Craig S. Keener: Customary Roles

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Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:35-38

“Matthew adds a summary statement…making clear that the incidents he has reported are merely prominent examples of Jesus’ many works and teachings. At this strategic point, however, Matthew also emphasizes that Jesus’ mission is not his alone…On the historical level, Jesus’ ministry must also have prepared His disciples to carry on that ministry by example; such were the customary roles of teachers and disciples…As Jesus demonstrated the kingdom by compassionately healing, His disciples must do the same. In short, this is the point in the Gospel at which Matthew clarifies…that much of Jesus’ mission is likewise the church’s mission.”

Craig S. Keener in The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009) 308.

As we look closely at the compassion and generosity of Jesus toward this sick during COVID-19, we find a powerful idea in today’s text.

The aim of Jesus was not to be the compassionate healer but to teach and empower us to be compassionate healers. This links to the “customary roles of teachers and disciples.”

As a professor wrapping up a summer course tomorrow night, I can relate to this “customary roles” idea. I am not just teaching them with the aim of them to learn.

I want them to go and do likewise. That’s what Jesus wants for all of us. Look for the harassed,  helpless, and hurting and minister to them in the name of Jesus.