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 28:19-20
Most of us have had at least one defining moment in our lives. Maybe it was when you realized you have fallen in love and found the person you want to marry. Perhaps you experienced it when you fell in love with a certain subject of study and the career path you wanted to take became clear to you. It could have been while you were on a mission trip and discovered a particular passion for a people group or part of the world you previously had not really thought much about. Maybe you decided you were going to be involved in a particular cause in an attempt to right a wrong in the world. Perhaps you were at Bible camp and realized Jesus was real and wanting to have a personal relationship with you.
I’ve had a couple of defining moments in my life. Moments which have had a significant impact on who I have become and the work I choose to do. Moments which, at least for a time, left me scrambling trying to figure out what to do next now that it seems all of my carefully laid plans have been thrown out of the window.
Our key verse for today is a defining moment in the life and ministry of Jesus’ disciples. They have spent substantial time learning from and walking alongside Jesus. They have seen amazing things, including, at that very moment, the risen Christ sitting and talking with them. Their lives will never be the same and they know it. They can never go back to the way things were “before” nor do they really want to. But as we saw in the three days Jesus was in the tomb, they weren’t really sure what to do next. They weren’t really sure how to keep going forward without Jesus physically by their side.
Jesus knows his time on earth is short. He is preparing his disciples to continue the work he has started once he ascends into heaven. He knows they need some direction. And so the Great Commission is given. It is the same guidance we still follow today in the church.
There are couple of rather noteworthy things about these two short verses. First of all, Jesus tells his disciples to go and make disciples of ALL nations, not just the Israelites. Up to this point, Jesus’ ministry and message has been very focused on God’s chosen people, the Jewish nation of Israel. After all, for Jesus to be the Messiah he has to fulfill all of the JEWISH prophesies and requirements of the Messiah. But with Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, all of humanity now has a pathway for forgiveness, not just the Jews and so God’s relationship expands to all of humanity.
We are still called to reach the same people today: all nations. I find that an easy task when I’m thinking about nations which I understand, nations in which I have family and heritage, nations in which I admire their leadership or their way to doing government. Nations which I wish I could visit or even potentially live in someday. I find that a more difficult task when I’m thinking about nations which seem to approach life in an illogical manner, nations which make no secret about how much they dislike my country, nations which are hard to understand, nations which would not treat me, as a single woman, with much dignity or respect. When it comes to those nations, it is easy to believe that surely God doesn’t want us to include them in His Kingdom. But he does. He said ALL nations.
Another interesting thing to note about the Great Commission is the action we are called to undertake. We are called to make disciples. As one writer pointed out, we are not called to print Bibles for all nations, we are called to make disciples. In other words, we are called to engage in a cooperative, mentoring process with others. A process which takes time and requires an ongoing relationship with each other.
In our culture of quick results and immediate satisfaction, it’s hard to accept that some things simply take time to make happen. Microwaves and instant pots have taught us that food is ready in a fraction of the time a stovetop or oven would require. Television sitcoms often have us expecting any problem will be resolved by the end of the episode and for sure by the end of the next episode if they insist on leaving us hanging. Cars and planes have taught us that travel across a continent or an ocean should only be matter of a few days at most, certainly not months or even years. Even the internet has taught us that letters and bills are available at the click of a button rather than waiting for them arrive in the mail. We not easily appreciate those things which can not be hurried or rushed.
In some ways, our modern world has made connecting with people easier. But with that ease of initial connection often comes a lack of depth in the relationship. What Jesus is calling his disciples to do in making disciples is not something you can do in a week of classes or a one-time encounter. It is a process which requires an investment of time on both parties as they dig deep into the truth of God. It requires not only teaching them the theology but helping them put it into practice. It involves not just giving them a to-do list or step-by-step instructions but showing them how it is done, then helping them, and finally giving them the opportunity to take the lead while providing a safety net.
The disciples were being called to see the way they did life and ministry differently. They were being called to see those they would meet differently. They were being called to see the world through the eyes of Jesus. It is the same call we are asked to answer in our lives still today.
What moments in your life have caused you to see the things in a different light?