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What don’t you understand…?

Jesus went around all the cities and the villages, teaching in their meeting places and proclaiming the good news of the sovereignty and dealing with all illness and all defect. When he saw the crowds, he was moved with kindness towards them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep not having a shepherd. Then he said to his followers, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few; therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” Matthew 9: 35 – 38
 
In bold above is an extract from Matthew’s first century eye-witness biography of Jesus of Nazareth. What don’t you understand about it? Take the first sentence for instance: "Jesus went around all the cities and villages, teaching in their meeting places and proclaiming the good news of the sovereignty and dealing with all illness and all defect."

First, do you know why Matthew uses so many verbs in one sentence? Not only is Jesus “going around” all the towns but also he is “teaching” and he is “proclaiming” and he is “dealing with” all illness and defect. He also uses “all” three times. “All” the cities and villages. “All” illness. “All” defect. Why? On both counts, why? 

Second, what about the “proclaiming” bit: “proclaiming the good news of the sovereignty”? What’s that about? Earlier Jesus has repeatedly used the words “the sovereignty of the skies”. If you’ve read Matthew’s biography in the past you’ve probably read this translated as “the kingdom of heaven”. But the Greek words Matthew records are he basileias ton ouranon meaning the sovereignty (or realm) of the skies. When Matthew’s biography was first translated into English the only realms were kingdoms.

 
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‘When Jesus came to earth he did not cease to be God; when he returned to heaven he did not cease to be man.’ (John Blanchard) 
What then was being “proclaimed” by Jesus? What was “the good news of the sovereignty of the skies”? It’s good news and, apparently, it’s good news that the sovereignty of the skies was (at that time) arriving – or had arrived. But why? What was it and what was good about it that led Jesus to proclaim it in “all” places to “all” people. What’s more, Jesus indicated the goodness of the good news by “dealing with all illness and all defect”

Maybe you’re like me – deep down. When I first read this about the sovereignty of the skies I started to worry, started to have a sinking feeling that judgment was coming my way from the sovereign of the skies. Only terrible things will befall me from an all-holy, all-powerful, all-knowing, impartial, un-bribe-able sovereign above. Not so.

Jesus was proclaiming that the sovereignty of the skies which was coming into this world (in AD 30) was good news and that part-and-parcel of that sovereignty would be both the removal of the hurt of all illness and the making good of all defects. One is tempted to rejoice. 

What about the second sentence above: “When he saw the crowds, he was moved with kindness towards them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep not having a shepherd.” That’s much easier. You and I can relate to that. We’re feeling the pressure. And we’re feeling what we will never admit – our weakness in the face of the powers over us and even, worse still, within us.

Does “harassed” not mean put upon, criticized, over-worked, addicted, pressured, worried and so on? Does “helpless” not mean unable to cope, depressed, lacking ability, weak, too soft, too shy, too harsh and so on? 

But, second, what don’t you understand about being “like sheep not having a shepherd”? Maybe you are, again, a bit like me. I’ve never been so conscious as now of being (and having been) a pawn in a highly complex chess world that consists of kings, queens, knights, bishops and castles. Yes, I could also sign myself Sheep Syvret. Even when I do have a shepherd.

Could this be where “the good news of the sovereignty of the skies” comes in? Is it possible – just possible – that “the sovereign of the skies” became Jesus, a human being, so as to become the “shepherd” of shepherd-less sheep? Matthew reports that Jesus “was moved with kindness when he saw the crowds” – when he saw them all in “all” places with “all” their harassment and helplessness-es, “all” their illness and “all” their defect.

 
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‘If Jesus Christ is not true God, how could he help us? If he is not true man, how could he help us?’ (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German pastor and anti-Nazi dissident, 1906-1945) 
The position is that the sovereignty as well as the sovereign of the skies is favourable towards you - in Jesus. Is that what you don’t understand?

 
Sinner Syvret

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