What “going Viral” Really Means


These who have turned the world upside down have come here too” (Acts 17:6).

I used to think I knew what “going viral” meant.  I’d write an article or draw a cartoon, and if it were something I felt very strongly about, I would ask the Lord that it would go viral.  Others have their own definition for what “going viral” means, but to me it meant  others would copy it, spread it on their page, where it would be seen by others who would in turn copy it, and so forth.  Like some urban legends that seem to have taken on a life of their own and get reborn in every generation, anyone writing something worthwhile would like to see it “out there” and “with legs.”


To “go viral” means:  a thing is fast-moving, all-encompassing, and unstoppable.

Witness the coronavirus pandemic.  Fast-moving indeed.  All-encompassing certainly, as it slows down at no borders and spreads into every village, every culture.  There is no stopping it.  Not so far.

But it occurs to me the first pandemic, the first “thing” to go viral, was not a disease at all.  It was the news of Jesus Christ.

Some historians point out that one of the proofs of the resurrection of Jesus is the way the news about Him covered the known world in one generation.  Jesus died on the cross, and on the third day was seen to be alive and active, and within forty days, something amazing took hold of His followers so that they burst from Jerusalem literally covering the globe as they took the message of this Savior.

“These who have turned the world upside down have come here also,” said religious leaders of Thessalonica.  Panicked? They were indeed.

Paul Maier, professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University a generation ago, used to say, “For the gospel to have spread so far so fast required an explosion of some kind in Jerusalem.”  Acts 2 tells us about that explosion, the filling of the Holy Spirit.

The death-burial-resurrection of Jesus gave the disciples the message;  Pentecost gave them the power.

That day,  when the Holy Spirit blew the doors off their hinges and propelled the disciples into the streets to take the gospel to the world, we read that people from all over the known world were in Jerusalem and heard them.  “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia;  Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs” (Acts 2:9-11).  Notice how particular Luke specified the localities.

That’s how the Gospel got to Rome.  Rome: center of the Empire, ground zero for the culture of that day.

That Gospel is still moving across the world, entering homes and cities and governments and changing everything it touches.

For a closeup look at how it happens, here is a detail of the larger picture.  Watch this…

Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched (the leper) and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.”  As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed. And (Jesus) strictly warned him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”  However, he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places and they came to Him from every direction.  (Mark 1:41-45).

Get that? He disobeyed the Lord’s command to keep this to himself.

Those who meet Jesus are changed to the core of their being.  As a result they are simply unable to keep the news to themselves, but they “spread it abroad” as one translation put it.  And the people who hear this amazing news  are so hungry for this–lonely, oppressed, searching, empty, needy, guilt-ridden, a thousand things!–that they flock to Jesus.

Immediately  after the above story we see it happen…

And again (Jesus) entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door….  (Mark 2:1-2).

Then, a few days later, Jesus had to deal with a fellow whose life He had just transformed.  When (Jesus) got into the boat, (the man) who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be (allowed to) be with Him (that is, to accompany Him on his ministry). However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.” And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him and all marveled. (Mark 5:18-20).  

That’s the plan. That’s how it happens.  One who meets Jesus finds he/she is unable to keep the news to themselves  but tells others.

If you’ve got it, you’ll tell it. Do you have it?  –Evangelism professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and founding president of Mid-America Theological Seminary B. Gray Allison asked that question of a thousand seminarians.

Do you have it?  Are you telling it?