Matthew 28:16-20 May 2009
THE GREAT COMMISSION
During Jesus ministry there were quite a number of people who believed in Him and became His followers. When they saw that He had been arrested and sentenced to death they probably thought that was the finish, until they heard the news that Jesus had risen from the dead and had appeared to the disciples. They were then told that Jesus wanted to meet with them on a certain mountain in Galilee and over 500 of Jesus followers joined the 11 disciples in Galilee and Jesus appeared to them there.
When they saw Jesus they worshipped Him but some struggled with doubts. And I guess that would be a very normal human reaction if you were suddenly confronted with someone you thought was dead. But as Jesus did with doubting Thomas, he helped them with their doubts. He came right up close to them and spoke to them.
And as the risen Jesus stood before His followers He did three things:
He affirmed His authority
He issued His instructions
He promised His presence
HE AFFIRMED HIS AUTHORITY v18
This is an amazing statement Jesus made, but only He could make it because as I said last week, only Jesus has substantiated every claim He made about Himself and the final proof was when He defeated the greatest enemy of mankind – death.
He said to His followers, “All authority, not some, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” That means Jesus alone has been given by God the Father unlimited, absolute power over everything that exists. That means that Jesus Christ is the most powerful person in the whole universe.
In His ministry Jesus demonstrated that He had the power over all sickness, every demonic force, evil, nature and death.
If all power and authority over the universe has been given to Jesus then it follows that nothing and no one can stand against Him and His cause.
Ill. When Christianity was gaining ground in the Roman Empire, one of the Emperors, Julian was determined to wipe it out. He spent his entire reign committed to the removal of the Christian faith but no matter what methods he used he could not stop the spread of Christianity. Finally as he lay dying he said to Jesus, “You have conquered, O pale Galilean.”
Ill. In 1917 when Lenin overthrew the Tsarist government and set up communism in Russia, he announced that within 70 years every trace of Christianity would be totally eradicated from Russian soil. That was 92 years ago and today the communist government has collapsed, Lenin’s remains are lying in a glass case in Moscow and the cause of Jesus Christ is growing and flourishing in Russia today.
Ill. Voltaire was an atheist and one of the architects of the French revolution and he predicted in 1770s that within a hundred years the only place you would find a Bible would be in museum. 200 years after Voltaire’s death the Bible was still the world’s best seller and the French Bible Society had set up its headquarters in the very house Voltaire lived in.
If all power and authority over the universe has been given to Jesus then even though it seems the godless forces of evil are getting the upper hand in our world, Jesus and His cause and His purposes will triumph in the end. Jesus Christ will have the last word in human history.
Some Christians have got the idea that there is a battle going on in this world between good and evil, between Satan and God and its touch and go as to who will win. That’s absolute rubbish – the outcome of that battle was determined at the cross. At the cross Satan received his death blow …and what we see now is simply the frantic activity of one who is fatally wounded.
Ill. A missionary in Africa went into his room one night and discovered a huge snake. He got his gun and shot the snake in the head and then went out of the room and shut the door. And then for the next few minutes all he could hear in the room was crashing, bashing and smashing as the fatally wounded snake thrashed about. When all was quiet the missionary went back into the room and the place was a absolute bomb site. Furniture and fittings had been smashed and strewn all over the room and there in the middle of it all was this huge dead snake.
Satan has been fatally wounded at the cross and what we see happening in our world today is the trashing around of this condemned creature as he seeks to do as much damage as he can before he is finally destroyed.
Revelation 12:12 puts it like this “Therefore, rejoice, O heavens! And you, who live in the heavens, rejoice! But terror will come on the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you in great anger, knowing that he has little time left.”
If all power and authority has been given to Jesus then the One who lives in you and me is far, far greater than any other power in this world. “Greater is He that is in you than he who is in the world.”
Ill. During the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya in 1960 Matt and Lora Higgens were travelling by Land rover through an area where foreigners had not long before been killed and dismembered. Their land rover broke down and they had to spend the night in the vehicle trusting the Lord to protect them. That night 4 Maumaus crept up to the land rover determined to kill the Higgens’s and take the vehicle, but when they saw that the vehicle was surrounded by 16 guards they ran away. One of the Maumaus told a friend of the Higgens what had happened. When the Higgens’s returned to the US on furlough, a friend Clay Brent asked them if they had been in any danger recently and they shared with him the incident with the 16 guards. Clay told them that on that exact day he had felt a strong urge to pray for Matt and Lora Higgins’s and had called together 16 men in the church to pray until they sensed God had answered.
