The King’s Command

Posted: July 15, 2013 in Matthew
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Matthew 28:11-20, “The King’s Command”

Every soldier knows the importance of following orders.  All commands are important, but who gives the command makes a huge difference.  It’s one thing for our fellow colleague to tell us something – it’s another thing for a superior – and something entirely different when it’s the Commander-in-Chief.  When he speaks, he outranks everyone else & what he says matters on a whole different level.

Our Commander-in-Chief has spoken.  Our King has given us a command.  In what has become known as “The Great Commission,” our King has given us final orders to make disciples of all the world, and He’s told us how to do it.  When King Jesus stood on the mountain that day, He was not speaking only to the 11 disciples, but to all the Church.  Their orders are our orders.  Our King has given us a command, and we have the wonderful privilege of obeying.

The fact that Jesus was giving a commission at all is reason for joy!  After all, just days earlier He had been crucified and buried.  We are now in the short conclusion of Matthew’s gospel account, showing the resurrected living Lord Jesus.  Jesus had died, but now He’s alive.  The women at the tomb had been amazed, and sent to tell the disciples the news of Jesus’ victory over death.  Of course, that news was not welcome news to everyone…especially the Romans & Jewish priests.  They had their own ways of dealing with it.  They were going to go spread a lie, but Jesus commissioned His disciples to go spread the truth.

What was the truth?  Jesus is the King, and all the world can follow Him as His disciples.  How were people to know?  By the current disciples going out and telling them.

Matthew 28:11–20
11 Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened.

  • While WHO “were going”?  The ladies mentioned in the preceding verses.  Think of this as a “meanwhile…” as in an old TV show or mystery novel.  Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, and Salome had gone to tell the disciples what they had seen at the tomb.  First the angel had commanded them to tell the disciples what had happened, and then Jesus physically appeared to them and gave them the same command.  They were overjoyed, bewildered, and still obedient and were off to do what the Lord Jesus had said.  But remember that they were not the only ones at the tomb who had seen the angel.  The Roman soldiers guarding the tomb had been first-hand witnesses of the angel (though not likely of Jesus).  They had responded at first with paralyzing fear – they became as dead men (which would have taken a lot for these battle-hardened soldiers of Rome!).  Now they did the only thing they could do, and that was to go back and tell the priests.
  • Question: why did the Roman soldiers talk to the priests & not to Pilate?  Although they had been hired out by the request of the priests, they did not report to the priests.  The Jewish priests had their own temple police for which they used on all sorts of occasions, but they hadn’t used the temple police this time, which is apparent from the text.  After all, there was no reason for the priests to ask permission of Pilate to use their own temple police, and the word used to describe the guards is a word transliterated back into Greek from Latin.  There’s little doubt that these were indeed Roman soldiers.  So why did they go to the Jewish chief priests?
    • They had witnessed the supernatural – something that Pilate nor any of their superior officer would have been able to explain.  They would have known (as all the city knew) that Jesus was crucified for being the King of the Jews and capable of all sorts of supernatural miracles.  It would only make sense for them to go to the people most capable of explaining this sort of event after what they just experienced.
    • They knew they were in deep trouble.  Rome did not take failure lightly.  This was supposed to have been an easy assignment.  After all, how hard is it to guard the tomb of a dead man?  Even if the disciples had come to steal the body, the Romans were trained warriors – 11 fishermen and tax collectors would not have been any trouble at all for them.  The reason the soldiers had failed was due to a supernatural explanation, so they go to the only people they can think of with the answers for how to deal with the situation.  It was the priests’ fault that they had been given the assignment; it was the priests to whom they went for answers.
  • This tells us something about the chief priests: like the 11 disciples, they also knew on Sunday morning that Jesus had risen from the grave.  They had no excuse NOT to believe.  They also had been witness to Jesus’ miracles, His teachings, and His prophecy.  They knew that Jesus had promised to rise the third day after His crucifixion, and He did.  There was no way that these educated scholars in the Scripture could not put 2 & 2 together, and come up with the conclusion that Jesus is indeed the Messiah.  If nothing else, His resurrection is the definitive proof of that (Rom 1:4).  At this point, the Jewish chief priests were willfully closing their eyes against Jesus.

