Jesus in his ministry years taught and trained his disciples in ministry as part of his own mission culminating in the cross and resurrection. His teaching was by example as well as in words. His personal life carried out numerous prophecies from the Old Testament scriptures that would have been obvious to the Jewish population and especially the religious leadership. Today unless we are introduced to the relevant sections of the Old Testament modern readership would not grasp the full significance of aspects of Mark’s gospel.
In all the gospels a striking theme is how different Jesus’s authority and leadership is when compared with leadership normally found in the world. Hebrews reminds us to, ‘Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.’ Hebrews 13.7 When we consider the message of the word of God it is natural to also consider the messenger. Isaiah made clear in Isaiah 63 that the Messiah was to be a servant with, ‘no form or majesty’ Isaiah 53.2 When Jesus sent the twelve disciples on their first missionary journey to surrounding villages they were not to have an abundance of resources. They were to journey trusting in the Lord, dressed as itinerant teachers with no money, extra clothing, no food, no bag, just a staff. They were to be dependent upon those who received the word of the Lord. There would be those who were open to the gospel and those who rejected it. Where the word was rejected they were to move on making clear that at that moment the rejection of the gospel was also a rejection of them.
Their message was simple, for people to repent. It is easy to understand why there would be people who did not accept their message. However, the Spirit of God was with the disciples and they were able to heal and overcome evil. The use of oil in healing symbolised the restoration of God’s blessing. Isaiah 61.3 The disciples were to replicate Jesus’ ministry. The epistles contain many references to warnings to the early church not to replicate the world’s approaches to leadership and power where it leads into sin and self-promotion. Instead our model is to be Jesus. The church in the first century frequently had to be reminded not to lose its distinctiveness and this tendency has remained an obstruction to the gospel ever since.
Damage is caused to the gospel in terms of people’s willingness to listen where it has been accompanied by Christian leaders using it to acquire significant personal wealth, abuse people especially through sexual exploitation, satisfy their own egos, favour some people above others, cheat or defraud people or distort the gospel. Disciples’ lives need to match the gospel if it is to be believed. The reward for the disciple is witnessing the Spirit’s impact in hearer’s lives. Luke 10.17
The church is to go to people with a clear message, in humility but with the power of the Spirit. Our model is always Jesus. Instead of widespread acclamation he received no personal wealth, rejection by a crowd that once praised him and cruel crucifixion.
Are we ready to take the risk of being a disciple of Jesus?
Do we believe we need the wealth of the world to be effective in communicating the gospel of Christ?
And He Shall Reign – Graham Kendrick