Arts of Gospel Neighboring (Matthew 9:18-38)

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Some things are just made to go together.

  • February and Snow
  • Water and Boats
  • Wind and Kites
  • Spring and Baseball
  • Fun and Disney World / Mickey & Minnie
  • Peanut Butter and Chocolate (you knew it was coming!)

I’m sure you can think of multiple other things that are perfect pairs and matches.

Jesus taught about things that go together as well:

  • Grace and Truth
  • Prayer and Fasting
  • Leadership and Servanthood
  • Faith and Actions
  • Body and Spirit
  • Forgiveness of sin & Following Jesus as Lord
  • Loving God and Loving Neighbor
  • Death and Resurrection Hope

Today we start a series that helps us fulfill at least two of our core values as a GOSPEL-Driven Church.

  • God: We are worshipers.  – – – > We gather to worship.
  • Others: We are family. – – – > We group to learn and love.
  • Spiritual Growth: We are thermostats. – – – > We practice spiritual disciplines.
  • Prayer: We are spiritual warriors. – – – > We pray.[1]
  • Evangelism: We are sent. – – – > We share Jesus near and far in word and deed.
  • Leading Generations. We are leaving a legacy. – – – > We find Paul’s/Barnabas’s/Timothy’s

9 Arts of Neighboring

  • SPBC is thankful for our campus but we also want to be part of natural neighborhood conversations.
  • We want to plant home groups in every neighborhood; groups to study Bible but are also salt & light.
  • When there’s an issue in our community, we want to consider how to be part of the solution.
  • When there’s good, we want to be part of the celebration.
  • In all, next few weeks will look at practical ways/arts for how to be a better gospel neighbor.

EXAMINE                       Matthew 9:18-26, 35-38            Neighboring: Noticing & Praying

In this passage we see a pair of individuals who are compared in a way is impactful for us to consider with 4 ways to be a gospel neighbor.

Jesus notices people of need.

After Jesus had a theological conversation with the disciples, a ruler (Jairus, cf Mk 5:22; Lk 8:41) approaches Jesus saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her and she will live” (9:18).

  • This incident is recorded in all three synoptic Gospels. The man is a ruler in the synagogue, likely one who organized worship and teaching for the people of God. 
  • The man’s approach toward Jesus with reverence – kneeling (cf. 8:2 with leper).
  • We can certainly pray candidly and confidently, but we must always remember when we approach God we do so humbly.
    • Our posture in worship indicates our perspective of God. How does your prayer posture reflect the importance and primacy of God?
      • 1Chron 23:30 “[Levites were to] stand every morning and evening to thank and praise the Lord”
      • 2 Sam 7:18 “[King David sat before the Lord and prayed”
      • Dan 6:10 “Daniel got down on knees three times a day & prayed, & gave thanks before his God”
      • Neh 8:6 “the people bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.”
      • Ps 95:6 “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!”
      • Lk 22:41 Jesus knelt in prayer / or often lifted eyes up to heaven (Jn 17:1)
      • Rev 5:8 “twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb [in worship]”
  • The man’s problem is a dead daughter needing resurrected. Jairus has amazing faith in Jesus’ ability, and even more breathtaking, when presented with this problem, Jesus followed with the disciples – as though He could handle and help the issue!
  • Do you refrain from giving God big problems? How about small stuff? To Jesus, everything is small stuff 🙂
  • Whenever Jesus does a miracle, it always starts with a need. If you are not willing to acknowledge your needs, then you will miss miracles. Those who have the courage to confess weakness and disclose their shortcomings, will find the faithful grace of God.
    • Psalm 145:18-19 “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.”

– – – > Talking about the art of neighboring and noticing needs really matters because it mattered to Jesus; and He calls us to follow Him. If we are not neighboring, we are not following Jesus.

– – – > Noticing neighbors starts with availability. Jesus was accessible even in a crowd. Some simple action steps for us is being outside, taking walks around neighborhood, participating in any social settings. Some of these may sound only relevant for extroverts, but they need not. Even if you are not a “people person,” you can still be present to listen and watch, and make observations for what needs could be met in the name of Jesus.

