Matthew 9:35–10:8

How to Share the Gospel

Laura Miguélez Quay

Linebrook Church

June 18, 2017

 

This morning we’re going to begin a series, that will take us well into the Fall, highlighting different portions of the Gospel of Matthew. And we’re going to kick off by settling, once and for all (as indicated in the sermon title): How to Share the Gospel! This is such an important topic but it’s also one that often creates anxiety and causes us to feel uncomfortable for a number of reasons:

We may feel awkward about talking with strangers or people we don’t know well;

We may be all too aware of how little we know;

We may fear not living up to what Scripture teaches;

We may have a concern about getting the message wrong;

And, on top of all that, who are we to tell others what they should—or shouldn’t—believe?

In sum, we feel as though there’s too much at stake in sharing the Gospel so best not to try lest we mess it up.

But perhaps we should start by asking: What do we actually mean when we say that we, as followers of Jesus Christ, are called to ‘share the Gospel’? What comes to your mind when you hear this phrase, ‘sharing the Gospel’? Take a moment to think about it…. If you’re like me, what probably comes to mind is something along the lines of telling others that Jesus loves them and that he died for them and that they need to turn from their sin and accept him as their Savior and Lord. And all of these points are certainly true. As even my desktop dictionary notes, the gospel is “the teaching or revelation of Christ”—and this is what we’re called to share. But how is it that we’re to share this teaching or revelation; this communication from God found in Jesus Christ and in the Scriptures that tell us about him? Isn’t our discomfort with sharing this good news the reason why so many books and methods about how to share our faith may be found?

Perhaps one of the most popular methods of sharing the Gospel is one that you have heard of, that of Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, and his Four Spiritual Laws. Just to refresh your minds, here they are:

Spiritual law number one: “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”

Spiritual law number two: “Humanity is tainted by sin and is therefore separated from God. As a result, we cannot know God’s wonderful plan for our lives.”

Spiritual law number three: “Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our sin. Through Jesus Christ, we can have our sins forgiven and restore a right relationship with God.”

Spiritual law number four: “We must place our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior in order to receive the gift of salvation and know God’s wonderful plan for our lives.” [Side note? Cartoon with the caption: “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” over a photo of Christians being thrown to the lions in the Roman Colosseum. Perhaps God’s “wonderful plan for our lives” isn’t always what we expect!]

But returning to Gospel sharing systems, I remember years ago having to learn one called Evangelism Explosion. You may be familiar with their initial hook question: “If God were to ask you, ‘Why should I let you into My Heaven?’ what would you say? You don’t know? Then we have the best news you could ever hear!” Another guide from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, “Sharing Your Faith 101,”[1] provides the following advice for sharing the Gospel after stating the importance of living a godly life, praying for those you interact with, reading the Bible, and going to church. Then “4 simple steps” of sharing the Gospel are given which are reminiscent of the four spiritual laws minus the idea of God having a “wonderful” plan:

  1. Telling about God’s plan—peace and life;
  2. Sharing our problem—separation from God;
  3. Talking about God’s remedy—the cross; and
  4. Our response—receiving Christ, which includes admitting you’re a sinner, asking forgiveness and being willing to turn away from your sins, believing Christ died for you on the cross, and receiving Christ into your heart and life. Well my point in all of this is that as I look at Jesus’ life as it’s portrayed in the Gospels, I feel a disconnect between these methods or techniques of sharing the Gospel when compared with what Jesus Christ actually did. I’m not saying these programs are useless; they just seem woefully incomplete.

