Pentecost is a season of discipleship. It is a time to think about God’s work in and through His people; both as individuals and as a community. Last week, I suggested you begin this season with a four-part series of sermons exploring discipleship according to the appointed Gospel readings from Matthew 9 and 10. Here again is my recommendation for the series. Also, keep in mind that any of these sermon ideas could stand alone:
- June 11 – The Call to Discipleship (Matthew 9:9-13)
- June 18 – A Community of Disciples (Matthew 9:35-10:8)
- June 25 – What Disciples Expect (Matthew 10:5a, 21-33)
- July 2 – Discipleship for Losers (Matthew 10:34-42)
Last Sunday the text focused on the call of an individual. This Sunday discipleship turns corporate.
A Community of Disciples
From the beginning, God has been a gatherer. He spoke creation into existence and formed the first man from the dust of the earth. It was all good, except the man was alone. Then God, who is communal in His nature as triune, established the first human community by creating the woman to complement the man. This perfect situation did not last long. Sin soon drove them apart, and ever since, the human condition has been a paradox of coming together and falling apart.
In His plan to restore His creation, God went back to the communal drawing board. He sought out an old couple whose ability to procreate was long gone. He expanded their family as miraculously as He created the first community. Through this gathered people, God promised to bless all nations. From the east and the west, the north and the south, He would bring together all people under His gracious rule and reign.
This is why we should not be surprised when Jesus, early in His ministry, called together a community of disciples. Indeed, when God calls someone to be His disciple, He never leaves them alone. He calls them into a new communal existence with all believers.
Indeed, when God calls someone to be His disciple, He never leaves them alone. He calls them into a new communal existence with all believers.
In this week’s text, Matthew identifies the original twelve by name. What precedes and follows the list offers the clearest direction for your sermon. Prompted by love and compassion for the crowds, who were like “sheep without a shepherd” (9:36), Jesus told His newly formed community to pray for God to send workers (9:38). Then, at the start of chapter ten, Jesus made it happen. Perhaps to their surprise (I sure would have been surprised if I were among them), Jesus sent those same disciples to be the workers He had just encouraged them to pray for. However, He did not send them unequipped. He gave them “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction” (10:1). The work Jesus had previously done Himself (9:35) was now being given to His followers to do in His name.
Notice the movement. Jesus loved the crowds. Then He sent His disciples to participate in His work among them. He continues the same movement today.
A Community Loved and Sent
In his book about what it means to believe and live in Christ, Jeff Cloeter summarizes the life of discipleship in clear and simple terms: Christians are Loved and Sent. They have been loved by God in Christ, that is the promise of the Gospel. Out of nothing but divine favor, Jesus came to bring forgiveness, life, and salvation to sinful human beings who would be lost without Him. His compassion for the crowds (which was also for His disciples) led Him to preach, heal, and restore.
He loved His disciples. He also sent them. In this text, they were sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. That changed after His resurrection as Jesus extended their mission to include all nations (Matthew 28:16-20), but the sending remained the same. His mission, to bring life to all people, would be carried out by those who had already been loved. As Cloeter puts it, “Love is incapable of sitting still” (Loved and Sent, 27). God’s love for His creation moved Him to save His wandering sheep. And God’s love for His disciples moves them to go where Jesus sends them.
As you help your hearers consider what it means to be part of a community of disciples, your message is as simple as the title of Cloeter’s book: They are loved and sent. It is your privilege to proclaim the promise of God’s love directly to your hearers for their life and salvation. Then, send them to share that love with others. If you are looking for concrete examples of what this looks like, you might consider reading Loved and Sent in preparation. After all, that is what it means to be a community of disciples.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Matthew 9:35-10:8.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Matthew 9:35-10:8.
Lectionary Podcast-Dr. Jeffrey Pulse of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Matthew 9:35-10:8.
 Cloeter, Jeff. Loved and Sent: How Two Words Define Who You Are and Why You Matter. Tenth Power Publishing. 2016.