Given June 14, 2020
- Exodus 19:1-8
- Psalm 100
- Romans 5:1-11
- Matthew 9:35-10:15
Bad news fills our media today. It seems to be getting worse, almost like the evil in this world has increased, that the world is growing more evil every day.
Pandemics, murder, riots, wars, and rumors of wars…bad news.
The hate and evil break my heart. It brings me to cry out, “God, do something! Fix this world!”
Has the Enemy taken over the world?
No. Jesus promised the god of this world was cast down at the cross. The Enemy is now on the run. Jesus Christ is king, he has all authority, he has all power.
How can this be? If Jesus is king how can there still be evil?
Because Jesus must reign until he has put everything under his control. Until then there will still be evil in this world, there will still be an Enemy, there will still be sin that we will have to contend with.
The bad news we hear is only an indication that our job as the Church is not done. Until we all are united in faith in Jesus Christ, our work is not complete.
Our gospel lesson today tells us Jesus was going about the cities and villages, teaching, and healing.
When Jesus looked at the crowds, he saw their affliction, their oppression, their helplessness, their confusion, the bondage of sin that held them captive. And Jesus had compassion for them.
The Greek word that we translate into “compassion” is the verb form for the word for “inward parts”, your internal organs, your guts.
You’ve heard the phrase “It ripped my heart out”, you’ve probably used it before.
It describes the feeling Jesus felt for the people. When he saw the people in their affliction it broke his heart.
Then, Jesus says to his disciples, “Pray. Pray, to the one who is in charge of the harvest!”
What is this harvest? It is a metaphor for God’s creation. Later in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells a parable where he describes the world as being a field where a farmer planted good seed. But the Enemy came and planted bad seed. The good seed and the bad seed grew up together, wheat and weeds. The good seed that grew up into wheat represents people of the kingdom of God, the bad seed that grew up into weeds, represents evil people.
Jesus is using a similar metaphor here. The world is ripe, full of lost people, who are looking for help, for rescue, the need the good news.
Jesus said to his disciples here, “The harvest ripe.” The people of the kingdom are out there in the crowds waiting to enter. The people who need rescue are out there. The people who need to be reconciled to God are out there. But they are lost, they need to be found. He tells them to pray to God the Father, the Lord of Creation, to send out workers – witnesses to proclaim the kingdom of God.
Then, Jesus answers that prayer, and send out his disciples into the harvest.
He called his twelve apostles, the word apostle means “sent out one”. He gives them the authority to proclaim his gospel, cast out evil spirits, and to heal diseases and afflictions.
Jesus said, “proclaim as you go, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons… give without pay.”
So, what can we learn from this?
Let us begin with Jesus’ compassion. In Scripture, Jesus was moved to compassion for the people, quite often with tears, because of their afflictions and bondage.
On such instance, Jesus is entering Jerusalem on his donkey, his Triumphal Entry, as we call it. The people around him are all rejoicing, crying out, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.” Instead of rejoicing himself, Jesus instead weeps. He says, “I wish you knew today what would bring you peace. But now it is hidden from you.”
Jesus knew the road they were headed down, he saw the violence of the world, and it broke his heart.
Do you get the same feeling when you hear the bad news of the world?
Does the pandemic move you to grieve for others?
Do murder and racism break your heart?
Do the riots, the wars, and the violence rip your heart out?
It ripped Jesus’ heart out. If these things do not break your heart, but it breaks the heart of Jesus, you will have to do some soul searching to see if you really are following Jesus.
Our master says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God!”
When our heart breaks for the world, it means we have the heart of Jesus himself. We know we have entered the kingdom when our hearts break for the lost world we live in.
Because, if your heart is not broken for the world how can you do what Jesus tells us to do? How can you pray?
From this position, we can best pray. The psalmist says, “The sacrifice you desire, is a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart…” (Psalm 51:17).
Not just any attitude in prayer – in the ESV translation Jesus says to “earnestly pray”, meaning, pleadingly, begging, with sincerity and purpose – in other words, from your broken heart plead to God to send out workers.
Is that all the world needs, thoughts, and prayers?
