The Great Commission
In the last several posts we have seen how the discipleship theme is deeply intertwined within Matthew’s Gospel. Matthew ends his Gospel with a call for discipleship that is popularly called the Great Commission.
The Great Commission is seen in Mt. 28:19-20 which states, “Go therefore 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 observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Thus far much detail has been given to a few sections of Matthew’s Gospel that deal with discipleship. One other that deals with it in Mt. 13:52. This passage speaks of scribes being trained for the kingdom and it will bring about treasure. This theme is one that starts at the beginning of the Gospel and ends at the Great Commission.
Christ gives a command to evangelize and to go forth and teach the world. This command is not strictly for the disciples that physically heard it, and it is not only for priests and deacons.
This command applies to all those who make the claim to follow Christ. This commission has its roots back in the Old Testament when the Lord told Abraham that all nations would be blessed in Genesis 22:18.
Responsibility Of All
This type of mission was not uncommon, but it did not happen vary often. There were occasions, such as Jonah, where God told someone to go to a foreign land to tell them to repent, but the Great Commission was a novelty. It was a clear-cut example that a new paradigm shift had been established and the old way was no longer the norm. This new way is one that must be made known to every creature (Mk 16:16). With his work on the cross and subsequent resurrection complete, the savior commission all believers to spread his message.
It is a mission that confirms the authority of Christ, a very clear set of instructions. In a way the disciples take the place of Jesus on earth though he is with them and working through them.
Sacrament Of Baptism
This passage is also where the trinitarian formula for baptism is seen. Matthew’s Gospel is the only synoptic that specifically lists it. It seems to bring to mind the baptism of John the Baptist at the beginning of the Gospel. Jesus submits to it, not because he needs to, but in effect to lead by example.
Most likely this wasn’t done to give authority to the baptism in which John was engaged. It was to give Christian baptism a new identity. One that was in the name of the triune God and revealed the unity of each member of the Godhead. It also brings us into the family of God and washes us of sin.
Throughout Matthew’s Gospel Jesus has been the teacher, but in the Great commission Jesus transfers this responsibility to the disciples. They are to teach what Jesus had taught them.
Christ Is With Us Always
One can only surmise what was going through the minds of the disciples upon hearing this. Perhaps anxiety, fear, or possibly utter terror. However, Jesus makes a profound promise that will last until the end of their lives, and indeed to them end of time itself.
Not only does this close out his Gospel, but it brings the description of Christ from the beginning of his Gospel back to the forefront. Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God, Emmanuel which means “God with us”. Though we are here on earth doing the work that he has given us, his presence is with us and he is directing our paths.
How will you fulfill the commission of Christ? You have a gift that God has given you. Use it for Him and His Church.