A TWO-PHASE OPERATION
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralysed; and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.
- Jesus travelled to every part of the Roman Province of Galilee
- If a town had a synagogue, Jesus attended the Sabbath meeting and gave teaching using his qualification as a rabbi. The content of his teaching was about the kingdom of God.
- He healed everyone who was sick or had diseases.
- The news of his ministry spread beyond Galilee to the neighbouring province of Syria
- People came to him from those areas as well.
- Here is a list of the sicknesses that were healed: various diseases, pain, demonised, seizures, paralysis.
- Large crowds came and began to follow him – from Galilee, the Decapolis region, Jerusalem, Judea and east of the Jordan.
It is evident from numerous similar statements that Jesus took the responsibility of going TO WHERE the people were as a matter of priority. It is notably consistent with his commission to the disciples before his ascension. One of the gospel imperatives is GOING TO EVERYONE. Sadly we have seen this strategy replaced by our practice of getting a building where we can have a meeting and then trying to get people to COME. The idea of GOING TO EVERYONE is not a marketing tool. It is the expression of divine LOVE. God’s love presumes that he will find the people who are lost where they are lost and offer them the chance of returning to where they will have an opportunity to follow after their God-ordained purpose and potential as they live under God’s shelter and are empowered by his Spirit within them.
If you think about this for a moment, you will begin to see the high-level commitment here. Right now we are involved in GOING to talk with people from the 931 households in a suburban area of Canberra. To this point, we have visited around 120 of those households and have had face to face contact with about 40 of them. It is a big task and one that involves a lot of work without any particular guaranteed response. It is just LOVE that will sustain anyone. And in this case, it is love for people we don’t know yet. There’s a challenge all on its own. So when Jesus set out to visit more than 200 villages, it was a mammoth undertaking. But cruciform LOVE was the reason he embarked on such a project.
Sabbath Meetings in Synagogues
It seems that Jesus was a qualified Rabbi. But Rabbi’s weren’t the only ones who got to speak in the sermon part of the synagogue service. It was open to anyone who had a message to bring. It was the primary entry point for Jesus’ ministry of proclaiming the gospel (the good news of the kingdom). I have often thought about the principle represented by the Jewish synagogues both in the gospel proclaiming ministry of Jesus and that of Paul. The pattern is very consistent throughout the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The synagogue was a pretty obvious place in that cultural setting to bring his kingdom message. We know that his preaching had impact in a way that was unusual. In other places, we read the reaction of people. Jesus preached with an authority that was different from the scribes and other religious leaders. In my part of the Christian world, we would probably refer to that as “anointing.” Anointing happens when the impact of the words is greater than ambience, power of oratory or persuasive argument. Anointing links the message being presented and the hearts of recipients who are open to the work of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus spoke in the synagogue meetings, the presence of the Spirit or the anointing was so evident that people made open comments about it.
From the very outset of Jesus’ ministry, the combination of anointed teaching with signs and wonders was apparent. We all feel a little tightening of the stomach muscles when we read about this, simply because most of us have never been anywhere where every sick person who came to be healed went away healed. It was a hallmark of the ministry of Jesus, and it was the reason people began to flock to where he was. Around the world right now, where Jesus is becoming known by large numbers of people there is not a single instance without profound experiences of signs and wonders. Those of us who have journeyed from evangelical, through charismatic have all become committed to the work of praying for sick people. In most cases, I know it has become a fading shadow in comparison to what we read every time we go to one of the Gospels. Since the message and the ministry of Jesus were one and the same – i.e. the kingdom of God, the hearings and deliverance were the tangible expressions of that kingdom coming. Jesus referred to this when John the Baptist sent some of his disciples to check and make sure that he was the promised Messiah. It is not just the mark of his ministry; it is good news that people get to experience. Healing comes in place of sickness, relief comes in place of pain, freedom of movement comes instead of paralysis, peace comes instead of epileptic seizures and demons have no choice but to leave. And we are left with the phenomenon that ALL who came to him were healed. That’s a head-space challenge if ever there was one.
Second Generation Ministry: People came to him from everywhere
This travelling ministry began to draw people from almost every known quarter. It was not restricted to the places where Jewish people were in the majority (Galilee and Judea). Syria and the Decapolis (ten Hellenistic cities) were also alerted to what Jesus was doing. I have referred to this part of the ministry as a kind of “phase two” simply because it happened as a result of the commitment to go and teach in all of the synagogues and heal people there. I think this may well be true of most strategies for preaching the gospel. We have to take the initiative at the start. When God begins to do things in the lives of ordinary people, their stories create a tipping point. The stories bring the next generation into the Jesus environment. If gospel proclamation needs an entrance strategy, simple obedience will take us to every place and every person. We should be encouraged to anticipate that the second phase will be classically different from the first. We can expect to be following opportunities created by the stories told by first generation people. What we have tended to see is what Dave Lawton calls “Extraction Evangelism.” We work hard and lead one person to Christ, and the first thing we do is to rip them out of their environment and plonk them in a church. Usually, they will remain a one generation disciple. In time they become conformed to the tribal mould, their lives a filled with activities within the church community, and they become more and more a foreigner to their family, friends and work colleagues. In this second phase ministry of Jesus, it was the people who were healed who took the story to their region and that testimony, like the one offered by the woman from Sychar, prompted a whole lot of their compatriots to discover Jesus as well.
To put it bluntly, instead of inviting a non-believer to church, why not ask if they would like to host a gathering in their home. When they experience some grace from Jesus, why not encourage them to tell their story to the people in their regular community spheres and invite them to come to a gathering in their home where the same grace will be offered to them. This is the model that Jesus created for us. The first phase was hardcore loving initiative – going as far as was needed to reach them where they were. The second phase was offering the same ministry to all of the people who heard their story and wanted to experience what Jesus was offering for themselves.
WE WILL KNOW THAT THIS MESSAGE HAS BEEN RECEIVED WHEN:
- We are willing to take full responsibility for all the initiative by going to every person and every place in a given sphere. We will also need to experience some of the love God has for people to overcome the challenge of meeting a lot of people we don’t know, but offering them the very best of indiscriminate redemptive love.
- When we freely proclaim the gospel of the kingdom in every part or to any and every person. Most of us probably need to learn how to do that, and most of us will probably not learn unless we do lots of practice.
- When we are willing and confident to pray for God’s miraculous intervention – to pray for healing and deliverance from bondages – and when we see people being healed and set free and willingly telling the other people in their spheres what has happened to them.
- When we begin to see second generation movement – people coming to suss-out Jesus because they have heard a story from someone whose life has been touched by his love and grace.
THE GOSPEL WAS PROCLAIMED IN THIS SERIES OF EVENTS BECAUSE
Jesus found an entry point to share his kingdom message and was willing and able to pray for people to be healed as a testimony to the message he spoke about. Like many of my fellow believers, I am much more ready to offer words to people rather than cry out to God for him to do work in their lives. There is something very unsettling for those of us who are accustomed to preaching when we stop speaking and start praying for people. It is far riskier. That’s why we don’t like doing it so much. What if we all decided to talk less and act on what we were saying more? I think the long term outcomes would more than justify the risks.