The Great Commission

by Rev. Randy Brown

Addison is going to come now and read our scripture for the morning and as he comes out of reverence and respect for Our Lord, would you stand for the reading of God’s word?

Today’s verse comes from Matthew 28, verses 16-20.

“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said all authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 till the very end of the age.”

This is the word of God for the people of God.

Thanks be to God.

We’re going to pray together. Would you be seated as we pray?

Come once again Heavenly Father and rescue me from me. Hide me behind your cross, that the words that are spoken be your words and not mine. That the one who is seen would be you and not me. Above all else may we hear the quiet shuffling of sandal feet and know that Jesus the Christ has come to walk in our midst. It’s in His name and for His glory I pray. Amen.

The month of January has been, what we were talking about, a month of greatness especially in our sermon series. Two weeks ago we talked about the Great Invitation: Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Last week, we talked about the Great Commandment: To love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. Today, we talk about the Great Commission and next week, we talk about the Great Companion.

Today, we are looking at the scripture that Addison read a few moments ago. It’s found at the very end of Matthew’s Gospel. It’s one of the last times that Jesus will be spending time on earth with his followers. It is a post-resurrection experience.

What had happened was that the resurrection had happened. Jesus was alive. The followers were confused. The critics were running crazy. Jesus had had a pre-arranged meeting for his followers to meet somewhere in the mountains around Galilee. We’re not exactly sure where but somewhere in the mountains surrounding the Sea of Galilee. It was a pre-arranged meeting, and they had gotten there. They were waiting on Jesus. The mountains play a vital role in Matthew’s Gospel.

We’re not sure how long that the people had waited for Jesus to come, but I’m not sure they really minded the wait. They probably were grateful for the time that they could just kind of spend some time and rest and relax, and as some of you would say they were just kind of chilling out, waiting on Jesus to get there. They felt safe there and Jesus was on His way.

As He arrived there, the scripture tells us what they did next. It said they worshiped Him but the strange thing is that Matthew added another phrase. They worshiped Him and some doubted. That’s an interesting phrase to me. I’m not sure what our reaction would’ve been. The world was turned upside down and suddenly Jesus walked into where they were. What kind of reaction would we have if that were to happen with us? They worshiped and some doubted.

I take great comfort in Matthew putting that phrase there because it says to me that even though some of them had it together, some of them didn’t. Even to the folks that didn’t have it all together Jesus still came and visited them. Isn’t that good to know? I don’t have it all together and you probably don’t either, and if you get it all together you’re going to forget where you put it. So, Jesus comes to us where we are, a worshiping, struggling people. He comes to us in the midst of that. We don’t have to have it all together for Him to come to where we are and I sure am glad. Amen.

Some doubted. Not that they were skeptical but maybe they were just open to other possibilities. Notice this, it wasn’t to the angels or to the super pious that Jesus appeared. It was to the worshipers and those who were wavering in their faith. That’s where He came. Jesus not only came to them but Jesus entrusted to them to carry on His work: To go yea into all the world and make disciples baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus entrusted them and He entrusts you and I to continue what He started while He walked on earth. He handed it off to them, and He hands it off to us and says,” Go yea into all the world and make disciples.” He trusts us. He puts it squarely in your lap and in my lap, and it’s a big responsibility.

I remember hearing a story about General Omar Bradley. General Bradley was on a trip one time and as he was traveling this young private set down beside of him. As the young private sat there he didn’t know who General Omar Bradley was but as they were talking he asked the General what he did and what his role and responsibilities were within the military. He began to tell him all the things that he had earned, all of the ranks that he had achieved, and all the responsibilities that he had, how he had been commander over this, that and the other. Finally, after a long list and a tireless resume that General Bradley spouted off to this young private, this young private looked at him and said, “Well, gee mister that sounds very impressive. I sure hope you don’t mess it up.”

Well, the job that Jesus has given us is an impressive job, and I sure hope we don’t mess it up. “To go yea into all the world,” the Gospel of Matthew tells us that this is the great commission. A commission is an assignment. It is a task. It is a responsibility and has the authority to go and do something big. To the worshiping, wondering, wavering followers of Christ, just like us this morning, Jesus says to them and he says to us, “Go into all the world and make disciples.” That’s our job. If we’re wondering what our job is, that’s it. I wish I could make it hard for you, but it’s simple. Go into all the world and make disciples. That’s our business.

Many of you may know the name Dr. Bill Starns, Dr. Starns was the President of Martin Methodist College a number of years ago. He was also a missionary in Africa. He later served churches in this conference, among which was Tullahoma First. Dr. Starns used to tell the story that he was coming back from furlough from the mission field. He was going to be in New York City for a meeting and when one of his friends found out about it he said, “Bill, if you’ll go by,” he gave him the address and he gave him the building and he gave him the room number, “go by the National Student Movement headquarters and pick me up some brochures and some information.” Bill said, “I would be happy to do that.” Bill did that. He gets to New York City. He finds the building. He goes up the elevator. He goes to the right floor. He turns the corner to go to where the headquarters are and there’s a note on the door of the National Student Movement. The note read, “We have gone out of business because we don’t know what our business was.”

We know what the business of the church is: Jesus told us to go into all the world and make disciples. Now, I think one of the things that we have to be careful of is that sometimes we take this verse of scripture, and we say okay that’s a job for the missions committee. We’re going to raise some money. We’re going to write a check. We’re going to send it and then we have fulfilled our obligation. Wrong answer! That’s not just the job of the missions committee. That’s our job: Your job and my job. Because it’s not just enough – to say that “to go into all the world” is to write a check.

