JUST AS I AM
8th after Pentecost B
Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 7 Calling the Twelve to Him, He sent them out two-by-two and gave them authority over evil spirits. 8 These were His instructions: "Take nothing for the journey except a staff - no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them." 12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
“I just lifted a little beer,” the prison inmate told the social worker. “You shoplifted a six pack and got twenty years without parole(?),” he was asked. Upon digging deeper, the social worker learned that the young man had highjacked a truck full of beer, kidnapped the driver at gunpoint and wounded him.
In working in prison ministry I learned how many inmates typically express the feeling that they got harsher sentences than they think they deserve. What society deems as serious crimes, they themselves often do not. They can seem utterly blind to the gravity of acts they have committed.
God’s Word essentially teaches the same concerning all of us! Luther once claimed that, were we to be made fully aware of how utterly evil our sin-nature really is, the knowledge would surely kill us. When an admirer once expressed to Beethoven what lofty thoughts he must have to write such beautiful music, Beethoven responded, “If you knew what dark and terrible things plague my conscience, you would run from me as from a madman!”
The Bible makes clear that, until God Himself takes action to change people, all are spiritually blind, dead and hostile to God by nature. They are quite literally “Without One Plea” to exonerate themselves before Him at His Judgment Seat. The condition continues to cling like a powerful magnet even to Christian believers, but it especially pertains at the time of each person’s precious first calling and receiving of Christ’s Gospel. Lost and condemned every one, and no one better than another.
WHEN PEOPLE ARE FIRST CALLED BY CHRIST
IT WAS "JUST AS WE WERE" FOR US ALL WHEN FIRST CALLED BY THE GOSPEL
How was it for YOU when the Lord Jesus enabled you to come to Him? Was it as a little baby or child, brought in the arms of loving parents or sponsors to be washed in the life giving water and Word of Baptism? Right there, helpless as you were, God named you as His own and applied the precious, saving Blood of Jesus to you and YOUR name! It was actually He coming to you, just AS you were, making you His child and an heir of eternal life.
Maybe you’re one of those who, at a later time in life, had one of those great sudden and emotionally charged conversion experiences. Your realization of guilt flooded your whole being, and the call of love and grace overwhelmed you! You then joined the ranks of the baptized who have known and experienced God’s love in Christ for most of their lives.
Or perhaps you’re a person whose eyes were very gradually opened to the truths of God’s Word and His call of grace. No stunning conversion “experience,” as some may call it, but just a slow, creeping understanding that, although undeserving of it, God wanted a relationship with YOU based on His own great love! In any case, He bid us ALL come “as we were.”
“JUST AS THEY WERE” DURING CHRIST’S EARTHLY MINISTRY
How was it in the days when Jesus walked this earth? Just as THEY were, Peter, Andrew, James and John (all four) were at a lake fishing and mending their nets. Nathanael was found by a fig tree. Matthew was at his office collecting customs taxes and more. The woman at the well was even living with a man to whom she wasn’t married when Jesus addressed her. Zacchaeus was up a tree. There was the guilty thief hanging on the Cross next to Christ’s, and St. Paul was met on his way to imprison followers of Christ. THAT’S how THEY were!
Jesus Himself first came for this whole world “just as it was: Cold and uninviting, hateful, self-serving and greedy… He wants to come to everyone with the gift of His perfect righteousness and infinite love to be applied to them. It’s HIS coming for US that has made the real difference in any people’s lives!
Jesus came and “sinned not.” He came and sustained the pain that should have been ours. He came and forgivingly swallowed pride, allowing all the laughing sneers to rake Himself that should be aimed at us. He came and died on a Cross of wood and rose alive from His entombment that we might be JUSTIFIED, and so that He can now come again and we be GLORIFIED!
CHANGED BY CHRIST’S CALLING
A Sunday School student was once asked what “being justified” means and gave a pretty insightful answer: “It means no matter what I’ve done bad, since Jesus died and rose for me, God is willing to look at me just if I’d never done it.” And so it is for us all! Through trust in Christ’s atoning work, it IS “just as IF” we had no sin. “Just As I Am” once meant we were lost and condemned without one plea. NOW it means having BEEN justified by the Blood of Christ and made completely new creations in God’s sight!
It’s in this new condition that now pertains that Jesus invites and sends His people into significant service, just as with His original followers! It’s a privilege to be sent by Him in this fully justified condition, no longer “lost and condemned,” but “Now, NO condemnation…”
SENT BY CHRIST, ONCE CALLED
AS NEEDY AND IMPERFECT AS ANY MAY BE, THEY ARE STILL TO SERVEWe’re still needy and imperfect, of course, and yet we’re still sent. Moses complained of the inability to speak well, and God said He would speak through Aaron. Isaiah moaned that he was a sinner with “unclean lips,” and his sin was forgiven, enabling his prophesying. Jeremiah tried to excuse himself for being too young, but God said, “I made you a Prophet to the nations before your birth, and I will be with you.” Amos had only been a shepherd and caretaker of figs, but God changed the whole purpose of his life. St. Paul had his “thorn in the flesh,” but God’s grace was everything he needed!
