‘You will be in my witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ Acts 1:8
Recently I sensed the Lord led me to think about “my Jerusalem.” Heightening my interest has been in what is happening in the world today. I believe these events are significant in God’s ultimate plan. But for now, God had me camp on the later part of Acts1:8.
For all my life, I have heard Jerusalem described as our immediate sphere of influence – our friends our families and our neighbourhood. The implication was that our witness should start with those closest to us, places where we already belong, fit in, and have relationships.
But for me Jerusalem is a place that I needed to understand. I needed to explore what Jesus was saying to His disciples at the time of Acts.
It all began in Jerusalem.
Jerusalem was the place Jesus instructed His followers to wait for His timing. ‘On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.’ (Acts 1:4 NIV).
Was Jerusalem the place where Jesus’ disciples would have chosen to begin the ministry? It would be highly unlikely.
Think about it: This was the city where Jesus was rejected and crucified and the disciples had run away and were in hiding in fear of the Jewish authorities. So, if Jesus had wanted His disciples to begin their ministry with their friends and family and neighbourhood, He would have told His disciples to begin in Galilee. Why? because that was home for them. That is where they would find their most natural social connections.
Jerusalem was drastically different from Galilee.
At the time Jerusalem was capital and spiritual centre of Judaism, the traditional centre of worship and the climax of Jesus’ earthly ministry, but more importantly the place of His resurrection. Jerusalem could be described as Christianity’s initial “hometown.” Jesus does not tell his disciples to neglect Jerusalem and go elsewhere, but to start with Jerusalem.
I would suggest that when Jesus says “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth,” He means the literal city of Jerusalem, the actual regions of Judea and Samaria, and the literal ends of the earth. In this view, we do not know from this verse if it is meant to be fulfilled in any particular order.
Start where we receive God’s call
Jerusalem was the place where the disciples had most reason to expect rejection and perhaps even death. And yet, Jesus told them to begin there. In addition to being the place where they were located at the time, Jesus does clarify that they are to start in Jerusalem. ‘Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.‘ (Luke 24:45-48 NIV).
So what is the “correct” Acts 1:8 strategy? I found this a good question to consider. Why did the Lord command the disciples to start at Jerusalem? A big clue is found in Acts 2:1 & 5. There, we find that “ When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place … there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews rom every nation under heaven.’ The Lord chose Jerusalem so that the gospel could be spread, within months, to every single nation in the known world. God’s desire has always been to have His word spread as widely and as quickly as possible.
What is our Jerusalem?
For each of us our Jerusalem will be different. Our Jerusalem may not be at the place of our greatest comfort. Rather it may possibly be at the place of greatest intensity – it may be where we have the most reason to fear – where rejection is the most painful and likely.
The disciples started with Jerusalem instead of their own home region of Galilee. We see in their actions that they weren’t starting “in their Jerusalem”, but in the literal Jerusalem.
For some our Jerusalem may include our own family, friends or ethnic group, our neighbourhood and social circle. Absolutely.
So, “What is our Jerusalem?” I believe it is wherever our daily lives take us under God direction and guidance – that is our Jerusalem. Every step along the path is God’s Kingdom that we proclaim. We need not be afraid.