This will no doubt be the longest post I’ve ever had, but I’ve had enough requests so here it is … all 60 posts of the Missional Jesus series.
Missional Jesus
I begin a new series today — and it could last a good, long while. The series is on Missional Jesus. Our question: How did Jesus understand the missional life? This, of course, involves two “missions” — his mission and ours. We will learn that his mission is our mission because his mission is God’s mission, the missio Dei. Today and tomorrow will be brief background matters to Missional Jesus: we will look at the Spirit’s inspiration of Mary to speak of the future mission of Jesus and John the Baptist’s great message about his own mission, to which Jesus attached himself.

So, Missional Jesus begins with Missional Mary. How did Mary understand the Mission of God that was to incorporate her Son, the Messiah, into that mission?
1. Whatever mission we want to talk about, it must begin with the mission of God (notice how often Mary speaks of what God is doing), and this God is worthy of glory, is holy, is merciful, and is faithful to his promises to Abraham.
2. Humility before God, which is connected to Mary’s condition of poverty, is honored in the mission of God (1:48).
3. The mission of God involves establishing justice (1:51-53).
4. The mission of God involves political leaders (1:52).
5. The mission of God involves basic human needs (1:53).
6. The mission of God involves exalting Mary’s son — the theme driving the Magnificat.
Luke 1:46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
Missional Jesus 2
Yesterday we looked at Mary. Today we look at John the Baptist’s understanding of the mission of God. The principle text, of course, is Luke 3:1-18. How did J-B understand the mission of God?
How often do we think of John the Baptist? Really. Now the big one: Do we embrace John’s perception of the mission of God that was entering the world, was at work in John, and was about to skip a pace or two and end up in the lap of Jesus?
1. Entrance into and commitment to the mission of God, according to J-B, meant Israel needed to undergo a baptism (understood as purification) and repentance from its sins (3:3) — and this would lead to forgiveness. John summons the nation; individuals “enlist” in his vision by undergoing baptism.
2. The mission of God fulfills Isa 40:3-5 and this means John is the Voice who cries out that everything should get ready for the coming of God to Zion who comes to save (which evokes the name “Jesus” — savior). John, who had identity issues, saw himself as the “Voice.” (Jesus, by the way, saw John as “Elijah.”)
3. Israelites “enlist” in this saving presence of God by a repentance-that-leads-to-fruits:
a. This is for all; Israelite or not (3:8).
b. Those who don’t respond are judged (3:9).
c. Repentance involves, or should I say means?:
economic distribution for those with more than enough (3:10-11),
fair economic dealings for those who have financial power (3:12-13), and
a respect for the dignity of others by those with the power to conscript (3:14).
[Note: John sounds like Mary.]
4. The mission of God is embodied in the One Who is All-Powerful, the Messiah (3:16) and John is the pointer to the Messiah. The Voice is the Pointer.
Luke 3:1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— 2 during the high–priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Luke 3:5 Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
Luke 3:6 And all people will see God’s salvation.
Luke 3:7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Luke 3:10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
Luke 3:11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
Luke 3:12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
Luke 3:13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.
Luke 3:14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”
Luke 3:15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.
Missional Jesus 3
With Mary and John Baptist now watching from the sideline (as it were), Jesus becomes the center stage as we work our way through the themes connected to Missional Jesus.
No better place to begin that Luke 4:16-30.
1. Missional Jesus publicly announces the centrality of himself to the mission of God (4:21).
2. Missional Jesus sees his own mission in Isa 61:1-2, that means his mission involves justice for the poor, prisoners, the blind, and the oppressed.
[Note: Jesus sounds like Mary and John Baptist.]
3. The mission of Jesus is a Jubilee mission (4:19).
4. The mission of Jesus creates disturbances and rejection (4:24).
5. Homies reject Jesus (4:24-29).
6. The mission of Jesus will extend beyond the normal boundaries.
Luke 4:16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”f
Luke 4:20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Luke 4:22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.
Luke 4:23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”
Luke 4:24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “prophets are not accepted in their hometowns. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosyg in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
Luke 4:28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
Missional Jesus 4
The missional Jesus enlists others in his mission — and one can see this as an evangelistic summons into the work of the kingdom by attachment to Jesus. A good place to see this is the fuller story of Peter’s “conversion” in Luke 5:1-11.
1. Missional Jesus is a preacher of the word (5:1-3) and it is out of that context that he summons Peter.
2. Encountering the missional Jesus brings bewilderment, wonder, and awe — leading to repentance (5:5, 8, 9-10).
3. Missional Jesus shares his mission with those who are attached to him (5:10).
4. Those who participate in the mission of Jesus are called to enlist others in the mission of Jesus — by attaching themselves through them to Missional Jesus (5:11).
Luke 5:1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,b the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
Luke 5:4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
Luke 5:5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
Luke 5:6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
Luke 5:8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
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Missional Jesus summons others to attach themselves to himself and doesn’t care what ties they have to break in order to be attached to him and the mission of God he has come to preach and enact.
Notice our text today: Luke 9:57-62.
1. It is far too easy to make this a “discipleship” (only) text. That is, something about ethics and commitment to follow Jesus subsequent to salvation. Mistake. This is all one and the same.
2. Missional Jesus knows the cost to the body (9:58).
3. Missional Jesus knows the cost to the family life when it comes to sacred customs (9:59-60).
4. Missional Jesus knows the cost to the family life when it comes to simple social courtesies (9:61-62).
Missional Jesus wants all of his followers, he wants them to make that decision now, and he wants all of them because he knows the kingdom of God is worth it.
To quote Mark Galli, Missional Jesus is more mean and wild than meek and mild.
Luke 9:57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
Luke 9:58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
Luke 9:59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
Luke 9:60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Luke 9:61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good–by to my family.”
Luke 9:62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
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What was Jesus’ ministry? It is a safe bet to infer from what Jesus did to what his intent and what his vision were. I suggest that Matthew 4:23-25, which has a near parallel in 9:35, is a great place to see what Jesus’ intent and vision were because the Evangelist tells us what Jesus was in the business of doing. Think about: behavior indicates vision.
1. Overall, missional Jesus did what was good for others.
2. Missional Jesus taught in typical centers of religious education. What did he teach? Read the Sermon on the Mount.
3. Missional Jesus preached — which means declared good news — about the kingdom of God, which he believed was in some sense already here and in some senses yet on the horizon. What is the kingdom of God? As I have sought to explain on a number of occasions (Jesus Creed, A New Vision for Israel), Kingdom for Jesus is the “society in which God’s will is established and transforms all of life.”
4. Missional Jesus healed — which means what it says. He prayed to God, he asked for people to be healed from all sorts of maladies and sicknesses, and they were healed. We can do what we want with this today — spiritualize, demythologize, socialize — but the fact remains clear. Jesus said things and power was manifested.
5. Missional Jesus was attractive.
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.
Missional Jesus 7
Missional Jesus not only drew a crowd, he summoned people to get with the kingdom mission and vision. In other words, he called people to “make a decision” or, what is better, to come to him and with him work for the kingdom of God.
The Sermon on the Mount, the most significant sermon ever preached, comes to a flourishing finish with a parable-like story that simultaneously reveals and summons people to follow Jesus. To follow Jesus means to get attached to him personally, to spend time with Jesus, and to participate with him in the mission of God: the kingdom of God.
1. Missional Jesus simply doesn’t think everyone wants to follow him; in fact, he thinks many don’t.
2. Missional Jesus warns about false prophets — who are known by “fruit”. Most everyone agrees that fruit is a metaphor for living before God with love and peace and justice and holiness and goodness, etc.. And this fruit grows because the life inside the tree is the life of God. Those who are most severely criticized by Jesus are those who say they are religious authorities but actually work evil. (Such living blatant contradictions, and who doesn’t fear this for himself or herself, make the next generation suspicious.)
3. Missional Jesus summons people to do the will of God. In other words, the Sermon on the Mount is a sermon whose intent is to enlist will-of-God-doers.
