When it's time to move on
At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea. (Luke 4:42-44)
One of the major dangers in ministry is allowing surrounding influences to get you off the mission God has for you. Some in the ministry have coined the term “mission drift”. Right after the testing of Jesus in the wilderness, Luke shares two accounts where He faces people who attempt to get Him off track. The first group met Jesus with rejection (Luke 4:14-30) and the second with what appeared to be acceptance and success (Luke 4:31-44). Within these situations and Jesus’ response, we can see how we can stay on mission in spite of the influences that would tempt us from moving on and moving forward in our calling.
Jesus enters his hometown Nazareth and shares His messianic mission statement at the local synagogue. His former neighbors question his credentials as Savior along with His ability to accomplish what He says He is going to do. The episode ends with Jesus being forced to the end of a cliff with intentions to throw him over it because He calls out their lack of faith and exclusion from the Kingdom’s blessings (and the inclusion of the Gentiles). In spite of Jesus’ hometown reception, He stayed on mission to share in other towns and villages in Israel. Oftentimes we can look at people’s responses as the barometer of whether we should continue doing something rather than whether God has called us to a task. Notice what it says Jesus did in the face of opposition. “But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.” (Luke 4:30) There is an air of effortlessness in this phrase that both exude confidence and calling. Jesus knew that He was God’s beloved Son. He knew what He was called to do. No insult or injury could take this reality away from Him.
We too are God’s beloved children and can be confident that we stand before Him in the righteousness of Christ with His promises to see us through to the end no matter how people respond.
The Dangers of Acceptance and Success
In Capernaum, Jesus went into the synagogue and had a vastly different reception (Luke 4:31-44). There were great miracles of healing and the casting out of demons. Unlike Nazareth where the crowd attempted to throw Him off a cliff, the whole town crowded Peter’s home to all hours of the night receiving healing and deliverance! Jesus had fulfilled His mission to show the signs that the Kingdom of God was in their midst and that He was the One to deliver from sin.
After this amazing evening of miracles and movement, Jesus is faced with the people wanting Him to stay in their village, but His mission was not complete (Luke 4:44). Jesus being the Son of God was not dissuaded from moving forward but how difficult would it be for us to move on after this great move of God! This seems to be the case with many of the major movements in the church where we end up memorializing what happened through religious services instead of living as a missional church walking by faith into the unknown future.
We as God’s people are called to follow Jesus with a spirit of surrender that carries us on.
The post-script of Capernaum should perhaps also serve as a warning of camping out when God wants us to move on to the next challenge. In spite of all the healing and deliverance they received, the people largely did not receive Jesus as their Savior. Later judgment was pronounced over the community by Jesus for the many miracles they had seen and the lack of response to the gospel message (Matt 11:23-24). Knowing this, what did Capernaum really want from Jesus? Did they just want Him to keep up their quality of life without dealing with the issue of sin or dealing with eternity? We can’t know for sure but we as Christians know that our job is not to create a Heaven on Earth for people to isolate us from the cares of this world but to give signs that the Kingdom of Heaven is near!
The goal of our mission from God is not acceptance or success as the world sees it, but obedience. Perhaps success is even more of a test for us than rejection. Rejection can make us aware of the warfare around us but religious success can be so close to the truth that we can miss the mark entirely and for long periods of time.
Staying on Mission
So how do we stay on mission in spite of the influences around us?
1) Get away from the noise and spend time with God so that you might be renewed in your identity as His beloved child (Luke 4:42). This should both happen alone with God and in Christian community where you can be encouraged by others as well
2) Consistently reflect, meditate, and repeat the mission that God has given you (Luke 4:18-19). Don’t allow rejection, success, what other people are doing, or what people want you to do to get you off focus.
3) Be willing to let go of the methods you think are best to accomplish the mission and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you (Luke 4:1).
May the Lord so build us up in our identity in Him and His mission for us that we can know when it is time to move on!