We call Matt 28:17-20 the “Great Commission”. Perhaps a term not known back then but the mammoth task certainly was. The eleven disciples met the risen Christ on a mountain in Galilee, as verse 17 informs us, “They worshipped Him but – some doubted” perhaps an indication of their young age. Jesus was aged 30 at the beginning of His ministry (Lk 3:23) and judging by His trips to Jerusalem for the Passover He would have been 33 at the time. We also know that Jesus was a Rabbi (John 1:49) and students were usually younger than a Rabbi. Jesus didn’t rebuke them as in Mark 16:14 for their stubbornness and lack of faith, rather He chose to draw near to them to reassure them over whatever caused some to doubt, but proceeded with His all-inclusive statement that “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me” (v 18). Jesus again reassured the eleven, “And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age”. We all struggle at times with those pesky doubts which creep into our minds especially those of us who think we have all the answers. Therefore, to literally take Jesus at His word can be a challenge to the educated and the proud especially when Jesus’ speaks so plainly. We look to read between the lines, imagining things that aren’t there. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” applies to all of us (Luke 18:17). Well there it is: “Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing and teaching them…” could hardly be any simpler. Intellectual show offs like the rich young man who wanted to debate with Jesus; “Who is my neighbor?” miss the whole point of what Jesus is saying. “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Matt 9:37). Could it be that we have confined to four walls once a week, what is designed to be a 24/7 people movement out in the market place transforming our cities and nations? and have we restricted ministry to professionally trained specialists, rather than ministry being the work of all the saints? I believe so! The market place is “out there” in our workplace, the office, the hospitable home, the sports field, and especially the poor!! The church was never meant to remain in lockdown. Jesus put the great commission into the hands of some who doubt, but giving reassurance for such folk of any age that perfection is not a requirement for reaching out in some practical way. Jesus was present on that mountain in Galilee that day to encourage the timid, the same way as He does today through our dedication to His Word and prayer. “And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age”. Our Lord knows we are capable just as we are, – doubts will be solved by perseverance.  We have a partnership with God to complete the task He gave to His disciples. “The Lord has assigned to each his task, I planted the seed, Apollos watered it but God made it grow so neither he who plants or He who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow” (1 Corinthians 3:5-7). Therefore; there should be no envy or rivalry between God’s workers. Someone said, “WITHOUT GOD WE CAN’T, BUT WITHOUT US HE WON’T”.  Who else will tell the good news of Jesus in word and deed but the church, in all its frailty? 

Author: John Shepherd