12 When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.”

  • Matthew doesn’t tell us what was said, but he does tell us that the response of the priests was not repentance; it was a conference.  They recognized what had happened – they realized what the response of the people would be – they knew that they needed to have their own “spin” to the story to try to head things off before it got too far among the people.  At this point, the chief priests and elders were by no means interested in the truth; they were deep into damage-control.
  • Their solution?  A plot, a payoff, and protection.  They plotted a lie.  The idea would be totally illogical and improbable, but it’s what they decided to go with in their deception.  They were supposed to claim that they fell asleep, but yet that they knew it was the disciples who came to steal the body.  How exactly would they know who stole the body if they were asleep?  And how would the disciples not disturb the soldiers as they slept there?  Rolling back the stone would have made quite a bit of noise.  Were the 11 disciples who had not been able to do more damage than lopping off the ear of a slave supposed to somehow intimidate the Roman soldiers?  Even only 4 soldiers would have been more than enough to dispatch the disciples, and there were likely 16 of them.  The Romans would have outnumbered the 11 disciples, and yet somehow the disciples snuck past them?  Nothing about this story makes any logical sense at all, and yet it was what the priests chose to go with.
  • The payoff was a bribe.  We’re not told the amount of the money offered to the soldiers, but it seemed to be a sufficient amount of silver to offset any fear of retribution from Pilate, or embarrassment to their reputations.  Considering the consequences that normally awaited a Roman soldier who neglected his duties, the amount offered was surely huge!  Typically, soldiers who fell asleep on the job would be pushed off a cliff to their deaths.  This wasn’t something Rome took lightly!  And of course their entire future career would be tarnished by the story that a bunch of untrained fishermen outsmarted these Roman soldiers while they slept.  No doubt the bribe was quite massive to make it worth their while.
    • Interestingly, the priests’ opposition to Jesus keeps getting more & more expensive.  At first, it was a minor 30 pieces of silver to Judas.  Now it’s a bribe to the Roman guards.  Later it will be their own version of the inquisition as they send out people like Saul (Paul) to persecute the church wherever it was found.  Then it will be ongoing trials against Paul that last for years, etc.
  • The promise of protection was likely the thing that sealed the deal.  In the eyes of Rome, the guards had already failed in their duty.  After all, even if they hadn’t lied about the events, they would have still had to go back to Pilate with the story that an angel of God had scared them away from keeping the tomb of Jesus sealed.  (THAT probably would not have gone over very well!)  They were facing severe punishment, and likely death, no matter what they said.  For the soldiers to receive a promise of personal protection from the high priests would have been very welcome news.  The priests said that they’d be the ones to speak up on their behalf to Pilate & cause their lives to be saved.
  • Why go through all this trouble?  The Sanhedrin couldn’t have a resurrected Jesus!  A resurrected Jesus changes everything.  A resurrected Jesus proves that He is right, and they were wrong.  A resurrected Jesus demonstrates that Jesus is the Son of God with all authority and the power to forgive sin.  And although one would think that this would normally be wonderful news to the world, it was terrible news to the Jewish leadership of the chief priests and elders.  If Jesus really is the Messiah King, that means they owed Him their allegiance.  It means that they had plotted against, arrested, beaten, and sent the Son of God to His death.  It meant that they were sinful rebels in the eyes of God, fully deserving of His wrath, and to be removed from their position of honor among the Jewish people.  That was inconceivable to the priests in their pride.  They couldn’t possibly be wrong. They were always the ones who spoke for God; they certainly could not have been that wrong about the Son of God. And yet of course, they were.
    • Pride had caused them to reject Jesus prior to the cross, and pride was causing them to reject Jesus after the cross and resurrection.  Their pride was going to send them to hell.

