His Balanced Ministry.
There are different ways one might sum up the ministry of Jesus, but it is certainly worth noticing Matthew’s inspired summary: “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people” (Matthew 4:23). Before you proceed, I invite you to read that verse again and restate in your own words the three aspects of Jesus’ ministry that are mentioned.
My summary, with equivalent modern terms in parentheses, is:
- Teaching (teaching, spiritual formation, discipleship)
- Proclaiming the good news of the kingdom (evangelism, sharing the message)
- Healing (serving, ministry, meeting needs)
As mentioned, this threefold description of how Jesus changed the world comes directly from Scripture. Its importance is further highlighted by the fact that Matthew later summarizes Jesus’ ministry again in near identical terms (9:35). In the previous post we noted that the general way Jesus changed the world was by establishing and growing the kingdom of God. Matthew’s summaries in these two passages give us three specifics of how he did so. Let’s consider each separately and then the three together.
First, Jesus’ healings were powerful, compassionate, and significant. They were not merely impressive deeds but were miracles in the true, biblical sense. The power of God was poured out instantly in a way that does not occur naturally. His miracles were born of compassion, and they also pointed to truths beyond themselves. They indicated his divine identity and attested to the existence of the kingdom of God.
The Lord has not given me any such gifts as these, and to be honest, that troubles me at times. Most of the time, however, I am content with helping people in various other ways that I am able. Yesterday it was simply listening, showing interest and feeling compassion for someone. Other times it might be to give someone a ride, share something I have, or help someone with a task or need. Even though these ways of serving are not miraculous, they still Attest (provide evidence) to the truth and reality of God’s kingdom.
Second, Jesus was telling the good news, and that news is identified as “the kingdom.” Other passages confirm that the kingdom of God was the message he announced (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 4:43; 8:1; 16:16). As noted in the previous post, Jesus was proclaiming that at long last the day was at hand when God would fulfill his promise to set up a kingdom that would bring about better days (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15). He also openly called for repentance as the appropriate response to the arrival of God’s reign.
We’ve often noticed Jesus’ strong emphasis on the kingdom, but we sometimes miss the fact that the first Christians proclaimed the good news of God’s kingdom as well (Acts 8:12; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31). As noted in the previous post, “Christ” (and Messiah) means “anointed one” and refers especially to a king (1 Samuel 10:1; 15:1, 17). Whenever they proclaimed that Jesus is the Christ, they were proclaiming the kingdom of God (Acts 5:42; 8:12; 10:36; 17:3; 28:31). And like their Lord before them, they called people to repent in response to this good news, as well as to believe and be baptized (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 10:43; 13:39; 17:30; 20:21). We, too, must Relate the good news of God’s kingdom with our words and call for a response of complete devotion.
Third, Jesus spent a lot of time teaching in the synagogues and elsewhere. Though there is overlap between teaching and proclaiming (or preaching), there is also some distinction. Jesus proclaimed, announced, and told the good news of the arrival of God’s kingdom, calling people to repent; he also taught the nature of the kingdom and the appropriate way of life in it. He was not satisfied merely to help people enter the kingdom, he also wanted them to understand it and live appropriately in it. The nature and way of life of the kingdom must be Explained.
If we want God’s kingdom to grow today, we too must give attention to all three of these key aspects of Jesus’ ministry—Attesting to the kingdom with our deeds, Relating the kingdom with our words, and Explaining the nature and way of life of the kingdom. This should be who and what we ARE.
Each of these areas likely needs to be improved in its own right. We need to make sure we are doing good deeds out of compassion, with hopes that people will see God in them, but with no strings attached. We need to make sure it is the good news of the kingdom of God that we are proclaiming and not some watered down or sectarian message, and we need to boldly call people to repent, believe and be baptized. And we need to teach healthy biblical truths to those who enter the kingdom, with strong emphasis on the most central matters.
We may also need to improve these three areas collectively. In other words, we need balance between the three. It seems to me that at different times churches I know of have done well with one or two of these but rarely all three. I’m sure there are exceptions, but that’s my general observation. For example, several decades ago many Churches of Christ did a lot of telling the good news but seemed to be weaker in doing the good deeds that attest to God’s truth. Today, in many Churches of Christ, the situation is reversed—we seem to be doing much better at the practical demonstrations of the truth of God’s kingdom in our deeds, but we don’t seem to be telling of the good news to people outside of Christ very often.
Personally, I believe these three avenues to growing the kingdom are so basic and Christ-like that all of us need to be involved in each of them in some degree (Galatians 6:10; 1 Peter 3:15-16; Romans 15:14), though clearly different ones of us will be gifted in different areas and emphasize different areas. Certainly the church, working together, must be serving in all three of these ways. Which area do you believe you are best gifted for and developed in personally? Is there one of the three you tend to neglect? Is there one your church often omits? What could be done to restore the balance Jesus displayed as he changed the world?