March 22, 2015
Over the past five weeks we have been looking at God’s Big Story. The idea for these messages came from Matthew Miller, a pastor in Vancouver, WA.
In these messages I have been seeking to show that the story of the Bible revolves around God’s Kingdom. In the Bible we see God seeking to establish his good rule among mankind.
Last week we saw that after Jesus ascended to the Father, he intended that the church showcase God’s kingdom rule on earth. This morning we come to the last message and we are looking at the great commission given by Jesus to his disciples. This commission is Jesus’ plan for bringing others into his kingdom. In Mt.28:16-20 we see that disciples of Jesus make disciples of Jesus.
I. JESUS HAS SENT US. v.18-19a
When Jesus was born he entered into life as a Jew in the nation of Israel. His public ministry was confined to Israel and the surrounding Gentile areas. Clearly Jesus exercised power in ways that no one else could. He displayed supernatural knowledge. He performed amazing miracles, showing his authority over illness, nature, and the laws of physics. But his life was lived under the authority of the Jewish leaders and Roman rulers. Jesus himself said that he did not come to lead a rebellion. He was not trying to overthrow Rome. So it would appear that his authority was willingly confined within the sphere of the nation of Israel and government.
In Mt.10 Jesus sends out his 12 disciples to do ministry. It is a ministry training opportunity. They are his apprentices, learning to do ministry with Jesus. In Mt.10:16 Jesus says, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Jesus had authority to send them out; they were his disciples.
But now in Mt.28 Jesus claims that he has been given all authority in heaven and in earth. What changed? Well, for one thing, Jesus died and rose from the grave. He defeated sin and death, carrying out the will of God the Father. And God the Father has vindicated Jesus’ life, death and resurrection by conferring on him full authority over the entire universe. The sphere of Jesus’ authority has been greatly enlarged.
When Jesus sent his disciples out in Mt.10 he told them to go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But now that the sphere of his authority has been expanded, the mission of Jesus is also greatly expanded. In Mt.28:18-19 we see that on the basis of Jesus’ expanded sphere of authority, he sends his disciples out into the world, to the ends of the earth. Last week we read Acts 1:8 where Jesus says to his disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Without intending in any way to diminish Jesus, I tentatively observe that when Jesus’ authority seemed confined to the nation of Israel, he sent his disciples to the nation of Israel. He did not send them beyond his sphere of authority. But now that all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Jesus, he sends his disciples out into the entire world and they will always be operating in the sphere of Jesus’ authority.
When the United States wages war in other parts of the world it requires the mass movement of equipment, supplies, and troops. And once the troops and supplies are on location it is very important that supply lines be kept open. This in itself requires great care and effort. Shipping lanes and flight paths must be maintained at all costs.
Well in the mission to make disciples the supply lines are always well maintained by our King. We do not have to worry that we will ever lack what we need to carry out his commission. The sovereign power and authority of Jesus is fully behind the mission that he is carrying out through us in the world. As Peter writes in 2Pt.1:3, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” Jesus has sent us into the world.
II. JESUS HAS PREPARED US. v.19-20
If we take these verses out of the context of Matthew, it might seem that Jesus gives this command out of the blue. It can sound as if his disciples are hearing this for the first time. In one sense it is completely new because Jesus is sending them into the whole world, but in another sense it is similar to what Jesus told his disciples to do earlier when he sent them out to do ministry in Mt.10. In other words, Jesus had been preparing them all along. Going into the world wasn’t completely foreign to them.
But notice what Jesus tells them to do. They are to go out and make disciples. We’ve heard this word so many times and yet we may not really be clear about what a disciple is. Basically a disciple is someone who attaches him or herself to a teacher in order to learn from that teacher and to be like that teacher. A disciple is an apprentice, a student, paying close attention to all that the teacher says and does.
If you want to learn to play the piano, you find a teacher and you listen to all that the teacher tells you. You watch as the teacher demonstrates. And you practice what the teacher tells you to do. If you want to be a carpenter, you find a good carpenter and you become his or her student. You watch, you listen, and you copy. You do what the carpenter tells you to do in the way that he or she does it.
When Jesus told his disciples to go and make disciples, he was telling them to do something that they had been doing all along. They had been disciples of Jesus. They watched Jesus. They listened to Jesus, and they practiced what Jesus told them to do. In other words, Jesus had been preparing them all along for what he was sending them out to do.
Something else. If I had been Jesus, I think I might have said, Okay, Peter I want you to stay here in Jerusalem and direct the work here. Thomas I want you to go to India and make disciples there. John I want you to go to Ephesus over in Asia.” Do you see my point? Jesus was so general. He just said, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” I like to have clarity and so I might have been wondering, “Well, like what does this mean for me. Where am I supposed to go?” Jesus didn’t tell anyone where they were to go. Just go. What this tells me is that I am to have a general mindset that is always looking to make disciples of Jesus. Making disciples is one of my default settings. But it’s not just about having a mental awareness that I am to be making disciples. It also involves being a disciple of Jesus at all times in my life. If I’m not a disciple how will I be able to make disciples? Disciples make disciples. Being a disciple of Jesus involves an intentional decision to identify myself with Jesus so that I can learn about him and from him how to live like he would live if he were me. Once I make that decision I live it out 24/7. Obviously being a disciple of Jesus involves learning and doing. This is why disciple making is not a church program that we come to do on Thursday night, going door to door. It is the overall work of the ministry of every believer in the church.
