“The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” — Luke 24:46-47
We can well imagine how distressing it must have been for the disciples when Jesus instructed them to begin their witness in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was so recently the scene of their most awful failures. At the time of Jesus’s arrest and trial, they had all deserted Him and, for fear of the Jews, remained in hiding behind closed doors. Whatever reputation they had acquired as followers of Jesus was destroyed. How much easier it would have been to begin at the ends of the earth where no one knew them.
After Jerusalem, the disciples were instructed to go into Judea, and then cross the border into Samaria, where for 700 years since the Assyrian invasion of northern Israel, hostility existed between Samaritans in the north and Jews in the south. Then “to the ends of the earth,” Jesus said. This procedure involved far more than geographic locations. We all have our own “Jerusalems” where we have failed and hidden. One of the best things that can happen to us is our failures, because it is precisely where we fall that adds credibility to our testimony. People know us, including our weaknesses and failures, which makes all the more essential our dependence on Christ.
We are not all called to travel the world with the Gospel, but if we are, we will be no more fruitful elsewhere than we have proved to be in our home territory. To quote world evangelist Oswald J. Smith, “The light that shines the furthest shines the brightest at home.” Our ministries at home will add substance and credence to our witness as we reach beyond our Jerusalems into Judea where no one knows us. We take every opportunity God gives us here to reach others for Christ, and from there, cross the borders into different cultures and religions that may not be as open towards the Gospel.
Our task is to introduce people to Christ, but it is God who will draw them to Himself. As a young salesman said to his manager after losing a big sale, “I suppose it just proves that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” The boss replied, “Son, your job is not to make him drink, but to make him thirsty.” That is the way of evangelism. We will never save anyone. It is God alone who saves, but we can create the environment that will make people thirsty. It is not always easy and will take courage, but to experience God working through us is exciting and one of the greatest joys and privileges open to every Christian.
PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, help me to be an effective witness for You. Lead me from my Jerusalem into unknown territory with Your words on my lips. Thank You, Lord.