Jesus Christ—The Greatest Missionary
“I am a representative from him, and that One sent me forth.”—JOHN 7:29.
WHAT comes to mind when you hear the word “missionary”? Some think of Christendom’s missionaries, many of whom meddle in the political and economic affairs of the countries where they serve. As one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, you likely think of the missionaries sent out by the Governing Body to preach the good news in various lands around the earth. (Matt. 24:14) These missionaries unselfishly devote their time and effort to the noble cause of helping people to draw close to Jehovah God and enjoy a precious relationship with him.—Jas. 4:8.
2 The words “missionary” and “missionaries” do not appear in the main text of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. In its footnote on Ephesians 4:11, however, the Reference Bible suggests that the Greek word translated “evangelizers” can also be rendered “missionaries.” Jehovah is the greatest Evangelizer, but he cannot be called the greatest Missionary, for he was never sent by anyone. Concerning his heavenly Father, though, Jesus Christ said: “I am a representative from him, and that One sent me forth.” (John 7:29) In an expression of great love for the world of mankind, Jehovah sent his only-begotten Son to the earth. (John 3:16) Jesus can be called the greatest Missionary, the ultimate Missionary, because one reason why he was sent to earth was to “bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37) He was completely successful in proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom, and the benefits of his service are still available to us. For example, we can apply his teaching methods in our ministry, whether we are assigned as missionaries or not.
3 Jesus’ role as a Kingdom proclaimer raises such questions as these: What did Jesus experience on earth? Why was his teaching effective? And what made his ministry successful?
A Willing Spirit Amid New Surroundings
4 Present-day missionaries and some Christians who move to places where the need for Kingdom preachers is greater may have to become accustomed to conditions below the living standard they have been used to. But we cannot even imagine the contrast between Jesus’ circumstances on earth and those in heaven, where he lived with his Father among angelic creatures who served Jehovah with pure motives. (Job 38:7) How different it was to be among sinful humans in a corrupt world! (Mark 7:20-23) Jesus even had to deal with rivalry among his closest disciples. (Luke 20:46; 22:24) Of course, he dealt perfectly with everything he encountered on earth.
5 Jesus did not miraculously start to speak a human language; he began to learn it as a babe. What a change from being in command of the angels in heaven! On earth, Jesus used at least one of “the tongues of men.” It was completely different from ‘the tongues of angels.’ (1 Cor. 13:1) When it came to winsome words, however, no human ever spoke as Jesus did.—Luke 4:22.
6 Consider other ways in which things changed greatly for God’s Son when he came to earth. Although Jesus did not inherit sin from Adam, He did become a human, like those who would later become his “brothers,” or anointed followers. (Read Hebrews 2:17, 18.) On the last night of his earthly life, Jesus refrained from asking his heavenly Father to send “more than twelve legions of angels.” But just think of the angelic creatures over whom he had authority as Michael the Archangel! (Matt. 26:53; Jude 9) Yes, Jesus did perform miracles; yet, what he did while on earth was relatively limited compared with what he would have been able to accomplish in heaven.
7 During his prehuman existence as “the Word,” Jesus may have been God’s Spokesman who guided the Israelites through the wilderness. (John 1:1; Ex. 23:20-23) However, they had “received the Law as transmitted by angels but [had] not kept it.” (Acts 7:53; Heb. 2:2, 3) In fact, the first-century Jewish religious leaders failed to discern the intent of the Law. For example, consider the Sabbath law. (Read Mark 3:4-6.) The scribes and Pharisees “disregarded the weightier matters of the Law, namely, justice and mercy and faithfulness.” (Matt. 23:23) Nevertheless, Jesus did not give up and cease to declare the truth.
8 Jesus had a willing spirit. He was moved by love for people and keenly wanted to help them. He never lost the evangelizing spirit. And because of his faithfulness to Jehovah while on earth, Jesus “became responsible for everlasting salvation to all those obeying him.” Moreover, “in that he himself has suffered when being put to the test, he is able to come to the aid of those [like us] who are being put to the test.”—Heb. 2:18; 5:8, 9.
Well-Trained as a Teacher
9 Before present-day Christians are sent out as missionaries, the Governing Body arranges for them to be trained. Did Jesus Christ receive training? Yes, but he did not attend the rabbinic schools before being anointed as the Messiah; neither was he taught at the feet of some prominent religious leaders. (John 7:15; compare Acts 22:3.) Why, then, was Jesus so qualified to teach?
10 Regardless of what Jesus may have learned from his mother, Mary, and his adoptive father, Joseph, he received his principal training for the ministry from the highest Source. Concerning this, Jesus said: “I have not spoken out of my own impulse, but the Father himself who sent me has given me a commandment as to what to tell and what to speak.” (John 12:49) Notice that the Son was given specific instruction about what to teach. Before coming to the earth, Jesus undoubtedly spent much time listening to his Father’s instruction. What better training could he have received?
11 From the time he was created, the Son had an intimate relationship with his Father. During his prehuman existence, Jesus discerned God’s attitude toward humans by observing Jehovah’s dealings with them. God’s love for mankind was reflected in the Son to such an extent that as wisdom personified, he could say: “The things I was fond of were with the sons of men.”—Prov. 8:22, 31.
