The Great Commission

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” (vv. 19–20).  

- Matthew 28:16–20

After His resurrection, Jesus visited with His disciples and instructed them for forty days before ascending into heaven (Luke 24:36–49; John 21; Acts 1:1–11). The only event Matthew records following the resurrection, besides the payoff of the Roman guards (28:11–15), is the commission Christ gave His followers on a mountain in Galilee (vv. 16–20).

We are not sure when this event occurred during those forty days, but its precise chronological placement is unimportant. Apparently, our Lord told His followers to meet Him in Galilee after His resurrection, and the eleven remaining disciples found Him there (vv. 10, 16). Seeing Christ, many of them worshiped Him, though others doubted (v. 17). This doubt, however, is not to be confused with rejection. Distazein, the Greek verb translated “doubted,” reflects hesitation, not a refusal of truth. The doubting disciples did not doubt whether or not Jesus was the Messiah, they were just unsure how to respond to Him. Being notoriously slow to understand, it may be that some of them had not yet come to grips with the fact that Jesus was (and is) the incarnate God Himself.

In Galilee Jesus announced that all authority in heaven and earth was given to Him in His resurrection (28:18). Vindicated as God’s spotless lamb, the atonement for the sins of His people, the Father makes plain even today to all with eyes to see that His Son is the Messiah — whose kingdom has no end. Seated at God’s right hand, the Christ exercises His dominion, subduing His enemies through the preaching of the gospel, proving that He, the God-man, received the name above all names in His resurrection (Phil. 2:5–11; Heb. 1:1–4).

John Calvin comments that by nothing other than divine authority could Jesus “command us to promise eternal life in his name, to reduce the whole world under his sway, and to publish a doctrine which subdues all pride, and lays prostrate the whole of the human race.” Only the authority of God Almighty, revealed to us in Jesus and with us by the Holy Spirit, enables us to obey the Great Commission, teaching people to cast off self-reliance and put all their hope for salvation in Jesus alone (Matt. 28:18–20).

Coram Deo

According to His promise, Christ is with us to the end of the age; thus, we may confidently go forth to fulfill the Great Commission, knowing that He will ensure its success. What is your role in His plan? Are you a gifted teacher who builds up disciples? Do your talents lie in producing goods that enable people to be sent? Are you sharing the gospel with friends and family? Let us go out and obey Christ’s command to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Passages for Further Study

Joshua 1:1–9
Isaiah 49:1–7
Matthew 10:1–15
Romans 10:13–17

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