15 So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

  • The soldiers agreed to the plot & started spreading the rumor.  Apparently the rumor had some staying power & was one of the common stories “among the Jews” even at the time of Matthew’s writing.
  • BTW – the fact that at least some Jews believed the rumor points to at least one very important fact: they knew the tomb was empty.  Undisturbed graves filled with corpses don’t require any lies or explanations regarding the body.  The whole city had known that Jesus had been killed – they knew that He had been buried – and by this point they also knew that Jesus’ body was no longer there.  There had to be some explanation for the empty tomb, and this was the story these Jews chose to believe.
    • The empty tomb MUST be explained & the only logical explanation is the resurrection.

16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them.

  • This was obedience on behalf of the disciples.  Jesus had told them back at the Last Supper that He would meet them in Galilee (26:32), and He (and the angel) had instructed the women at the tomb to repeat the command to the apostles (28:7,10).
  • The fact that Jesus desired to meet them in Galilee nicely mirrors His earthly ministry.  The bulk of His ministry had taken place north in Galilee; not in Jerusalem.  It only makes sense that Jesus would have post-resurrection appearances in Galilee as well.
  • All that said, there are two issues here. (1) When did this take place? (2) Who all went to Galilee?
    • The “then” is not the precise word for “then” in the Greek, but a simple conjunction that could be translated a number of ways (“and,” “now,” “but,” etc.).  There is definitely a progression of events here, but Matthew is not providing us a specific timeline.  IOW, there’s no reason to believe that the 11 disciples heard the news of Jesus’ resurrection on the Sunday morning following Passover, and then immediately headed north to Galilee.  In fact, from the other gospels we know this is not the case.  The disciples remained in Jerusalem all day long on Sunday, and at least for one full week following (as seen in the post-resurrection appearance to Thomas – Jn 20:26).  We don’t know exactly when they went to Galilee, but apparently they did so according to instruction, not delaying any longer than necessary.
    • We know the 11 disciples went to Galilee, for Matthew explicitly tells us this.  What we’re not told is if ONLY the 11 disciples travelled north to Galilee, or if ONLY the 11 disciples saw Jesus upon the mountain.  Perhaps only the 11 travelled together from Jerusalem, but there were others who met them on the mountain when they arrived.  Paul writes of a time on which the resurrected Lord appeared to over 500 witnesses at one time (1 Cor 15:6).  Considering the other post-resurrection appearances of Jesus have seemed to be somewhat private affairs (the women at the tomb, the disciples’ upper room in Jerusalem, the road to Emmaus, the fishing by the Lake of Tiberias), this event on the mountain seems to be the most logical time for this mass meeting & appearance.
      • The significance of this becomes apparent in vs. 17…
  • The location itself is interesting.  Matthew doesn’t specify the exact mountain for us, but we are told it was indeed a mountain upon which Jesus met them.  It was from a mountain that Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount.  It was on a mountain that Jesus was transfigured in glory.  It was on a mountain that Jesus taught the Olivet Discourse about the end-times.  It was on a mountain that He was crucified (Mt. Calvary).  Mountains are significant in the gospel of Matthew!  Mountains have designated crucial moments in Jesus’ ministry, and yet another one is taking place here: the Great Commission.  What are the parting words of the King to His people?  He’s taken them to a mountain to tell them.

17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.

