Let's say that an evangelist came to your church and did the following things?
- stopped on his way into town to talk to a woman with a questionable reputation;
- ate regularly down at the bar with "those other people" who were not churchgoers;
- read obscure passages in church explaining them in ways never heard before.
These resemble actions Jesus took. He did the unexpected. What you'll learn in this lesson will help to explain this unexpected behavior. It will reinforce what we learned in the first two lessons about God's plan. Also look for how the Jews misunderstood that plan. Learn how you can avoid the same mistake.
JESUS FOR ALL PEOPLES!
[adapted from an article by Ralph Winter]
The Lord Jesus is central to our Christian faith and the mission of the Church. So the way He relates to the peoples of the world is vitally important in understanding God's purpose for the Church.
One of the best ways to study the ministry of Jesus is from the writings of Luke. Luke, as a Gentile, was an outsider to Israel. He gives us a unique perspective of Jesus' involvement with Gentiles.
Christ – the Seed of Abraham
Four thousand years ago, God chose Abraham to begin His redemptive activity toward the nations. In Genesis 12 Abraham was promised that Christ would come. Jesus is the Seed, the unique descendant of Abraham though whom all nations were to be blessed. When Christ appeared, the fullest meaning of the blessing of Abraham came into focus.
In the very wording of Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus makes it clear that He was not giving the people of Israel some new revelation. He was actually quoting the mandate given to their father Jacob, which is recorded in Genesis 28:14-15. Click here to see that comparison.
Observe that in both passages it says, "I am with you," indicating that the Lord will continue working with them until something is completed. In Genesis God says He will be with the descendants of Abraham until He has done all that He promised. The key element of the promise is the blessing of all peoples. One aspect of what the Lord was saying is that He intends to keep working with His people until all peoples are penetrated with His power. Similarly, in Matthew He says He will be with them until the end of the age. They would know what that meant because in Matthew 24:14 Jesus told them the age would not end until all nations (ethne) were reached.
Although Jesus spent most of His time ministering to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, amazingly Gentile nations often times received Him with more faith and acceptance. Prime examples are the Roman centurion [Luke 7:1-10] and the Syro-Phoenician woman [Mark 7:24-30].Jesus marveled at both and said He had not found faith like the centurion's even in Israel.
To ensure his disciples learned His saving grace was available to all, Jesus ministered to Samaritans, people of Decapolis, Tyre & Sidon, Phoenicia and Galilee – all areas with large concentrations of Greek-speaking Gentiles. In fact, many scholars believe Jesus was bilingual; ministering both in Aramic and Greek.
Who did receive Him? Luke makes it clear that the Gentiles did. This is brought out in many of Jesus' parables and very graphically in the parable of the great banquet and the parable of the vineyard tenants.
From the very beginning of his Gospel, Luke stresses that Jesus was to be the Messiah not just for Israel but for all peoples. He tells of Simeon, a godly man, who was looking for the fulfillment of Israel. Simeon quotes Isaiah 49:6, declaring Jesus to be a "light for revelation to the Gentiles…glory to your people Israel," declaring the fulfillment of the purpose for which God had chosen them.
In Chapter four Luke continues to develop his portrayal of Jesus as the Messiah for all peoples. Picture Jesus as a young seminary graduate, having come to His home town to give His "graduation sermon." He preached a message which pleased everybody. He could have left it at that. But He then added a few words which turned the happy group into a mob determined to kill him.
What did Jesus say to cause such a reaction? He spoke of two prophets, Elijah and Elisha, whom God used to bless two Gentile nations, the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian. They were upset because they felt that He was betraying His people, Israel, by speaking of blessing for Gentiles. If they had not already betrayed the purposes of God, they would not have exploded in anger. They had forgotten their "missionary responsibility" under the Abrahamic covenant; and their hearts had become hard at any mention of foreigners being blessed.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus hoped to change this attitude [Luke 6:26-37; Matthew 5:39-42]. Many miss the importance of what Jesus was saying when He declared that it wasn't enough for people to be friendly to their friends. He was introducing the radical concept: they were to love their enemies, even to pray for them.
Most of the Jews did not listen. Even today people feel resentful of foreigners in their land. "They are taking away our jobs; overcrowding our cities; they don't speak our language." Are we responding in the same way as the Jews did? Are we eager to pass on Jesus' blessing to any newcomer to our hometown. It is God's way of providing us with the opportunity to obey His commission.
Besides the episode at Nazareth, there were constant attempts on Jesus' life. However, as the Messiah for all peoples, He was ready to give His life that the nations might live. In Luke 9:23 He utters the challenge that if anyone follows Him, he would have to deny himself and be willing to die. From that point, right up to Calvary, the Bible contrasts the self-centered attitude of the disciples with the "peoples-centered" attitude of Christ.
During His long walking trip from Galilee to Judea, in Luke chapter ten, His disciples realize that Jesus is heading into trouble both for Himself and for them, and eventually into His own death. When Jesus clearly tells them He is going to die, Peter rebuked Him. Jesus told Peter he did not understand the purposes of God. This will always be the case when we are worrying about ourselves rather than about God's purpose for all peoples. [Matthew 16:21-25].
On three different occasions Jesus makes it painfully clear that He was going to die. The third time found James and John arguing over prospective positions in the kingdom. How similar this is to power hungry Christians-today. Jesus corrected His disciples, saying they didn't know what they wee asking.
Have we fully understood Jesus' statement that positions of importance in His kingdom come when we are ready to be servants of all. Willing to sacrifice ourselves for others. Giving our lives to save those beyond our worldly concern, the unreached peoples? [Mark 9:30-35; 10:32-45].
