In the name of Jesus.
We have just heard a depiction of the kind of person Jesus is, one who loves people and enjoys being with and helping them. Matthew wrote about his master, "Jesus went throughout all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness."
Jesus was not the kind of person to stay in one place and have the people come to him. He was out there in on the road, traveling from little town to village, always on the move. Our Lord had such a love for God's people that he did not expect them to travel to Jerusalem. He came to them.
When Jesus got there he had something to do. He taught them. He showed his love for the people by preaching the good news. The good news can also be translated as the gospel. What is the gospel? It is the message that God's kingdom has come down to you. As humans we have throughout our history believed that there is a being above us, our maker. In ancient times people were smarter than they are today. They looked around at all the complexity of the natural world, all the beauty and strength of nature, and then they looked at themselves and their failures and they said, "There must be a God out there! I wonder what he looks like."
Well imagine being in your little town one day, and as you go down to your house of worship, there's a man there who tells you everything you ever wanted to know about God. But something's different about this man. He not only tells you about God, he tells you he is God! He says the kingdom of heaven has now come down to you. You look at the preacher and you are staring God in the face. This man preaches to you like you've never heard before, with authority, because he is the eternal God in the body of a human being. That's what it must have been like for the people who heard Jesus preach.
And Jesus not only preached to the people. He healed them as well. Those who were blind, or crippled, or paralyzed: he made them whole. He healed their diseases. He gave them back their abilities. He did this to show them that what He said about Himself was true. He was the Son of God, that is, he was God himself.
Many people welcomed Jesus into their town. Some offered their homes to him. Others left their homes to follow him wherever he went. We think of the little man Zacchaeus, who climbed up a tree to see Jesus, and then welcomed the Savior into his house for supper.
The Gospel of the kingdom is that God has come to our town in Jesus Christ. Right here today Christ is making his appearance. We have gathered in this house of worship this morning, like those people in ancient times. They gathered to read from the Bible, and they were surprised to see God Himself walk in. We should not be surprised to know that Jesus is present here this morning. Jesus told us that where two or more gathered in His name, He would be there with them. He told his disciples that when they baptized and taught his word, he would be with them always, to the end of the age. He told them, "Whoever hears you, is hearing Me." We can certainly say that Jesus Christ is with us this morning.
When Jesus looked out at the people who gathered around him, it says he had compassion on them. He loved them. He wanted to help them. But there were so many of them. He said they were harassed and helpless. Jesus could see more than they could. He could see the reason they were harassed. They had enemies. There was a predator in their town. He was everywhere, sneaking around, poking and jabbing at them. And the poor people! They couldn't see this invisible enemy. He was working his hardest to discourage them, to wear them down, to drive them to despair. He was the one who brought illness to their bodies. He was the one who put the cloud of despair over their heads. Satan was at work in those towns, and he is working among us today.
We really have the same enemies today, as you will recall. We have the Devil, who preys upon us. Most people today think Satan is a fairy tale character, but let me tell you, he is alive and well. Where do people get the ideas to do the evil things that they do? The devil is whispering it in their ear. Jealousy, envy, hatred, lust, adultery, thievery, violence, murder. . . It all comes from the same place, from Satan, the father of lies. Jesus cast the demons out of people, made them leave.
We have another enemy, the world itself. I don't mean that we should hate the beautiful planet we live on. It's the spirit of the world that attacks us. The trends that drive people is what I am talking about. The world preaches lies to us constantly, through the media, through our experiences, through the lives of other people who live in darkness. When we read the Bible it's easier for us to say this is right and this is wrong. But when we see our friends and neighbors doing wrong, we get dragged along too into the devil's trap.
Our third enemy is very close to us. It is our flesh, those desires that pull us down and seek to drag us away from God. The flesh is the untamed part of ourselves that feels so good when we ingratiate it, but feels so bad when we realize the wrong we have done. Yes, we have three enemies, the Devil, the world, and our flesh. They won't stop until they thoroughly soil us and damn us away from God's presence.
Jesus breaks through all these enemies and comes to greet us. He has defeated the devil by resisting all temptation. The Bible says that Jesus was tempted and yet was without any sin. That means he did no wrong, and he missed no opportunity to do right. All of this goodness He offered up on the cross for us. By giving us faith in His sacrifice, he has imputed, or transferred this goodness to us. We are forgiven, and more than this, we are now holy. We shine forth with all the goodness of our Savior. This is the Gospel of the kingdom of God.
The Bible says Jesus looked out at all the people and loved them. They looked like sheep without a shepherd. There were so many of them and only one of He would die for their sins and give them His holiness. But how would they hear this good news? So He said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."
Growing up in my little town in Michigan, nothing important ever came to town. We went to work, to school, to church. One time a missionary came to our church and showed us what he was doing in New Guinea. I will never forget how we listened to him talk about the people there who had never heard about sin and forgiveness in Jesus. They lived poorly but they welcomed the Gospel of the kingdom of God in the forgiveness of sins. It was so exciting to think that God was using this man to travel to the other side of the world to bring his salvation to people who would never know that God came down in Jesus and died to take away their sins, and therefore they would be welcomed into heaven with us. It was wonderful to think that God was using us, as a congregation by the few dollars we put in the offering plate each weak, to make this happen.
Jesus called his twelve disciples and gave them power to preach, to heal, and to defeat the enemy. He sent Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, the brothers James and John, Matthew and Thomas and all the others. They went out, and for the rest of their lives they traveled and preached and taught until the day they died. That was how Jesus loved his people. He told them to go first to the people of Israel and proclaim that the kingdom of God was at hand. They didn't have to take money, for the people they preached to would supply all their needs. If they wouldn't hear and believe, they were to move on. There was to be no charge to hear the good news. It was a free gift to the world.
Friends in Christ, things haven't changed. The gospel of the kingdom of Jesus has come here today, but there's a world of people out there who either haven't heard or haven't considered the possibility that it could be true. Christ has done everything to make it possible for their salvation to be delivered to them. All it takes is for a disciple to go.
I see two ways we can respond to this. We can pray as Jesus said that God would send pastors to every town and village, faithful men who will tell people what sin and death is and what Jesus did to defeat it. We can support our seminaries where pastors are trained so that they are equipped to preach the gospel to a complex and sinful world.
We can also respond by carrying that message ourselves. Just imagine what those people Jesus healed had to say when they got home. "This morning I was blind, but now I can see." "I never thought I would walk on my own two feet, but look at me now!" Jesus has healed all of our souls. Sometimes he heals our bodies and minds through modern medicine. We have all received the healing of our souls. We have a wonderful message to tell.
Pastor Elliott and I are servants of the Word of the Lord, but we will never be able to reach the people you know who don't yet belong to Jesus. But you can reach them. Pray that God will give you the Spirit to tell the Good News of forgiveness and bring spiritual healing to someone else.
The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. Amen.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Copyright © 1998-2011 James F. Wright. All rights reserved.
Send Pastor James F. Wright an email.