Jesus on Mission (Luke 13:31-33)
One thing I’m oddly excited about as Samantha grows up is the “why” stage. You know that stage where they just keep asking why about everything? Why is the sky blue? Why do fish swim? Why does dad play the guitar? Why? Why? Why? And it seems like no matter what answer you give, kids can always come back with another “why”?
Now, the reason I’m excited to get to this stage is because I also love to ask the question “why”? A few weeks ago my friend Adam came over to meet Samantha and during the course of the conversation we got talking about diesel cars versus gasoline cars. And as everyone knows, you’re not supposed to put diesel fuel in a gasoline car or vice versa. But I remember thinking… why? Why aren’t you supposed to put gas in a diesel engine or diesel in a gas engine? I found that I kept thinking about this question all day and finally the next morning I had to look it up and watch a video about how gasoline and diesel engines work. I had to know… why?
I tend to ask that question a lot. Why? It doesn’t matter if it’s about engineering or hockey, coffee or physics. I love to know the reason or the purpose for whatever it is that we’re talking about. And when it comes to the church, both the local church and the church universal, I still love to ask why? Why do we do the things we do? Why does church look the way it does? Why do we exist? What is our purpose? What is our mission? What exactly is it that we’re trying to do?
If you have a Bible or a Bible app on your phone. Go ahead and turn with me to Luke chapter 13. We’re going to examine verse 31 through 33 which says,
At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”
He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!”
“I will keep driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.” Some other translations say “on the third day I will accomplish my purpose”. So Jesus has a goal or a purpose and it’s somehow related to driving out demons and healing people, but it’s more than that. Later in Luke chapter 19, Jesus sums up his purpose this way. He says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
Or, as we mentioned last week, Paul sums up Jesus’ purpose like this in Colossians, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood shed on the cross.”
Jesus purpose, his goal, is to seek and to save the lost. To reconcile all things, whether things in heaven or things on earth to God the Father. And that reconciliation is accomplished through his blood shed on the cross.
Now, what makes this interesting is what Paul further says about this reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5. “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
What Paul is saying is that God is on a mission of reconciliation. His whole purpose is to reconcile us to himself; to end the hostility between humanity and himself. As we are personally reconciled, as we are personally restored in our relationship with Him, we are then, in turn, given the opportunity to work with him in this ministry of reconciliation. So as we go out and tell people about Jesus, it’s as if Jesus himself is speaking through us, earnestly begging people to come back into a relationship with God. This is Jesus’ purpose and subsequently, it’s our purpose as well. The ministry of reconciliation is the entire mission of the church.
Jesus himself speaks to this after his resurrection at the end of Matthew when he gives us what’s known as the Great Commission. He says in Matthew 28, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Go and make disciples. Implore people to be reconciled to God. This is the mission of the church. This is the very reason the Church exists. We don’t exist for ourselves. We exist in order to go and make disciples of all nations, encouraging all people everywhere to be restored and reconciled to God himself.
Now, let’s go back to Luke 13 because I think it’s easy to miss something there. We read in verse 31, “At that time the Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.’” In this verse, we can see two different ways to erroneously respond to Jesus’ mission.
The first way is Herod’s way. The text tells us that Herod was actively trying to kill Jesus. And we see that sometimes in the world. Some people are actively working against Jesus. There are people who write books about why Christianity doesn’t make sense, why the Bible can’t be trusted or why it’s foolish to believe in any sort of deity. Around the world and throughout history Christians have often been persecuted and killed for their faith. There are people, like Herod, who are actively trying to stop Jesus and his mission to reconcile all things to God.
But there’s another way to work against Jesus’ mission and it tends to be much more subtle and therefore much more insidious. Notice what the Pharisees say in this verse. “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.” Sometimes in the Gospels, the Pharisees are in opposition to Jesus. But in this passage, they’re actually trying to warn him. These Pharisees were genuinely worried about Jesus’ safety and wanted him to continue what he was doing. And in this, I can’t help but be reminded of the time that Jesus rebuked Peter in Matthew chapter 16. In that narrative, Jesus just finished predicting his own death and Peter tells Jesus that it will never happen. But Jesus responds to Peter by saying, “Get behind my Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Like Peter, these Pharisees had good intentions, but they had human concerns rather than God’s concerns in mind. Essentially, they got distracted.
