Have you ever asked yourself what is my purpose in being a Christian between now and eternity? Should I be doing something?
What is the importance of what we do during the week, between services?
We’ll look at Mark 6:30-34, 53-56, what an apostle is, and our mission.
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. 54 When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, 55 and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.1
The Messengers Recharge
The messengers returned from a mission. The word apostle simply means a delegate, missionary, envoy or messenger. The twelve had a special place, but the word apostle was used of others in the Bible. They reported all that they had done and taught. What they taught was the message with which they were sent. It is not their message, but the message of the sender, Jesus. What would happen if we began each church service with reports of what we had done spreading Jesus’ message during the week. The apostolic tradition is not just a set of doctrines, but being sent out. The reason for the existence of church is going out. The reason for their retreat was to recuperate for the next mission. The reason for attending church is to recharge for the mission of the coming week.
Purpose of Vacations
What kind of vacation is best? The commercial world entices us to all kinds of exotic and expensive vacations so they can make a living, but is that the kind of vacation that we really need? Is it to experience new cultures and excitement? That is okay and has its place. What is the purpose of a vacation? What kind of vacation do we really need? Most of us occasionally need a rest, time out. In Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 Jesus introduced the concept of a quiet place to get some rest. Rest for the body and mind are good. But, the author of Hebrews described a place, the promised land and a time, the weekly rest as not that true real rest. Each of them was a mere foretaste of a place of eternal resting with God (Hebrews 3-4). Another important aspect of rest is time with God and an important part of that time is in the company of the saints at church each week.
Why Go to Church
Why go to church? Statistics prove that those who attend church regularly actually live longer and so do their children. Regular church attendance also reduces our children's risk of involvement in drunkenness, drugs or suicide. They rebound faster from depression, have lower risk of crime, better odds for a happy life, have a nurturing family atmosphere, and better odds of an active church life in their adults years. I go to church to be a part of God’s kingdom on earth, to live and learn the Gospel, worship God, to encourage and be encouraged, to pray, feed my soul. Even in the most boring sermons I hear God’s voice, I learn to forgive and be forgiven, to rest with the disciples of Jesus and touch his cloak so that I may be healed (Mark 6:30-34, 53-56).
Crossing the Lines
The most important purpose of the church of Jesus Christ is mission (Matthew 28:19-20), beginning with our immediate neighborhoods and into all the world. Christianity always grows on the edges, at the intersection of cultures. The original messengers went to new languages and new ethnic groups. Most of them did not just stick with their own kind, but were willing to cross the lines for the sake of the Gospel. Some people get angry at the growing numbers of Spanish speaking people in America, as do some Germans get angry at the growing number of Turks, some British get angry at the growing numbers of Pakistanis and some Australians get angry at the growing number of Chinese speakers. Have we thought about it from God’s point of view? Some of them will become Christians and take Jesus back to their own peoples.
No Room for Xenophobia
The church has no room for xenophobia, an unreasonable fear of strangers or foreigners. We are not meant to be an exclusive club, but an inclusive, multicultural and ever-growing family. No matter what culture the church is introduced into, there is always a common ingredient, Jesus. Like the original messengers, the twelve, we too need spiritual retreat. The purpose of a spiritual vacation is not the meaningless pursuit of self-indulgence, but a recharging of the batteries for the next mission. Being exposed to other cultures means a risk. Many people are not willing to take that risk, but we must be willing to risk everything for the Gospel’s sake. Going into other cultures we face challenges to our faith. People will ask us pointed questions, threaten us, get angry and some will be curious. We must become strong in faith.
What did we do last week? What do we have to report to Jesus? Did we spread the message? The word apostle was not originally so much a title as a descriptive term of what people did. It meant a person sent out with a message. In that sense, we are all sent out with a message. Could it be that apostolic succession is wrongly defined? Could it be that all Christians are assigned to go out with a message after having met with Christ each week? Could it be that we have gotten church wrong? Could it be that we are here to be debriefed by Jesus (Mark 6:30-34, 53-56)? Are we here as a social club to meet with each other or to meet with Jesus and then leave with a message to take to the world? Fellowship is an important aspect of church life, but the most important part is the message that goes with our lives as we leave.
How Jesus views Prejudice
Prejudice is universal. It is found everywhere. An Egyptian once said that the northern Egyptians do not like the southern Egyptians. We hear how some Chinese dislike Japanese, some Ukrainians dislike Russians, some Indians dislike Pakistanis, and so on. What is Jesus’ attitude? God loves everyone. There is no political hatred in God’s kingdom. In Mark 6:33-34 we read how Jesus took much needed time for rest. People followed him and ruined his vacation. How annoying! Yet Jesus looked upon them with pity. They were like sheep without a shepherd. When we look upon people of a different religion what do we see? We can feel threatened, disgusted, angry and a whole host of hostile emotions. Do we let politicians decide how we should feel? Do we see beyond our human fears and view them as God does, sheep without a shepherd?
What a Shepherd Does
Pastor or shepherd is not a popular business title. Imagine a large company with a corporate shepherd. It is not fashionable. Jesus is the Great Shepherd. He was compassionate towards large crowds who were like sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:30-34, 53-56). What would corporate life be like if earthly CEO’s were caring shepherds? Would they rob mom and pop investors of their modest investment portfolios by stealing from them in grossly excessive salaries? Would they feed their flocks crumbs while they dined opulently and sacrifice them all just for greed? Or, would they be selfless shepherds like Jesus Christ, the Great Shepherd and CEO of the universe, and be willing to suffer so that others may live? We cannot learn to be great shepherds of our businesses unless we are hearing from the Great Shepherd each week.
Attending church each week is an important reminder of the Gospel message. An important part of rest is time together as God’s people. Let’s take our Sunday rest, be at church and get recharged for our mission back into all the world the coming week.
1 New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.