Go, Tell!

   Written by on November 17, 2017 at 10:48 am

logo-smith-gregRecently, I read a little story by S. Briscoe, about keeping quiet instead of sharing faith:

Feeling a concern for witnessing can mean that you will have to stand up and be counted, and this can bring some degree of abuse.  Years ago I was praying with one of my children at bedtime, and I asked him if he had any problems we should pray about.  He couldn’t think of any, even though I could think of a number! Rather unwisely, I pressed the point and asked, “Don’t you have any problems at school?” “No,” he replied quite firmly. “Don’t the kids give you a hard time because you’re a Christian?” Again the answer was “No.” Thinking back to my own traumatic school days, I said, “But kids always give you a hard time if you let them know you’re a Christian.” His reply was frank beyond belief: “All the more reason you don’t let them know!” And quite happily he turned over to sleep. 

With the refreshing candor of the very young, he had put into words the practical reasons why many Christians don’t witness. They don’t want to take the consequences. 

Many Christians have reasons for not sharing their faith with other people.  Among these reasons, they tell themselves that they are too young or too old, and thus nobody will listen to them.  Or, they say that their past or present mistakes may taint their witness.  Still others say they are afraid of failure or rejection, while others are actually afraid of success—because that means they’ll be responsible for following up and discipling a new believer.  Mary Magdalene might have had these and more objections to testifying about her Savior, yet she was the first that Jesus told to tell the Good News of His resurrection.

In John 20, Mary was the first of the disciples to go to the tomb after Jesus’ burial.  Though other gospels name a group of women, John mentions only Mary, so we can assume she led the way.  Arriving to anoint Jesus’ body for burial, she found the tomb empty.  Assuming someone had stolen His body, Mary ran to tell the disciples.  They responded tentatively, sending Peter and John as a contingent, perhaps in case the Romans had laid a trap for all of them.  After the men investigated the crime scene, Jesus chose to appear privately to Mary.  Not only did He show her that He had been resurrected, but He also told her He would ascend to God.  Then He said, “…Go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your.” God (John 20:17) So, Mary went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and gave them His message.

Like many Christians today, Mary could have given all sorts of reasons why she was uncomfortable sharing the Good News about Jesus.  First, she could have said, “I’m only a woman.”  It amazes me how many people in the twenty-first century still disqualify women from full service in the church, all because of a few misunderstood passages of scripture.  Yet, Jesus was a liberator of women.  The Bible is full of heroines, many of whom spoke for God, took up arms, or performed acts of courage for the sake of the faith.  Regardless, many churches and denominations limit the kinds of service and ministry a person may have, based on antiquated views of gender.  In Mary’s day it would have made sense for her to raise the objection that she couldn’t instruct the disciples because she was, after all, a woman.  Women were considered incapable of deep spiritual understanding, and were not allowed to teach men.  Nevertheless, Jesus trusted her to be His messenger, and she answered His call with faithfulness.  If Mary could say yes to sharing her faith, and didn’t let gender become an obstacle, then neither should gender be an obstacle when you are, or anyone else is, called to share faith.

Mary might have shrunk from obedience to Christ because her tainted past made her feel unworthy.  No, I’m not talking about the rumors that Mary had been a prostitute before becoming a disciple.  Actually, there’s no mention in the Bible of Mary having loose morals at all.  That misinformation was spread by Pope Gregory I (540-604 AD), when he mingled the stories of the unnamed penitent woman in Luke 7:36-50, Mary of Bethany (Luke 10:38-42), and Mary Magdalene.  Some have even falsely identified her with the woman caught in adultery in John 8.  Yet the Bible never says anything about her ever being a prostitute, or having loose morals.  It does say that prior to her becoming a disciple, Jesus cast seven demons out of Mary (Luke 8:2).  Though no details are given as to the nature of this demonic experience, Mary could have felt ashamed that something about her had invited demonic presence.  She might have thought that, though Jesus had cleansed her, her past disqualified her from service.  Yet once Jesus freed her from this bondage, He clearly viewed her as worthy to accept His call.  In the same way, many Christians doubt their own capacity for ministry based on their tainted past.  They make excuses why their history prohibits them from service, or why others may not accept their witness or testimony because of their past.  But when Jesus cleanses you, He also declares your worthiness to speak for Him.

Just as Jesus told Mary to go and tell the Good News, He calls you to do the same.  It should be something you can’t contain, something that no excuse can prevent.  Your witness should simply leak out of you, uncontrollably declaring the joy you’ve found.

Many years ago some men were panning for gold in Montana, and one of them found an unusual stone. Breaking it open, he was excited to see that it contained gold. Working eagerly, the men soon discovered an abundance of the precious metal. Happily, they began shouting with delight, “We’ve found it! We’ve found gold! We’re rich!” They had to interrupt their celebrating, though, to go into a nearby town and stock up on supplies. Before they left camp, the men agreed not to tell a soul about their find. Indeed, no one breathed a word about it to anyone while they were in town. Much to their dismay, however, when they were about to return, hundreds of men were prepared to follow them. When they asked the crowd to tell who “squealed,” the reply came, “No one had to. Your faces showed it!”

So our faces should show the joy we have because of Jesus’ great love for us.  Witnessing shouldn’t have to be something you’re told to do—it should be something you can’t keep from doing.  Even though Mary may have considered herself an unlikely evangelist, she did not make excuses.  Instead, she jumped at the chance to go and tell people the Good News.  For whatever reason, you might consider yourself unlikely as well.  But God wants you to go and tell people what Jesus has done for you.

©2017 Greg Smith

About Greg Smith

Greg Smith is a Baptist minister who has served churches in Central and Southside Virginia. He lives in Halifax County, VA with his wife and children. To read more of Greg’s writings check out his blog at revgregsmith.blogspot.com.


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