Having said that let’s turn now to our text to see what we can glean from Jesus’ example in how to ‘share the Gospel’ the right way. Beginning with verse 35, we’re told: “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.” But notice that this isn’t a one-size-fits-all technique. It’s not a quick and easy summary. In fact, in chapters five through seven of his Gospel, Matthew provides some of the content of Jesus’ teaching and proclamation of the good news of the kingdom. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus covered everything:

From what behavior results in God’s blessing—which we refer to as the Beatitudes;[2]

To God’s definition of murder,[3] adultery,[4] and divorce;[5]

To the importance of loving our enemies;[6]

To encouraging us to do what we do—whether giving to the needy,[7] praying,[8] or fasting[9]—for the right motive of doing these for our Father in heaven rather than doing them to be seen by others;

To trusting in God rather than worrying about basic needs since he loves us and knows our needs even before we ask of him;[10]

To warning about judging others;[11]

To discerning true prophets[12] and disciples[13] from those who are false. In other words, Jesus’ teaching can’t be summarized in four or even ten easy steps because his teaching is challenging, not easy. So it’s impossible to summarize in a few sound bites. Teaching must be taught. It must be built upon. It must be learned. It must be processed. It must be thought through.

But what is more, in verse 35, we’re told that Jesus not only “went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom” but we’re also told that he healed “every disease and sickness.” Prior to the events in our passage this morning, Matthew makes note of numerous examples of Jesus’ healing ministry. In fact in chapter 4 he states for the first time what he says in verse 35 of our chapter, namely that after calling Peter, Andrew, James, and John as his disciples, Jesus did in Galilee what he did everywhere he went—he taught, proclaimed the good news of the kingdom, and healed every disease and sickness among the people. And when those in Syria heard about this and brought him their sick and demon-possessed, he healed them as well.[14] Some specific examples provided by Matthew include how Jesus:

Healed a man with leprosy;[15]

And a centurion’s servant;[16]

And Peter’s mother-in-law and many who were demon-possessed;[17]

He healed a paralyzed man;[18]

He brought back to life the dead daughter of a synagogue leader;[19]

He healed two blind men.[20]

In other words, Jesus not only talked the talk, but he walked the walk; Jesus not only taught others about God but he acted on his words; Jesus not only proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of heaven, but he also demonstrated what that kingdom looked like. And what the arrival of God’s kingdom would look like had been foretold from the time of the Old Testament. Recall how later in chapter 11 of Matthew’s Gospel, we’re told that John the Baptist, while in prison, sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”[21] Jesus answered him not with a simple “yes” or “no” but by referencing Scripture—by referencing the only Scripture they had, our Old Testament. So Jesus said to John’s disciples, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”[22] In answering John in this manner Jesus was not only providing him comfort but he was doing so by reminding him of the signs foretold by Isaiah the prophet—700 years prior to Christ’s arrival—that would accompany the coming of God’s promised Messiah. In other words, Jesus was letting John know that he was the promised Messiah—he was the Christ—for he, the King, was performing kingdom deeds and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of heaven’s arrival in him who was King over heaven and earth!

So we need to stop and ask ourselves: if ‘sharing the Gospel’ isn’t only about living godly lives and praying and challenging others to consider the truth of who God in Christ is but also entails—as demonstrated by Jesus’ life—seeking to meet the physical and emotional and spiritual needs of others as well, then why isn’t this mentioned in every website and tract and book seeking to explain how best to share the Gospel? Why do we reduce ‘sharing the Gospel’ to a few key points about who Christ is and of our need for him as sinner? Again, if the good news of the kingdom of God having arrived in Jesus Christ includes healing and caring for the disease and sickness of others, then why don’t we talk about—and do this—more? Why do we limit ourselves to addressing people’s minds when their bodies are also desperately in need of knowing, of experiencing, the good news of God’s heavenly kingdom having arrived in Christ Jesus, our King?

Now I realize that unlike Jesus Christ, we are not God. And because we’re not God, we’re not able to heal people simply by laying hands on them or speaking a healing word to them. But, if as we pray together every week, we ask our heavenly Father that his kingdom come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven, then this means caring not only for people’s souls or spirits but also their minds and bodies for Jesus Christ, his Son, not only did this while on earth but, having ascended to heaven he sent his Holy Spirit to indwell us that we might continue to do the ministry he began while on earth. Christ has sent us his Holy Spirit that we might continue to be his hands and feet here on earth.

