Chosen by God

Saul of Tarsus, who later became known as the Apostle Paul, started out as a vicious enemy of the church that was located in Jerusalem. When Stephen was martyred for his candid preaching of the gospel, it says in Acts 7:58 that those who stoned him “laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.” Saul was thought of as the “arch-persecutor” of the church (Roman Damascus, p. 1572) because of his violent treatment of believers. Saul’s plan to stamp-out Christianity before it was spread abroad caused him to seek letters from the high priest to the synagogues in Damascus “that if he found any of this way; whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1-2). Saul’s reference to Christianity as “the way” may have been meant as a derogatory comment against its gospel message. The night before he was crucified, Jesus told his disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). It is likely Saul had heard Jesus’ words repeated by his apostles and was determined to prove them wrong.

Luke’s account of Saul’s conversion showed that he was stopped dead in his tracks as he proceeded to carry out his plan of preventing the gospel from spreading through Damascus, the hub of a vast commercial network with far-flung lines of caravan trade reaching into north Syria, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Persia, and Arabia (Roman Damascus, p. 1572). Luke said:

And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: and he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus, whom thou persecutes: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. (Acts 9:3-5)

Jesus’ message to Saul was intended to make him aware of the fact that he wasn’t doing God’s work, he was hindering it. The statement “it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” could be simply translated as “Saul, you’re going the wrong way!” Saul’s immediate submission to Jesus’ authority is apparent in his question, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6).

Saul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus resulted in him being blind for three days until a man named Ananias came and laid his hands on him (Acts 9:9, 17). During that time, people may have wondered if Saul had lost him mind or was having a nervous break down. There was no apparent explanation as to why Saul suddenly changed his mind about arresting the Christians in Damascus. The only one who knew what was going on was a man named Ananias, who had received a message from the Lord about Saul’s conversion. Ananias was directed to go to Saul’s location and was told to put his hands on him so that he could recover his sight (Acts 9:11-12), but Luke indicated Ananias was reluctant to obey the Lord’s command because of Saul’s bad reputation. He said:

Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake. (Acts 9:13-16)

 

The first martyr

Stephen’s appointment to oversee the business of the church in Jerusalem was based on his reputation for accurate testimony about Jesus’ life; as well as the fact that he was filled with the Holy Spirit and had the spiritual gift of wisdom (Acts 6:3). Luke identified Stephen as being “full of faith and power” and noted that he “did great wonders and miracles among the people” (Acts 6:8). As a result of his notable achievements, Stephen’s activities were opposed by certain synagogue members that were most likely jealous of his promotion to a position of leadership (Acts 6:9-10). Stephen was falsely accused of blasphemy, a crime that was punishable by death. When he was brought before the Jewish council to defend himself, Stephen chose to use his trial as an opportunity to preach the gospel to the high priest of God’s temple (Acts 7).

Stephen began his defense by recounting the history of God’s chosen people. With amazing clarity and detail, Stephen reminded the Jewish council that God had been faithful in keeping the covenant he first made with Abraham and then,  later reaffirmed with Abraham’s descendants just before they entered the Promised Land. As he transitioned to his explanation of the New Covenant that was formulated through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, Stephen focused on the analogy Jesus used when he was asked for a sign of his deity (John 2:18-19). Stephen declared, “Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands” and then he turned the table on his accusers by stating, “Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it” (Acts 7:48, 52-53).

Stephen’s abrupt accusation caused the Jewish officials to be “cut to the heart” (Acts 7:54). In other words, they became fed up and took immediate action to silence Stephen regardless of the consequences. Stephen’s stoning made it look like he had been found guilty of blasphemy, but in reality, he was murdered by an angry mob. Luke said of this incident, “But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul” (Acts 7:56-58).

Opposition

It wasn’t long after the church in Jerusalem got started that opposition arose against it. Peter and John were arrested shortly after healing a man that had been crippled his entire life (Acts 3:7). It says in Acts 4:1-3, “And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide.” Peter and John were not discouraged by the opposition they received. In fact, Peter seemed to gain confidence in the fact that they were being treated like criminals. When he was asked how he was able to perform the miracle, Peter gave all the credit to Jesus and declared that the power of his name was responsible for the lame man’s healing (Acts 4:10).

Peter’s boldness didn’t stop with his proclamation of Jesus as Israel’s Messiah. Peter went on to say there was no other name under heaven by which men could be saved (Acts 4:12). The religious leaders’ reaction is recorded in Acts 4:13-16 where it states:

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it.

