Summary: In his resurrection and appearance to the disciples and through the Day of Pentecost, Jesus accomplished two things: He gave them their mission and empowered them for it and He created His Church, the body of Christ.
The Charge of a Disciple
They found themselves wrapped in darkness, hiding behind locked doors and wrestling with their lost dreams and how things could have gone so horribly wrong. Just three years prior, a stranger walked up to them and uttered three words which forever changed their lives, “Come, follow me.” Each responded immediately, leaving everything they owned, everything they knew and everyone they loved. It was the dream of every young boy to grow up, choose a rabbi and follow him. But after a young man’s bar mitzvah, only the most promising were encouraged to continue their education under a rabbi. At this point, each of the disciples dropped out realizing they weren’t promising enough to follow the path to becoming a rabbi. Such hopes and aspirations like so many of our own childhood dreams, begin to fade away as we grow older and reality begins to set in. Imagination is replaced with the reality of the circumstances of our lives. Many of those hopes and dreams are left behind in the ashes of the dull monotony of daily life.
But then the disciples heard those words. These men who were destined to stay in the family business of fishing were now being called beyond that. “Come, follow me.” Breaking all convention and turning the process of a student choosing a rabbi upside down, a rabbi named Jesus of Nazareth comes to them and invites them to join him! Over the course of the three years they spent with Jesus, they saw his ministry grow as more and more people showed up to listen to him. They heard him speak with such wisdom and insight that spoke of God. They saw him forgive sinners, heal the sick, give sight to the blind and even raise the dead. They saw countless lives changed. Slowly but surely, the idea that Jesus might be more than a rabbi but could in fact, be the long awaited and sought after Messiah. This journey to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, the time when Jews remember God’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt, must have fueled the hopes and expectations of the disciples that the time had come when Jesus would take his throne and deliver Israel from the bonds of Rome.
But then it was over just like that. The man who had power over demons, the winds and even death itself, either could not or would not stop his own. And with him, all of the hopes and dreams of the disciples died, nailed to the cross with Jesus. Imagine for just a moment what those three days of darkness must have been like for the disciples. Fear, confusion and despair. They found themselves behind locked doors, in fear of their own lives wondering how it could have gone so terribly wrong. And then in the midst of that, Jesus reappeared back from dead! And suddenly, apparent defeat became victory, shattered dreams became hope once again. Now that he had conquered sin and death, certainly he would take his rightful seat on the throne of Israel, make all that was wrong in the world right and deliver Israel. Once again, Jesus surprised everyone. He hadn’t come back to start His work of redemption and delivering Israel but instead he came back to prepare the disciples to continue his work and finish what He had started. In his resurrection and appearance to the disciples and through the Day of Pentecost, Jesus accomplished two things: He gave them their mission and empowered them for it and He created His Church, the body of Christ. Their mission was to take His message and the Good News of His death and resurrection to the very ends of the earth. As people came to faith, they would build His church, a community of fellowship, reconciliation and redemption.
The rest of the New Testament is the story of how they disciples followed Jesus’ last command. In the Day of Pentecost, they threw caution to the wind, stepped into the streets of Jerusalem and began to proclaim the Good News. They made their way throughout Jerusalem and then Judea and even beyond the boundaries of Israel so that all people might hear the Good News and have the chance to respond and receive eternal life. Reading through the New Testament, it becomes crystal clear that the disciples focused on making disciples. They were intent on fulfilling Jesus last command to them, the Great Commission.
But if we look at most of churches and most disciples of Jesus today, we see very little disciple making. Why is that? Is it because we think that Jesus’ last command was for the disciples and not for us? Is it because we think we have full-time paid clergy to do that work and all I have to do is show up for worship, put a few dollars in the offering plate, and leave knowing I fulfilled my duty to God to keep the Sabbath holy? Jesus’ last words make one thing clear: a disciple is a disciple maker. If you want to follow Jesus, you have to make disciples. And yet, disciple making has become foreign to the average Christian’s walk with Jesus that many don’t have a clear idea what that looks like. Most of our churches are so program oriented that many of us think making disciples is getting people to attend worship and a 2 or 3 month class and then make a commitment and we’re done. Making disciples is more than a program. It’s our calling, our mission and the very purpose for which we were born.