Missions in the Bible
As the drama of the Bible unfolds, the cast suddenly reveals a new Person as we open to the N.T. This new Person is the direct personal agent of the living God of all nations, His only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and we instinctively tense as He walks on stage.
His coming among men meant many things (only Cod knows how to do three things at once!) but one very basic task was apparently to check up on the chosen nation.
Was this chosen nation inadequately yielding obedience and responding in love to the grace of God underlying God's promise and mandate to Abraham? Yes and no. Both the O.T. and the N.T. freely reveal a panorama of negative episodes. This is one reason the Bible is so different from all other books. What other nation has ever preserved an official historical document that so starkly describes its own waywardness and error?
(Indeed, although we are citizens of a nation quite unimplicated in the specific Biblical events, we need to be very, very careful not to conclude that there was anything especially evil about the Jewish people just because the Bible accurately and with embarrassing honesty records their misdeeds. Does our nation have a better record?)
However, when Jesus appeared we notice that He was almost constantly an upsetting presence. We can page through the Gospels and see a series of snapshots as He evaluates this chosen nation. Israel had been promised great blessings and a great role in blessing all the other nations. How are they doing? Is God able to continue to bless them? Apparently in order to get them to give on to other nations what they have received, he has forced them to Egypt, and forced them to Babylon, and finally to all the known world. By Jesus' day there was a resulting trickling of blessing that had leaked out to non Jews, to the Corneliuses and Lukes. Yet always we see the larger framework:
"Unto those to whom much has
been given, of them shall much
The unexpected clash of perspectives we notice most is the sensitivity Jesus had toward all the wrong people: poor people, retarded people, blind people, women, and above all the hated Gentiles. He actually scored Jewish leaders down for being good only to their own people who would be able to reciprocate. No, the acid test as always was whether the blessings received would be given away (not traded for return blessings).
Thus the most horrifying element
(to the Jews) in the Gospel accounts is Jesus' evident concern for the least important people ¬the Gentiles. Not only did the Jews of his time not reach out lovingly to them, they were fully prepared to beat up and kill those who might. Thus it was that both Jesus and Paul faced death in their first recorded sermons in synagogues (Luke 4 and Acts 13) which were in their own hometown settings. (Paul's parent's friends and relatives were surely in that synagogue just over the mountain pass from his own hometown). That was only the beginning. A member of our staff, Don Richardson of Regions Beyond Missionary Union, who worked in Irian Jaya, and is the author of PEACE CHILD, compiled for me the following list of incidents from the Gospels. Note that in each case Gentiles come in for favorable mention or God's interest in them is revealed: Matthew 1:5, 2:1, 2:13,14,15, 4:15,16,24,25 8:5 12, 10:5,15,18, 11:21,23, 12:21, 12:41,42, 13:38, 15:22, 21:13, 21:41,43, 22:19, 23:15, 24:14, 25:32, 27:54, 28:19
Mark 3:8, 5:4, 7:24 30, 10:42,43, 11:17, 12:9,17, 13:10,27, 14:9, 15:38, 16:15
Luke 1:55,78,2:1,14,2:30 32, 3:6,8 4:5,26,27, 6:17, 7:9, 9:51 6, 10:13,, 10:25¬37,11:30,31, 12:30 13:28 9, 17:15 17, 20:25, 21:13,24, 21:25, 23:3,47, 24:47
John 4:26, 4:27 42. 12:20, 12:32
A fresh look at Paul of Tarsus
The one man drama "The Rabbi from Tarsus" drew over 1,000 people to the U.S. Center Auditorium on August 8 9. Phil Goble, Broadway playwrightactor and long time friend of the U.S. Center, creatively explored the Apostle Paul's conversion to Christ and ardor for crosscultural missions in the light of his rich Jewish heritage.
Both performances were generously offered as benefits for the U.S. Center's founding budget. Proceeds totaled over $6,000. Goble is the author of the book, Everything You Need to Grow a Messianic Synagogue, which may be ordered through William Carey Library. Consideration is under way for an encore performance of this powerful drama.