‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
Last week we heard about persevering and hold firm to the faith, not looking back, and looking forward, keeping our hands on the plough.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus outlines what discipleship looks like and does.
He speaks of the scarcity of workers and the difficulty of the mission.
He also tells us what we are to do, and what we are to proclaim.
Jesus sends out 70 disciples.
If we think about all the crowds that have followed him,
who have heard his teachings,
who have witnessed his healings,
who have been in his presence,
the fact that there are only 70 who have put their hand up to proclaim the good news doesn’t seem like a good conversion rate.
But if we remember the three who did put their hands up in last Sunday’s gospel, we can understand why.
To be a disciple, to go out and proclaim the good news is not for the fainthearted, it is not for the lukewarm.
It requires a strong belief, and understanding of the importance of the task. Proclaiming the good news becomes the number one aspect of a disciple’s life. It becomes the disciple’s everything.
Jesus addresses this scarcity of disciples
“The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few;
He knows there are only a few to do the work.
He knows it is a tough job, and he is asking not only for their time,
but really, he is asking for their whole lives.
The harvest he speaks of is all those who have not heard the good news. The harvest was plentiful in Jesus time, and it is in ours too.
The harvest is indeed plentiful.
We only need to walk outside the church, up the street,
into the supermarket or pub to know how many people haven’t heard the gospel.
We also only need to look around in here to know how few the labourers are.
We are the 70 out of all those crowds who heard Jesus.
We are the ones that said I will follow you Lord, and did just that.
But we are few in number.
And as Jesus sent those 70 out ahead of him,
he sends us out ahead of him, to proclaim
‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
The Kingdom of God has come near to you, it has come close.
The kingdom of God where the sick are healed,
demons are expelled,
those born blind can see,
the kingdom where the lowest are the highest,
where the mighty are made low
and where children are as important as elders.
This kingdom has come near.
This is what we are to proclaim.
This is the good news for those with ears to hear, with eyes to see.
It is this good news that so many long to hear, but cannot hear it.
Most people wish for a just society where the sick are cared for and those who cannot care for themselves are cared for by others.
We are called not to just proclaim that, but actually be and do that.
Jesus called the 70 to cure the sick who are there.
We are called to heal those in our towns.
To heal them of their pain and suffering.
Sometimes we can see how some are sick,
and we know within our church there are many that are unwell
and are waiting for medical procedures.
We pray for their speedy recovery,
we pray that those who have been charged with their care will use their skill and healing abilities to cure those we love.
But it is to those we don’t know that we need to pray for.
It is to those who are sick that do not know of the healing power of prayer,
the laying on of hands,
the anointing with oil,
that we are called to reach out to,
to let them know that we, the church, are with them in their pain,
and we will do all that we can to help in their recovery.
But there are the illnesses we don’t see.
Depression, addiction, anxiety.
It is to those who suffer these that we can sometimes be of more help than medical professionals.
To be a disciple, to heal the sick,
in these cases can sometimes be as simple as just listening.
To hear a person’s story,
to let them feel that there are people who care for them,
to let them know that they are welcome,
that Christ welcomes them, as he says
“Come to me all who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
To suffer from such illnesses is to be truly heavily laden.
The peace that a life in Christ offers is a peace that can lift depression,
can release the claws of addiction,
can calm anxiety.
It is this peace, this good news that we are to proclaim.
That is how we can be a part of Christ’s healing.
That is how we can heal those we meet.
That is the good news we are to proclaim.
The harvest is plentiful.
There are many people who have not heard the good news,
but are yearning for the life that the coming Kingdom will provide.
The labourers may be few, but we are ready and willing to work.
The Kingdom that we are to proclaim has indeed come near.
It has come near in the person of Jesus Christ, and continues to be near as we who are the body of Christ are sent out to do the work that our world so desperately needs.
To those who are heavy laden, it is our responsibility as members of the body of Christ, the church, to show them the rest and peace that a life lived in Christ can provide.
The kingdom of God has come near.
It continues to be near for us.
That is something too wonderful not to share with all we meet.