Did Jesus Write a Letter and Send it to the World? #262
Happy Monday, dear friends. A hearty welcome to all of our new listeners from India, Queensland and New South Wales Australia, Nova Scotia, Charlotte and other parts unknown. Thanks for joining us in daily Bible reading and discussion, thanks for telling a friend, and we would be honored and blessed if you would drop us a review on Apple podcasts/iTunes in whatever country or place you are listening to the show. Thank you! Our Bible readings today include 2nd Samuel 10, with lots of violence, and some surprise half-beards, plus Psalms 60 and 61, Ezekiel 17 and 2nd Corinthians 3.
Today’s title is probably the corniest I’ve written thus far, but it points us to an important and accurate spiritual truth. I do need to say first, before we get to that great spiritual truth, that there IS supposedly a letter that Jesus wrote. I thought I had talked about it before on this podcast, but a quick search on the website says otherwise…
In the early 300s AD, the church historian Eusebius of Caesarea published a correspondence between Jesus and Abgar of Edessa, an Arabian king.
Abgar, ruler of Edessa, to Jesus the good physician who has appeared in the country of Jerusalem, greeting. I have heard the reports of you and of your cures as performed by you without medicines or herbs. For it is said that you make the blind to see and the lame to walk, that you cleanse lepers and cast out impure spirits and demons, and that you heal those afflicted with lingering disease, and raise the dead. And having heard all these things concerning you, I have concluded that one of two things must be true: either you are God, and having come down from heaven you do these things, or else you, who does these things, are the son of God. I have therefore written to you to ask you if you would take the trouble to come to me and heal all the ill which I suffer.
Jesus gave the messenger the reply to return to Abgar:
Blessed are you who hast believed in me without having seen me. For it is written concerning me, that they who have seen me will not believe in me, and that they who have not seen me will believe and be saved. But in regard to what you have written me, that I should come to you, it is necessary for me to fulfill all things here for which I have been sent, and after I have fulfilled them thus to be taken up again to him that sent me. But after I have been taken up I will send to you one of my disciples, that he may heal your disease and give life to you and yours.
This probably didn’t happen, but it could have, and Eusebius is normally a very reliable early historian.
Now, assuming that the letter of Jesus to Abgar didn’t actually happen, the fact is that Jesus in a very real way, did indeed send a letter from Himself to the world, and that letter is you. Let me explain…no, there is too much, let me sum up. Actually, on second thought…let’s read 2nd Corinthians 3 together, and then you can see for yourself how YOU and I are the letters of Jesus to a lost and despairing world.
2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You show that you are Christ’s letter, delivered by us, not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God—not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
2nd Corinthians 3:2-3
Letters of recommendation were a very big deal in the first century – still are today, really, but probably an even bigger deal then. We see this in the ministry of Apollos from Acts 18:
24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.
The Christians in Ephesus sent a letter to the Christians in Achaia, introducing Apollos and commending him. The Achaian Christians welcomed Apollos and he had a very fruitful ministry there, at least in part, because the letter from Ephesus opened the doors of the hearts of the Achaians to Apollos.
You and I serve a similar function, brothers and sisters. We are the letters of Christ to the world. That means a couple of very important things.
First, it means that we bear the Words of God and are sent to share the message of Jesus. In the same way that Proverbs 7 exhorts us to write the Words and Commands of God on the tablet of our hearts, Jesus sent His disciples out with a commission to share His teachings to the world (Matthew 28:19-20 “19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”) Because we are to be bearers of the Words and Teachings of Jesus, this is one way that we are the letter of Jesus to the world. There is another way too.
Second, we are letters of Jesus to the world in a very similar sense as the letter of the Ephesian Christians about Apollo. We are to be, as Paul also says, in 2nd Corinthians also: Ambassadors of Christ. (“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20″) And, as we heard yesterday, we are to be the fragrance of Christ to the world, His presence and Word emanating from us in a tangible way. “we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” 2 Corinthians 2:15 Our lives, our behavior, our gentleness, our words, our patience, our kindness, our humility, our good works, our love for each other, our love for others, our acts of service and our very lives are to be like letters of introduction and recommendation for Jesus. We should never drive people away from Jesus by our foul behavior, our arguing online, our demanding of our own way, our impatience, our selfishness, or our anger…but we should, as ambassadors of Christ, represent Him well. Smell fresh like Jesus, remembering that the lowly sinners of the World loved Him dearly. And we should be letters of Jesus, His Words and character written on our hearts, Words and character in such a way that when people read us, they see Jesus and want to know Him.
Let’s give Spurgeon the last word on this:
THE brethren who had dwelt together in church fellowship at Jerusalem were scattered abroad by persecution which arose about Stephen. Their Master had told them that when they were persecuted in one city they were to flee to another. They obeyed his command, and in the course of escape from persecution they took very long journeys—very long journeys indeed for that age of the world, when locomotion was exceedingly difficult: but wherever they found themselves they began at once to preach Jesus Christ, so that the scattering of the disciples was also a scattering of good seed in broader fields. The malice of Satan was made the instrument of the mercy of God. Learn from this, dear brethren, every one of you, that wherever you are called to go you should persevere in making known the name and gospel of Jesus. Look upon this as your calling and occupation. You will not be scattered now by persecution, but should the demands of business carry you into different climes, employ your distant travel for missionary purposes. Providence every now and then bids you remove your tent, take care that wherever it is pitched you carry with you a testimony for Jesus. At times the necessities of health require relaxation and change of air, and this may take you to different places of public resort: seize the opportunity to encourage the churches in such localities by your presence and countenance, and also endeavour to spread the knowledge of Jesus among those to whom you may be directed. The position which you occupy in society is not an accidental one; it has not been decreed to you by a blind, purposeless fate; there is predestination in it, but that predestination is wise, and looks towards a merciful end: you are placed where you are that you may be a preserving salt to those around, a sweet savour of Christ to all who know you. The methods of divine grace have ordained a happy connection between you and the people with whom you associate; you are a messenger of mercy to them, a herald of good tidings, letter of Christ. The surrounding darkness needs you, and therefore it is written, “Among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” You are intended to warn and rebuke some, to entreat and encourage others. To you the mourner looks for comfort and the ignorant for instruction; let them never look in vain. Be the true friend of men, observe their condition before God, and endeavour to reclaim them from their wanderings. If Joseph was sent to Egypt that he might save his father’s house alive, you also are sent where you are for the sake of some hidden ones of the Lord’s chosen family. If Esther was placed in the court of a heathen king for the deliverance of her nation, so are you, my sister, called to occupy your present position for the good of the church of Christ. Look ye to it, brethren, lest ye miss your life’s object, and live in vain.
C. H. Spurgeon, “Conversions Desired,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 22 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1876), 133–134.