Go to the ends of the earth.
Isn’t it interesting to think about the people who heard these words of Jesus and their world in which they lived. They heard the call to Samaria and Judea and Jerusalem and they knew those places. They lived there, walked there, slept and ate and sneezed there. They spoke the language and knew the customs. They had favorite restaurants, or at least favorite foods. Although there were many differences, it was familiar.
You have to wonder what ran through their minds when they heard “ends of the earth?” The boundaries of the Roman empire? Egypt and beyond? Persia and India? Where they afraid they’d sail off the edge of the world? They would have known little of Northern Europe and Eastern Asia and nothing of the Americas. How did they feel about the ends of the earth? How do you feel about the ends of the earth?
I’m a North American and I came to faith in a Sunday School class as a boy in Missouri. When Jesus gave that commission to go, where was Southern Missouri in that geographic structure? Not close to Jerusalem or Judea or Samaria. It was at the ends of the earth. Absolutely. I had the privilege of hearing and understanding the gospel in my native land and language because a succession of men and women took seriously the call to the ends of the earth. Missouri is about as far from that hill near Jerusalem as you can get, yet the gospel was available when my heart was ready on a hillside in Missouri.
Most of us are “ends of the earth” people. That is, we were born and raised and became followers of Jesus in a part of the world that fits into Jesus’ “ends of the earth” construct. Our faith is real to us because someone, or many someones, acted on the words of Jesus. John Calvin, the great reformer, wrote these words in his introduction to his commentary on Ephesians, “The gospel does not fall like rain from the clouds, but is carried by the hands of men wherever it will go.”
Jesus says to go to the ends of the earth, to the whole world, to be his witness and to make disciples. As we’ve received this gospel, this gift and this teaching, it’s now our turn to go. Our turn to carry the good news to whatever places the “ends of the earth” represents to us.
If you look the word “go” up in the dictionary, which I’ve done as it’s not that hard, you’ll find a variety of definitions along the same theme. Dictionary.com gives these: 1. To move or proceed, especially to or from something 2. To leave a place; depart 3. To keep or be in motion. When Jesus tells his disciples to “GO,” he means for them to get up and move; to proceed to the task of making disciples. It is time to leave the hillside and move to a new place, to get into motion.
Like a lot of the things Jesus encourages us to do, like “love your neighbor as yourself,” the actual teaching is fairly easy to understand. Unfortunately, putting the teaching into practice is much more difficult. Loving your loud, smelly neighbor is more work than Jesus lets on. In the case of “go,” for instance, you might ask, “where?” Jesus says to go to all the nations, but where to start? With whom? What time? What comes first? Second? One of the glories of all this going is that Jesus does not spell out all the details. He gives quite a few available options (all the world). He gives some direction on what you should do as you go, which is to be his witness and make disciples and to love God and love others. But he leaves the place you do that up to you.
It may be far, like the uttermost part of the earth, wherever that is from you, or it may be near, like across the street. But one thing is clear. You have to move to get there. You have to get off your broad backside and go.