Trained to Give a Thorough Witness
“You will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.”—ACTS 1:8.
“JESUS who was from Nazareth . . . ordered us to preach to the people and to give a thorough witness that this is the One decreed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.” (Acts 10:38, 42) With those words, the apostle Peter explained to Cornelius and his family the commission he had received to be an evangelizer.
2 When did Jesus give that commission? Likely, Peter was thinking of what the resurrected Jesus said just before he ascended to heaven. On that occasion, Jesus told his faithful disciples: “You will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) However, for some time before that, Peter had known that as a disciple of Jesus, he would have to talk to others about his faith in Jesus.
Three Years of Training
3 Several months after his baptism in 29 C.E., Jesus preached where Peter and his brother Andrew worked as fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. They had been working all night but without success. Still, Jesus told them: “Pull out to where it is deep, and you men let down your nets for a catch.” When they did what Jesus said, “they enclosed a great multitude of fish. In fact, their nets began ripping apart.” On seeing the miracle, Peter was struck with fear, but Jesus calmed him, saying: “Stop being afraid. From now on you will be catching men alive.”—Luke 5:4-10.
4 Immediately, Peter and Andrew—as well as James and John, the sons of Zebedee—left their boats and followed Jesus. For almost three years, they accompanied Jesus on his preaching tours and received training as evangelizers. (Matthew 10:7; Mark 1:16, 18, 20, 38; Luke 4:43; 10:9) At the end of that time, on Nisan 14, 33 C.E., Jesus told them: “He that exercises faith in me, that one also will do the works that I do; and he will do works greater than these.” (John 14:12) Jesus’ disciples would give a thorough witness as Jesus did but on a much larger scale. As they soon learned, they and all future disciples would bear witness in “all the nations,” right up until “the conclusion of the system of things.”—Matthew 28:19, 20.
5 We are living in “the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 24:3) Unlike those first disciples, we cannot accompany Jesus and observe him preaching to people. Still, we can benefit from his training by reading in the Bible how he preached and what instructions he gave his followers. (Luke 10:1-11) However, this article will discuss something else of vital importance that Jesus demonstrated to his disciples—the right attitude toward the preaching work.
A Concern for People
6 Why did Jesus give such an effective witness? One reason was his deep interest in and concern for people. The psalmist foretold that Jesus would “feel sorry for the lowly one and the poor one.” (Psalm 72:13) He certainly fulfilled that prophecy. The Bible says about one occasion: “On seeing the crowds he felt pity for them, because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) Even gross sinners sensed his concern and were drawn to him.—Matthew 9:9-13; Luke 7:36-38; 19:1-10.
7 We today will be effective if we show the same concern for people. Before sharing in the ministry, why not take a moment to reflect on how much people need the information you are taking to them? Think of the problems they may have that only the Kingdom will solve. Be resolved to be positive with everyone, since you do not know who will respond to the message. Perhaps the next person you approach has been praying for someone like you to come and help him!
Motivated by Love
8 The good news that Jesus declared had to do with the accomplishment of Jehovah’s will, the sanctification of His name, and the vindication of His sovereignty—the most important issues before mankind. (Matthew 6:9, 10) Because he loved his Father, Jesus was moved to keep his integrity to the end and to give a thorough witness about the Kingdom, which will resolve those issues. (John 14:31) Because Jesus’ followers today have the same motivation, they are diligent as they share in the ministry. The apostle John said: “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments,” including the commandment to preach the good news and make disciples.—1 John 5:3; Matthew 28:19, 20.
9 Jesus told his followers: “If you love me, you will observe my commandments. He that has my commandments and observes them, that one is he who loves me.” (John 14:15, 21) Thus, love of Jesus should motivate us to witness about the truth and observe the other things that Jesus commanded. During one of his postresurrection appearances, Jesus urged Peter: “Feed my lambs. . . . Shepherd my little sheep. . . . Feed my little sheep.” What should move Peter to do that? Jesus indicated the answer when he repeatedly asked Peter: “Do you love me? . . . Do you love me? . . . Do you have affection for me?” Yes, Peter’s love for Jesus, his affection for him, would motivate him to give a thorough witness, find Jesus’ “little sheep,” and thereafter be a spiritual shepherd to them.—John 21:15-17.
