10 And He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town. 11 Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them.” 12 They went out and preached that men should repent. 13 And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.
I have told some of you before about the ministry of Charles Simeon, the Anglican clergyman of Cambridge in the later 18th and early 19th centuries. He was a warm evangelical serving in a largely cold and unbelieving national church, but by his powerful preaching and the force of his character he wielded a tremendous influence for the gospel. Many of the young Cambridge men who sat under his preaching during their university days became some of the most fruitful and influential Christian ministers and missionaries of their day.
As a young man and a relatively new Christian, Simeon was installed as the pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge to the great irritation of its largely unbelieving congregation. They wanted a suave, urbane man who would preach comfortable platitudes and Simeon was the furthest thing from that. He was, in other words, sent to a place very like the Galilean villages where the disciples first preached. When Simeon began preaching his biblical sermons the church wardens and council persuaded most of the pew-holders – in those days the wealthy purchased their pews – to lock their pews and stay away. The result was that when Simeon looked out over the sanctuary from his pulpit, he faced a sea of empty seats. Those who cared to hear him had either to stand in the aisles or sit on benches in the corners. He was spoken against and written against, ridiculed by town and gown alike – a terrible ordeal for a shy and somewhat awkward young man – his own congregation refused to receive him into their homes or speak to him in the street and rowdy undergraduates would talk aloud or shuffle their feet during his services. He was rejected more comprehensively I’m sure even than the Lord’s disciples were in their preaching. Their miracles no doubt cushioned some of the opposition they would otherwise have faced. And so it continued for several years, though the Lord’s blessing and authority in Simeon’s ministry began to tell at the same time. How did he bear up under this? Well, the great man tells us.
“When I was an object of much contempt and derision…I strolled forth one day, buffeted and afflicted with my little Testament in my hand. I prayed earnestly to my God that he would comfort me with some cordial from his Word, and that on opening the book I might find some text which would sustain me… The first text which caught my eye was this: ‘They found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; him they compelled to bear his Cross.’ You know Simon is the same name as Simeon. What a word of instruction was here – what a blessed hint for my encouragement! To have the Cross laid upon me, that I might bear it after Jesus – what a privilege! It was enough. Now I could leap and sing for joy as one whom Jesus was honouring with a participation in his sufferings…I henceforth bound persecution as a wreath of glory round my brow!” [In H.E. Hopkins, Charles Simeon, 81]
In other words, you see, he realized in a moment of stunning clarity that he was in his ministry simply imitating Jesus and therefore he was suffering the same consequences the Lord had suffered. And that changed everything. Suffering of that kind, for Jesus’ sake, because we are identified with him, will always be the highest honor ever paid to a believer in this world. It is, in our small way, carrying the Lord’s cross for him, the very cross in which our eternal life was purchased. It was this sense that he was identified with Christ and Christ with him that lifted Charles Simeon up.
We are all to ask ourselves whether we can see our lives – our lives today – in the twelve disciples: traveling light, depending upon the Lord’s provision, and doing the Lord’s work even if it means suffering for it. Every one of us should examine our lives this way and alter them accordingly: is my manner of life, are my words and deeds, is my reputation a cause for others to think about Jesus Christ?
Now for someone who loves Jesus Christ that is enough and more than enough. To think that by my imitation of him, by my doing what he did in his name his name should be made greater in the world, I say, that is enough, more than enough.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Mark 6:14-29.