It’s The Small Things – Timothy Coté


Recently, I have been reading and rereading John 13-17. The scene: it’s the Last Supper and Jesus is preparing His disciples for His departure. It’s a mind-blowing section of scripture. The time has come. Jesus is leaving. His disciples are staying. At one point Jesus goes so far as to claim that it is to their “advantage” that He goes away (John 16:7). In my meager mind, this makes no sense. If I were at that table, I might have tried to talk Jesus into staying (I bet Peter would have joined me). Nevertheless, weknow what happens next. About a month-and-a-half after the Last Supper (i.e., the Ascension), Jesusdoes what He says: He leaves.

And Jesus doesn’t just leave. He places the future of His kingdom in the hands of His eleven remaining disciples. (Eleven out of twelve is approximately 92%. That’s right, according to American education standards, Jesus gets a B+ in “disciple-making.”) Three years of full-time ministry, and Jesus is ready to hand it all over to a group of eleven. Sure, one could argue Jesus passed the baton to the group of 120 gathered in the Upper Room in Acts, but even 120 is an astonishingly small number in light of the mission before them. You would think the King of Kings would have amassed a much larger force to carry on the work of His kingdom. He didn’t.

So what? These reflections can lead us to the intersection of many worthy and wonderful theological bunny trails, but for now, I want us to consider one thing in particular: the smallness of the kingdom of Jesus. Please rest assured that I am not questioning the omnipotence of God, His eternal nature, or the scope of His promise and plan to redeem and restore all things. Instead, I am marveling at the manner by which God started and sustains His kingdom.

When helping others make plans or set goals, I regularly advise them initially to “aim small, miss small.”To some degree, Jesus operated by the same maxim. After all, He launched His incarnation as a helpless baby; most of His earthly life was spent in obscurity; and His three years of “ministry” unfolded in a variety of settings, most often on the margins and among the marginalized of society. Even the “big” moments of His ministry were shielded from mass public exposure (e.g., baptism, transfiguration, calming the storm, etc.). Ultimately, Jesus’ earthly mission reached a climax when He surrendered Himself to what was a familiar form of execution reserved for common criminals. You get the point.

Jesus worked in small ways.

Jesus worked in small ways, and He often calls us to respond with small acts of worship, obedience, and faithfulness. This fills me with joy, gratitude, and expectation for what we do here at OneLife Institute.As a young adult, I attended a state university with roughly 8,000 students on campus and I have friends who have attended much larger schools with up to 40,000 students on campus. Sure, OneLife has grown a lot over the past decade of its existence, but the basic blueprint has stood the test of time: we take a handful of qualified and caring staff, add 30 hungry and humble young adults, and then we seek the kingdom together. As our staff, students, and alumni know, there is something inherently special about seeking the kingdom in a setting like OneLife.

There is a simplicity.

There is a sincerity.

There is a smallness.

Leave some room for the Spirit to work in such a setting, and I can promise you this: big things will happen. Just ask those eleven guys Jesus left behind.


-Timothy Coté