A Church of labourers, not supervisors- Tuesday, 14th week in ordinary time- Matthew 9: 32- 38
After having preached the great Sermon on the Mount, Jesus works ten miracles in chapters eight and nine. Today’s gospel covers the last of these miracles and leads us to the second of the five discourses in Matthew’s Gospel – the ‘mission discourse’ that is found in chapter ten.
In order to grasp every pericope, we need to set them in the author’s literary context and the larger historical context. The gospel of Matthew is written in the midst of great hostility towards the community of Matthew by the Jewish authorities. Having excommunicated the Jewish Christians from all synagogue services, they now bay for their blood. This hostility towards the disciples and Jesus, is reflected in the Gospel of Matthew.
So, it is no wonder that they see the healing of the mute demoniac as the work of the ‘ruler of demons’. Their tinted glasses of prejudice prevent them from seeing that which the people saw, a sight like ‘never been seen in Israel before’.
Matthew ends this literary section by highlighting the compassion of Jesus and contrasting it with the legalism of the Jewish authorities. Matthew uses these transitional verses not only to introduce the magnitude of the mission, but also to highlight the compassion of the ‘Lord of the harvest.’ What He preached on the Sermon on the Mount in words, He lives in the plains in deeds.
In the face of such authentic living, the disciples are charged to go and do likewise. Jesus is relentless in His mission and sets the bar high for the disciples. We are told that He went through ALL the cities and villages, teaching, proclaiming and curing, for He was moved with compassion by the woes of a shepherdless flock.