The East and the West and Jesus

I think in both the East and in the West, people think of Christianity as a Western religion. And historically, there’s certainly truth to that, as over the past two millennia Christianity spread and took root particularly in Europe, and from there reached the Americas. But I think at the popular level, there is not enough awareness that Jesus himself was not Western. Jesus wasn’t white. Jesus was a Jew. An Israelite. A middle-eastern man. Not quite Western, but not quite Eastern either. And yet Jesus had something remarkable to say about both.

“I say to you, that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”   Matthew 8:11 NIV

Artwork by Ellie Waltman

Here, Jesus doesn’t make a case of West vs. East, but rather West + East. He claims that his teachings are for both, that He came for both. In the gospel of Luke, it is stated even more broadly to include the north and the south, too.

“People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.”   Luke 13:29 NIV

But what is he saying about them? He says that they will come and take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Now we could get into deep theological discussions about the meanings of the kingdom of God and the feast and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, but I want to focus again on the people who are coming to the feast. They are coming from all over. Not just the West. It is a diverse, international feast! And they’re going to ‘take their places’ at the feast. I feel like that could imply that they were invited, or at least that they had seats reserved.

I feel like from this we can know that it is Jesus’ heart, and God’s heart, that the Japanese and those from the East are at this heavenly party. Not only that, but notice Jesus doesn’t say, ‘I hope they will come.’ He says, “[they] will come.” It’s not just God’s wish, but it’s God’s prophecy, His decree. They will come. In fact, they are already coming. Different polls and articles show how Christianity is growing rapidly in China, which is an officially atheist state, is on track in the next years to have more Christians than the US, if they don’t already. One of the largest churches in the world, is Yoido Full Gospel Church in Korea, which has a weekly attendance of 200,000 people, and a membership of 800,000! That’s probably almost more than all the churches in Japan combined!

This begs the question I and many Christians keep asking. Why has this not happened yet in Japan? I’m not sure. There are many people who can answer that question better than me (and I’d love if some of them would come alongside me and share their thoughts here : ) But I do think that it could happen. It starts with a decision in the heart.

So, many will come from the West, and many from the East, and take their seats at the heavenly party. And I am certain, many of those seats are reserved for the Japanese people. You have officially been invited to the party!

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2 thoughts on “The East and the West and Jesus

  1. Actually, if you do the maths, there are around 1 million Japanese Christians, give or take some.

    1. Stephen Gabriel Falke March 21, 2019 — 10:38 am

      Yes, Wendy! You’re totally right! I think I somehow imagined an extra zero there or something ; ) I adjusted the post accordingly. Thanks for catching that!

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