Following Jesus Around: How do people (outsiders) know that the kingdom of heaven has appeared? (Matthew 4-11), a Sermon (Part III)
III. We demonstrate the presence of the Kingdom by sending Laborers into God’s Field to do what Jesus did
We have moved into the Hill. We relocated. (You all made this possible—thank you.) This is important: most pastors of churches in places like the Hill don’t live in the church’s neighborhood. Our moving into the Hill is a big deal—that’s what our neighbors tell, too. This is huge because there is a connection between the gospel and the community . . . between Shepherds and the community . . . between churches and the community. No wonder Jesus calls for laborers for the harvest. Another summary at the end of Matthew 9.
The reason for Jesus’ compassion is that they were sheep without a shepherd, harassed and dispirited. Jesus mixes his metaphors and says that there is a need for Shepherds for the Harvest is rip. “Harvest” is a great eschatological, end time word used throughout the Old Testament. “Harvest” means we are in the age of the appearance of the Kingdom of Heaven, but it also suggests that the end is near (of course eschatologically near, but also timely, the time to harvest is now; this gives us an urgent frame for the task). We should not be surprised that there is a relationship between this crowd of outsiders, unclean, lame, diseased, their condition (harassed and dispirited), and the absence of a Shepherd. People die without a shepherd. This is why we pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send forth laborers, send Shepherds into the field.
I am humbled by how I am greeted on our apartment’s street: “Pastor.” “Rev.” “Park Pastor.” My favorite is “Hey, Preach.” But the one that honors me the most is when my neighbors call me, “Pastor of the Hill.” That’s crazy, right?
I had just walked out of our apartment front door, heading to my car for a meeting, when I heard, “Pastor, come here.” This happens often. I do not carry cash on me. This is an important rule ministering where I pastor. Usually it is, “Do you have a dollar?” or “I need $8.50 for a bus ticket.” It’s hard, but I need to say, “No, I don’t.” Yet, I am a neighbor. And, a pastor (which most of our neighbors know) . . . so, sometimes I try to find other ways to help. This morning an older gentleman, who lives across the street (he admits his drinking problem and has a hard time walking because of his heart), pulled me in close and whispered to me, “Do you have a bag of groceries?” This is a tough one . . . I gave him my normal reply, but added, “When I get back, I’ll see what I can do to get you some food.”
I located a $20 and found him still sitting where I left him. “Let’s go to the corner store and get you $20 bucks worth. No cigarettes though.” We walked slowly, stopping every 25 feet or so for him to catch his breath. Once inside the corner store . . . it was missional . . . a small crowd was there. Some teens shouted, “Hey, Pastor Chip!” I introduced myself to the others. Fist bumps all around. My older neighbor then surprised me when he started introducing me to his friends in the store, “This is my pastor.” Didn't expect that. And, he said it more than once. I held back tears.
Of course, there are plenty of food resources, shelters, and food pantries in New Haven, which is my usual go-to reply. But, my presence in the neighborhood isn’t to be a social-worker or case-worker. This is a neighbor, someone I talk to regularly, and to whom I have given some street pastoral counseling—hard to just defer when, in some way, he’s one of my sheep (at least a street sheep). Plus, this man is abused by his boarding roommate, his food stamp-card taken regularly, and his landlord won’t do anything—and complaining just makes it harder on him. All this gentleman knows is his drinking, bad health, and sometimes Jesus shows up as his neighbor who also happens to be hispastor. These good people need a shepherd . . .
It is no surprise that immediately after having compassion for the sheep that do not have a shepherd (9:36)
and praying for the needed laborers to go harvest (9:337-38), Jesus appoints his twelve and commissions them (10:1-15). Although there is far more to this list (vv. 2-4) and their mission (vv. 5-15), I want to call attention to one thing very much related to our thread: Jesus instructs the twelve to proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (v. 7).
Jesus calls the 12 disciples (10:1a) and gives them authority to do exactly what he has been doing (v. 1b)–exactly what they observed in following Jesus around as we have observed thus far. Now, they are to be fisher-followers by casting out demons and healing every disease and every affliction (10:1) and, so, they demonstrate that the kingdom of God is present (v. 7): Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons (v. 8a).
*This sermon was preached at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Concord, MA on Sunday, May 19, 2019. The full sermon maybe downloaded as a PDF (here). An audio version is also be available >> Audio version
Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV
Chip M. Anderson, advocate for biblical social action; pastor of an urban church plant in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, CT; husband, father, author, former Greek & NT professor; and, 19 years involved with social action.