August 8

The Lord filled Zion with justice and righteousness. He will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge. Isaiah 33:5-6 

As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 10:7 

Jesus told the disciples to go out to the local area and proclaim that the kingdom of heaven was near to everyone. What was this kingdom that those “lost sheep of Israel” were hearing about, what did they perhaps think it meant? Maybe Jesus was saying that it was time for the Roman rule to end, that there would be a Davidic kingdom centered on Jerusalem. No more taxes going to Rome, no more oppression of their religion and activities. God was about to wage war on these conquerors just as He had against the enemies in the past. Some may have hoped for this type of kingdom. Many of the listeners would have heard the phrase “kingdom of heaven” as something that comes at the end of history, but rather something that happens in the future, in this case apparently the near future. 

But this is not what is contained in the contents of the message that follow this verse. The disciples were to “heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with leprosy and drive out demons.” They are also not to take along any money, or a bag for the journey, not extra clothes, just to go out and spread this Good News. Does Jesus mean that the kingdom of heaven is near because He is there – healing and forgiving – right there in the midst of the listeners? It does sound like that. To quote from Mark D. Roberts, “I used to think that Jesus’ announcement  . . . meant something like you can go to heaven after you die. Now I realize that I had mistaken Jesus’ primary message. His Good News has everything to do with this life. In Jesus, God was beginning to reign on earth in a new way. “ [First part of prayer below, also from this source} 

As the passage from Isaiah says, the Lord will be “The stability of your time,” there will be an “abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge.” Jesus sent the disciples out to proclaim this wonderful news. There is a source of healing of physical ills and spiritual ills as well. We have a part in this work of spreading the news, healing and caring for people and all of God’s creation. We can live now in this kingdom in anticipation of a time when Jesus returns to reign over all. 

Dear Lord, what fantastic news you once delivered! Thank you for being the one who not only announced the coming of God’s reign, but also inaugurated that reign through your life and ministry. Thank you, most of all, for opening up to us the possibility of living under God’s rule because of your death and resurrection. As we are called to share the Good News with the world, may our actions reflect our words and our hearts’ desire. Lord, we ask that you teach us every day how to be your disciples. Amen. 

 Chris Gabel