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Lastly, on a mountain in Galilee, Jesus gave his followers the most important job in the world. Go; teach, preach, make disciples, baptize. Jesus promised to be with them always.
The eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.
Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen
Matthew 28:16-20 NKJV, condensed
It's all over except for an ending. And what do we find but another new beginning. We have the same old characters--Jesus and his original disciples. But there's something different now. Jesus is not physically present all the time. He's with them for a little while and then disappears again. It's as though Jesus is gradually showing them they did not need their five senses in order to believe and know he is with them.
Except for Matthew, the disciples were Galilean fishermen. Jesus had told them to meet him in Galilee, not by the familiar seashore but on a mountain. Some felt uncertain and a little fearful about this resurrection business, but they went and worshipped Jesus anyway. Faith obeys, even when it doesn't understand.
It was becoming obvious that the old familiar Jesus was not going to be with them much longer. Yet his work must go on. Therefore he said to his followers, "Go and make disciples of all nations. . . ." Jesus spoke from a position of power. He had paid his dues, in fact he paid the dues for all mankind.
Contemporaries of Jesus had hoped he was the one who would set up God's kingdom on earth. Now it was becoming more clear that if there was to be any heaven on earth, it would be up to his followers to make it happen. Here's how: "Go, get out there and make disciples everywhere. Baptize in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Teach others to do everything I commanded you. I am with you always, I will be with you always, to the end."
"Go" starts with followers like you and me, acting on faith and doing what Jesus said to do. Just like the disciples had journeyed back to the mountain on Galilee, so we must take those first steps, believing the promise that Jesus will meet us as he said he would. The idea that faith is a private matter does not fit with the great commission. Mary Magdalene and others spread the good news that Jesus is alive. We are to do the same, because here's the scoop--Jesus is still alive!
This faith that possesses me is not just for me and my family. I'm to tell the neighbor down the street. It's not just for people I feel safe with, it's for people beyond my comfort zone. Not just for people in my native country, it's for people in countries that are foreign to me.
Those who believe are to be baptized--immersed, soaked, bathed and drenched-- in the name of all that God is. Baptism symbolizes being buried with Jesus in death and rising with him to new life. It means death to the reign of sin in our lives, and yes to the desire to be God's new creation.
And here's the kicker: Jesus said, "I will be with you always." No longer restricted to one time and place, his death and resurrection freed Jesus to be in every time and in every place. This concept of the Holy Spirit was new to these disciples, yet not really new.
Matthew began his Gospel with Joseph wrestling over questions about Mary, his fiancee, who was pregnant. Then Joseph had a dream wherein an angel told him not to worry because she is with child by the Holy Spirit! Long ago Isaiah the prophet had already named the child Immanuel, which means God-with-us.
Now in the final line of his Gospel, Matthew returns to the God-with-us theme. Father, Son, Holy Spirit; all in one mysterious package which we call the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity is both simple and incomprehensible. Incomprehensible if we insist on understanding it. Simple if we seek his Presence with humble, grateful hearts.
Jesus is still alive. He lives within, around and among us, now and forever. We walk and talk with Jesus as often as we choose to do so. On a mountain top, around the supper table, when we lay down to sleep, stop for a traffic light, wait in the checkout line, welcome a stranger or look into the eyes of the poor. In our joys and in our sorrows, when we go and when the way is blocked and we're forced to stay. Jesus is with us always. Therefore go out into the streets and byways and share the good news.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: When you part company with someone, what do you commonly repeat when you sign off?
What do you talk about most frequently in your conversations with others? Why do you like to talk about these topics? How high on your list of favorite topics is religion, your church or the things you read about in the Bible?
How did you learn that you have a Father in heaven who loves you? List some people who helped you arrive at the faith you have today. Another way of asking that question is, Who discipled you? List some people you helped to lead on the pathway toward God? In other words, Who are you discipling?
The final directive from Jesus is to go and share our faith experience with everyone, everywhere. How comfortable are you talking to someone outside your religious circle about what you believe? Where are you on the spectrum between the roaring lion and the quiet little mouse when it comes to sharing your faith? If everyone were like you in regards to spreading the good news about Jesus, would Christianity have survived for 20 centuries?
There's an Old Testament story about Moses who thought he wasn't God's man for the job because he "couldn't talk". God told him to take his brother with him to be his mouth. Who is (or could be) your "brother" to help you vocalize your beliefs?
If you have a dislike for talking about your faith, or if you dislike people who talk about their faith, take some time to think about why you feel that way. If Jesus were to respond to your thoughts on this topic, what do you think he would say to you?
Actions speak louder than words. Give examples of how to demonstrate the love of God without using words.
If you decided you were going to obey the great commission in this text, what steps would you need to take in order to get started?
Discuss what you know about God using these three descriptive phrases: the Giver, the Gift, and a life-time Guarantee.