  • Upon the mountain, there are two responses to Jesus: worship & doubt.  The worship we understand, but doubt?  Really?!  How could the 11 disciples doubt Jesus at this point?  Actually, this is one of the arguments that makes the 500 witnesses likely for this event on the mountain.  The 11 disciples had already seen the Lord Jesus with their own eyes at least 1-2 times prior to this event, and even the doubt of Thomas had been dealt with.  No longer did Thomas doubt, but even Thomas was believing & declared Jesus to be his Lord & his God (Jn 20:28).  Some scholars believe that the word “doubt” could refer more to “hesitation,” but the word is used only one other time in Matthew (and in the NT as a whole) when Peter had started to sink after walking on water (Mt 14:31), and the clear context there is doubting.  The word itself actually comes from a root that refers to the number 2, and means “to duplicate.”  In the context of the mind, it would mean to waver between two opinions, or more simply, “to doubt.”
  • With that in mind, the question is: how could anyone doubt the Risen Lord Jesus when they saw Him with their own eyes?  Even if the “some” refers to some among 500 witnesses rather than the 11 apostles, these 500 witnesses were surely followers of Jesus already.  They had been predisposed to believe Jesus to be the Messiah.  One would think that Jesus’ resurrection would only serve to further prove that belief, rather than cause them to doubt.  Yet “some doubted.
    • Aren’t you glad that the Bible doesn’t give pat answers regarding things like doubt?  It doesn’t sugar-coat the issue, and pretend that every believer in Christ always has every answer all the time.  There are some things that are difficult to comprehend, and occasionally Christians suffer through seasons of doubt.  Apparently people who loved Jesus experienced doubt even at the time that Jesus was standing right in front of them!  If it happened with them, surely it can happen with us, too.
    • That said, there was no reason for them to doubt.  Jesus was THERE.  Jesus does not condemn them for their doubt, but their all-too-natural wavering of faith was completely unnecessary.  God had given them all that they needed right before their very eyes.
  • The far better response?  Worship.  Bowing before Jesus, and giving Him the praise and adoration He so richly deserves as God.  For a moment, think upon who Jesus is – think about what Jesus has done for you.  That cannot help but drive you to worship!  If it doesn’t, something’s wrong.

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

  • Jesus was there!  He “came and spoke to them.”  It would seem to be minor, but no post-resurrection appearance of Jesus is “minor.”  This is the same Jesus who had been tortured and killed upon the cross.  This was the same Jesus who had been dead until the third day.  THIS Jesus came and spoke to the disciples.  THIS Jesus cannot be held by death.  He doesn’t even seem to be weakened at this point, as if He’s recovering from His wounds.  Everything associated with the cross is in the past, and though the scars remain, there is nothing that holds Jesus down.  He comes to them as the Victorious King to give a parting command to His troops.
  • And He is the King!  Jesus has “all authority.”  There are 4 “all’s” in the Great Commission – here is the first.  Jesus has “all authority” –  it had been “given” to Him by God the Father.  That’s not to say that Jesus did not have authority previously to this in His earthly ministry.  As God the Son, Jesus is the Creator of the world, and there had never been a point that He did not have authority.  Jesus repeatedly demonstrated His authority over demons, sickness, and death during His earthly ministry.  Yet even all of that was during a time of humility and submission.  Jesus had authority, but He laid much of His kingly prerogative aside as He same to serve – He came to seek and to save the lost.  He symbolized this when He disrobed Himself at the last supper and washed the feet of the disciples (Jn 13) – He showed it when He submitted Himself to the death of the cross.  But now in His resurrection, all of that is done.  That part of His ministry is complete.  Jesus never has to go to the cross again – He never has to be re-crucified.  Once was enough, and the work was finished.  Afterwards, Jesus could once again receive the universal authority that that had always been rightly His.  During His wilderness temptation, the devil offered Jesus power over all the earth – in His resurrection, God the Father gave Jesus infinitely more!
  • Seems to be purposefully reminiscent of Daniel’s vision of the Son of Man: Daniel 7:13–14, "(13) “I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. (14) Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed." []  Daniel was seeing the 2nd coming of Christ, but its prelude is this very moment!  Jesus has already been given all authority in heaven and earth, and He will exercise that authority when He comes in glory to rule and reign during His Millennial Kingdom. 
    • We have the privilege of serving this King today!  He is not a weakened Savior – He is not a Babe in a manger, nor a dead bleeding victim on a tree.  He is the all-powerful, all-authoritative King of the Universe!

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.

