Ordinary Tools (Matthew 15:39)

Photo by Kyle Szegedi on Unsplash

There are some things in each book of Scripture that get repeated again and  again. Not  all of them are seemingly profound. One of the more mundane things Matthew repeats is the primary method of Jesus’ transport. At the close of Matthew 15 we again read, “he [Jesus] got into the boat.”

Matthew 8:23 says, “Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.” Matthew 9:1 says, “Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town.” Matthew 14:13 reads in part, “he [Jesus] withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.”

As every student of history knows, until the advent of the locomotive and airplane, the waterways were the highways of the world. That was just as true of the middle east in 30AD as it was of Canada in the 1800’s. The boat in Christ’s time was as the car and bus is to ours. People could get to various places other ways of course. Most would walk. If you had one, sometimes you could ride an animal, and the very powerful & rich could use a chariot for greater land speed. But to move significant distance in good time – and especially with multiple people – there was no faster and more convenient way than by boat. 

Of course, a fishing boat wasn’t very fast. But faster boats meant sails and/or large crews. That was for the military, who could afford and value single-purpose equipment. The ordinary people who could afford one wouldn’t want that. They would want simple boats that were designed for long service life, a minimum crew of one and multiple purposes. They needed fishing boats with stability and cargo capacity. In Jesus’ time, fishing boats and oxen were tools of the middle and upper-middle class world over, just as ordinary cars and computers are in our time. 

Ministry depends on the ordinary and mundane tools and methods that the whole world uses. Ministry depends on transportation to the people we minister to. That transportation needs to be reliable and routes need to be free of obstruction. Most of all, it needs to be affordable. Ministry in Jesus’ time therefore demanded a fishing boat. In our time it often demands a car. 

Ministry also depends on meetings in spaces where people can gather. Ministry depends on short meetings over refreshments like coffee and longer meetings like sitting down to a meal. Ministry is about relationship, and the tools of relationship are common to the whole globe – which is really saying that ministry needs the simple and ordinary just as much as it needs the holy.

God might not give you a media platform, a large building or a private jet. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be involved or be helpful to His mission in hugely impactful ways. After all, when we apply the ordinary and mundane to the divine purpose, wonderful things happen!

“Deep spiritual reform is usually not flashy.

John Folmar

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Samson used a donkey’s jawbone. Moses used a wooden rod. Use what is in your hand to use. God put it there.