The Text in Mark’s Gospel chapter 6 is pretty pointed. Sermons drawn from it ordinarily and properly focus on both the utter dependence and sense of urgency instilled in those who are sent.
“Don’t take excess baggage,” Jesus told the disciples. They were to trust that God would provide for them as they went. In effect Jesus was also encouraging them not to be weighed down with worry, because provision would be made for them at the right times and places.
They were also not to be weighed down with excess baggage and worldly cares, though, because theirs was the urgent message calculated to save also other lost and depraved souls from the very brink of hell! The thing they were to be concerned about carrying with them was God’s call to repentance and the announcement that God’s Kingdom had come in Christ, and anyone and everyone is welcome to share in His sublime grace! (It’s instructive to note that, in this account in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus urged His followers to pray for laborers for the harvest, and then the very next verse shows Him sending THEM.)
“Think of what you were when YOU were called,” Paul wrote to the Corinthians and for us; “Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many influential, not many were of noble birth…” Still needy like the original 12, yet justified by Christ’s grace and us also bearing the promise of having any and all real needs met, OURS should be the fervent prayer to recapture that sense of urgency! While not all are called to be Pastors, for example, and there are certain qualifications for some offices, ALL Christ’s people are nevertheless gifted with the noble task of bringing His Name and Gospel to light the lives of those around them. May God bless us with restless hearts that do sense the true urgency!
SENT WITH AUTHORITY, GIFTS AND THE RELIEF THAT THE HARVEST IS GOD’S RESPONSIBILITY
Besides the fact of their own justification empowering them and the implication that everything necessary would be provided, the disciples were additionally given authority by Christ, and they used it. Jesus “gave them authority over unclean spirits,” the Text says, and “they drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.”
In Christ’s strength we likewise have at OUR disposal every necessary power to squelch Satan’s attacks on our faith. We, too, are variously gifted with abilities to minister also to the physical needs of our fellow humans. There’s also the authority Christ has vested in His Church to forgive sins. Jesus claimed His OWN Divine authority to forgive and backed it UP with the atoning death of the Cross, and then passed that authority on to us. What an exalting of our worth to have that authority put in OUR hands! And it’s especially put into effect by sharing the Gospel’s message of forgiveness and life in Christ. As Jesus said (again in Matthew’s account of it), “Freely you have been given; freely give.”
Line up together all those things that make up our present condition (being fully justified in Christ’s blood, having the promise of every necessary provision, the granting of special authority and gifts) and there’s yet one more thing… The disciples were counseled not to force themselves on anyone or to keep pursuing unreceptive people, but were merely to quietly signal by shaking the dust off their feet that God’s Word had been brought, and then God Himself would be the final Judge concerning their unbelief. And God will surely do it, too! Unbelievers who have heard the Gospel and been given wonderful chances will fare worse than Sodom and Gomorrah. The disciples were rather to take their message to new places. Jesus said elsewhere that His workers wouldn’t be finished going through the towns of Israel before He came, and so there would always be others to whom to take the blessing.
What’s there for us to glean is SO IMPORTANT, because it basically shows us that no one has to be afraid of not being a perfectly astute theological scholar! Our Lord wants to use our faithful witness “just as we are,” and He Himself will bear the responsibility for how His Word is or is not received. Our task is merely to share the simple story of Christ dying on the Cross and rising again to win forgiveness for people’s sins. The littlest child can know and share that “Jesus Loves Me!” (That doesn’t mean that we don’t need to get deep in our own study of Scripture, but that in going to our neighbor we don’t have to get all heavy and complicated in sharing the basic Gospel. Those who are less Biblically knowledgeable can refer the “tough stuff” to the more learned.)
“Just As We Were” once meant sin-sickness running so deep we couldn’t even recognize it. It literally meant poor, lost and condemned creatures without one plea! For those who believe, though, that condition is now radically changed! Now we are “justified” by Christ’s Blood, just as if we never had sinned (as we’re faithful to continue confessing our sin to God).
In summary, then, the Text gives such justified people of faith to know that:
1.- Although we continue to be imperfect and still have needs, we’re elevated to the lofty position of being direct representatives of the Lord of All!
2.- Our bodily needs will be provided for at the right times, as we seek to be faithful as Christ’s servants.
3.- Christ’s concern and work for us to do is urgent! Human souls are dying and going to hell for lack of knowing and believing His love!
4.- Along with our justification, His Holy Spirit and everything else He freely gives us, Jesus grants us, His Church, authority: Power over Satan’s rule, gifts to minister to human needs and, best of all, authority to forgive sins.
And 5.- Jesus won’t condemn us for the unbelief of others if we attempt to share the simple Gospel but seem to be rejected. He bears the ultimate responsibility and will be the final Judge.
May God make these truths and promises such a “fire” in our “bones,” that we can’t help but speak of His fantastic gift in Christ to others!