The last words of our scripture reading this week (Matthew 28:16-20) were a specific instruction from Jesus to his disciples: “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. 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, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.” These were the words of the resurrected Christ, a passage we sometimes call “The Great Commission” where Jesus tells us to “Go and make disciples.”
But how to you make a disciple . . . really? Can you make a disciple of someone who doesn’t want to be one? That seems to be what some evangelists may think — and probably what give that sort of forcible evangelism a bad name.
But that’s not what evangelism really is, and clearly this text is intended to teach us something about what it really means to share our faith. The most important word to focus in The Great Commission is the word, “GO.” In its original Greek, this is not a command, as some may assume. It’s actually a word better translated as “going.” Admittedly, this construction becomes a little awkward in English, and probably more accurately translated as “as you go.” That’s a big difference, isn’t it? What does it mean to make disciples, as you go? I think that’s the central question.
Jesus isn’t telling us to go somewhere else to make people become disciples. Rather, this instruction is more like, as you go about your business, doing whatever you do, share your faith with others in word and deed in such a way that they will want to become followers of Jesus. This, I think, is what it means to “make disciples” . . . “as you go.”
Now, we’ve all seen the TV evangelists — and without belaboring it, I think we all know that they’ve done more than most to give “evangelism” a connotation that has sullied the word. What evangelism really means is good news; straight from its original Greek, it just means “sharing the good news.”
We use the word, “go,” at the end of every service in the sanctuary. Generally, we aren’t talking about going off and being a missionary in some far-off place. We mean going about your daily life, living as a follower of Christ and inviting others to do the same, by word and example.
What have you done to demonstrate and share the good news of God’s love for us in Jesus?
As you go about your business, your play, your hobbies, your life in general, what things do you do intentionally to reflect the love of God to others who cross your path?
Have you invited someone to church? Or better yet, offered to pick them up and bring them?
A very telling poll once revealed that the vast majority of people are Christians because someone cared enough to share their faith with them, to invite them to church, to reach out to them in a hard time, or to model for them what follower of Jesus did as they “went about” their life.
What about you?
As you go, are you paying attention to others, where they are in their life, and what their story is? How might they be needing the church in their lives — or kindness that reflects God’s love?
I look forward to exploring these questions with you this Sunday in the Sanctuary.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster
Matthew 28:16-20 Common English Bible (CEB)
Commissioning of the disciples
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. 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, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”