Jesus, the Unlikely Apprentice V

Road Trip: Shaped by Mission

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”  Luke 4:18-19 (quoting Isaiah 61:1-2)

Early the next morning Jesus went out to an isolated place. The crowds searched everywhere for him, and when they finally found him, they begged him not to leave them. But Jesus replied, “I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent.”  Luke 4:42-43

One day Jesus called together his twelve disciples and gave them power and authority to cast out all demons and to heal all diseases. Then he sent them out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick…So they began their circuit of the villages, preaching the Good News and healing the sick.   Luke 9:1-2, 6.

These text raise some interesting questions.

  • What is the good news of the kingdom of God?
  • What is the mission of Jesus?
  • How does healing the sick embody the good news?

All these texts in Luke come before Jesus ever turns his face toward Jerusalem; they come long before Jesus announces to his disciples that he must die and rise again. So, the questions cannot be answered in terms of the death and resurrection of Jesus except that the death and resurrection of Jesus are the climatic fulfillment of what it means to preach “good news and heal the sick.” After all, the death and resurrection of Jesus are God’s Yes to the prayers “Your Kingdom Come.”

But the ministry of Jesus is also significant for mission and not simply his death and resurrection. The mission for which Jesus was sent into the world is summarized as declaring the good news of the kingdom and—to say it broadly—“heal the sick.” If the good news is not the death and resurrection of Jesus, it is the announcement of the coming reign of God and the in-breaking of that reign through Jesus’ healing ministry, through his ministry to the poor and oppressed, through his ministry to the “outsider” in Luke.

Jesus practiced this ministry; he was apprenticed into this ministry. He took it as a mission from God and lived it out in his life. Disciples are called to do the same.

The disciples of Jesus are a missional community. The disciples take up the mission of Jesus himself. They are also to declare the good news of the kingdom and heal the sick. Jesus sent out the twelve on this mission, and then also the seventy (Luke 10). Ultimately, he sends his church.

The mission of Jesus is the mission of the church. The church discovers its mission by immersing itself in the life and ministry of Jesus. The church, as the body of Christ, continues the mission of Jesus himself. The book of Acts tells the story of how the church continued what Jesus himself “began to do and to teach” (Acts 1:1).

Healing the sick, releasing the imprisoned, freeing the oppressed—the mission of Jesus—is the mission of the church. The good news (the gospel; the evangelistic message) is not simply about saving souls but also about saving the whole person, body and soul. It is good news for the poor not only in their spiritual emptiness but also in their material poverty as the church feeds, clothes and heals.

If the church really took up the mission of Jesus in its wholeness, what would “doing church” look like? This is the challenge for the church and its mission in the 21st century—the challenge to embody the ministry of Jesus in our world and to become Jesus to our world.

Just as Jesus was sent into the world for the sake of the world, so the church is also sent into the world for the sake of the world. Jesus was blessed to bless others, and so the church–blessed with the riches of God’s grace and mercy–is sent into the world to bless others with the good news of God’s reign.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What was the mission of Jesus? What is the good news of the kingdom of God? (Caution: Jesus is preaching this good news long before he ever begins to tell anyone that he is going to Jerusalem to die and rise again.)
  2. How was Jesus apprenticed in this mission? Was Jesus ever tempted to shift his mission or emphasis? What kinds of temptations do you think he might have faced?
  3. If the disciples were sent to tell the good news and heal the sick, how does that epitomize Jesus’ mission? How do we implement this mission as we follow Jesus? What does that look like?
  4. What are the implications of saying “the mission of the Jesus is the mission of the church”? How might that change the way we “do church” or think about “church”?


8 Responses to “Jesus, the Unlikely Apprentice V”

  1. Profile photo of johnnymelton  Johnny Melton Says:

    Letting Paul define the Gospel for us (1 Cor. 15:1-4) only deals with one aspect of the Good News, and it fails to appreciate that the early ministry of Jesus was devoted to preaching a message and providing a ministry of Good News that did not begin with the cross; even though the radical nature of it ultimately led there.

  2. Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    The gospel is about what God has done in Jesus–both in terms of his ministry as well as his death and resurrection. Good emphasis, Johnny. Thanks.