I’m grateful that this church has the Missions committee that it has. I’m grateful for the support that they give to causes throughout the church and around the world. But, I think what Jesus is really saying is go into your world, where you are, where you live and breathe and work and recreate, go there. Go where you shop, and where you trade, and where you just go and hang out. Go to those places and make disciples. I think that there’s a precedent for that with Jesus. You know the Gospels record the fact that there was a guy who came to Him and began to follow Him and the guy said, “Jesus let me go with you.” In other words, his request was let me be your thirteenth disciple and Jesus said, “No, no, no. I don’t want you to do that. I want you to go back home and tell what God has done for you. That’s where your world is.” Wherever you spend most of your time. That’s your world. Jesus says, “Go into your world and make disciples and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Now, Benny, I’m not so sure about this, but I strongly suspect that when He talks about baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, He’s not just talking about taking them to the river. He’s not talking about just dunking them, or sprinkling them, or pouring them. He’s talking about in our everyday life to immerse them with His love, to pour out His grace and to sprinkle His kindness all throughout our world. I think that’s what He’s talking about.

We go into our world: A world that needs to know the love of God by our words and by our deeds. To build relationships and friendships, to build a bridge between our heart and someone else’s heart, and allow Jesus to walk across that bridge. That’s what He’s talking about. Go into your world, your realm of influence, and make disciples. Let them know that Jesus will bring newness of life, that if anyone be in Christ and Christ be in anyone they are a new creation. The old has passed. The new has come. That’s our commission. I sure hope we don’t mess it up.

The risen Christ comes to a wavering, worshiping church and says “Be universal, be inclusive and be disciplined.” Notice what He didn’t say. He didn’t say go into all the world and build buildings. He never said that. He didn’t say go into all the world and establish empires. He didn’t even say go into the world and make believers. He didn’t say go into the world and make converts. He didn’t even say go into the world and preach. He simply said, “Go into the world and make disciples.” Not by beating them over the head with 40-lb Bibles, but you’ll do it by loving them. You’ll do it by showing them who Jesus is.

Our job is to be a nurturing people; to be teaching. That’s the job of the church. If we’re going to teach, we have to first learn; because we can’t share what we don’t have, and we can’t impart wisdom that we’ve never had. Teaching and learning is a part of the church, and we are the means. We’re the messengers. We’re not the message.

I read a story this week about a donkey. The donkey was to be a part of a parade. As the parade started, the donkey was put in the head of the parade. As the donkey went down the parade, people began to wave palm branches and they began to put cloaks in the middle of the road. They began to yell, “Hosanna, Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” This donkey was feeling pretty good about himself. He thought he was the deal in the parade, and then, he realized that Jesus was riding on him.

You see it’s not about us; it’s about Him. He’s the Messiah. We’re just the messenger. Go ye into all the world and make disciples and teach them what I have commanded you. Teachers, before you could teach you had to be learners, right? [Nodding] This means yes. Leaders, before you could be a leader you had to be a follower, right? So, it is with us.

When He talks about teaching, He’s not necessarily talking about holding a class: He’s talking about holding fast to what you’ve learned in here because it really is true, more is caught than taught.

So, if we’re going to teach what Jesus has taught, what does that look like preacher? I’m glad you asked.

Teach them to forgive as they have been forgiven.

Teach them to love as they have been loved.

Teach them to go the extra mile. That’s what He teaches us. That’s what He teaches us and that’s what we are to live out before others.

Teach them to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with their God.

Teach them to be peacemakers because peacemakers shall be called the sons of God.

Teach them to be meek for they shall inherit the earth.

Teach them to be pure in heart for they shall see God.

Teach them to be merciful for they shall obtain mercy.

Teach them to hunger and to thirst for righteousness because that’s the only way that they will be filled.

Teach them to follow the light of Christ, so they won’t stumble.

Teach them to be the light of Christ, so that they’ll help others not to stumble.

Teach them to let their yes be yes and their no be no.

Teach them that no one is off limits. The demoniac wasn’t off limits. The leper wasn’t off limits. The woman caught in adultery wasn’t off limits. Zacchaeus and Lazarus weren’t off limits.

Teach them that kindness is important, even if it’s just a glass of water.

Teach them that even mustard seed faith makes a difference.

Teach them that a little leaven will go a long way.

Teach them that they can walk on water, because Jesus can take us places that we never dreamed we could go.

Teach them that greatness comes by being a servant.

Teach them that children are important.

Teach them that the harvest is great and the laborers are few, but the harvest will be great if the laborers will get to work.

Teach them that no matter how dark Friday is, Sunday is coming.

You see we have a lot to learn. We’ve got a lot to teach.

Teach them that greatness comes by serving, that humility is a part of who God wants us to be. That the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Teach them. Teach them.

Teach them, finally, that anything is possible if a man can roll a rock away from a tomb. Teach them.

Go ye into all the world. No, no, no, no. Go to your world. Tomorrow. Maybe even this afternoon. Go to your world and make disciples. Teach them what you’ve learned from the master teacher. It’s what the Book says, and the Book never lies.

Let’s pray.

Father, we want to make it so hard, but you’ve made it so easy. Lord, you’ve called us to go into our world, and we all have realms of influence and places where we can make a difference. That’s the world you want us to go to, and you want us to represent you there. Lord, help us not to mess it up! In Jesus’ name.