The Great Commission

Matthew 28:16-20
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
     As I reflect on Matthew 28:16-20, I'm struck by the significance of these verses, which are found at the end of the book of Matthew. This passage, often referred to as the Great Commission, encapsulates the major themes of Matthew’s narrative: the transition from a focus on Israel to a universal mission, the essence of discipleship, the authoritative teachings of Jesus, and His enduring presence.
     The setting in Galilee, on a mountain, is symbolic. It's not just any mountain, but a place of revelation, bringing back memories of the Sermon on the Mount. Here, the disciples, though minus Judas, witness the resurrected Christ. Their response? Worship, but also doubt - a hesitation, perhaps due to the overwhelming nature of encountering Jesus in such an extraordinary way.
     When Jesus speaks, it's something to not be forgotten. He declares all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. This is a pivotal moment, emphasizing His deity and His sovereignty over the universe. It's here that He passes the torch to His disciples, a group that extends beyond the original eleven, to all who would follow Him thereafter.
     The central command of Jesus is to make disciples. This isn't just about evangelism; it’s a holistic mission involving baptizing and teaching obedience to His commands. Baptism symbolizes the initiation into the Christian community, while teaching represents a lifelong journey of growth and faithfulness. He uses the term "All nations". It signifies the inclusivity of Jesus' mission. It's not just for the Jews; it extends to Gentiles, to every ethnic group. This universal call challenges any notion of exclusivity in God's plan of salvation.
     The Trinitarian formula for baptism introduced here is profound. It encapsulates the unity and diversity within the Godhead - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s a powerful statement of Christian belief, encompassing Jesus’ teachings and the early church’s understanding.
     Teaching obedience to Jesus’ commands is central to disciple-making. It's not just about conversion; it's about nurturing believers in the full counsel of God. This emphasizes the balance needed in Christian ministry - a blend of outreach and nurturing, of evangelistic zeal and deep teaching. Finally, the promise of Jesus’ presence "to the end of the age" is immensely comforting. It assures us of His ongoing support and guidance. In Jesus, God is with us, now and forever. This promise is the driving force behind our call to make disciples.
     As I think about this passage, I am reminded of the incredible responsibility and privilege we have as followers of Christ. The Great Commission is not just a task for the first disciples; it's a continuous call for all Christians. It challenges us to step out in faith, to spread the gospel, and to nurture believers. In doing so, we are participating in God's grand narrative, a story of redemption and grace that spans the ages.
  1. The Great Commission extends Jesus' mission to "all nations," signifying a shift from a Jewish-centric mission to a universal one. This inclusivity challenges traditional views of God's salvation plan, indicating that it's not limited to a specific ethnic or cultural group. How does the concept of the Great Commission's inclusivity impact our approach to evangelism and missions today? Are there ways in which the church might still struggle with inclusivity, and how can we address these challenges?
  2. The Trinitarian formula for baptism in the Great Commission is a fundamental aspect of Christian doctrine, signifying the unity and diversity within the Godhead. This concept is not only theological but also deeply practical in its implications for Christian life and worship. How does the Trinitarian understanding of God influence our daily Christian practice and community life? Can you think of examples where this understanding might change the way we interact with others within and outside the church?
  3. The Great Commission emphasizes disciple-making, which encompasses both evangelism and the nurturing of believers in their faith journey. This holistic approach suggests a balance in Christian ministry between outreach and deep, continuous teaching. In our current church practices, do we maintain a balance between evangelism and discipleship? What are some effective ways to nurture new believers while continuing to reach out to those who have not yet heard the gospel?

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