But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28:16-19]
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For some, these have been “aversive verses”... (“averses”?)... for years. “MAKE DISCIPLES” can look arduous, peremptory, invasive, offensive, manufactury… as if we are to invade the surrounding enemy territories… like an infection… and remold sovereign people and consciousnesses into our own image! Hmmm… seems a familiar historical model, no?
Yes. Unfortunately, these verses were used as “syrupy theological veneer” to excuse and justify military, economic, cultural, political conquest for so many centuries… such atrocities have been committed and rationalized under the aegis of these verses… the very nausea of cultural and physical genocide has created sincere crisis of conscience for many.
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But if you can set all that aside… if you can ignore all our human perversion and prostitution of these incredibly BEAUTIFUL Word(s) of God… just for a moment…
LOOK at this sequence, that we seldom consider as part of a “whole picture”…
Check this context as perceived and recorded by Matthew:
- Women arrive at Jesus’ Tomb to find an angel sitting atop the seal stone, after opening the tomb with an earthquake. The angel had appeared in his glory, and the guards fainted away from fear. The angel greets the women (first telling them not to fear him), then announces that Jesus is risen, invites them to come and see (where have we heard that before?), tells them to run ahead to the Disciples and where He will meet them.
- The women leave in great joy to do as the angel commanded and share the good news with the Disciples, and Jesus HIMSELF appears to them on the roadway. They are overcome with joy, and begin to worship Him, grasping His FEET. He repeats His instructions for the Disciples to them.
- While the women are traveling, some of the wimpy guards head back to their bosses in town and tell them what happened. They get paid off to lie, saying that disciples stole Jesus’ body… thus covering their jobs and reputations for failing at their task (guarding the Tomb).
OK, so the stage is set….
Now, check out this really cool thing… So often we “abstract” these verses from their setting, like cutting a rose blossom from its bush, or prying loose a gem from its setting.
Jesus does NOT just say… “Here’s my orders! Go DO this thing!”
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No. Instead, these verses tell an entire STORY! Matthew 28:16-20:
But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated.
Jesus had “left orders” by means of the women, as first articulated by the angel. The women had doubtless told them the whole story. They needed to travel, trusting both the source(s) and the content of the instructions.
When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.
WHAT? Wait, look at that. REALLY? This says three distinct things: (1) They SAW Him! (Amazing). (2) They worshiped Him! (Understandable). (3) But some were doubtful! (Huh?) Just rest here a moment, Gentle Reader. It says “some”, not “one”, so we can’t just write this off to Thomas alone, huh? Now, they’ve had Jesus’ statements BEFORE the Crucifixion, His miracles at and around the Crucifixion itself, the testimony of the angel, the testimony of the women on the road (not to mention all the surrounding narratives of the other Gospels), they travel (in faith and obedience) to this mountaintop… and THEY SEE HIM. They worship? But some are DOUBTFUL??? Does that make you blink?
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
I’m really not sure how or why, but these words are usually divorced from the rest of what is often called The Great Commission. Why is this particularly important? Well, first off… because it’s like… *cough*… HERE… and HE SAID SO?! But also, because the next two words to follow are “Go THEREFORE”!!!! So… all the REST only works BECAUSE… OF… THIS!
Huh? So, like… what’s so important about THIS, eh? Well, it’s really a pretty massive statement, and it follows because of and consequent to… all of the Redemption. The whole Incarnation, Ministry, Crucifixion Thing. The Father has chosen to give to Jesus ALL Authority, in heaven and on earth. NO ONE ELSE holds that authority… not the Father (any longer, He has given it over)…. not the Enemy, Darkness, Satan former ruler of this world… but only Jesus. This is a progression even beyond the promises of the Garden, even beyond John 17.
This… is a massive…. statement. Jesus has pointedly and specifically ordered the Disciples to come up on a mountain so He can announce to them that… HE ALONE is now LORD of ALL.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you;
And HERE, at the kernel of this whole discourse… Jesus uses a “THEREFORE”!!! Jesus does NOT simply “issue these orders” to the Disciples, and (derivatively) to us! He issues these instructions as a LOGICAL CONCLUSION of that which has been said before… He says, “Now that the Father has invested all authority over heaven and earth in Me… NOW this Chain of Grace continues and I invest this authority in you, to continue My Kingdom. GO! Love as I have loved! Speak My word(s) as I spoke those of the Father! Touch with My love and healing and wholeness, doing My work(s) as I did the Father’s. Lift Me up that more may fall in love with Me, as you fell in love with Me! Call them, show them, walk with them, live with them, and cover them up in the Father’s Love, My forgiveness and cleansing, and the Holy Spirit’s infinite and intimate Presence.”
