The term "evangelism" comes from the Greek word "euaggelion" meaning "good news" and refers to the process of spreading the good news (or "Gospel") of Jesus' teachings. Jesus spread his message both verbally through stories or parables and visually by the performance of miracles. Additionally, he encouraged his followers to adopt similar strategies, ensuring that his message would continue even after his death.
A third of the teachings of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament are in parable form. Parables were a way of teaching by comparison or through allegory. They drew from relatable events of everyday life but could be interpreted on many levels, which meant that they were accessible to all people, from illiterate peasants to educated priests. As such, the parable allowed Jesus' message to spread quickly and the entertaining qualities of the stories helped them to easily be retold by Jesus' followers to others who did not experience his teachings firsthand.
Another prominent aspect of Jesus' evangelism as portrayed in the Gospels was the working of miracles. Many of the miracles attributed to Jesus were performed in front of large crowds that had already gathered to hear him preach. Most often, Jesus' miracles were described as healings or exorcisms, demonstrating that he was able to access divine power. Other miracles, such as the feeding of the five thousand (Mark 6:30-44; Matthew 14:13-21; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13), reflected God's miraculous feeding of the Israelites in the desert (Exodus 16) and so again served to legitimize Jesus' claims that he was the messiah and consequently allowed him to gain more followers.
Another important part of Jesus' mission was the gathering of a select group of special followers. These disciples (from the Latin word "discipulus" meaning "student") received private instruction from Jesus and accompanied him on his travels. In addition to teaching them, Jesus also encouraged the disciples to go out themselves and teach his message (Matthew 28:19-20). The Gospel of John asserts that Jesus also gave the disciples the power to forgive sins (John 20:23). The disciples formed an important extension of Jesus' evangelical efforts and allowed Jesus' message to reach far greater audiences.
After Jesus' Death
The evangelism of Jesus continued after his death through the missionary movement led by the disciples and, most prominently, Paul. The Acts of the Apostles describes the early missionary movement and relates how the disciples traveled from town to town, teaching and performing miracles as a way of gaining new converts to Jesus' teachings. The letters of Paul similarly provide insight into the decades immediately following Jesus' death, but they do not include the performance of miracles. Rather, Paul gains converts simply by teaching his interpretation of Jesus' life and message. Through such missionaries and the composition of the Gospels, Jesus' evangelism continued after his death.
- Studying the Parables of Jesus; Peter Rhea Jones
- World Religions: Western Traditions; Willard G. Oxtoby
- Oxford Companion to the Bible; Miracles
- Peter, Paul, & Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend; Bart D. Ehrman
- biblegateway: Matthew 14:13-21
- biblegateway: Mark 6:30-44
- biblegateway: Luke 9:10-17
- biblegateway: John 6:1-13
- biblegateway: Exodus 16
- biblegateway: Matthew 28:19-10
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