The Great Commission: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in (or, into) the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18b-20 ESV)
When Jesus died on the cross, all of the evil – past, present, and future – in the entire universe massed its forces and broke like a colossal storm upon Him. Sin, wickedness, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny, classism, greed, consumerist materialism, hatred, fear, war, poverty, suffering of all kinds, even death itself, unleashed its full power upon Jesus like a torrential hurricane until it exhausted itself. It was spent. The storm blew itself out, expended itself with all its wrath and power.
All was quiet. Evil won. Love defeated. The King dead. The dream of a new world gone.
Flooded with faith and filled with love, yet drained of hope, the women wept, kept vigil, mourned.
Surprised by hope.
God turned the tables on evil.
A seismic shock.
An angel deftly lifts away a round stone weighing about 11,000 pounds and sets it off by itself.
He does so not to let Jesus out, but to reveal that Jesus is already out.
The grave cloth that was tightly wound around His body, mummy-like, lies undisturbed, as does the turban that had been on His head. The burial spices remain in the folds.
A gentle angelic rebuke: “See, He’s not here; He is risen, like He said.”
Just a few hours ago, it looked as if death and evil were victorious. Now, the entire world, indeed, all of creation is different.
Evil destroyed, spent.
A whole new way of living has begun!
The Kingdom is now! Right here, right now, and forever too.
He, or she, who is forgiven most, loves most. Mary Magdalene had been forgiven much. Now she loves intensely. To her, He first appears. (I should rather be in spiritual succession to Mary of Magdala than all the male saints and apostles put together.)
She clings, worships, adores and is sent to share.
He appears to His followers, His apprentices, His interns, individually, in small groups, and in large gatherings – multiple times and in multiple places over the next few weeks. Their lives are radically altered. They are perpetually filled with joy. They fear nothing. They scoff at death. They are altruistic. They serve. They love. They forgive. They work for justice untiringly.
A crowd gathers on Olivet. The King gives the marching orders:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into 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.”
All authority. Absolute authority. Total, complete, supreme, unlimited, comprehensive, all-inclusive, unrestricted, limitless, infinite authority has been given by God the Father to Jesus, the Son of God.
It is in that authority, not our own, not that of any ecclesiastical body, that disciples are sent.
The word “disciple” in Greek is μαθητής (mathētēs). In both ancient Greek and Jewish cultures, it refers to a learner, a student, an intern, an apprentice, a devoted follower of a teacher or philosopher; a person who embodies, lives out, what the teacher teaches.
Sent to disciple nations. All nations.
How do you disciple a nation?
This is far more than personal evangelism, though doubtless that is included.
This is holistic discipleship. This is inviting people into a new way of living – the way of Jesus – the way of the Kingdom – the Way of love – the way of justice.
To disciple the nations, the church – the followers of Jesus – His interns, pupils, students, apprentices, devoted followers – must embody the way of Jesus in love and justice. We must live the Sermon on the Mount:
- Identifying with the poor, the cast-aside, the down and out, the ragamuffins
- Spreading peace
- Responding to hatred with love and to persecution by turning the other cheek
- Preventing the spread of corruption
- Healing wounds
- Bringing light, hope, grace to others
- Loving others. All others. Including enemies.
- Banishing greed, anger, and injustice from our lives.
- All I have is yours.
- Owning nothing, possessing all
- The Golden Rule
All completely impossible. A wish, a dream. An ideal. A description only for a future world. Right?
The same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead indwells us. The same power of the resurrection lives in us. We are new creations.
In His authority, in His power, by His enabling presence, we live into the Kingdom, and by our love, disciple the nations.