Lord, Have Mercy (Matthew 8-9)
In chapters 5 through 7, we heard Jesus teaching about the kingdom of heaven coming to earth. In chapters 8 through 9, we see him enacting that kingdom through deeds of compassion and mercy. He heals an ostracized leper (Matt. 8:1-4), he has compassion on an officer of the Roman occupying forces (Matt. 8:5-20), and he delivers demoniacs sitting in the midst of a perfect storm of misery (Matt. 8:28-9:1). In all these cases, Jesus’ compassion leads him to act to reclaim God’s creation. The compassion of his followers can be expressed in equally practical ways.
As Jesus demonstrates the coming of the kingdom, he calls those who follow him “laborers” (Matt. 9:37-38). Some of us are led to work in physical and emotional healing, similar to Jesus’ work in these chapters. Others are led to work in occupations that provide food, water, shelter, transportation, education, health care, justice, safety, or good government, similar to Jesus’ work providing wooden goods until he was about thirty. Given the time Jesus spent healing people, it is surprising that most people think of him as a preacher rather than as a doctor. Still others are led to express their creativity in art, entrepreneurism, design, fashion, research and development, made as we are in the image of a creative God (Genesis 1). The point is that for Jesus there is no separation between the secular and the sacred, between the spiritual and physical aspects of announcing the kingdom of God.