Saturday, September 14, 2013

Calling Down Fire (part 3)

Yes, the messengers that had been charged with their task by Jesus Himself, were to go out and preach the Gospel.  The coming of the kingdom of God to earth, with all that this implied for the overlap of the realm of the Creator God and the realm of the divine image-bearers, meant the arrival of the Messiah.  What it meant was that the long night of exile in their own land and foreign oppression was coming to an end.  This was portended by the healing of the sick.  Together with this, the declaration that the kingdom of God was at hand meant that the Lord was at work, redeeming His people. 

This was to be the sum and substance of the message and activity of those sent by Jesus.  Though these that Jesus then sent out were instructed to limit their ministry to the house of Israel, these instructions do indeed sound very much like those which are reported at the end of Matthew, where Jesus says “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” (28:19a).  This making of disciples would include informing all nations about the kingdom of the Creator God that had come to earth in and through Jesus’ death and Resurrection, and that “all authority in heaven and earth” (28:18b) had been given to Him. 

Then and now, this message---the Gospel message---was a message of power, somehow carrying the Creator God’s power to accomplish His missional purposes for His world and His people in this world, with the mission carried out through His people.  It would seem that such is what the Apostle Paul believed, and to that end he wrote what are regarded to be some of the most beautiful words ever penned, making the declaration that the Gospel “is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16b).  Jesus’ demand that this message of the kingdom be preached, along with the appropriate response to the response of those that hear and possibly reject the message, stands up as a daily challenge as to whether or not presumptive believers truly believe in the message and in the power inherent within it. 

As these things are considered, it is incumbent upon those that claim allegiance to Jesus to always, always, always historically contextualize Jesus’ words and actions as presented in the Gospels so that they may be better understood and applied by those that do indeed wish to live by them.  In that time, people will have seen actions such as these and heard words not completely unlike those of Jesus.  Neither the mode of preaching nor the message was entirely new, either in the Israel of Jesus’ day or in the world into which His disciples would later travel.  One can ascertain that the method of preaching was not new, because Jesus is said to have provided directives that were designed to insure that His disciples looked different from all of the other traveling preachers---thus the restriction on the bags and sandals and greetings, along with His insistence that they not move around from house to house. 

The cultural familiarity with the practice that Jesus’ disciples were to undertake probably has a hand in the Apostle Paul referring to the foolish method of spreading the Gospel of the kingdom of the covenant God of Israel that had been established in Jesus (and this completely apart from the apparent foolishness of the message of a crucified and resurrected man being the Lord of all, rather than the Caesar that was ultimately responsible for the state-sanctioned execution).  It is to be understood that the Creator God did not ordain a new practice that would somehow make it easier to preach the message of the Gospel of Christ.  He did not give a new tool that would make the Gospel’s gaining of attention a much more simple task.  Mysteriously, the Creator God took something familiar and imbued it with the confounding power of the Resurrection.   

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