She was beautiful, smiley and when I started to talk to her I was more attracted still as her winsome personality shone through too. I was smitten. I would willingly have gone anywhere with her. If that meant moving away to live, work and go to church some place else then I would happily have done so.
We know that it is possible to be drawn to the place where love means that we are prepared to “forsake all others.”
Does Jesus and the Gospel have that affect on you?
Follow Jesus and call others to follow him too (18-22)
A disciple is someone who wants to follow Jesus, to stick close to him and learn from him. A disciple is someone who calls others to follow Jesus too. When Jesus meets some fishermen by Galilee, he calls them to leave their nets and their families behind and follow him.
Their response is immediate to the call though note from the other Gospels that this was no mere whimsical spur of the moment affair that they would regret later. We see that there were other conversations and other opportunities to check out Jesus’ character and message prior to this definitive action.
Yet, once the call is made, there is an urgency and a whole-heartedness to their response. They leave everything behind, family, vocation and future for Jesus. Now for some of us there will be things to give up and it may be that God calls you into a ministry that requires you to move from your home or workplace.
However, this is as much about heart orientation. Can I hold my life lightly? Will I allow Jesus to take priority in my life? Does everything else come second and in fact are my priorities ordered towards serving Jesus.
Jesus commissions them to call others to repentance. Are we taking seriously our responsibility to tell others about Jesus?
Become part of a something (23-25)
Becoming part of God’s kingdom is about joining a movement, something bigger than us and beyond our control of manipulation. Jesus preaches and crowds from all over are drawn to him. They hear in Syria and in the Decapolis (Ten cities). The message of Jesus crosses from rural areas into urban populations. It crosses ethnic boundaries from Jew to Gentile.
The result is that those who are sick with all kinds of illnesses come to find Jesus or are brought to him and he heals them. I would like to pause and think through this for a moment. Why does Jesus heal? Well I want to suggest that this relates to something I said in the last sermon on Matthew’s Gospel. There, we saw that there is a sharp contrast between the kingdom of light, of Christ’s kingdom and the kingdom of darkness, Satan’s kingdom. We talked last time about the latter representing a culture of death which we can get drawn into.
We should not be surprised to see that shadow of death. When Adam and Eve sinned, they brought death into the world and that is seen in all aspects of The Fall, it is seen in physical, emotional and mental sickness. It is seen in demon possession. This is a broken world. Jesus is the one through whom this world was created and he is the one who offers new life. This means that one day, he will return and bring the culture of death to an end. There will be no more sickness, no more demonic activity and no more death.
At the moment, the world continues to experience those signs of disease and decay. We live in this world and can expect to experience those things too. However, Jesus’ healing ministry acted as a demonstration or foretaste of what was to eventually come through his salvation. The enemy, death was being put on notice.
I believe that God heals today. In fact, gifts of healing are listed among the gifts of the Spirit in the New Testament. However, our primary responsibility is to tell people the good news about Jesus so that they will be with him when he returns and able to enjoy eternal life in a world without suffering and death.
The other thing to notice here is that a movement is not something that is manufactured by an organisation. We overuse the word today. So, let’s be clear Christian holidays and outreach strategies are not movements (as good as they are). A movement is something beyond our control as the Holy Spirit works and in fact, more important than being part of this or that movement is being part of the larger movement that is the kingdom of God.
Still today, he calls people from everywhere, regardless of age, gender, class or colour. It is incredibly exciting to be part of this. If last time we saw that the good news of Jesus should lead to radical change in our lives. This passage makes it clear that in fact, it is Christ who does the work of changing us.