Jesus notices people of need with compassion.

As Jesus is on the way to see Jairus’ daughter, He is interrupted by another person of need. This time it is a contrasting partner – a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years (9:20).

  • Jairus is a man of power but she is a woman of pain; she not only had the physical impairment but social burden of being classified as religiously unclean and unwanted to be around (Lev 15).
  • We can look at life’s daily events as interruptions or divine appointments. The difference is how we view people. If we view people as problems or projects, then we’re not likely to be used by God to impact our neighbors. And when/if we arrive in heaven, we will have missed joyful rewards that could have been our inheritance.
  • Additionally, while Jairus approached Jesus in public, she attempted to touch the fringe of his garment privately (9:20-21). While Jairus’ humility led him to kneel, this woman’s humility led her to reach.
  • When you throw your hands up, don’t forget to turn your eyes up. Faith often starts with desperation.
    Psalm 121:1-2 “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”
  • “Jesus turned and seeing her said, ‘Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well’” (9:22)
    • Jesus saw the woman… He sees, like Hagar fleeing for her life, El-Roi (Gen 16:13)
    • He called the unnamed woman “daughter” is personal and kind.
    • “Kindness is loaning someone your strength instead of reminding them of their weakness.”[2]
    • It wasn’t the woman’s touch of Jesus’ garment but her trust in Jesus’ sovereign grace. Christianity is not magic or mystical faith; it’s faith in a Person – historical, logical, meaningful, and practical.
    • Also to note, while the woman was instantly healed, it is likely she still experienced the social stigma of being unclean. It’s part of why Jesus called attention to her, so others would see she was healed. Yet, undoubtedly there would still be some who doubted or wanted to continue the stigma. Likewise, just because Jesus saves us, doesn’t mean we still will not deal with challenges. Remember, we live for an audience of One.

– – – > Noticing needs can be overwhelming. Who can raise the dead? Who wants to get involved with people’s mess or morbidity? Yet, while we may feel unqualified, as Christians we engage people’s sufferings to reflect the way and work of Jesus; “the love of Christ compels us” (2Cor 5:14).

Jesus notices people of need with compassion and comprehension.

After healing the woman suffering from blood discharge, Jesus went to the house of Jairus for his dead daughter. There was funeral music playing with flute players were piping mourning songs and crowds were wailing. Jewish tradition was that mourning families hire no less than two reed-pipes and one wailing woman’.[3]

  • While the circumstances were a great commotion, Jesus had keen comprehension on what to do. He cleared the crowd away and again He is personal and kind “taking the little girl by hand.” And Jesus raised the dead girl to life.
  • Is there confusion, uncertainty, and commotion in your life?
    While Jesus was detoured, He was not deterred. God’s delay is not always His denial. He always has something to teach us in the timing of answering our prayers. Jesus calls us to pray and not give up.
  • People laughed at Jesus for saying the dead girl was only sleeping (9:24). Being that they were there for a funeral, the laughing was in significant disdain of Jesus. Likewise, there will be times when Christians are trying to do the right thing and extend compassion, but they will be misunderstood or dismissed. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21).

“And the report of this went through all that district… they went away and spread his fame through all that district.” (9:26, 31).

We have these Gospel accounts, and all Scripture, because people who saw God’s work could not be silent. The fact that many so called Christians are silent implies either a) not seeing God’s work, so there’s nothing to speak, b) they are the one’s needing made alive/new/saved, or c) seeing but stubborn & sinful for not sharing.

There are two additional settings where Jesus notices needs with compassion and comprehension.

  • Two blind men crying for mercy. They declared faith in Jesus as the Son of David (Messiah) and His ability to heal. Jesus touched their eyes and healed their sight. (9:27-31)
  • A demon-possessed man was brought to Jesus for healing, and Jesus cast out the demon. The people marveled, while others still ridiculed. (9:32-34)

“Jesus went [imperfect verb, continuous action] throughout all the cities and villages, teaching… and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion [ἐσπλαγχνίσθη = deeply moved] for them, because they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.” (9:35).

