In today’s sermon we talked about the concept called missio Dei (the Mission of God). We see God on the move through the Bible. This comes into clearest focus in Jesus of Nazareth. John tells us his gospel in the opening of his gospel tells us, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The Message paraphrase puts it in vivid terms, “The Word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood.” John uses Word to communicate the radical reality that the Word is Jesus and the Word came to earth and showed us who God is. It is profound. The eternal God, beyond space and time is embodied in a local setting.
One of those ways Jesus goes to people in their places was simply eating with people. The gospel of Luke really picks up on this theme showing Jesus who eats with outsiders, outcasts, sick people, sinner and tax collectors. He talked about the Kingdom of God, it was enacted by stories and healings. The central message of Jesus: the Kingdom of God/heaven is here (at hand), the reign of God has begun.
Jesus got resistance to this when he moved in the neighborhood. He went to people where they were and as they were. Not everyone appreciated this. Often the disciples didn’t get it. You see, the disciples had grown up under the influence of Pharisaic Judaism. I was reminded recently in a book on the reality the church is facing called Present Future about the Pharisee’s evangelism strategy. Author Reggie McNeal puts it this way:
“Their approach to God was “come and get it!” In addition, they had tweaked God’s message to moralism; “You people ‘out there’ need to straighten up!” The Pharisees had developed a very insular culture. They did business as much as possible only with other Pharisees (lest they become contaminated). When they traveled they stayed with other Pharisees. They lived in the Pharisee bubble .They had little Pharisee insignias on their burro bumper and they listened only to Pharisee radio stations. The message that they sent to those outside the bubble was: “Become like us—dress like us, act like us, think like us, like what we like and don’t like what we don’t like.” Resistance is futile. If you become like us (jump through our cultural hoops and adopt ours) we will consider you for club membership. Does any of this sound familiar?”
Jesus who is God on the move, God’s mission in action called a people to be on the move with him. Instead of come to us—come and get it, the message is go out there and get them. Instead of withdrawing for fear of contamination Jesus moves into the neighborhood and eats with sinners. This was horrifying to the Pharisees. Instead telling people to clean their act up, Jesus makes people clean with forgiveness and healing. The Kingdom is here.