The Narrow and Wide Gates
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
A Tree and Its Fruit
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
The Wise and Foolish Builders
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Missional Jesus 8
Missional Jesus attracted crowds and from that crowd summoned people to follow him by becoming doers of God’s will. What is God’s will? You can say it a number of ways, but the two most succinct summaries of Jesus are the Golden Rule (Matt 7:12) and the Jesus Creed (Mark 12:29-31). Now the cutting edge of “missional” for Jesus:
1. Missional Jesus accepts anyone who comes to him for healing.
2. Missional Jesus breaks down boundaries between Gentiles and Jews.
3. Missional Jesus heals Gentiles, too.
4. Missional Jesus, in the parallel in Matthew 8:5-13, contrasts the Gentile’s faith with Jewish lack of faith, exposing his belief that what mattered was faith in God (through Jesus) and not ethnic heritage and religious association.
5. Missional Jesus lauds the perception of faith in him as faith in the One who is Sent by God with Authority.
1 When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. 3 The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” 6 So Jesus went with them.
He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. 7 That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.
Missional Jesus 9
Missional Jesus attracts crowds, summons people to follow him, extends mercy and healing to anyone with faith — sometimes when that faith is second-hand — and now manifests that his missional is loaded with power.
Nothing is as foreign to most of religion today as demons. Bultmann once said no one today believes in the radio and in the NT world of spirits and demons. The problem is today that more and more not only believe in the reality of a spirit-world but know that the spirit-world of evil has infected the systems of this world to create systemic injustice. Some may want to narrow it to systemic injustice (and a good thinker on this theme is Walter Wink), but today one must grapple with at least this much. Yet others, at least ever since M. Scott Peck’s People of the Lie, have learned to reckon with the reality of spirits infecting the soul of individual humans. So, for such folks, the following story of the exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac, we’ve got a recognizable and resonating text.
1. Missional Jesus confronts the evil at home in persons ravaged by evil spirits. This man has become uncontrollable and lived — appropriately enough — among the dead. Further, this man’s symptom was self-destruction.
2. The evil world recognizes missional Jesus as a threat of power.
3. Missional Jesus’ power is intimidating and awe-inspiring, but it doesn’t mean everyone who perceives turns into a follower of Jesus.
4. Missional Jesus summons those released from evil to witness to the mercy he [the Lord] has shown them.
5. Missional Jesus knows his mission is a spiritual battle.
1 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!”
9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon possessed man–and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
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Missional Jesus attracts crowds, summons folks to follow him in order to participate in the kingdom mission, invites all sorts of folks to trust him, and both names and engages the powers of evil. And, as has been indicated a number of times, he heals people. But our passage today reveals special features about the missional Jesus.
1. What stands out here is that Missional Jesus heals on the basis of second-hand faith. I don’t know how to explain this — and some speculate that the paralyzed man had faith himself, and that makes sense too — except to say that our passage says that Jesus saw “their” faith, and that means he saw the faith of those who let the man down through the roof.
2. Missional Jesus’ style and substance offend the religious authorities. When I was in college the book on this topic was by John Stott and it was called Christ the Controversialist. I read it and relished it.
3. Missional Jesus perceives human tensions with God.
4. Missional Jesus challenges those around him to watch what he does — he heals a man — and to infer from what he does to who he is.
5. Missional Jesus forgives sins and, evidently, connects sins to physical maladies.
1 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . .” He said to the paralytic, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 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!”
Missional Jesus 11
Missional Jesus series takes another step: in Mark 2:13-17, cited below, reveals new features of Missional Jesus. There is a dual feature here that reveals something significant:
1. Missional Jesus not only summons others to follow him, but …
2. Missional Jesus guides those who follow him into a setting where they learn the cutting edge of his missional vision: the religious establishment, committed as it was to behavioral purity, opposes the missional activity of Jesus toward those who had been “othered.”
3. Missional Jesus is committed to rescuing sinners.
I have been tossing around in my head for months, if not more than a year, whether or not the word “Pharisee” can be defined as “those who are non-missional to the other.” What do you think?
Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
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Missional Jesus encounters two blind men in Matthew 9:27-31 and what Jesus does reveals the nature of his misison.
1. Missional Jesus has a nose and ear for those who are in need of mercy.
2. Missional Jesus not only senses those who are in need of mercy, he does something about it.
3. Missional Jesus draws those in need of mercy to trust him — revealing that all missional work eventually finds its way to Jesus.
4. Missional Jesus is inauspicious: he is no need of attention.
As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”
When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”
“Yes, Lord,” they replied.
Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”; and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region
Missional Jesus 13
One of my all-time favorite characteristics of missional Jesus emerges in our next passage, Matthew 9:32-34:
1. Missional Jesus attracts those who are possessed by evil — the way a moth seeks the flame.
2. Missional Jesus, therefore, attracts folks who know that Jesus can heal them. So, Jesus is surrounded not only by the needy but also by mediators of those in need.
3. Missional Jesus can flat-out cure folks.
4. Missional Jesus is opposed by the religious authorities: to the degree that they call him demon-possessed. (By the way, this is labeling to the extreme: a manifest good is called bad in order to seal off the labeler from Jesus and to make Jesus a source of danger for anyone who wants to be attached to him.)
While they were going out, a man who was demon–possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”
But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”
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Now we enter into a self-identified passage of missional intent and direction by Jesus, often called the “missionary discourse.” Matthew 9:35-11:1 is our passage, and we’ll break it down into manageable units for a few days. I begin with 9:35-10:4.
1. Missional Jesus participates in the mission of God.
2. Missional Jesus therefore prays to God for “extenders” of his mission-working kingdom of God.
3. Missional Jesus prays because missional Jesus is moved by oppression and the need for mercy on so many.
4. Missional Jesus not only prays but, after hearing from God (isn’t this implicit?), he specifically identifies 12 workers for the kingdom and appoints them as his personal representatives (apostles) in the kingdom missional work.
5. Missional Jesus appoints his “extenders” (”missioners” is a nice word) to do what he has been doing in Matthew, chps 8 and 9: they are therefore extenders of Jesus and not doers of their own mission. Missional work is Jesus work.
6. Not all of Jesus’ “extenders” follow Jesus faithfully.
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.”
Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
Missional Jesus 15
Now we look a second time at the missional discourse of Jesus, the singularly most important text in the Gospels that clarify how Jesus understood missional activity. We’ll look at Matthew 10:5-8.
1. Missional Jesus has a targeted audience — I’m not quite sure how to say this in other way that old-fashioned church growth terms: he wants his extenders to extend the kingdom to the “lost sheep” of the house of Israe. Who are these? They are Jews; they are either those in need of mercy (9:32-34) or the heretofore neglected lost tribes of Israel hanging out in northern Galilee and beyond. In other words, instead of being “just a Jewish mission” this must be seen as at least cracking holes in the boundary walls between Jews and other groups.
2. Missioners of the missional Jesus have one message: God’s kingdom. So, this is the heart of the missional movement: What does kingdom of God mean? I have defined it in my writings as the society in which God’s will — the Jesus Creed — is both established and transforms all of life. It is more than a religious experience (old-fashioned liberalism and, oddly enough, far too many in the evangelical camp who see it as justification) and more than cultural transformation.
3. Missioners do what Jesus did and extend what Jesus did and say what Jesus said. This the point of the list of things they are to do: compare that list with Matthew 8 and 9 and you draw this conclusion: they are to “be” Jesus in a new place in order to extend Jesus and his kingdom into new places.
4. We’ll look Monday at the last expression, for it sinks the mercenary motive.
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,a drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.
Missional Jesus 16
Missional Jesus depended on God to provide daily necessities through those who were committed to the missional Jesus’ vision of the kingdom. There’s a lot there, but do take it in. The text for today is Matthew 10:9-10.
This text, like Matthew 6:19-34 where Jesus concludes by urging his missional follower to seek the kingdom and God would provide, urges his missioners to focus on taking Jesus and his kingdom to new places and, once they get there, to rely on others to provide for them. This is not free-loading — the early church had lots to say against free-loading — but is instead rooted in a principle: “workers are worth their keep.” So, here goes:
1. Missional Jesus tests his missioners.
2. Missional Jesus wants his missioners to avoid any sense of wealth and making money from the kingdom of God.
3. Missional Jesus trusts God; missional Jesus expects the missioners to trust God.
4. Missional Jesus trusts God for protection and expects his missioners to do the same (staff).
The missioner’s mission is the mission of Jesus. In our next post we’ll see that the mission is not only the same, but the missioner represents Jesus who represents God.
“Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for workers are worth their keep.
