Imagine someone asks you to help them out and you reply, “What’s it worth?” You want to know what value they put on your time. On the television programme Antiques Roadshow, people take their treasured possessions to be evaluated by experts. The moment we’re all waiting for is when they tell us what it’s worth.
What would involvement in mission be worth to you?
As you read the opportunities in this publication, you may well be asking yourself, “Will it be worth it?” But let’s ask the question from another angle. Let’s start with the cross of Christ and ask of that, what is that worth?
That’s the question the Prophet Isaiah addresses in Isaiah chapter 49.
When, in verse 3 God speaks of his servant “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendour”, it seems this servant is the nation of Israel, called to be a light to the nations. And yet, later on we discover that Isaiah is looking forward to a time when Israel would be in exile in Babylon. Instead of honouring God’s name among the nations, she had profaned his name.
In verse 5, the LORD says the Servant will bring Israel home. Now, the Servant is someone new. This is Jesus, the true Servant, the true light of the world. And he is going to redeem and restore Israel.
“What is due to me is in the LORD’s hand,” he says in verse 4, “and my reward is with my God.” God is going to reward the obedience of Jesus.
So what is Jesus worth?
He’s rewarded with his people Israel. God promises to restore and return Israel. But that is not enough. The obedience of Christ on the cross is worth more than that. And so we come to the key moment in this chapter in verse 6:
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
Jesus will restore Israel
But that’s not enough. Because the cross achieves more, the cross deserves more. Jesus left the glory of heaven. He did not cling to the right of his divinity. He took on human form. He became, says Philippians 2, a servant, the Servant. He was obedient to death, even death on a cross. He was betrayed by a follower, abandoned by his friends, beaten, mocked, spat upon, crucified. He died under the darkness of judgment, forsaken by his Father.
What’s that worth?
It’s worth the nations! Jesus deserves the praise of, not one nation, not two or three nations – but people from every nation. That’s why we go to the nations. Because this is what the cross is worth. Israel is not enough. Britain is not enough
Every step we make in mission is a step towards the moment when people from every nation, tribe, language and tongue join together to cry: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:12)
It is too small a thing to be concerned just for your parish. Christ is worth more than that. The cross of Christ deserves the nations.
“I cannot tell how silently he suffered, as with his peace he graced this place of tears, or how his heart upon the cross was broken, the crown of pain to three and thirty years … But this I know, all flesh shall see his glory, and he shall reap the harvest he has sown, and some glad day his sun shall shine in splendour when he the Saviour, Saviour of the world is known.”
I can’t tell how God will use you, lead you, surprise you, whether you will see much fruit or little, or whether you will suffer.
“But this I know, the skies will thrill with rapture, and myriad, myriad human voices sing, and earth to heaven, and heaven to earth, will answer: at last the Saviour, Saviour of the world is King!”
God will gather his children from the four corners of the earth.
“See, they will come from afar – some from the north, some from the west, some from the region of Aswan” (verse 12). These words are being fulfilled today in the mission of the church. These words are being fulfilled as you send, give, pray and go to gather the nations.
The redemption of Israel is too small a reward for the cross so salvation goes to the nations.
As a result in verse 20 the land of Israel is too small a place. It’s as if God’s people from all nations are crammed in together and people are saying, “This place is never going to be big enough. We need a new heaven and a new earth.” But don’t worry – it’s on its way (Isaiah 65:17)
At the moment the church in Europe feels small and fragile. But one day we will stand around the throne of the Lamb and see people stretching as far as the eye can see. And we will say, “Where have they all come from?” And then maybe we will say, “Worthy is the Lamb. This is the reward that Christ deserves. This is what it’s worth.”
Dr Tim Chester is the pastor with Grace Church Boroughbridge in North Yorkshire, a faculty member of Crosslands Training and Chair of Keswick Ministries. He is the author of over 40 books including Mission Matters: Love Says Go.