Matthew’s description of the ministry of the Lord Jesus is very interesting one and one that we need to listen very carefully to. Matthew repeats this description twice in his gospel, this should alert us to the fact that Matthew thought this description is very important. Look at the two passages below and you will see how similar they are to one another.
23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. 25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.
35 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. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on 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 workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
In both of these passages Matthew shows us that Jesus taught, he proclaimed the kingdom and he healed the sick, if we are to follow Jesus we need to see that we are not those who want to do just one of these things to the exclusion of the others. I want to look at each of these parts of Jesus ministry separately.
Jesus Taught: The whole idea here is that Jesus expounded the Scriptures and we can see how he did that in the sermon of the mount. He opened up the word in such a way that he stripped away all false teaching based on tradition and replaced it with the radical demands of the Word of God. In some Christian traditions we have exalted the role of teaching in a Way that Jesus would never have done. The church has been turned into a preaching centre and as long as we are well taught we think we are fine. However, we must not react to this by despising teaching but rather seeing that it has its proper place in the church. All Christians need to feed upon the word of God but they also need to put it into practice. The teaching of Jesus was always teaching that was practical in its application. We need to absorb the truths that Jesus taught us and then impart them to others. Teaching is vital to the health and growth of the Church, the teacher will want to equip his or her hearers with the truth that will enable them to lead Godly lives.
Jesus Proclaimed the Kingdom: The kingdom of god is not a place like the United Kingdom but rather the rule of God. When the Kingdom is proclaimed we see with it a call to repentance which is a call to submit the whole of our lives to the King of Kings. Notice even in Jesus evangelistic proclamation he asserts the authority of God. This kingdom mentality is one that we need to regain. When we proclaim the Kingdom of God, we are saying that the good news is contained in returning to the God of grace and submitting our lives to him. When Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom he invited sinners to leave their lives of sin, find forgiveness and new life in the kingdom of God. As we look through the gospels we see how he brought salvation to the needy, the outcast from society and those who had lived lives of flagrant sin. Jesus knew that people needed him to be the good shepherd who cares for them.
In our Church life if the proclamation of the kingdom is the central thing, we can turn our churches into centres of manic activity. Some churches so emphasise evangelism, that the believer is not taught and equipped. Other churches see the proclamation of the kingdom to be the call to social justice and there are constant calls to be active in this campaign or ministry that promotes justice. If we are not careful we get a distorted picture of the Christian life and people feeling exhausted because of all their activity. Now I believe that social justice and evangelism are both important and vital for Christian witness but they are not all that the Christian life is about.
Jesus healed the sick: As part of his ministry Jesus healed the sick, it is interesting to note that in the gospels healing often follow the preaching of the Word. In his healing ministry Jesus demonstrates in a very practical way the love of God for the needy. This too should be our motivation when we exercise a healing ministry. We should never be seeking to show how good and powerful we are but rather showing the love and power of God for others. Particularly in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles, we can get taken up with doing the stuff, moving in the power of the Holy Spirit and his gifts, that we neglect the importance of teaching and at times it can distract from teaching. We need to be aware of these dangers. Jesus held these three aspects of ministry together in a wholesome way and by doing so he ministered to the needs of the whole man. We need to be those who are like Jesus in his love and compassion, demonstrating to a needy world that Jesus has not changed.
Being Disciples of Jesus today: As disciples of Jesus we need to follow his example, in teaching the word of God , proclaiming the kingdom and healing the sick. If we are to do this we will like Jesus depend upon our heavenly Father for guidance and upon the Holy Spirit for power. We will also acknowledge that Jesus is Lord and he has rightful authority over us. As we fix our eyes on Jesus we see the wonder of God’s grace toward us, we will rejoice in the wonder of God’s salvation and as a result we will want others to come to know him.