Tag Archive | Great Commission

Parsha: Yitro

Torah: Exodus 18:1-20:23
Haftarah: Isaiah 6:1-7:6, 9:5-6
B’rit Chadashah: Matthew 8:5-20


The parsha begins with the visit of Moses’ father-in-law Jethro (whose name forms the title of the parsha) to him in the wilderness, bringing his wife Zipporah and their sons Gershom and Eliezer with him. Jethro notices that Moses is struggling to sit as Judge over the whole of Israel himself, and advises him to appoint deputies to sit in judgement over ‘thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens’ of the people.

The people of Israel come to the Desert of Sinai and God stops them there and tells them to prepare for the giving of the Covenant and the Law, and the Ten Commandments (or rather, ‘Ten Words’ or ‘Ten Sayings’) are given, outlining the basis of the whole Torah.

The passages in Isaiah are, in chapter 6: Isaiah’s vision of the heavenly Temple, which the Tabernacle in the Wilderness is intended to symbolise and reflect.

“I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs…and they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory’.”

And then in chapter 9: these verses which every Christian will immediately recognise as being ‘messianic’ in nature; that is, foretelling the coming of Christ:

“For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called, Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

The passage in Matthew is the healing of the Centurion’s servant which refers back to another passage in Isaiah:

“He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.” – Isaiah 53:4


Torah portions are usually named after the first word or group of some of the first words which occur in that section, and Parsha Yitro is no different. “Now, Jethro…” However, in having a portion named after him, it is a clue that the person of Jethro is a significant character, and from a Christian/ Messianic perspective, he may be viewed as a ‘type’ (symbol or foreshadowing) of Christ. In what way? In fact, this links perfectly with the ‘Great Commission‘ where Jesus appoints his disciples to act on his behalf to carry out His mission – not to ‘judge’ (although Paul later makes reference to a time when Jesus’ disciples would judge on Christ’s behalf) but rather to bring in the Kingdom, where Christ – the Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace – is King, and where healing can be found.

The Torah portion doesn’t go right up to the end of the chapter, but rather ends with:

“Wherever I cause my name to be honoured, I will come to you and bless you.”

– following the tradition of finishing the portion on a positive note, but also drawing attention to the idea that the Kingdom brings blessing.

The fact that the Haftarah selection refers to the reign of the Messianic king also links the Covenant to the Kingdom.

The New Testament selection links the Centurion to Jethro as a model for Kingdom advancement (discipleship) in that he recognised that he is a man under authority, with soldiers under him; as I learned in The Salvation Army, we are “saved to save”, which was the message in different words at Elim last week.

Finally, the ‘Ten Words’, when viewed as ‘ten commandments’ usually misses the primary phrase at the beginning , which in fact is probably the most important and foundational of all the commandments and indeed all of the Torah:

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”

THIS is the nature of the Kingdom, the nature of our God.  Selah!

Thy Kingdom come.


Matthew 28:19, 20 – The Great Commission

I’m sorry to have not managed to post this before now, this was from last Sunday’s sermon at the Pentecostal church.

The beginning of the service was taken up by testimonies, one in particular which was very inspiring, about listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit. From my point of view as a skeptical Pentecostal, I love the idea of it, but really don’t understand how that ‘voice’ is heard or how you can know God’s specific will apart from the Bible.

The sermon went on for 50 minutes which, by Pentecostal standards, isn’t outrageously long, but a bit of a culture shock after the standard 10 minute long Anglican sermons!

The pastor outlined the church’s ‘key scriptures’, Isaiah 2, Isaiah 61/ Luke 4, and Matthew 28:19

Matthew 28:19 is of course the famous ‘Great Commission’

‘Go and make disciples of every nation, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.’

Considering it was a 50 minute sermon, I don’t have many notes, but probably because the majority of it was testimony about how the pastor had regretted not sharing the Gospel in the past and how he personally was attempting to share the Gospel in his everyday life now.

The pastor did mention 1 Corinthians 12 giftings and having different personality types, which I thought was really interesting as that had come up in last week’s lectionary linked with Luke 4.

He did warn against using the idea of ‘being prayer support’ as a cop-out excuse for failing to carry out the Great Commission yourself, letting others go out with their boots on, while we stay warm and say “I’ll be there with you in spirit” while we actually go back and watch TV. Personally I think that there is a really crucial need for intercessory prayer, but certainly it is true that it is easy to find excuses not to do the job ourselves – we feel inadequate, we feel that evangelism isn’t our gift, and maybe we are a little bit lazy because we don’t see it as a life and death priority, which we absolutely should do. (He alluded to the fact that the idea of ‘universalism’, where everybody is saved and goes to heaven regardless of whether they follow Christ or not, is not compatible with Pentecostal beliefs.)

However, the pastor pointed out that the most effective evangelism is genuine and authentic friendship evangelism, where we befriend people and just love them and help them (and effectively ‘be’ the gospel to them) without any ulterior motive, without the goal needing to be bringing people into the church.

I used to be quite skeptical about the idea of friendship evangelism because, I thought, people were being brought into the church without ever actually hearing the Gospel. But I think now that the Gospel is more than words, it is more than getting your doctrines correct, and it is more than church.

‘For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.’
– 1 Corinthians 4:20

The Pastor also mentioned that he believed in bringing children up in the faith – not assuming that they will necessarily accept that faith, but giving our children all the benefits of a ‘Kingdom’ upbringing, he would like to see a restoration of ‘Family Discipleship’ and that we all need to take that responsibility seriously. It made me think of the passage in Romans 3 where St Paul asks the question, “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?” and he answers,Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” (The whole passage, as is often the way with Paul’s writings, is troubling and difficult to understand, but I think in this context, it is saying that being raised in the faith can be an advantage because you know all ‘about’ God before you actually come to ‘know’ Him).

As always, I would have preferred a more scripture-rich sermon (and less showmanship to be quite honest – it’s entertaining, but I’m not convinced it is really spiritually edifying…), but I think that if I keep going to this church I will have to accept that this is just the way they do things here.