HE ISSUED HIS INSTRUCTIONS v19
Why did Jesus give His followers His instructions immediately after telling them He had been given all power and authority in heaven and on earth?
He wanted them to know that the One who commanded them had all the power and authority they would need to carry out His instructions.
This is another thing that makes Christianity unique. Whatever the Lord tells us to do He gives us to the power and the resources to do it.
In every other religion people are expected to obey rules and carry out religious practices and they have to do it in their own human strength. It’s all up to them. When we follow and obey Jesus, His power and His authority is there to back and resource us every step of the way.
Phil 4:19 “My God will supply every need of your according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
Phil 2:13 “God is at work in you giving you the desire and the ability to carry out His good purposes.”
1 Thess 5:24 Faithful is He who calls you, who will also do it.
Eph 3:20 “All glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”
When Paul spoke about his work for God he said in 1 Cor 15:10 “For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.”
When Jesus followers went forth in obedience to His instructions we read in Mark 16:20 And the disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked through them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs.”
He didn’t say, “Go and make converts, or go and get people to make a decisions.” Make disciples.
There is a vast difference between accepting Jesus as your personal Saviour and being a disciple of Jesus Christ.
There are a lot of people who have asked Jesus to save them from their sin, but have not become disciples of Jesus. A disciple is one who submits their life to the leadership and teaching of Jesus Christ.
In fact the word disciple comes from the word discipline. And when I think of discipline I think of the army – where people commit themselves to the teaching, training, and commands of those in authority.
That is what it is to become a disciple of Jesus Christ; it means to commit yourself to the teaching, training and commands of Jesus Christ. That means that I bring every area of my life under His teaching, training and direction.
Every believer is called to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, because every believer is called to commit themselves to Jesus and submit to His leadership. You cannot follow Jesus any other way. You cannot follow Jesus simply as your personal Saviour – you must follow Him as your leader, Lord.
Not only are we called to be disciples of Jesus we are all called to make disciples.
Many Christians and churches have lost sight of this command of Jesus. Many Christians are not concerned that people all around them are living apart from God and will die separated from Him for all eternity. Many Christians have no interest in helping others become followers of Jesus.
Their Christianity is all about themselves – satisfying their needs, giving them what they want, making them feel good and comfortable. So many churches have become insulated little social clubs where people meet for their own benefit but have little or no meaningful contact with those outside the club.
The church was never intended to be a little social club that exists solely for Christians concerning itself with our needs, our preferences, our comfort, our likes and dislikes. The church was intended to be the community of God’s people serving Christ and His purposes in this world. We are here not for ourselves; we are here for Jesus and for those who need to find Him.
And we need to keep reminding ourselves of that.
We are here for God and His concerns and do you know what is the greatest concern on the heart of God – the people out there who don’t know Him. He wants them in His family. He wants them to be with Him in heaven. He wants them to turn from their godless ways and find forgiveness and eternal life in Christ. He wants them in His kingdom so badly that He made the ultimately sacrifice to get them there.
And if that is the chief concern on the heart of God, it must be ours as well. And God wants you and me to be part of that process. God wants everyone of you to be involved in the process of bringing people to Jesus and making them His disciples.
Everyone one of us can play a part in this mission – pray, give, share about Jesus with people we meet each day, show the love of Jesus in action, attitude and word, we can help young believers grow in their faith, we can teach them what we have learned from God’s word, etc etc.
I believe that every one of us who belong to Jesus should be praying daily that God will use us in some way today to help someone come closer to becoming a disciple of Jesus.
Baptism is a public outward demonstration of our inward commitment to Jesus Christ. When people in the New Testament became followers of Jesus, baptism always followed. Because as I pointed out the other Sunday, the act of baptism shows that you are united with Jesus in His death and resurrection. It also demonstrates a cut off point with your old godless way of life – the burial of that life and the rising up to a new life lived in union with Christ. That is why immersion is the only form of baptism practiced in the New Testament. It’s very hard to immerse someone under a tablespoon of water.
