daily biblical sermons

The mission of the Church is to try to evangelize and convert people of every culture and religion
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Thursday, Second Week of the Year, January 23, 2020
1 Samuel 18:6-9, 19:1-7, Psalm 55, Mark 3:7-12

Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted




“Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed; also from Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from about Tyre and Sidon a great multitude, hearing all that he did, came to him. And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they should crush him; for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him” (Mark 3:7-10).



Jesus has just healed a man with a withered hand in the synagogue, which greatly angered the Pharisees, because it was attracting the people to him and his teaching, which the Pharisees thought was false teaching. So “the Pharisees went out, and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him” (Mark 3:6). Jesus therefore “withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed; also from Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from about Tyre and Sidon a great multitude, hearing all that he did, came to him” (Mark 3:7-8).



Jesus was opposed by the Pharisees and Herodians, so he fled in order to preserve his life until his hour had come to save the world by dying on the cross to atone for the sins of all mankind, making effective reparation for all that would put their faith in him and genuinely repent and abandon their sins. This was his mission in the world, but before he would accomplish his atoning sacrifice on the cross, he still had much to teach his disciples so that they could carry on his mission after him. Thus he had to protect his life lest he be put to death too soon before his disciples had been properly trained to continue his mission in the world by preaching salvation through his death and resurrection by faith in him. So Jesus fled and withdrew to the sea.



But Jesus did not flee just to live a relaxed retired life. In fact, he reached far more people in retirement from the Pharisees than he was reaching by preaching in their synagogue. Since Jesus could not safely continue his ministry where he was, he fled to open territory, out-of-doors by the sea, and he had a boat made ready for him by his disciples to escape the multitudes if they became too violent and numerous in their attempt to touch him to be healed.



We know how deadly crowds can be and how they can stampede and kill one another. We saw an example of this last month in Iran when millions of people turned out for the funeral of the top Iranian terrorist, Soleimani, and we heard reports that fifty-six people were trampled to death at his funeral. A few years ago a similar thing happened in Mecca, when large numbers of people were trampled to death in a crowded stampede during their worship service. So Jesus wisely had them prepare a boat, just in case, so that he would not be trampled to death before his hour had come.



So we see that although Jesus was forced to leave his ministry in one place and retire to a quiet country spot by the sea, it was not to live a retired life of relaxation and ease, but rather he simply relocated his ministry to a new place and did the same thing, only now preaching out-of-doors in the open air to a far larger crowd of people, since the synagogue had become too dangerous, for his enemies were pursuing him and planning to destroy him.



This too can be a model for us if circumstances force us to depart from one place and relocate in another place. If we are in reasonably good health, we should not consider that we can now retire to a life of ease and relaxation, but rather we should continue our preaching work in a new location; and we may find, as Jesus did, that we can now reach far more people in this new place than we ever did in our previous location.



We also see that these people came not only from the Jewish areas of Judea, Jerusalem, and Galilee, but also from predominately pagan areas that were mostly inhabited by Gentiles, such as Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and from about Tyre and Sidon. While these people were probably mainly motivated to come to Jesus to be cured of their sicknesses, they also heard his preaching. Here we see indicated the real mission of the Church, which is for all peoples of every tribe, language, culture, and religion.



Jesus indeed came for all the peoples of the earth, because he is the means that God has given the world to be saved and have eternal life, namely through faith in him, the only Son of God, and only Savior of the world that God has ever sent into the world. Jesus clearly stated this when he said that he was the way of salvation, and the divine truth revealed by God, the means of eternal life, and the only way to come to God, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).



There is only one sacrifice for sins that effectively atones for them, and that is the sacrifice on the cross of the Son of God himself. God had only one Son who became incarnate as a man only once in the history of the world, and he did so for the sake of the entire planet. Therefore Christianity is by nature a missionary religion that is to preach the good news about the only Savior that God has sent for the entire world, for “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).



God did not positively will the plurality of religions, namely that each people and culture should have its own religion, for God is a God of truth, and he is not pleased by people worshiping idols and false gods and by false religious teaching that contradicts his revelation that he gave to the Jews in the Old Testament and that he perfected in his Son Jesus Christ and in the writings of the New Testament. God is a God of truth who does not contradict himself, and so he does not reveal to other peoples false religious doctrines and ideas that contradict what he has divinely revealed through the Jews and in Jesus and the Scriptures.



God sent his Son to save all who would accept him and believe that he is the Savior of the world, the only Son of God. God never sent his Son to another people or culture to offer a sacrifice of atonement for their sins so that they might be saved. There is only one effective sacrifice for sins, namely that of Jesus Christ, and he has come for every human being on the planet. There is no one else that God has sent to do this.



Therefore Jesus commissioned his disciples, after he rose from the dead, telling them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). We are to preach to everyone and seek their conversion so that they might be baptized for salvation. The risen Jesus told his disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).



This means that the Church, which is Jesus’ disciples, should try to convert the world, for how else can you make disciples of all peoples and cultures if you do not convert them? It can’t be done. But for people to be converted they have to hear the gospel preached to them, and this is the work of the Church and of those that are sent to use their mouths, tongues, lips, and minds to preach the good news of salvation now available in Jesus Christ to all who put their faith in him, because of his atoning death for the sins of the world on the cross.



This is what Jesus taught us, and this is what he wants us to know and believe, namely that he is the means that God gave the world for salvation, eternal life, and the forgiveness of sins so that all that believe in him might be declared and thereby made righteous (justified) by God through their faith and trust in Jesus Christ.



We should not try to take the easy way of speculating that surely God must have other ways of saving people besides the gospel and so sit back and enjoy a life of retirement and ease. This is not the proper attitude for a Christian, certainly not for someone with a missionary vocation. Such speculation is of another spirit. It does not harmonize with the message of the gospels and the New Testament.

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