The mission of the 12 (18 June 2017)

Readings: Romans 5:1-8, Matthew 9:35-10:15

A parable:

The new king sent his servants out across the kingdom to give out supporter badges.  All citizens who were willing to declare their allegiance to the new king received a supporter badge.  The servants were allowed to extol the virtues of the new king so that the fine citizens of the country may choose wisely – after all the old king was a tyrant – but apart from that, the citizens got to choose, and if they accepted the king they took a badge, and if not, they did not.

And so it was that the king’s servants undertook this task, but it was a long task because the kingdom was large, and even as they travelled the kingdom, new people entered the kingdom either by immigration or birth, and so they found it was a lifelong call to fulfil the king’s instruction.

As they travelled they found hardship across the kingdom and so eventually they began discussing among themselves the value of supporter badges in the face of such hardship.  “Maybe we should help these people rather than try to convert them to be followers of our king.”  So by and by they swapped their king-given task for whatever helpful task met them as they travelled.

They reasoned that the people would see how good the king was by the help that was given, and that even though they didn’t tell the people this, and even though the people didn’t get supporter badges, the people would be supporters of the king anyway.

Naturally you would wonder what the king might do to these servants, since they invented their own mission, and gave up on the king’s mission through their own wisdom, but that is not the point of my little story.

What the servants didn’t know is that they were not the only servants sent out by the king.  There were others, many others, sent out across the kingdom seeking those with supporter badges, looking into their welfare and ensuring they received any help required, from the king’s private resources.

This was a brilliant plan!  On the first hand, those who believed in the goodness of the King were free to declare it, and they received help from the king’s goodness.  Those who didn’t want the king were left alone by the king, which was just and true according to their choice.

The brilliance was that anyone who said no the first time, could declare their allegiance at any time, get a supporter’s badge, and receive the help of the king.

However, the helping servants began to notice a problem.  There were just as many problems across the kingdom, but there were fewer and fewer new people with supporter badges, and indeed the number of people with supporter badges was decreasing all the time.  So the number of problems increased, but the number they could help in the king’s name decreased.

What had gone wrong in the kingdom?  It had all depended on those first servants giving out supporter badges.  All worked well until they gave up their job, where-upon it collapsed in an inglorious heap.

How could those servants be so foolish as to think that their plan was better than the king?  Indeed how could they so little believe the goodness of the king, when their very task was to tell the people of that very goodness.

So it is that these 12 disciples, and later 72 were sent in pairs to tell the news that the Kingdom of God was at hand, and demonstrate the truth of it by exercising the authority Jesus gave them to heal and deliver.  It was their mission just to announce the gospel; the greatness and goodness of God.

It would be foolish for us to think we had outgrown the mission that Jesus gave to spread that good news to the world, thinking we know better what the world needs.  God indeed calls many to work for the good of the world and those who are getting a poor deal.  But the call to announce the Kingdom and call people to Jesus is no less our first call than it ever was.