As important as baptism is to becoming a disciple of Jesus, the act of baptism doesn’t save you or get you into heaven. We are saved, forgiven and accepted into God’s eternal family through believing in Jesus Christ. Baptism is an external endorsement, the outward expression of that internal belief.
Jesus said here to baptise His disciples in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It simply means that you can’t have Jesus without the Father and the Spirit. They are inseparable, they are one. When you come to Jesus, He unites you with the Father and fills you with the Spirit.
Jesus did not say “Teach them so that they will have a lot of head knowledge.” He said, “Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Christian teaching must always lead to obedience. There are a lot of Christians who enjoy Bible studies and listening to sermons simply because it fills their heads with information or it makes them feel good.
I have heard people come away from listening to a message and say, “It didn’t do anything for me.” What they mean is that they weren’t stimulated intellectually or they weren’t moved emotionally or it didn’t make them feel good.
The teaching of God’s word is not about intellectual stimulation or emotional buzzes, it’s about obedience.
It’s about applying the teaching to our lives, putting it into practice. A true disciple is one who puts into practice the teaching of Jesus.
When we read the Bible each day we need to pray, “Lord, speak to me and show me how can put this into practice.”
When we come to church we need to have this attitude, “Lord speak to me and show me what you want me to do, what you want me to change as a result of hearing you speak through your word.”
If we come to church simply wanting to feel good, or to have an emotional buzz or some intellectual stimulation but we have no intention of changing or putting the Word into practice – we are deceiving ourselves by saying we are following Jesus. We are like the man in James 1:22 who looks in the mirror and immediately forgets he looks like.
Studies show that we forget 50% of what we hear immediately, 80% within 24 hours and 97% within a week. When God speaks to you obey immediately or you’ll shelve and soon forget it.
Ill. I think it was Charles Swindoll who told the parable of the Managing director of a company who had to take an extended business trip overseas. So he said his employees, “I’ll be away for sometime, and I want you to manage the business while I am away. These are my specific instructions and I will write to you regularly explaining what else I want you to do before I return.” Everyone agreed and while the boss was away he wrote regularly communicating his concerns and his ongoing instructions.
Finally he returned to the company and discovered the place was in a mess. The receptionist was sleeping at her desk, there is loud music booming from some of the offices, employees were playing cards and watching TV. Instead of making a profit the company has suffered a significant loss in business.
So the boss called everyone together and asked, “What’s happened? Did you get my letters?”
The employees answered, “Yes, we received all your letters. We even had them bound in a special book. Some of us have even memorised them. In fact we have a weekly staff meeting and we study your letters. There is some great stuff in them. It made us feel really good!” Then the boss asked the obvious question, “But did you carry out the instructions I put in those letters?” Silence.
That is the question Jesus will ask you and me when He returns.
The teaching of Jesus is not given to be admired or memorised but to be put into practice.
HE PROMISED HIS PRESENCE v20
“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The end of the age here means until the Lord returns and this present age comes to an end.
This is a wonderful promise. Here is something else that makes Christianity unique – not only is Gods forgiveness and eternal life given as a gift, not only did Jesus substantiate every claim He made about Himself, not only does God promise to empower us to carry out His purposes but our founder Has never left us. He is with us permanently in this life and He will meet us in the next.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. He has promised never to leave us or abandon us.
What this meant for the first disciples was that not only would Jesus give them the power and resources to carry out His instructions but He would go with them every step of the way.
Ill. I remember a Christian friend of mine who lay dying in his bed at home and the doctor who was also a Christian was sitting with him in his last moments. The doctor said to him, “Bill, just imagine Jesus standing with you at this time.” Bill replied, “I don’t have to imagine. I can see Him. He is right here beside me now.” Even when we go through the door of death and leave all our friends and family behind us – Jesus will stay with us. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me.”
Ill. On September 11th, 2001, as volunteer Frank Sileca sifted through the carnage at the World Trade Centre, he found 47 bodies but no survivors. He also found something else – a 20-foot cross made of 2 steel girders. The girders were from two different buildings, but as they crashed into each another, they were forged together by the heat and the result was a giant cross stood among the rubble. That cross said two things: “Jesus knows what suffering is all about and He is with us right in the middle of our most painful experiences. Knowing this means that we can handle almost anything as long as we know He’s there.
As we come to the close of this time I want to leave you with 2 questions:
1. How can you and I put into practice what we have heard today?
2. What part can you and I play in helping others become followers of Jesus?