Formations 07.25.2021: Come and See

Zechariah 8:3-8, 12-13, 20-23

It was a significant turning point in my faith when I discovered there is more than one valid, biblical model of evangelism. Growing up, my idea of what it meant to share the gospel was rooted in passages like Mark 5:19, where Jesus tells a healed demoniac: “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.” This same “go and tell” model is at least implied in the Great Commission passages in Matthew 28:19 and many other places in Scripture.

I don’t object to this approach, even though some have followed it in heavy-handed and manipulative ways. But it never really fit with my introverted temperament. More often than not, my assumption that this was the way to evangelize left me frozen in my tracks.

Eventually I realized that there are other approaches to evangelism, even in the Bible. For example, sometimes we see a model that is not so much “go and tell” as “come and see”:

They said to him, “Rabbi…, where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” (John 1:39).

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” (John 1:45-46)

Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” (John 4:29).

“Come and see” strikes me as a more organic approach to sharing the good news. It isn’t confrontational; it’s invitational. Rather than an in-your-face, high-stakes encounter, it is an invitation to walk together and experience the difference that God can make.

Zechariah 8 represents the climax of the prophet’s message. It is a triumphant vision of national restoration. God returns to Zion to dwell in the midst of God’s regathered people. In the mist of this miraculous reversal of Israel’s fortunes, God’s word sounds forth to the nations, but it seems the people’s job is not so much to “go and tell” but to welcome others who want to “come and see”:

Thus says the LORD of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, the inhabitants of many cities; the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, “Come, let us go to entreat the favor of the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts; I myself am going.” Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to entreat the favor of the LORD. (vv. 20-22)

In other words, the presence of God is so evident in Jerusalem that even those outside the covenant with Israel will flock to the city to seek God’s favor. Then the passage ends with an almost comical vision of a Jew effectively being ambushed by Gentiles who are desperate for a deeper experience of God:

In those days ten men from nations of every language shall take hold of a Jew, grasping his garment and saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”

That isn’t even “come and see.” Maybe it’s “stand and wait”!

What if our churches had such a reputation that total strangers wanted to come and see if Jesus was for real? What if our lives were so marked by the presence of the Spirit that we didn’t have to work too hard to reach out to others because they were already eager to meet us halfway—or more than halfway?

What if we took seriously the divine promise that God’s people are to be a blessing to the nations and sought ways to live this out in our communities of faith?

Discussion

• When have you seen a church “having the goodwill of all the people” (Acts 2:47)? What were they doing right? What were they not doing?
• What first drew you to Jesus Christ?
• How is Zechariah’s vision of national restoration relevant for Christians today?
• How does it reveal God’s plan not only for Israel but for all the nations of the world?
• What encouragement does it give for believers to share God’s love with others?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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