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Missions

Examining the Great Commission: Our Calling as Modern Disciples

Missions

Examining the Great Commission: Our Calling as Modern Disciples

By February 1, 2024February 9th, 2024No Comments
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Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave His charge: “God authorized and commanded Me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20 MSG

Jesus’ parting words to His disciples before ascending into heaven contain what is known as the Great Commission—a call and commandment for all followers of Christ to spread the gospel message throughout the world.

In the ESV translation of Matthew 28:18–20, Jesus declares, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations…” These verses raise critical questions for Christians today.

In this post, we will explore five key questions to help us better understand Jesus’ Great Commission and how it applies to our lives as modern-day disciples.

Through examining Jesus’ words and their implications, we gain insight into our mandate as Christians to further God’s Kingdom across all boundaries.

The Commission shapes not only the mission of the global church but also the mission of each believer.

1) Who has authority in your life?

Is it a parent or a supervisor? Your friends? Reddit? And how far does that authority reach? Is it only at school or in your job? At home?

On the day of His ascension, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” To understand this more clearly, let’s look at what He didn’t say:

He didn’t say, “Today all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me to give you this command.”

He didn’t say, “Authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. I’m just one of many with this kind of authority.

He didn’t say, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to you.”

The authority Jesus was talking about is an epic authority—eternal, expansive, and unique. Take a minute to think about whose authority you are under, and ask yourself honestly if the authority of Jesus is in its proper place on the list.

Authority is not a popular thing these days. Sadly, it can be synonymous with controlling, overbearing, and inhibiting leadership.

We hear more about abuses of authority in the news than we do celebrations of boundaries and directives given by people in powerful positions.

There is a great fear that if we subject ourselves to someone’s authority, we will be taken advantage of, used, and even discarded. Not only that, we love our independence. We love to proclaim, “I got this!”

Jesus made it very clear: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.”

2) What does Jesus do with His authority?

In the gospels, you see Jesus’ epic authority demonstrated in many ways. He shows His authority over the spiritual realms as He casts out demons.

He shows His authority over creation when He calms the storm with a word. He shows authority over sickness when He heals the paralytic.

He even has the final word over death: “Lazarus, come forth!”

Once, when traveling in Rome, I stumbled upon the Plaza Venezia and saw something extraordinary.

It wasn’t a fountain, a temple, or an obelisk, though there are plenty of those in the vicinity.

It was a traffic cop standing on a pedestal in the middle of an insanely busy intersection, waving his gloved hands and blowing a tin whistle with such beauty and grace that pedestrians literally stopped in their tracks.

This policeman was providing much-needed direction to those entering the crossroads, and he did it with finesse and gentleness.

This picture is a shadow of one of the ways Jesus wields His epic authority—He uses it to direct us with grace, beauty, and finesse. And what is His directive? “Go.”

To understand this more clearly, let’s look at what He didn’t say:

He didn’t say, “If you feel like it, go.”

He didn’t say, “I’m calling some of you to go.”

He didn’t say, “May I suggest that you go?”

Jesus said, “Go.”

3) Where does Jesus want us to go?

Eugene Peterson’s translation in the Message says:

“Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

I think the operative word that Peterson uses is “out.” “Go out.” Not, “Stay in.”

In the Disney movie Home, the alien “Oh” is locked in a freezer. He is negotiating with Tip, his captor, and he asks her, “Can I come into the out now?”

That always cracks me up. But there’s something different about Jesus inviting us, indeed, commanding us, to come into “the out.”

And though the command includes going out to places like Thailand and Turkey, it also may mean, “Go out of your dorm room” or “Go out from your front door.”

It’s a call to movement, to action, to change—all for the sake of the gospel. So ask yourself again, “Where does Jesus want me to go?” 

There’s another phrase that can’t be overlooked. Peterson translates “all nations” as “everyone you meet.”

Not “your friends and family.” Not “your inquisitive neighbor.” Not “people of peace.” Everyone. You. Meet.

It begs the question: What would it look like to share the gospel with everyone I meet? What would it look like for you?

Lord, help us to be bold for the sake of Your Kingdom!

4) What does Jesus want us to do once we get there?

Jesus uses His epic authority to not only move us but also to use us, and He’s very specific about how He intends to do it. Let’s look at the Message again:

“Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

He intends to use us to train others in “this way of life.” He’s specific—distinguish them through the sacrament of baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit.

And then He’s broad, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

He’s using us to bring people into His family, and then He’s using us to show them what it means to be a part of the family.

And remember, He commands us to live holy lives—don’t commit adultery; don’t even lust. Don’t murder each other; don’t even harbor anger.

He also knows we cannot do this perfectly, so He commands us to repent when we fall short.

To turn to Him in dependence and rest fully in the grace we have received through His sacrifice on the cross.

And let’s not forget: because of His epic authority, Jesus can forgive our sins.

5) How does Jesus want us to do it?

My 12-year-old has just started playing basketball. She grew up overseas, so she is unfamiliar with the rules of the game.

Everyone in North Africa plays football. (No, not that football. The real one.) At any rate, playing actual games is highly stressful for her.

She prefers practice, where her coaches interact with the girls on the court, even jumping in and playing from time to time.

But during a game, she’s on her own. Her coach puts her in and takes her out but does not play alongside her.

Jesus closes His great commission by assuring us that He is not on the sidelines; He’s in the game.

And He never sits out, never needs a water break, and never mocks you because you miss a pass or foul shot.

He promises, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

More absolutes! Surely! Always! To the very end!

And then there’s the “I am with you.” Emmanuel. The Epic Authority. With me. With you.

May God give us the humility to put ourselves under the epic authority of Jesus and the courage to go wherever He graciously directs us to go.

 


Hear more from Emily on the Great Commission:

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Emily Shrader

Emily Shrader

Emily is a Mobilizer and Renewal Specialist for Serge. She and her family served with Serge overseas for more than a decade. She currently resides in NC, where her husband David serves as a Chaplain in the USAF.