05 February 2009

God Speaks To Everyone - Through Jesus

Jesus...saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" (Matthew 9:9-11)

A brief reading of the Gospels makes one thing very clear. Jesus never ministered in isolation. He was constantly putting Himself in situations where He could make contact with large numbers of people who represented very diverse backgrounds.

He went to various synagogues in different cities.

He mixed with both the religious elite and the religiously detestable.

He spent time with those who were poor (and sometimes ill) and He interacted with those who were well fed, in good health and privileged.

Jesus never focused His attention only on particular groups or classes of people. No one was left out. His ministry efforts touched a broad section of society which included every financial, health, cultural and religious category.

Jesus went places the pious would not and this activity exposed Him to the attacks from those who disagreed.

Jesus spent time with those who were curious, those who were hateful and those who were confused. He never created or gravitated to cliques.

Jesus was not shy about ministering to any person and was never afraid to talk about it publicly. He treated everyone as socially approachable and some judged that as repulsive.

Jesus did not treat everyone exactly the same but He made sure that He was accessible to everyone and He was more than willing to discuss His activities should anyone wish to find fault.

Jesus saw people as fitting into two different categories. Some were believers and some were not. He ministered to both.

For those who believed, Jesus instructed their faith so they were better informed and more accurately aligned with the intentions of Jesus. Their faith was real but immature and misdirected by assumptions. The disciples often said or did silly things without thinking and Jesus patiently corrected them, gently whenever possible.

Those who did not believe were blinded by cultural bias and they often queried Jesus on points of well accepted but unfounded dogma. Jesus responded by asking questions rather than giving answers. He was more interested in making them think than demonstrating His own intelligence. That was, by the way, a means of honoring the intelligence of His antagonists. He was suggesting they could find the answers without His help and this approach also avoided stirring up arguments.

There were many people who were contrary toward Jesus but in spite of this tension He ministered to them as well. When presented with the woman caught in adultery, instead of stoning her, which the crowd wanted, Jesus found a way to spiritually challenge every person: the guilty, the innocent and the contrary. In every situation He found ways to reach out in every direction and meet every spiritual need of every kind of person.

And Matthew is the right man to make this point known. In Bible times Matthew, being a tax collector, was tagged as an outsider. Overly religious people avoided Matthew. In fact, they despised him.

Jesus, on the other hand, ministered directly and very personally to this man. Not only did Jesus call him into a very special position of ministry, Apostleship, but immediately following that call, He accepted an invitation to eat with Matthew and many of his friends in Matthew’s home.

This made everyone think, believers and unbelievers alike. It was shocking twice over.

Firstly, Jesus called a religiously unacceptable man to ministry and then, to add insult to injury, He ate with him in his house rubbing shoulders with all his religiously and socially rejected friends. Both actions were taken in public view.

The way Jesus ministered to people was irritating to some and relieving to others but surprising to everyone. The Pharisees were agitated by Jesus. Matthew and his friends were liberated by Him. Both were wide eyed.

Matthew reports not only his own experience with Jesus but also many other situations in which Jesus did very unexpected things. Things considered unorthodox by others. He wanted to make a point about the very diverse nature of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus ministered to every kind of person on an individual level. He was always ready to minister to anyone not just the accepted few.

The question is how do our ministries compare? We are not as clever as Jesus and we don't have His power but we have the same responsibility, minister to everyone. We are to minister to the spiritual and physical needs of every category of individual in every kind of situation. When we do, we may find ourselves in culturally and socially compromising situations. Jesus did and we shouldn't be surprised if it happens to us. Like Jesus, we may find ourselves tagged as “unorthodox.” But, God, through Jesus, has spoken to everyone. We need to make everyone aware of it. Doing anything less is not obedience. ThinkAboutIt.

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