When Jesus said go and make disciples of all nations it is better to understand his command in terms of People Groups, rather than political nations. A People Group is “a significantly large grouping of individuals who perceive themselves to have a common affinity for one another because of their shared language, religion, ethnicity, residence, occupation, class or caste, situation, etc., or combinations of these.” (Moreau. 34) Today, as we move into the New Testament to look at the idea of “Missio Dei” (God sending) our text comes a famous passages which we call “The Great Commission”.
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.” (Matthew 28:16-20)
This text is the third exemplar text in Matthew’s Gospel concerning the idea of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. The other two are found in Matthew 24:14 and 9:35-38. We will be looking at those this week as well.
This text is different from the other two in that it indicates that all authority has been given to Jesus. All is a big word in this passage and is used four times: Jesus has been given all authority; the disciples must go to all the nations; the disciples must teach them to obey all things; Jesus is with the disciples all the days. For today, let’s briefly discuss what this authority suggests for us.
It means that Jesus has all authority in heaven over angels, demons, Satan, and any rulers and authorities in heavenly places. He also has all authority on earth over kings, rulers, leaders, and all people. Of course this also gives him divine right, as ruler over all, to give all Christians their marching orders. The use of “therefore” in verse 19 shows the connection between the authority and the order.
I don’t know about you, but I’m very glad that missionary William Carey treated this passage as given for all Christians today and not just for the Apostles as the early reformers did. The risen Jesus is completely qualified to give orders. Tomorrow, we will discuss what I believe from the text is the main emphasis of what Christ is telling us, which is “make disciples”. However, for today, let’s rejoice in the fact that because Jesus has all authority to send us out to reach the world, we can be confident that any resistance we face from governments, friends, family or others can easily be overcome; because there is no higher authority giving us our marching orders. We’ve got the power!