Friday of Pentecost 3 – Matthew 9:35-10:20

35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

1 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. 11 And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.

16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

At the height of the pandemic, when we were all staying home and the roads were empty, I noticed something at my neighbor’s house. There was a large black van parked out front. Behind it stood a grill, and a man attending the grill, while my neighbor and others were sitting in the front yard, appropriately distant. My neighbor, lives alone since his father died several years ago.

Later I ran into my neighbor and commented about the scene. He said, “Yeah, I paid the chef to come and make a meal for my friends and me, it had been months since I had eaten a meal with anyone.” That really struck me. I have a family in my home. We eat together regularly. My neighbor is a very social person who enjoys going to restaurants and socializing with his wide circle of friends. He could not do that. The stay-at-home order fell heavily upon him in that way. He paid a professional chef to come an make him a dinner just so he could share it with someone.

Jesus looked out over the crowds and had compassion on them. They were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. That word for “have compassion” in Greek is a very powerful word. It might be better to say that his guts were wrenched by what he saw. It is perhaps the strongest word for emotion in the Greek language.

Jesus’ response to his compassion for the people was to send his own disciples out into the world. He gives them great authority but also warns them that they will be persecuted. They can do great good, but they should not expect safety and security. That sounds familiar! That same Jesus has risen from the dead and rules His strange kingdom today, a kingdom of which you are a citizen. Has His compassion sent you to a neighbor today? He cares for them through you.

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