Author’s Note: Interested readers can find all previous volumes of this series here.
Within the New Testament, there are numerous user-friendly, pop-culture “approved” passages such as “Nothing is impossible with God,” emblazoned on coffee mugs, posters, and t-shirts. Although the Scripture we study today, Matthew 28:16-20, does not appear on gift store merchandise, it ranks among the most influential in human history.
The message that Jesus conveyed to his disciples before ascending to heaven literally changed the world. A passage of such great significance that it has a name: “The Great Commission.”
While researching the Great Commission, I read: “In the original language, these words are a command. That is why we call this the Great Commission and not the Great Suggestion.”
I loved that!
Hence, when reading Matthew 28:16-20, imagine Jesus “commanding” his 11 remaining disciples to be missionaries in His name, but these “marching orders” are meant for all of us. Years ago, a perceptive Bible Study teacher told our class that all believers in Jesus must think of themselves as missionaries. (Thank you, T.A.)
But enough of my preamble, together let’s read the “commandment” known as the Great Commission:
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 28:16-20).
There is too much power and glory packed into the Great Commission for a “quick, compelling Bible Study” but here are five brief takeaways:
1. Jesus says who He is
Remember that Jesus spoke these words after His Resurrection, but before His Ascension — so now He is direct and uncompromising about how “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Contrast that straight talk with His reluctance to admit His identity and divinity before the Jewish and Roman authorities during His captivity, torture, and crucifixion.
2. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…”
The concept of missionaries is birthed through His universal authority. Then, starting immediately and subsequently gaining strength over centuries, missionaries spread Christ’s teachings — first called "the Way," and later “Christianity” — to “all nations.”
For example, here in the U.S., the development of California is correlated to Spanish missionary influence in the 1700s. Furthermore, the cultural, educational, health, and behavioral benefits associated with Christianity far outweigh any lingering resentment or criticism of missionary work.
One of my all-time favorite books is “What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?” by Dr. D James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe. They detail the historic and extensive impact of Jesus on humanity, spread first by missionaries, and eventually extended to people from all walks of life and in every field of human endeavor. The bottom line is whether or not you believe in Jesus, He directly or indirectly influences your daily life.
Today missionaries are still toiling around the globe, often risking their lives in countries where they are banned, but still work “underground.”
3. “Baptizing them…”
First, let’s define Baptism. Again, I refer to Christianity.com (a sister website to Townhall owned by Salem Media), with a quote from, “What is Baptism? Its Meaning & Importance in Christianity.” (A definition also pleasing to Catholics.):
“When we enter the waters of Baptism, we’re proclaiming the gospel message. Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and lives again. By joining in Baptism, we’re identifying ourselves with Him. Romans 6:4 says we have been buried with Him through Baptism into death. We’re now dead to the power of sin. Being raised up out of the water expresses our new life in Christ and our union with Him.”
Baptism is a proactive behavior that bonds one with Christ and why He “commands” it to be done.
4. The Trinity
The “three in one” God-head is a complicated concept of truth for all Christian believers. In the Great Commission, Jesus says, “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” for the first time. Here is a simple visual explanation that helps explains the concept.
Keep in mind the Gospel of Matthew is the first book of the New Testament, and the Great Commission is the last passage — the “grand finale.” That makes sense when you consider this quote from my NIV Study Bible, “Matthew’s main purpose is to prove to his Jewish readers that Jesus is their Messiah.” Thus, Jesus’ connection to the Old Testament God of Israel is through the “trinity.”
5. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Jesus proclaims that he is eternal, always there for us on earth and in heaven.
For those who love Jesus, the Great Commission reassures us of His continuous and eternal presence. His “commandment” motivates believers to serve Him as missionaries — in the field, or, in our daily life, by being “Christ-like” in all we do — missionaries by example.
Today I pray that I have been a missionary by brightening your day with the light of Christ and His profound teaching.