jesus goes to heal her. On the way a woman grabs Jesus’ cloak and is healed. He the arrives at the girl’s house, finds out she is dead and brings her back to life. Next 2 blind men come for healing, then a demon-possessed man is brought to Jesus and then He carries on around the local area and a crowd follows Him wherever He goes. It makes the “Christmas Silly Season” (which, last year, meant 9 assemblies, 7 RE lessons, a Christmas party for youth group and all the run up during Advent, but didn’t include the Christmas services as I was spending Christmas with my mum) seem like a walk in the park by comparison! And this wasn’t just a brief period within His ministry, this was pretty much it for 3 years.
But this busyness comes to a head in this passage when the 12 are let loose on the world. And it is because Jesus recognises that it’s a big job that needs more people joining in. So He calls the 12 together and they receive the most basic training possible. I mean, seriously, before organisations like CMS send out missionaries they have to check that the person is called to where they are going, that they have taken all medical preparation, that they are able to communicate with the locals, that they know the political situation and so on. You might have to go on a training scheme for several months so as to ensure you are prepared for where you are going. But not here. Here they have 3 basic training tips:
– Heal the sick
– Raise the dead
– Drive out the demons
And then, just in case they weren’t feeling unprepared enough, Jesus says “When the arrest you…” WHEN?! So to His 12 friends who have, at best, been watching Jesus do His thing for a few months are now being sent out with 3 instructions and the warning that the WILL be arrested.

But this is what the Christian life has been and continues to be like for so many people. Nowadays, in the West, it seems to be the case that people “say the prayer” after hearing how amazing God is. But would they still make the same choice if they were told “Right, this life of following Jesus is really great and I want you to think about doing it too. You get bullied and beaten up for saying you believe it, you will be a point of ridicule for many and you might even end up dying because of believing in Jesus. What do you think?” before they even started?
It is a challenging and sobering thought to remember that when Jesus spoke about picking up our own cross, He was meaning it literally as well as figuratively. And, as someone who has been to a foreign country and shared the Gospel where it was illegal to do so but fortunately received to punishment for doing so, I recognise a bit of the fear that this idea of standing up for your faith can bring. But in spite of this fear we are still called to go. To proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. To pray for the healing of the sick, the raising if the dead and the casting out of demons. And to rejoice in suffering for faith in Jesus.

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Archbishop Cranmer

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