The Re-orientation to the Program Part 3
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Jesus shows them that they must work hard and face many difficulties.
There were good reasons for selecting the Holy City for the birthplace of the church, also for choosing the date of one of the great Jewish festivals for the time of its birth. On such occasions as the feast of Pentecost, thousands of Jews flocked there on their holy pilgrimage to worship God. The gospel could be proclaimed at that time to a waiting multitude of faithful Jews, who in turn would carry the “Good News” back to their respective homes and countries. The amazing love of Christ is on display since even his bitterest enemies who made up the ruling class in Jerusalem were not to be denied their right to hear the gospel, either receiving it or rejecting it. (Jerusalem was where Jesus was executed at the word of an angry mob.) Only the Lord Jesus had such a great love as this.
There was another reason for planting the First church in Jerusalem; there was the prophecy that must be fulfilled—“The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD'S house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills, And all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:1-3; NKJV). The temple on Mount Moriah is a type of the Gospel, beginning at Jerusalem, and, like an object set on the highest hill, made so conspicuous that all nations are attracted to it.
and in all Judaea,
Jesus shows them that they must work hard and face many difficulties. He assigned the whole world to them, in which they must publish the doctrine of the gospel. Furthermore, he refuted the opinion which they held of Israel; they assumed that Israelites were only those which were of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh.
Judea rejected Christ’s ministry; so it may seem odd for Him to give such a high priority to taking the gospel to Judea. This arrangement of their ministry was not dictated by partiality for the Jews, or merely to fulfill prophecy. But it was foretold by the prophets, and there were good reasons why they should go there. One reason, suggested by the commentators for beginning in Jerusalem, was the prospect of vindicating the claims of Jesus in the same city in which he was condemned. But the controlling reason was almost certainly this: the most devout portion of the Jewish people, that portion who had been influenced the most by the preparatory preaching of John the Baptist and of Jesus, were always gathered at the great annual festivals, and consequently, the most successful beginning could be made there. Next, to these, the inhabitants of the rural districts of Judea were best prepared, by the same message, and the same gospel; then the Samaritans would be next since they had seen some of the miracles of Jesus; and, last of all, the Gentiles. This was the rule for success as they went from place to place, and it became the custom of the apostles, even in heathen lands, to preach the gospel "first to the Jew" and "then to the Gentile." The result fully justified the rule; for the greatest triumph of the gospel was in Judea, and the most successful way to reach the Gentiles of every region was through the Jewish synagogue.
and in Samaria,
Jesus informed them that they must take the gospel to the Samaritans, whose country was not far from them, but when it came to their mind and heart, they were far distant. By singling out the Samarians, He showed that all the other regions which were far distant, and also nonreligious, must be united with God’s holy people, in order that they may all partake of the same grace. It is evident how greatly the Jews detested the Samaritans when we consider Jesus’ conversation with a Samaritan woman—“Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans” (John 4:9; KJV). The request for water was a logical one since the disciples had gone into the city to buy meat. However, the woman is amazed at this request because of the natural animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans. This hatred was caused when, after the fall of Israel, the Jews who remained in Palestine intermarried with the heathen and were called Samaritans. They were not full-blooded Jews.
Christ commanded that the old prejudices which had separated Jews and, Samaritans as well as Jews and gentiles, be broken down and that they be made one body—“For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (Eph 2:14; KJV)—so that his kingdom may be erected everywhere. Jesus is our peace—not merely a "Peacemaker," but "He" is the price of our (Jews' and Gentiles' alike) peace with God, and so He is the bond of union between "both" in God. He took both into Himself, and reconciled and united them to God, by His assuming our nature and our punishment and legal liabilities. By naming Judea and Jerusalem, which the apostles knew were full of their most deadly enemies, He warns them to prepare for the troubles they will face in the future, and to stop thinking about the triumph they were soon to experience. Jesus may have reached out to the Jews almost exclusively at first, since they were the first-begotten—“And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn” (Ex 4:22; KJV)—but now He calls the Gentiles, one after another, which were previously strangers from the hope of salvation—“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Eph 2:11-13; KJV). Here we have learned something wonderful, that the gospel was preached everywhere by the clear commandment of Christ so that two-thousand years afterward it might also come to us.
and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
The Jews viewed Gentiles as nothing better than fuel for the fires of Hell. Yet God wanted a witness sent to all of these places. The spread of the Gospel from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria, and then to the end of the earth becomes the outline of Acts. Acts 1.1 through 8.4 describe the gospel in Jerusalem, verses 8.5 through 11.18 speak of the gospel in Judea and Samaria, and verses 11.19 to the end of Acts tell of the gospel going to the end of the earth. We might imagine there were objections to the places of ministry Jesus described.