TODAY’S READING: Matthew 8; Mark 2
From the beginning the missionary heart of Jesus clearly demonstrated that His purpose was broader than home, that it included all people, and that He had a passion to rescue even those we are afraid of or despise. He was more than willing to love lepers (Matt. 8:2–3). He was more than willing to have His roof smashed in so He could love and heal the lame and in that healing demonstrate He had the power to forgive the sins of the whole earth (Mark 2:1–12). Jesus was more than willing to heal ladies (Matt. 8:14–17), lackeys of the Romans (vv. 5–12), and Greeks with legions of demons (vv. 23–34). Jesus pointedly and intentionally reached out beyond the borders of what the “Church” (the religious establishment and popular comfort) thought appropriate. They were scandalized that He associated and loved tax collectors, sinners, and peoples from other nations. Missionary Jesus knew what it was to swim against the tide which would monopolize the gospel, shackling it to the favored family few.
Jesus knew that missions mobilization had the twin challenges of unrealistic expectations and differed obedience (vv. 18–22). Some were attracted to missions because of the excitement of “cool Jesus” doing fantastic things, gaining notoriety, and receiving praise and welcome in every place. Jesus cut through the idealism and asked if they were willing to follow Him to nowhere. Jesus was (and is) not impressed with those who said that this or that must happen in their career or family before they said “yes” to following Him to that nowhere. We want to be something or make ourselves into somebody so we have resources to help Jesus out. Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you along the way.”
Jesus crossed an uncooperative sea to a non-Jewish territory to cast out demons, and for His pains was asked to leave the country (vv. 23–34). Missionaries must likewise work against the winds and currents of manifold powers that do not want Jesus, the demon destroyer, to set their people free. Jesus knows what it means to face resistance, both natural (difficult climates) and official (leaders who expel). Jesus knows that missions is about casting out demons and that the demonic will strike back.
Of all these early and unmistakable demonstrations of the missionary heart of Jesus, few are as poignant as the Italian soldier who came to pray (vv. 5–13). It was an unreached person who trusted Jesus more than the household of faith. The centurion recognized in Jesus international authority, and in contrast to the Jews (who demanded Jesus only come to their house), the Roman humbly said physical presence was not necessary, just make the command and it shall be done. Jesus loved it. The great missionary heart of Jesus surged and shouted: “YES!” And not only this Italian, but many will come from east and west and sit down with Abraham in the kingdom of heaven. Oh, how Jesus loves it when unreached peoples express their faith in Him with so much less witness than we have enjoyed. How Jesus rejoices over the many unreached from every people who will likewise in simple faith trust Him! ‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus. Sweet to us, sweet to Him, sweet to all the nations of the world.