Beginning at Jerusalem

A few days ago, as I was preparing a talk, something in Luke’s account of the Lord’s Great Commission suddenly hit me. In Luke 24:44-47, the Lord Jesus tells his disciples: “Thus it is written… that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
I have been convinced of the principle that the Jewish mission is a priority (“beginning at Jerusalem”) but here Jesus was underlining that priority. The Hebrew Scriptures foretold not only the sufferings and death of Messiah but also that repentance and remission of sins had to be preached to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

I realised that I had overlooked the importance that Jerusalem occupies in the Old Testament Scriptures, especially in the book of Isaiah. In the “Book of Comfort”, the last 27 chapters of Isaiah, the prophet foresees Jerusalem receiving the message of redemption and then, in turn, being the messenger of salvation to the cities of Judah and ultimately the nations.

Isaiah 59:20 states “The Redeemer will come to Zion”, while in 62:11, the Lord proclaims: “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Surely your salvation [your Yeshua] is coming.’”

In 52:7, the prophet says: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation [Yeshua], who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” In 40:9, Zion brings the gospel to the cities of Judah: “O Jerusalem, you who bring good tidings, lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’”

At the very beginning of his prophecy, in Isaiah 2:3, the prophet sees a day coming when “Out of Zion shall go forth the law [Torah], and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem”.

Jerusalem was at the centre of God’s purposes and it was from that city that God’s Word was to go forth to the nations. According to Psalm 50:2, Zion is “the perfection of beauty” and out of it “God will shine forth”. In Psalm 110:1-2, the LORD says of the Messiah, “The LORD shall send the rod of your strength out of Zion.”

Jerusalem does not symbolise, as I was once taught, the Christian’s home town in which he should commence his Christian service. For Jesus and the apostles “Jerusalem” meant Jerusalem. Though the literal words used by the Lord in Luke 24:47 are not found in the Old Testament writings, the principle is clearly there in the Psalms and the Prophets. Jerusalem was to be the first recipient of the gospel, as it was on the Day of Pentecost, and from there the Lord sent forth his word and the rod of Messiah’s strength. The priority of Jewish mission is a divine principle in both Testaments.
This article first appeared in the December 2005 edition of the Herald

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