DUNCAN/The great commission

DUNCAN/The great commission


If you have your Bibles I’d invite you to turn with me to Matthew chapter 28 verses 16 – 20. We finally come to the end of our study in the gospel of Matthew. We’re going to look at two parts in this passage. In verses 16 and 17 we are going to see the mission to the Gentiles, the weakness of the disciples, and the worship of Christ. In verses 18 – 20 we’re going to see Jesus declaring His authority, Jesus giving a command, and Jesus issuing a comforting encouragement and promise to the disciples. 

I. Mission, Weakness, and Worship 

And verses 16 and 17 emphasize the mission to the Gentiles, the weakness of the disciples, and the worship of Christ.

Look at the first part of verse 16. There we’re told that the eleven disciples obediently made their way to Galilee. It was where their ministry had begun in Galilee of the Gentiles, and by calling them back to Galilee I want to suggest to you that even in that action, Jesus is emphasizing the worldwide mission that He is calling them to. He is calling them to a mission to the Gentiles. They’re not simply to minister to the Jews. He is inaugurating an explicitly worldwide mission, as we’ll see especially in verse 19. And so Matthew is emphasizing for us here the Gentile mission, even in this last picture that he gives of the church.

And then if you look at the end of verse 17, you see Matthew tell you something astonishing. We were not expecting to hear that some were doubting. Now why in the world does Matthew tell you that? He is telling us this in order to indicate the weakness of the disciples. They continue to struggle in their quest to believe and understand by their own effort. And it reminds us that the commission which Jesus gives in this passage cannot be done in human strength. It must be done wholly and only in the strength of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Lastly, this section speaks to the issue of worship. Worship clearly for Matthew is at the very center of what discipleship entails. To be a disciple is first and foremost to worship the Lord God through Jesus Christ above all else with every fiber of our being. Not just one hour or one day of the week, but every day of the week, every waking hour with all that we are and have. When you have experienced the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, you cannot help but give yourself to Him in worship. That’s what His disciples did. And it’s so poignant that we so rarely worship in our day and age. And so I would suggest to you that gospel of Matthew is for us. And that’s what we see in this first section of the great commission, Matthew giving us a picture emphasizing the Gentile mission, emphasizing the weakness of the disciples, and emphasizing the worship of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

II. Claim, Command, and Comfort 

I’d like you to look at verses 18 – 20. And I want to suggest to you that the whole mission of the church is based upon Jesus’ claim here, Jesus’ commands here, and Jesus’ comfort here.

At the end of verse 18 you see the claim that He makes. I want you to stop and I want you to think of the radical nature of this claim. It is an astounding claim that He makes. He says, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and earth.” The implications of that are staggering. The Lord Jesus is saying to His disciples, “All authority belongs to Me.” And it’s so important that these disciples understand that because He is about to ask these eleven trembling men to become the foundation of a world-wide movement that will end up in causing the nations to bow the knee before Him and to profess Him as King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. And so, there’s this astounding claim. That’s the first thing we see.

And then there is this command. And I want you to notice the focus of the command. The one imperative in this passage is to make disciples. The going, baptizing, and teaching are how you make disciples. The imperative is what Jesus wants the church to do until He comes again: Make disciples. He doesn’t say, “Go build up the rolls of your church. Go get as many names on it as possible. He doesn’t say, “Go out and get as many people to ascent to the gospel as you can.” He doesn’t say, “Go out and get people to pray a prayer. Or go out and get people to sign a card.” No, he says, “Make disciples. I don’t want people who will merely mouth a few words. I want people who will be followers of Me. I want people who are consumed with the desire to do the will of my Father, just like I’m consumed with the desire to do the will of My Heavenly Father.” You see one of our problems in evangelism and missions is we stop short of the goal that Christ has given in the great commission. We’re satisfied when somebody makes a profession of faith. Jesus is not. He wants disciples, not just people who make professions of faith. Disciples of Christ. Why? Because missions is a means to an end. What’s our great end in life? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. To worship Him. You can only worship God if you’re a disciple. And, therefore, because we want everybody to worship God and everybody to be caught up in the eternal worship of heaven forever and ever, we want them to be disciples. And so we go to the ends of the earth to disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And then Jesus comes to the comfort. He says to them, “I am with you the whole of everyday, all the days, until My coming again.” The Lord Jesus Christ’s promise of His presence is designed to comfort His disciples. And I can’t imagine more comforting words than that, especially in light of the commission that He has given to them. And I wonder if the reason that we don’t often sense that presence is because our hearts are not where His is. Do we have a heart to disciple the nations? Are we ready to go to people who are not like us to make disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ? Are our lives caught up in that? Are we wholly invested? In Christian discipleship, all of your hope is vested in the company of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. Maybe we would experience more of the presence of Christ if our hearts were more there in the company of His kingdom. May God enable us to realize the radical implications of the great commission, and may those radical implications transform the evangelical church today.

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