“And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.” ~ Luke 9.1-2 [ESV]
We human beings are so often creatures of extremes or imbalance. People are pendulums. Say THAT ten times fast (yeah, I have kids!)…
This either/or approach to life makes its way into our churches because, contrary to what some false teachers may promote, even after we are “born of the Spirit” we still have some earthliness in us that needs to be shot and killed. This newness of life from Romans 6 is completely ours, yes, but it takes some growing into (as we grow out of some other nastiness). But I digress…
Jesus is in action here in Luke 9, and for those of us who are really trying to follow him in an effort to learn from him, let’s get our heads in the game and start paying attention! The first thing we notice is that Jesus doesn’t have disciples because he’s lonely. These twelve are not spiritual court jesters meant to keep Jesus occupied. Jesus has disciples so he can advance his Father’s Kingdom, so he can restore a ruined world. He makes us disciples; we don’t make ourselves disciples. But ultimately, Kingdom “being” should result in Kingdom “doing.” My guess is that this is what Paul is referring to in Ephesians 2.10…excellent works that we walk in.
So yes, Jesus has disciples, and these men have a very compact to-do list:
1.) proclaim the Kingdom of God
2.) heal people
How does the church fare when held accountable to these two objectives? How do I? There’s one camp that would lean towards the first objective. We might score ourselves pretty high on #1. We do a lot of talking, but are we proclaiming a Kingdom or are we teaching self-help principles, seasoned with a pinch of Bible-talk? Do we explore and consider the implications of living in a Kingdom and how starkly different it is than living in this historical anomaly known as the United States? Or maybe we do take our theology and our Bibles seriously – are we proclaiming this good news with free refills to the parched and dying people who need to hear it, or are we sipping it like 12-year old scotch in our personal studies? Good theology is vital, but it needs an ever-expanding audience.
Or maybe we’re more about the healing. We like to be out with “the people,” giving out cups of cold water to “the least of these.” This crowd is so much more practical – and popular! – than the “proclaim the Kingdom of God” crew. We become the good listener/shoulder to cry on for those who need emotional healing. We serve up food at the local food pantry for those who need financial healing. We might even offer to pray for a sick co-worker who needs physical healing. But the name of Jesus never comes up. The announcement that this same Jesus is now Lord and King of a new world, and he calls men everywhere to repent is somehow mysteriously lacking with this second “heal people” group. We find code words like “love” and “peace” and even “god” but there’s no Kingdom proclamation.
The Jesus way isn’t Kingdom at the expense of healing. And likewise, no vague healing is ever offered independently of King Jesus. It must be Kingdom + healing. Theological truth + practical restoration. The Kingdom of God is the very context and pretext on which all true healing will take place anyway. If the church would focus on these two objectives, maybe we wouldn’t see a better world, but an altogether new one unfolding before us.