Jesus could have preached any message he wanted. As the son of God, he came with authority to preach the word with all power. We often pay attention to what Jesus did in his ministry, but we also need to pay attention to what he said. The word of God is a double edged sword. It is powerful and effective.
So what did Jesus preach? We tend to focus on the blessings that Jesus spoke about. But what was the actual content of his sermons? Matthew records the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and it started with the arrest of John the Baptist. Just prior to this, Jesus was baptized then led into the wilderness to be tempted. On the heels of that, John was arrested.
Then Matthew records, “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Jesus preached repentance wherever he went. Repentance is the central theme of the New Testament. Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost was a message of repentance. It’s also important to note that Jesus’ message was combined with actions. He had mercy on the oppressed, poor, and heavy burdened. Jesus did not shrink back from condemning people, but neither did he hesitate to help those in need.
While we Christians need to help those in need, we also shouldn’t shrink back from a message of repentance. Repentance is essential for salvation. We should be willing to speak hard truths and call people to repentance while we model it ourselves.
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The calling of the first disciples in Luke is an incredible story. After struggling to catch any fish all day, Peter and his companions went ashore. Jesus had been teaching large crowds of people and got into Peter’s boat. Jesus told him to put out a little and Jesus continued teaching the crowds from the boat. When he was done speaking, he told Peter to put out into the deep of the lake and let his nets down for a catch.
Peter explained that they had worked all day and caught nothing but, because Jesus said to, he would lower the nets. When they did so, the nets filled with so many fish that they began to break. After signaling to the other boat, they filled both boats so full of fish that they began to break. Peter fell down at Jesus’ feet and begged him to leave because Peter was a sinful man.
Luke records that “he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon” (Luke 5:9, 10 ESV). Jesus said to Peter, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men” (Luke 5:10). When they came ashore, Peter and his friends left everything to follow Jesus.
Our current events are putting a major strain on churches. Many are wondering how they can help. The church will continue on. It always has. But we each need to be doing our part to give of our time and money to make a difference in the world. Like Jesus’ disciples, we need to trust Jesus. We need to trust that he will provide plenty of people for the kingdom. But we need to work. We cannot blindly expect the church to flourish if we are not willing to follow Christ.
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When Jesus sent out the Twelve, he “gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” (Luke 9:1, 2 ESV). This was no small feat for a group of fishermen, tax collectors, and otherwise ordinary people. Jesus could have sent them out to do just about anything, but he specifically sent them to heal diseases, cast out demons, and proclaim the kingdom of God.
Their mission to do this was Jesus’ mission: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18, 19). Jesus’ charge to his disciples did not arrive out of a vacuum. Rather, it was rooted in his own mission.
Like Jesus himself, he called his disciples to leave everything and rely completely upon God. They were commanded to not take anything extra with them. They were to rely on the goodwill of people. In doing so, they completely put their faith in God. God provides. God is the great healer. God calls his people to help other people, to feed, heal, and free others. This is why the crowds were always pressing in against Jesus. They were desperate for someone to heal them.
Jesus is no different today. There will always be oppression, hunger, and disease. And it’s up to us to care for one another. This is exactly in step with who Jesus is. His mission is our mission.
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