Our “Hands-on” Saviour

Mosaic of Jesus

In Matthew 9 this week Jesus chooses the Twelve and performs the miracles of healing an “unclean” woman and restoring life to a daughter.  Both narratives point out the risks Jesus took to bring just a touch of the Kingdom to those in need. He’s truly a “hands-on” Saviour.  We may reflect on when we have felt His “hands-on” effect in our lives.

Jesus goes on to heal a mute demonic, someone who could not speak and who acted in socially inappropriate and destructive ways. Afterwards the man spoke, the people praised God and the Pharisees reacted by blaming satanic power for the act of kindness. Why did the enemies of Jesus say such things?

Jealousy was one answer; the Lord had healing powers, a charismatic personality and a message about a hopeful future that the Pharisees did not possess. Another answer was found in past studies; Jesus was willing to break social taboos (eg. touching the “unclean”) to serve the needy; this approach was antithetical to the religious norms at the time in the Jewish community and so created controversy. In the end, He continued His mobile ministry, bringing God’s word and power to people throughout the area.

But this was not enough. The Lord needed helpers to do as He did.  So, He encouraged His followers to pray for others to carry the Good News to strangers, for missionaries to be like farm hands harvesting a bountiful crop. To employ another image Jesus used, the sheep were scattered and needed shepherds to lead them back to God.  After Jesus commanded His followers to pray for missionaries (“harvesters in the fields” in Matthew 9:38), He chose the Twelve.  He sent them out with a mission, to preach God’s message and heal with God’s power. He instructed them to travel light, unencumbered with money or extra clothing, so they would not be desirable targets for thieves. His orders also meant they were to travel short distances. Once they arrived at a village, he wanted them to accept the hospitality of a single clan; if they moved from family to family, they might cause hurt feelings and scandal, being perceived as seeking the “best deal in town.” He ordered them to bless the host family with “Shalom,” peace. This was more than a greeting; it was a divine command on equal pare with the Good News, for it was the peace of the Christ.  If peace did not reign on their mission, if the message and ministry of those sent caused scandal, the peace would return to them. Those who rejected the missionaries would also be rejected; shaking the dust of one’s feet was a grave insult, implying those rejected were not worth even the dust below one’s sandal.

While we might not be called to travel as missionaries, we are nevertheless disciples. We are to be as Christ-like as we can to others, just as the apostles represented the Lord to those who heard the Good News. The message for us this week is that we, like the Twelve, are to go and give to others the gift of faith given to us.