Now if teaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness is the “what” or the content of “sharing the Gospel,” what is the “why” of doing so? Why did Jesus go through all of this effort? Why did he go throughout the many towns and villages in and around Israel? Why did he teach in their synagogues? Why did he proclaim the good news of the kingdom? Why did he heal every disease and sickness? Why did he bother? Why did it matter so much to him?

The answer, in part, may be found in the next verse, verse 36. He did all of this because “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” The crowds were harassed. They were distressed. They were suffering from anxiety, from sorrow, from pain. And the crowds were helpless. They were unable to defend or fend for themselves. They needed help. They were dejected, dispirited. The crowds were like sheep without a shepherd. And the One who came from heaven to earth did so out of a desire to be their shepherd. And he felt compassion when he looked upon them. If teaching and preaching are the orthodoxy—the right teaching—of sharing the Gospel; and caring for the physical needs is the orthopraxy—the right acting—of sharing the Gospel; then having compassion on others is the orthopathy or how we should feel when we see and interact with others. Jesus displayed all three of these to the highest degree.

Sheep are not made to live on their own. They need a shepherd. They need a leader to teach, and guide, and care for them. And without a shepherd, they will feel harassed and distressed for sheep cannot fend for themselves. They were meant to be cared for by a shepherd and without a shepherd they will feel helpless and dejected. Sheep cannot live on their own apart from the shepherd’s compassionate oversight, provision, and guidance. But Jesus was not only a good shepherd; Jesus was not only the best shepherd but he was also God and thereby was able to meet the needs of the entire world by himself. So why didn’t he? Why didn’t he just snap his fingers, Mary Poppins-like, or say a word and make right all of the wrongs of the world? He could have, you know. Why did he choose instead to use disciples—to use us—to meet the many needs and address the many injustices and evil that have existed on earth ever since the time of the Fall? Why would he, as stated in verses 37–38, instead address his disciples and say, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Why would he do this? Why wouldn’t he simply take care of the harvest himself—especially since there were so few workers? It’s an interesting question and one that isn’t answered for us. But I suspect, in part, it’s because our earthly lives are intended by our Maker and Lord to be practical and relational, not magical. Teaching—and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of heaven—and healing, are activities that take place in the context of relationship.

As we regularly note, the sum of the law and the prophets, that is Scripture; the whole reason for our being, for our existence, is that we might love the Lord, our God, with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves.[23] And love is never a hit-and-run activity but requires spending time with and getting to know others. The harvest is plentiful because the needs in this world are great. The harvest is plentiful because there are so many who don’t know their Creator, Savior, Redeemer, and King. The harvest is plentiful because the fullness of time has not yet arrived and so evil has yet to be fully conquered and vanquished once and for all. But the workers are few. Perhaps the workers are too busy doing other things. Perhaps they haven’t noticed the needs around them. Perhaps they feel overwhelmed by needs in their own lives. Whatever the case, Jesus calls us to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field. But the workers need not go out alone for he will be with them. For as Lord of the harvest, who sends out laborers to work, only he can bring sight from blindness; only he can bring life from death. As Paul testifies, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”[24] And this harvest Lord is searching for those who would be his co-workers in his service[25] for the crop is ready for picking. The crop is ready to be reaped.

Well, in chapter ten Matthew turns to a few of the first of God’s workers as he tells how “Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness” (v. 1). So in essence Jesus commissioned his twelve disciples to do the very thing they regularly saw him do, that is, caring for others. And after providing the names of the twelve apostles in verses 2–4, Matthew notes the specific instructions Jesus provided them in verses 5–8: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” Before turning to the heart of Jesus’ instructions, let me address briefly this matter that his disciples were to go to the “lost sheep of Israel” and not “among the Gentiles or…any town of the Samaritans.” Why would he say this? Well, this was his initial call—to reach as many among God’s chosen nation of Israel as possible. Yet though this was his initial focus, it wasn’t his only nor final focus. Remember how before he ascended to heaven, Jesus told his disciples that they would be his witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”[26] And in fulfillment of this, the Holy Spirit, though initially sent to Jewish believers on Pentecost,[27] was later sent to both the Samaritans[28] and Gentiles.[29] So we shouldn’t conclude from these initial instructions that Jesus only cared for Israel for it’s evident throughout the Gospels that he cared for all who had need.