When it comes to Jesus’ mission, there are two ways to working against God. The first is to be like Herod and actively work against the mission. Trying to kill Jesus and persecuting his followers. I’d like to hope none of us is in this category. The second way is to just get distracted and unfortunately, that happens all the time in well-meaning churches. It’s not that churches are actively trying to work against Jesus and his mission. It’s just that we have a tendency to think about our own wants and desires.
Carey Nieuwhof, the teaching pastor of Connexus Church in Barrie, Ontario says it this way, “The gravitational pull of human nature is toward self, not towards others, and churches behave the same way. You will focus almost exclusively on your needs and wants unless you decide not to.” Unless we intentionally focus on Jesus’ mission, it becomes way too easy for us to unintentionally focus on our own desires, preferences and opinions instead. Like Peter and the Pharisees, we can lose sight of what Jesus’ mission.
But what does that look like? How do we know if we’ve lost sight of the mission? When it comes to the Great Commission, there are two ways we can lose focus and get distracted. Essentially, the command is this: to go and make disciples. Baptizing and teaching, that’s all a part of the disciple-making process. But the command is to go and make disciples.
So the first way we can get distracted is by forgetting the need to go. When it comes to making disciples, when it comes to the ministry of reconciliation, we can’t just wait for people to come to us. We have to go to them. What can happen sometimes is that we assume that the world around us knows where we are and when they want to learn about Jesus they’ll come. But that’s simply not the case.
We live in a country that is increasingly described as “post-Christian”, meaning people no longer view Christianity as the default. However, while fewer people are describing themselves as Christian, more and more people are considering themselves “spiritual”. What that means is that more and more people around you are willing to engage in conversations about spiritual matters.
However, we simply cannot wait for those people to start coming through our doors. We absolutely have to go to them. The first way we can get distracted is by forgetting that in order to make disciples we have to go. We have to be willing to the unchurched where they are.
The second way we can get distracted is by forgetting that we should be making disciples. Notice that in the Great Commission, Jesus doesn’t say “become disciples” or focus on being the best disciples you can be”. He says “Go and make disciples”. Go and spend your time helping other people to become disciples of Jesus.
What can so easily happen in churches is that we forget that our job is to help other people become followers of Jesus and we start thinking only about what will help us personally. And so we talk about the service time that’s best for us and what kind of small groups or discipleship groups or fellowship groups work best for us. Churches focus on whether coffee should be allowed in the sanctuary or if you should even call it a sanctuary in the first place. And how often have you heard that someone decided to switch churches because they didn’t feel like they were getting “fed” enough?
But the point of the church is to go and make disciples. Not stay and focus on my own discipleship. Because the truth is, the church is at it’s best when we’re giving ourselves away for the sake of others. The church is at it’s best when it’s focused on the needs of others.
If we want to become passionate followers of Jesus, if we want to be disciples, we must be willing to go and make disciples. It’s by going and making disciples that we become better disciples ourselves. As followers of Jesus, we must be about Jesus’ mission to seek and to save the lost. And we do that by going to the lost and doing whatever we can to help them become disciples of Jesus. So how can we do this?
Well, first of all, we can pray. We can pray for the people around us that don’t know Jesus. We can pray for ourselves that God would give us more opportunities to go and make disciples. We can also pray for us as Faith Community Church.
At our most recent council meeting, we took some time to go through what’s called the Church Life Cycle Assessment. How this works is that there are four categories: Vision, Relationships, Programs and Management. And we talked through and ranked on a scale of 1 to 10 where we think we are in each of these categories. What we discovered in doing this assessment is that we’re pretty strong on relationships, programs and management. But vision is an area we need to grow in. So this summer the Council will be spending some time in prayer and discussion about God’s vision for our church. We want to know where God is leading us as a church. So you can pray for our Council as they spend time seeking God and his direction.
That’s the first thing we can all do. We can pray for the unchurched around us, we can pray for ourselves and we can pray for our council.
The second thing we can do is we can invite our friends and neighbours to church. Even though we live in a post-Christian society, for most people if they want to learn more about Jesus they still think attending a church service is the best way to do that. So even if you’re not very comfortable talking to people directly about Jesus, you can still invite them out on a Sunday morning. Going and making disciples doesn’t necessarily mean you have to start walking up to complete strangers and asking them if they know Jesus. It can start with a simple invitation to come to church with you.
Finally, you can join a serving team. One of the reasons we created the new serving team system was because we wanted to take the load off the few people who seem to be serving in every area. But we also wanted to create new ways for more people to get involved.
As followers of Jesus, we become better disciples as we go and make disciples of others. Which means as we pray, as we invite and as we serve each other, we grow as disciples of Jesus ourselves.