Part 6 of series: The Mission of God and the Missional Church
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In my last post I showed that Jesus sent His followers into the world to replicate His own mission of making disciples. We who follow Jesus are to make more followers of Jesus.
It’s easy to accept our charge to do the ministry of Jesus without really thinking about what we’re doing. “OK,” we might say, “That’s just fine. We’re to do the ministry of Jesus. Great!” But when we stop and think about it, we have accepted an astounding and overwhelming mission, one that is seemingly impossible. If we take seriously our sending by Jesus to do His work, our hearts should pound and our knees should knock. How, in heaven’s name, are we to do what He did? Given our manifest human limitations, not to mention our sinfulness, how can we do the works of the divine Son of God?
Doing the ministry of Jesus is a bit like climbing Mt. Everest. This mountaineering adventure is so demanding that it almost exceeds human capabilities. The vast majority of people who attempt to climb Everest never make it to the top. The physical challenges associated with scaling this peak include miles of strenuous hiking, thousands of feet of climbing, negotiating glaciers and treacherous ice fields, and fighting the most extreme weather conditions on earth. Perhaps most difficult of all is the lack of oxygen near the summit of the mountain’s 29,028 feet. This region is called “the Death Zone” because of the harrowing conditions, especially the dearth of oxygen. If you and I were flown to the summit of Everest right now, we would pass out in a few minutes, and die shortly thereafter. There simply isn’t enough oxygen there to keep our bodies working.
Most climbers must use bottled oxygen to survive the ordeals of climbing Everest, though an increasing number of people climb without it. How is this possible? Through the wonder of acclimatization the human body is able to adapt to extreme oxygen deprivation. If you take enough time at high altitude, your body will adjust to the limitations of the air. So, climbers of Everest hike to base camp at “only” 17,000 feet. There they must wait for several weeks, making only short forays to higher altitudes. If they wait patiently, eventually their cardio-vascular systems will be empowered for the challenge ahead. But waiting is the key. If they rush ahead, the climbers will fail, and most probably die. Even bottled oxygen won’t help them. (Picture to the right: Tenzing Norgay, who, along with Edmund Hillary, participated in the first ascent on Everest.)
In a similar vein, the risen Jesus instructed His first followers to wait before beginning their mission of spreading the good news:
And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven (Luke 24:49).
No matter how enthusiastic the first disciples might have been, no matter that they had spent three years with Jesus and had conversed with Him after His resurrection, they were not yet ready for the spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and physical challenges of proclaiming the good news of Christ to all nations. They had to wait in Jerusalem until their preparation for ministry was complete.
Yet, unlike climbers being acclimatized on Mt. Everest, the disciples were not waiting for some natural process to ready them for their assignment. They needed “power from heaven” and nothing less. Without God’s own power, given through the Holy Spirit, no one can successfully do God’s work on earth. In a sense, the wind of the Spirit is like the bottled oxygen that enables climbers to reach the top of Mt. Everest. And, though a few can scale this peak without additional oxygen, we cannot ever succeed in our mission without the Spirit. But don’t despair! If you have put your trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior, then you have already received the Holy Spirit. You have an unlimited supply of God’s oxygen! Unlike the first disciples in Jerusalem, you do not have to wait for anything. We have been empowered. We have been sent. We are ready to go.