‘Mission is what the Bible is all about’, declares Chris Wright in his The Mission of God: Unlocking the Grand Narrative of the Bible (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2006, p.29). While he goes on throughout the book to nuance what he means by this bold statement, it reflects something BIG about the relationship between the Bible and God’s mission: that the unified and unifying story of Scripture is the story of God’s mission. It is a ‘big picture’ claim, which echoes a lot of writing on missional hermeneutics over the last ten to twenty years.
Yet, while we celebrate the way in which the Bible’s big picture tells us about God’s mission, let’s not forget that God’s heart for mission can be seen in the tiny details of Scripture as well. Later in the same book Wright has this to say about some of the seemingly incidental editorial seams in the Gospels, like Mark 3:7-8:
‘Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him.’ (ESV)
Here’s what Wright makes of the significance of these little details:
‘The editorial summaries of the international extent of Jesus’ influence. Though we might be tempted to dismiss these short notes by the Gospel writers as merely local colour, it is more likely that they are intentional signals of the wider impact of Jesus. His ministry was not actually confined to the borders of Israel, even if that was what he primarily wanted. For his fame to spread far and wide, and representatives of the nations came to know and to benefit from his ministry. These notes are found in Matthew 4:24-25, Mark 3:7-8 and Luke 6:17-18. The geographical spread of the the regions is substantial.’ (p.513)
God’s mission is in the very DNA of the Bible. Hold on to the big picture but remember to notice and appreciate mission in the tiny details as well!
Want to take this further? Come and study more about Bible and Mission with me on Redcliffe’s Summer school mode Contemporary Missiology MA, including the module ‘Reading the Bible Missionally’ running this July.