“The Reign of God is at hand.” Matthew 10:
Rev. Jim Ryan, Ph.D.
Happy Father’s Day to all who have a fatherly role in so many ways!
Happy Juneteenth Day, June 19.
Memorializing the notice to the last group of slaves in the United States that they were
finally free. They lived in Galveston, Texas. At the time in Texas there were 250,000
enslaved people. The date was June 19, 1865.
To say the Bible is a living document means, I believe, that when we read it we see the printed word as a source for learning and when we apply its lessons we do so on the basis of trust in our own experience. In other words, to read the Bible as a literal document is to deny our ability to interpret what we read in that document. We are at that point in the liturgical year that returns to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Remember that he went from synagogue to synagogue to proclaim, “The Reign of God is at hand!” So much would happen in three years that this was only the beginning. He and his followers had so much to learn and to experience.
Once he got his footing, he selected others to go out and do the same. The first Gospel passage below tells this story. He was already gathering crowds so he selected that pattern of synagogue-to-synagogue and Message proclamation to be their assignment as well. Still early in this ministry, Jesus made sure that these preachers would be sure that the message is “The Reign of God is at hand!.”
As we know, this story of sending on Mission and widening the scope was truly only just beginning. The disciples included men and women who preached, led prayer, and proclaimed, “The Reign of God is at hand!” Including the men named in the first Gospel today as well as Mary who was regarded by the group of men as proclaimer as well as them is just the beginning of the truth of how Jesus’ first followers became communities of faith.
Put these messages alongside each other (below, I invite you to read both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mary of Magdala”) and what you get is the way that history works to fulfill the understanding of what we believe about Jesus’ relation to those first followers. And remember what we have now in the Gospels as written is a living Word. The conviction that women and men are equally called upon to speak the insights the Savior shares with each one of us has been a long time coming. However, the seed of it is there – despite the fact that the Bible is also a deficient document in its exclusion of women in so many instances and historical ways.
Jesus never, that I can see, used the term “Apostle.” Matthew’s Gospel says he referred to that first group as the Twelve. To them Jesus employs a favorite teaching method of “Show & Tell.” The student gets to show something of meaning and treasure and then tell other students about its meaning.
Early in his career Jesus shows the Twelve what he can do and then tells them they can do it too. One line confirming that Jesus believes in this method is that he instructs the Twelve to preach the Word, to say, “The Reign of God I at hand.” (Matthew 10:7)
This is indeed early. The most significant, life-changing events have not happened yet to the Twelve. The dying and the rising of Christ had not happened yet. On the surface, this early assignment was in a sense, simply a game of show-and-tell – meaning no disrespect.
Also, the account of this passage is an incomplete one at best. By only speaking the name of the Twelve, and those names being all male, this way of telling the story is evidence of a male dominant culture of power at work.
The living Word that is fulfilled among the followers of Jesus, one could say, comes full circle when Peter asks Mary of Magdala to tell them all that Jesus told her but not the rest. Mary did not waver, as we read in the second Gospel passage (Gospel of Mary of Magdala), in proclaiming the Reign of God had come in the message the resurrected Christ had shared with her.
These two passages – one from the early ministry of Jesus and the Twelve along with the other from Mary’s sharing of what Jesus had shared only with her – show us the truth of the power of our ability to interpret what is and what is not in the bible. It does happen to be an interpretation of the true history of the community of the Resurrected Christ. Initial feelings of exuberance tempered by the playing out of history results in full apostolic witness – by both the Twelve and Mary of Magdala.
A reading from the Gospel of Matthew
At the sight of the crowds, Jesus’ heart was moved with pity because they were distressed and dejected like sheep, like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus said to the disciples, “The harvest is bountiful but the workers are few. Beg the harvest boss to send workers out to gather the harvest.”
Then Jesus summoned the Twelve and gave them authority to expel unclean spirits and to cure disease and sickness of every kind. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first Simon, now known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; then James, begot of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas; Matthew, the tax collector; James, begot of Alphaeus; Thaddeus; Simon the Zealot; and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus.
These twelve Jesus sent out after giving them the following instructions: “Do not visit Gentile regions, and do not enter a Samaritan town. Go instead to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation, ‘The reign of heaven has drawn near.’
“Heal those who are sick, raise the dead, cure leprosy, expel demons. You received freely – now freely give.”
The Good News of Salvation!
This is a Reading from the Gospel of Mary of Magdala
(The apostles) were grieved. They wept greatly, saying,
“How shall we go to the Gentiles and preach the gospel of the Reign of the Son of
Man? If they did not spare Him, how will they spare us?”
Then Mary stood up, greeted them all, and said to her brethren, “Do not weep and do not
grieve nor be irresolute, for His grace will be entirely with you and will protect you. But rather,
let us praise His greatness, for He has prepared us and made us into Men.”
When Mary said this, she turned their hearts to the Good, and they began to discuss
the words of the Savior. Peter said to Mary, “Sister, we know that the Savior loved you more
than the rest of woman. Tell us the words of the Savior which you remember, which you know,
but we do not, nor have we heard them.”
“What is hidden from you I will proclaim to you. I saw the Rabboni in a vision and I said to
Him, ‘Rabboni, I saw you today in a vision. He answered and said to me, “Blessed are you that
you did not waver at the sight of Me. For where the mind is there is the treasure.”
“I said to Him, ‘Rabboni, how does the one who sees the vision see it, through the soul
or through the spirit?”
“That one does not see through the soul nor through the spirit, but the mind that is
between the two that is what sees the vision.”
The Good News of Salvation
A Prayer (JR)
Jesus, you began your ministry with the proclamation, ”The reign of God is at hand.”
When you sent your first followers on mission to heal the sick and proclaim your Word, you told
them to proclaim, “The reign of God is at hand.” Your servant, Mary of Magdala, proclaimed the reign of God is at hand by standing firm at the sight of you following yourResurrection. May we, too, proclaim your Message through our belief that “The Reign of God is at hand.” Amen.