  • Although the word “go” comes first in both English & Greek, we make a mistake when we put too much emphasis on “going.”  “Go” is a participle that modifies the verb of making disciples.  Going is simply part of how the other things are done.  It’s important to go, but we have to do more than just “go”; we need to DO something when we arrive!
  • What is it we are to DO?  “Make disciples of all the nations.”  We’ll look at how Jesus says to do this in a moment, but first we need to ask ourselves two basic questions: (1) What exactly is a disciple?  (2) Who should be made disciples?
    • We tend to throw the word around a lot, but we might not understand what a disciple actually is.  A disciple is a student, but more than just a student.  A disciple certainly learns, but a disciple does more than just learn intellectual facts from a teacher.  Jesus did not say to go make pupils of all the nation, and equip them to be able to answer Bible multiple-choice tests.  He said to “make disciples.”  What is a disciple?  A disciple is more apprentice than student.  He learns from his master, but he also expects to follow in his master’s footsteps.  A disciple’s life is shaped by his personal attachment to his master.  There is a devotion – a life-long commitment that is present, which goes far beyond the relationship between a teacher and a student.  Jesus said to “make disciples.”  Actually, He uses the word as a verb: literally “disciple all the nations.”  What Jesus had done with the 11, they were to turn around and go to the rest of the world, who then would do the same & on & on.  The disciples are commanded to go disciple others, thus disciples are making disciples…basic multiplication.  As those who follow in the footsteps of Jesus with our lives devoted unto Him, we are to go and help others be as we are.
    • Who should be made disciples? “All the nations.” This is the 2nd “all,” and it gives us a universal scope. “All the nations” means exactly that: ALL the nations of the world.  The word for “nations” could technically be translated “Gentiles,” but “Gentiles” is actually an interpretation of the word that is highly based on the context.  Generally speaking, the word should normally be translated “nations,” as it is here.  After all, surely Israel is not exempt from the Great Commission.  Jesus has spent almost His entire ministry among the Jews – His disciples are almost entirely comprised of Jews – Jesus spoke of how He would be coming back to the Jews.  The Jews definitely need to hear the gospel & be made disciples!  That said, the mission wasn’t to stay only with the Jews.  The entire world needs to hear.  Jesus wants discipling to take place in every nation.  This includes nations easy & hard.  Those for which we know the culture & those for which we don’t.  Those to where we can walk, and those to which we need to travel great distances.  We need to disciple the current nation in which we live, and we need to disciple the nation on the other side of the planet.  We as disciples (all of us – not just missionaries) are to have a worldwide focus.
      • As a local congregation, we’ve supported international missions from the very beginning.  This command from Jesus is something we take seriously, in that not only is ALL the Church supposed to make disciples of all the nations, but EVERY church is supposed to engage in the same.  This is what Jesus told His disciples to do in making more disciples, so it’s something all Christians need to be mindful of, both corporately & individually.  As a local congregation, we are involved in making disciples in Afghanistan, China, Cuba, Egypt, Ireland, India, Sudan, and of course in the United States. Some of you individually reach out to many more.  Praise God for the opportunity – and there is much more to be done.  How will you be involved?  Pray – Give – Go…
  • How does Jesus say to make disciples?  Three parts: (1) By going, (2) by baptizing, (3) by teaching.  The first part is to “go.”  We mentioned “going” already, but we need to emphasize it a bit.  After all, if the disciples are going to make other disciples of all the world, the original disciples need to purpose to actually GO to these other nations and tell them about Jesus. A household of unbelievers ready to hear about the love of Jesus could have lived next door to Peter & the other 11, and still have gone to their death without faith if the disciples never bothered to open their mouths and say something.  God could have chosen to tell the news of Jesus by neon writing in the sky – but God chose to use His people, instead.  The very written Scriptures themselves are evidence of God’s people being willing to be used to go and spread the message of Jesus…they are the first evangelistic tracts in the history of the Church.  The idea of “going” was so important to Jesus, that He actually told the disciples how they would go & in what order.  Acts 1:8, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." []  He knew that the disciples would be hesitant to go out, so the very first thing He did was promise supernatural power through the filling of the Holy Spirit, and then He started them out in their own neighborhoods & sent them out from there, gradually expanding to the ends of the earth.
    • That same model is available to us, as well.  Jesus promises power to us when we are baptized & filled with the Holy Spirit (all we need do is ask!), and He will give us the strength we need to be witnesses on our block, in our town, among our region, and onward.  Understand there wasn’t anything special about the 1st 11 disciples that equipped them for this task any more than us.  They were just normal fishermen & tax-collectors.  They didn’t have any special qualifications, or life-long training for the job at hand.  They all had the call, because ALL disciples are called to go make other disciples.  The only question was when & where they would do it.  Apart from that, they only had two things: much time spent with Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit…and those same things are available to each of us, as well.
    • How willing are we to go?  What’s stopping us?  If we don’t go, how will people hear?  Romans 10:14–15, "(14) How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? (15) And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”" []