In the twenty-fourth chapter, after the resurrection, Luke again makes it clear that Jesus' followers had still not caught the idea. Two disciples walking along the Emmaus Road were discouraged and almost certainly grumbling. Gone were grandiose hopes that Jesus would overthrow the Romans and set the disciples up in power. Jesus joins them and asks the reason for their disgruntlement. Snarling, they ask, "Are you the only one in Jerusalem that doesn't understand what happened?"
Actually, Jesus was the only person who did understand. Their worldly selfish focus prevented them from "seeing" who Jesus was and what the Old Testament had clearly taught about His death and resurrection.
A short time later Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples to remind them of the fulfillment of what was actually written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms. These were things they should have known! Things our churches should know and act upon today!
Opening their hardened hearts, Jesus made very clear the primary message of the entire Old Testament Scriptures, saying, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" [Luke 24:45-47]. He doesn't let them believe for a minute that this was a brand new idea. All the peoples have always been within the love, concern and purpose of God.
Incredibly, in Acts chapter one, we find the disciples still do not understand the nature of the Kingdom. They are still focusing on their own small corner of the world called Israel. Paraphrasing Acts 1:8, Jesus said, "If you people are still after power you will receive power, but only when the Spirit of God takes over your life, and your lives are refocused on the ends of the earth." The power they received was not an end in itself. It was to be available to those who spent their energies on the unreached peoples of the earth.
Today, we too want to claim the purposes and power of the Great Commission – the "Lo, I will be with you always." But, as someone has said, if there is "no Go, then there is no LO." If you don't GO into God's purposes, then the "Lo, I will be with you" doesn't follow. It is all part of one picture; missions to the nations and receiving God's power are inseparably linked.
Messiah for all Peoples
Throughout His ministry in the New Testament, Jesus continues to show His interest in the little people; the poor, the sick; the Greeks and the Samaritans. Not just the people from the race he was born into, but the world around Him, was His concern. In fact the most repugnant feature of Jesus to the Jews was His continued focus on God's love for the Gentiles and not just for them.
Perhaps Jesus makes this clearest during His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Many were singing "Hosanna," – meaning "save (us) now", – putting out palm branches to signify their hope that Jesus would seize power from the Romans. They were undoubtedly thinking that "When this happens, then WE (the Jews) will be in power again"!
Christians can also be like this – thinking that all God should be interested in is giving them power in their own lives; over sin, over their material problems, over their circumstances. Power to get something they want for themselves. In other words, seeking spiritual power without understanding the intended purpose of His power-which is to be used to disciple the nations. To do this is to be like Simon the Sorcerer who wanted spiritual power for his own gain.
Jesus, our Forerunner, is a lesson for us. He did not go to the Roman barracks to seize power from the governing authorities. NO. Instead he went to the Temple, to the court of the Gentiles. The place set aside by God from the very beginning where all peoples could come and seek Him. What did He find? He found the religious establishment of His day had failed to reach out to the peoples of the then world and were, instead, busy changing money and selling animals – for the benefit of the Jews.
Here we see recorded our Lord expressing anger. It was the religious establishment's failure to each out to the peoples of the earth, that occasioned one of the few instances the Bible recounts of our Lord expressing anger. Let us all take heed that we refocus our priorities for Jesus – the Messiah for all peoples! [Luke 19:45 and Mark 11:17].
Notice how close the two passages are:
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus says His followers are to enable the blessing of all nations as those nations are "discipled." The Greek word for nations is ethne, which refers to an ethnic or people group, but clearly not to a political nation. In Genesis He says that through the children of Israel all peoples on earth will be blessed. In the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, widely used in Jesus' day, the word for peoples is, again, ethne.
Parables of Gentiles receiving Jesus
The parable of the great banquet in Luke fifteen shows those who were first invited (the Jews) were too busy with other things, so others from the country roads were invited (the Gentiles).
In the parable of the vineyard tenants, the Bible makes it clear that the kingdom of God would be taken away from the Jews and given to the Gentiles, whom Jesus said would bring forth its fruit (Luke 20:9-19, Matthew 21:33-46).
Verses in Lesson 3
1 When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 There a centurion's servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. 3 The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, "This man deserves to have you do this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue." 6 So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: "Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. 7 That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, `Go,' and he goes; and that one, `Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, `Do this,' and he does it." 9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, "I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel." 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.
24 Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. 25 In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. 27 "First let the children eat all they want," he told her, "for it is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." 28 "Yes, Lord," she replied, "but even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." 29 Then he told her, "For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter." 30 She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
9 He went on to tell the people this parable: "A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. 10 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. 12 He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out. 13 "Then the owner of the vineyard said, `What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.' 14 "But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. `This is the heir,' they said. `Let's kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. "What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others." When the people heard this, they said, "May this never be!" 17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, "Then what is the meaning of that which is written: "`The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone'? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed." 19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.
33 "Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. 35 "The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37 Last of all, he sent his son to them. `They will respect my son,' he said. 38 "But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, `This is the heir. Come, let's kill him and take his inheritance.' 39 So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 "Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" 41 "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end," they replied, "and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time." 42 Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: "`The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes'? 43 "Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed." 45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus' parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46 They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.
he says: "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth."
26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets. 27 "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even `sinners' love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even `sinners' do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even `sinners' lend to `sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. 22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
30 They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, 31 because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise." 32 But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. 33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the road?" 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. 35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."
32 They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. 33 "We are going up to Jerusalem," he said, "and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise." 35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask." 36 "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked. 37 They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory." 38 "You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said. "Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?" 39 "We can," they answered. Jesus said to them, "You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared." 41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42 Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Luke 19:45 Then he entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling. Mark 11:17 And as he taught them, he said, "Is it not written: "`My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it `a den of robbers.'"