The Great Commission: The Calling Of Every Christ Follower

The Great Commission
Jesus leaves His disciples and ascends into heaven

A person’s final words are notoriously important. How many movies have a tear jerking scene where an important character is taking their final breaths, but they muster up the energy to coarsely get out one last life-altering message to a loved one? I can easily think of several.

Jesus isn’t dead. He rose again and is alive today. But we do have record of some of the last words that he gave to his loved ones here on earth before he ascended to heaven to sit on his rightful throne. Some of his last words spoken face to face, and they are life-altering and vastly important. It was the final message that he wanted to stick with his followers: what he wanted them to carry on once he left this earth. In Christian lingo, we refer to these words as:

The Great Commission:

“Jesus came near and said to them, ‘All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.Matthew 28:18-20

The Great Commission appears in all four gospels, as they each want to leave this final message written out for all followers of Jesus to read.

Two verses prior, it says that the eleven disciples travelled to Galilee to meet Jesus, where he told them these words. These eleven men who had been at Jesus’ side for 3 ½ years; who had seen him perform countless miracles, give awe-inspiring messages, love the unlovable, and then be arrested, beaten, and crucified as an innocent man. They were his disciples, his closest friends. And what was the final charge he gave them?

To go and MAKE DISCIPLES of ALL NATIONS, baptizing them in the FATHER, SON, and HOLY SPIRIT, TEACHING THEM to follow all the things Jesus taught them to follow. And to remember, that he will ALWAYS be WITH THEM.

This is the charge, the commission, for all followers of Jesus. And it is great. Let’s break it down to see how good we’re doing at each part of this great task that marks the sign of a follower of Jesus.

Make Disciples

This was the first priority Jesus gave in his final charge to his disciples: to make other disciples. He was speaking this to the eleven men whom he had just spent the last 3 ½ years discipling, so in essence, he was asking them to now do to others what he just spent the last 3 ½ years doing with them. So what exactly did he do? How did he disciple them?

Simple: he did life with them. He walked with them, rested with them, ate with them, drank with them. He laughed with them, cried with them, journeyed with them, and served with them. He let them in on his thoughts, his desires, his concerns. He confronted them, challenged them, and rebuked them. He forgave them, loved them, and showed them endless mercy. He prepared them, then sent them out.

This is disciple making, and it’s how people are meant to become followers of Jesus. Not by bringing them to a large service where you hope that the words from a stranger on the stage will stick. It’s by letting people in to your life. To allow them to learn how to follow Jesus by observing how you follow Jesus. And it’s exactly what Jesus asks his followers to do. Are you making disciples? Are you allowing people into your life for the purpose of teaching them what it means to be a follower of Jesus? This is the first task of the great commission.

This is For All Nations

The second charge of the great commission answers the questions of to whom to make disciples of, and it’s pretty straight forward: ALL nations. All. Every single one. This was a huge call to these eleven Jewish men, and for some reason still seems to be a huge call to the followers of Jesus today. Up until this point in history, the covenant, God’s promises, and his chosen people, were all wrapped up and consumed in the Jewish people. This was THEIR heritage. Or so they thought. What Jesus said must have been mind blowing. Wait, this isn’t just for us? The people you came from, the people you’ve been rescuing for thousands of years? You came for EVERYONE? Yup. And you’re supposed to tell them. It was a big task, and one that caused a lot of controversy and debate among the disciples for years to come.

This is still our task today. It hasn’t changed. And oddly enough, there still seems to be plenty of controversy around the topic. Who should go? Where should they go? How should they do it? Should people really go? What about our own people?  These are all popular questions around this topic, and while some of them have some degree of merit, I believe we’ve way overcomplicated the matter. Jesus commanded us to go to all nations and to make disciples. So that’s just what we should do – do disciple making as Jesus did it and go to places where discipleship isn’t happening.

These men were fishermen and tax collectors who had been disciples of Jesus and now they were to disciple others. They didn’t change occupations or go to seminary first, they went out, being who they were, and showed others how to follow Jesus in their everyday lives. As current followers of Jesus, we can do the same. Assuming you’ve been poured into from someone else on how to live a life of following Jesus, take your occupation, your skill set, and go to a place where there is a great lack in discipleship. Live there, learn the culture, and invite people into your life to observe how you follow Jesus.

And let discipleship multiply to the nation. If followers of Jesus would take this part of the commission seriously, without overcomplicating it, all of the nations really could be reached.