  • The second part of making disciples is by “baptizing.” Baptism refers to conversion, but again, it’s more than only conversion.  People need to come to faith in Jesus, but they are also commanded to be identified with Jesus, and this is what happens with baptism.  It’s been often said that NT does not know unbaptized believers in Jesus Christ, and it’s very true, with one possible exception (the robber on the cross next to Jesus).  Baptism was something that took place as soon as possible after someone came to faith.  Why?  It’s not that physical water needed to be added to Jesus’ work of salvation in order for someone to be truly saved (Jesus’ words to the robber demonstrate that much); it’s because baptism identified someone with Jesus’ work in His death and resurrection.  It is a public declaration of someone’s faith, and an act of worship unto God showing that we stand with Jesus because of Jesus.
    • There are many Christians who seem to want to put off baptism, and it’s always so bewildering why they would want to.  After all, Jesus was extraordinarily public in His saving work for you.  Why wouldn’t we be public in return?  If you don’t want people to know about your faith in Jesus – if you don’t want to be publically associated & identified with Jesus – you might need to examine yourself to see if you truly have faith IN Jesus. (BTW – if you need to be baptized, whether you’ve just come to faith or you’ve never been baptized for whatever reason, come talk to me!  All we need is 1 week’s notice.)
  • How are the disciples to be baptized? “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Notice the singular “name.”  There is only one name of God because there is only one God.  That God is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  Jesus does two things here (closely related): (1) He gives the Trinitarian formula for baptism, and (2) He firmly declares His own deity.  The Trinity is mostly a mystery to us, in that it’s truly difficult for our finite minds to comprehend.  We come up with all sorts of analogies, but every analogy falls short in some way.  Either it separates the Persons of the Godhead too much, or it mixes them up too much.  The Father, Son, and Spirit are all three separate Persons within the Godhead, but there is only one God.  The Father did not die for us upon the cross, nor does Jesus have headship of the Trinity – but the Father, Son, and Spirit each have equal claim to being the One God.  Thus when we come to faith in Jesus, we are baptized into the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We are identified not only with Jesus the Son, but we are identified with the Father, Son, and Spirit.  We are not only followers of the Lord Jesus, but in baptism we are shown to be the very people of God – His holy nation & His royal priesthood. (1 Pet 2:9)
  • The third part of making disciples is “teaching them to observe all things” that Jesus commanded.  This is the 3rd “all.”  Whatever Jesus taught was what the disciples were to teach others as they made more disciples.  Teaching is important in discipleship.  Right doctrine matters to God.  It’s not by accident that so much of the later letters of the NT come from the apostles exhorting the Church to maintain right doctrine & to recognize false teachers that have crept in among them.  The apostles had a personal command from Jesus to teach what Jesus taught them, and they wanted to ensure that it was passed on to others accurately.  Where this all comes to play in discipleship is that we have a 1-2 punch on what it means to be made a disciple.  A disciple of Jesus is preached the gospel, and converted to faith in Jesus (and baptized), but that’s not where a disciple remains.  A disciple goes on to learn what Jesus taught & applies it.  Converts are not yet disciples.  Someone who prays a sinner’s prayer coming to faith in Jesus is not yet a disciple unless they also begin to learn and obey what Jesus taught.  A problem among American Evangelicalism today is that too often there is a focus on conversion, and none on doctrine (which goes hand-in-hand with obedience).  Massive amounts of time, money, and energy are used to get people to pray a prayer, with little to no emphasis of following anything up with right teaching.  That’s not making disciples.  Disciples learn what the Master has taught, and do it.
    • This is where Bible study is so important!  You’ve come to faith in Christ?  Praise God!  Now learn what He’s said.  That would seem to be impossible for a people who live 2000 years after Jesus walked the face of the earth.  How could we possibly know what Jesus taught?  God already took care of that: He had it written down for us. J  The Holy Spirit took great care to have the Scripture written and kept for us through the ages, and we can know exactly what Jesus wanted taught for us because it is recorded in the pages of the Bible.  Not one Christian (especially an American!) has an excuse for not knowing what Jesus has taught.
    • This is also why we study the whole counsel of the word of God.  What Jesus commanded is not only found in the red letters of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  ALL Scripture is given by inspiration of God, so ALL Scripture is commanded by God, and thus ALL Scripture is to be taught and observed within its proper context.
  • That’s a pretty big responsibility!  Here the Lord Jesus is telling the disciples (and all His followers) to make disciples of all the nations.  That would mean going into lands that were far off – among people who were dangerous and hostile.  That would mean diligence to teach and to study the Scriptures.  That would mean the willingness to identify with Jesus not only in His glory, but in His suffering.  How could this be done?  Who would be up for the task?  Left to ourselves, we would be doomed to fail.  The command of our Resurrected King would undone.  Yet Jesus wasn’t done talking. J  He gave an important command, but He also gave a powerful promise.  “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The Lord Jesus would be with us for all days and all time (the 4th “all”).  We have the promise of His presence!  Yes, Jesus would physically ascend to the right hand of God the Father in heaven, but Jesus would never leave us forsaken.  He is always available to us in prayer, and the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead resides in every individual believer in Jesus Christ.  We have the presence of the Living God among us right now.  Everywhere you go, you are always in the presence of God.  And along with His presence is His support.  Jesus does not leave us to this task alone.  He does not send us out as sheep among wolves, just waiting for us to be slaughtered.  Jesus goes with us – He continually intercedes for us – He hears us when we cry – He gives us access to the grace of God the Father, and more.  And He does it always.  We never have to wonder if Jesus will let us go – He won’t!  We never have to wonder if Jesus will cast us away – He won’t!  We have His very promise on the matter, and He is faithful!  He will always be with us, and one day we will see Him & always be with Him. 

