The Grace of Discipleship

It strikes me that in last Sunday’s Gospel (Matt 9:35-10:8) a contrast exists between the successful mission of Jesus described in 9:35 and the quality of the twelve called out by Jesus. Jesus is doing great things. And what is the status of those he calls? Well, before we get to that, notice the similarity of this passage with the call of the first disciples as narrated in Matt 4:18-22 and the summary of his itinerant mission in Galilee afterwards. (4:23-25) Both passages (Matt 4 and Matt 9/10) juxtapose the call to discipleship and Jesus’ ministry, only in reverse. Both use metaphors of produce (fish for people; workers in the harvest). In Matt 4 the order is the call of the disciples, then the summary of Jesus’ extraordinary ministry. In Matt 9-10 it’s time for the disciples to be sent out and mimic Jesus’ ministry. So, in this latter instance, first we are told of Jesus’ ministry, then the disciples are called (again). But there is nothing to particularly give us confidence that those twelve freshly called are up to the task. They are quite ordinary and have not been trailing Jesus for that long. And there is a betrayer amongst them. A betrayer! I imagine if Judas had turned out to be a complete dud in ministry Matthew would scarcely have been able to contain himself, perhaps sticking the knife in further than just identifying Judas as the betrayer. (10:4). Even the betrayer … This is the contrast, the greatness of the ministry the twelve are to mimic and their lowly status.

Interpreting the world through one’s insecurities is common. For example, to believe we are unworthy (in a variety of ways or contexts)) to do this or that. It can be a long journey to let the good news of discipleship sink into our bones. Like the twelves before us, worthiness is not based on our self-perception but the call of Jesus. Our (sense of) unworthiness is less relevant than we think. The call of Jesus is grace, and has in the past included the betrayer and a persecutor (St Paul). Presumably, it can include us.

Warren

Tags: discipleship | Gospel of Matthew | grace |

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