DEUTERONOMY 8:2-3, 14B-16A | JOHN 4:7-16 | MATTHEW 11:25-30
The gospel begins with a beautiful image: Jesus looking over the crowds that are following after him. He had delivered his sermon on the mount a while ago and had been curing the sick as he traveled from town to town preaching in the synagogues. His heart is filled with pity for them. They’re troubled. He has awakened feelings they’ve buried long ago, feelings of poverty, and emptiness. They’re orphaned, motherless, fatherless, abandoned. They’re lost souls. They’re sheep without a shepherd.
Jesus turns his gaze to the disciples around him and announces, “The harvest is abundant.” Then he begins to pick his first laborers, twelve of them: Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James, Thaddeus, Simon, Judas. But what a group!
One will deny that he ever knew Jesus. Another will betray him by handing him over to the Jewish authorities. One will deny that Jesus rose from the dead. One, the tax collector, was a traitor to the Jewish nation. One was an assassin! This is the first set of laborers. Others will follow, but this is the first group, the model group. How did they accept the call to labor in the vineyard of the Lord?
This group of misfits preached throughout the Roman empire and beyond. They established many Christian communities in Italy,
Syria, Greece, Lebanon, Turkey, Armenia and even India. Peter and James wrote letters to their communities instructing them in the Christian way of life. They trained and assigned leaders to the communities to nurture them and to see to the continued spread of the gospel message. This group changed the world.
We’re the recipients of their labor. This account of the first disciples was given to us today so that we could hear the same call they heard. “But I’m not good enough,” you might say. “I’m not learned enough,” you might protest! “I’m not holy enough.”
Well, you’re not! And neither were they. But they said, “yes.” Look at the power of that word, nothing has been the same since they uttered it.
Jesus’ words are directed to us today: “Without cost you have received. Without cost you are to give.” He’s listening. Are you brave enough to say yes?
A third time the Lord called.
“Speak Lord. Your servant is listening.”
(1 Samuel 3:10)