TEXT: Matthew 28:16-20
SERVICE VIDEO (link)
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18b-20)
In Matthew’s telling of Jesus’ story, this is the last thing recorded, Jesus’ last words and teaching. These words that we call “The Great Commission” have probably been preached on as much or more than any other passage in the Bible. Particularly when it comes time for “missions-emphasis” or the like, there is no more obvious passage to consider.
Having said that, I think that the Great Commission is often dismissed as the marching orders for “special Christians” – missionaries, evangelists, disciples… those sort of people. In truth, each of us have a mission and a ministry given by God. Today I’d like to challenge you to hear the Great Commission as God’s Word to you. The Great Commission is addressed to the eleven disciples, but their task is to go make more disciples – more people like them! Jesus’ words are for all disciples – all people who would claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ. If you are a Christian, these words are for you!
So I’m going to personalize these words. Yes, we call them the “Great Commission” – the mission God has given all followers of Jesus together. But as applied to each of you and to me, we might also think of this as your personal mission.
Everywhere You Go… (v.19a)
Your personal mission begins with the phrase, “Go therefore.” The therefore relates to what Jesus has just said, that he has been given “all authority… in heaven and on earth.” We are his followers because he leads. We learn because he teaches. We obey because he commands. We love him because he has first loved us. “And so,” he says, “Go!”
Literally, this is not a command. It is not, “Go!” but “as you go” or “when you go.” I like to translate it into English as “everywhere you go.” It is not meant to be a command to leave the building, but to set the stage for what God wants us to do at every moment of our days as we come and go.
Your personal mission from God, then, is not an end destination for one day when you retire or one day when you sell all you have to move to Africa. Rather, it is part of the daily journey and mission of being a Christian.
Having set the stage for an every-moment, every-place application of being his follower, Jesus goes on to say what it is that he wants us to do.
Make Disciples (vv.19-20a)
Everywhere we go, then, we each have this great and personal mission from Jesus. Here’s something you may not know: the only command in the Great Commission is to make disciples. Literally, it’s something like this: “As you are going, MAKE DISCIPLES, by baptizing and teaching. Going is assumed and the methods – the when and how – are outlined. But the mission is to make disciples of all nations – not just those who are near and familiar, but every tibe, tongue, and nation!
What about the HOWS – the “by baptizing and by teaching”? Baptizing stands in for a number of things including training, repentance, incorporation into the faith community. Teaching them “to observe all I have commanded” is obedience broadly to God’s Word. And what commands might it be? I think of the Ten Commandments; I also think of the love commandment from Maundy Thursday. That was our first scripture reading today:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you… by this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Even there you see the connection between obedience to what Jesus has commanded tied to discipleship, which is at the heart of your great personal mission. But you also see that teaching isn’t just speaking. It isn’t just telling other people what to do or how to live; it is living and loving well. Another way to say it is that we don’t just teach discipleship, we demonstrate discipleship.
So let’s come back to the main task: making disciples. What’s a disciple? Simply put, it is a student. But we have such a modern image for that. A better description might be a life-long learner who follows a teacher. There are elements of learning, obedience, and commitment which all focus on the master-teacher, Jesus. In other words, you aren’t ever done being a disciple and following Jesus isn’t a one-time thing; it’s a life-long commitment. And those kinds of disciples are what we are to replicate, with God’s help.
So your personal mission again:
Everywhere you go, you are to make disciples by demonstrating discipleship.
It seems like a daunting challenge, doesn’t it? How can you or I make a disciple when we don’t have our own act together? Part one of the answer is that we don’t have to become the master-teacher, just invite folks to join us as fellow-disciples! Part two of the answer is where Jesus ends the Commission…
“I am with you always” (v. 20b)
Jesus’ last statement after giving this mission to his followers is, “…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” We don’t have to do it alone. In fact, taken in context, the whole point is that we are following Jesus in what He is doing. And when the promised Holy Spirit comes, we will be following God’s leading through the Spirit. We will have success making disciples because Jesus is with us. That’s why this isn’t called the “Great Mission,” but the “Great Commission.” Because co- means ‘with.’ Jesus is charging us with following, meeting up with, and joining with him in his mission. We are co-workers; it’s a co-mission.
His promise, “I am with you always” is kept at Pentecost through the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus ascends to be with God the Father, but he leaves the Spirit, also called Comforter, Counselor, Advocate, and Helper. We will remember and celebrate Pentecost in a few weeks on May 28.
We rightly gather each week to worship God in Spirit and Truth. But the Word we hear and the Spirit of God that we encounter calls us outward to where God is at work – making disciples in the communities and world around us.
Your Personal Mission
So back to your personal mission? What places to you go to throughout the week? Are there people who do not know God that you will come in contact with? Are there people you could come in contact with if you chose? Jesus challenges each of us with the words, “Everywhere you go, speak of me and make disciples.” Where will you go this week and what will you do as a follower of Jesus Christ?
I pray that God will give you supernatural vision, compassion, and courage to accept your mission and act on it, in His strength and for His glory. Amen.
Some Music Used
- Hear the Call of the Kingdom
- Oh Praise (the Only One)
- Here I Am, Lord