In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.
Read Matthew 10: 16-42
When the disciples were sent out by Jesus, they had no idea how radical would be their message or their Messenger. As Jesus prepares them to spread out and serve side by side, he speaks provocatively and proactively to them. One can only imagine the surprise look on their faces when Jesus makes it clear: they would be sent out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, Jesus urges them to be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. They were to be on guard against men, for brother will betray brother; father his child; children will rebel against their parents. In fact, Jesus says, all men will hate you because of Me. Following Jesus as 1st Century disciples was filled with suffering, challenge, and hardship, as well as all the miraculous healings, releases from bondage, and abundance of spiritual vitality in Christ.
This is not the kind of message disciples of Jesus in the 21st Century like to hear. We prefer hearing that following Jesus will take us into lands filled with milk and honey, where we will prosper in worldly ways in order to fulfill the dreams we’ve been taught from childhood to pursue: upward mobility in education, wealth, influence and possessions. But, when we look carefully at the biblical Gospel accounts, we don’t see anything like that whatsoever. In fact, quite the contrary. Jesus makes it clear,“Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
The Gospel of Jesus requires our full selves in full obedience being fully sold out to fully extend ourselves, so that the message is richly proclaimed in both word and deed. God is love, and when we receive his love the discipleship we’re invited into is a whole life devoting our entire life to give our complete life away…to Jesus, for Jesus, and all because of Jesus.
Jesus’ outstretched arms of love were opened fully for his disciples to receive. Their lives were transformed from the moment they met Jesus, and their desire to follow him was enhanced over time as they saw him in action. But, living with and for Jesus required each of them to give all of themselves. No turning back. Nothing withheld. No holes barred. No compromise. No love for another more than Jesus. No other life was theirs to live but the one Jesus offered and empowered.
What about you, friend? Freely you’ve received, will you now freely give? His arms are outstretched toward you, will you welcome the loving embrace of Jesus? Will you give all for the sake of the cross of Christ, the very destination we’re heading toward this Lenten season? Behold Jesus giving his disciples immersion training in discipleship; believe that life and ministry in Jesus is always worth the cost; belong to the fellowship of the suffering; and become a disciple committed to living wholly for Jesus.