But, again, notice the message his disciples were to proclaim: “The kingdom of heaven has come near” (v.7)—the very message Jesus himself proclaimed. And they were called not simply to proclaim the truth of this message, but they, again like Jesus, were to put this truth into practice by means of healing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing those who had leprosy, and driving out demons (v. 8). And they were to do these things not for profit but as a demonstration that the kingdom of heaven was real. As they had been freely invited into Christ the King’s kingdom, so they were to freely invite others into his wondrous kingdom.

Brothers and sisters, all who are this morning who know Christ are in the same position of the disciples in that we, too, have been freely given the gift of God’s grace though Jesus Christ’s sacrifice so that we are now children of our heavenly Father and are thereby sealed and indwelled by his Holy Spirit. As such, we are presented with this charge to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out worker to his harvest. We’re called to be God’s workers. We’re called to gather in the crops.

But how can we do so? How can we share the Gospel as Jesus did? I think that in essence, what we learn from looking at Jesus’ life and teaching is that sharing the Gospel requires spending time and forming relationships with others. It requires getting to know them. Loving them. Asking them about their needs. Trying to meet their needs as best we can. Praying with and for them. Telling them about Jesus Christ. Telling them about your own desire to live out the kingdom life—loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. Telling them about our concern about the injustice and evils that ail this world. Telling them about Jesus, the light and life who entered this world that all injustice and evil might be overcome. Inviting them to church. Inviting them into our homes.

These are all ways in which we can proclaim in word and deed that in Christ Jesus the King over heaven and earth, God’s kingdom of heaven was brought to earth and that we, his citizens; we, his children, are called to do whatever we can to reflect God’s kingdom, his values, his priorities, in the small spheres of responsibility he’s given to each of us here on earth.

Teaching—and proclaiming the goodness of the Kingdom of God—and healing and caring for those who are sick comprise the essence of kingdom work. But, as Jesus did, when we see those who don’t yet know or care about Christ’s having come to earth, and suffering, dying, and rising for them, that they might know his eternal love, our response is to be one of compassion, not competition. As Paul also reminds us[30] “as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” This is how we are to share the Gospel. By being willing to enter relationships with others. Patiently teaching them what Scripture says. Testifying to ways in which we have experienced God’s goodness. And loving them to the best of our capacity.

Let us pray that our gracious heavenly Father, the Lord of the harvest, by the precious sacrifice of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the indwelling of his Holy Spirit will enable us not only to pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” but to send us, his workers out to teach, proclaim, and live out this truth in compassion towards others as we seek to love and care for all those whom God places in our paths. For this is how we can then properly share the awesome and wonderful Gospel of Christ’s love.

Let us pray.

[1] Summarized/copied from <https://billygraham.org/story/sharing-your-faith-101/>

[2] Matthew 5:3–12.

[3] Matthew 5:21–26.

[4] Matthew 5:27–30.

[5] Matthew 5:31–32.

[6] Matthew 5:43–48.

[7] Matthew 6:2–4.

[8] Matthew 6:5–8.

[9] Matthew 6:16–18.

[10] Matthew 6:25–34.

[11] Matthew 7:1–6.

[12] Matthew 7:15–20.

[13] Matthew 7:21–23.

[14] Matthew 4:23–25.

[15] Matthew 8:1–4.

[16] Matthew 8:5–13.

[17] Matthew 8:14–17; 28–34 (two demon-possessed men whose demons are sent into a herd of pigs); Matthew 9:32–34.

[18] Matthew 9:1–8.

[19] Matthew 9:18–26.

[20] Matthew 9:27–31.

[21] Matthew 11:3.

[22] Matthew 11:4–6.

[23] Matthew 22:36–40.

[24] I Corinthians 3:6–7.

[25] I Corinthians 6:9:For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

[26] Acts 1:8.

[27] Acts 2:1ff.

[28] Acts 8:1ff.

[29] Acts 10:1ff.

[30] Colossians 3:12.

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