XIV. Resurrection and Great Commission (Matthew 28:1-20)

28:1-4 Early on Sunday, the first day of the week, some of the women who followed Jesus went to the tomb so they could anoint his body with spices (28:1; Mark 16:1). But there they encountered more than they were expecting. An angel in snowy white clothes, whose appearance was like lightning, came down, rolled back the stone, and perched on top of it (16:2-3). This was no cute little cherub. He was so astonishing and fearsome that the guards who saw him were terrified and passed out (16:4).

On any football field, the players are more powerful than anyone else. But the referees have the authority. No matter how strong and fast the players are, referees can stop their whole show. The devil is far more powerful than you, but Jesus has all authority. That’s why your association with Jesus is the ultimate determining factor in your life.

In light of Jesus’s all-encompassing authority, he commands his disciples to make disciples (28:19). This is a command, not a suggestion or request. A disciple is a learner who seeks to become like the one whom he is following. The goal of discipleship, then, is to help people become progressively like Christ in character and conduct, in attitudes and actions. Jesus shares his authority only with disciples so that they may see the rule of God in and through their lives.

Discipleship is the key element of God’s kingdom agenda; it’s the visible manifestation of God’s comprehensive rule over every area of life. The effectiveness of a church is therefore evaluated—not in the number of its members—but by its disciple-making. It’s the absence of discipleship that keeps a church impotent and ineffective, because by not taking up Christ’s mission of discipleship, its people cannot draw on Christ’s authority.

We accomplish disciple-making by going, baptizing, and teaching. To make disciples, then, you must go: leave your holy huddle, take your witness with you into the world, and share the gospel.

Next, Jesus commanded them to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (28:19). The presence of the three titles with the singular “name” affirms the Trinity. To be baptized is to commit a covenantal act by which you are publicly identified with the triune God. As sure as wearing a wedding ring identifies you as married, it should be clear to all that you are under Jesus’s authority.

Jesus said to teach would-be disciples to observe everything he had commanded (28:20). The goal of this is not merely to impart knowledge—it’s to help people apply knowledge. Taking notes and memorizing verses is good, but until a learner also obeys God’s Word, teaching has not produced a disciple.

King Jesus closed the meeting with a powerful promise: I am with you always, to the end of the age (28:20). The second Person of the Trinity promises to uniquely engage and be involved with believers and churches that are making disciples. The church’s mission in history, in fact, is possible because of Jesus’s heavenly presence. The one who is called Immanuel—“God is with us” (1:23)—will be with us until the end. Therefore, we are to live our lives as disciples and equip others to do the same. Importantly, Jesus does not have the same level of commitment to believers who refuse discipleship (see John 2:23-25).

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