The Dawn Of Christianity

Day 1 of 3 • This day’s reading


Jesus’ Wise Plan

People often think of Jesus as a kind of early hippie who wandered aimlessly around Galilee, giving sermons and healing people at random until it was time for him to sacrifice himself on the cross. But the Gospels portray Jesus as having a very specific plan and a real urgency about his mission. “The harvest is plentiful,” Jesus is quoted in one of the oldest parts of the New Testament, “but the laborers are few."

He traveled from village to village throughout Israel, announcing the good news of God’s kingdom and demonstrating its power by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, giving alms to the poor, visiting the imprisoned, forgiving injuries, counseling the doubtful, comforting the sorrowful, admonishing sinners, and more.

The kingdom movement brought together people from all walks of life -- fishermen and day laborers, peasant farmers, ruffians, prostitutes, soldiers, Jewish intellectuals like Nicodemeus and Joseph of Arimathea, and wealthy female patrons. Jesus also had at least one supporter among the Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin, and perhaps even among the Roman upper classes. We know some of these people’s names, as they are preserved in the Gospels -- and remarkably for that time, even the names of the women. These were the diverse and surprising laborers for the kingdom -- and they were all part of Jesus’ plan.

Through his followers, he created self-perpetuating “cells” of his kingdom movement throughout Israel, each with the mission of establishing new communities. In this way, Jesus ensured that the kingdom movement grew rapidly. He had a keen understanding of human nature: when he gave his followers instructions for visiting towns and villages in his name, he told them, “If any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them."

In other words, his followers were not to waste their valuable time in places not receptive to his message. As a result of Jesus’ wise planning, demographers estimate the kingdom movement grew at a rate of about 40 percent per decade. Within two years, the few dozen men and women had grown to more than five hundred, then to three thousand. Within a decade, the community could have numbered many tens of thousands. Within three hundred years, it was thirty-five million. Today, it’s about two billion.