Baptizing in the Name of The Father, Son, And Spirit

So let’s assume we do go to all nations and make disciples as Jesus did? Then, what? When someone chooses to become a follower of Jesus, baptism is a first step. A lot of you reading this already know that. Baptism doesn’t save a person, but it’s a representation of a life that is changed: the burying of the old self, and the rising of the new person in Jesus Christ. It’s a picture, and it’s a public commitment to follow Jesus.

I think the key thing Jesus was saying here was baptizing in the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We, as followers of Jesus, have access to all three. The Father who created us and the entire world, who has the power to raise his Son from the dead so that we may be redeemed. The Son who came to this earth and sacrificed his life because of his great love for the Father and for us, so that we may be redeemed. And the Holy Spirit, who came to us after Jesus to help those who choose to follow; who helps us with this great task, who makes us more Christlike with his guidance. Followers of Jesus don’t just get a part of the trinity: we commit to all three and we get the love, power, grace and guidance of all three. What a gift.

Teaching Through Word And Deed

Alright, so we know what we’re supposed to do: make disciples. We know to whom we’re supposed to make disciples: all nations. We know that a commitment to follow Jesus means we have access to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. But, how do we do it? Jesus tells us: by teaching them to follow everything that he taught them. They were to pass on his teachings to people who would then pass on his teachings, who would pass on his teachings, and so on and so on. In the days of the early church, this had to all be done verbally. Now, we have the scriptures that have Jesus’ teachings written out that we can refer back to. We can learn from them and pass on to others during our discipleship.

So, what are the teachings Jesus is referring to? Well, there’s a lot. In the gospels, any of the times he’s teaching, like the Sermon on the Mount, for example, or the times he’s just sitting and talking with his disciples would be his teachings. His parables, his discussions with the Pharisees, and his actions and conversations with the sick and the poor are more examples.

Jesus commanded his disciples to love God, and to love their neighbors as themselves. He tells them to put themselves last, not first, and to consider others above themselves, and then he demonstrates this by washing their dirty, stinky feet. His commandments and teachings are in abundance and we can (and should) spend a lifetime trying to follow them, as we demonstrate to others how to follow them as well. How well are we doing at teaching Jesus’ commandments? Do we even know them ourselves?

He is Always With Us

The final words of this great commission that Jesus leaves with his disciples (including all of us) is the most comforting of all. “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” He is WITH us. Jesus, in his glorified, resurrected state is with us. He is with us because he experienced this earthly life to the fullest. He’s with us in our pain, in our suffering, in the temptations we face. He’s with us in the loss of a loved one and in the celebration of new life. He’s with us in our work and in our play. He’s with us because he experience all of it, and he understands.

And on top of that great peace and comfort of knowing Jesus is with us in our trials and in our joys, He also sent the Holy Spirit to be present with us at all times. The Holy Spirit, who is one with the Son and the Father, is living in and amongst us, helping us. He is our guide, our comfort and our keeper of peace. He protects us from spiritual forces and stills and strengthens our hearts. What a rich blessing that’s been given us! Our creator is with us. Always. To the end of the age. Amazing. We can carry out this great commission because he is with us; he is helping us!

Are We All Living Out The Great Commission Daily?

The Great Commission is often only referred to when missionaries are being sent out on the field. And while that is definitely an appropriate time to be reading this charge, it should be read much more than that. As followers of Jesus, we should use it as a daily guide to measure out how we are living our lives.

Are we making disciples?  Are we allowing people into our lives in a close enough way that they can learn how to follow Jesus by observing how we live? Are we going to all the nations? Are we seeking out groups of people who do not know what Jesus has done for them – whether nearby or far away? If we cannot go to an unreached place, are we supporting those who can?

Are we living in the power and presence of the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? When new followers of Jesus come, are we baptizing them, starting them off on their new life, in the knowledge of the fullness of the Trinity? Are we teaching our disciples the teachings of Jesus? Do we know the teachings of Jesus well enough, and follow them well enough, that others can model their lives off of us and follow Jesus accordingly?

And finally, are we remembering that Jesus is always with us? He shared with us in this earthly life and sympathizes with us, and he sent the Holy Spirit to live in and among us. Are we sharing this comfort with our disciples? We are not alone.

What a great charge to be left with. One that we can accomplish because he is with us and one that will lead to more people falling in love with the one who paid the price to save their soul. I challenge you to read The Great Commission everyday and to set your ways accordingly.

“Jesus came near and said to them, ‘All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.Matthew 28:18-20

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