Matthew 28:16–20

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

One of my roles as a Police Chaplain was to help the Safer Neighbourhood Team link up with local Churches. A new church had been planted in the north of the town and the leadership were enthusiastic to make contact with their local Police Officers. The person who covered that particular part of Chesterfield asked me where the church building was located. I explained that they met in a local school because they didn’t own a building. He looked a little confused and said ‘but where it the church then?’ and I did my best to explain that a church is a group of people rather than a building. He had unknowingly identified a long-standing problem: that we perceive the church to be a building rather than people and we can often think we are running an organisation rather than being on a mission. The church must leave the building!

We have just begun a series called ‘Moving on’ which will help us to think about our vision for the future.  Last week I shared with you what the Lord has laid on my heart

I believe that God wants us to be living for his Kingdom in our community through engagement, evangelism and encounter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Engagement

  • Working together with people of goodwill to build a kinder, safer community.
  • Coming alongside people in our community especially those who are vulnerable and needy.

Evangelism

  • Spreading the good news of Jesus in word and action.
  • Leading people to Jesus and helping them grow as his disciples.

Encounter

  • With God: growing closer to him, experiencing a deeper work of the Holy Spirit and becoming more like Jesus.
  • With one another: growing together as God’s family.

In the coming months we will be looking at passages in the Bible that help us to identify core values that will enable us to move towards fulfilling this vision. This week we are going to look at ‘the Great Commission’ and identify four steps that will take us out of the building and onto the mission-field.

  1. Know

There are some things we should know before we leave the building:

We don’t have to be super-heroes

If the mission Jesus sets out in Matthew 28:16-20 seems a bit daunting to you there’s some good news! Matthew begins this account by telling us that ‘the eleven disciples went to Galilee’. As I meditated on this I realised how much angst is contained in that statement: Judas had betrayed Jesus and taken his own life, the other eleven weren’t exactly success stories – most of them fled and Peter denied the Lord with curses. And now – after ten resurrection appearances Matthew tells us that ‘When they saw him they worshipped; but some doubted’ (17). The Greek word describes someone being in two minds to the extent that they are torn apart. Some commentators say that Matthew may be looking over the last 40 days as a whole but I can’t see anything in the text to suggest this. I think he’s just giving us a gritty bit of realism which should be an encouragement to us because there are times when we all struggle with doubt. If you look back to the earlier verses you’ll read about the fake news report – circulated by the Romans – saying that Jesus’ body had been stolen by the disciples, and this may have contributed to their doubts. We live in sceptical culture which will have an effect on us, the important point is not that we have doubts but that we work through them.

I used to hate games afternoon at school, especially the way that teams were picked: two sporty boys would be appointed as captains and they would choose members for their teams in turn. I was the one always left at the end (because I was far from sporty) and one of the captains would be told he had to have me on his team. That’s not the way that Jesus chooses his team; all of these disciples were weak and frail but they were chosen by Jesus to turn the world upside down.

Jesus rules

Jesus is clearly in control of events: he had told the eleven disciples to meet him on the mountain in Galilee and he declared ‘all authority on heaven and earth has been given to me’ (18). The word in the original language describes the power and the right to rule and govern which encompasses the spiritual realm (‘heaven’) where he sits at the Father’s right hand and in this world. Of course we don’t yet see the full extent of his authority on earth – that will come at his return – but as we get involved in his mission we will see his Kingdom advance and one day we will witness every knee bowing before him and submitting to his authority (Phil 2:6-11). However we live in the in-between time which means that our mission will take us into a spiritual battle-field so we shouldn’t be surprised when things go wrong.

Jesus is always with us

The very last words Jesus utters are, ‘Surely I am with you always to the very end of the age’. At first glance that doesn’t seem to make sense, after all he’s about to leave them and ascend into heaven. How could he be with them? Well, shortly before his crucifixion Jesus spent time with the Disciples to prepare them for the great task he would be assigning them to. He told them, ‘It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you’ (John 16:7) and ten days after his ascension the Holy Spirit came upon them:

1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them (Acts 2:1–4).

Jesus said that through the Holy Spirit he would be present in a more powerful way than during the past three years. This fact doesn’t stop with the disciples; we can know Jesus’ presence through the power of the Holy Spirit too.