Missional Jesus 17
Not only is the missioner’s mission the mission of Jesus, the missioner represents Jesus. One can say that the missioner is the presence of Jesus wherever the missioner is. Think about that.
1. Missioners are to seek out a “worthy” person — that is someone who responds to the kingdom.
2. Missioners enter the home — this is a hospitality custom — by declaring the peace of Jesus.
3. Missioners utter performative words: the words they say, because they represent Jesus, are the words of Jesus are the words of God. Be careful, but don’t be afraid of this.
4. Missioners declare the peace of God and the judgment of God and they “enact” the latter not only with words but with visible, evocative action: shaking dust off was the way some re-entered the Land of Israel from the diaspora by shaking off Gentile dust. However it is explained, it is a dramatic act of dismissal, disapproval, and judgment.
5. How people respond to Jesus is how they respond to the missioners.
6. Missioners of the missional Jesus need to be wise and shrewd and not gullible and foolish.
Which means this grave truth: missioners represent Jesus.
Our text is Matthew 10:11-16:
Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at that person’s house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
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Missional Jesus was rejected; missioners of the missional Jesus will be rejected too. So Matthew 10:17-25. (Just make sure the rejection is due to being a missioner of Jesus.) Missioners of the missional Jesus, like Jesus, hang on until the end.
1. Missioners are extensions of the missional Jesus — this is the logical ground of everything in this passage and it is found in the bold-faced words below (from 10:24-25).
2. Missioners will experience rejection because of their overt, clear fellowship with Jesus.
3. Missioners remain missioners during times of rejection.
4. Missioners will be sustained by God’s strength and Spirit during rejection times.
5. Missioners may encounter bitter betrayals by family members.
6. Missioners must hang on — endure — persevere. Those who do “will be saved.” (Disputes on this ignored today.)
7. Missioners can flee rejection and persecution — they are shrewd (10:16), not foolish.
Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me, but those who stand firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
“Students are not above their teacher, nor servants above their master. It is enough for students to be like their teacher, and servants like their master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!“
Missional Jesus 19
Missional Jesus was fearless; his missioners are exhorted to be fearless as well. Not reckless or foolish, but ones who do not fear what others say, who are not afraid to tell the truth, who are not afraid to live the truth, who are not afraid to confront non-kingdom with kingdom. Notice Matthew 10:26-33.
1. Missional Jesus believes and urges his missioners to live in light of a final judgment.
2. Missional Jesus urges missioners to make public missional Jesus’ kingdom message.
3. Missioners need courage to live out the mission; God is with them — this they need to know.
4. Missioners are urged to make their fellowship with Jesus public — so public that the final judgment is based on whether or not they “fessed up” to a Jesus connection.
Missioners need to hear this. Why? Because it is tough as walking on tacks to live a life of public adherence to and public following of Jesus. I don’t like the public rumor called “separation of church and state.” Jesus doesn’t live the kingdom in secret; he lives it in the public forum. Of course, with shrewdness and not foolishness or brashness. With a proper confidence. A beautiful expression many of us learned from Lesslie Newbigin.
“So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
“Whoever publicly acknowledges me I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever publicly disowns me I will disown before my Father in heaven.
Is the chief end … missional?
A letter and a response:
I didn’t want to hijack one of your missional Jesus blogs so I thought I would email this to you separately and if you had time to answer that’d be great – if you don’t – I understand!!!
Does being missional replace the “chief end of man”? In other words, does seeing the mission of God as being the basic principle behind God’s activities in history and the physical world and our participation in the mission of God as the guiding principle of our life and faith mean that to “glorify God and enjoy him forever” is not the best way to express our chief end?
Honestly, though I’ve read Piper and have a fair grasp of the meaning behind the glory of God I have to say I don’t really connect with the phrase and I even cringe when I hear people in our church expressing some hope that some particular activity or new ministry will glorify God – not that I don’t want that to happen of course, but it seems to put the cart before the horse.
Perhaps the chief end remains as expressed in the catechism, but our language should focus on what we do, the mission of God which in the end will glorify Him, and not on the glorifying.
any thoughts on the topic?
Matt Simpson
Dear Matt — notice I got your double “tt” just right ,
That famous line — the chief end of man [i.e., humans] is to glorify God and enjoy him forever — was handed on to most of us through the Westminster tradition, though I suspect it came to them from another tradition. (Someone might know.)
When it comes to overall synopses of what life is all about it’s a good one. But it isn’t inspired and it isn’t found in the Bible. John Piper, you know, tinkered with it and created the evocative “Christian hedonism” by reframing it as “to glorify God by enjoying him forever.”
And you ask if the word “missional” replaces this famous “chief end” line. I don’t know if the missional folks would say so or not, since I’ve not heard them. I know there are plenty of Westminster folks who embrace a missional perspective, so I suppose for them it doesn’t replace it. But, let me suggest that “missional” can replace it and I’ll suggest it by asking you to consider the following:
1. I’m not sure “glorifying” God is the end of all ends — it’s there and it’s close, but I think the final end is absorption and utter delight in God by loving God purely. Loving God perfectly glorifies God, but it is the love that is the end of all ends. (I personally think “glorify” would gladly hand over its ulimate aim to “loving God.”)
2. Put differently, if the perichoresis is the “eternal” state of God, then that perichoresis is the eternal state for us as well. If perichoresis is the mutual indwelling and absolute interpenetration of Father, Son, and Spirit, then our participation in and our gazing at that perichoresis is our final end.
3. Now let me back up. For Jesus the end of all ends is loving God and loving others — which means for Jesus we should look to love being the end.
4. Now you ask, “Are you going to answer my question?” Here goes: I think the word missional is at the heart of the perichoresis. The Father and the Son and the Spirit are “missional” with respect to One Another and, correspondingly, they are each hospitable to the Other. Which means that “missional” is another way of speaking of the perichoresis. Which means that missional is really about both acting in love and receiving in love.
So, do I think “missional” replaces? If understood properly, I think it would be good theology.
What do you think?
Missional Jesus 20
Missional McKnights are landing and working their way to a hotel in Copenhagen as many of you look at this post this morning. We will be here (until next Saturday) to teach and fellowship with some like-minded missional Christians in Denmark at a conference called Oase. We will be south of Aarhus in a village called Odder. We are pumped. We are, like you, missioners of the missional Jesus.
1. Missioners, to repeat what Jesus has already emphasized a couple of times in this discourse in Matthew 10, experience rejection at times from their family.
2. Missioners experience this because the missional Jesus carries a sword — not just peace — that is, he summons us into the kingdom. Those who don’t follow that summons can oppose the kingdom.
3. Missioners are expected to let the cross be their “role model.”
Here’s a big one:
4. How folks respond to the missioners of Jesus is how they respond to Jesus and how they respond to Jesus is how they respond to God. Rejection of missioners is sometimes rejection of God; acceptance of missioners is sometimes acceptance of God.
5. Any act of hospitality — we are back to 10:9-14 — shown to the missioners is observed by God and leads to God giving that person the same reward the missioner gets. That’s pretty cool. These generous, hospitable folks here in Denmark are getting the reward of a writer-blogger-teacher, whatever that reward might be!
This series on the Missional Jesus will be suspended next week while we are in Denmark. We hope to give daily reports and pictures.
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn
“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter–in–law against her mother–in–law—
your enemies will be the members of your own household.’c
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves a son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
“Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes someone known to be a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes someone known to be righteous will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is known to be my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly be rewarded.”
Missional Jesus 21
We are now back from Denmark and will resume our summer-long series on Missional Jesus. Today we look at Luke 7:18-23, a passage that deserves far more attention in gospel preaching than most permit, and it deserves more attention because it expresses the missional perspective of Jesus. Jesus, because he loved God and loved others, loved all others. It’s that simple and it’s that hard. No one loves all others easily.
It is easy to love those we like; it is hard to love those we don’t like; it is even harder to love those totally unlike us. Missional Jesus loves those he likes — like Peter and John — and those who don’t like him — like some Jewish leaders — and he loved those who were totally unlike him — like the Samaritans and the Romans.
Notice these observations:
1. Looking for the kingdom in glory, perhaps even miraculous release from prison, is not the way for Jesus. Kingdom work for Jesus was so incredibly mundane for Jesus that even Jesus’ closest family and friends weren’t sure he was Messiah or Kingdom-Bringer.
