By Randy Dillon
Acts 1:8b ". . . ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
When Jesus ascended to heaven, as related by Luke in Acts, His final words echoed His words in the Great Commission found in the Gospels. This directive to be a witness was not in this case a general call to ministry but instead it was a very specific command to particular geographical areas, each with a specific rationale.
First, we note that Jerusalem was initially mentioned. The City of David was the focal point of Jewish worship and a central focus of Godly worship from at least the time of Abraham and probably before. It was the site of the temple and the focal point of maintaining the civil law and the ceremonial law as well. Further, it was here that the early church began its ministry among the believing Jewish population and from which the churchs' first leaders emerged.
Second, the disciples were to witness in all Judea. While Jerusalem was a city, Judea was a larger territory around the city. It too was primarily Jewish and could trace its family ancestry back to the family lineage of Judah as well as Benjamin, Joseph's younger brother, and other tribes with a relationship to other children of Jacob..
Third, the witnesses were to expand to Samaria. This land to the north of Jerusalem and Judea was considered to be a pagan land by the Jews since they did not follow the same beliefs as the Jews. Looked upon as "half-breeds" because of their inter-marriage with the Canaanite Gentiles, Samaritans were avoided by Jews unless interaction was absolutely necessary.
The fourth ring of ministry was to be the largest and most general geographical area – "the uttermost part of the earth." This was to be a witness of Jesus as the Christ carried outside of the Jewish population to all people including Gentiles. As prophesized in the Old Testament, the Messiah was to be a light to the nations, to all of the world.
Now consider the ever expanding circle of witness which Jesus commanded. First to a city comprised primarily of Jews and the center of Jewish religious life; then to the surrounding countryside still mostly Jewish; then to Samaria, a people only partly of Jewish ancestry and with little religious connection to Jewish customs and practices; and, finally, to the ends of the earth. These four geographical areas represent widening concentric circles of influence with each circle expanding outward to include an ever increasingly large population.
It is likewise our duty to follow this example as we begin in our local community then expand to areas which surround the city, perhaps our county or state, then on to our country and finally to the world at large. We may not all go to the ends of the earth, but we can support missionaries who do. We may not travel all around the country, but we can support national ministries. At the very least we can support our local Christian fellowships at the local level. Following this command means we should be ready to witness anywhere and at any time.