People who are unaware or unwelcoming of the gospel are outwardly or inwardly harassed and helpless. Sheep without a shepherd means they are unprotected, unguided, and on a dangerous path under enemy prey. Shouldn’t this imagery inform the way Christians speak and relate toward unbelievers?

  • Christian, let us not have an attitude of superiority but empathy.
    Mt 10:16 “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves”
    Eph 5:15-16 “walk in wisdom, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Do not be foolish but understand the Lord’s will”
    2 Tim 2:23-26 “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels; the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness, [so that] God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil”

– – – > The art of noticing needs is done with eyes filled with tears and the tension of what is and what could be.
Psalm 126:5 “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy.”

Jesus notices people of need with compassion and comprehension, and prayer.

“Then Jesus said, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (9:37-38)

The imagery of a harvest is related to the end times where Jesus gathers the fruit of His people. Christians are to hone their energy and efforts toward the harvest. Everything we do is for the Great Commission.

  •  A Christian/church should have a great commitment to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

Jesus notes the harvest requires increased laborers, therefore we should pray for more to enter the harvest.

  • A Christian is either a goer or a sender, if not, then they’re a sinner.
  • There’s no such thing as an unsent Christian. We are all sent somewhere [one of our core values]
  • Perhaps we do not pray for non-believers with greater focus or frequency because it seems too simple. Or, maybe we are convinced that other outreach tools and techniques are more persuasive. We may even be “practical prayer atheists”— professing believers in the value of praying but unbelievers in practice. However, when it comes to loving people toward Jesus, prayer is not optional. It is the primary way we will shift from relying on our strength to God’s power in our spiritual engagements, and the means by which our efforts actually become spiritually effective.
  • Prayer is a vital strategy component for mission. While it may seem like prayer is not work, once you seriously pray, you will understand prayer is the work God desires. It shows we are depending on God and not human wisdom.

– – – > The art of noticing and praying are linked. The more we notice, the more we pray. The more we pray, the more we notice. 

  • “If we can’t see [people], we won’t love them. If we can’t love them, we won’t pray for them. If we can’t pray for them, we won’t win them. If we can’t win them, we won’t send them.”[4] 
  • As lifeguards scanning the water, seeing people is essential for saving people. Noticing people can move us to compassion and action as it humanizes the nameless faces around us. People are recognized as having real lives with real problems and a real need of a real Savior.
  • When we pray by name and with purpose for unbelieving family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and classmates, our interactions with them also become more deliberate and meaningful. Our interest and investment in their life grows. We begin to wonder about their family and friends, their dreams and desires, and their movement toward or away from spiritual matters. Our specific focus before God opens us up to being more compassionate for the sake of Christ and those people.

APPLY/THINK

– – – > The art of noticing also starts with a name.

  • #WhosYour1  Write their name down with Matthew 9:38 for God to send a gospel laborer/neighbor. Keep a card in a place where you’ll see frequently to pray and encourage your witness. 
  • Ultimately, salvation’s name is Jesus. Regardless of age/status/ethnicity – this is our shared need.
    • Jesus provides clarity and comfort in our commotion.
    • Jesus opens our blind eyes to gives us a reshaped perspective and purpose. 
    • Jesus takes our uncleanness and washes us pure.
    • Jesus takes our suffering and walks with us so we’re not alone.
    • Jesus takes our sad desperation and provides us meaningful and guaranteed hope. 
    • Jesus holds our hand through the valley of shadow of death, and leads us to new life.

[1] There are at least six different types of prayer: adoration/praise, confession/repentance, thanksgiving, supplication/petition/intercession, consecration/dedication, lament.

[2] Andy Stanley

[3] Nolland, J. NIGTC: Matthew 9:23, p.397.

[4] Neil Cole, Cultivating A Life For God: Multiplying Disciples Through Life Transformation Groups, 4.

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