  3.   John King Says:

    Reading the Parable of the Good Samaritan (would have been an unthinkable title then) in its context of sending out the seventy (Luke 10) reveals the significance of this call to a healing ministry.

    When questioned about inheriting eternal life, Jesus turned the question back on the expert in the law. This man correctly summarizes the law (as Jesus does later) quoting the Shema and adding the command to love the neighbor as self. But, in an attempt to justify himself, he asked, “Who is my neighbor?”

    Jesus tells this remarkable story about a religious half-breed who refuses to respond as the pure-bloods did. He treats the man’s wounds with his first-aid kit, transports him, cares for him overnight and underwrites any future expenses for this man’s care.

    Jesus again questions his questioner–“Who neighbored the victim?” The proper answer was given–the one who acted with mercy.

    God’s final word on this incident resonate, “Go and do likewise.” An inability speak the healing words of the 12 or 70 does not release me from the kingdom work of “healing.” Can I apply first aid? Can I protect the vicimized? Can I provide a night’s stay? Can I pay for future care? Can I operate under Jesus’ kingdom manifesto?

    How I answer such questions, through my actions, reveals whether or not I am an apprentice to Jesus. I can go and do likewise. Will I? Too much of our study focuses on knowledge. I appreciate this study addressing an obedience-based discipleship.

  4.   Katie Says:

    Great blog and hope to have some time soon to come back and read more!

  5.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    This weekend I am preaching on Discipleship as an essential function to being a missional church. The text that I am using happens to be from Luke 18.18-30. This is the story of the rich ruler who was as righteous as could be when it came to keeping the commandments of God. Yet Jesus told him “you still lack one thing…” It is this one thing that kept this ruler from being able to participate in the kingdom (the good news) as a disciple of Jesus.

    What if this conversation did not involve a “ruler” but any number of local churches? You ask the question “If the church really took up the mission of Jesus in its wholeness, what would “doing church” look like?” Perhaps the reason why many local churches struggle to do just that is because they still lack one thing(s). Perhaps that one thing is wealth…but it may be safety, tradition, pride, legalism, relativism, etc…

    I think it is safe to say that most of the churches we are familiar with could rattle of a laundry list of the commands they have kept from their youth, just as this ruler did. But are these churches (are we) open to the possiblity that Jesus is saying to us “you still lack one thing…”?

    Thanks for this post, it is very thought provoking.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  6.   rich Says:

    WHAT DOES THAT phraise truely mean to me today…

    SPIRIT OF ADOPTION…
    HOW DOES A “SON OF GOD” ACT WHEN ALL AROUND HIM ARE LOST TO THE FATHER..
    it is nice to think of ourselves as Children of God…
    which we are
    although even the slowest of children mature to men of god in their father’s time….
    if we have the mind of christ and are the body of that Spirit ..
    why do i resist the complushion of the Spirit of gods grace for doing the good i know to do and fail…
    i do hope our lord mitagates still fo me a sinner..
    at times for me i fail so miserably as a good son…

    blessings

  7. Profile photo of Royce Ogle  Royce Says:

    Jesus was the first wholistic healer. Only twice did people come to him about spiritual matters. (Nicodemus and the rich young ruler)Most came to him with physical needs. As he tended to those physical needs he also met their spiritual needs.

    Unless we are trying to meet the physical needs of people we aren’t walking in Jesus foot steps. Handing someone a gospel tract, or offering a Bible study and saying “Be thou clothed and fed” just doesn’t cut it.

    Royce

  8.   David P Himes Says:

    My view is that Jesus’ mission was to demonstrate what it means to love God. The only time Jesus described his own words as “commands”, the command was to love one another, the way he loved us (John 13:34, 15:12).

    And that is certainly the mission of each of Jesus’ disciples — which means it’s the mission of the ekklesia.

    The temptations he faced were to put himself ahead of others. A temptation to which we all regularly capitulate.

    The healing activity of Jesus and others is a natural outgrowth of those expressions of loving others.

    We would all probably benefit from more study of what “loving the way Jesus loved” really means. My favorite definition of love is from Bill Clark, a former missionary to Israel: Giving yourself to others, for their good, expecting or requiring nothing in return.

    If “the church” accepted that as it’s mission, the world would not call us hypocrites. And God would be glorified.

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