I don’t ever recall a story in the Gospels where the crowd is this intense. Jesus’ ministry is picking up so much steam that this starts to read like a rock star’s “Behind the Music”. His disciples have been reduced to handlers whose job is to control the groupies, and the regions he is soon to visit read like a tour schedule. Can’t you see the T-Shirt? Black with a kickin’ image of Jesus on the front with his hand outstretched to the viewer in a healing motion; on the back is a list going down the shirt, “Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, Tyre and Sidon.” Only so far these are people coming to him from these far regions. But just wait: A world tour is coming soon.
I find interesting is that Jesus never seems to relish in the fame. He almost seems to reject it. I’ll be honest, if I started a movement and it picked up steam at that rate, I’d be celebrating it. If you thought I was obnoxious on social media now… But Jesus seems almost annoyed with the fame. There’s no t-shirt, no speaking tour, no Facebook Live events, no book signing, no retweets, no selfies with adoring fans. Jesus stays as afar away from all of that as he can, as though he recognizes that the fame is simply what naturally comes with the ministry of “curing every disease, casting out evil, and proclaiming good news to those who suffer”. And that’s his focus. He knows that’s what matters, and if he gets caught up in his own success, the mission will fail.
When it comes to our faith and our mission, I often will say that it’s all about Jesus, but for Jesus it’s not about Jesus. It’s about the Kingdom of God tearing open to the masses. Which is why the list of cities is important. If you were a First Century Jewish person this list very well may have caught you off guard: “Jerusalem”. Yes, of course. “Idumea”. A bit obscure, but sure. “Beyond the Jordan” or “Trans-Jordan”. Kind of the “the other side of the tracks”, but still one of us, so ok. And then “Tyre and Sidon”. What? This area was outside of Jewish Territory, and because of this it was “outside”. It was simply a place and a people other than us and who don’t belong to us or with us. In this sense it was not part of the “kingdom”. But this kingdom is tearing wide open. This kingdom is not only stretching the boundaries, it’s tearing them apart. This kingdom is a kingdom for all, so let’s go. Let’s go to Jerusalem, let’s go to the Jordan, and let’s go to Tyre and Sidon.
Where is your Tyre and Sidon? Where is your “outsider” place with people with whom you’d rather not associate, people you’d rather not be “in”. Prayerfully ask God to reveal to you your Tyre and Sidon today. Name it, and as hard as it may be to admit, own it. Because Jesus is headed there. Jesus is headed to your Tyre and Sidon and to mine. A world tour is coming. Will we follow?