Commissioned by Christ to Reach the World
Many passages in Scripture speak to the missionary task, but at the foundation we need to remember that we do missions because Jesus commissioned his people to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. Two passages in Scripture make this point unmistakably: John 20:21 and Matthew 28:18–20.
“As the Father Has Sent Me, Even So I Am Sending You.” (John 20:21)
The disciples were surely in shock—the man they had seen crucified was standing alive before their eyes. John 20 tells us that while barricaded in a hidden room, wondering if a knock at the door might lead to their arrests and executions, Jesus appeared to the disciples showing them the wounds in his hands and his side (John 20:19–29).
Can you imagine how their thoughts would have been racing? What could it all mean? Surely nothing would ever be the same.
Consider what Jesus might have said to them in this moment. He could have declared his sovereign power over heaven and earth. He could have explained how the Old Testament had been fulfilled in him. He could have given them more instruction about the kingdom of God. Instead he chose to tell them two things: (1) “Peace be with you,” and (2) “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21).
Jesus pronounces peace on the apostles because through his death and resurrection, we have peace with God. Those who believe the gospel know the peace that passes all understanding—the peace of a reconciled relationship with God (Phil. 4:7). No better news exists for the apostles or for us.
But notice, Jesus doesn’t stop with this word of peace. Instead, the gospel of peace has immediate implications for the apostles: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). What you do comes from who you are. Jesus hits both identity and mission in one sentence. Those two things are one for a disciple of Jesus. As the Father sent Jesus on a ministry of mercy to the world, so Jesus sends his disciples as ministers of mercy.
If you call yourself a Christian, then this is part of your identity too. Disciples are like their masters. When we say that we are disciples of Jesus, we mean that we are his followers—those who recognize him as our teacher, our example, and our Lord. When he sends us on a mission that he first modeled for us, we need to accept that mission as our own. We need to make it our goal to know and pursue the mission for which he sends us. It is a worthy goal!
“Make Disciples of All Nations.” (Matt. 28:18–20)
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus always seems to give his disciples more than they bargain for.
In Matthew 28, Matthew records that the group, reeling in shock and awe over his resurrection, had an unsettled mix of emotions: “And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted” (Matt. 28:17). Perhaps Jesus will deal with the doubts before he proceeds to their mission? Nope, Jesus simply reminds them of his own sufficiency, glory, and authority. He draws their eyes to his ultimate regency over creation before commissioning them to take the gospel to all the nations:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18–20)
This passage is often called “the Great Commission.” Jesus’s commands are clear. He tells the disciples what to do, where to do it, and how to do it.
What to do. The disciples must go, make disciples, baptize, and teach. Grammatically, “make disciples” (v. 19) is the main verb. The other verbs—go, baptizing, and teaching— describe how the disciples are to accomplish that central task of disciple-making. They must go to share the good news of peace with God available by faith in Christ. As people repent of their sins and believe this good news, the disciples must baptize the new believers upon their profession of faith. Then the disciples need to teach these new disciples what Jesus first taught them.
Jesus pronounces peace on the apostles because through his death and resurrection, we have peace with God.
Where to do it. Jesus instructs his followers to make disciples of “all nations” (v. 19). In other words, the scope of the mission extends to every corner of the earth. The word for nations in Greek (the original language of the New Testament) is ethne. This word doesn’t refer to political nations like Turkey, China, or the United States, but smaller groups—the ethnicities of the world. This word also reveals God’s purposes in redemption: he’s drawing to himself worshipers among all the different people groups of the earth. In the Old Testament, God promised Abraham that all the families of the earth would be blessed through his seed (Gen. 12:1–3). He taught the nation of Israel to pray for the nations (Psalm 67). Now Jesus launches a global campaign to bring the kingdom of God to every people group, fulfilling the Abrahamic promise. At the end of history, we’ll witness Christ’s victorious enterprise as men and women from every tribe, tongue, and nation bow before the Messiah as worshipers of the one true God (Rev. 5:9).
How to do it. Notice Jesus brackets his command to the disciples with promises of his power and his presence. On the front end, Christ is the one with all authority in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18). He has the authority as the divine Son of God to send us on heaven’s mission. He has the authority to demand the allegiance of the peoples. On the back end, Christ promises that he will not leave us to our own devices. He will be with us always, to the end of the age (v. 20). These promises should make all the difference for people like you and me who struggle to be faithful to this Great Commission. Though we may feel overwhelmed— lacking wisdom and lacking strength—we only need to lean on Jesus who is with us now and always.
This article is adapted from How Can I Support International Missions? by Mark Collins.
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