I first read this story long ago. It was first told still longer ago. It is fiction, and yet it is true:
When Jesus ascended into heaven, one of the angels said to him, “You must have suffered terribly down there.”
“I did,” Jesus replied.
“Do they all know what you did for them?” the angel asked.
“No.” Jesus answered. “Not yet. Only a few know so far.”
“Then what have you done so that all can know?” asked the angel.
“I asked Peter and James and John and a few others to make it their business to tell others, and the others still others, until all the world should know,” Jesus responded.
“Yes,” said the angel dubiously, “but what if Peter and James and John and the others forget or fail? What if they tire of telling? What if, way ahead in the 21st century, people fail to tell the story of your love?”
Back came Jesus’ answer: “I’m counting on them.”
Jesus is not dependent on us, but he is counting on us. Us! Think of it. Jesus is counting on us to get the Word out.
Take a look at Romans 16 sometime soon. The first 16 verses refer to more than two dozen saints in Rome who were involved in getting the Word out, people on whom Jesus was counting—men and women serving as teachers and hosts, messengers and mentors, ministers and martyrs, servants and dignitaries, witnesses and workers.
Because of folks like these, the Christian church, begun just a few decades earlier with a few dozen people, grew to tens of thousands and spread from a locked room in Jerusalem to much of the known world.
We do not know their stories. We can guess at some, but most remain a mystery. What is evident is that God used them and the likes of Peter, James, and John—flaws, failures, and all—to communicate the Word throughout the world.
Very near the end of this amazing letter to Rome, Paul expresses the purpose of God’s mission to the world and to the frail, often less-than-dependable likes of us: “so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith” (v. 26).
On pages 710-715 in the 2012 CRC Yearbook are recorded even more names than the ones Paul knew—hundreds of names of men and women who serve as missionaries and mobilizers, staff and teachers, veterans and novices in Africa and Asia, Central America and the Caribbean, Europe, and in Russia. All of them, only a small portion of the army currently covering the globe, are living and working and testifying and teaching “so that all nations might believe and obey him.”
You and I are part of that group, supporting and praying for their work because Jesus is also counting on us. This is a mission that will never end as long as there is time. This is a cause that can never be oversubscribed as long as people are willing to be sent. This is a prayer that will never be finished until the Amen returns to take us home.
William Tyndale concludes his prologue to the Epistle tothe Romans with these words: “Now go to, reader, according to the order of Paul’s writing, even so do thou.”
Now go to, reader. Jesus is counting on the likes of us. He always has, always will. And by his grace and with his blessing, the nations will believe and obey him.
Now “to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen” (Rom. 16:27).