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We Evangelicals often say that we are “Great Commission people.” We take seriously Jesus’ call to evangelize the world. Matthew 28:16-20 contains Jesus’ Great Commission to His disciples, reminding them that His mission did not stop, just because He was ascending to the Father.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.”
His mission continues in us, His followers. It’s a perfect mission, because it is empowered by our perfect Lord. We see this perfection in Jesus’ statement that all authority has been given to Him. Since we represent the One who has all authority, there is nothing we can’t accomplish, when we follow Him. “Therefore” means that our mission rests on the fact that He possesses all authority, and He also possesses us. So, we can perform all that He has called us to do.
It’s also a perfect mission because Jesus sent His disciples (and, by extension, all His followers, including us) to all nations. Not a single country or ethnic group is left out of Jesus’ plan.
It’s a perfect mission because the new followers of Jesus will be baptized into the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit. This means that they will have all of God as their inheritance. When we receive God into our lives, we don’t just get a sliver of God. We get all of Him. What a tremendous blessing!
Jesus gives a perfect mission in that He teaches us to observe all that He has commanded. Some people like to pick and choose which of Jesus’ teachings they will follow, but followers of His perfect mission are obedient to all of His commandments.
Jesus’ perfect mission continues forever because He promises, “I am with you always.” All time is in His hands. Jesus is not limited to the thirty-three years that He lived on this earth in physical form. From beginning to end, He is with us, continuing to sustain us in His perfect mission.
The amazing thing is that Jesus was willing to give this perfect mission to an imperfect church. Notice that not all were present when the disciples accompanied Jesus to the mountain. Only eleven of them were there, because, of course, Judas had hanged himself. Even though we’d love it if our churches had 100% participation at all events, the reality is that no matter when we’re gathered, not everybody is there. But that’s okay—Jesus can do wonderful things, even with imperfect attendance.Notice, too, that not all believed. They worshiped Him, but some doubted. Who says you have to have everybody completely on board if the church’s mission is going to work? Every church is a mixture of some who are more full of faith, and other who are more full of doubt. The truth is that every individual, to a certain extent, is a mixture of faith and doubt. What a glorious thing that Jesus doesn’t require 100% faith in order to work His wonders! The faith of a mustard seed will do.
I love the story of the ascension and Jesus’ Great Commission. Not just because it reminds us that we have a job to do—but because it shows that Jesus is willing to give such a perfect mission to an imperfect church. This shows that He trusts us to do as we’re told. It also shows that we can trust Him to be sufficient for us. Though we may not all be present, though we may not all believe, He will make up for everything we lack. What a glorious mission we have! What a gracious God we serve!
Greg Smith is a Baptist minister who has served churches in Central and Southside Virginia. He lives in Halifax County, VA with his wife and children. To read more of Greg’s writings check out his blog at revgregsmith.blogspot.com.