“Jesus Extends His Compassionate Authority” (Matthew 9:35 – 10:8)

Second Sunday after Pentecost
June 14, 2020

“Jesus Extends His Compassionate Authority” (Matthew 9:35 – 10:8)

“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.” So we heard in the Holy Gospel for today from Matthew. And that particular verse, Matthew 9:35, sounds an awful lot like a verse from five chapters earlier, Matthew 4:23, where it says: “And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.” Those two verses are almost verbatim the same. What the writer, Matthew, is doing is framing this major section of his gospel, in which he recounts the early ministry of Jesus in Galilee. In this section, he shows Jesus doing these several activities: “teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.”

Teaching, preaching, and healing: That’s what Jesus has been doing. Teaching: teaching in their synagogues and even on a mountainside, explaining to his growing number of followers what it means to be his disciples. Preaching: proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, announcing its arrival, summed up in these words, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Healing: healing every disease and affliction–and Matthew has recorded a bunch of examples–a leper, a centurion’s servant, Peter’s mother-in-law, the demon-possessed, a paralytic, a woman with a discharge of blood, a girl raised from the dead, and so on.

Teaching, preaching, and healing. In doing these things, Jesus has demonstrated his unique, divine authority. As Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount, about righteousness and the kingdom and discipleship, he says several times, “You have heard that it was said. . . . But I say to you. . . .” He’s claiming authority there. And at the end of that long teaching discourse, it says, “When Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” As Jesus preaches, his proclamation is full of authority. He’s proclaiming that God’s end-time judgment and salvation are here now, in his person, and that he has the authority to announce it and to call men to act accordingly: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” As Jesus heals, his authority likewise is on display: authority over disease, authority over demons, authority over death. Jesus’ word and touch carry great power, power to restore fallen creation.

Jesus’ teaching, preaching, and healing show forth his unique authority, that he is in fact the Messiah, the Christ, whose rule and reign was promised from long ago, who would usher in the kingdom of heaven here on earth. But notice how this kingdom comes–not just with a raw show of bare power, but with an authority exercised for the good of people.

In the play “Richard III,” Shakespeare portrays how one king went about establishing his kingdom. Richard’s methods have been described like this: “ruthless ambition, insincere flattery, manipulation, treachery, and deception.” That’s how the kingdom of Richard III came. Contrast that to how Jesus brought in the kingdom of heaven. Instead of ruthless ambition, Jesus displays selfless humility. Instead of insincere flattery, bold exposure of hypocrisy. In place of manipulation, mercy. In place of treachery, truth. Instead of deception, Jesus brings revelation. Truly, Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world.

It’s a different kind of authority that Jesus manifests. We can call it compassionate authority. Compassion is a key word here. Note what our text says: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus had compassion for the crowds. That tells us something about him–and about us.

The term that’s translated here, “he had compassion,” literally means, “his inner parts, his guts, were moved within him.” That’s how in that language they would express deep emotion. In our language, we might say, “his heart was deeply moved.” Either way, we see the compassionate heart of our Savior here! How deeply he loves these people who need him so!

And this also tells us something about ourselves. For apart from Christ, we are like those crowds, “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” “Harassed and helpless”: torn up, beaten down, bruised and buffeted by all the assaults and afflictions of this life. “Like sheep without a shepherd”: weak, vulnerable, straying, lost. That is us, apart from Christ.

But Christ the Good Shepherd came to help people just like us. But there are so many of us–how can he reach us all? So many to help, so little time! That’s why Jesus tells 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.” Field workers–Jesus wants workers to help bring in the harvest. The harvest season is short, and it is labor-intensive. The workers have to get out in the field and “get ’er done.” So Jesus calls his church to prayer. Pray to the Lord of the harvest–that is, to your Father in heaven, who oversees the work–and pray for more workers. Jesus will extend his compassionate authority by having men join him in the work.

So Jesus tells the disciples to pray, and then he calls the twelve to be those harvest laborers. He gives them authority to do what he himself has been doing. And he sends them out. That’s why they’re called “apostles,” “sent ones,” authorized and sent out with a commission. Twelve apostles, and here are their names: Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John, and so on.

Twelve apostles, to match the twelve tribes of Israel. And that’s where Jesus sends them, to Israel, and nowhere else, on this, their first, limited mission: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

That’s to whom he sends them. And this is what he sends them to do: “And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.” Proclaim, heal, raise, cleanse, cast out. . . . That sounds a lot like Jesus’ own ministry, doesn’t it? And that’s the point. Jesus is extending his compassionate authority through the ministry of the apostles.

“Well, that’s great,” you say. Great for the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Great for those people back in the first century. But what about us, here in the twenty-first century? What about the lost sheep of the house of Bonne Terre or De Soto? Doesn’t Jesus have any compassion for the lost sheep of Missouri? Oh, he does!

Jesus’ compassion is without bounds. So great is Christ’s compassion that it moved this Good Shepherd to lay down his life for the sheep. Christ’s compassion took him all the way to the cross. No “ruthless ambition, treachery, or deception” was found in him. But that’s what Jesus was willing to suffer at the hands of wicked men. By his rejection, betrayal, suffering, and death, the compassionate Christ gave his life for your redemption.

It was for our sins that he died. While we still weak, while we were still sinners, while we were God’s enemies, Christ died for us, the ungodly. Now we are justified by his blood. Now we are saved from God’s wrath. Now we have been reconciled back to God. You and I are saved by Christ’s resurrection life for everlasting life with him in his kingdom. Clothed with Christ’s righteousness, you and I are spared from God’s judgment, and we receive instead eternal salvation. Jesus has defeated your enemies for you. With his compassionate authority, Jesus delivers you from the domain of the devil and from death itself.

Jesus’ compassion is without bounds. For while on this occasion Jesus sent out his apostles only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, later on he will extend his compassion and expand that commission to go to all the nations. Risen victorious from the dead, Jesus called together his apostles once again and commissioned them anew: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” and so on.

Thus the compassionate authority of Jesus is extended even now unto you. You see, Christ’s apostles then ordained other servants of the Word to extend the ministry even further. And they in turn ordained others. And so it goes. The preaching, teaching, and healing ministry of Jesus continues. And so I come to you today preaching, proclaiming the same gospel of the kingdom, the good news of God’s gracious reign among us. Today God is calling you to repent of your sins and to turn to him, to receive the salvation accomplished for you by Christ’s death and resurrection. Preaching, and teaching: As we open up the Scriptures together in Bible classes, Jesus will teach you about righteousness and the kingdom and what it means to be his disciples living in this world. Preaching, teaching, and healing: In a few moments, our Lord will invite you to his table, to receive his very body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Brothers and sisters, this is the medicine of immortality, guaranteeing your ultimate and eternal healing, in both body and soul, at the day of resurrection.

Dear friends, through the church’s ministry, which our Lord himself established, Jesus today is extending his compassionate authority to you!

Published in: on June 13, 2020 at 9:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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