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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, June 19, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Matthew 9:35—10:8           

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. (NRSV)

Those of us who have trained to be teachers, especially at the elementary or secondary levels, probably have vivid memories of student teaching. The first week or two the novice just watches. Then comes another couple weeks of “helping”: grading a set of papers here, teaching part of a lesson there. Eventually the student teacher takes over all the classes, but with the cooperating teacher in the room to avert (inevitable) disaster. Finally the master teacher leaves, and the learner is on her or his own. Toward the end of these solo months, the master teacher comes back to transition the students back to “the way it was before.”

This comes to mind as I read this passage, watching the disciples do their student teaching with Jesus as their model and mentor. Peter, Andrew, James, and the others won’t actually get to (or have to) teach until after Jesus’ resurrection (at least in the Gospel of Matthew), but they are being readied during this three-year apprenticeship. And, boy, do they have an excellent instructor.

The Jesus we meet in the Gospel of Matthew has a very clear lesson plan. First: teach. In chapters 5–7 we read the Sermon on the Mount; it’s essentially a really long but very absorbing lecture. Jesus tells about the kingdom of God. Throughout chapters 8 and 9 he shows the kingdom of God that he just explained. Jesus cleanses lepers, calms storms, and heals the vulnerable: demoniacs and paralytics and the mute and the blind and those weak with illness. Every once in a while, like in today’s passage, he’ll stop and say, “See what I did there? Here’s why I did it.” He sends the disciples out to practice, and like all great cooperating teachers, he assures them that they have the authority to do what’s being asked of them but he is never too far away in case they forget what they’ve learned or make a mistake or just think they know better.

We should probably pay attention.

Jesus the Master Teacher, thank you for giving to us without cost. May we learn to do the same, letting your words sink into our bones and imitating your actions with our lives. Amen.

Written by Susan Quaintance, Program Coordinator,
Center for Life and Learning

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