The Holy Ministry is Given by God out of Compassion for his People
These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost.
God’s Word for This Week
The holy ministry is given by God out of compassion for his people. Over the next three Sundays we hear Jesus’ Missionary Discourse (Matthew 10:5-42). Last Sunday we saw the unworthiness of the servants God calls by mercy. Today the emphasis is still on the ministry of the Word, but the focus shifts from the servants to the people they serve. We see the compassion and love of God for this world, love so great that he called ministers of the Word to share his grace and mercy and foretell of the coming kingdom of heaven. The Prayer of the Day is Gregorian and fits the Sunday beautifully as it emphasizes how God protects us, empowers us, and sanctifies us through the ministry of the Word that shows us mercy and forgiveness and leads us to the glory of heaven.
Traditional First Lesson – Exodus 19:2-8a
What is a covenant? (verse 5)
A covenant is an agreement. God is here establishing a covenant with his people: obey me fully and you will be my treasured possession. This is a two-sided covenant. God’s covenant with us is one-sided (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34).
How would God view his Old Testament people if they obeyed his Word?
They would be for him a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
What is a priest?
The Scriptural job description of a priest is to be a go-between or mediator between God and human beings. In particular, he offered sacrifices for the sins of the people. God commanded that there be such priests in Old Testament times from the tribe of Levi. But in the New Testament there is no longer any need for such priests because through the sacrifice of Jesus, our great High Priest (Hebrews 7:26-28), we have all become priests of God (1 Peter 2:4-10), offering up our own spiritual sacrifices.
Supplemental First Lesson – Numbers 27:15-23
How does Moses show compassion on Israel?
The context of this lesson is of utmost importance. After forty years of faithfully leading God’s people through their wanderings, after much pleading with God in prayer, Moses’ hopes of leading the people into the Promised Land were dashed. Moses would see the land from afar, but then like his brother before him, he would die because of his actions at Meribah Kadesh. But look at Moses’ response! There is no complaint or murmur or cry. See how this minister of the Word emulates the compassion of God and his Son: Moses’ first thought is of the people of God. He saw them as Christ would 1400 years later, as sheep without a shepherd. Leave them not leaderless, O Lord! And God answers with a man full of the Spirit to be the new leader of God’s people. Lord, give your Church more ministers who model your compassion!
Traditional Second Lesson – Romans 5:6-11
How did God demonstrate his love for all people?
Jesus died for us while we were still sinners, his enemies. God’s love is unconditional! He was waited for us to love him first.
What does it mean for us to be reconciled to God?
To be reconciled with God means that all people were estranged or separated from him at one time because of our sinfulness, but now Jesus has washed our sinfulness away with his sacrifice on the cross. All people are now reconciled to God, and as Christians we share that message of reconciliation with others who don’t realize or believe it (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
Pause and contemplate the great love and compassion of God. We cannot fully perceive the Hidden God, but we can see his actions. Consider the compassion of God as seen in the sacrifice of Christ for the ungodly world. Christ did not die for good Christian folk. He died for the ungodly, the immoral, the enemies of God who wanted nothing to do with this sacrifice. In short, he died for us, because that is what we were before the grace and mercy of God sought us and found us. Martin Franzmann noted, “Since God has come all the way to us in our rebellious impotence, since the incredible has happened, since we stand acquitted by the atoning blood of Christ, the peace we have with God is peace without end. The wrath of God that looms up at the end of all men’s ways to judge them and destroy them, does not loom up at the end of our new way; the Christ looms up, and He will save us from the wrath to come.”
Supplemental Second Lesson – 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5
What is the Church’s responsibility toward her ministers?
Paul’s words to the Thessalonians center on the ministry of the Word born of God’s compassion. The God who loved us also gave us the encouragement of his Word and Sacraments that strengthen us in word and deed. Therefore, Paul beseeches the prayers of the Church for its ministers. Pray that their message be spread and the ministers be spared, for there are those who will work against this ministry and its message. Yet see the compassion of Christ modeled in his ministers: Paul’s words are ones of concern and comfort for people of God. Note the juxtaposition of “faith” and “faithful.” (3:4-5) The solution to the wicked faithlessness of the Church’s enemies is the faithfulness of the Lord.
Gospel – Matthew 9:35 – 10:8
Why did Jesus show compassion toward the crowds?
Because they were like sheep without a shepherd.
What is an apostle?
An apostle is one who is “sent out” to proclaim the gospel. The twelve apostles had a special call from Jesus to proclaim the gospel without boundaries. In a very real sense, though, we are also “apostles” whenever we proclaim the gospel.
The compassion of God for the lost and helpless sinner is the reason for Christ’s work and the ministry of the Word. The people of Israel had been harassed by their spiritual leaders and left leaderless and helpless. Christ looked upon them and loved them, and then he called the twelve apostles to the ministry of the Word that they might shepherd these lost sheep. The disciples prayed for workers and found God’s answer in the twelve men Christ sent out to be leaders of the true Israel and heralds of the coming kingdom. They would go with Jesus’ message and Jesus’ miracles. They would go by grace to share grace.