Conclusion:
Jesus has risen from the dead, attested to by even the lies of Rome and the Jewish priests.  They could not keep Him in the tomb, and they could not keep the testimony of His resurrection hidden.  And now this Risen Jesus has given His parting command to His disciples.  The One who had been given all authority in all the universe speaks with that authority in the Great Commission: disciple the nations.

  • Go everywhere to all peoples
  • Baptize people when they come to faith
  • Teach what Jesus taught

 

And in the process, remember that our Lord Jesus is always with us.  He equips us for the task not only by sending us out in His authority, but by empowering us through God the Holy Spirit.

God could have chosen any number of ways to make disciples of Jesus, ways that did not include us.  Yet God in His infinite wisdom chose to use us.  He wants us included in this task.  What a marvelous invitation & privilege!  You have been brought in on the close counsels of the King in His desire to bring the message of salvation to all the world.  Incredible!

So how are you participating in this?  If you are a disciple of Jesus, this command is to you.  None of us are on the sidelines.  The Great Commission is not something given to “professional” ministers, evangelists, and missionaries…it’s given to the Church.  To be sure, we all have different ways of going about it & the Holy Spirit has gifted us with different spiritual gifts in order to do the work – but none of us are exempt.  We’ve been given a direct order from our King, and we dare not ignore Him.

Especially in this day & age!  Our time is increasingly short as we live in the last days.  The time that Daniel foresaw is at hand.  Jesus will soon be coming back in power and glory.  There will come a time in which the Church will be removed, and we will no longer have the opportunity to preach to the lost, because we will be with Jesus.  Take advantage of the opportunity you have today!  Let us not waste one day!

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