10 Today, we are not personally acquainted with Jesus as Peter was. Still, we have a deep understanding of what Jesus did for us. Our hearts are moved by the great love that led him to “taste death for every man.” (Hebrews 2:9; John 15:13) We feel as Paul felt when he wrote: “The love the Christ has compels us . . . He died for all that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him.” (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15) We demonstrate that we take Jesus’ love for us seriously and that we love him in return by taking seriously the commission to give a thorough witness. (1 John 2:3-5) We would never want to adopt a casual approach to the preaching work, as if we esteemed Jesus’ sacrifice as of ordinary value.—Hebrews 10:29.
Keeping the Right Focus
11 When Jesus was before Pontius Pilate, he said: “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37) Jesus allowed nothing to distract him from bearing witness to the truth. That was God’s will for him.
12 Satan certainly tested Jesus in this regard. Shortly after Jesus’ baptism, Satan offered to make him a great man in the world, to give him “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.” (Matthew 4:8, 9) Later, the Jews wanted to make him a king. (John 6:15) Some might ponder the possible benefits of Jesus’ accepting those offers, perhaps reasoning that as a human king, Jesus could have done much good for mankind. Jesus, though, rejected that kind of thinking. His focus was on bearing witness to the truth.
13 In addition, Jesus was not distracted by a pursuit of riches. As a result, he did not live a life of wealth. He did not even have his own home. On one occasion, he said: “Foxes have dens and birds of heaven have roosts, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay down his head.” (Matthew 8:20) When Jesus died, the only recorded thing of value that he owned was the garment over which the Roman soldiers cast lots. (John 19:23, 24) Was Jesus’ life a failure, then? By no means!
14 Jesus accomplished far more than the wealthiest philanthropist ever could. Paul said: “You know the undeserved kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich he became poor for your sakes, that you might become rich through his poverty.” (2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:5-8) Although materially poor, Jesus opened the door for humble individuals to enjoy everlasting life in perfection. How grateful we are to him! And how we rejoice in the reward he received because he kept his focus on doing God’s will!—Psalm 40:8; Acts 2:32, 33, 36.
15 Christians who today strive to imitate Jesus also refuse to be distracted by the pursuit of wealth. (1 Timothy 6:9, 10) They acknowledge that riches can make life comfortable, but they know that wealth does nothing for their everlasting future. When a Christian dies, his material wealth is of no more value to him than Jesus’ garment was to him when he died. (Ecclesiastes 2:10, 11, 17-19; 7:12) When a Christian dies, the only thing of real value that he possesses is his relationship with Jehovah and with Jesus Christ.—Matthew 6:19-21; Luke 16:9.
Not Deterred by Opposition
16 Opposition did not cause Jesus to lose his focus on bearing witness to the truth. Even knowing that his earthly ministry would end in a sacrificial death did not discourage him. Of Jesus, Paul said: “For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2) Notice that Jesus ‘despised shame.’ He was not troubled about what opponents thought of him. His focus was on doing God’s will.
17 Applying the lesson of Jesus’ endurance, Paul encourages Christians: “Consider closely the one who has endured such contrary talk by sinners against their own interests, that you may not get tired and give out in your souls.” (Hebrews 12:3) True, it can be wearying to face opposition or mockery day after day. It can be tiring to keep resisting the allures of the world, perhaps to the disappointment of relatives who encourage us to “make something” of ourselves. However, like Jesus we look to Jehovah for support as we determinedly put the Kingdom first in our lives.—Matthew 6:33; Romans 15:13; 1 Corinthians 2:4.
18 Jesus’ refusal to be distracted was demonstrated when he began to tell his disciples about his coming death. Peter encouraged Jesus to “be kind” to himself and assured him that he would “not have this destiny at all.” Jesus refused to listen to anything that might weaken his resolve to do Jehovah’s will. He turned his back on Peter and said: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, because you think, not God’s thoughts, but those of men.” (Matthew 16:21-23) May we always be equally determined to reject men’s thoughts. Rather, let us always be guided by God’s thoughts.
