Saturday, January 7, 2012

Missions in Matthew

In Matthew’s gospel account the apostle’s focus falls primarily upon the coming of the promised Messiah. This book has a decidedly Jewish flavor. Matthew repeatedly returns to the OT to show how Jesus Christ fulfills its promises.

Because Matthew aims his focus on the coming of the Messiah, the book by its very nature has much to say about missions. Passages that stand out are the genealogy and birth narrative (chapters 1-2), John the Baptist’s proclamation (3), Christ’s sending out of the twelve (10), Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ (16), the Triumphal Entry (21), and of course the crucifixion and resurrection passages (26-28). There are others as well.

One passage in particular strikes me as the most critical for our understanding of and participation in missions. It will not surprise you. I’m referring to Matthew 28:18-20, what is often called the Great Commission.

Matthew writes: 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."

These verses are critical because they sit at the conclusion of the book and act as marching orders for Christ’s followers. This does not mean that this is all we are to be doing, but it certainly suggests that at least one of the most important things is to be making disciples.

What do we learn specifically from this passage?

1. Jesus Christ has been given all authority everywhere by God the Father.

Jesus has the authority to tell his followers what to do. In fact, he has authority over all creation. As Thomas said, Jesus is Lord and God. He has the power to carry out this mission. It is our duty and joy to follow him in it.

2. As we go about our lives, we are to make disciples.

This is Jesus’ primary command. We have a great task: disciple making. We do this by proclaiming the gospel liberally, and then helping those who come to Christ continue to mature in Christ. God does the saving. We are his instruments in getting his message out and in assisting others in getting to know him better.

3. We are to make disciples of all the nations.

It is not enough for us all to stay at home and make disciples here. Some of us must go to the parts of the globe where the gospel is not to proclaim the gospel to those with no access to it. We likely won’t all do this, but God will call some to go for months or even years (see Acts 13). We all have a part to play in this venture.

4. Part of disciple making is baptizing and teaching.

Jesus expands on his concept of disciple making by mentioning the importance of baptizing and teaching. We are to baptize in the name of the Trinity. This is the God we serve; we are all baptized into him. The content of the teaching is critical: to obey all Christ has commanded. Teaching is not primarily facts but obedience.

5. Jesus will be with us as we carry out his mission plan.

Jesus uses very forceful language in 28:20 to ensure his followers that he will never fail to be with them as they make disciples. Jesus literally says, “Behold, I with you I am all the days until the completion of the age.” As the one with all authority on heaven and earth, Jesus’ constant presence with us gives great comfort. He is powerful enough to be successful in his mission, and is determined to lead us in doing so.

Matthew teaches us that the Messiah has finally come. We have the commission to take this wonderful news to all the nations and make disciples of all those God saves.

1 comment:

J. Guy Muse said...

Excellent series. I have bookmarked the "Missions" page where all are listed and will work my way through each. Thanks for taking the time to do all this!