And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”
We CANNOT overemphasize the call to push the gospel to the ends of the earth. We are commanded here to go to the nations to persuade people to follow this Jesus. HOWEVER, the call to make disciples of the nations must not push false guilt on Christians who feel compelled to make disciples of their own community for the rest of their lives. Implicit in the command to “go and make disciples of all nations” is the call to “stay and make disciples of this nation”:
- The command to make disciples is a call to help people obey everything Jesus has commanded (Matt 28.20). That work is a lifelong process. It takes a long time to learn everything Jesus has commanded, and even longer to learn to obey everything he has commanded. Consider how long it would take to TEACH people to obey everything he has commanded. The United States needs people to stay here and fulfill the Great Commission.
- The command to make disciples is a command to make disciples of all NATIONs. When we look to fulfill this call we must have a national perspective in mind. There is no promise that every person in the nation will be saved, and Jesus is emphasizing every different people group in the world, but surely we cannot be satisfied with the conversion of a small number in every people group in the world. Our goal is not to simply preach the gospel to all nations. We should hope and pray that every single soul in every nation would hear the gospel and be saved. This takes many Christians in the U.S. to stay and make as many disciples as possible. Considering how many souls there are in the U.S., and how many false conversions there are in this prosperous nation, there are a relatively few disciples here. We need more, and that takes workers here.
Of course, if you are simply staying because it’s easier or safer (though you would never admit it), then by all means, GO!
Your faith must give a proper honor to Christ:
- It is more than just liking what he does (43-48)- The shallow faith of the Galileans is contrasted with the deep faith of the Samaritans in verse 42. The Galileans are just like the Jews in John 2.23-25. They were attracted to his miracles. Even his statement in verse 48 is a rebuke. Though it could be worse, Jesus still desires a faith that does not NEED miraculous signs.
- It is more than just believing what he says (49-53)- The royal official believed Jesus’ words in verse 50, but he did not become a true believer until verse 53. It seems he believed his word in verse 50, but did not actually trust in Christ until verse 53.
There seems to be at least four categories of faith here: 1. Because of His Word, true faith (v.41), 2. Because of his miracles, shallow faith (v.45), 3. Because of his miracles, true faith (v.48), 4. Because of His Word, shallow faith (50). Only the first does Jesus commend.
I had a chance to preach this at the Baptist Collegiate Ministries at the University of Hawaii last Fall:
You are not fulfilling the Great Commission if…
- Jesus is not your Lord- Matthew 28.18 says “all authority in heaven and on earth” has been given to Christ. That is so foreign to American Christians, that we could possibly have a Sovereign over us. Jesus said to teach people to “obey everything” he has commanded. So, yes, we must fulfill the Great Commission as a response to the Lorship of Christ. But did you ever think that your own slavery to Christ is a part of fulfilling the Great Commission? If we are to teach people to obey everything he has commanded, would it not follow (or precede) that we ourselves would be in the process of obeying everything he commanded as well? That is what I mean by fulfilling the Great Commission by submitting to Jesus as Lord. Every time you lash out at your spouse, provoke your child to anger, tell a white lie, or think a wrong thought, you are missing the mark on the Great Commission.
- You are not a member of a church- For this you must put Matthew 28.18-20 next to Ephesians 1.22-23. In Matthew 28, Jesus said the Father handed over all authority to Jesus. In Ephesians 1 Paul said the Father “put all things under his feet.” It is the same handing over of authority– God the Father handing all authority over to Jesus. But in Ephesians Jesus is said to have all things under his feet and to be head over all things for the church. Whenever we think of the absolute authority of Jesus we are to think of him as the Head of the church as well. And if you consider that Matthew would have expected real churches to read Matthew 28, it is not hard to figure out that God gave the Great Commission to be fulfilled by churches! The audiences of Matthew 28 and Ephesians 1 are the same: the people of God as seen in local churches.
If you are not a committed member of a church, not only are you not fulfilling the Great Commission, it is impossible for you to do so.
Make sure you are a true worshiper:
- Worship based on knowledge (22)- The Samaritans only believed in the five books of Moses, so there was no way they could have as good an understanding of worship as even the Jews. It is possible to worship, yet “worship what you do not know.”
- Worship in spirit and truth (23-24)- It is funny that Jesus would say “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and truth.” It seems that the way to worship God in spirit is to worship Him in truth. The two simply go together.
- Worship Jesus (25-26)- “I AM, the one speaking to you.” The woman wants living water, she wants to know the place of proper worship, she knows the Messiah will come and set everything straight, and Jesus says, “I AM, the one speaking to you.” That is gracious revelation before our eyes. And if it is all true, then he deserves worship.
Notice Jesus had started off the whole thing with “A time is coming…” The gospel of John points to a future hour of death, resurrection and glorification of the Son. The cross and resurrection are the entrance into the time of true spiritual and truthful worship.
I once foolishly told a friend that I had about ten sermons in my head from Matthew 28.18-20. I retracted and said, “Well, maybe five sermons.” I really do not know how many sermons I will preach from that text in my lifetime, but I thought first I would explain why I think God wanted that text to be fairly centralized in our minds:
- It is at the end of the first book of the New Testament- of course the order of books is not inspired necessarily, but there is major agreement among Spirit-empowered believers that it should appear first.
- Though I do not believe the end of Mark is inspired, believers added an ending to that gospel that is very similar to Matthew 28, either through what they remember Jesus saying or what had been passed down orally or through some other means. The uninspired text gives Matthew 28.18-20 more power.
- Luke seems to think the heart of the Great Commission is important as well- Luke 24.36-49 has very similar elements to Matthew 28.16-20. Both include a level of doubt from the disciples, an authoritative response from Jesus, the idea of sending them out to all nations, the name of Jesus being proclaimed, and a promise to be with them in Spirit.
- Luke thinks it is so important that he repeats this Great Commission heart in Acts 1.8- there again is Holy Spirit companionship and the testimony to all nations. Perhaps most obvious of all is that all three passages are from the mouth of Jesus as a command/commission.
- The book of Acts is the Great Commission lived out- think about Matthew 28.18-20. All authority belongs to Jesus, make disciples of all nations, baptizing into His name, teaching exhaustive obedience, promise to be with the disciples (assuming in the Holy Spirit of Christ). And think about Acts. Jesus proclaimed as the exalted one, the gospel going out to Gentile nations, the emphasis on baptism in the name of Jesus, devotion to the Apostles’ teaching, Spirit-empowerment throughout.
For those reasons, I have multiple meditations from this passage, and will try to share them over time. By God’s grace, I already got to preach one at the end of 2009 at Kailua Baptist Church.
3 more truths about Jesus:
- Refresher of souls (1-15)- Jesus used water to tell the woman more about himself. He seems to tell her that he is the fulfillment of passages like Isaiah 12.3 and Isaiah 44.3 and Jeremiah 2.13. “God has been promising living water all along, so ask me for it; you’ll never thirst again!”
- Revealer of all truth (16-26)- She can see he is a prophet so she asks him about the biggest doctrinal debate that she can think of– where the proper place of worship is. But Jesus says worship is not about a place; in fact, he reveals to her that He is the Messiah who will set all doctrinal debates straight.
- Reaper of souls (27-42)- The woman happily told her hometown about the one who revealed he knew her sinful past. It seems she was given new life by his revelation of himself. Now Jesus uses food to tell his disciples more about himself. He just harvested this woman’s soul and now he sees more souls coming to be harvested. Doing that work is his real food.
This story helps me big time in evangelism. First thing Jesus does when she shows some level of interest is he points out her sin! And the harvesting of souls seems to satisfy Jesus like food satisfies our appetite.