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: 6-8; 16: 24-25; 25: 34-40; 28: 18-20
Beginning with his incarnation, Jesus was very clear about his mission. His coming was to serve, not to be served, and to give his life as a ransom for many. He came to be the Good Shepherd who would eternally give his life for his sheep. And, returning from the 40-day wilderness trial, he entered the sanctuary and opened the scroll to announce the fulfillment of the prophetic word of Isaiah. He is the Messiah, anointed by the Spirit to proclaim good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, set the oppressed free, and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
The gospel of Matthew is loaded with passages that invite Jesus’ disciples to embrace his mission to this world. His days on earth were crammed with multiple ways of living that mission, demonstrating it to a watching world, as well as instructing and empowering his disciples to embrace it for themselves. The mission of Jesus was to become the mission of his disciples. As they were sent to the lost sheep of Israel, they were urged to proclaim one central message, “The kingdom of heaven has come near” in Jesus.
Jesus asked his disciples to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow him. Such a following would include the same kind of ministry Jesus modeled before them. This included feeding the hungry and thirsty, practicing hospitality to the stranger, clothing the naked, looking after the sick, visiting the prisoner, freeing the oppressed, and driving out demons. Since they had freely received such tender mercy and salvation from God, they were to freely give that kind of ministry away to others.
With open, outstretched arms of love, Jesus held important commandments out before them, beginning with the first and greatest: to love God with heart, soul, mind and strength. The second greatest: to love their neighbor as themselves. And, the ongoing commission for them to go and make disciples of every nation, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all of Jesus’ life-transforming principles.
It’s fascinating to note that the mission of Jesus is always to the outcast, the oppressed, and the overlooked in society. He passed on this legacy to his disciples then and now. What Jesus desired of his followers was for them to be so filled up with the heart and mind and life of God that they would “overflow” such loveable righteousness and devoted faithfulness to all who would cross their path. Will you say yes to that same invitation today?
Behold Jesus fulfilling his promised mission and inviting his disciples to do the same; believe in the importance of reaching out lovingly to the poor, the prisoner, the blind, and the oppressed; belong to the lineage of faithful Christ-followers who deny themselves for the sake of others; and become a disciple who is so filled up with the ways of God that you indiscriminately overflow his love to all.