As you begin a new year, you probably have renewed hope that this year will be better than last year. But I don’t recommend that you get your hopes up too high that a new year alone is going to have any better solution for all the world’s social ills. However, in Matthew Chapter 28, verses 17-20, God has given His mission and vision on how to make the world a better place:
17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Today’s lesson takes place on a mountain in Galilee just prior to Jesus’ ascension. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, He appeared to His disciples over a 40-day period. At one point, He appeared to more than 500 people. But, here He directed the Eleven to go to a mountain, where He appeared to them again.
The word "doubt" in verse 17 is not doubt in believing His being resurrected because they could see Him, but it was a doubt of behavior, if they should worship Him. Remember, these first followers were Jewish, and they had a firm understanding of the Ten Commandments. It was clear to them from the first commandment that only God deserved to be worshipped. To help them overcome their doubt of whether or not to worship Jesus as God, He informed them that “all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to Him.”
“Authority” means having legitimate power and permission to decide and to act. What is the significance of this statement? Didn’t Jesus already have all authority in heaven and on earth before His resurrection? Before the incarnation, God the Son existed with all authority, but Jesus the God-man had not yet come to earth. When He came as the God-man, death still had power and authority over His body just as it did over ours. But, when Jesus, the God-man was raised from the dead, He overcame death’s authority over humanity. Now, these followers understood, the worship that was due God is also due Jesus, because He is God in the flesh.
This also gives Jesus the authority to command them, and us, to go and make disciples of all nations. The better translation of the word “go” is in your going, in your daily activity. Look at what we are supposed to be doing in our going: He didn’t say go and make a career for yourself or, go and make a name for yourself. He didn’t say go and make a fortune for yourself. No, He said go and make disciples. This is a command, not an option.
To “make disciples” is far more than simply getting someone to “pray a sinner’s prayer” or to “accept Jesus.” It is also more than mere dunking in water. Making disciples involves lifelong learners and followers of Jesus and His commands. This is where radical change begins to happen in your life. Can you imagine how different the world would be if everyone was a disciple of Jesus. Mothers will become better mothers, fathers better fathers, husbands better husbands, wives better wives, children better children, families better families, communities better communities, cities better cities, counties better counties, states better states, nations better nations, the list is endless. So, this year, if you want to make the world a better place, do your part by first being a disciple of Jesus, then going and making disciples.
Happy New Year!