As we consider the many characteristics, qualities and perfections of the Lord, the One about Whom the angel announced glad tidings of great joy to all people, we may or may not have considered His model example as an evangelist. Since He was both the preacher and the message, we could paraphrase the earthly words of the Canadian author from the 60’s, Marshall McLuhan, and apply them to the Lord in a new and interesting way, “Christ was the medium which is the message!” As John puts it, He always was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The Lord’s example of evangelism is profoundly enlightening in ways that we might not expect. Yes, He was God manifest in the flesh and so was the perfect model evangelist. Yet, He was able to express to us a humanly perceived heart of evangelistic care and concern for the burdened, the lost, the departed, the dying, the bereaved, the broken, the hardened, and the sin-soaked souls that cried out for something real and lasting. If only there was something more to life than just fleeting happiness, frequent heartache, and certain decay. To these, the Lord had words indeed.
Christ appears on the scene to countless hungering souls. Almighty deity is masked, and revealed, in human flesh. While He was certainly able to instantly heal and save, as He had demonstrated at times, yet rather than immediately conferring salvation to the helpless masses, He patiently leads individual hearts to a deeper understanding in mysterious words and stories that only a very few searching souls seemed to comprehend. The Lord was interested in just those few, not only in the “few,” but in those very few as “individuals,” leaving the 99, as it were. The crowds thronged him with glowing, yet fickle, adoration, laying their palm branches down before Him. But it was the few individual lost hearts that caused the Savior to craft His words so carefully and precisely as to only have meaning for exactly the souls that were ready to hear. “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23 ESV)
The Lord seems almost un-evangelistic to our preconceived modern minds. He shuns the crowds, eschews fame, and takes pains to escape the teams of people who were hoping for some miracle or fascinating display. He had compassion on the thousands on more than just one occasion, and miraculously fed them, despite the fact that there were so many, with so little food. He definitely was not cold-hearted to the masses. Perhaps it was the anticipatory thought of the horrible scene in Pilate’s court with the accusing crowds shouting for His crucifixion, taunting and mocking Him, that gave Him pause at the thought of “crowds.”
He was not interested in convincing the masses of some great facet of nuanced spiritual truth, or on swaying the crowds to some new spiritual movement, though his message certainly was “new” in many ways. He was interested in confronting the misunderstandings and confusion of the day in regard to faith, as it was seriously warped. How many times did the Lord say, “You say … ” and then “but I say …?” How many times did the Lord have to confront fake faith with real faith? It troubled Him that there was so much manipulated religion for self-serving reasons, by those who should have known better, all in the name of faith.
It seems he was even more concerned about the troubled heart. “Let not your hearts be troubled,” was His frequent refrain. The Lord wanted to make a difference in lives, not just to orate profound truths (though they were), but to truly release troubled hearts from physical and spiritual bondage. To those who were hungry, hurting, or oppressed, His message was one of relief, of lifted burden, of healing. To the sin-laden woman at the well, the Lord converses in warm tones of care and even praise: “Thou hast well said.” (John 4:17) Yet the truth is not omitted by the Lord. The Lord communicates the woman’s situation to her by first commending her for her halting truthfulness, not to further burden her or shame her, but to gracefully teach her who He was. He was the all-knowing Christ who could give her water that would last forever!
While the Lord’s words had authority, ringing true (because they were true) to beleaguered hearts, while silencing the schemers against Him, He always took the low place and acknowledged the Father’s hand in His message. He was “sent of His Father” and He only “did as the Father requested.” His messages came from His own passion for souls, yet He truly was the messenger of the Father; He was the sent one. With great care, the Lord expressed that He was bringing a message to us: “I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things” (John 8:28 NKJV), as if to remove any question of self interest. His authority came from the Father, which we see in the Father’s words, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Mark 9:7).
Much more could be said. Many quotations and words of the Lord could be reviewed and many other ways of His modeling evangelism could be explored, beyond which I have not done in this writing.
I leave with you this that is intriguing in the Lord’s example of evangelism: it is that the Lord really cared. He may have, at times, addressed great crowds, but whether many or single, His expressions and utterances were focused on the individual souls who were seeking, addressing needs and concerns they had at that very moment. He did not lose sight of the burdens of life people were carrying. His heart ached along with them, desperate to communicate to them the “everlasting” that their hearts craved.