Don’t Spread the Gospel?

by Sean Perron
by Sean Perron

There are moments when a good Bible reader should be somewhat perplexed by the Scriptures. One of them is when Jesus tells his disciples not to talk about him.

On multiple occasions, Jesus performs miracles and then forbids those nearby not to tell anyone. When Jesus heals the deaf man in Mark 8:35-36, Jesus “charged them to tell no one.” Earlier in Mark 3:11-12, as Jesus cast out many demons they would shout out his identity. “And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God.’ And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.”

It is interesting that repeatedly in the book of Mark Jesus forbids people to spread his news, but they usually do not listen. Jesus’ fame catches like wildfire throughout the surrounding regions and crowds gather to meet him. It appears that these massive gatherings actually hinder Jesus’ mission.

Jesus cleanses a leper in Mark 1:40-45 and “sternly charged him… and said to him see that you say nothing to anyone…” Yet in verse 45, the leper “went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no long openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.” It appears that Jesus was unable to enter into towns to preach because he had become so popular. In a strange turn of events, the spreading of his fame was beginning to hinder his purpose in coming.

Jesus did come to heal the sick, cast out demons, and preach the good news of the kingdom to the poor. However, Jesus mainly came to earth in order to die for the sins of the world and rise from the dead as the victorious Messiah. If word about the true identity of the Messiah spread too quickly, Jesus may have been hindered from fulfilling his main mission.

The people wanted a different type of Messiah than a bloody crucified Messiah. In Mark 8:30 when Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ, Jesus told the disciples to “tell no one about him.”  Following this Jesus told his disciples of the death and resurrection. “And he said this plainly, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.” Even Peter did not understand the mission of Jesus when Jesus told him plainly at Caesarea Philippi. Jesus had to rebuke Peter because Peter opposed Jesus going to the cross. One can only imagine the uproar from the multitudes if Jesus had revealed his true mission to them. By veiling his identity to the masses, Jesus was able to keep on target to Golgotha and be unhindered in his plan.

This reasoning for the Messianic secret is confirmed with the story of the demoniac in Mark 5:1-20. After Jesus casts out the Legion of demons from the man, the man begged to travel with Jesus. Despite the urgent pleas of the man, Jesus refused his request and told him to return hope to “tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:19) This is in stark contrast to the previous behavior of Jesus. Instead of telling the man to be quiet, Jesus tells him to go proclaim the good news.

Why the sudden change in commands for Jesus? Mark 5:20 gives the reader a clue. “And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.” The man was not from the area and would not be a hindrance to Jesus and his mission. The man was from a region of ten Gentile cities to the East. It would advance, rather than hinder, the cause of Christ for this man to return to his family.

When Jesus was coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration he told Peter, James and John “to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” (Mark 9:9) Now that time had come and the disciples were commanded to tell the world the gospel of Jesus Christ. Clearly, Mark himself is obeying this command when he starts his gospel, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

The message cannot be kept secret any longer. The personal ministry of every Christian is to understand the mission of Jesus, believe upon his saving work, and proclaim this message to all the nations. The gospel of Mark concludes with Mary Magdalene and Mary mother of James visiting the tomb of Jesus. To their utter shock, the stone had been rolled back and Jesus was alive. An angel comforts them and says, “Do not be alarmed… but go, tell his disciples…” (Mark 16:6-7)

The word is out and the rumors are true. Jesus has risen from the dead. He is the Messiah and offers salvation to anyone who believes.

Tremble, believe, and rejoice. But whatever you do, don’t keep it a secret. Tell everyone.

Good Gossip: Some Thoughts on Sharing The Gospel

by Anonymous

There’s a lot of advice out there about how to share the gospel.  And to be clear, there are many faithful ways to share the gospel and there are different kinds of evangelists.  No one should assume that their way is the way to do evangelism, or that they have arrived at the perfect methodology.  Yet as I have stumbled forward in my journey to faithfully witness for Jesus, I feel that God has taught me some practical ways to be bold, wise, and winsome.  The following are some basic things I try to keep in mind when sharing the gospel with Muslims, hipsters, homosexuals, or anyone who is not yet a believer.

