‘Either this wall paper goes or I do.’ These were the final words of author Oscar Wilde. I’m not sure about the wall paper, but Oscar went.
US theatre producer, Charles Frohman, who had produced Peter Pan said, “Why fear death? It is the most beautiful adventure in life.”
Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister, said, “I’m bored with it all.”
Ned Kelly, “I suppose it had to come to this. Such is life.”
What would be your final words if you could choose them? Would they be words of comfort or motivation? Would you want to be humorous or provocative? Jesus got to choose his final words, and for them He chose to commission His followers to participate in mission. His words are recorded for us in Acts 1: 8, Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The commission to bear witness to Jesus to the ends of the earth can seem overwhelming. In fact, it is overwhelming if we expect to change the world through our own strength, and powers of persuasion. Yet that is not the call Jesus gave to His disciples. He invited them to witness. To simply and accurately make known what they have seen, heard, experienced and knew about Jesus.
The narrative of the Bible is not a description of how we can find God, but the story of the God who loves humanity and despite our turning away from Him, desires to be reconciled with us. This has huge implications for mission. First, if you are on the receiving end of someone telling you about Jesus, the primary motivation is love. Love from God which flows through his people (usually, although at times we don’t always get it right). Second, if we are engaged in mission, we are not doing this for God, but rather He is inviting us to join Him in what He is already doing. He loves us and wants us to be reconciled with Him.
This is perhaps why Jesus first words, in His final words are, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you”. His presence in us gives us the capacity to be more effective in mission than we could ever hope to be alone, and also, His presence should reshape our character to be more and more like Him. The God who “so loved the world” (John 3: 16) is in His people.
Throughout Acts we see the reality of this recorded. The “unschooled, ordinary” (Acts 4: 13) Peter speaks with courage and clarity, so much so that thousands of people are convicted by the words he speaks and decide to follow Jesus. A scattered and persecuted church finds the courage to speak about Jesus wherever they go. People like Philip go to Samaria, healing and preaching, and life after life is changed. The chief antagonist to the church, Paul, becomes the protagonist, and cities are turned about side as he witnesses to what he knows of Jesus. None of this is achieved because of position because they had none. It was not coercively forced upon people at the end of sword. These were just ordinary people, through whom God was doing something extraordinary.
What happened then can happen today. If you are not the brightest and best? If you feel overwhelmed by the final words of Jesus? If you are ordinary? Then you are exactly the sort of person God can work in and through. He just needs us to step up. Make His final words our first priority, and join Him in reconciling the world to Him.