Be a Witness for Jesus Christ
Before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He left His disciples with some encouraging words found in Acts 1:8:
8 But you’ll receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you’ll be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
He assured them that the Holy Spirit would empower them as they went about spreading the Good News. He gave them a specific pattern to follow to accomplish this mandate: Jerusalem; Judea; Samaria; and then, ultimately, to the ends of the earth.
As far as the ministry of Jesus was concerned, Jerusalem held many memories for the disciples – some good, some not so good. It may have seemed counterintuitive to start in Jerusalem because of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. After all, these were the same people who rejected Him, criticized Him, discounted Him, and ultimately killed Him. But we learn from the scriptures that Jesus had a specific burden for Jerusalem, demonstrated by the fact that He wept over that city.
Jerusalem was located within the region of Judea and the people inhabiting that region were Jews. We know that Jesus traveled the cities and villages of Judea teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Kingdom of God, healing sicknesses and disease and delivering those who were bound. The Bible further emphasizes the compassion that He had for His people, because He saw them as “troubled and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Regardless of what had transpired, Jesus instructed them to begin their ministry right there in that place. But He promised that the Holy Spirit would be with them.
Jesus included Samaria in His instructions to His disciples. This likely seemed a little “off” to the disciples due to long-standing animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans. The disdain the Jews had for the Samaritans is referenced in different places in the Bible. But Jesus Himself had an encounter with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, which resulted in an entire village coming to Jesus. The disciples, who had also shunned the Samaritans, learned a valuable lesson from Jesus after that encounter. Jesus told them in John 4:37-38:
37 You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. 38 I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.”
As it would turn out, Samaria was as fruitful a venue for the gospel as it had been a repulsive place for the Jews. (see also Acts 8)
So, what is our takeaway?
It is God’s desire that everyone will come to know Jesus Christ and we begin by sharing with the people in our immediate circles - with our own families, our loved ones, and friends, even those who have not always meant us well and may have rejected us - our Jerusalem. Remember that Jesus was rejected by His own. Even if you’ve blown it in the past with people closest to you, don’t give up – give it another try and allow the Holy Spirit to speak through you. Their soul is worth the effort.
There are people in our lives with which we have connection and influence – our Judea. Some of these people you’ll reach simply because there are commonalities. You may be connected through mutual friends, attend similar events or share a common culture. Allow your light to shine at every opportunity. And, always be prepared to give an answer for the hope you have.
Be willing to let go of the conscious and unconscious biases, likes or dislikes, you have built up about certain people and groups of people - your Samaria. Jesus died for all men and as reconcilers, we should be willing to reach out to everyone who needs Jesus Christ. Don’t push it off for someone else to handle. You do it yourself and watch God give you a love for someone you never thought about loving.
Ultimately, God desires that everyone be presented an opportunity to hear the Good News about Jesus Christ. So, be Christ’s ambassador wherever you go. Represent the Kingdom of God well; tell people about the God you serve; testify of His goodness; and exhibit His character. Allow His joy, goodness and love to shine through your life as you share the Good News and be a witness for Jesus Christ.