As the disciples trudged back to Jerusalem after hearing Jesus’ command to be His witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NIV), I can imagine questions swirling in their minds:
- “Why start in Jerusalem?”
- “Why not go back to Galilee, where most of Jesus’ other followers are?”
- “Why go where we are considered uneducated, impure, uncultured people?”
We have all heard sermons that make the application that “Jerusalem” is a person’s home city. However, Jerusalem was not the disciples’ home. The angel in Acts 1:11 addressed them specifically as “Men of Galilee.”
A friend of mine once pointed out that Galilee was skipped over in the Great Commission. He conjectured that Jesus omitted Galilee because it was already largely reached, and He wanted to emphasize taking the gospel where it had not yet taken hold. Further, when Peter addressed the household of Cornelius, he stated that the Good News began in Galilee, not in Jerusalem (Acts 10:35-37).
Perhaps the people who greeted Jesus so enthusiastically on Palm Sunday were not Jerusalemites, but pilgrims from Galilee who were in Jerusalem for the feast. It may be that those who jeered at Jesus a week later were from Jerusalem, not the pilgrims from Galilee who had so heartily welcomed Him earlier.
We know that Jesus spent most of His time and performed the majority of His miracles in Galilee; it is likely that His most enthusiastic followers were from Galilee, which was less under the control of the religious establishment in Jerusalem.
Jerusalem was not the disciples’ home, but it was the closest and largest city of influence in their region. If Jerusalem were reached, it would only be a matter of time before the surrounding countryside and towns would be, as well. The call to begin in Jerusalem may not be a call to start in familiar surroundings, but a call to take the gospel to places of influence where it has yet to be firmly established.
It is always easier to remain in our “Galilees,” where we have respect and where Jesus already has followers. It is considerably more difficult to go to “Jerusalem,” where we are often viewed as uncultured outsiders and where there are few who will readily gather to listen to us. If we are to change our nation and world with the gospel, we must move beyond our Galilees and penetrate every neighborhood, every sphere of influence, every unreached people group.
Jesus’ call to move beyond Galilee to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth means that we will not be content to remain in our suburban, comfortable Galilees; we will be satisfied only when the gospel has taken hold in every major city of influence. We will not simply multiply the number or size of our churches; we will strive for the advancement of the gospel into people groups at home and abroad where there is no gospel witness.
Going to “Jerusalem” may not mean changing locations. It may mean engaging the unreached around you. May we never grow so content in Galilee that we forget Jerusalem.
By: *Sam Johnson (name changed for security reasons), area missionary to MENACA (Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia) for The Foursquare Church