Today, our gospel message comes to us from the 28th chapter of Matthew, beginning with the 16th verse, “Living in the community of the Trinity.”
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)
Father, You sent your Word to bring us truth and your Spirit to make us holy. Through them, we come to know the mystery of your life. Help us worship you, one God in three persons, And reveal yourself in the depths of our being, by proclaiming and living our faith in you. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.
The Great Commission challenges Christians to go beyond national and racial prejudices. Let’s look at Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 28:16-20.
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. (Matthew 28:16-17)
The particular mountain is not named, but was perhaps a place well-known to them. Perhaps this event included others, for they worshiped him, but “some” doubted, probably not meaning some of the apostles. Paul said that the resurrected Jesus was seen by over five hundred brethren (1 Corinthians 15:6).
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18)
Jesus humbled Himself to death. God gave Him the name above every other name. Every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Philippians 2:7-11) God sat Jesus at His right hand and made Him head over all things to the church, which is His body. (Ephesians 1:20-23)
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)
Go literally means “having gone.” This is not the Great Suggestion, but a commission. It would be easier just to stay home and not go. It would be more convenient not to make that phone call or be involved in a challenging world, but we are not given that option.
The verb is also plural and can be translated as “Go ye [plural of you]” or “Ye having gone.” It is our collective task. Our job is the saving of souls. Every Christian has this same commission. It is most challenging in nations that abuse the human rights of Christians.
The next imperative is to “make.” Disciples are pupils, scholars, trained, instructed. Christianity is action in “all nations,” not just the safe ones. “Nations” includes the idea of different ethnic groups and customs. “All” means nobody is left out. God challenges us to a level of sentiment beyond secular nationalism.
“Baptism” only begins our instruction. As a child was circumcised in the Old Testament so may they be baptized in the New Testament (Colossians 2:11-12). As entire families of ancient Israel were baptized into Moses in the Red Sea, so children may be baptized today (1 Corinthians 10:1-4).
Baptism can mean wash (Mark 7:4; Luke 11:38; Acts 22:16), passing through the sea (1 Corinthians 10:1-4), and suffering (Mark 10:38). Jesus and the eunuch came up out of, or away from the water. The mode is not specified; the act is (Acts 2:38).
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have one “name.” Jesus prayed to the Father. Jesus is the Word, which was God. The Holy Spirit makes decisions, teaches, guides, convicts, grieves, can be blasphemed, lied to, resisted, and can have fellowship with Him. God is three and one—a mystery.
“Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
The main thing is the main thing. Jesus specifically said to teach what I have taught YOU. All healthy mainstream churches preach the whole Bible, but their focus is on the Gospels, where most of Jesus’ teachings are located. Healthy preaching covers the Bible and includes a Gospel lesson every week.
What unites us, whether we are Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant? We believe what Christ taught. Jesus is the priority in the Bible; the words He taught His first disciples. When we focus on Jesus, other issues seem to fade into the background. We find common ground that unites Christian churches.
The Gospel challenges us to go beyond national and racial prejudices. We are to go, make, baptize, and teach disciples what Jesus taught. This overrides all our artificial borders between nations and prejudices between races. Our Father’s business is to all people, everywhere.
Let us pray: Father, you sent your Word to bring us truth and your Spirit to make us holy. Through them, we come to know the mystery of your life. Help us to worship you, one God in three Persons, by proclaiming and living our faith in you. We ask you this, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, true and living, forever and ever. Amen.
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Scripture is taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Sermon contributed by I. G. Spong.
The Great Commission challenges Christians to go beyond national and tribal prejudices.