This morning, as I was reading from Matthew, a couple of verses really spoke to me. These verses come right after an incident where Jesus expelled a demon, drawing this criticism from some Pharisees: "By the ruler of the demons he casts out demons."
There seems to be a shift in the text, so what follows that incident may not have happened immediately, but I don't think it's a coincidence that it shows up where it does:
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:35-36 NRSV)
I never really got into the 1990's "What Would Jesus Do" craze, but I'm trying to live by a variation of the slogan now: Do What Jesus Did. And it looks like Jesus did what he was sent to do, even when he was criticized by religious people. In this passage from the Gospel of Matthew, we see Jesus:
- going from town to town
- preaching the good news of the kingdom
- curing every disease and every sickness
- showing compassion to the harassed and the helpless
We can also assume that he continued to confront spiritual evil whenever he ran into it, and part of that involved casting out demons.
So how much of this stuff do we do? I realize that people have different callings and gifts, but sometimes I think we use that fact mostly as an excuse not to take risks. Let's take another look at what Jesus did:
- Jesus went from town to town-- he didn't wait for people to come to him. That's remarkable considering that after his ministry was established he could have easily stayed in one place and had plenty of people coming to him. Are we going where the people are?
- Jesus taught, and he taught with authority. He didn't simply facilitate discussions. But he also left questions unanswered sometimes. Are we finding the proper balance when we teach?
- Jesus preached the good news of the kingdom. There was a point to all the good stuff he was doing, and he verbalized it. How good are we at doing that?
- Jesus cured every disease and sickness. People debate whether this means he cured every sick person or just every type of sickness. My question is, how much sickness and disease is Jesus curing through his church today? Are we taking risks and praying for people to be healed? Are we trying to learn how to pray for healing?
- He showed compassion to the harassed and the helpless. How are we helping those who are being harassed or can't help themselves? Are we helping people get free from the things that keep them in bondage?
With much respect to some of my emergent-postmodern friends, we don't need a new kind of Christianity. We need to go back to the beginning.
I use the daily scripture reading plan from When You Pray by Rueben P. Job, Copyright © 2009 Abingdon Press.