The Attractional, Devotional, and Missional Jesus

Luke 4:38–44 (ESV) — 38 And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf. 39 And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them. 40 Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. 41 And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ. 42 And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, 43 but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” 44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

Notice how Jesus leaves the synagogue, where he attracted a crowd, to personally minister to Peter’s mother-in-law. He becomes intimately “missional” in his ministry to Peter’s mother-in-law. Peter’s mother-in-law is healed and begins to “serve” the guests. She is healed to serve. This is a paradigm for all of us.

Following this healing, Jesus then attracts a large multitude. They are literally coming to him. This continues all night long. He began in the evening and concluded when the sun came up. Interesting to note that he heals throughout the dark of night – it’s as if Jesus is invading the darkness and claiming superiority over the darkness. Here we see Jesus being “attractional”. He doesn’t mind ministering to the needs of the people as they line up and wait their turn. He heals them all and casts out demons as well.

After the all night healing episode, Jesus intentionally took a break. We are told that he would have been kept from leaving them if he just stayed there and continued. Here we see that Jesus was not interested in being a resident Messiah-healer. He could have just stayed here for 3 years and the lines would continue non-stop. Jesus’ mission was not to merely attract an endless crowd, but to seek and save the lost. His healing ministry, as vital and necessary to his Messianic function it might have been, was not the only reason he came. Sure his healings would have attracted an endless crowd, but he had other things to tend to, people to reach.

Interestingly, Jesus retired for a break in a desolate place. No doubt Jesus rested and prayed. Here we see the value of devotion and solitude in the midst of ministry. The temptation is to not take a break when good things are happening, but Jesus does take a break. This is an important lesson for all us, especially us ministers. We must take Sabbath rest, even in the midst of ministry success, in fact BECAUSE of ministry success. One might fear that God will stop when we stop, but we must never think that God’s work is completely dependent upon us maintaining an unreasonable schedule. We need God in the silence, nit just the busyness.

Jesus then explains, to the crowd’s disappointment to be sure, that the very reason he came was to go to others with the message of the good news of the kingdom. He is not a resident attraction, but an itinerant missionary. Jesus said that he “must” carry on this ministry. He came to seek and save the lost. Sure, some lost souls may seek him out and still do to this day, but it’s rare for a lost soul to stumble into the church. There are a lot of churches that would deem themselves successful based on the model of the crowds flocking to Jesus endlessly, but Jesus intentionally rejects this as a permanent model. Darrell Bock makes the following observations on verse 43:

Jesus refuses to stay in Capernaum, because staying in one place would be counter to his mission. It is interesting that two of the terms appearing here also were found in the description of Jesus’ mission in 4:18: εὐαγγελίσασθαι (euangelisasthai, to preach the good news) and ἀπεστάλην (apestalēn, I was sent). Jesus has a commission, which he must heed. It involves the message of the kingdom’s nearness (Danker 1988: 114; Schürmann 1969: 255). There is a necessity to his work, as the use of δεῖ (dei, it is necessary) indicates. The message is the powerful means that Jesus uses to announce salvation’s approach. [1] Bock, D. L. (1994). Luke Volume 1: 1:1-9:50. Baker exegetical commentary on the New Testament (440–441). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.

The church needs to be a center for worship and ministry to the found, but also must be the missional center for seeking the lost within the community. Even if the church succeeds in an attractional model, it is still insufficient. We must be goers. How this looks in a community will vary but it certainly needs to be a central part of the church’s DNA.

© 2011 – 2013, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

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