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Situation Vacant

Look and see this clearly, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. Matthew 10: 16-24

This morning you, along with 11 others, are being offered the opportunity to take part in an important mission. If you decide to accept this role, you will be going out without any tangible resources – no money, no food, no spare clothes, no accommodation. In short you will need to rely on the generosity of others – but these others will not be identified for you.

You will be given only one gift with which to carry out your mission. That gift is authority over two areas of life: first authority over all uncleanness and evil within people; second, authority to heal – to put right – every disease and ever affliction suffered by people. You will not be able to make any charge for these services to others in need.

This wonderful authority comes from Jesus who clearly has that authority himself.

He’s also given you a simple message. You are to say, “The realm of the skies has arrived”. “The kingdom of the heavens is here.” You are to give that message wherever you go.
All of you are listening intently as Jesus continues to brief you. With authority like this you may well imagine that this “Situation Vacant” is just the thing for you. But is it?
‘Christ’s followers cannot expect better treatment in the world than their Master had.’ (Matthew Henry, Bible commentator, 1662-1714)

Jesus now explains what the folk out there – where you’re to go – are like. “Look and see this clearly – I’m sending you out as helpless sheep into the midst of wolves. You must be as wise as serpents but at the same time and at all times I want you to be totally harmless just like doves.”

Does this really fit well into the history of the Crusades? “Helpless sheep”? “Harmless just like doves”? What about the Spanish Inquisition? Is it the case that the Christian church sometimes – maybe often – decided not to listen to Jesus, not to follow him but instead to use force? And the Christians whom in Jersey AD 2014 – are they like doves?

Jesus went on to say this to the candidates for sending out. “Beware of men – beware because they will take you to court, flog you in their religious buildings, and drag you in front of [political people] for my sake - people who will have strong powers against you.” Are you going to withdraw your job application?

“Brother” he said, “will hand over brother, a father will hand over his offspring, and children will rise up against their parents. You will be hated by all – hated by all because of my name – my name Jesus.”

“When they persecute you in one town” he added, “flee to the next.”
‘Take care if the world does hate you that it hates you without cause.’ (C H Spurgeon, preacher and pastor, 1834-1892)

Twenty years ago there were around 1.3 million Christians in Iraq. Three weeks ago there were only around 300,000 remaining. Why? The reason is greatly increased persecution. The city of Mosul in Iraq was captured by ISIS - the Islamic State of Iran and al Sham – about three weeks ago. In that time frame all the Christians there have fled to other cities, even to other countries.

What do you think of Christians who flee because of persecution? Do you think badly of them even when, in faithfulness to Jesus they continue, in a new and different city, to give out Jesus’ simple but true message, “The realm of the skies has arrived”?

There is a higher throne than all this world has known.

Have I put you off from applying for this Situation Vacant, from following this Jesus? The big issue is, “Is there a better Way?”

Richard Syvret

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