Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Great Commission in Context

The Great Commission is more famous than the Gettysburg Address, also more practical. It is especially notable for the word go, which it made famous. In this passage of Scripture, Jesus tells his disciples what to do with their lives.

Often overlooked, however, is the context of the Great Commission. So let's pan away for a moment and look at the entire scene... what I'm calling the context is underlined.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 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.”
(Matthew 28:18-20)

It seems to me there are two types of people Jesus uses to accomplish the Great Commission. First, Jesus uses worshipers. We often fail to notice the context of worship in which the Great Commission was given. I have gained a deep appreciation for the fact that ministry must flow from worship; I hope you are learning the same thing.

But there's another type of person Jesus uses: the doubter. Yep, it's right there: "But some doubted." This is an inconvenient truth, but perhaps the key to the entire passage. Perhaps as important as the word go.

Thinking for a moment about the scene, it seems that the disciples saw Jesus from a distance. Some worshipped immediately, for they recognized him and believed. Others hesitated - could it really be him? They recognized him, but the whole thing seemed to them to be truthfully quite out of the ordinary, supernatural, and a bit unbelievable. They didn't have speedy child-like faith, but hobbling adult-like faith.

But then Jesus came to them. And all doubt was removed. All eleven disciples - all but Judas - were used powerfully by Jesus.

The reason this nuance is so important is that it testifies till the end of time that the Great Commission is about Jesus' initiative and not about our own. Whether we worship or doubt, if we belong to him, he can use us. Doubt does get in the way - but Jesus has ways of finding us, confirming himself to us, and sending us on our way.


Jeff said...

Good post Ken. I would love to hear you elaborate on the phrase "ministry must flow from worship." Sounds edifying.

Ken said...

Jeff --

This is what I've been learning all year long. Rev. 2:1-7 - you can do a lot of seemingly effective ministry work, but if you've lost your first love you're in peril. Ministry has become an idol, and you will endanger both your own soul and your hearers as well. I know this first hand.