Bringing Real Benefits
19 Jesus performed many miracles to demonstrate that he was the Messiah. He even raised the dead. Those works attracted the crowds, but Jesus did not come to earth merely to do a social work. He came to bear witness to the truth. He knew that any material benefits he provided were temporary. Even the resurrected ones would die again. Only by bearing witness to the truth could he help some to gain everlasting life.—Luke 18:28-30.
20 Today, some individuals try to imitate Jesus’ good works by opening hospitals or performing other services among the world’s poor. In some cases, they do this at great personal cost, and their sincerity is commendable; but any relief they supply is temporary at best. Only the Kingdom will bring permanent relief. Hence, Jehovah’s Witnesses concentrate, as Jesus did, on bearing witness to the truth about that Kingdom.
21 Of course, true Christians do perform good works. Paul wrote: “As long as we have time favorable for it, let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.” (Galatians 6:10) In times of crisis or when someone is in need, we do not hesitate to “work what is good” to our neighbors or our Christian brothers. Still, we keep our main focus where it belongs—on bearing witness to the truth.
Learn From Jesus’ Example
22 Paul wrote: “Really, woe is me if I did not declare the good news!” (1 Corinthians 9:16) He was not casual about the good news because preaching it meant life for himself and his hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16) We view our ministry in the same way. We want to help our neighbors. We want to show our love for Jehovah. We want to prove our love for Jesus and our appreciation for his great love for us. Hence, we preach the good news and thus live “no more for the desires of men, but for God’s will.”—1 Peter 4:1, 2.
23 Like Jesus, we do not lose our focus when others mock us or angrily reject our message. We learn a lesson from the miracle Jesus performed when he called Peter and Andrew to follow him. We see that if we obey Jesus and, so to speak, let down our nets even in seemingly unproductive waters, our fishing might produce results. Many Christian fishermen have obtained a fine catch after years of work in seemingly barren waters. Others have been able to move to where the fishing is more productive and have obtained a fine catch there. Whatever we do, we will not stop letting down our nets. We know that Jesus has not yet declared the preaching work finished in any part of the earth.—Matthew 24:14.
24 More than six million Witnesses of Jehovah are now busy in over 230 lands. The February 1, 2005, issue of The Watchtower will carry the annual worldwide report of their activity during the 2004 service year. That report will demonstrate Jehovah’s rich blessing on the preaching work. In the time that remains for this system of things, may we continue to take to heart Paul’s stirring words: “Preach the word, be at it urgently.” (2 Timothy 4:2) May we continue to give a thorough witness until Jehovah says that the work is finished.
Starting this year, the Service Year Report of Jehovah’s Witnesses Worldwide will not appear in the January 1 issue of The Watchtower. It will be published instead in the February 1 issue.
Can You Answer?
• How can we benefit from the training Jesus gave his disciples?
• What was Jesus’ attitude toward the people he preached to?
• What motivates us to give a thorough witness?
• In what ways can we keep our focus on doing God’s will, as Jesus did?
1, 2. What was Peter’s commission, and who gave it to him?
3. What miracle did Jesus perform, and what invitation did he offer to Peter and Andrew?
4. (a) How did Jesus prepare his disciples to give a witness? (b) How would the ministry of Jesus’ disciples compare with his own?
5. In what ways can we benefit from the training Jesus gave his followers?
6, 7. What quality of Jesus made his ministry effective, and how can we imitate him in this respect?
8. In imitation of Jesus, what motivates his followers to preach the good news?
9, 10. Apart from love of God, what other love motivates us to give a thorough witness?
11, 12. For what purpose did Jesus come into the world, and how did he keep his focus?
13, 14. (a) What failed to distract Jesus from his focus? (b) Although Jesus was materially poor, what did he accomplish?
15. What is more valuable than wealth?
16. How did Jesus face up to opposition?
17. What can we learn from Jesus’ endurance?
18. What fine lesson can we learn from Jesus’ words to Peter?
19. Although he was a miracle worker, what was the most important part of Jesus’ ministry?
20, 21. What balance do true Christians maintain in the matter of good works?
22. Why do Christians preach to their neighbors?
23, 24. (a) What lesson do we learn from the miracle of the fish? (b) Who today are giving a thorough witness?
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We will be effective in our ministry if we show the same concern for people that Jesus did
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Jesus came to earth primarily to bear witness to the truth
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Jehovah’s Witnesses concentrate on giving a thorough witness