Mark 3:13-15 & Matthew 9:35-38
The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
June 14, 2020

The followers of Jesus are not “Stay Put” people, but “Sent Out” people.  According to Mark, Jesus gathered His first twelve followers “to be with Him, and to be sent out”.  By spending time with Jesus, they’d learn what is on His heart and mind; and by embracing His agenda, they’d venture abroad to “proclaim” His good news and to show its power to banish evil.  The repeated rhythm of discipleship always involves Jesus’ drawing people to Himself and then sending them out in His name.

According to Matthew, after the twelve had enough time to develop a close friendship with Him and to buy into what He is about, Jesus immediately sent them out to further His work.  For, from that time with Him, they were at last ready, and so were those to whom He sent them!  Jesus told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  By that command, Jesus meant that they both pray for others to be sent and volunteer to be sent themselves!  After all, He would the very next moment send them out for the very first time.

I’d guess some of us dread the idea of His sending us like that.  We doubt we have what it takes to do the job!

Disciples develop, however, not by first becoming capable and then doing what Jesus asks; but by first doing what Jesus asks and thereby getting capable.  If we faithfully do what we can, even but in a small way, God expands our capacity and enables us to be faithful in larger ways.  We begin small to make a big difference.  Why, we can start telling the good news just by listening!

A Japanese missionary explained this by a visual illustration.  He set out a table with two chairs.  Before each chair were glasses and pitchers full of liquid.  He said, “When you sit down for a conversation with someone who hasn’t yet sampled the nectar of God’s grace, it’s not as if they’ve never drunk anything good before.  In fact, they’d probably like to share what they drink – especially if they fill themselves with it often and there seems to them plenty to go around.

“So graciously receive before you give, and listen before you talk!  Remember, even if they are not satisfied, their lives are full.  And if you pour out the truth too soon, it will just overflow off the top of their already full glasses; and spill on the floor, wasted.

“So begin your proclamation by asking questions and seeking to get clear about what fills their lives.  Empty one of your glasses to provide them an open vessel into which they might pour out for you a sip of what they’d like to share.  As you sip it, you will come to know them.  And as you come to know them, you will know where to begin talking about Jesus’ good news.”

The missionary went on, “Seven times out of ten they’ll eventually get curious about you and in turn ask you questions.  Speak up then, for they will be ready to listen and to receive, with their pitchers now emptied a bit from their having shared with you, and with which they can take in what you’ll pour out for them.  And by your having listened, you’ll know from which pitchers of Jesus’ gospel to pour in order to quench their felt thirst.”

Dr. Jerry Root once wrote an essay entitled, “When Evangelism Really Isn’t That Hard”.  In it he shared what happened when he had a long layover in the Vienna, Austria, airport.  A woman wearing a lanyard and carrying a clipboard approached him to ask if he’d mind taking an airport survey.  He replied with a smile, “Sure, if you tell me your name.”  “Allegra,” she answered with a smile.  “Allegra, are you from Vienna?”  “No, I grew up south of here.”  By that answer Jerry felt permitted to ask, “What brought you to Vienna?”  She said, “To study.”  That answer opened the door to more questions: Where do you go to school?  What are you studying?  Twenty or so minutes later, Jerry had learned a good deal about Allegra.  Her mother had abandoned the family to go to Canada with her lover, her father had grown toxic with bitterness and her brother refused to talk with her.

When Jerry expressed sadness over her losses, she confided that wasn’t the whole of it: her boyfriend, who’d been studying art in Florence, just announced he’d found someone new in Italy.

Jerry’s heart went out to Allegra, and he had no doubt she desperately needed to know God’s steadfast love.  Yet, realizing she still hadn’t asked a single survey question, he told her she’d better get the survey done so he could tell her what he’d been sent to tell her.  With that remark, she gave him a sharp look and asked if he was a secret shopper checking up on how well she was doing her job.  Laughing, he assured her it wasn’t that at all, but he did have something very important to tell her, once they finished the questionnaire.

She rushed through it, dropped her pen in her pocket, and asked, “What are you supposed to tell me?”  Aware she felt abandoned and betrayed, Jerry said, “God loves you, Allegra, with a faithful, everlasting love.  He’d never abandon or forsake you.”  Allegra blinked, and asked him to repeat what he’d just said.  Her eyes welled up with tears, and she blurted out, “But I’ve done such bad things!”  Jerry replied, “God sent Jesus to die to pay for them and to bring you forgiveness and hope.”  Allegra said, “I’d like to believe that.”  And Jerry gave silent thanks that God had sent him to tell the good news to someone with ears willing to hear and a heart ready to receive – and it had all come about, not because he’d been articulate or insightful or competent in any way, but just because he’d been obedient to the One who sent him and had listened with that One’s love.

To be a follower of Jesus is to be “sent out” to let others in on the best secret ever.  If we go, pray, listen with love, and simply share the good news, some new disciples will be born.

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