Instructions for Disciples
by Bishop Chris Giesler
Preaching Text: Matthew 9:35-10:23
Not long ago, I was invited to one of those paint parties where you go with your friends to an art studio, and everybody in the group is supposed to paint the same picture that the guest of honor has chosen. I dreaded going, but since this was the birthday party of a good friend, I felt obliged to go. I didn’t want to go because I have no artistic talent – NONE! And I just knew that I would be embarrassed by what I produced alongside other very good artists. But it turns out that the teacher of this studio coached us through each step and line along with way. She gave us instructions, one detail at a time, one line at a time. At the end of the night, what I produced surprised me. Given the proper guidance, I can do art!
Looking at Matthew’s Gospel, it turns out this is how Jesus dealt with his disciple. So far in Matthew’s Gospel, we have seen the following:
- The account of Jesus’ birth
- Jesus’ baptism and then wilderness experience
- Gathering the 12 apostles
- Chapter 5-7 gives us the sermon on the mount. These are the essential teachings of what it means to be a Christian. He begins with the beatitudes but then has teachings on things such as anger, adultery, retaliation, love for enemies, giving to the poor, prayer, fasting, storing up treasures, priorities, worry, and judging others. This section ends with an instruction about the importance of not only hearing but doing.
In chapters 8 and 9, Jesus begins doing the following:
- He heals a leper, the Centurion’s servant, and a handful of people at Peter’s House.
- He stills a storm out on the Sea of Galilee
- He heals the Gadarene Demoniac and then a paralytic
- He calls the last disciple, Matthew
- He teaches about fasting
- And finally, on his way to restore life to a girl who has died, the woman who had been hemorrhaging touches his robe, and she is also healed.
That’s a busy two chapters!
Our Gospel lesson begins at the end of Chapter 9 and continues into Chapter 10. As we start this reading, we glimpse what has been motivating Jesus to do ministry. Matthew tells us that Jesus looked at people’s lives and had compassion for them. To him, they seemed to be like sheep without a shepherd. This is the same heart that Jesus wishes for all of his disciples, even those of us who seek to be disciples today. Would that our first and only motivation be compassion for others. Healing for the world begins with compassion.
There is a wonderful hymn in our Moravian Book of Worship entitled “Let Your Heart be Broken,” and it is #582. The lyrics are written by Bryan Jeffery Leech, and verses 1 and 4 go like this:
Let your heart be broken for a world in need,
feed the mouths that hunger,
soothe the wounds that bleed;
Give the cup of water and the loaf of bread
be the hands of Jesus, serving in his stead.
Add to your believing
deeds that prove it true,
knowing Christ as Savior, make him Master too.
Follow in his footsteps, go where he has trod,
in the world’s great trouble, risk yourself for God.
To me, that is the very definition of compassion. And allowing our hearts to be broken for the needs of others should be the motivation for a mission in life rooted in following Jesus.
Too often, we humans begin with a selfish “what’s in it for me” view of the world…hardly compassion. Or we turn to blame, retaliation, and name-calling. That won’t bring healing or reconciliation either.
Instead, Jesus begins with compassion. Let’s be like Jesus.
I can only imagine that the disciple’s heads must have been spinning. But it had to happen sooner or later, and the disciples knew it. They knew it had to go from just listening to Jesus to being called into action. If only Matthew’s Gospel could have ended there. Jesus comes, gathers followers, teaches them, does for them, and that’s it. But here we come to chapter 10: Now you go: “As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.”
Jesus says, don’t pack; just go. Go with compassion in your heart and go where people will accept you. If they don’t accept you, dust off your feet and move on. Take up the cross and follow; if you lose your life, you will save it.
We are all dependent on God, and it is in God that we must put our trust. Money, possessions, and all the latest technology might, at best, provide us with a fleeting bit of pleasure, but it will never last. God’s love will.
Know that when our hearts are broken for others, it is then that we are most open to God, and this is when we most profoundly will understand God’s love. So let us open our hearts, minds, and lives again today to God’s care and keeping. Let us continue to heed God’s call to serve others in Jesus’ name.