Summary: In English class, we've been given five questions to answer in every circumstance. How does answering those questions help us understand the marching orders we've been given in the Great Commission?
In 1944, Lt. Hiroo Onoda of the Japanese military was commissioned to guerilla warfare with squad of 4 in a remote island of the Phillippines. From the end of WWII, various leaflets and propaganda pieces were dropped onto the island to notify Onoda that the war was over, but he was sure it was a trick from the enemy and continued defending the island. Finally, in 1972, Onoda’s commanding officer came to the island and read the notice of surrender. Only then did Onoda relinquish his post.
What might it look like if one member of our church had the same kind of dedication to the Great Commission? I have here a gallon jug full of clear water. This jug represents our surrounding community, our remote island, if you will. In my hand, I have a bottle of food coloring. I’m going to release just one drop of the food coloring into this jug and we’ll return later to see what kind of impact that one drop can make.
Today, I’d like to examine this Great Commission as given by both Matthew and Luke. It’s how Matthew closes his gospel, while Luke begins the book of Acts with a version of his own. Each focuses on different aspects of the Great Commission, which we can get a complete picture as we answer the five questions of English class- who, what, where, when, and why. To answer the question of where, let’s begin with Luke’s account. Read Acts 1:6-9.
I find it interesting that the remainder of Acts describes the fulfillment of the commission as Luke shares where the apostles were to be witnesses. First in Jerusalem- I believe for us today that would be our neighbors, the people we see every day as we’re in our community. Then in Judea- I equate this to our family and friends. They are people with whom we have some things in common, we see them on a regular basis. Then in Samaria- I include people we see at school or work, maybe people whom we struggle to get along with, that person who constantly pushes our button. Finally, to the ends of the world- the global missions, going to places where the gospel has yet to be proclaimed. For some, that will mean packing their bags and heading out. For many of us that means supporting those efforts with prayer and finances.
For the rest of our English questions, let’s turn to Matthew. Read Matthew 28:16-20
Who? In this instance, Jesus is speaking directly to the 11 remaining apostles as they have gathered at His request in Galilee. Considering the promise is made that He will be with them as they carry out the Great Commission to the very end of the age, I believe the case can be made that Jesus’ words are intended for all Christians until the day of His return.
When? This question is answered by the word, “go”. It’s actually more of a description than a command, carrying the idea “as you go”. I’ve always liked to quip, “Wherever you go, there you are.” You may recognize that expression as the motto of Star Trek’s USS Excelsior. But it’s originally a quote from Thomas a Kempis in 1440, from his book, Imitation of Christ.