Bucky Kennedy, evangelist
When it comes to evangelism, we often think in terms of education and personal giftedness. But as the wonderful expositor John Phillips writes in capturing the setting of this conversation between Jesus and His disciples right before His ascension, availability was more necessary than ability:
“He looked at them. What an unlikely group of people! A few fishermen, a former tax collector, a onetime zealot – mostly people from Galilee, a despised part of the country where the accent could be cut with a knife. There was not a scholar among them, not even a trained rabbi. This collection of nobodies was to preach in defiance of the Sanhedrin and in the face of the intellectual Greeks and the all-powerful Romans. The disciples contemplated all of this with stunned disbelief. Why, only an hour earlier they had found it virtually impossible to make Christ real to each other.”
Phillips, J. (2009). Exploring the Gospel of Luke: An Expository Commentary (Lk 24:36–49). Kregel Publications; WORDsearch Corp.
This description is confirmed by the apostle Paul, “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are…” (1 Corinthians 1:26–28, NASB95)
The most effective soul-winners are often those most available to share the story of Jesus with anyone anywhere. It just doesn’t make sense to remain quiet about Jesus, the One person who can change their whole life and eternity.
It is a Validated Message. – Luke 24:44-45
Jesus would often tell His disciple that He would have to suffer ridicule, rejection, torture, and death to fulfill the will of His Father. They were never sure what He meant, but never happy listening to the conversation. Peter was even so bold as to rebuke Jesus for talking about it; that conversation didn’t end well for Peter.
The fulfillment of prophecy is so important to the sharing of the gospel. This is because it allows us to share Jesus was not some random martyr who captured the attention of a desperate populace. He came by way of divine promise through a miraculous birth as promised by God, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14, NASB95).
Not only was His birth promised but also His death. Psalm 22 gives a vivid picture of the death of Christ, “For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and my feet” (Psalm 22:16, NASB95). This is just one of over a hundred prophecies concerning the death and resurrection of Christ from a thousand years prior to the event.
Jesus wasn’t some guy who showed up out of nowhere looking to start a movement. He was God’s only Son sent to fulfill a promise. Subsequently, He wanted His disciples to who had just requested a touch test to know that.
Verse 45 says, “He opened their minds to understand scripture.” This confirms the importance of the Bible in witnessing, but also reminds us the Holy Spirit makes the word come to life in the minds and hearts of those we share with. Therefore, it is so critical we share God’s word in dependence of the work of the Holy Spirit.
It is a Decisive Message. – Luke 24:47
Jesus instructs them to deliver the message of forgiveness and repentance in His name. This would be the message of the cross through the Person of Jesus Christ. This message calls for a response from the listener. Repentance will mean a renouncing of sins and any allegiance to salvation other that the salvation of the Christ and the cross: “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NASB95).
The message offered forgiveness based upon Jesus, not something they could earn by way of good deeds or not qualify for by action of their evil deeds. This forgiveness was available only by the work of Jesus on the cross.
It is a Powerful Message. – Luke 24:49
This message won’t rest on the skills of the messenger. This message would only find success in those filled with power from God. Jesus wanted His disciples to wait on the Holy Spirit, which He had promised to send after He left. The church has lost its understanding of this important piece, this most necessary piece.
The American church doesn’t lack for the understanding of our scriptural mandate to preach the gospel. And while we certainly have garnered enough strategies and programs by which to share the gospel, we no longer rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives to proclaim the gospel with power.
The infilling of the Holy Spirit demands the emptying of the believer. These disciples had surrendered to follow Jesus. Now, they would need to wait until they would be filled with Jesus. The mission He called them to, they would be dependent on Him to do. It is also our mission as people filled with His presence and power.