In the story of Jesus we can find reflections of our own stories. That’s the whole purpose what I write on Tuesdays and Thursdays. For me, as a pastor, there are times that reading the stories of Jesus challenges me in ways that I don’t expect.
This morning for example.
I am pondering the little bit in Matthew 4:23-25. Jesus appeared to approach ministry with three key methods. He taught in the synagogues, he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom, and he healed.
I keep staring that at that and wonder, “How does this translate to our modern day?” Are there cultural parallels that we can tap into? What does it look like for me as a pastor in this day to model my life and ministry after Jesus? Can our missional communities follow his model? If so, what does that look like?
While I typically am not a big fan of alliteration, the head, heart, hands of this little passage is hard to miss. Let’s walk through these three briefly.
Head: Jesus would enter towns and enter the Synagogue to teach. The Synagogue was not just a religious center but was also the community center for the town. When Jesus would go there to teach he was speaking first to the religious leaders and secondarily to those who were religiously interested. We get a sense of his teaching in the following few chapters of Matthew. Jesus spent time challenging the preconceived notions of folks regarding their received teaching about God. He was pushing the intellectual envelope, so to speak.
Heart: Jesus moved from head to heart as he would proclaim the good news of the kingdom. The proclamation of the good news was ultimately a call to know and experience peace. This peace was a sense of wholeness. It was rooted in the reconciliation of all things, the undoing of the fall, and ultimately the coming of the kingdom of God. This proclamation of the good news is something that is largely missing in our current Christian experience. Most Sunday gatherings are focused on teaching. If you listen to many sermons online you will find that their content is more along the lines of what Jesus was doing in the Sermon on the mount and less of his call to “repent for the kingdom of heaven has come (Matt 4:17).” There is little proclamation to the heart and the call to peace/wholeness/reconciliation.
Hands: The healing ministry of Jesus was not totally unique. It is well documented that there were other healers at the time. I think what made his ministry different was the interplay between all three of teaching, proclamation, and healing. Jesus’ approach was holistic. Jesus truly met people where they were and met their felt physical needs. He didn’t discriminate. Jesus simply entered in and did what needed to be done. This is what we ought to be doing in our neighborhoods and towns. Stepping in and meeting the real physical needs of people indiscriminately. The question that stands before most of us is, “Do you know what the needs of your neighborhood are?”
One important note: These three things were not done in a formulaic way. It was not head then heart then hands. He engaged all three when he entered towns in no particular order. You just simply see him do them.
These three things: head, heart, and hands all play together to define for us what it means to have presence. John tells us that Jesus dwelt among us. Peterson translates this as, “moved into the neighborhood.” For Jesus and the follower of Jesus presence can be understood as engaging those around is in head, heart, and hands.