Followers and Fringe (15.06.20)
Updated: Jun 16
A Bible Reading: Matthew 10:1-4, Luke 8:1-3
Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called 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 Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
After this, Jesus travelled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.
When we think of Jesus’ followers we naturally think of his disciples, and probably lump them together as a group of twelve men. That would be a mistake at many levels.
The twelve disciples were anything but a homogenous group. We know there were two sets of brothers who were fishermen: ‘salt of the earth’ types, prone to arguing and putting their big feet in it. There was also a pair of friends, a reviled tax collector, a political activist, a sceptic, the group’s purse-keeper who went on to betray their leader and two we know very little about. Quite a mixed bag!
There were also the women; less prominent because of the culture of the time, but present and significant never-the-less. In our reading, Luke names three among a group of ‘many others’, again from a variety of backgrounds, who seemed to be payrolling Jesus’ mission, and the different gospels list at least three other women who witnessed the resurrection of Jesus.
As well as the twelve disciples and the groups of women, the New Testament also mentions groups of seventy-two, a hundred and twenty and five hundred, as well as the crowds of four thousand and five thousand. People in close contact to Jesus, people on the fringe and people in the crowds who had some understanding of his teachings.
As I reflect on the inclusive nature of Jesus’ mission, I wonder at the cross-section of the church today in terms of social class, income, age, gender, race and politics. Altering the balance is a challenge but, if we are to follow the example of Jesus, it is one we must take. Before he called his disciples, Jesus said “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." Let us start with prayer and let us find ways to reach out with the good news of Jesus, to the fringe, to the crowds, for us the communities in which we live.
Lord Jesus, as we look at your world and at our communities, we recognize that the harvest is indeed plentiful and the workers are few. Raise up workers, we pray, and send us out in the power of your Spirit, to live and work to your praise and glory.