Jesus Reaches Out
Our church has adopted a strategic plan to “reach people for Jesus” over the next five years. Jesus shows us how to reach people in the ways that he reached people during his ministry. Our word for “reaching others” actually comes from a Greek word that means to “stretch out your hand” or to “reach for something or someone.” Four times when the word is used in Matthew, Jesus reaches out to others or people respond to his message.
Today, we take a look at how Jesus reached out.
In Matthew 7, Jesus teaches “The Sermon on the Mount.” In Matthew 8, as he descends from his perch, a leper begs for Jesus to cleanse him.
1 When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; 2 and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” 3 He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4 Then Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
In this passage, Jesus “stretches out” to another person considered religiously unclean. Jesus takes great risk in touching a contagious man. Most people assumed you could contract this kind of skin disease by touching him. Jesus shows the people that his words from the Sermon will be accompanied by action. He brings about God’s wondrous power into lives of the untouchable. He sends him to bear witness to the priest and gives him a warning not to tell anyone. As most people know, telling someone to keep a secret is one of the fastest ways to spread the news.
In the same ways, Jesus calls us to reach out to the people around us. His teaching on the Sermon on the Mount leads to folks in the crowd (Matthew 8). They come to us in our work, play, and service. We partner together with other groups that care about the issues we care about. This is especially the case when reaching out to people of different ethnic, racial, and economic backgrounds. Jesus engaged in a ministry of reconciliation with our world, and Paul calls us to be “reconciled to each other.” It’s part of the process of the believer to recognize her own blind spots and see that in Christ, she has “broken down the dividing wall between us.”
Jesus’ message to the leper extends to every person on the planet. He invites us to receive him and be agents—or ambassadors—of that ministry of reconciliation.
How will we do this as a church?
- We will partner with other groups who care about our concerns as well. So many people through FAMU, FSU, First Love, Boston, Haiti, Cuba, and the City of Tallahassee share our concerns. These are the locations where we’re focusing our attention, but we also have many others who are working in some exciting places as well.
- Adopt, foster, and shelter children in need. Adoption and foster care is one of the best places to impact the next generation. Even if you can’t shelter a child in your home, you can be a part of the work of those who do.
- Make friends with persons of color. Deepen your relationships with those of a different ethnic background.
- Reach college students and internationals for Jesus.
One of my friends, Rev. Joseph Parker, is the Pastor of David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church. He meets with a group of young Christian ministers in Austin, Texas where they minister. Recently a predominantly African American neighborhood was going through difficult racial tension. These church ministers gathered together on Friday evening and hosted a series of “fire pits,” neighborhood gatherings around a small fire. They invited neighbors to gather together, share stories, connect to each other, and lower the tension in their neighborhood. These ministers shared in Jesus’ name and brought reconciliation and healing to their neighborhood.
Closer to home, when Gary and J.C. Montgomery relocated within Tallahassee, our church worked with them to renovate a home partially provided through the City of Tallahassee. The “Montgomery House” in Griffin Heights is a home and ministry center working with children of prisoners and their families. They mentor dads and teach boys how to mature. What other ways does our church continue to impact our city?