Evangelism, the mission of the church.
At the end of Luke’s Gospel, we read how Jesus revealed himself to select groups of people. Firstly, to the women who went to the tomb and found it empty, then Jesus met the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. At the end of the chapter 24 Jesus appears in the room where the eleven disciples were meeting. The disciples must have been terrified, they had seen Jesus die, and now he simply appears in the middle of the room.
Jesus begins to give them multiple proofs of his physical resurrection. He invites them to touch him and see that he is really in human form and not a spirit being. They were still struggling to comprehend what was happening when Jesus asks them for something to eat, and he eats the fish in front of them to prove his resurrection.
Jesus’ resurrection from death opens the way for all who trust in him to follow him in a resurrection like his when he returns. This is important because it shows that our ultimate hope is not just for our souls to go to heaven, but for our physical bodies to be raised to new life like Jesus’ was (see 1 John 3:1-2).
Jesus continues in verse 44 to show them that the Old Testament was not simply a record of history or a collection of stories and poetry, but rather the entire Old Testament points towards Jesus. In verse 45 we read, “he opened their minds to understand the scriptures”. This simple statement has profound implications, up till now the disciples had heard the teachings of Jesus, but they really struggled to understand the implications of what they were witnessing. Jesus gave them supernatural understanding of the Word of God. Jesus gave them a gift.
True understanding of the Bible is a gift from God. As Christians we have the Holy Spirit in us, not only to guide and counsel but also to understand the Bible (John 16:13). The Bible is the supernatural word of God and before you open the pages pray for understanding through the Holy Spirit (pray Psalm 119:18).
Jesus explained that his death and resurrection was the necessary process by which people can be restored to a right relationship with God. Jesus gave them the Great Commission, and then told them to stay in Jerusalem to wait for a mysterious power to do the work he was telling them to do. Jesus ascended into heaven with the promise that he would send the helper, the comforter, the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.
As we go out to share the Gospel, we must never try to go out in our own strength, we must never go without relying on the Holy Spirit for direction, for wisdom and for power. It is the Holy Spirit who takes our weak words and transforms them into life changing authority.
The disciples did not know what exactly Jesus was talking about, but as we know in the second chapter of the book of Acts, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and they were given the power to do what Jesus had instructed them to do.
As Jesus ascended into heaven he blessed the disciples. What a blessing that must have been, the disciples were a truly privileged group of men who had personally witnessed the greatest moments in all of history. But privilege always brings responsibility, they were to be witnesses of all that Jesus had said and done, Acts 1:8 reads, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
A witness is somebody who accurately reports what he or she has seen and heard. The disciples were witnesses, the word witness is used in one way or another twenty-nine times in the Book of Acts. As Christians, we are not judges or prosecuting attorneys sent to condemn the world, we are witnesses who point to Jesus Christ and tell lost sinners how to be saved. The Greek word for witness is “Martys”, which is where we get the word Martyr.
To be a witness for Christ will cost you something, it may cost you your reputation, or a promotion, in many parts of the world it will cost you your life. But the very act of sharing the Gospel is valuing the message and the person you are speaking to, more than your own comfort and preferences. This is what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. To value the Gospel more than our own lives, to value Jesus more than our own comfort. After all, didn’t Jesus value you more than his own comfort? Didn’t Jesus value you more than his own life?
As the church, we are a people who gather to worship, sing, pray and study God’s word. But with all those activities of the gathering of the body of Christ, what is the primary goal of the church? Worship, fellowship and praise are important and necessary, but all of these will continue on for eternity when we get to heaven. However, we will never be able to share the Gospel with the lost when life on this earth is over. It is and always has been the primary role of the church, to be the salt and light in the world, proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. John McArthur