One of my new favorite choral pieces is a song called “Go and Tell John.” It is based on the Scripture passage in which John the Baptist sent word from prison to Jesus through his disciples, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:2). Jesus’ response is the text of this song: Take a listen.
What I like about this song is the energy and excitement of the various voices passing on the good news that Jesus is the one who is to come. The overlapping voices and the repeating of the word tell help to capture how the message of Jesus is spreading fast from person to person.
What is the evidence to confirm the Jesus is our Messiah? The lame walk. Lepers are cleansed. And the deaf hear once again. The dead are raised up. Good news preached to the poor. And blessed is he who believes in him. This evidence is the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 29.
What I find interesting about Jesus’ response, too, is that it is personal. Go and tell JOHN. The music highlights that in the end when it crescendos on the name John. It is a reminder to us that the message of Jesus is a personal one to each one of us as well. Jesus wants the good news to come to each of us personally. Go and tell Sue, go and tell Will, go and tell Taylor.
This is not some broad statement but something for you to take to heart in your own life and your own situation. The figurative and perhaps literal blindnesses in your life will be lifted. Messages that you had been deaf to literally and figuratively will be heard. When you die, Jesus is assuring us that we will be raised to life in him. We who are poor will become rich with blessings through him.
This is definitely something to share over and over again with others and sing about again and again. Think of who you would like to “go and tell” about Jesus today!
Thomas Cranmer, the archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VIII and Edward VI, is well-known for coining the term “Comfortable Words,” which he outlined in the Book of Common Prayer as a preparation for Communion. Here is what he wrote:
Hear what comfortable words our Savior Christ says to all that truly turn to him. “Come to me all that travail, and are heavy laden, and I shall refresh you.” God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son to the end that all that believe in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life. Hear also what St. Paul says, “This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” Hear what St. John says, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins” (Book of Common Prayer, 111-20)
These words of comfort are a wonderful collection for us to remember as we come to the Table of the Lord in gratitude and praise for what he has done through his Body and his Blood.
These Comfortable Words from Matthew 11:28, John 3:16, 1 Timothy 1:15 and 1 John 2:1 are good for us to recite and remember at other times, too, of course: in the morning, at bedtime, when feeling sad or frustrated or when starting to doubt.
Everything in our lives comes back to the comfort that the Gospel provides. Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross for our sins is all we need to know to find true comfort in our lives and in any situation we may encounter.
Think of ways that you can incorporate these Comfortable Words into your daily or weekly routines. And be comforted by them again and again.
In the Fall 2016 Concordia Journal, Professor Jeff Gibbs talks about the Gospel language that Matthew uses to share the news that Christ has come to save us through his death and resurrection.
In Matthew the good news of Christ is presented in the Gospel language of living under the reign of God. For instance in Matthew 5:3, Matthew records Jesus saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Gibbs points out that if Paul had written that verse, he would have said, “Redeemed are those who are enslaved, for Christ has set them free.” Paul’s gospel language is about freedom from slavery.
If John would have written it, it would have said, “Enlightened are those who were in darkness, for Christ is the light of the world,” because John’s Gospel language is light and darkness.
I find the idea of different Gospel languages interesting because I have found that people often have a favorite type of Gospel language that they are drawn to. For instance, my adopted grandma, Mrs. Graber, always liked Good Shepherd Sunday and loved the hymn, “Children of the Heavenly Father.” Her preferred Gospel language was about being safe and secure in the lovingly arms of a Shepherd or a father.
It might be a good practice for each of us to evaluate what Gospel language has the most meaning and resonance for us personally, and then it is good for us to consider what Gospel language might have the most significance to a friend or family member or someone we are witnessing to.
The sure message of the Gospel is always the same (We are saved from sin, death and the devil by Christ alone), but understanding what way to share the Gospel message to a certain person can be just as important as conveying the Gospel message itself. Something to think about the next time you are talking to someone about Jesus.
The word evangelism can strike fear in the hearts of many Christians. The thought of knocking on doors to talk to strangers about your faith in Jesus or the idea of standing up in front of a group to say what you believe about Jesus can be very intimidating.
But evangelism doesn’t have to be like that.
I turn to the words of Peter and John in Acts 4 as a guide for a good approach to evangelism. The two disciples were called in by the leaders of the church at the time to essentially stop evangelizing about Jesus to the crowds in Jerusalem. Here was their response:
“Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges!As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20)
Our attitude as Christ’s followers should be that we cannot help but talk about Jesus wherever we are, whatever we are doing. We have seen him at work in our lives. We have heard in God’s Word his message of our salvation through his death and resurrection of his Son.
Even the church leaders in Jerusalem could not help but notice something extraordinary was going on with how Peter and John were evangelizing:
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).
This verse helps me remember that I do not need to be a Bible scholar to evangelize and I don’t need to have just the right words to say. The truth of my faith in Jesus will come naturally from my mouth and I do not have to be afraid because the Holy Spirit will give me the confidence I need. I may be an ordinary person, but God can help me do extraordinary things through him.
A common question these days in the field of evangelism is, “What is your elevator speech?” In other words, what can you say about your faith in Jesus to someone you are standing next to in an elevator for a brief time? The answer is simple: Tell what you have seen and heard about Jesus. Whoever is listening will get the message loud and clear.
I recently attended the Best Practices in Ministry conference at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, in Columbus, IN. One of the breakout sessions was led by Lou Jander, a retired teacher and church leader. He and his wife Martha have a ministry called Sow the Word. Their mission is to give a booklet of the entire Gospel of John to as many people as they can.
In their travels, they have given the Gospel of John to waiters, bus drivers, store clerks, gas station attendants, whomever they meet along their way.
Lou talked about the fact that he and his wife serve simply as sowers of the seed, as in the parable of the sower. When you look closely at that parable, Jander said, you see that the sower simply sowed the seed with the expectation that not all the seeds would “take.” Some would fall on rocky, thorny or dry soil and not take root. That was just part of the reality of “broadcast” farming in those days. But what seeds did take root would produce greatly, the parable says, “yielding thirtyfold, sixtyfold and a hundredfold” (Mark 4:8).
There is a big trend happening now in what is currently being called legacy narratives.
Legacy narratives are the stories you tell of the events of your lifetime that you wish to pass on to future generations.
Many people are using their later years to write their legacy narratives often with the help of self-publishers who can print their writings in a professional format as a beautiful keepsake for children and grandchildren.
I know that my grandmother was ahead of the curve on this one, and wrote Gramma Speaks Her Piece more than 30 years ago, and we in our family still often refer to something that she mentioned in that book.