Do not just pray about it, do something about it. Pray on your feet.
Jesus looked out over the crowds, saw their helplessness, their desperation, their cries for justice, and it broke his heart, his compassion moved him into action.
What did he do? He empowered his disciples with authority and sent them out into the harvest to proclaim the kingdom of God.
Two weeks ago, we celebrated Pentecost, the birth of the Church. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was to empower US, the Church to be Jesus’ witnesses in this world – to proclaim his kingdom come and call upon the world to repent, turn towards him and enter the kingdom.
Last week we read the Great Commission, Jesus is calling upon his disciples to “Go… and make disciples of all nations…”
And that commission has been handed down to us. As our pastor said we need to be “Disciple-making disciples.”
There is a temptation here, one that I believe has gripped the Church in various ways at different times throughout our history. The temptation of dividing the world into US and THEM. Those outside the Church are sinners, we are the saints. Unless sinners repent and join us, they are to be ignored, treated like outcasts, “tax collectors and sinners.”
Israel had this same problem. Our Old Testament lesson is God calling out Israel as his own special people. God chose Israel, saved her from slavery, and made them his own special people.
The Lord says, “you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
The Lord called out Israel for a specific task in this world – to be the instrument to bring about the kingdom of God on earth.
For Israel, this went to their collective head. They took the promises of God as the whole ordination for all their doings – no matter how vile or evil. They believed that the kingdom of God can come by force, by violence.
What they did not see was God was ordaining them to a specific task. The words “treasured possession”, or “special treasure”, or as the KJV says, “peculiar treasure”, means Israel has a peculiar, unique, purpose in the world.
For instance, the hammer is a peculiar tool to do one thing: hammer nails. It cannot be used to tighten a screw or remove a nut and bolt. It has a peculiar use. Does this make the hammer better than the other tools in the toolbox? Does it make the rest of the tools useless? No. Each one has its role, it peculiar and special use.
The Lord points out to Israel, “…all the earth is mine.” It is not just Israel that he is concerned with. He wants Israel to be a light, to be a kingdom of priest to the rest of the world.
But Israel eventually came to see their position as being greater, as being God’s favorites, and began to oppress people, cause violence, ignore the poor – this led to their downfall.
Fast forward 600 years we have Jesus calling out another group of people, a new kingdom of priests – fishers and hunters of people. He calls upon the Jews of his time to live in peace, warned of the destruction that was coming if the did not seek peace, and wept knowing they would not listen.
But we too fall into the same rut as Israel, believing we are morally superior, that we are better than the rest of the world, that the world is lost and not worthy of redemption.
Looking out into the world, full of bad news, seeing the evil, the hate, the malice, we can fall into such despair and see no hope in this world. We can begin to believe the people outside of the Church are hopeless, helpless, without the Good Shepherd.
So, some will turn up our noses, appalled at their lawlessness, and condemn them to God’s judgment. They would be content to ignore the world and keep to their little holy huddle.
For others, anger and rage fill up in their hearts. They will see the violence and want to meet violence with violence. For people like this, they make the US and THEM into US versus THEM. They forget that we are fighting the god of this world, and not the people, who need Jesus.
Is this what Jesus would do in our world? Would Jesus look upon the pandemic, the murders, the racism, the riots, the violence, and say these people are helpless, devoid of goodness, and not worthy of redemption?
Or, do you think it would break his heart?
The people we see in this world are evil, yes, but they need Jesus.
The people in this world are enslaved to sin, but they need to be rescued.
The people in this world are immoral, yes, but they need the light to show them the way.
The two tools that Jesus gave his disciples, to you and me, to work and live in this world, is prayer and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom.
Paul asks, “How can the people have faith in the Lord and ask him to save them if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear unless someone tells them? And how can anyone tell them without being sent by the Lord?”
I am here today that God is sending you, he is sending me, into the world to tell them.
The people of the kingdom are out there in the world waiting to enter. The people who need rescue are out there. The people who need to be reconciled to God are out there. But they are lost, they need to be found.
So, when you and I cry out, “God, do something! Fix this world!”
He says, “I am, go tell the world I am doing something. I am fixing the world.”