These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.(NIV)
When we follow Jesus, we have a job to do. It isn’t about sitting back and remarking how nice it is that we are “saved” and are going to heaven. There is the small matter of all those millions of others who may not have such a destiny unless they are challenged about it. So, Jesus sends out his first followers to spread the good news. They are going to the Jews not the non-Jews. Not because the latter don’t matter, but that the non-Jews are going to be reached via the Jews. This was the original idea of God choosing the Jews: not so they could keep the blessing to themselves but so that they could be the vehicle of blessing to the wider world.
Their message, and by extension ours, is that the rule or kingdom of God is at hand. That is, God’s way of doing things, God’s reality, has invaded our world. A new age has dawned. And this new age is not just a matter of words. We can expect demonstrations of this new world, of God’s rule. Healings, resurrection, deliverance…. these aren’t the acts of religious social workers trying to make people better. They are visible expressions of the fact that heaven has invaded earth: the kingdom of God is near.
And this message is to be given freely. Probably Jesus was suggesting they shouldn’t charge for their services. But perhaps we can go beyond finances here. God gives us so much so why keep it to ourselves? God blesses us to be a blessing to others, not in order that we might hug that blessing and treasure it in an attitude of self indulgence.
We don’t come to church or seek healing or pray or meditate simply in order to feel close to God or feel better about ourselves. We do such things not only to be better people ourselves but to help others on that same journey. Jesus comforted, taught, and encouraged his disciples…. but then he told them to put to good use all that he had done or said. In effect, “I’ve poured myself into you, now you pass it on to others.”
Consider the humble kitchen sponge. Leave it under running water for a short time and it is saturated. No matter how much longer it remains there it can’t absorb more water. It can only absorb more water when it is squeezed out. So perhaps we can develop a sponge like Christianity. We absorb the grace and power of Jesus and squeeze it out in blessing others. Then and only then can we absorb more of it.
In other words, freely absorb, freely squeeze, then freely absorb again. Or more piously, blessed to be a blessing.