Summary: In the Great Commission, Jesus instructs us to go, to do, and be.
MAKING DISCIPLES -- SHAPING LIFE
Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV)
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
We may take these to be Jesus’ last words of instruction to his church before he left this world for heaven. His last words! The words we would have cause to remember simply because they are fresher on our minds. And we call these words the Great Commission. Here in these words Jesus tells us what he expects us -- his people -- to be doing with ourselves.
I. WE ARE TO GO
Listen to how he begins. Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go...” (vv. 18, 19). Go. Not stay but go. There is an inherent restlessness among those who have received the gospel. They cannot keep it to themselves; they cannot even keep it among themselves. There is an urgency to share it.
If you haven’t heard [Name] give her presentation on the windows of our church, I hope you get the opportunity. It will inspire you to a more intentional Christianity. Short of hearing her, you can see the work that she and [Name] did on display in our Archives Room, and I hope you will go check it out.
If you do, take special note of the chapel windows. Each window uses symbols to depict the life and destiny of a different apostle. You will see the three money bags that represent Matthew the tax collector. You will see two crossed fish to remind us of Andrew the fisherman who died a martyr’s death on an X-shaped cross. You will see a carpenter’ saw and a shepherd’s staff, a chalice filled with serpents, precious stones and even flaying knives. Each of these items and others like them represent something memorable about Jesus’ first band of disciples. But my favorite -- my favorite one of them all -- is the ship whose sail is filled with the wind that carried Simon across the seas with the message of God’s love. And, in a way, that ship could easily be the symbol for all the apostles, because they all left the comfort and convenience of life as they knew it to “go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15). Jesus’ Great Commission, coupled with the example of the first apostles, tells us one thing above all other things: going is an essential thread in the fabric of the Christian movement.
That’s why we go. That’s why we, the people of this church, go. We “go” in so many different ways, but we go. Some of our youth go to foreign lands and become resident missionaries. Others of us, like those who go to Mexico or to Native America or to Russia, take a week or two and participate in what we call a short-term mission trip. That’s what some of our college students are doing this summer. One has already left for Africa, and two others will soon be on their way -- one to the heartland of America and another to Southeast Asia. And, as they go, we go. They represent us and are, in fact, an extension of the life and witness of this church.
But we not only go to far away places. We go to local missions, and we show up at Habitat sites. Or we go across the street with a fresh-baked loaf of bread or a casserole to lend our support to a grieving neighbor. Or we attend a game or a recital where one of our youth is playing or performing. The point is, we go. And we go because Jesus said to. It’s his Great Commission.
II. WE ARE TO DO
But we not only go; we do. As we go, we do the things Jesus told us to do. And he told us to do three things: we are make disciples; we are to baptize; and we are to teach. You could think of making disciples as the principle task of the church, and, under the banner of making disciples, you could place the two activities of baptizing and teaching.
Let’s try that. Let’s consider this, that, whatever we do, it should have the result of making disciples. That’s our business. Peter Drucker, as you probably know, is a management consultant without equal. He says in one of his many books that there are two questions that people in any organization -- whether it be a manufacturing plant, the sales division of a large corporation, a charitable institution, or even a church -- the two questions that we ought to ask ourselves are: What’s our business? and How’s business?