In the next two weeks in our encounters with Jesus, we will be looking at some of His final words to His disciples before Pentecost. This week we’ll be looking specifically at Acts 1: 6-11, where Jesus ascends into heaven:
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
In the World in Front of the Text today, I want to talk specifically about the four places in our world that Jesus calls us to be His witnesses, and tomorrow we’ll talk about how exactly we do that. As we talked about yesterday, there are four distinct places in this passage where Jesus tells us to go and be His witnesses: Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. To be a witness in this sense is to give an account in a historic or legal sense. This is to give an account of what Jesus had done – He is resurrected and has overcome death. We are to tell others of what Jesus has done and to live in such a way that others know what Jesus has done.
We do this:
1. Jerusalem. This is our community. Our homes. This starts in the most local of ways. As an individual, this is my home (my family, my street, my neighborhood). This is where I live. Am I a witness to Jesus to my wife? My children? My neighbors? Do the people all around me know what Jesus has done historically and for me personally by my words and actions? As a church, does our community, our town know that Jesus is Lord because of us? Does our church live out its mission in such a way that folks are impacted? At St. Matthew’s, do the people driving down Old Canton, the people in Madison, Ridgeland, all along the Reservoir, do they know what Jesus has done because of our witness?
2. Judea. This is our greater community. Our region. It is easy to only focus on our back yard. It is easy to only focus on the folks in my household, or across the stress. For us, in Madison, how are we witnesses to Jesus in Jackson? Or in the Delta? Forrest? What relationships are we building, what support are we showing, how are being witnesses to Jesus beyond just our street and our local community, but all around our area?
3. Samaira. This one is hard. These are the folks that we don’t like. And the folks that don’t like us. I guess we could call them our enemies. How are we witnesses to Jesus to our enemies? How do the folks that we don’t like, how do they know Jesus is Lord? This may be our most powerful witness because the world is not going to do this. If we live differently than the world, if we treat our enemies differently, those who disagree with us, if we point them to our Saviour, then there really is something different about us. Our job, our mission, is to be a witness to the resurrection for all the world to know.
4. The ends of the world. This is a larger mission. Foreign mission. Mission completely out of our context. We are called to it. It doesn’t mean that we always like it, or even want to do it. Jesus doesn’t give us a choice. He tells us to. Our “liking” it isn’t the point. I am blunt about this, foreign missions is not my calling. I’m a local church pastor. That’s what I love to do. But I take foreign trips because Jesus told me to. End of story. My job is to be obedient to what Jesus has called me to do.
The great thing about this list is that there is something for everyone here. I’ve had so many folks in life tell me – preacher, there are enough needs here in our community, we don’t need to be taking foreign trips. Ok, so where will you serve locally? Jesus doesn’t tell us to only choose one. We have all these options in front of us. Our local community. Our region. Our enemy. The entire world. We are called to be His witness in these places.
Today, where will you be His witness?
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