This command, often called the Great Commission, was the last thing Jesus shared with his followers, so it must have been important parting instructions:
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:16-20)
Often, we envision leaving the Great Commission to those in full-time ministry or for a missionary living on the other side of the planet. However, the Great Commission is to be practiced by all of Jesus’ disciples. All Christians are called to fulfill this command as individuals, and we can begin putting it into practice as a family.
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go (Matthew 28:16).
Sometimes this can be as simple as going to work, school, or the grocery store. What are some other places we are commanded to visit?
Scripture commands us to worship with other believers. Hebrews 10:25 in the Living Bible encourages fellowship, "Let us not neglect our church meetings, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near." Our busy lifestyles nudge us to neglect our spiritual lives. Parades and sporting events are often scheduled for Sunday mornings. Even weddings are now planned on Sundays. Once we get out of the routine of regular church attendance, any and every reason draws us away from our original discipline. Jesus worshiped with others on a regular basis.
"He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read"(Luke 4:16).
We spend time with other believers in order to encourage one another to remain faithful. Having this practice in common with Jesus will establish devotional habits in your family. When church attendance is made a priority even over sporting events and hobbies, you are giving a practical example of putting God first in your lives.
Scripture also commands us to help the poor, widow, and orphan. Jesus identifies with the poor in Matthew 25:36, "I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." Mother Theresa, a nun in India, when asked why she would care for a dying Hindu man, replied, “I see Jesus in you.” Mother Theresa understood that whatever she did unto the least of these, she was doing for Jesus. Find a widow that your family can adopt, or perhaps a nearby food pantry where your children can serve food. Christian organizations welcome the helping hands of your family. In caring for others, your family fulfills the Great Commission because, in serving others, they are serving God.
When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted (Matthew 28:17).
Our sin can make it hard to see God well, but even in the midst of our doubt, we can worship him. We can seek him, praise him, and trust him.
"Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:16-17).
When we see with clear eyes, we see things in the spiritual world. Things in the spiritual are eternal, while our circumstances are only temporary (Hebrews 11:1-2). When we see Jesus in our situation, we can worship him regardless of our circumstances, because we know that in the end, he wins.
Matthew 10:42-45 says, "For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. 'They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 'He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ "
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me."
The disciples, who saw Jesus crucified, thought that all was lost in with his death. But Jesus truly was God's Christ, and he conquered death. Jesus paid the price for everyone's sin, and changed everything. The result is that all authority in heaven and earth, over life and death, over all things, now belongs to Christ Jesus. The monumental directive he is about to share is rooted in his authority as our risen savior.
When your children see you submit to God’s authority and the authority of God given leadership in your life, you are modeling for them one of life’s most difficult journeys. Doing the will of another is a beautiful way that we exhibit humility. When our families see us bow the knee to the needs and wishes of others, it makes it that much easier for them to obey us when we give them direction.
"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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20).
Because Jesus has paid for the sins of all people and established his authority over all things, he offers some direct commands.
In your going
"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age"(Matthew 28:20).
It can be frightening to share your faith, and even more frightening still to make disciples, because discipleship requires accountability. This accountability invites one to discomfort and hard choices, sometimes making us the last person on earth they want to see. But though you may feel alone in the discipleship process, you are promised that calling others to follow Christ promises that he will always be with you, perpetually, no matter what you are experiencing. What a faithful promise!
As parents we often feel the pressure to keep the troops happy. But this Scripture is promising that even when you have to do the unpopular discipleship-oriented things, you are not alone. Christ is with you. Your obedience to his agenda will bring its own reward. "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it"(Hebrews 12:11).
Rev. Dr. Steven Koster