March 5 – Matthew 28:16-20
Main focus: The Son, enthroned by the Father and made present to us by the Spirit, commissions us as citizens of his Kingdom.
This week we’re turning to Matthew 28:16-20, which includes something called the Great Commission (v.18-20) and is jam-packed with important stuff. However, our focus this week is on 1. hearing how the Son is now the High King of Heaven (through Trinitarian involvement) and 2. receiving his commission to us as citizens of his Kingdom.
Earlier in the chapter, Jesus resurrected from the dead, and here Matthew draws his Gospel account to a close with a final command from Jesus to his disciples. 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). You might find “given” an interesting word there; if “by him all things were created…and in him all things hold together,” (Col 1:16-17), why would he need to receive authority from the Father? Shouldn’t he already have it?
Other passages point out this same sort of passing of authority (1 Cor 15:28; Phil 2:9; Heb 1:2-4; Rev 5:7), and what they communicate is the route of humiliation-to-exaltation that God the Son took by becoming a servant, subjecting himself to the will of the Father and dying for sin. Thus, being found perfectly obedient to all that the Father commanded, he received the throne that was rightfully his. This highlights 1. That King Jesus is victorious over sin and the grave (and we benefit from that victory) and 2. That Jesus is worthy of the throne and of our praise, as Rev 5:9-10 describes. As the presently and forever reigning King of the Universe, we can look to Jesus and trust that he’s got the whole world, and our entire lives, in his hands.
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” are both components of making disciples. This command drives home what Jesus’s rule and reign looks like right now: having ultimate authority, Jesus sends out his disciples as ambassadors to make more disciples. The direct implication of Jesus’s coronation is our commission. And this command is global in scope—“ALL nations”—which is to say that our ignoring of any people group, or even type of person, in our individual or corporate discipleship efforts is disobedience to Jesus’s command. Also note the Trinity connection here: we baptize folks into the single name, not names, of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In discussion we’ll ask how this must’ve felt to the disciples. Among other things, I’m sure they were overwhelmed—Jesus is asking nothing less of them than starting a global movement! But last in the passage comes the other source of comfort: though Jesus was about to bodily ascend to heaven (Acts 1:9), he promises “I am with you always.” That might sound like a well-meaning platitude, like Jesus is sending us good vibes or something, but what Jesus is describing is the sending of the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity, God himself alive and active within us! One Bible scholar calls the Holy Spirit “the executive power of the exalted Christ.” All that authority and power that holds the universe together is readily present with us and attentive to us in the Spirit. Which, heads up, next week we’ll start a four-week segment of talking about the Spirit.
Having received this mission from Jesus, we’ll discuss what it looks like to take the next faithful step in his mission for us. Then we’ll finish where the passage does, by looking at the encouragement available to us through Jesus’s sovereign power and Spiritual presence with us. 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 and words, comfort you, and guide you as you obey his commission to make disciples.
• Could someone read Matthew 28:16-20 for us?
• What stood out to you from the passage?
• What does Jesus commission his followers to do here?
• How do you think the eleven disciples felt in this moment?
• How does it feel for you personally to receive this mission from King Jesus?
• What do you think is your next faithful step in Jesus’s mission to make disciples?
• How does this passage provide you with hope and encouragement for carrying out Jesus’s mission?