  1. Go

Once we have got these facts placed firmly in our hearts and minds it’s time to get out and get on with the task Jesus has entrusted to us: to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’. In the original language ‘go’ is put in a very definite tense, and the word means ‘to travel out’.  Imagine you are in an airport, enjoying coffee and a croissant and you suddenly hear an announcement that your flight is boarding. You wouldn’t be sauntering over to the departure lounge, you’d be throwing the last dregs of coffee down your throat and running for the departure gate. That’s similar to the meaning of the word ‘go’ that Jesus uses.

To all nations

Jesus sent the disciples – and us – to ‘all nations’. That would have been very significant for them as Jesus’ mission (apart from a few important exceptions) had been confined to the Jews. Now they were to take the good news to everyone and everywhere. When we look at the book of Acts we can see how they put this into practice starting in Jerusalem and ending up in Europe. We must never forget that, although God has put us in Hucknall and given us a mission in this town, we are part of something much bigger which will take some of us to far-flung places.

To make disciples

It’s interesting to compare Matthew, Mark and Luke’s record of Jesus’ final instructions. Mark quotes Jesus as saying ‘preach the gospel’ (Mark 16:15), in Luke Jesus says, ‘repentance and the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations’ (Luke 24:47) and in Matthew he says ‘Make disciples’. Each gospel writer describes the same event, they don’t contradict each other, but they do have their own emphases and Matthew’s is discipleship. He wants us to know that when we spread the good news of Jesus we are inviting people into a life-long relationship with him and we must do everything we can to help them grow in it. The word ‘disciple’ describes someone who fully believes in a teacher and wants to learn from them; in the Bible it is always understood in terms of a relationship.

  1. Grow

Making disciples involves us equipping people to grow as followers of Jesus, or as Jesus himself says ‘‘teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you’ (20). ‘Observe’ means to continue on a journey or to keep on observing something like an anniversary or a fast. In other words discipleship is for life!

Teaching was very important to the early church. Acts 2:42 tells us that the first people who responded to the gospel, on the day of Pentecost,’ devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer’. And in the New Testament letters Paul urges Timothy to keep teaching people God’s word (see 2 Tim 2:1-2). Teaching isn’t restricted to someone standing at the front and explaining what the Bible says, it also involves coming alongside people to help them to put God’s Word into practice, after all that’s how The Twelve learned from Jesus in the first place! It is important that we teach God’s Word each Sunday at WRBC but we also need to personally help new Christians grow in their relationship with Jesus, understand the Bible, live for God in everyday life and identify and use their gifts. There’s already a disciplng culture in this church but I believe that God is going to do great things in the coming months and years so we need to be developing it even more.

  1. Show

We show what God has done in people’s lives by ‘baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’ (19). Baptism involves being immersed in water and then lifted up. I like to think of it in three ways:

 It is a sign of what God has already done in our lives. Being lowered and raised in the water is a picture that our old life is dead and buried and that we have been raised to new life in Christ.

It is a statement to everyone around us that we have become disciples of Jesus. That’s why we encourage people who are being baptised to invite friends and family to be part of the occasion. They are publically committing themselves as disciples of Jesus, a friend of mine used to say that ‘baptism is the badge of a believer’.

It is a step of obedience. Jesus does not invite us to be baptised – he commands it. Let’s not forget that he was baptised too so it it’s good enough for him it’s good enough for us!

It was David Pawson who once said, ‘The world will never be turned upside down until the church is turned inside out’. Jesus has not called us to live out his Kingdom life within the confines of a building – he has sent us out into the world to make disciples.

Think it Through

  1. How can Matthew’s detail about the disciples who had doubted (17) help us to encourage each other when we struggle with doubt?
  1. Read Phil 2:6-11. How does help us to understand the extent of Jesus authority? Discuss ways in which this gives us confidence to ‘get out of the building and on with Christ’s mission’.
  1. Look at John 16:5-15 and talk about how these verses help us to understand Jesus’ statement ‘I am with you always’ (20). What difference should this make to the way we think about the mission he has sent us on?
  1. Why is baptism important and what is it all about (see Romans 6:1-13)?
  1. Share about issues that we struggle with when we seek to tell others about Jesus.

Pray it in

  • Spend some time in worship, focussing on the fact that Jesus has dominion over every spiritual and earthly power.
  • Pray for each other concerning the struggles we have in sharing our faith.
  • Ask God to strengthen our disciple-making ministries at WRBC.
  • Pray for those who have recently come to faith and those who have not yet given their lives to the Lord.