Beyond all this He adds only one more revelation…
and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
He’s said it before. He will say it again. He whispers it in our hearts and minds every second of every minute of every day… because here is the ultimate fear, the ultimate torment, the ultimate terror… the be Utterly Alone in the Void. Here is the darkness that drives otherwise balanced people to take their own lives. The sundering of abandonment, betrayal, alone-ness. HE WILL NEVER DO THIS! He does not, and will never, cut you off and abandon and forsake you. The ultimate assurance… whether we feel Him or not, whether we welcome His presence or not… He promises…. “with you always, even to the end of time.”
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The Essence of Discipleship
An endnote I would leave here is that a disciple is a living testament to a Master. Whether the master is Jesus, or Socrates (who discipled Plato, who discipled Aristotle), or otherwise… a disciple is a field into which a Living Presence is planted, and lives on. Jesus, Living and Very God, is immediately present and not subject to “generations” and “adulteration” over time.
The Key to Discipleship is Living Presence, and Immediate Love. Oddly enough, the Foundation of the Great Commission is in the LAST statement. It is the: “Lo, I am with you always!”
Know this… we can UTTERLY TRUST Jesus in that statement, and it is the hardest statement for us (as humans) to believe of anyone else.
Most if not all the suffering and insecurity in the world is based on the fear that, “If I don’t have… if I don’t show… if I don’t act… THUS, then this person or these people (who I need in my life)… will cast me out and abandon me.” Doesn’t matter if what we must have is money, power, status, control, authority, respect… doesn’t matter. Insecurity is the fear that if we do not possess those things or attributes, then those we value will not find us acceptable.
People then live out their lives trying to accumulate “insurance” against abandonment. They (we) can never fully rest with true peace. They (we) can never truly trust.
Now, it would be nice to say simply, “this isn’t true! People will not abandon you because you do not have or do whatever.” But, truth be told, I, for one, cannot say such a thing. I cannot say, “Trust people not to abandon you. Trust that people will not measure and judge you for what you have and what you do… Trust people to keep their word… Trust that those who say they love you, or treasure you, or will always walk with you… will keep those promises.” I cannot say that. I have experienced too many liars, too many oathbreakers, too many who speak such words falsely… no matter how sincerely they may once have been uttered.
In fact, it has been my experience that the more closely the Lord and I walk, the more truly His word(s) speak, the more like Him I love and touch… the MORE frequently I (and my words and touch) will be abandoned and cast out. He was clear about it. I’ve asked to be blessed, and He has declared this to be blessedness… that to speak His Truth means that it is RIGHT that some I never thought possible have called vile names, found me unworthy of ongoing friendship, or even rejected me from presence in public worship.
People… will DO that. No matter how sacredly you treat them, how deeply you bless them, how truly you deal with them, or how intensely you pray for them. Sometimes, to speak truth to someone… is to sacrifice their very friendship to the Truth. For they will sometimes betray you. He promised it. That should be no surprise.
BUT NOT HIM! NEVER HIM! JESUS DOES NOT, and WILL NOT, DO THAT!
And, by the way, how do you treat the betrayer after they break their word? How do you deal with them after they declare you “unclean”? How do you ever “trust” that oathbreaker again?
Lol. You treat them, love them, speak to them, pray for them, and even TRUST them… EXACTLY AS YOU DID BEFORE! It makes NO DIFFERENCE! All that “Stuff”…. is THEIR “stuff” to deal with before God. It’s not your (or my) “stuff”. The ONLY standard we have for relationship is the standard the Father holds towards and for US. It’s the same old lesson from Sermon on the Mount!
Jesus taught: “The Father deals with you as a sacred person, thusly. THEREFORE… you will treat other sacred people, the same way.” Period, full stop. There is no “transaction” to relationship. You treat “enemies” with the same love as “family”. No difference.
I love, trust, speak… to/for others… because and as God treats me. At least that is the standard… and I (of course) have my own “good and bad days” with the challenge of that.
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Disciple others? Yes… simple… love them, bring the Living Presence of Christ… in you (in us)… to them, and walk with them thus.
Live, each moment, as though “He were with us, even to the end of the age.”
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From my pack, I remove all “Trust” for people… lay it reverently on the fire… and watch it slowly burn to ash. My heart is lighter by the weight of its fear.