2. Missional work is seen in its actions of mercy, not simply in its claims.
3. Missional Jesus points to what he has done as the indicator and witness to who he is.
4. Missional Jesus carries out his ministry with all — and that means he sees the needs of those around him — like the poor and the blind and lame and the lepers.
5. Missional Jesus thinks he is himself the center of kingdom work.
Luke 7:18 The disciples of John reported all these things to him. So John summoned two of his disciples 19 and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” 20 When the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’” 21 Jesus had just then cured many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits, and had given sight to many who were blind. 22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. 23 And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”
Missional Jesus 22
Missional Jesus implored his contemporaries to realize that there are final and earthly consequences for how they live now. He warned his contemporaries who saw his deeds — deeds that evoked the presence of God’s kingdom — and who were not sensitive enough to see the hand of God at work that they would find judgment on themselves and on their communities.
This is not a popular theme today, so perhaps we need to read this passage carefully to see what Jesus says. He says at least these things — and he says these things as an outgrowth of his missional ministries.
1. Those who have seen the works of God, regardless of who they are, are accountable for what they have seen.
2. They are accountable, most especially, for connecting the deeds of power with the person who does them. In other words, he urges them to connect the dots — the dot of what is done and the dot of who did the works.
3. Those who are privileged religiously, or covenantally, sometimes are blinder than those who are not privileged.
4. Jesus thinks here, not simply in terms of individuals, but in terms of groups: he is speaking here, like an Old Testament prophet, of cities and communities.
5. Some think we in the emerging movement are emphasizing too much the corporate and not enough the individual — perhaps we have over responded to a radical individualism we gravitate to so easily in the West. Still, there is warrant for thinking in terms of groups and of groups that collectively are individuals and that individuals are parts of the collective. And the warrant comes from Jesus.
Matt. 11:20 Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum,
will you be exalted to heaven?
No, you will be brought down to Hades.
For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.”
Missional Jesus 23
Missional Jesus is self-oriented. I once referred to this as the justifiable egocentrism of Jesus. Some don’t like the expression; I do. Here’s why:
Read these words of the missional Jesus and you’ll come to the heart of Jesus’ missional work:
Matt. 11:28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Sometimes Jewish scholars feel the text of the Gospels in ways that Christians don’t. Take Jacob Neusner, one of history’s most prolific scholars. He reads this passage and says it cuts the Jewish community in half: those who find Jesus as the center of gravity and those who find the Torah as the center of gravity. Anyone who reads this text in context knows that Sabbath passages are coming next: Matthew 12:1-14. Sabbath is for rest. Jesus says, in fact, that he is the rest. Come to me and I will give you that sabbath rest. The Law is upended. (I refer here to J. Neusner, A Rabbi Talks with Jesus.)
1. Missional Jesus, first and foremost, calls people to find the rest of God, the rest God wants for his people, fulfilled in Jesus himself.
2. Missional Jesus is kind, loving, charitable, merciful, and those who are burdened by the Law and by life can find rest for their very soul in Jesus himself.
3. Missional Jesus knows that the kingdom is fundamentally relational — it is about forming one’s identity by journeying with Jesus.
4. The summons of missional Jesus is to be in Jesus’ presence, to learn from him, and to live one’s life with Jesus.
5. Jesus is humble — missional Jesus is humble.
6. Jesus is gentle — missional Jesus is gentle.
I have never come to final terms with this: “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Well, yes, we might say: it is about loving Jesus. And then that becomes incredibly powerful and penetrating and challenging. Maybe it is easy and light because, like Kierkegaard, he is speaking of “purity of heart as willing one thing.” No one finds the will of God as taught by Jesus to be easily accomplished. Maybe its utter clarity is its ease
Missional Jesus 24
Missional Jesus, plain and simple, didn’t follow the rules. And here’s something to think about: there is very little difference at the phemenological level between the Torah and one’s interpretation of the Torah. So, even if we say, “Jesus didn’t really break the Torah; he broke only the interpretation of the Torah,” we are really fudging. Why?
Because our interpretation of the Torah is equated with the Torah. The Pharisees around Jesus thought he broke the Torah. But Jesus thought he was — on the contrary — revealing the heart of the Torah.
1. Missional Jesus distinguished the love of Torah from the Torah of love. The 613 prohibitions and commandments may have been there due to “plenary inspiration” but they weren’t all equal and they weren’t equally normative.
2. For Jesus, the law was here to help humans and not to hinder them.
Here’s our text for today, from Matthew 12:1-8:
Matt. 12:1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests. 5 Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests in the temple break the sabbath and yet are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”
3. Missional Jesus permitted his disciples to pluck grain on the sabbath; Pharisees didn’t. Missional Jesus did because they were doing God’s work and it is God’s work to feed humans.
4. Missional Jesus knew that the general holiness of the Temple’s food was protected but if humans needed food, then those in need could “common-ate” that food by eating it as food for sustenance. So David and his companions.
5. Missional Jesus summons his followers to know the difference.
6. Missional Jesus knows that mercy — the second half of the Jesus Creed — is the heart of the Torah.
Missional Jesus 25
Not only is Jesus the “Sabbath rest” himself (Matthew 11:28-30), Jesus embodies what he means by being the Sabbath rest in 12:1-8 (where Torah expresses mercy and love of others) and in 12:9-14 (where he shows that showing mercy to others is the point of life with Jesus). Missional Jesus is merciful and summons his followers to be merciful.
Matt. 12:9 He left that place and entered their synagogue; 10 a man was there with a withered hand, and they asked him, “Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath?” so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and it was restored, as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.
1. Being missional then means above all things to be merciful to others. Love of others, the second half of Jesus Creed, forms the heart of Torah so that genuine Torah is the Torah of love.
2. Torah is not just law; Torah involves interpretation, and the way to understand Torah is to understand it the way Jesus did.
3. Missional Jesus draws negative response from the religious zealots of his day.
I said this before: one of the ways to define a Pharisee is by seeing them as opposed to the kind of missional work Jesus envisioned for the kingdom of God.
Missional Jesus 26
Matthew is not only one who passes on information about Jesus, but also one who shapes what he passes on. And in this text Matthew “interprets” Jesus in a way that clarifies who the missional Jesus was. For Matthew, Jesus is missional Jesus because his task is that of the servant of Israel’s.
Jesus tries to get away; folks find him to his get-a-way; Jesus heals them and tells them not to make his identity public. Why, you might ask, would Jesus “prohibit evangelism”? The answer leads to missional Jesus, but first the text.
15 Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, 16 warning them not to tell who he was. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
18 “Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.
20 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he leads justice to victory.
21 In his name the nations will put their hope.”
1. Missional Jesus does good.
2. Missional Jesus is God’s delight and the one on whom the Spirit rests.
3. Missional Jesus proclaims justice to all.
4. Missional Jesus is humble — he does not remonstrate.
5. Missional Jesus is merciful.
6. Missional Jesus proclaims justice to all … I repeated that … so did Matthew (Isaiah).
For Jesus, healing others was accomplishing justice
Missional Jesus 27
Missional Jesus sympathized with the poor and the marginalized and the powerless. As his mother was a widow and suffered, so Jesus was sensitive to widows. Here’s a story that opens a window on missional Jesus:
Luke 7:11-17: 11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out–the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”14 Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. 16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” 17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.
1. Missional Jesus “teaches” by “showing” the kingdom’s power to others.
2. Missional Jesus raises the dead — which tells about (1) who Jesus is and (2) what the kingdom of God accomplishes. And this must be read over against the Jewish anticipation of the general resurrection at the end of the ages — which means it is the demonstration of the arrival of the eschatological age of salvation in Jesus.
3. Missional Jesus restores people to their families — empowering and resocializing them.
4. Missional Jesus created rumors.
Missional Jesus 28
Missional Jesus moves on. Wherever he goes, missional Jesus happens. Today we look at a long-ish text, Luke 7:36-50, and we will see missional Jesus at work.
1. Missional Jesus makes mission happen even in the home of those who gave him the most opposition — the Pharisees.
2. Missional Jesus permits behavior by those outside the box to happen in ways that offend those inside the box.
Luke 7:36 Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 38 and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.”
3. Missional Jesus teaches not only by showing; he teaches by telling stories that draw folks into the story in order to discover something about themselves. Simon learns, rather innocently, that those who have been forgiven more are more expressive.
