Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Matthew 28:16–20

Matthew 28:16–20 (ESV): The Great Commission


Jesus has now risen from the dead, and appeared to Mary and Mary, who were instructed to tell the disciples that they would see Jesus again in Galilee. Apparently the message was more complex than that, though, because in this passage we are told that Jesus told the disciples to go to a particular mountain, which is where they have now gone.

When they see Jesus they worship him, although “some” doubt (verse 17 (ESV)). Jesus then gives them what we now call “the great commission”:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (verses 18–20 (ESV))


When we read in verse 17 (ESV) that “some doubted,” of course we all think of Thomas. I don’t know if Matthew is specifically thinking of Thomas here or if there were other, less vocal doubters as well.

The “great commission” is a pretty famous passage, so I don’t know that I’ll say anything here that hasn’t been said a thousand times before, but here are the thoughts that jump out at me when reading this:

First of all, Jesus tells the disciples that all authority has been given to him, and then says therefore we should go and make disciples of all nations. Why should we go and make disciples? Because all authority has been given to him! Some thoughts just on this piece:

The whole reason we’re giving the gospel in the first place is that God deserves to be worshiped, because He is Lord and Master over all. If Jesus didn’t have “all authority in heaven and on earth” then He wouldn’t be worth worshipping, and we wouldn’t bother to make disciples. Like everything else we try to make giving the gospel about us instead of about God, but we’re simply tools, He is the reason we’re giving the gospel in the first place.

He is also the one who saves people, not us. Don’t be fooled by the phrasing in verse 19 where he tells us to go and “make disciples,” we give the gospel, we plant the seeds, but it’s Him who saves. Some of the seeds we sow will land on hard ground, some will start to grow but get choked by the worries of life, and others will take root and grow into real, saving faith; when it does, it’s not because we caused it, it’s because He did. We are “making disciples” in the sense that when someone is saved, we are to be training them how to live as Christians, who God is and who we are in relation to Him, etc. Remember that “disciple” loosely means “follower” or “student” so “making disciples” is more than just giving them the Gospel; it’s also training them in the faith once they have believed in God.

The first point gives us a reason to spread the gospel, and the second point should take some of the pressure off of us; since it’s His power that saves, not our gospel presentation or amazing oratory skills, it means that we just need to do our best and leave it up to Him. The greatest evangelists of all time have given the gospel to people who rejected it, and people who’ve had no skills at all have given the gospel—however falteringly, however stutteringly—to people who have received it with great joy and been saved. Not that I’m saying that we can “slack off,” and not put any thought into our gospel presentations, if there are things we can work at of course we should work at them, and try to do better, just like anything else. But we should also do so without undue pressure; just like anything else we do for God, we do the legwork and then allow Him to accomplish His purposes.

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