As the build-up to the Passover and Easter climaxed with Jesus’ resurrection, the question in the minds of Jesus’ followers is, “Now what?” What do we do now? Is Jesus going to continue to lead us as He has been? What’s the plan?
And now with multiple sightings and reports of Jesus appearing to individuals and groups of people, as well as personal encounters with Him, the excitement is building and they are wondering if things will go back to normal.
The cross and resurrection demolish the concept of normal. Nothing will be or can be normal again.
Days before His ascension to Heaven, Jesus makes His largest appearance and lays out the game plan for His followers moving forward. This is not an optional part of Christianity; this is the essence of Christianity.
Here in Matthew 28:16-20 Jesus gathers at a known but undisclosed location in Galilee. This is not the first time the disciples have met with Jesus since His resurrection, but it will be the most important, in the context of what’s next.
They may hope for things to return to normal, but God is preparing them, and us, for something far greater. Comfort is the single greatest hindrance to the new thing God wants to do in your life. We often need to be made uncomfortable before we will move.
Don’t cling too tightly to what God has done. Cling to God and stay current with what He is doing.
Matthew tells us that when they saw Him, “they worshipped Him.” Jewish culture was averse to worshipping anyone but God. But the resurrection confirmed their belief that Jesus is the Son of God and any fears of possibly worshipping “a man” were gone.
Yet, Matthew indicates that “some doubted.” Keep in mind, that this is not the first time the 11 have seen Him. The word “some” supports the idea that this is the same visit the Apostle Paul referred to in 1 Corinthians 15 when he stated that Jesus was seen by 500 people.
There are several keywords in this passage that make clear what Jesus has planned for us and our role in His kingdom. And His instructions indicate what is most important to God.
Jesus begins by saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” The word all, which is used three times in this passage, comes from the Greek pas and it means totality; the whole.
Heaven is not a reference to the place where God resides, but to the sky above the earth. There is nothing between the earth and sky that is outside of His authority.
Now the word “authority” comes from the word “exousia” which means permission or power to do something. This is the same word used in Matthew 9:6 when Jesus said, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.”
The authority and power of God are not to control elections or alter circumstances for our comfort, but to extend forgiveness to people for salvation. Having “all authority” to extend forgiveness reveals that there is no person on earth that is beyond God’s forgiveness.
- Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved, Romans 10:13.
- If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, 1 John 1:9.
More than your comfort on earth, Jesus is supremely concerned with repentance.
- 1 Peter 3:9 says that God wishes none should perish but all come to repentance.
- God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world, John 3:17.
- God is committed to the work of reconciliation, 2 Corinthians 5:19.
The use of God’s power for any other purpose will be frustratingly ineffective.
The word “go” in verse 19 is in the present tense and indicates that it’s not about a specific location or direction but it’s where you are. “Go” means “as you are going.”
Wherever you are is where you are to make disciples. This work of extending forgiveness to people and making disciples is the responsibility of every Christian.
Forgiveness is not the exclusive authority of people who are in full-time ministry. Discipleship is not the work of the seminary student. You have been given God’s authority to forgive sins and make disciples.
Discipleship making is as simple as relaying to others who you know and are learning about God. Churches will multiply at a rapid rate when everyone is reaching the lost and making disciples. And the opposite is true. Churches will become stagnate and die when they are not.
We are to make disciples of all nations. Again, the word all demonstrates the inclusive nature of the gospel message. Forgiveness is for all people.
The church has been designed with these instructions in mind. If you have experienced the life-changing forgiveness and love of God, you are now authorized to share that message with others and to be a part of their disciple-making process.
God has given you all authority in carrying out this mission and has promised to be with you to the very end as we do this.