Summary: Spreading the Gospel is a co-mission between the Lord and his people. Christ’s promise to "be with us" guarantees that.
The Great Co-Mission
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Bible students call this passage the Great Commission. Several factors about it merit that distinction.
It is great because of who said it. These are the words of Jesus. Most of us here would consider anything Jesus said to be significant. We believe that his words lead to eternal life.
But even a person who hasn’t yet become a follower of Jesus has to admit that he is one of the most influential voices in all of history. As James Allen Francis put it, “all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.” (Dr James Allan Francis in “The Real Jesus and Other Sermons” © 1926 by the Judson Press of Philadelphia (pp 123-124 titled “Arise Sir Knight!”).
These particular words of Jesus are also great because of when he said them. These are Jesus’ last words to his disciples. Last words are important words. If we knew we were saying our last good bye to our friends, we would choose our words carefully. We would pay particular attention to the parting words of someone we care about.
But most importantly, the Great Commission is great because of what Jesus says. It is altogether possible to read this passage and miss the big picture. Some read these words and only hear a command or obligation. That’s certainly there. But Jesus’ final words also contain an invitation. The Lord of Glory invites any that follow him to a great opportunity. “Come join me,” he calls, “in the great task of changing the world one person at a time.” He offers us the privilege of joining him in the harvest.
Let’s watch together a modern-day parable that catches the spirit of this invitation to the great co-mission.
(Venture Media (1987). … about a 15 minute segment from just after introduction/as family dinner begins through beginning of conclusion—ending with “… campus.”
Jesus’ last words reveal the heart of heaven. It tells us what was on Christ’s mind as he prepared to leave his disciples. He was thinking about the harvest.
The fact that Jesus said, “Go make disciples of all nations” explains why he didn’t end it all right then and there. He could have. The Lord could have said, “That’s it. It’s over. The world is ending. I am pronouncing judgment now.” Instead of saying “this is the end,” he said, “this is the beginning. Go make disciples.”
These words also make it clear that God always intended the work of world evangelism to involve human activity. Some mistakenly argue that the church’s job is to take care of itself while the Lord takes care of reaching the world. “If the Lord wants the nations discipled, he will do it himself. He doesn’t need our help,” some say. Some may say that, but Jesus didn’t. And the first Christians chose to listen to Jesus. So should we!
God may not need our help. I am sure he could do it himself. He could have commissioned the angels of heaven to evangelize the world. But instead he chose to include us. He invited us to join him in the harvest. That’s the point of the Great Commission.
I am glad those who first brought the Gospel to my family decades ago listened to Jesus. It is a good thing that those from New Harmony, Hays Creek and other places chose to listen to Jesus one hundred twenty-six years ago. They started this church because they believed Jesus’ final words. They believed the Lord had given them the task of making disciples and starting new churches. I’m glad the leadership of this congregation chose to listen to Jesus. That’s why we are planting Cornerstone Christian Church in Bowling Green and Pike County.
This naturally leads to the question—what is our part in making disciples? Let me briefly list a handful of activities we should be involved in. First, we need to make sure we are saved. Unless you have become a disciple, been baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and began the life-long task of learning and obeying his commandments, there is not much you can do for anyone else. Parents, grandparents, anyone concerned about the destiny of others—hear this clearly. You must clarify your own standing with Christ first.
Anyone who has flown has heard the flight attendants pre-takeoff instructions. The warnings are also printed on cards in the back of seat. Among other things, it always says, “In case of an emergency, oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling compartment. Secure the mask to your face by placing the elastic strap around your head. If you have a small child with you, make sure that you attach your own mask first then assist your child. The reason is obvious—if the adult passes out, no one can help the child. The first step in fulfilling Jesus’ commission to disciple the nations is to become a disciple yourself!