GOD'S CALL TO THE NATIONS
Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world.”
So far in this series, God’s Heart for the Nations, we’ve seen thatmankind is not at the centre of God’s plan and the Bible is not about us. And we have also seen that the Bible is not simply a collection of 66 books. It is actually one book telling one story with an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. We learned how God’s blessing and His purpose for that blessing connect and we saw how God reaches the nations by blessing His people. We have learned how God reveals His heart for the nations in the Psalms and Prophets and last time we saw that Jesus was and isthe saviour of the world, not just the Jews.
In this post, we will learn that early in his ministry Jesus clearly communicated that He was the Messiah and that he had come to be the Saviour of the world. Jesus had less than three years to free his Jewish disciples from their nationalistic cultural biases. It was essential for these disciples to realize that the gospel of the Kingdom is for all peoples and that his mandate was to the nations, not to a nation. Jesus uses events like the ones we will look at in this post to strip away the cultural biases of his followers. We will continue to see how Jesus awakened his disciples to his global purpose, and see some deep personal implications for us today.
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Jesus and the Nations
In the ministry of Jesus there were instances where he ministered to non-Jews. Here are three examples.
Matthew 4:23-25 - And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
In this portion of Matthew, we see Jesus travelling throughout Galilee, which, earlier in verse 15, is described as being of the Gentiles. In Galilee, he taught, proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom, and healed every disease and affliction. Matthew also points out that great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, both predominantly non-Jewish, as well as from Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.
Matthew 15:21-28 - And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
It’s interesting to note the underlying cultural dynamic that shows in this encounter between Jesus and the woman in Tyre and Sidon. Matthew calls her a Canaanite woman, perhaps to make the point that she is not a Jew. And at the end of the exchange, Jesus commends this Canaanite woman for her faith.
John 4:39-42 - Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
This is the aftermath of Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman who lived in Sychar. After her conversation with Jesus, she went back into town and told the people to come and see the man who told me everything I ever did. Many believed and Jesus spent two days with them. And because of his words, many more believed.
The Call to the Nations
After the resurrection, as Jesus moved closer to His ascension to the right hand of the Father; He made it clear that His purpose was global and His mandate was to catapult His followers to the nations. The following passages collectively make up the Great Commission and restate the commission that God gave to Abram which is found in the purpose clause of Genesis 12:3.
Jesus is the ultimate fulfilment of God blessing the families of the earth through Abram, as Paul says in Galatians 3:14. His purpose to His followers will never be understood if their only understanding of the Great Commission is gained from Matthew 28:19-20. Full understanding is gained when we study all five of the restatements of the Great Commission given after the resurrection.
Matthew 28:18-20 - This is the most commonly quoted reference of the Great Commission. It is important to understand that when Jesus says ‘nations’, he is not referring to political entities or geographic boundaries. ‘Nations’ comes from the Greek word ‘ethne’ from which we get our English word ‘ethnic’ and refers not to nationalism but ethno-linguistic groupings. There is more information on people groups inthis blog post. It is also important to notice the three verbs that help us understand what discipling the nations involves - go, baptize, and teach.
Luke 24:44-49 - In this record of the Great Commission, Jesus is making it clear to the disciples that, because they are witnesses of what Jesus has taught and done, they have a message to deliver, a message of repentance and forgiveness of sins. And this message is to be delivered to the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. But it is a message for the nations.
John 20:21-23 - John has taken a broader view of his presentation of the Great Commission in that, through his gospel, Jesus speaks often of his ‘sent-ness’. In fact, he refers to being sent by God at least 24 times. And one of the key elements of being sent is that of submission. You submit yourself to the authority of another. So, when Jesus says that He is sending us as the Father sent Him, there is that sense of submission.
Notice that Jesus was not sending them out alone, though, and this is picked up in Luke’s account in Acts 1. He breathed on them to receive the Holy Spirit. There is no way to overstate the importance of the Holy Spirit and the work He does in terms of gospel work. Be filled with the Spirit.
Acts 1:8 - In the Acts account of the Great Commission, Luke records the importance of the Holy Spirit in the work that they are being commissioned to do. In fact, it is so critical that they were to wait in Jerusalem until they did receive it before they began.
And once begun they were to be witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. To all nations. As witnesses. Preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins. In the power of the Spirit.
So I hope it is clear that the church’s mandate is to the nations and not simply to our neighbourhoods. If you want to know how you can improve your missions involvement, make a call to our office and have a conversation about work among the nations.
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