To most Americans, the words "dirty work" have a special meaning. Those two words symbolize a concept. That concept declares much more than doing a job that requires a person to get dirty. Many jobs that require the person to get dirty may not be "dirty work." The concept of "dirty work" refers to tasks that no one wants to do or responsibilities that no one wants to accept. Undesirable jobs are "dirty work." Tasks accepted out of necessity are "dirty work." The employee (or slave) has no choice. The undesirable task must be done. The undesirable responsibility must be accepted. The assignment cannot be refused.
Much of Jesus' ministry focused on the "dirty work" of serving. The scribes and Pharisees loved the honor of sitting in the most prestigious seats at a banquet [see Matthew 23:1-12]. Jesus did not want or seek honor. The scribes and Pharisees were devoted to possessing and exercising authority. Jesus was devoted to helping people. The scribes and Pharisees loved to bind responsibility on other people. Jesus accepted responsibility. The scribes and Pharisees loved respectful greetings in public. Jesus endured the disrespect of the religious leaders.
Context: Jesus summoned the twelve and gave them the power to cast out demons and to heal every kind of disease and sickness. What an ego trip! How important must a person feel to have Jesus personally grant him power over demons, disease, and sickness?
Shortly after that, Jesus sent the twelve on what is commonly called "the limited commission." They were to go to Jewish people only. They were to take no extra provisions or money. They were to go with this understanding: their powers would not shield them from the contempt, the hatred, and the abuse of enemies.
Context: This declaration is a part of Jesus' last teaching statement to eleven of the twelve disciples. Judas left the group to arrange for Jesus' betrayal (John 13:30). Jesus was fully aware that his betrayal and execution were immediately before him. The disciples had no suspicion that Jesus will be dead before the next sunset. Jesus tried to prepare them for this unthinkable turn of events. For a week he was the darling of Israel. Tonight he would become Israel's accursed scoundrel who was unfit to live. His disciples must understand that if Israel hated him, Israel would surely hate them.
At times in the first century, Christians were respected, appreciated, and treated well. For a while, most opposition to Christians was local opposition. However, Christians became the common enemy of Judaism, paganism (worshippers of idols), and the government. As opposition grew, all three cooperated as they opposed this "common enemy." In the closing years of the first century, it was not unusual for Christians to suffer simply because they believed in Jesus.
Most living American Christians have been blessed incredibly because their age and their nation respected their values and protected their freedoms. Now the thunderheads of opposition and rejection rise far above the horizon. Our society has entered the "postmodern" age. The ethics, values, and standards of our nation are changing rapidly. If trends continue, many of us will live to see the time when the collective group of people who believe that Jesus is the Christ are a minority religion. Intolerance against Christians is growing.
Christians must understand that as servants we are neither more important nor of greater significance than our Master, Jesus. If we are his disciples, we are not greater than he.
God placed His "dirty work" responsibilities on His son. Jesus forgave the repentant prostitute, taught the Samaritans, gave hope to the outcasts, was patient with the self-centered twelve, and endured rejection and execution. Jesus did the "dirty work" no one wanted--for us. Our master was not above accepting the responsibilities of "dirty work." Neither must we be.
Link to Teacher's Guide Quarter 2, Lesson 4
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