15 Then he said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”
A few years ago, I sat in the seat of a COD aircraft on the deck of the USS Eisenhower waiting to be catapulted into the air for a return trip to Norfolk, Virginia. I watched as the crew prepared the aircraft for takeoff and awaited the command from the Catapult Officer. When all was ready, he kneeled toward the bow of the ship, and with one forward-stretched arm shouted, “Go,” giving the command for the catapult to be activated. Up to that moment, that plane would not fly, unless and until that command was given.
While today’s passage is more often than not translated as a command to “Go,” the word in the original language is a participial form, having the meaning, “as you are going.” Jesus knew He was releasing His little band of disciples into a world that was ill-prepared for their message. So, what does it mean to “preach as you go”?
Every day we all engage in a myriad of activities. I dare say that in most of those activities there are persons—friends, acquaintances, business associates—who have never experienced the joy of knowing the Lord. Jesus is telling His disciples to be evangelists in every aspect of their lives. Whether they were eating a meal with someone, sharing a journey, mingling with the populace, meeting in the synagogue or simply walking the dusty streets of an ancient city, they were to be evangelists—always declaring the good news. It was this very plan that resulted in the rapid and meteoric rise of Christianity in the ancient world.
What does this command mean for us in the twenty-first century? After all, we are a much more civilized, sophisticated and progressive society than those of the first century. The simple answer to this question is that the command is no different for us than for those disciples who heard Jesus speak it. We are to live our lives in a way that all who see us see Jesus in us. We are to proclaim—translate that, “tell our story”—to anyone who will offer an ear. We are to make our influence known in such a manner that others cannot help but notice a difference in the way we live. We are to be bold and confident in our demeanor and in sharing the gospel with others.
In 2013, I was teaching at the Cape Town Baptist Seminary in Cape Town, South Africa. Once a semester, our students were required to go out into the communities and offer help or preach or witness. I accompanied a group of students to one of the poorest communities in Cape Town, where we simply roamed the streets. I watched as one particular student, Mzamo, unhesitatingly approached young men lounging around and asked them if they knew the Lord. He would go to random houses in the community, and when he learned that the household was not Christian, he would ask if he could come in. He would share the gospel and lead a whole family to know Jesus. I’ve never witnessed such boldness and faith in one man.
We are called to do the same. Whether we influence someone because of our manner of life, or whether we lead someone to know Jesus by sharing a word of witness, we are commanded to declare the truth of the gospel to the entire creation.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- If a report card were issued on your faithfulness to the command to witness, how would you be graded?
- Do you share Jesus when you see opportunities to do so?
- Does your manner of life accurately reflect your devotion to our Lord? If not, commit to making the necessary changes in your life so that you can be a faithful and effective witness wherever you go and whatever you do.