The Second Sunday after Pentecost
The Reverend Ashley Mather, Curate

Matthew 9:35-10:23

Sent by Jesus, Sent as Jesus

The gospel reading that we just heard from Matthew starts by saying: “Then Jesus went about all
the cities and villages…”

If the beginning of a passage in our lectionary cycle starts with the word “then,” it will often get
removed. It sounds cleaner and allows the reader and listener to focus on what they’re about to
hear. The word “then” was actually removed from today’s reading, but if you pick up a NRSV
bible and turn it to Matthew 9:35, you will find that this simple word is indeed part of this larger
story. It may be just one word, but it communicates that something has just taken place. That Jesus
has just done something. In this chapter alone, Jesus: heals a paralytic, calls Matthew (the tax
collector) to be a disciple, he answers difficult questions, restores the life of a young girl while
also healing another woman, he gives sight back to two blind men, and gives voice back to one
who was mute.

Again, these are only the miracles and healings that Jesus has done in just this chapter. When we
hear about all of these things, it can be easy for us to say things like: “of course Jesus did all that
in a single chapter…he is God after all,” but we often forget and fail to mention that Jesus was
also human. And I bet that human was tired.

Nonetheless, this chapter ends with Jesus continuing to have compassion for the crowds, even as
he says “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” He still has compassion for those desperate for his healing touch.

The beginning of the next chapter, which is the end of the passage that we just heard, is Jesus
summoning the disciples. This is the only time in the entirety of Matthew’s gospel that he names
the disciples as apostles. It’s the only time he refers to them in this way. Jesus names the twelve
apostles as he gives them authority to do the very same things that Jesus has been doing himself.
Jesus has laid the foundation and has invited these imperfect disciples…these imperfect apostles
to build up the kingdom and do ministry in his name. Colin Yuckman, who is the assistant director
of MA in Christian Practice at Duke Divinity School, reflects that “there is only one Jesus,
after all, and even his closest followers are but a pale reflection

Just look at the makeup of the twelve: the “first” apostle Peter will deny the Lord three times and
the last apostle Judas will betray him to death, while two apostles in between held opposite positions
on the Roman occupation (tax collector Matthew worked for them, while Simon the
Cananaean or “zealot” worked against them). And yet the passage ends where it begins, but this
time with these assorted apostles now entrusted with Jesus’ work of proclamation and healing.”

Colin also reminds us that “in Matthew, Jesus’ followers include the original audience as well as
us. We are expected to resemble him in word and deed. To be sent by Jesus is, in some sense, to
be sent as Jesus.”1

As Christians, we are sent by Jesus. We are sent as Jesus. Sent into this world that is hurting
quite a bit, especially right now. And because we are sent as Jesus, we are called to look at any
given circumstance through the eyes of Jesus. He spent most of his ministry with those on the
outskirts of society: those who were viewed as less than because of disability or social status.
Jesus spoke out against oppression, and he met the crowds with compassion.

Our collect for today asks that we may proclaim the Lord’s truth with boldness and minister justice
with compassion. But it’s hard to do this when we dig down into the details that don’t allow
us to move forward. It’s hard to do this when we allow our own worldview to get in the way of
the view of the kingdom of God. It’s hard to do this when we fail to truly see and hear one another.

We don’t have to agree on every detail to move forward as followers of Jesus. Matthew, the tax
collector, and Simon the zealot mostly likely disagreed about many things, but they allowed their
lives to be transformed by Jesus. They found ways to be disciples…to be apostles together. The
apostles were not sent out alone, and we are not called to do this work alone either. We are called
to be followers of Christ together. Matthew and Simon had to see beyond their own world to do
this work together. And we can do that too.

I’d like to end with a prayer that was attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated
40 years ago for speaking out about the injustices taking place in his country of El Salvador.

It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of
saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession
brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives include everything.
This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one
day will grow. We water the seeds already planted
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects
far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s
grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the
difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not
messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.

So with that prayer, I ask that we all take a step back and take a long view. We do this not to
move backwards but to take in a more complete vision of the kingdom of God, so that we can
proclaim the Lord’s truth with boldness and minister justice with compassion. Go and be sent by
Jesus…be sent as Jesus.

1 Colin Yuckman.