12 The training that the Son received also included observing how his Father managed adverse circumstances. For example, consider Jehovah’s dealings with the wayward Israelites. Nehemiah 9:28 states: “As soon as they were at rest, they would again do what is bad before you [Jehovah], and you would leave them to the hand of their enemies, who would tread them down. Then they would return and call to you for aid, and you yourself would hear from the very heavens and deliver them in accord with your abundant mercy, time and again.” Working with and observing Jehovah, Jesus cultivated similar compassion for the people in his territory.—John 5:19.
13 Jesus put this training to work as he compassionately dealt with his disciples. On the night before his death, all the apostles he had loved so much “abandoned him and fled.” (Matt. 26:56; John 13:1) The apostle Peter even denied Christ three times! Nevertheless, Jesus left a way open for his apostles to return to him. He told Peter: “I have made supplication for you that your faith may not give out; and you, when once you have returned, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32) Spiritual Israel has successfully been founded on “the apostles and prophets,” and the foundation stones of the wall of New Jerusalem bear the names of the 12 faithful apostles of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. To this day, anointed Christians along with their dedicated associates, the “other sheep,” flourish as a Kingdom-preaching organization under the mighty hand of God and the leadership of his beloved Son.—Eph. 2:20; John 10:16; Rev. 21:14.
How Jesus Taught
14 How did Jesus put his training into practice in teaching his followers? When we compare Jesus’ instruction with that of the Jewish religious leaders, we clearly see the superiority of Jesus’ way of teaching. The scribes and Pharisees ‘made God’s word invalid because of their tradition.’ In contrast, what Jesus spoke was not of his own originality; he stuck to God’s word, or message. (Matt. 15:6; John 14:10) That is also what we need to do.
15 Another factor made Jesus totally different from the religious leaders. Regarding the scribes and Pharisees, he said: “All the things they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds, for they say but do not perform.” (Matt. 23:3) Jesus practiced what he taught. Let us consider an example that proves this to be true.
16 Jesus urged his disciples to “store up . . . treasures in heaven.” (Read Matthew 6:19-21.) Did Jesus himself live in accord with that admonition? Yes, for he could truthfully say concerning himself: “Foxes have dens and birds of heaven have roosts, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay down his head.” (Luke 9:58) Jesus lived simply. He was primarily occupied with proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom, and he demonstrated what it meant to be free of the anxieties that come from storing up treasures on earth. Jesus pointed out how much better it is to store up treasures in heaven, “where neither moth nor rust consumes, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Are you following Jesus’ admonition to store up treasures in heaven?
Qualities That Endeared Jesus to People
17 What qualities made Jesus an extraordinary evangelizer? One was his attitude toward the people he helped. Among the fine qualities of Jehovah that Jesus reflected were humility, love, and compassion. Note how these traits drew many to Jesus.
18 Having accepted the assignment to come to the earth, Jesus “emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2:7) That was an act of humility. Furthermore, Jesus did not look down on people. He did not have the attitude, ‘I came all the way from the heavens, so you should listen to me.’ Unlike self-proclaimed false messiahs, Jesus did not go about trumpeting his role as the true Messiah. Sometimes he told people to refrain from telling others who he was or what he had done. (Matt. 12:15-21) Jesus wanted people to make their decision to follow him based on what they themselves observed. How blessed his disciples were that their Lord did not expect them to be like the perfect angels with whom he had associated in heaven!
19 Jesus Christ also expressed love—a dominant quality of his heavenly Father. (1 John 4:8) Jesus taught his audiences out of love. For instance, consider his feelings for a certain young ruler. (Read Mark 10:17-22.) Jesus “felt love for him” and wanted to help him, but the young ruler did not give up his many possessions in order to become a follower of Christ.
20 Among Jesus’ endearing qualities was his compassion. Like all imperfect humans, those who responded to his teaching were burdened with problems. Aware of this, Jesus taught them with compassion and pity. To illustrate: On one occasion, Jesus and his apostles were so busy that they did not have time even to eat a meal. However, what was Jesus’ reaction when he saw that a crowd had gathered? “He was moved with pity for them, because they were as sheep without a shepherd. And he started to teach them many things.” (Mark 6:34) Jesus noticed the pitiful condition of the people in his territory and expended himself in teaching them and performing miracles for their benefit. Some were attracted by his fine qualities, were moved by his words, and became his disciples.
21 There is much more that we can learn about Jesus’ earthly ministry, as the next article will show. In what further ways can we imitate Jesus Christ, the greatest Missionary?
How Would You Respond?
• What training did Jesus receive before coming to earth?
• How was Jesus’ way of teaching superior to that of the scribes and Pharisees?
• What qualities endeared Jesus to people?
1, 2. What is a missionary, and who can be called the greatest Missionary?
3. What questions are we going to consider?
4-6. What were some changes Jesus faced upon being sent to earth?
7. How did the Jews act as far as the Law was concerned?
8. Why can Jesus come to our aid?
9, 10. What kind of training did Jesus receive before being sent to earth?
11. To what extent did Jesus reflect his Father’s attitude toward mankind?
12, 13. (a) How did Jesus learn by observing his Father’s dealings with the Israelites? (b) How did Jesus use the training he received?
14, 15. In what ways did Jesus’ teaching contrast with that of the scribes and Pharisees?
16. Why would you say that Jesus lived in harmony with his words recorded at Matthew 6:19-21?
17. What qualities made Jesus an extraordinary evangelizer?
18. Why can it be said that Jesus was humble?
19, 20. How did love and compassion move Jesus to help people?
21. What will we consider in the next article?
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How did Jesus teach the crowds?