Theme: Going out with the good news.
This week’s lessons teach that proclaiming the gospel is a requirement for Christians.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
I am sure you have noticed in your study of the New Testament that nearly all the resurrection appearances of Jesus end with his telling those to whom he appeared to announce the good news. It was the case with Mary Magdalene: “Go…to my brothers and tell them, I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17). It was the case with the women who were returning from the tomb. The angel had told them: “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead’” (Matthew 28:6-7). When Jesus appeared to the women shortly after that, he said, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (v. 10).
The New Testament indicates that there were at least ten appearances of the risen Lord, plus another some years later to the apostle Paul. In eight of these there is an explicit commission, and in five the command to go into all the world and preach the gospel is given formally.
So it is in Matthew’s arrangement of his gospel. He does not end with the resurrection itself. Even more striking, he does not include an account of Christ’s ascension. Instead, he ends the gospel with the Lord’s Great Commission.
Apparently it was evident to him, as it should also be to us, that this is the practical point at which the life of Jesus bears down on our own speech and conduct. He reports, “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped 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, baptizing 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 28:18-20).
These words are for all Jesus’ disciples, of course, not only for the apostles. They are for you if you have turned from your sin to trust Jesus Christ alone for your salvation and have become his disciple. If you have, then you are to work with other Christians to lead people to faith through the preaching and teaching of the gospel, bring them into the fellowship of the church through the sacrament of baptism and, within that fellowship, continue to teach them all that Jesus has commanded.
What is wonderful about all this is that Jesus promised he will be with us as we do it. We witness in a hostile environment, but as we do, we are to know that Jesus himself will be with us to bless our efforts.
When we study the Great Commission we notice that the word “all” occurs four times, though this is obscured in some versions. It gives an outline for these verses: 1) Jesus possesses all authority; 2) he sends us to all nations; 3) we are to teach people all he has commanded; and 4) as we do, we are to know that Jesus will be with us all the days, or always.
What is the practical point at which the life of Jesus bears down on our speech and conduct?
What promise did Jesus give along with the command to share our faith?
What are the four alls” of the Great Commission?