The problem the religious leaders faced was that word had already gotten out about what had happened at the temple that day. In fact it says in Acts 4:4, “Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.” As a result of the Holy Spirit’s involvement in what was going on, things were happening very quickly and there didn’t seem to be any way to stop the church’s rapid growth. The religious leaders decided the best thing they could do at that point was to threaten Peter and John and hope they would take their warning seriously (Acts 4:17).

Unfortunately, Peter and John paid no heed to the warning they were given. It says in Acts 4:19-20, “But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye, for we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” In other words, Peter and John felt obligated to tell people about Jesus. Their experience was so important to them that these two men were willing to risk being barred from the temple in Jerusalem. After they were released, Peter and John went back to their congregation and shared what happened to them. Then they prayed to God, “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus” (Acts 4:29-30).

We are one

Jesus’ final prayer for his disciples included a petition for his Father to keep them intimately connected to each other. He said, “And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:11). Jesus’ spiritual connection with his Father while he was on Earth made it possible for them to operate as if they were a single person. There was essentially no differentiation between the thoughts of the Father and the thoughts of the Son. Jesus’ request that his followers be one just as he and his Father were one meant that the totality of Christian believers would be acting as if they were a single entity, what is sometimes referred to today as the “body of Christ” or “the church.”

The primary reason Jesus wanted his disciples to experience the same kind of unity he had with his Father may have been so that they would work together to build God’s kingdom rather than through individual efforts. In order to understand the oneness that Jesus was praying for his disciples to receive, you would have to look at the result of the Holy Spirit’s coming on the day of Pentecost. It says in Acts 2:1-8:

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord and in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?

The supernatural filling of the Holy Spirit resulted in a type of communication that was much more effective than what is possible today through language translation. In essence, what was happening was that the words were being spoken and heard without any translation being necessary. The meaning was understood perfectly as if there was no language barrier, even though the people came from different countries and spoke different languages.

Jesus explained that the reason he was asking his Father for the unification of all believers was so that they would be a testimony to everyone that he had indeed been sent by God to save the world (John 17:21). Jesus went on to say that unity would lead to the completion of his ministry and be a sign of God’s love for all who have accepted him as their savior (John 17:23). Jesus concluded his prayer with a petition for his disciples to be with him in heaven. He said, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). This particular request was probably motivated by Jesus’ close connection with his apostles. Rather than making them wait until he returned to Earth, Jesus wanted his disciples to be reunited with him as soon as they were deceased. The apostle Paul suggested this would be the case when he said, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).

Abiding in Christ

Jesus used the analogy of a vine and branches to describe his relationship with his followers. The main point Jesus was trying to communicate was the importance of sticking together. Jesus used the words abide and remain to convey his message, as well as the term husbandman to describe God’s role in the process. In the second and third verses of John 15, Jesus said, “I am the true vine and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away, and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.”

The word translated purgeth in John 15:2 is representative of the pruning process, but it actually means to cleanse and metaphorically, Jesus spoke of purging his worshippers of guilt (G2508). To be clean means that we are free from guilt. Jesus said in John 15:3, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” In other words, reading our Bibles and hearing its content preached to us takes away our guilt. We grow closer to Jesus and show visible signs of spiritual health when we spend time studying the Bible.

Jesus linked our ability to abide in him with love and obeying his commandments. He said in John 15:10, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” The word translated love in this verse is agape (ag-ah´-pay), which is sometimes referred to as Christian love. “Christian love has God for its primary object, and expresses itself first of all in implicit obedience to His commandments. Self-will, that is, self-pleasing, is the negation of love to God” (G26).

If you think of agape love as doing what God wants us to do rather than what we ourselves want to do, then abiding in Jesus’ love means that we are always doing the will of God. Jesus said, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13). Jesus did God’s will by dying on the cross for us, so we should show our love for others by doing God’s will for them. This could be as simple as praying for a friend that is sick or giving away our time by serving in a church ministry.

One of the keys to abiding in Christ and bearing fruit is the realization that we have been chosen by God and appointed to serve him (John 15:16). We are knit together by close spiritual bonds that form us into the family of God and separate us from the world (John 15:19). The separation we experience is actually evidence that we belong to God. The farther we get from the world, the adornment and decoration of temporal possessions, the closer we get to Jesus and the will of God.

Holy Spirit

The triune nature of God made it possible for Jesus to leave Earth and yet remain present with his followers. Jesus described his connection with his followers this way:

Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. (John 14:19-21, ESV)

The Greek word translated manifest in John 14:21, emphanizo (em-fan-id´-zo) means “to exihibit (in person) or disclose (by words)” (G1718). Emphanizo is also translated as appear and show. The root word of emphanizo is emphanes (em-fan-ace´) which means to be “apparent in self” (G1717). What Jesus likely meant when he said he would manifest himself was that he would be seen in the behavior of the believer that is living according to his commandments. In other words, believers that act like him are making it seem as if Jesus is still living with us in this world.

