I was trying to read this with new eyes today:
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.
17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
19 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,
20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Here are some thoughts that came to mind:
It’s far too easy to jump down to verse 19 and miss the all-important significance of verse 18. Jesus has a handle on heaven and earth, and only with that in view does he send us out into the world. And just in case we end up cutting off verse 18, he throws a tag at the end, “I am with you always.”
These words should be a comfort to us. The first group of disciples was sent into a world that is under the control of Jesus in order to be a redemptive presence. They were not setting up defenses, consolidating gains, and holding down the fort. You can’t miss the point of Jesus. He spent his time on earth restoring, forgiving, and healing, bringing the lost back to the Father. The mission of Jesus was not defensive, but redemptive. That’s the same mission he hands to his disciples.
It’s far too easy to fall into the trap of a defensive calling. Preserving the church institution, guarding theology, and protecting traditions. All of these can threaten our primary purpose on earth: redemption.
God is working on his people, redeeming them, bringing all things in their lives under his authority. If Jesus has all authority on heaven and earth, then that means we need to get out of his way and let him invade our lives. Jesus doesn’t need a partner or sidekick. We just don’t have it. But once our authority dies and his rule becomes supreme, then we’re ready for business.
I like a lot of the discussion about being “missional communities.” (see Todd’s blog for more on what the missional church is) But we need to get a few things down first. Authority is one of them. Do we recognize the Lordship of Christ in our own lives? Do we recognize the Lordship of Christ in all of the world? We’ll never get these concepts perfect, but we need to move closer to them. And don’t think that you can exercise the authority of Christ while maintaining control over your own life.
And when we realize the Christ has authority over this world and that he wants us to go out into it and make disciples, the task suddenly is a lot less daunting. Jesus is with us, always with us. He has authority over this world. That doesn’t sound so bad.
Our typical state of affairs is defensive. We don’t believe in the Lordship of Christ over this world. We have no idea what he meant when he said, “The Kingdom of God has come.” And so the best way to go about business is to protect our church, our beliefs, and our holds in society. Why else would we become so defensive? Would we really seal the hatches and man the walls if we believed that Jesus is already out there and in control?
And when we do go out, the order of the day is not to conquer or “take back” institutions for God. He’s not interested in this. God’s plan is to redeem the world, make disciples, and teach others to obey the true Lord of the earth.
The whole idea of trying to get people to follow Jesus and obey him seems to be a bit daunting. But if the kingdom has truly come, then disciples of Christ should be the natural state of affairs, the norm for society. We can be God’s instruments of redemption, but we need to figure out who’s in charge first.