Monday – Jesus' Last Command
Jesus’ resurrection is the catalyst for the mission of the church, beginning with the disciples and throughout history. Jesus’ mission to earth is coming to an end and shortly he will be returning to the right hand of the Father. Before he does so though, he has some more words to say to his disciples.
Throughout the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus’ authority is a major theme. Where Matthew records Jesus doing miracles, this is to highlight Jesus authority in action and not just merely in words. Matthew records Jesus’ authority to forgive sins (Matthew 9:6) and he imparted authority to his disciples for a short time when they went on a mission in Matthew 10.
In some of Jesus’ final words before ascending back to the right-hand side of God the Father, Jesus gave specific instructions to his followers. His disciples.
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ (Matthew 28:16-20)
Jesus has authority (Matthew 28:18) over all things, all people, all circumstances and happenings including authority over all spiritual beings, whether angels or demons. Jesus has authority over all nations, governments and rulers. Jesus has authority over all earthly and spiritual authorities. Jesus has the authority. This means regardless of whatever the Christian Disciple faces; Jesus is in control.
Therefore, as Christian Disciples, we can obey Him without fear of retribution from those who would seek to harm us. We can obey Him regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in. It is a great comfort to know, that he is in control of everything. Through his death on the cross and his rising from the dead, Jesus has conquered all enemies. People often confuse authority with authoritarian. Authoritarian means severe, rigidity and a dictator.
None of these applies to Jesus. We have been given a free will, but as his Disciples, His followers today in the 21st century, we should choose to exercise our free will to obey Him in every facet of our life and live a life worthy of Him. That is part of how we take up our own cross and follow Him – as Jesus commanded. As the Christian depends on Jesus’ authority, the Christian Disciple gains wisdom, guidance, and power.
If Jesus had not risen from the dead, then the Disciples would not have had a story to tell. But Jesus had indeed risen from the dead, and the early church exploded numerically as the twelve Disciples exercised Jesus’ authority and his power.
We read about the growth of the early church in the Book of Acts in the Bible. Christianity is a faith whereby all Christian Disciples – all followers of Jesus - are to tell others of the goodness of God. Indeed, God Himself is a missionary God. Ever since Genesis 3 and the fall of man, God has been on a mission to bring and call people back to Himself.
That was the purpose of the nation of Israel, to be a light to all nations of the goodness and glory of God. That was the purpose when God, who is outside of time and space, entered human history taking on human flesh and restricted Himself in a human body as the man we know as Jesus Christ. Jesus’ whole mission was one of calling people back to life in God.
As followers of Jesus Christ, all Christian Disciples are to evangelize. Evangelism is showing and telling others of God’s message of reconciliation to all people of all time. It is not forcing people to adopt Church standards (1 Corinthians 5:12) and nor is it simply a message of join the church as a symbol of good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). If people know you are a Christian, they will be watching how you behave, conduct yourself in your life and your words. You are a witness for God – whether you want to be or not. Let’s be good witnesses. Sow seeds, somebody else may come along and water those seeds and yet another be God’s assistant in reaping those seeds so that the person you sowed seeds of the Gospel into, becomes a follower of Jesus Christ.
The prime motivation for evangelism is out of gratitude for what God has done, in that we love because he loved us first.
“For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” As the servants and followers of Jesus, we are to tell and live out God’s reconciling message – the message of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:14)
We are all to do the work of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5) even though not everybody has the specific gift of being an evangelist. But we are not just to evangelise but also we are to disciple. We are to intentionally make disciples of Jesus Christ. If there are 2 words which scare a lot of the modern Church, they are evangelism and discipleship. Yet, if we are to be obedient to Jesus, there is no other way. In the last words of Matthew’s Gospel, all Christian Disciples are to make disciples throughout the whole earth. Making disciples is not just evangelism but ensuring that guidance and care is given to new Christian disciples. So we are to evangelize and disciple.
The Holy Spirit is coming
How is this achieved? How can the Christian Disciple exhibit Jesus’ authority and power in evangelism? Who gives the impetus for Christian Disciples? That is part of the role of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus said would come once he had ascended back to the right hand of God the Father. The coming of the Holy Spirit was predicted in the writings of what we call the Old Testament. For example:
“And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws”, (Ezekiel 36:27).
This prediction from centuries before, ascertained that Almighty and All-powerful God will indwell those who follow Him. Throughout his ministry, Jesus had talked about how after he was to depart, and that the Holy Spirit would come (John 15:26). We know from the other writings in the New Testament who the Holy Spirit is and what his ministry is. Further details can be found on this website.
Jesus still meets people today
But, as we have seen, the good news is that Jesus is still living. The rest of the four Gospels and the beginning of the book of Acts tell us a little more of what Jesus did before He ascended into the heavens. But Jesus still meets with people at the present time. How does He do this?
Jesus walks with us, where ever we go and in particular in the darkest periods of our life. Just as he did with the two people on the road to Emmaus, he walks with those who proclaim to follow Him (Mark 16:12-13, Luke 24:13-32). Jesus speaks whenever the Bible is faithfully preached and read from, just as He opened the eyes of those on the Emmaus road when He explained the Scriptures (Luke 24:27). Jesus meets us in the Communion or Lord’s Supper, with the bread and wine, which symbolise His flesh and blood as an act of remembrance of what He did for humanity.
But that is not the end, because Jesus has promised that He is coming again. Not as a baby next time, but as an all-conquering Son of God in judgment to gather those who follow Him. Are you ready?