Monday, November 16, 2009

The Great Commission

Matthew 28 (also Mark 16 and Luke 24)

16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.
[How do you doubt after seeing the Lord resurrected? I think for many of the disciples the death and resurrection of Christ followed by brief his appearances, must have seemed like a dream. For 3 years they knew who Jesus was to them. He was a teacher, and a miracle worker, and their constant companion and mentor. But now his constant presence was seemingly taken away from them, and the resurrection and re-appearance of Jesus was difficult to understand. So some of the disciples doubted their own understanding of Jesus. Who was he really, and what did all of this mean? ]


Luke 24
44 Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me." 45
And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.
46 Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

[Just like with John the Baptist, Jesus deals with doubt by revealing to them how he was fulfilling scripture (Matthew 11). As John the Baptist' disciples saw and heard, the things they witnessed Jesus doing, was foretold in the Law of Moses, the Old Testament Prophets, and the Psalms. Jesus gave them an important context of scripture, by which they could understand what they had experienced. So he "opened their understanding". The light bulb came on, and they began to see Jesus as the fulfillment of all that God had promised to the nation of Israel.


Along with their new understanding he restates their purpose. They were to preach "repentance and remission of sins", in Jesus name. And this preaching was to be to "all nations, beginning at Jerusalem".


All the way back in Genesis 18 God promised Abraham that all the nations of the earth were going to be blessed in him, and this promise was repeated 6 other times throughout the Old and New Testaments. If the grace of God was only available to the Jews, then God's promise would not be fulfilled in Jesus. So the preaching was to begin in Jerusalem and spread to all nations. This also matches the words of the Angel proclaiming the birth of Jesus in Luke 2 "I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people". It wasn't yet good tidings to "all people", until the preaching of Jesus began to reach "all people".]

Matthew 28

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

[Verse 19 I think is one of the more misunderstood passages in the Bible. How many of you have been in a missions conference where this verse is featured with an emphasis on the word "Go"? The odd thing is that in the original language, the word translated "Go" is not even a verb, It is a participle that means "going". The verb is "make" as in "make disciples", so some translate this "as you are going, make disciples", or the way I like to see it "Everywhere you go, make disciples of all nations". I like to read it this way because some see "Go" and immediately turn off their brains with the thought that "I'm not a missionary, I've never left home, so this is not for me." But when we read this as "everywhere you go", then we understand the command is to make disciples, at home, at work, at school, at the store, wherever you are. Once you understand this, you will see that the Great Commission is not just for missionaries, but for all those who trust in, and follow Christ.

Now removing Go as a verb does not diminish the idea of world missions. Logic tells you that if you want to preach to "all people", you need to go where "all people" are. And this is what Jesus told his disciples in Acts 1 when he promised them the Holy Spirit "you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth". Just like in Luke 24:37 they start with Jerusalem and extend out to "all nations". But look at the "alls" in the Great Commission:

  • All Authority – given to Jesus
  • All nations – make disciples
  • All things – teach and observe
  • Always – Jesus is with us]

How appropriate that Jesus promise to be "with us always" mirrors the promise of his birth. Matthew 1: 23
the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."

Mark 16

15 And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16
He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

[This is Mark's account of the same instructions. This should remind us of our motivation. All who do not believe will be condemned. Some translations will say damned, both are correct and should make the meaning here very clear. The only way to save someone, is to make them a disciple of Jesus. Making a disciple includes, preaching the Gospel, Baptizing those who trust Christ, and teaching what Jesus taught. This process of mentoring new believers like Jesus mentored his disciples is often overlooked, but very important. The process should look something like this:

  • I do; you watch.
  • I do, you help.
  • You do; I help.
  • You do; I watch.

Using this formula we can teach believers to repent and confess our sins, pray for all our needs, study God's word, love those around us, worship and praise God together, live lives that honor God, give to the church, and witness where God gives us the opportunity. Disciples learn all these things from people who do them religiously. So we fulfill the Great Commission.]

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