Jesus told his disciples that his absence would not prevent them from continuing his work. In fact, Jesus promised them they would be able to do even more than they had before. He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:12). The work Jesus was referring to was probably the spreading of the gospel. During his three-year ministry, Jesus visited much of the territory that was promised to Abraham and his descendants, but the goal of his ministry was to spread the gospel throughout the entire world (Matthew 28:19). Even today, some 2000 years later, there are still people that do not have the Bible available to them in their native language.

Jesus indicated another person was going to come and help his disciples achieve their mission. He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:15-17). The indwelling of the Holy Spirit was a completely new and different way of connecting with God. Before Jesus died, the Holy Spirit was not living in the world. The possibility that God could live inside a person was a phenomenal breakthrough that Jesus’ disciples were most likely unable to comprehend.

Jesus briefly explained to his disciples how this new relationship was going to work. He told them, “These things I have spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:25-26). In a nut shell, what Jesus was telling his disciples was that they didn’t have to worry about forgetting the things he had taught them. Jesus’ identification of the Holy Spirit as the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17) meant that he was the essence of God’s word being brought to life within the born again believer. With the exception of John, this fantastic revelation likely went over the heads of all of Jesus’ apostles. It probably wasn’t until after the day of Pentacost, when the Holy Spirit arrived on the scene (Acts 2:1-4), that the reality of Jesus’ promise actually set in.

Washing feet

The Apostle John’s account of Jesus’ last night with his disciples focused primarily on the message Jesus delivered in the upper room where he and his twelve apostles celebrated the Passover Feast. John began by stating, “And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; he riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded” (John 13:2-5).

John was the only person that recorded Jesus’ humble act of washing his disciples feet. It could be that John was particularly impressed by this action because Jesus’ betrayer, Judas was still in the room when Jesus performed this task. John may have wondered afterward why Jesus would go to such great lengths to show kindness to a man that was possessed by the devil, but his account of the conversation that took place showed that Jesus was intentionally trying to teach his disciples a lesson even if they didn’t completely understand it. John stated, “So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?” (John 13:12).

Jesus’ explanation of his act of washing his disciples feet pointed to the fulfillment of prophecy about his betrayer (John 13:18). Evidently, Judas could have resisted the devil’s attempts to make him a traitor. None of the other disciples suspected Judas of any wrong doing. When Jesus told Judas, “What you are going to do, do quickly” (John 13:27), John stated, “No one at the table knew why he said this to him” (John 13:28). After Judas left the room, Jesus told his disciples, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him” (John 13:31). It could be that Judas’ act of betrayal was the final step in God’s plan of salvation. Although Satan intended to stop Jesus from becoming the Savior of the World, he actually helped him by turning him over to the authorities that were able to have him crucified.

In connection with the New Testament that was established during The Last Supper (Matthew 26:28), Jesus told his disciples, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35). This commandment might not seem very extraordinary in the light of all that has happened since Jesus died 2000 years ago, but it was what we might call today a game changer. Love was not a characteristic that was typically associated with God or his people. In response to Peter’s claim that he would lay down his life for him (John 13:37), Jesus told Peter, “Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny my thrice” (Mark 14:30).

An opportunity

The unfolding of the plot to kill Jesus was similar to any situation in which one person decides to betray another. Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve apostles selected by Jesus to be a part of his inner circle. These twelve men spent the majority of their time with Jesus during his three year ministry on Earth. The thing that set the apostles apart from the rest of Jesus’ followers was their intimate access to Jesus’ personal life. The apostles could ask Jesus any questions they wanted to and there were no secrets he kept from them. It was Judas’ intimate knowledge of Jesus’ pattern of behavior that enabled him to betray the man that had been his teacher from the winter of 28 A.D. when Jesus chose his twelve disciples to the spring of 30 A.D. when Jesus was crucified.

Luke’s gospel describes the situation this way:

Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd. (Luke 22:1-6, ESV)

Luke’s account of what happened suggested that Judas disassociated himself from Jesus and joined in with the chief priests and officers that wanted to kill him. The Greek word that is translated consented or communed with, sullaleo (sool-lol-eh´-o) is derived from a combination of the two words sun (soon) and laleo (lal-eh´-o). The Greek word sun denotes union; with or together, i.e. by association, companionship, or process (G4862). The Greek word laleo means “to talk” (G2980). The combination of these two words suggests that Judas agreed with everything the chief priests and officers were saying and perhaps even mimicked their sentiments about having Jesus put to death.

