Recently, while meditating on Matthew 9:35-38 something quite unexpectedly jumped off the page.
I spent a week at the beginning of this month sitting with these 4 verses at first because I wanted to get inspired and hear what God has to say about evangelism, after all the workers are few as the passage says and we must ask the Lord to send us out.
Here’s the passage as it reads in the NIV:
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming 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.” [Matthew 9:35-38]
Did you see what I saw?
I’ll narrow it down. It’s right at the beginning in verse 35.
Jesus’ ministry was three dimensional. He went through the land teaching, proclaiming and healing. Some translations render proclaiming as preaching, but the general meaning remains the same. Throughout seven days of deep meditation on this passage I came to realize that effective evangelism should always contain these three elements.
A little over two years ago I wrote a post that that broke down my mission as a writer which said that I am a disciple of Christ – always learning, always growing and always teaching. While Jesus didn’t need to learn or grow, at least not by the time he started his ministry he was a teacher first and foremost. He taught what it truly meant to not just follow but to fulfill the law and how to live a just and moral life.
While teaching digs in to meaning and application and invites debate to further understanding, proclamation does not. Proclamation is a take it or leave it a statement of fact. Where proclamation says, “it’s raining”, teaching says rain is necessary for the healthy development of crops and invites debate regarding how much rain is too little or too much for optimal growth. When Jesus preached he left no room for debate. That offended many, especially when his preaching flew in the face of tradition and challenged the norms of society.
Just two chapters before this we learn that both his teaching and preaching were regarded by the people as somewhat of a curiosity because he spoke as “one who had authority”. In other words, he knew what he was talking about.
When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. [Matthew 7:27,28]
Teaching and preaching are worthless unless they are accompanied by action. People who are hungry, people who are sick and people who are oppressed by an evil system of government don’t need to be taught morality or preached to about correct doctrine. They need food, medicine and political advocacy.
Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” [Mark 2:9-12]
Three dimensional ministry must therefore have a practical component. Saint Teresa of Avila said:
Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
What’s your three dimensional ministry? How are you discipling others through teaching, preaching and healing? Let me know in the comments or via email.
PS – On a personal note, I just learned on the weekend that my High-school English teacher passed away of breast cancer. She was only in her mid 50s. As a 20 something teacher on her first assignment she was the first person to see in me a potential for writing. She encouraged me to journal and hone my voice, that journal evolved into this blog. It’s been more than 30 years since I was her student, and, in that time, I have written almost every day and completed 2 books. I skipped my High-school reunion, so I never got a chance to thank her or to show her what that simple encouragement, which she’d likely forgot, has wrought. RIP Mrs. Favro; a good teacher never fully knows how they quietly shape the future and bring context to the past.