40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
41 “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
4. Missional Jesus points out the fault of Simon because he had failed to respond to Jesus as he should have. Simon did not show the basics of hospitality; she did — and it wasn’t even her home.
44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.
5. Missional Jesus forgives sins and restores forgiven sinners to society — to peace.
47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Missional Jesus 29
Missional Jesus incorporated women in his missional work.
1. Missional Jesus’ mission is the kingdom of God — the society in which God’s will is done and transforms all of life.
2. Missional Jesus was accompanied as much by the Twelve as he was women.
3. Missional Jesus was supported by women who had access to funds and resources and ways to help Jesus.
4. (There is no indication that being accompanied by women was scandalous to anyone in Jesus’ world — maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t — but there is not one text in the Gospels that suggests Jesus’ relationship with women was either surprising or scandalous.)
5. The women around missional Jesus were drawn from all layers in society: demonized, Herodians … and others. (I assume “Mary, mother of Jesus” is one of these women.)
Missional Jesus 30
Jesus’ missional work generated criticisms of who he was, what he was doing, and whether or not God was in his work at all. In fact, his work is charged as inspired by Satan. This is no small charge against Jesus, and he responds:
1. Missional Jesus compares his work to a kingdom divided: if his work is allegiance with Satan, then it will collapse.
2. The challenge is this: if missional Jesus drives out demons by God’s Spirit, then his work is kingdom missional work — and not work destined to collapse by being at odds with itself (God’s work).
Matthew 12:22 Then they brought him a demon possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. 23 All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” 25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28 But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
29 “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.
3. Verse 30 surprises a bit in context: all those who are doing Jesus’ kind of kingdom work are on the side of missional Jesus.
4. Missional Jesus sees the singular sin at the top to reject the work of God’s Spirit in his missional work. The blasphemy against the Spirit is rejection of God’s Spirit at work in Jesus. (I’m not so sure the “Son of man” in verse 32 is “the” son of man but maybe “any” son of man (human).
5. Missional Jesus challenges all to look into the heart because out of the heart comes the confession about who Jesus is and whether or not Jesus’ work is Spirit-inspired.
6. Missional Jesus says final judgment is rooted in what one “says” about Jesus.
30 “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. 31 And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
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Missional Jesus establishes and forms the kingdom of God, and he does so in the form of a new family of faith.
Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
1. Missional Jesus must summons his own mother and siblings into the kingdom’s new community.
2. Missional Jesus defines those who are in his community as “whoever does God’s will.”
3. Doing God’s will needs to be defined as Jesus defines it: and a capsule summary of that meaning is “God’s Torah, now brought to completion in the mission and message of Jesus, and expressed now as God’s will.” A good place to see the will of God is the Sermon on the Mount or in texts of discipleship to believe in and follow Jesus (say Mark 1:14-15).
4. This means that missional Jesus is forming a new community and that community is noted by adherence to Jesus. There is no distinction between a kingdom ethic and a following-Jesus ethic.
5. All missional work leads to adherence to and encircling around Jesus.
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Missional Jesus likens his own missional teaching to someone who teaches and spreads a message but who draws differing responses. Notice this parable and its interpretation:
1. Missional Jesus draws people into seeing his significance by telling a story that captures his mission. First time listeners heard this, knew the general drift because they were “used to” Jesus, but still didn’t grasp the whole.
Mark 4:1 Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. 2 He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3 “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”
Mark 4:9 Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
2. Missional Jesus knows that those who are already attached to him — those who believe in him and follow him and are in the “family circle” — comprehend his parables more easily than others. Here Jesus clearly distinguishes those who follow him from those who don’t. This division correlates with Isaiah’s prophecy.
Mark 4:10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that,
“‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’”
3. Missional Jesus takes time to explain, even if out of some frustration with his disciples, his parable.
4. Missional Jesus meets (at least) four responses: some are robbed of a chance by Satan; some have no endurance and courage to press on; some are choked from growth by giving their souls to other things; others respond and produce.
Mark 4:13 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”
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Matthew 13 is a collection of Jesus’ parables and I want to provide brief summaries of each today. Why? Each of these parables reveals a dimension of missional Jesus and his mission.
1. Missional Jesus teaches that, in this life, the wheat (those who respond to the kingdom message of Jesus) and the weeds (those who don’t) must co-exist in peace and the former are not to use violence to uproot the latter (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43).
2. Missional Jesus teaches that kingdom will either grow, like a mustard tree from a mustard seed, from insignificance to significance or (more likely) the insignificat beginnings are not to be compared with the glory of its endings (13:31-32).
3. Missional Jesus teaches that his message will gradually influence everything the way yeast leavens a whole lump (13:33).
4. Missional Jesus teaches that his kingdom work — the formation of this society that will do God’s will — is of more value than anything and so it is worth risking everything for it (13:44-46).
5. Missional Jesus teaches that there will be a judgment at the end wherein the good fish will be separated from the bad fish — bass and walleye from carp and catfish — and that this distinction is rooted in moral character (13:47-50).
6. Missional Jesus exhorts those who follow him to be discerning enough to know how to bring out both the old and the new from the sacred writings and stories of Jesus (13:52).
Matt. 13:1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
Matt. 13:10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
Matt. 13:11 He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Those who have will be given more, and they will have an abundance. As for those who do not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:
“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’c
Matt. 13:16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
Matt. 13:18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When people hear the message about the kingdom and do not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their hearts. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to people who hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to people who hear the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to people who hear the word and understand it. They produce a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
Matt. 13:24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
Matt. 13:28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
Matt. 13:29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
Matt. 13:31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
Matt. 13:33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty poundsa of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
Matt. 13:34 Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. 35 So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet:
“I will open my mouth in parables,
I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.”b
Matt. 13:36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
Matt. 13:37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
Matt. 13:40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.
Matt. 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
Matt. 13:45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
Matt. 13:47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matt. 13:51 “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.
“Yes,” they replied.
Matt. 13:52 He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”
Matt. 13:53 When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. 54 Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. 55 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? 56 Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him.
But Jesus said to them, “Only in their own towns and in their own homes are prophets without honor.”
Matt. 13:58 And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.
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Missional Jesus works with all kinds of people — not just his followers and not just his family. In this passage today we find missional Jesus revealing what “missional” means.
Two stories, one of Jesus healing the woman stuck in her place in society because of bleeding and another young girl who was dead.
1. Missional Jesus knows that the purity laws as interpreted in his day by the religious experts divided people and kept people from the place of purity — which was extended beyond the Temple to include other places like relationships. So Jesus was sensitive to this person’s need and heals her.
2. Missional Jesus is depicted as a man of charismatic presence; the woman is healed by touching Jesus.
3. Missional Jesus heals on the basis of faith.
Luke 8:40 Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. 41 Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.
As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
Luke 8:45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”
Luke 8:46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”
Luke 8:47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
4. Missional Jesus raises from the dead — but someone around the synagogue leader doesn’t think even Jesus can pull this one off.
5. Jesus interrupts that conversation to say that faith can do more than what most realize. Here we see faith appealed to as something that appears beyond reason.
6. Missional Jesus demonstrates his power as a mentor with his students; he also lets in the child’s parents.
7. Missional Jesus exhorts those who saw his deeds not to tell others — in order to prevent a false view of his mission to arise.
Luke 8:49 While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”
Luke 8:50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”
Luke 8:51 When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52 Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.”
Luke 8:53 They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.
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Life for missional Jesus was not easy; especially not in his own home of Nazareth.
1. Missional Jesus used public places to teach about the kingdom of God. This included public spaces in his home village.
2. Missional Jesus, evidently previously perceived as an ordinary Jewish young man, surprised the locals with his wisdom and miracles. Not only surprised but offended at his chutzpah.
3. Missional Jesus observes, wryly so it seems, that prophets get honor everywhere except at home.
4. Missional Jesus’ powers to heal are in part dependent upon the faith of those in need.
5. Missional Jesus was suprised by the response of his hometown to his message.
Mark 6:1 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
Mark 6:4 Jesus said to them, “Only in their own towns, among their relatives and in their own homes are prophets without honor.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.
Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village.
Missional Jesus 36
There are good reasons for missional Jesus experiencing difficulties at home. Opposition to Jesus derived from his behavior, his attitude, and his remarks to those who questioned his behavior and the chutzpah he had to do what he was doing.
