by Steve Grusendorf
There is much to learn by discovering where Jesus isn’t. The phrase, “He is not here,” immediately reminds us of the words of the angel spoken on the first Easter. Jesus’ followers were looking for Him in the wrong place. He was not to be found among the tombs because He is alive.
There is another passage in the New Testament that reveals where Jesus is not to be found. Hebrews 13:12–14 says, “Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (ESV). This small passage teaches an important lesson for believers today about where Jesus is to be found and how we can join Him.
Finding Jesus in Hebrews
The writer of Hebrews is explaining that Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice for humanity. Jesus also suffered “outside the gate in order to sanctify the people.” He was killed outside the city of Jerusalem and was rejected by the very people He came to save. This powerful statement gives us much to be thankful for as His followers. We are guilty of such rejection, and yet Jesus died for us.
But look at the next phrase carefully: “Therefore let us go to him outside the camp.” Here we find another place Jesus isn’t. He is not inside the camp. The camp spoken of in Hebrews was not the camp of the godless. It was the camp of God’s people. Jesus was rejected first by Israel before He was rejected by the Gentiles.
This passage is beckoning us to go where Jesus is. We are invited to go outside the camp of God’s people. Friends, Jesus does not hide within the walls of our church buildings. He is outside these walls bearing the reproach of a sinful world. And, if we’re honest, Jesus sometimes bears our reproach, too, when we quietly scold Him for being too friendly with the broken.
The Church is Jesus’ beautiful Bride, but not all those who will be Jesus’ Bride have been found. So Jesus, the Bridegroom of the Church, is out in the slums and alleys of our world searching for His Bride. Jesus is bearing the reproach of His future Bride outside the camp. Can you see the clear connection to the Great Commission, my friends? The writer of Hebrews is not just telling us where Jesus is but also calling us to join Him.
The Great Commission is an invitation from Jesus to help find His Bride wherever she may be. We are to go outside the comfort found within our churches and bear the reproach of a broken and hurting world in order to find the Bride of Christ. Let’s consider how we can join Jesus outside the camp today.
1. Get Outside the Church Building
If you want to take the Great Commission seriously, you must do the work of Jesus outside the local church building. This is not a critique of your local church ministries. These must continue; this statement is not contradictory with the ministry of your local church. If Jesus said that He will return only when all have heard and He has yet to return, then there are some who must still be reached (see Matthew 24:14). Jesus does not just expect the Church to send missionaries to distant lands. Every follower of Jesus Christ is called to live a missional life. Some of us will go to distant lands while others of us will stay closer to home. Jesus expects each of His followers to join Him outside the walls of their church.
2. Evaluate Criticism Carefully
If you join Jesus outside the church, expect to be criticized. This lost and confused world will not appreciate your willingness to speak of truth, righteousness, and judgment. However, you will also be cut down by other believers who feel more comfortable staying insulated within the walls of their church. The New Testament is clear when it tells us that followers of Jesus must be ready to endure the same criticism, suffering, and rejection that Jesus experienced. Don’t be put off. Instead, remember that Jesus found you, His Bride, and made you beautiful despite the ugliness of your own sin. If criticism did not hold Jesus back from finding and rescuing you, don’t let it hold you back from joining Him.
3. Avoid Settling Down
Hebrews 13:14 says, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” The best way to complete the Great Commission is by remaining a pilgrim throughout this life. The Great Commission is tragically misunderstood if it is confused for a way to make our own towns safer and our local churches bigger. The New Testament speaks of a day when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. This day is coming, and every person on earth will bow. The Great Commission is the work of helping humanity bow willingly. We are to announce the coming of Jesus in every corner of the globe so that when He comes people will experience Him as a gracious Savior instead of as the eternal Judge. Make no mistake—every person will experience Jesus in one of these two ways at His Second Coming. This is why it is critical that Jesus’ followers always hold on to a holy discontent. We must continually find new spiritual ghettos that need the presence of Jesus within them. The Great Commission is about declaring that the lost no longer need to stay lost. Instead, those who were once lost are invited to become the Bride of Christ. This means that we continually ask the Lord to identify where we are to go next and who we are to connect with now in order to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.
Finding Jesus Today
Jesus’ first followers often missed it. They were looking for Jesus where He wasn’t to be found. Today, let’s avoid the same mistake. Let’s heed the words of Hebrews and join Jesus outside the camp. The story of Easter helps those who are looking for Jesus find a living Savior. The story of Hebrews helps those who are looking for Jesus find Him among the lost, broken, and rejected of this world. Now that we know where He is, the only question for us is: Are we willing to join Him?
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