May 21, 2023
“Then Jesus approached and said to them,
‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
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 all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.’”
Have you ever considered the audacity of the great commission, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…”? I have sometimes reflected on the veracity of the resurrection, ascension, and Pentecost based on the evidence of a ragtag group of mostly uneducated disciples, initially hiding in fear in an upper room, who boldly proclaimed the gospel, traveled the world on missionary journeys, and gave their lives as martyrs witnessing to God’s love and salvation. It is totally unpredictable and, I dare say, miraculous. In an age before mass communication and ease of travel, it is highly improbable that they would make such gains in their own lifetimes based solely on their own efforts. Additionally, I doubt they had an organized strategic plan for the spread of Christianity. No, they simply did what seemed to be the thing to do at the time, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in obedience to God’s will.
By the time the apostles all died, the religion known as The Way had reached many cities in Asia Minor and various communities in Syria, Greece, Armenia, India and Rome. When I visited India in the State of Kerala, we went to a shrine that honored the approximate location where St. Thomas, the apostle, came ashore to spread the good news. That both Saints Peter and Paul would eventually travel to Rome and be martyred there is incredible. It can be lost when we become used to a worldwide church of nearly 1.4 billion members present in every country in the world (even, though limited, in North Korea and Saudi Arabia), but what we have today was improbable, at best, and only gained through much love and sacrifice. I believe it is the continued work of God for our salvation. It strengthens my faith.
The seed of that incredible growth was what we call the great commission. It has three parts. Notice the first part is based on who Jesus is and what he has accomplished. It is not localized, but universal, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” This man, born in Bethlehem and limited to about 100 miles of travel for his ministry, claimed universal and eternal significance. Although profoundly personal, his mission and work affected all of humanity. Likewise, the third part assures his disciples that they are not in this alone, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” The commission is rooted in who Jesus is and what he has accomplished and is dependent upon his continued presence for its fulfillment. Our source, path, and goal are Jesus. Jesus Indicates that the commission is really his work through his disciples, through us.
His mission continues. It is audacious, but God loves everyone and desires to set them free, heal, reconcile, restore, and make them whole. God loves everyone and he depends on you and me to express that love. To our neighbors, families, and friends, to the poor, outcast, broken, wounded, suffering, and oppressed, to everyone everywhere, we are the hands and feet of Christ. We are commissioned to make disciples, share the good news of God’s love and salvation, and serve the greatest needs. It is audacious, but it is Jesus in you and me.