Summary: The actual going is subservient to the task: the preaching, teaching and baptising... If God be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31). If Immanuel is with us, then we need have no fear. If the Holy Spirit is in us, then we are empowered...
THE GREAT COMMISSION
Jesus’ band of disciples now numbered eleven after the demise of Judas. They were obedient to an appointment to meet Jesus in Galilee (Matthew 28:16). This was where it had all begun: ‘Galilee of the Gentiles’ (Matthew 4:15).
Now, back in Galilee, the time had come. Prior to this, Jesus and His disciples had concentrated mainly on their mission to ‘seek out the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ (Matthew 10:6; cf. Matthew 15:24). Now the time had come for a full-blown world-wide mission (Matthew 28:19).
When the disciples saw the risen Lord Jesus, they worshipped Him (Matthew 28:17). Yet even now, some still doubted. This is like the ‘doubt’ of Peter so soon after stepping out in faith upon the water (Matthew 14:31).
Jesus approached them, and spoke to them (Matthew 28:18). Jesus has been approaching mankind since the Fall, and especially since the incarnation, and is not about to stop now. The first move has always been His.
That He approaches us at all, and speaks to us, is also a part of His gracious condescension.
He spoke of all power or “authority” having been given to Him. ‘By what authority do you do these things?’ the religious authorities had asked (Matthew 21:23). If the disciples, at least, had not known this, now Jesus was making it clear: His authority is from above.
“Therefore,” He says - because of His authority, and in His authority (cf. Matthew 10:1) - “go ye” (Matthew 28:19). The going is important (Isaiah 52:7; Romans 10:15). Feet are important (John 12:3; John 13:4-5).
But the actual ‘going’ is subservient to the task: the preaching, teaching and baptising of Matthew 28:19-20.
1. The preaching is to all nations, ‘all the families of the earth’ (Genesis 12:3), gathering children for Abraham from the furthest reaches of the earth (Matthew 8:11). Thus, there are in heaven those of ‘every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation’ (Revelation 5:9; Revelation 7:9), who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and who sing His praises.
2. The baptism (Matthew 28:19) is an initiation into the mysteries of the Godhead, and is clearly Trinitarian. All three Persons were present in the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:16-17), and we are obediently following in His footsteps. Sometimes the disciples spoke of being baptised in the name of Jesus (e.g. Acts 2:38): but the Trinitarian formula is implied in their teaching (Romans 8:11; 2 John 9).
3. The “teaching” is not just ‘with a view to’ baptism (Matthew 28:19), but also continues after baptism (Matthew 28:20). Making disciples is a process of ‘forming’ - making ever-learning followers of the One. In turn, they are drawn also into the commission to make disciples, down through the ages, so that we as church, or as members of Christ, are no less obligated than the Eleven.