When I was a youngster, I remember a teacher imagining what it would have been like to have been a fly on the wall in a room where Jesus had talked to his disciples. The Bible doesn’t tell us EVERYTHING about Jesus’ words and teachings, after all. When Jesus “opened [the disciples’] minds to understand the [Old Testament] Scriptures” (45)…when he said, “Thus it is written…that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all the nations” (46–47), it’s hard NOT to wonder how he would have made his point. My teacher said something like this: “We don’t know what Old Testament verses Jesus quoted. But wouldn’t it be great if we could know? I wish I could have been a fly on that wall, and listened in!” The image so captivated my attention, that I've never forgotten it.
There is a lot the fly would have heard about the Christ suffering, dying, and being raised to new life…much that the fly would have heard from the Psalms, the prophets, and even the Law of Moses, on that score. Today, though, is a chance to focus on God’s yearning for the families or nations of the world. Though we may think of some countries as “Christian” and others as representing people of other faiths, the Scriptures portray God as seeing ALL nations of the world as people whom He loves…people in need of repentance and the forgiveness of sins proclaimed in the name of Christ Jesus. The fly on the wall would probably have heard God’s promise to Abraham that not only would Abraham’s descendants become a great nation, but that somehow, through Abraham, ALL nations would enter into God’s blessing (Gen 12:3; 18:18, etc.). He would have no doubt overheard Jesus’ quotation of the prophet Isaiah, that “the house [of God] was to be a house of prayer for all nations” (56:7). He would have heard in the Psalms that God’s saving power was to be revealed for “all nations” of the world (67:2). That would have been one lucky fly.
Everyone wonders: What happens to people of other nations who never hear the message of Jesus Christ and die in unbelief? Jesus, in our text today, doesn’t answer the question. Instead, in directing his disciples out, into the world, he makes it clear what we find in the New Testament: that God “wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). The humbling part of it all is that God uses stumbling and bumbling people like us as his witnesses. From one dying sinner to another, God brings the message of Life to all, regardless of race, nationality, or gender. In being sent, we learn that we are truly children of the world.
Today we welcome missionary John Wolf, LCMS Project Manager for Africa, as he shares with us the privilege of being sent to other nations. We keep John and his family in our prayers even as we ask God to send us, too. May God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit open our eyes to new nations in our midst, that we might be His witnesses.