April 24 – Matthew 28:16-20

This week we’re turning to Matthew 28:16-20, which contains something called the Great Commission. Earlier in the chapter Jesus resurrected from the dead and in our passage Matthew draws his Gospel account to a close with a final command from Jesus (check out Acts 1-2 for a bit more on the global scope of this command). And while Jesus gives this command to the Apostles here, their mission was simply the mission of the church, a mission which has been handed down through the centuries to us. In the Great Commission Jesus says three big things, one core command sandwiched between two sources of comfort.

First comes a reassurance: Jesus reveals that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him by the Father (28:18). What he says there is something no other being in the universe can say. Your parents, whoever can fire you at work, even world leaders can only say “some authority has been given to me.” Only one person has it all, and Jesus says this 1. as a confirmation of his exaltation and Lordship, following his resurrection, and 2. as a comfort for us through the ages. Jesus’ life was hard, so we can assume that following him and making disciples like he did is a tough gig. But we can take heart knowing that ultimate authority has been granted to the one who gives us this mission, meaning he has the authority both to commission us for service and to see our mission out. At the end of the day there is ultimately no road block, no thing, power, or person that can stand in our way, that Jesus doesn’t have complete control over.

Second comes the command: make disciples (28:19-20a). If you check out the structure of the sentence you’ll notice that “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded” and “baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” are both components of the primary command to make disciples. To be sure, Jesus isn’t providing an exhaustive methodology for making disciples but he is pointing out some of the crucial aspects for the kind of discipleship he wants his people to do. But even in this non-exhaustive description he’s asking for a lot— just think of what it means to teach someone ALL that Jesus commanded! How can you do that while living your life, working a job, raising a family, or trying to have friends? 

Because of the third thing, the final source of comfort: Jesus is with you always (28:20b). And for Jesus to “be with us” isn’t just a nice platitude. His Spirit, the third member of the Trinity and God himself, is alive and active within us! Again, check out Acts 1-2 and you’ll see a powerful example of Jesus’ presence among his disciples through his Spirit. So, as you consider how to be on mission both as individuals and as a community group, take heart. Jesus is in control and is with you, ready to enable you, strengthen you, give you time and opportunity, comfort you, and guide you as you obey his commission to make disciples.

When it comes to your community group, discipleship has several simultaneous modes, involving both the making of new disciples and the shaping of established disciples. And this occurs both when your group members are gathered together and when they’re scattered. In the normal life of your group you and your group members will share a couple hours a week together at most, meaning your group members spend the vast majority of their time out in the mission fields where God has placed them, in their neighborhoods, workplaces, friend groups, families, etc. So, in discussion we’ll consider how your group can be a staging ground for that scattered mission, how you can pray for one another, support each other, and urge one another on in the mission Jesus has given us.

Questions for Discussion
• Could someone read Matthew 28:16-20 for us?

• First off, what does it mean to “make disciples”?

• Why do you think Jesus wants his followers to make disciples?

• How does it feel for you personally to receive this mission from Jesus?

• What’s a group of people, or specific person, in your life who you long for God to work in?

• How do you think God has commissioned you for that specific group or person?

• How does this passage provide you with hope and encouragement for carrying out Jesus’ mission for you?

• What are some ways we as a group can support one another in our separate workplaces / neighborhoods / families / etc.?