He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” 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. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
After their rather surreal experience of sharing a fish supper with Christ, now risen from the dead, their thoughts were now turned to the future and in particular to the mission that Jesus was entrusting to them.
First, they needed to understand the basis of their message. The Christian gospel was not some new religious philosophy, based on the latest developments in human reasoning. Nor was it a new system of morality developed in response to the needs of the times. Anyone can invent a new religion or a new moral or philosophical system if they are bright enough. But the Christian gospel was based on particular events in history, prophesied by the Old Testament prophets and fulfilled in Jesus: in particular his sufferings, death, burial and resurrection. This in itself sets Christianity apart as unique.
Second, they needed to understand the content of their message. The message was one of forgiveness in the name of Jesusfor all who would repent. For it was Jesus who had died, was buried and was raised again. Forgiveness was in his name and on the basis of his death and resurrection.
Third, they needed to know that the message was for the whole world and not just for the Jews. At the same time they were to start in Jerusalem because the forgiveness they were preaching was in the name of Jesus, who suffered, died, was buried and was raised to life at Jerusalem. The gospel is rooted not only in history but in geography. And it was first to be presented by those who were eyewitnesses of the historic events.
Fourth, they needed to grasp that their mission would require supernatural support. When Christ ascended to be with the Father, he would send the Holy Spirit to empower them. They needed to remain in Jerusalem until that historic event took place.
We live at a different moment in history, but our mission remains the same and the history of the Christian church reminds us how time and time again Christ’s basic briefing has been forgotten or even ignored.
The gospel with which we have been entrusted is based on history. Do we know that history so that our faith has roots? The message we have is one of forgiveness in the name of Jesus to all who repent. Each of the three main parts of that statement is unpopular in our culture: do we still hold to all three? The gospel is for the whole world, without discrimination. Does this mission to bring the message to the whole world still hold us? And the mission of the gospel cannot simply be fulfilled by us operating only on the basis of our natural, human resources. Do we recognise our weakness and consistently seek the Holy Spirit’s empowerment in the pursuit of Christ’s mission?