It was customary to wash your hands in the days of Jesus with a “fistfull of water,” as someone like Martin Hengel has argued. That is, if you make a cup out of your hand, fill it with water, and then pour the water from one hand onto the intersection of your wrist and the palm of the other hand, you can “wash” both hands. (This is what Mark 7:3 is referring to most likely.)
1. Missional Jesus did not wash his hands this way — maybe they didn’t wash their hands at all. But washing hands this was a “work of the law” (New Perspective theory) or a “covenantal marker” (something that showed commitment to the covenant). Furthermore, so significant was such a thing that most would have seen it as “biblical.” Therefore, Jesus was supposed to have been breaking Torah.
2. Missional Jesus incorporated his followers into his nonchalant attitude to handwashing.
3. Missional Jesus’ response was not an “Excuse me, let me correct that” but a reference to Isaiah. And the reference was accusatory in two ways: these folks honor God with lips (externals) but not heart (internals) and these folks exalt human traditions (their handwashing custom) over biblical texts.
4. Jesus is a Reformer — he appeals to sola scriptura as the primary place to derive one’s ethical codes. (This text deserves more consideration in the Scripture/Tradition discussion about theology and interpretation.)
5. Missional Jesus grinds his point by appealing to the custom of excusing oneself from care of parents because one has dedicated monies to sacred places.
6. Missional Jesus thinks purity is a matter of the heart and is made visible by good works.
Mark 7:1 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4 and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,
‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.’
8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
Mark 7:9 Then he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban’ (that is, an offering to God)— 12 then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.”
Mark 7:14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”
Mark 7:17 When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 He said to them, “Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, 19 since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. 21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
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Missional Jesus continues to be opposed; he keeps on walking.
The context is evidently the belief that the Messiah would be accompanied by signs that proved Messiahship.
1. Missional Jesus is opposed to empirical proof being needed to reveal who he was.
2. Missional Jesus reveals that the only sign he cares to give is the “sign of Jonah,” which has been rendered in all sorts of ways — but the most likely one remains what Matthew 12:40 provides: “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth.”
3. Missional Jesus reveals that his sign is and will be his death and resurrection. These reveal who he was and is and will be.
Matt. 16:1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test Jesus they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” Then he left them and went away.
Missional Jesus 38
What to say about missional Jesus and the confession of Peter? I’ll provide the text, ask you to comment what you will, but here are a few points to observe:
1. Missional Jesus seeks to draw from his followers his identity for his identity matters. Thus, let us not think that christology need not matter.
2. Missional Jesus is direct with Peter: “Who do you [Peter] think I am?” Tell me.
3. Missional Jesus gets from Peter the “right word” and then…
4. Missional Jesus clarifies and reveals and deepens what that word — Messiah — means. [I think it is highly likely that Matthew has added “the Son of the Living God.”]
Matt. 16:13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
Matt. 16:21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
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Some of this I anticipated yesterday but will now state.
1. Missional Jesus calls for a discipleship that is rooted in who missional Jesus is — Messiah — and how missional Jesus carries about his mission — via the cross. Discipleship takes it shape from christology. This is loaded stuff, friends, and it deserves books to expound.
2. Missional Jesus’ mission is “church-shaped.”
3. Missional Jesus permits his followers to get things wrong and leads them to deeper perceptions of who he is and what he is doing.
4. As the heart of missional Jesus’ life was self-denial — which is what love for others is — so also the heart of missional discipleship is self-denial.
5. Missional Jesus says it is worth giving up everything — including one’s life — for this missional Jesus’ missional life.
Matt. 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
Matt. 16:27 “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
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Missional Jesus now reveals a fundamental principle of missional discipleship and it is one tough one to do well:
Very simply put: missional discipleship, because it is shaped by missional Jesus’ identity and mission, walks the line between freedom and responsiblity to others.
Any reflections on how you have learned to do this?
Matt. 17:24 When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?” 25 He said, “Yes, he does.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?” 26 When Peter said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the children are free. 27 However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.”
Missional Jesus 41
No one, I’m prepared to announce, has figured out this text, but it needs to be factored in if we want to sketch all the texts about missional Jesus. So, let’s first read Mark 9:38-41 and then I’ll offer some suggestions:
Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.
1. I start with this: Missional Jesus is in no need of our protection. He can make it on his own, so whatever he says is what he says — whatever we think.
2. A man is doing miracles “in Jesus’ name.” This isn’t any old miracle worker. He’s drawing on Jesus’ power. V. 41 makes this point again.
3. But, missional Jesus broadens the playing floor by including this man when his disciples have serious hesitations, as lots of Christians have hesitations today about others. Missional Jesus clarifies why this man has to be accepted: “however is not against us is for us.”
4. Mark 9:40 runs into Matthew 12:30: “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” Luke has both of these: 9:50 and 11:23.
5. There is a difference, and now we might think of Matt 7:6 and the parable of the hogs and dogs, between sworn enemies and unaffiliated sympathizers.
6. Jesus is against cliquishness.
RT France: “The man concerned is not a recognised member of the group of disciples, but he does profess to operate in the name of Jesus, and the results of his activity are beneficent” (Mark, 376).
Missional Jesus 42
Here’s a challenge tossed out by missional Jesus and it is a challenged that shakes human relations to the core, opens up the potential for a society constituted on the basis of grace, and presents the follower of Jesus with a challenge that does not come naturally. Missional Jesus summons his followers to forgive others.
The following parable contains at least the followng points:
1. Missional Jesus teaches that asking about forgiveness in numerical, quantitative terms is asking the wrong question.
2. Missional Jesus expects his followers to recognize the enormity of their own debt before God, that God has wiped the slate clean, and that they are to live a life out of that gracious act by God.
3. Missional Jesus teaches — read the last verse — God will forgive us at the End in light of how we have forgiven others.
4. How then shall we live?
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy seven times.
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents [fn7] was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
Missional Jesus 43
Speaking of missional Jesus — in our passage today, from Luke 10:1-12, missional Jesus extends himself by sending out some missional disciples.
1. Missional Jesus’ mission begins with seeing the need for workers and he prays to God for help.
2. Missional Jesus expects his missioners to be good and to trust in God and to avoid horsing around with lengthy greetings (vv. 3-4).
3. Missional Jesus sees those who respond to his mission as peace-oriented people. Make it of what you will, but this is more than “peace of God in one’s heart.” This is peace in the Land kind of stuff.
4. Missional Jesus expects his missioners to do what he does (v 9) and to warn of judgment for not responding to him (v. 10-12).
5. Missional Jesus’ kingdom message cut like a knife.
After this the Lord appointed seventy two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’ 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
Missional Jesus 44
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is deeply beloved by Christians. I don’t know why for it is as challenging a teaching as anything Jesus teaches. In essence, I think it is this:
The scribe wants to know the limits of his love and Jesus expands the limits of love to anyone we happen to bump into, even if it cuts into the grain of our religious fabric.
1. Missional Jesus’ story subverts cliques and boundary marker love. We cannot reduce love to those we like.
2. Missional Jesus knew that the priest (and probably Levite) could justify their behavior by recourse to the Torah: the priest was not to defile himself with corpse impurity unless it was nearest of kin.
3. Missional Jesus knows the law’s limits but not love’s limits. The law, unless it flows from the law to love your neighbor as yourself (Jesus Creed), is misunderstood. Once it is, the law sometimes gives way to loving behaviors outside those boundaries.
4. Missional followers of Jesus are noted by such loving behaviors.
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
Missional Jesus 45
Our theme from yesterday, sabotaging an incorrect elevation of Torah to the point that living a life of love was restricted, continues in today’s passage about missional Jesus from Luke 13:10-17:
1. Missional Jesus will not be kept from doing good on the Sabbath even if it means violating sacred traditions about the Sabbath.
2. Missional Jesus points out the hypocrisy of those who adhere to Torah and to Sabbath but who do not perceive the intent of God. I would call this a “redemptive movement hermeneutic” if you remember our conversations about William Webb’s book.
3. Missional Jesus, on this issue, has the populace on his side against the religious leaders.
On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”
15 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”
17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.
