Being disciples willing to follow Jesus wherever He leads us, has always been God's plan for His children. The Great Commission of Jesus is emphatically His last word on the subject.
Jesus chose to meet the eleven apostles who remained with Him after His death and resurrection, on a mountain in Galilee that He had designated to them. Many commentators believe that others may have also been present at this gathering. Some have linked this passage with the description Paul gives us in 1 Corinthians 15:6, regarding over 500 eyewitnesses to the resurrected Jesus, many of whom remained alive even to the time Paul wrote His letter in the mid-50's AD.
Whatever the actual number of people who were gathered there in the mountain, when they saw Jesus they were overcome, fell down before Him and worshipped Him, even while some of them continued to doubt. (Matthew 38:16-17)
As we pick up the narrative in verse 18, Jesus initiates this final encounter recorded by Matthew, by stepping toward those who were overwhelmed and waiting in silence:
Jesus approached and, breaking the silence, said to them, All authority (all power of rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.
Jesus affirms with this statement His absolute and complete control over all things, both in the spiritual realm and in the material world. This statement is as comprehensive as it can possibly be, covering every aspect of the created order. Jesus, in His divine nature, had always possessed all power and authority, but now had assumed the role of ultimate Lord in both His divine and human natures, as the The anthropic God-Man.
Jesus' complete rule is based in both having divine authority and full power, with the total capacity and capability to accomplish what He authorizes. He provides Himself as the omnipresent and omnipotent Foundation, for bringing His Father's will to pass on earth as it is in heaven, in bringing all creation into alignment with His Kingdom rule and reign.
With Himself, His ultimate authority, and His almighty power as the basis of His Kingdom, Jesus then presents His desire, and His unfolding plan to wrest control from, then conquer and subjugate the kingdoms of this world and all the devil's domain.
It is His followers who are given the central part to play in this cosmic battle:
Go then and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
The Great Commission is our last commandment from Jesus, not an option to be taken if we want to or not. We are required to go, to be moved about, and to be placed wherever Jesus desires for us to be.
He is in command of a multi-generational, multi-continental global force, to be deployed anywhere and everywhere. If we never submit to His sending us as the Father has sent Him (John 20:21), we may never be used as God truly intends for us.
So, our first step in being a true and dedicated disciple is to ask the Lord if we are where we belong. If we receive peace about being where we are, or we get a specific sense of purpose about being there, this may be confirmation that Jesus has placed us is that spot for now.
Even if we are where we should be, we must have the mindset of continual openness to the command of "GO." To go when and where we are told to go must always be part of our being a committed follower of Jesus.
Without a real willingness to follow Jesus anywhere He takes us, we can never sincerely say we are His followers!
The obvious prerequisite for the next step to "make disciples" is to be a disciple ourselves. If we have settled the matter that Jesus is Lord and Master over where we should be, we really are on our way to being heartfelt and committed disciples.
Jesus' design is based on our willingness to go, which is reinforced by that fact that the disciples we make, will be from "all the nations."
Although this has clear application to global missions, it is also applicable to anyone going anywhere, across the street, across town, or around the world. The matter to be settled is not where, but to whom are we going.
We are not sent by God to a piece of territory, but to His natural, created children He loves dearly, so that they can see us live out and share forth His Good News, to then become growing supernatural children forever, who will also be His disciples!
Since people are everywhere, going to them is a matter of daily obedience in being totally open to God, to share whatever He prompts us to be His Holy Spirit, whether material things to meet their needs or spiritual truths to fill their souls.
Jesus made it clear and simple what the elements of making disciples actually look like:
- baptizing them into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
- Teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you
Most commentators do not recognize any temporal order in the elements of disciple making. There can be a tremendous amount of teaching necessary prior to a sincere decision to be baptized, or there could be a rapid initiation experience of receiving Jesus as Lord and being baptized in quick succession, followed by a long period of instruction.
Being baptized into the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is a potent personal experience of openly entering into the reality of all that God intends for His children.
Baptism is not an addition to the simple faith declarations that we may have made in receiving Jesus as our Lord and Savior, but is a continuation of the journey into a deeper and more complete surrender.
Our full surrender is symbolized by our personal communion, with Jesus through baptism, into His death and resurrection. We are not only entering into greater intimate fellowship with Jesus, but fully with the Father and the Holy Spirit as well.
The unity of the Godhead is underscored by Jesus use of "the Name" here as a singular word, not pluralized! The 3 Persons share this singular Name as One God. In contrast, each of the Persons of the Godhead is emphasized individually by the use of "the" before each personal Name that Jesus lists for the disciples gathered there.
The baptismal declaration of our relationship with the Trinity initiates deep relationship: committing to our Father brings us close to Him as eternal children, with Jesus as our Redeemer and Brother, and with the Holy Spirit as our Comforter and Empowerer!
The other aspect of discipleship is to be taught to observe ALL that Jesus commanded us. For this understanding, we must have a teachable spirit and a passion to plum the depths of true knowledge of Jesus. We must be willing to ask and be given, to seek and find, and to knock, knowing that the Door will be opening to us.
We must desire to look back and see every Old Testament text in the intense light of Jesus, as the highest level of interpretation and greatest goal of revelation, who every writer from Moses to Malachi spoke of, in a multitude of ways.
We must also drink deeply from the fountain of the Gospels, where we can see Jesus in action, and hear His words in the context of those moments when He walked the earth.
We must also attend to the echoes of His words in those of the apostolic writers of the New Testament. These knew Jesus in the natural and in the Spirit, in a variety of ways that made them fertile soil for the Holy Spirit to prompt fully inspired insights about Him, which will focus us and sustain us with the real meat of God's word.
Each of these activities are at the core of the Great Commission and the life on earth of a fully dedicated disciple of Jesus, but they only have life in the full context of the last part of this foundational declaration:
and behold, I am with you all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion), to the [very] close and consummation of the age. Amen (so let it be).
This conclusion completes our understanding of the overall process of disciple making, which although acted upon by those of us called by God into this process, is actually founded on, initiated by, maintained through, and completed by God in partnership with us.
Every part of being and making disciples flows only out of Jesus' own divine power and authority.
Each disciple is invited into the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, so that the Love of the Father, the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14) surround and endue us with His own strength, so that we are enabled in grace, to respond correctly in every situation.
Jesus puts an exclamation point on this reality, by reminding His first disciples, and each generation since that time, that He is WITH US ALL THE DAYS!
This is a promise that He has kept and will always keep through every situation, no matter what it looks like. He is the One that intercedes before our heavenly Father continually. There is no place we can go that He is not already there with us and for us.
There is no adversity nor difficulty which is too great to stop Him from walking through with us, to fulfill His desires and our own personal destinies as His disciples!