Summary: The Great Commission is the mission for Christ’s church. It is our task to make disciples of all nations based on the power, plan and presence of Christ.
Text: Matthew 28:18-20
Introduction: "The church today is raising a whole generation of mules." At least this is the opinion of one person who has assessed the condition of the visible body of Christ. Now before we get too bent out of shape with this comment, you need to know that mules have many redeemable qualities, especially when compared to horses. (If you are a horse lover, please indulge me for a moment.) In my brief research I have discovered that...
• Mules can endure extreme temperatures better than horses.
• Mules are by most accounts noticeably more intelligent than horses.
• Mules eat less and rarely have hoof problems, unlike horses.
• Mules live longer (18 years vs. 15 years) than horses.
• Mules are generally more productive when it comes to work than horses. A mule can carry a 50-60 pound pack up to 50 miles in one day!
• As a matter of fact, about the only problem with mules is that they are almost always sterile and therefore incapable of reproduction. Durable--yes! Smart--yes! Inexpensive to maintain--yes! Hard workers--yes! But unfortunately most mules are the end of the family line. Perhaps this is what is meant by this individual who claims that we’re raising a whole generation of mules!
The church is full of hard workers. We teach classes, serve the physical needs of others, clean up and mow the grass, cook, move tables, organize social activities, visit and even write letters and cards, and do a host of other things, the vast majority of which are good and helpful ministries. There is just one problem. We’re not very good at reproducing. For some obvious reasons, we don’t share what it means to be a disciple of Christ with others so that they can know Him and enlist in His work. Many are the end of the line when it comes to spiritual reproduction. The mission of the church given to us by our Lord is to go into all the world and make disciples of others. It is entirely possible that we can work very hard at various activities and yet still fail to get the job done. Let me say it plainly. If we are not contributing to the Great Commission by making disciples, we are not doing the job completely. If we are nothing more than a generation of infertile mules, then at least from a human perspective, we are on the road to extinction.
Certainly this is not what Christ intended when he issued the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20. In His final words to His disciples recorded in the Gospels, Jesus charged them (and us) with "making disciples of all nations." A disciple is someone who studies rigorously under the authority of a teacher or rabbi. It is the task of the disciple to learn from his master what is true and to submit to his requirements because he makes them. Jesus did not issue a decree to make disciples who were soft in their commitments (i.e. Just come to church) and occasional in their obedience (i.e. only follow the teachings you agree with). In His own words, to be a disciple of Christ requires putting Him before any other (See Luke 14:26), before oneself (See Luke 14:27) and before anything (See Luke 14:33). To raise up followers with this kind of devotion must have seemed overwhelming to the twelve. That’s why we find helpful and hopeful words surrounding this command to make disciples. Jesus was not about to let them fail at this all-important task and thus we have the rest of the Great Commission. Let’s look at it together.
I. The Great Commission: Authorized by nothing less than the power of Christ. Authority is an important concept in any institution whether it is the family, government or the church. Jesus routinely exercised authority (The Greek word is exousia and means "authority or power." It speaks of one who has the freedom to do as he pleases) during His earthly ministry (See Matthew 7:28-29; 9:1-7; 10:1; 21:12-13, 23). By virtue of the resurrection He was not given greater authority (How much greater could he have exercised than to forgive sin, cast out demons and raise the dead?), but a larger kingdom in which to exercise it. With the empty tomb, all of heaven and earth were subjected to His rule by decree of His heavenly Father (See Philippians 2:9-11) so that He is now and forever will be the King of Kings and Lord or Lords (See Revelation 19:16). No one or anything is exempted from His rule. Application: If Jesus were going to give His disciples such an imposing task--"Make disciples of all nations"--it would be necessary to infuse them with great confidence knowing that He is in sovereign control of everything (See Romans 8:28). This confidence comes from knowing that His is an undisputed authority. Illustration: There once was a lion who wanted to make sure that all the other animals in the jungle knew he was the king. In order to save time and energy he bypassed the smaller animals and went right straight to the bear, "Who is the king of the jungle?" the lion asked. The bear replied, "Why you are, of course." The lion gave a mighty roar of approval. Next he asked the tiger, "Who is the king of the jungle?" The tiger quickly responded, "Everyone knows you are, mighty lion." Pleased, the lion went to the elephant and once more asked, "Who is the king of the jungle?" The elephant immediately grabbed the lion with his trunk, whirled him around in the air five or six times and slammed him into a tree. Then he pounded him onto the ground several times and dunked him in a lake for good measure. At last the elephant released the lion, now battered and bruised. The king of the jungle looked at the elephant through sad and bloody eyes and said, "LOOK, JUST BECAUSE YOU DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER IS NO REASON FOR YOU TO GET ALL MEAN ABOUT IT!" May I assure you that in the end there will be no elephants standing around waiting for the opportunity to dispute the authority of Christ. Every knee (and trunk for that matter) will bow to His lordship.