1. Listen Well
A missionary to Kazakhstan once told me that if you’re willing to listen, you’ll always get to share the gospel.  I’ve found this to be true.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer speaks of listening as a ministry, even as part of how God ministers to us in prayer.  By being a good listener, you are ministering to your lost friend and affirming their value in God’s sight.  Often, when we have listened well, there is a natural opportunity where our friend will want to hear our take on things.  As you have listened well, so then your friend is more likely to give a hearing to what you have to say, rather than just thinking up comebacks in his head while you’re speaking.  Listening also gives opportunity to custom-fit your gospel presentation.  How many times did Jesus share the gospel the same way?  He had perfect insight into the souls of others and he shared the good news of the kingdom differently every time (with the same Jesus-centeredness of course)!  To paraphrase Francis Schaeffer, we Christians know the answers, but we often don’t know the questions the lost around us are asking.  Listening well enables us to know which aspect of the gospel we should major on, so that, God willing, the truth we share will cut to the heart of our friend.  By listening well, we show our friends that we care about them and we lay a foundation for open ears when we talk about Jesus

2. Gossip about Jesus
A lot of Christians put pressure on themselves to get out the whole gospel when they get a chance in conversation.  I’ve found it’s more helpful to look for opportunities to share about Jesus, anything about Jesus, even if it’s only one thing, one parable, or one saying.  Constantly holding up Jesus as wonderful and powerful lets your friend begin to fall in love with him.  We don’t know which things about the gospel will specifically resonate with a specific person.  This allows room for the Holy Spirit to give us just the right thing to say.  I will often start talking about Jesus in a way that invites my friend to look at Jesus with me, rather than by starting by directly confronting my friend with the gospel.  That confrontation will and must come, but often the Holy Spirit starts doing that before I get around to it.  When we do confront sin and talk about the gospel’s direct claims on my friend’s life, often the conviction is already there.  Have a basic outline of the gospel story memorized (God – Man – Sin – Christ – Response), but don’t be chained to it.  Let stories and parables and sayings be fresh on your mind for the Holy Spirit to prompt when he wills.  And if you don’t get what you consider the whole gospel in, don’t feel guilty about it.  Praise God that you were able to share truth.  And think about the richness of the gospel… when have you EVER shared the entire gospel in one conversation?

3. Be a really good friend
Our lives as believers and our love for our friends are two things that makes the gospel seem plausible.  The gospel is foolishness to unbelievers, but when heard from a really good friend, and in the context of a loving relationship, it can become beautiful and compelling.  Commit to being a really good friend and to pouring into this one person, asking God to save them.  With some friends, even if they don’t end up being open, because of your friendship you end up with access to their entire relational network.  So your friend might not be open, but if you love her well, she becomes the door to her sister, who is open.  Being a good friend is also really important for overcoming all of the false information unbelievers have about Christians and what we believe.  Often we are kind of behind from the start.  For example, with Muslims we are sometimes presumed to be immoral heretics who believe in three gods – the Father, Mary, and Jesus.  Our godly friendship dispels all this false information.

4. Pray radically
Ask God every day to save your friend, to open doors for gospel conversation, and to work miraculously in their lives.  God loves to answer these prayers.  Don’t forget that Elijah was a man like us.  And God can save your friend anytime he wants to.  That’s why we ask him to do it!  He delights to use our prayers as his means of saving.  That means we pray more, not less.

5. Be a gracious host and guest
Hospitality is especially important when reaching out to internationals, but also goes a long way with Americans.  Find out what your friends really enjoy and get good at serving it when they come to your house.  This could be chai for Middle-Easterners, chemex coffee for the hipsters, or that particular thing you’re friend just can’t get enough of.  As God has lavished his gifts on you, lavish your unbelieving friends with food and friendship and a safe place to hang out and talk about real issues.  Having gospel conversations over good food and drink lets us be like Jesus, who regularly ate together with sinners and pharisees.  When eating out, buy your friend’s coffee or dinner.  Tip well and be kind to those serving you.  Christians are the last people who should be stingy.

6. Be a Learner
Learn as much as you can about your friend’s life, culture, and background.  Learn some of their language if they’re not from your country.  Being a learner shows that you value your friend, it affirms them, and it helps you share scriptural truth with insight.  One of the the lies the enemy will throw at your friend is that Christians are know-it-alls.  Eagerly learning from your friend undermines this lie, demonstrates humility, and often results in an open ear for the gospel.  Learn the rules of your friend’s culture or subculture so that if you break them, you are breaking them intentionally and purposefully, and not out of ignorance.

7. Be Authentic
There’s no need to keep up appearances.  You don’t know it all, you don’t have it all together, sometimes Christian culture is goofy, and yes, you still struggle with sin.  Be open about your weaknesses and in the process point to Jesus, the one who not only justifies sinners, but also sanctifies them.