27 He answered: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ ; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Missional Jesus warned, and he warned with the severest of warnings. The word often used for this theme is “wrath,” but the term is not often understood carefully enough to realize what the NT writers had in mind. So, today I will post on missional Jesus and the warning of wrath but this theme will need some more posts, which I will get to next week when we turn to Matthew 24 and 25.
Here is our passage. Read it slowly enough to take it all in.
At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”
32 He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 33 In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day–for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’
1. Opposition to Jesus by the Roman-leaning, Jewish-representing leader — Herod Antipas — elicits a potent response on Jesus’ part.
2. Missional Jesus calls him a “fox” — and I think we need to connect this to Matthew 8:18-22 where it is the foxes who have dens but the Son of man has no place to sleep. Foxes feed on little animals.
3. Missional Jesus is unafraid to continue his mission or speak his mind.
4. Missional Jesus’ goal is Jerusalem.
5. When missional Jesus thinks about Jerusalem it elicits a potent response: it’s the City that opposes, tragically, the work of God through prophets (such as missional Jesus).
6. Missional Jesus longs and yearns for Jerusalem — as a whole — to respond to kingdom vision and offer.
7. Missional Jesus expresses the wrath of God against Jerusalem: desolation of the City. Jesus here announces the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred in a war with Rome in 66-73 AD (7 years, don’t forget that), as the wrath of God. Wrath occurs, at least in part, on the plane of historical judgment.
Missional Jesus 47
Missional Jesus thought it couldn’t be clearer. God’s redemptive plan was at work. Who knew?
Read this text from Luke 17:20-21.
Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you [better: in your midst].”
The holiness movement that informed Jesus of Herod’s intent to kill him also asked Jesus when the kingdom might come. Missional Jesus responds:
1. Missional Jesus sternly warns of the ineptitude of those who were calculating — using apocalyptic timetables — when the kingdom might come. This is the point of “careful observation.”
2. Missional Jesus says this: don’t listen to those who think they know. Listen to Jesus.
3. Missional Jesus says the kingdom of God is “in your midst.”
Debate: some think this refers to a religious experience or the presence of the Spirit within the heart. Neither of these options is contrary to the Christian faith, but neither are what this text says. He doesn’t say “in you” but “in your midst.” There’s a difference.
What is he saying? The kingdom of God is in your midst, if you have eyes to see and a heart to believe. If you don’t, you’ll miss the presence of God’s redemptive moment. The kingdom is recognized not by its flash but by its humility, it’s inauspicious potent presence.
Missional Jesus 48
Missional Jesus made powerful impressions. So powerful that once a rich man (Mark 10:17-31) comes up to Jesus and asks how he might find eternal life. Jesus’ answer surprises many today when they read the text with honesty:
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’ ”
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
28 Peter said to him, “We have left everything to follow you!”
29 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields–and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
One very simple point: one inherits the kingdom/eternal life by:
1. Following the missional Jesus who broke the Torah into two themes: Love God and love others. This is the point of the commandments.
2. By following the logic of Jesus to see that the second half of the commandments is how one discovers if one is doing the first half of the ten commandments. (Matthew makes this clear by adding the Jesus Creed’s second commandment: Matthew 19:19.)
3. By showing that one is fully devoted to following Jesus by giving up what was holding the man back: love for money and things were his “love God” substitute.
By and large, this interchange expresses what Jesus always expresses when someone wants to know the essence of life with God: follow Jesus.
Is this evangelism? You bet it is.
Missional Jesus 49
Missional Jesus is now approached by his followers, two of his favorites, who have the wrong thing in mind. They want to be MVP’s of the apostolic band; Jesus lets them have it with words that penetrate.
Here is Mark 10:35-45:
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
39 “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
1. Missional Jesus opposes the desire for prestige, fame, and improper uses of power.
2. Missional Jesus asks a question, the boys answer it right, but how little they know of what they are saying. “Sure, you’ll get my baptism and drink my cup, but you have no idea what either is — martryrdom.”
3. Missional Jesus creates a community in which power is noted by service — self-sacrificing love for the other. A society shaped by the Jesus Creed .
4. The Jesus Creed is the way of life for Jesus — the way that led to the Son of man’s cross — and that way of life is the way for missional followers.
Missional Jesus 50
When I was a kid we sang about Zacchaeus, who was for us the arch-type of a “wee little man.” Zacchaeus, as seen in Luke 19:1-10, was a short guy but that’s not the point. Missional Jesus makes that clear:
The Zacchaeus story is about the kingdom of God and the Jesus Creed .
1. Missional Jesus knows that Zacchaeus had ripped people off.
2. Missional Jesus enters into this Gentile, impure man’s home.
3. Missional Jesus summons him to repentance.
4. Missional repentance is a repentance that creates a new society of economic virtue, fairness, honesty, and compassion.
5.Missional repentance backs up and undoes wrongs because it is shaped for a life that lives out the Jesus Creed.
6. Missional Jesus was for the poor, but he was also for the rich — they, too, were summoned into this new community that was unlike the System.
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’ ”
8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
Missional Jesus 50
Missional Jesus, facing the evidence of rejection by the seat of power in Jerusalem, tells a parable that reveals once again the potency of judgment in the theme of Jesus. In essence the point is simple: Jersualem is about to be sacked because those invited to the wedding are not showing up.
1. Missional Jesus aligns himself with the missio Dei, the mission of God. It is God’s mission to call Israel to the banquet.
2. Missional Jesus aligns himself with the persistence and patience of God: unlike John and James, who wanted fire from heaven after first offer, God sends his servants over and over to the people.
3. Missional Jesus aligns himself the prophetic oracles of doom: if Israel does not repent, God will act in the pages of history with the destruction of Jerusalem.
4. Missional Jesus, so it seems to me, predicts that after the destruction of the City (v. 7) Jesus’ missional agents, will begin to summon others — namely, the Gentiles (v. 9).
5. Missional Jesus speaks here, in parabolic and not easy-to-interpret language, of the need for all those at the wedding to be properly attired. Lots of folks lay their hand to this plow, but what a historically-grounded interpreter will do is offer a reading that reflects the context, words, and mission of Jesus: so I would say “follower of Jesus” is the point.
Matt. 22:1 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
Matt. 22:11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Missional Jesus 51
Missional Jesus, facing the evidence of rejection by the seat of power in Jerusalem, tells a parable that reveals once again the potency of judgment in the theme of Jesus. In essence the point is simple: Jersualem is about to be sacked because those invited to the wedding are not showing up.
1. Missional Jesus aligns himself with the missio Dei, the mission of God. It is God’s mission to call Israel to the banquet.
2. Missional Jesus aligns himself with the persistence and patience of God: unlike John and James, who wanted fire from heaven after first offer, God sends his servants over and over to the people.
3. Missional Jesus aligns himself the prophetic oracles of doom: if Israel does not repent, God will act in the pages of history with the destruction of Jerusalem.
4. Missional Jesus, so it seems to me, predicts that after the destruction of the City (v. 7) Jesus’ missional agents, will begin to summon others — namely, the Gentiles (v. 9).
5. Missional Jesus speaks here, in parabolic and not easy-to-interpret language, of the need for all those at the wedding to be properly attired. Lots of folks lay their hand to this plow, but what a historically-grounded interpreter will do is offer a reading that reflects the context, words, and mission of Jesus: so I would say “follower of Jesus” is the point.
Matt. 22:1 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
Matt. 22:11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Missional Jesus 52
Next, missional Jesus is emplotted by the Pharisees who want to get Jesus to say something that will get him in trouble — which is still a preferred technique by lots of Christians today. As they refuse to sing the dirge when John Baptist’s voice is heard and as they refuse to dance to the music Jesus plays, so Jesus refuses to play their game. Which is the way, if we have sound discernment, to play the trapper’s game. Here’s the trap:
Tell me Jesus, they say, should Jews being paying taxes to Caesar? “Give me a coin,” Jesus responds. Seemingly flipping it into the air for them to catch — I’m making this up but it evokes for me Jesus’ attitude — and before they catch it, Jesus says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s waht is his and give to God what is his.”
1. Missional Jesus finds a way between a false dichotomy. The option is not simply either Caesar or God, but both God and Caesar. (Besides the obvious compromise he caught them in for they evidently had the coin with Caesar’s idolatrous image on it in their own possession.) There is a way of paying taxes and a way of serving God in the same life.