In v.19 Jesus tells us to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Baptism is a significant statement of identification and discipleship to Jesus. In Baptism a person is publically stating that he or she has embraced Jesus by faith as the Savior, Lord and King of their life. And you notice that we are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Now I don’t think Jesus was giving a precise formula for what we are to say when baptizing someone. At the beginning of the 2nd century some believers were being baptized in the name of Jesus, while others were being baptized in the name of the Trinity. And while we baptize in the name of the Trinity, I think there is more being said here than just giving us words to say at baptism. In fact, believers are baptized into the reality of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Through Christ we are immersed into a relationship with God in his kingdom. Something else. If these verses apply to all disciples, and not just the twelve, then baptism is not something that only certain disciples or pastors can do. It seems to me that really, any disciple of Jesus can baptize new disciples.
Notice also in v.20 that we are to teach new disciples to observe all that Jesus commanded. Obeying what Jesus commanded is how we learn to be his disciple. The commands of Jesus are found in the Gospels and the Epistles. Jesus means for us to do what he says. It is only as we are observing all that Jesus commanded that we can help others observe all that Jesus commanded.
Now If I were to ask how many of you are saved, I imagine many hands would go up. If I were to ask how many of you are disciples of Jesus, I would hope that just as many hands would go up, but I’m not as sure. The reason I’m not as sure is because often in our culture being saved is separated from being a disciple. Some have the idea that discipleship to Jesus is being saved on steroids. It’s only for those who want to enroll in the advanced track of Christianity. Many are content to just be saved so they can go to heaven. But, this is not how the Bible views salvation. Jesus did not issue one call for salvation and then a second call for discipleship, as if we can choose to exercise our option on this. Jesus called people to follow him. Evangelism for Jesus was discipleship evangelism. It is very possible that some here today have not understood that being saved was never meant to be an event in and of itself. Sometimes we give people that impression. We bring them to a point of saying a sinners prayer and then we start to load on all the things they are supposed to do as Christians, and that’s not what they signed up for. Better to understand from the beginning that receiving the wonderful life of Jesus involves following Jesus. There’s a cost. When Angie and I had our two boys, we received a wonderful life with them, but there’s a cost. We had to clothe them, feed them, teach them, and care for them. Those boys shape our lives. So I’m wondering if you are prepared to carry out Jesus commission to make disciples. Are you yourself a disciple of Jesus? Would you like to be a disciple of Jesus?
III. JESUS PARTICIPATES WITH US. v.20
Being a disciple of Jesus is a lifelong process. Sinful ways of thinking and acting have been deeply absorbed by our minds and bodies. Many sins just feel so natural to us because they are natural to us. We don’t even have to think about sinning. And so it is important that we develop practices that will help us make progress in being a disciple of Jesus.
2. Many of us already understand that getting God’s written word deep into our hearts and minds is of great value. The Scripture was given to us so that we might be taught, reproved, corrected and trained in righteousness, so that we might become mature and equipped for every good work. Cultivating an ongoing prayer life is very important as we live each day. In addition to this it is profitable to incorporate times of solitude and silence so that God has opportunity to speak into our lives. Fasting can be helpful to teach us that we are dependent upon the Lord and his Holy Spirit for all of life. The best training we can have to be a witness for Christ is training in discipleship as we become more and more like Jesus in our living.
3. The good thing about Mt.28:20 is that it tells us that Jesus is always with us. It’s not that Jesus is just sort of hanging out with us every moment of the day. He is actively participating with us in every good endeavor we undertake. In Jn.14:23 Jesus says, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Jesus and God the Father dwell in us through the Holy Spirit. As follower of Jesus we live in the world, but our primary orientation is not the world. We also live in God’s kingdom, under the rule of our King, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the primary orientation for our lives. So when it comes to making disciples, we are privileged to have Christ working right alongside of us.
Perhaps there is a family member or roommate, or spouse or co-worker who does not know Jesus. Maybe this person makes your life difficult. Well, as a disciple maker, Jesus is working with you to help you respond as a follower of Jesus would respond. Through his Holy Spirit, he will empower you and guide you so that you can live as his disciple around that person. And because Jesus is with you he knows all there is to know about the other person. He knows the full situation. We are concerned for that person. We desire to see him or her come under the sway of Jesus. So we pray for that person. It may not go easy. Maybe because we are followers of Jesus our integrity upsets them because of their lack of integrity. Maybe our kindness makes them angry because of their lack of kindness. Can you trust your King to take care of you as you continue to model kindness and integrity before that person?
Maybe you are taking a class in which the prof and fellow students are anything but Christian. You don’t know what to say and yet feel that you must defend God. Well, God is fully able to defend himself. Instead recognize that your King, Jesus Christ is with you. Ask him to help you live a faithful life and ask him to give you what to say and wait for his direction. We can trust our King. He knows what to do. Jesus participates with us.
Well, I hope we all see that we do not have to worry about who is in charge. All authority in heaven and earth belongs to Jesus. No matter how much it might appear to us that God is not in charge, he is most definitely in charge. And I hope we see that we are not alone. No matter how alone we might feel disciples of Jesus are never alone. He is always with us and is always participating with us. We never work alone.
To me the question we must consider is twofold. First, are we disciples of Jesus? Have we attached ourselves to Jesus as Savior-Lord-King. Have we put our confidence in Jesus’ life and teachings, his death and resurrection? And then, are we going? Is it our intention to make disciples of Jesus? Amen.