The following is an excerpt from Kurt and Warwick’s latest book, Great Southland Revival.
Jesus’ ministry was marked by incredible scenes of revival. According to R. E. Davies, “While most writers ignore the fact, it may also be said that the ministry of Jesus Himself manifested many revival features, as vast crowds also followed Him, and as He preached and performed many remarkable miracles.” Stuart Piggin agrees: “Wherever Jesus went, He took revival with Him, because the Holy Spirit was upon him.” The people who witnessed Jesus’ early miracles quickly recognised these events as a visitation of God, marvelling that “God has visited His people” (Luke 7:16).
Jesus Equipped His Followers for Revival
Throughout His earthly life, Jesus had the Spirit without measure. But He had work to do before inaugurating the Spirit-and-fire baptism foretold by John. He gathered to Himself disciples: three who became His closest companions; 12 who sat under Him as spiritual apprentices; 72 whom He trained for ministry; and great travelling crowds who simply could not get enough of His teaching and miracles. Jesus intended not only to teach God’s Word but to demonstrate it in supernatural power, and to equip His followers for the work of the kingdom.
The Gospel writers recount two specific missions Jesus gave His disciples. First, He commissioned the 12, sending them out in pairs and giving them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. We are not told of the results of this mission but we know it was conducted faithfully and that revival phenomena accompanied it. “They went out and preached that people should repent,” according to Mark. “They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.” (Mark 6:12-13). Luke wrote that “departing, they began going about among the villages, preaching the gospel, and healing everywhere” (Luke 9:6).
Sometime later, Jesus sent out the 72. He gave them similar instructions as He gave to the 12: take nothing for your journey; accept the hospitality offered to you in the towns you visit; if people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet as a warning and move on to where your message will be heard. Their task also echoed the earlier one: they were to heal the sick and proclaim the arrival of God’s kingdom. Luke suggests that stirrings of revival indeed took place: “The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name’.” (Luke 10:17). It seems that, with Pentecost in view, Jesus was preparing “commissioned officers ready to train the thousands of revival troops recruited for God’s army”.
Jesus’ Ministry as the Prototype for Revival
Consider also the large numbers of people who came to faith in Christ during His ministry. Many people put their faith in Jesus at the Passover Festival in Jerusalem. The testimony of the woman at the well in Samaria caused many in her town to believe, and even more embraced Jesus as Saviour after He stayed and taught them for several days. The Lord healed a royal official’s son in Capernaum, and the whole household believed as a result. Two waves of people came to faith in Jesus during the Feast of Tabernacles. Many more believed in Him when He ministered across the Jordan River. Twice John tells us of the conversion of groups of Jews after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. At Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, many Jewish leaders believed in Him also.
In fact, all four Gospel writers confirm that great crowds of Jews welcomed Jesus at His triumphal entry with shouts of, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Each biographer adds another detail to this shout of praise, confirming that the crowds truly believed in Jesus as Messiah and Saviour:
“Hosanna to the Son of David.” (Matthew 21:9)
“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David.” (Mark 11:10)
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38b)
“Blessed is… the King of Israel!” (John 12:13b)
Tragically, when Pilate presented Jesus to the Jews as their king just days later, the crowds shouted for Christ to be crucified. Echoing Ezekiel’s prophecy of the valley of dry bones, Jesus’ three years of ministry had set off a great rattling among God’s people. Bones had come together; tendons, flesh and skin had appeared. The time of their visitation was here, as Jesus Himself put it. But the breath needed to animate this vast army with spiritual life was still 50 days away.
Jesus’ life and ministry is the prototype for revival. “There is no doubt that in sending His Son to redeem us, God made the greatest visit of all the ages,” writes Barry Chant. The revival seen during the life of Jesus both echoes and surpasses every spiritual awakening in the Old Testament. So fruitful is Jesus’ ministry that, had He lived a longer life, we could imagine Him taking the good news of the kingdom all the way to Rome, the heart of the empire, and far beyond. Instead, He chose to pass His mission on to His followers.
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Article photo via Unsplash.