When Jesus shared the words of the Great Commission, what did He say, exactly?
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.” (NIV) Matt 28:18-20
When Jesus shared these words of the Great Commission, what did He mean, exactly? I don’t know how you were taught, but somewhere back in the Dark Ages of grade school I remember having the issue of looking at verbs to understand the intent of what someone was saying. And so if we apply that understanding, here are the core words from the verbs from the words of Jesus-
I think for each one of us to understand the Great Commission we might take a look at it through what I would call a “Kingdom filter.” I don’t take these words of Jesus as punitive or in any other manner than what I think He meant them to be- an encouraging Kingdom call as to how we should conduct our outreach, even today!
“Go”….For me at least this would imply a bit of sending. Not sit back and wait for them to somehow find me in my particular corner of the world, but to physically go out and seek out others. I can’t see how this is something we become reactive about, but rather, this is all about our being the active participant in this process. Going out means exactly that-finding ways for us to leave where we might be, including our well-defined comfort zone, and heading out to be what He calls us to be.
“Make disciples…” As the sentence reveals, this is coupled with the going and is the understood concept as to what we should be all about doing. Disciple making is clearly the task, call, or however you’d like to consider the calling Jesus places upon our lives. These are difficult words for us, since we might not understand what it means to be a disciple much less make a new one!
Yet the next verbs would indicate what it means to become a disciple-
“Baptise…..teach……obey” The words of Matthew’s Gospel can be added back to enable us to get a fresh sense of the calling which we share. We are to be all about the task of 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. If we need help on the matter, it would appear that Jesus suggests that once baptized and then taught, the new disciple would know how to obey the commands of Jesus. Yet one more way to look at it, in order to be a follower of Jesus, we have to be baptized, and taught the virtues of what it means to be a follower!
Following Jesus as our personal goal then is right on target. Helping others see the Kingdom of God manifested in our lives by our actions, words, and examples is part of the “teaching” process. In the early days, those seeking to learn a trade became an “apprentice” and learned that trade by watching and doing, under the care of someone who knew that trade.
For you and I, Kingdom work today might be best be considered as living out the Kingdom values we know (or have been taught) to be true as an example for others to emulate, copy, and follow. Then, they in turn could repeat the process. Obviously, this lifts up the whole understanding of living it out on a daily basis. Do our lifestyles enable “thy Kingdom come” in our lives? Can others see their way clear to become a fellow follower of Christ?
If your answer is no, perhaps it’s time to rethink your direction! We have no realistic impact for the Kingdom unless we are both modeling discipleship (following Jesus and obeying) in our lives and sharing that with others who need to apprentice that process. Anything else, isn’t going to impact much!