2. Missional Jesus, one has to think, is simultaneously letting the temple leaders have it. They are compromising the Temple with the presence of Caesarian coins so they should just give them all back — let the Romans have what the Romans want and you go ahead with them. And the challenge is to give to God what is God’s — namely, the Temple and the heart of the Jewish people — which they were probably unwilling to do.
The double-answered question is a double-sworded lance to the heart.
Matt. 22:15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. 16 So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21 They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.
Missional Jesus 53
Missional Jesus points his own way. Here we find a story, in Mark 12, that perfectly illustrates the first beatitude: Blessed are the poor. The way to the kingdom, the way to peace in the Land, is not the way of compromise with Rome. The way is the way of the poor widow.
1. Missional Jesus can’t help but point to the hypocrsy of the religious elites. They are comic figures in his stories. The elites love prestige and celebrity but have no mercy.
2. Missional Jesus is committed to the piety of the poor. (I can’t help but think Jesus’ mercy for widows emerges from the realities of his mother’s life.)
3. Missional Jesus honors the heart over the appearance.
Mark 12:38 As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40 They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
Mark 12:41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
Missional Jesus 54
The harshest words Jesus ever uttered can be found in Matthew 23. It is not possible to do a full study here, so I will make a few points. In essence, his point is this: “hypocrisy” transcends the common contradiction of practice and belief. For Jesus it refers to both contradiction and false moral guide.
1. Missional Jesus wants to liberate Israelites from the grip of the hypocrisy of the elite guides who are leading Israel astray with their picayune obsession with micro-ethics.
2. Missional Jesus wants to create a family of equals who are all under God and himself.
3. Missional Jesus converts “love of Torah” into the “Torah of love.”
4. Missional Jesus weeps for his nation and summons them yet again — remember the parable from Monday — to respond to his offer of peace and redemption.
5. Missional Jesus is not giving us artillery to use against elites; he’s warning us not to be complicit in their hypocrisy by following him instead of them.
Matt. 23:1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3 therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. 6 They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. 9 And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.
Matt. 23:13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
Matt. 23:16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.’ 19 How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; 21 and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; 22 and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it.
Matt. 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!
Matt. 23:25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.
Matt. 23:27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. 28 So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Matt. 23:29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, 30 and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. 33 You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, 35 so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation.
Matt. 23:37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you, desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
Now, how does one talk about Matthew 24 in one day? By keeping it short and to the point. I’ll do my best.
1. Missional Jesus’ warning about Jerusalem’s destruction is just that: it is about 66-73AD and not about some future date. I don’t think this is a false dichotomy; I think it is historical and exegetical reality.
2. Missional Jesus fixes the time and date and it can be found in Matthew 24:29-35. What we find here is that “all of this” — not “some of this” — will occur before this generation passes away. (Which it did, since 66-73 AD saw the fulfillment of all these things.)
3. Missional Jesus uses apocalyptic imagery to describe the downfall of Jerusalem and sees it as the collapse of a nation that proves his messianic message and kingdom offer was for real.
4. Missional Jesus’ offer had historical rootedness — it was God’s way in Jesus’ day.
If you’d like to read more on this, see my book A New Vision for Israel. , or Tom Wright’s big Jesus book: Jesus and the Victory of God.
Matt. 24:1 As Jesus came out of the temple and was going away, his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 Then he asked them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
Matt. 24:3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4 Jesus answered them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah!’ and they will lead many astray. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: 8 all this is but the beginning of the birthpangs.
Matt. 24:9 “Then they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name. 10 Then many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come.
Matt. 24:15 “So when you see the desolating sacrilege standing in the holy place, as was spoken of by the prophet Daniel (let the reader understand), 16 then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; 17 the one on the housetop must not go down to take what is in the house; 18 the one in the field must not turn back to get a coat. 19 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! 20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a sabbath. 21 For at that time there will be great suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look! Here is the Messiah!’ or ‘There he is!’—do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 Take note, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look! He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look! He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
29 “Immediately after the suffering of those days
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from heaven,
and the powers of heaven will be shaken.
30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see ‘the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven’ with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Matt. 24:32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
Matt. 24:36 “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
Matt. 24:45 “Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and he begins to beat his fellow slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. 51 He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
We come to the last week of this lengthy series on missional Jesus, which was begun for one reason: because I wanted to sort out for my own thinking what a full sweep of the Gospels would reveal if we kept asking “What was missional Jesus’ mission?” (Our next series will be on Colossians and I will be reading this commentary: Colossians Remixed. ). Missional thinking at times finds what it is looking for because it doesn’t look at the full sweep. Which is perhaps no more obvious than in our text for today:
Rarely, at least in my reading, is the eucharist found in the “missional” conversation. It should be.
1. Missional Jesus, the Jesus who did and said all these other missional things, at his last supper with his followers instructed his missional followers to unite themselves around a meal. A special meal.
2. Missional Jesus said that when the “ingested” this meal — of bread and wine — they were ingesting him at some level.
3. Missional Jesus reveals that the meal he leaves for his followers is a dynamic, physical, embodied participation in who he is and what he has done.
4. Missional Jesus makes his death the center of his missional work.
5. Missional Jesus’ death is new covenant thinking, forgiveness-shaped, and kingdom-anticipating.
Which is to say, missional theology is atonement theology.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
27 Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
From the sublime to the obscure. The text today (Luke 22:35-38) is not clear.
Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered. 36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” 38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That is enough,” he replied.
1. Missional Jesus (evidently) teaches here that his followers will need swords for physical protection.
2. Missional Jesus says this when he connects himself to the Servant of Isaiah — and his theme here is that of being classed with transgressors, those who violate the law and get punished. Jesus knows he is innocent, but he will be classed with them and therefore put down.
3. More likely in my judgment, #1 is mistaken: since sword is used for animosity and hostility and since in 22:49-51, it is more likely that Jesus warns of hostility instead of reception. When the disciples respond with “Hey, we’ve got protection; two swords,” Jesus’ response is one of exasperation — as it was in 22:51.
Still, I’m not sure the text is clear and we need to be wise about using this text.
The Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20) is one of the last things Jesus says that shapes our perception of Missional Jesus.
1. Missional Jesus asserts authority at the level of divinity, even if it is co-regency.
2. Since missional Jesus has “all” authority, his commission is for “all” people.
3. “Go and make” are not two separable acts; this is a pleonasm (two words used to say one thing). You might italicize or bolden “make disciples” and read it like this: “Go make disciples.”
4. Disciples of the missional Jesus are made through baptism (a conversional act) and instruction (catechism act).
5. Missional Jesus’ disciples are instructed to “obey” his teachings — all of his teachings. Not some; all.
6. Missional Jesus is with missional disciple-making disciples.
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
It is not impossible to historicize this text. Jesus’ vision of a Gentile mission is at best rarely in view in the Gospels. It is possible then to understand “end of the age” as 70 AD’s destruction of Jerusalem as the ending of national privilege; it is possible to read “disciple all nations” as “to the Jew first” throughout the diaspora. Possible. Against the grain, to be sure. Why think of it? Because “age” is an epoch not the end of history; because Jesus’ missional vision focused on Israel.
Please don’t get bent out of shape on this one. I put it forward as a view I have at times entertained.
Two more texts to look at in this series on Missional Jesus. Today we look at Luke 24:36-49.
1. Missional Jesus’ greeting to his followers is about “peace,” justifying a billion recitations of these words by Christians when they pass the peace.
2. Missional Jesus think the Old Testament points to him — no Christian reading of the missional Bible can be fair if it is not thoroughly messianic/missional and Jesus-shaped.
3. Missional Jesus sees the OT pointing to his death and resurrection and to the mission to the nations.
4. Missional Jesus instructs his follower to wait for and upon the Holy Spirit if they wish to be missional followers.
Luke 24:36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.
44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
This is it. We finish off with Acts 1:8. First the text:
Acts 1:7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
1. Missional Jesus tells his disciples that they do not know the time when history will be brought to a close.
2. What they do know is that God’s power is available to them.
3. Missional Jesus’ followers are “witnesses” to Jesus and about Jesus and for Jesus.
4. Missional Jesus sees movement: from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.
So, we finish this Missional Jesus series with this prayer from the Book of Common Prayer:
Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Has anyone put all these posts into a single Word document? Let me know if you have.
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