It was possible for Judas to promise to provide the chief priests and officers with an opportunity to arrest Jesus when no one was around because he knew where Jesus went when he wanted to be alone. Although the specific location was probably not designated at the time of Judas agreement, it is likely a date and timeframe were specified at the time Judas entered into his covenant with the chief priests and officers (Luke 22:5). Luke’s final statement, “And he promised, and sought opportunity to betray him unto them in the absence of the multitude” (Luke 22:6), may have meant that Judas was expected to go back to Jesus and find out where he planned to be at the appointed date and time. Satan’s involvement in the situation suggests that he was unaware of Jesus’ whereabouts.

A memorial

Mary’s awareness that Jesus was about to die prompted her to make an extreme sacrifice in order to demonstrate her love for him. According to John’s gospel, Jesus was in the home of Martha eating supper with a group of men. “Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment” (John 12:3). “Mary’s act of devotion was costly. It was also an unusual act, both because she poured the oil on Jesus’ feet (normally it was poured on the head) and because she used her hair to wipe them (a respectable woman did not unbind her hair in public). Further, it showed her humility, for it was a servant’s work to attend to the feet” (note on John 12:3).

John went on to say that Judas Iscariot, the disciple that would betray Jesus, questioned the use of Mary’s oil for such a purpose. He asked, “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?” (John 12:5). Judas’ knowledge of the value of the ointment probably came from his experience in selling such products. John noted that Judas’ question was motivated by greed. He commented, “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein” (John 12:6). The contrast between Mary and Judas’ behavior showed that Mary’s devotion to Jesus was genuine and her act of kindness was not meant to draw attention to herself. On the contrary, Mary wanted to draw attention to the sacrifice Jesus was about to make.

The cost of the oil that Mary used to anoint Jesus’ feet was practically an entire years wages (note on Mark 14:5). It is likely that it was her only possession with any significant value. The oil was kept in a sealed flask with a long neck that was broken off when the contents were used (note on Mark 14:3). Therefore, the oil was meant for a single use on a special occasion. Mary may have intended to use the oil on her wedding night or for the burial of a loved one. The fact that Mary used the oil to anoint Jesus’s feet indicated he was the most important person in her life and his death the most significant event she could think of for the use of her precious ointment.

Jesus rebuked Judas for his criticism of Mary’s action and stated emphatically:

Let her alone; why trouble you her? she hath wrought a good work on me. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her. (Mark 14:6-9)

Spiritual work

Jesus’ parable of the talents illustrated the concept of spiritual work. He began his lesson by stating, “For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey” (Matthew 25:14-15). In order to convey the point he was trying to make, Jesus used an example that dealt with something his followers were familiar with. The idea that the master of a household would leave his home and go on a long journey was not that unusual in the time period in which Jesus lived. Today we think of business trips lasting no more than a week or two because we have airplanes and internet connections that speed up everything we do. It is likely that the image Jesus was creating was a trip from Israel to Spain or perhaps China, which could have taken months or even years depending on the mode of travel.

Jesus indicated talents were distributed to the man’s servants according to their “several ability” (Matthew 25:15). The Greek words idios (id´-ee-os) and dunamis (doo´-nam-is) have to do with miraculous power that is divided up among individuals with each one getting his particular portion or unique part (G2398/G1411). Jesus was probably referring to the gifts of the Spirit that are identified in 1 Corinthians 12. The Apostle Paul associated spiritual gifts with the Holy Spirit and said, “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). The phrase “profit withal” comes from the Greek word sumphero (soom-fer´-o) which means “to bear together” (G4851). Sumphero is derived from the Greek words sun (soon) and phero (fer´-o). “Phero, as a verb, means ‘to bear, carry’ and is rendered ‘being moved’ in 2 Peter 1:21, signifying that they were ‘borne along,’ or impelled, by the Holy Spirit’s power, not acting according to their own will, or simply expressing their own thoughts, but expressing the mind of God in words provided and ministered by Him. It is used also of ‘bearing or bringing forth fruit'” (G5342). Jesus used the Greek verb phero when he talked about bearing spiritual fruit in his parable of the sower (Mark 4:3-8).

Jesus indicated in his parable of the talents that there would come a day when the man’s servants would be held accountable for their use of his resources while he was gone. He said, “After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them” (Matthew 25:19). The two Greek words that are translated reckoneth, sunairo (soon-ah´ee-ro) and logos (log´-os) are associated with the collective use of God’s word. It could be that reckoning has something to do with a replay of what Christians have said (or not said as the case may be) about Christ during their lifetimes. Jesus made it clear in his explanation of the parable of the sower that the seed that was being sown in the field was the word of God going out into the world (Luke 8:11; Matthew:13:38). Therefore, the spiritual work of spreading the gospel is what Jesus expected each of his followers to be doing while they were waiting for his return.