Much like the words of John 3:16 being called “the gospel in one verse,” these words have become known as The Great Commission. Jesus lays out precisely what we are to do, how we are to do it, and ALL with the assurance and promise that the Spirit of God remains with us.
Remember, this took place within days of the resurrection - Jesus had defeated death and so when we read the words, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me!” We need to understand that the price was paid in full. Jesus’ authority as the risen one, is the authority of thee ONE who has defeated tyranny itself, the ultimate tyranny; HIS is the authority under which life, God’s new life, can begin to flourish. (NT Wright 206)
This is basic to our faith in Jesus - the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is the crux of what Paul stood on and proclaimed in Romans 8, when he said, “who can separate you from the love of Christ? Is anyone going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? No way. Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not retirement announcements, politics, party line agendas, not denominational challenges, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in scripture - I am absolutely convinced that nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable; absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus, our Master embraced us.”
That does not mean however, that our world is already what it should be or already complete as Jesus intended. It means that Jesus is at work to take our world then and now; from where it was, under the rule of death, corruption, greed, shame, and every kind of perversion, and ungodliness, and bring it into completion. How is Jesus doing this? Through us. We stand on the mountain with those first followers and receive the commission just as they did. It is our commission just as much as it was theirs.
We are commissioned to:
ONE: We are to make disciples - Just as Jesus came alongside those he first called and then spent three years with them training them to carry on his ways, we too are to come alongside all people of every age, every stage, wherever they might be and whoever they might be. We are to be about teaching, listening, equipping, empowering, and affirming them in the teachings of Jesus and what it means to live them out in their daily lives.
TWO: We are to baptize those who choose to follow - baptism is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace; this is the way in which those who follow Jesus, symbolically and publicly proclaim their new life in Christ. We step into the water with Jesus, we lay down our old ways and lives beneath the surface of forgiveness and grace, and we rise again in new life. That is why we remember our baptism every January. To remind ourselves that we are a new creation; we are washed clean of who and what we once were before we said yes to Jesus; we are then ready to carry out the “good news” of Jesus to others.
THREE: We are to teach them to observe all that Jesus taught - to be a community dedicated to living out the faith in ways that make a reality, “on earth as it is in heaven.” We are to be God’s kingdom where we are, with who we are, and as we go about this life on earth.
Make disciples. Baptize, Teach. If followers of Jesus and churches across our country could get those three things right, what a difference it would make.
The best part of it all? The most beautiful part? These directions are held in place by the promise that Jesus is with us always and forever. It is with Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, that we live out his commission.
Here on the summit between 2022 and 2023 we would do well to see ourselves like those early followers receiving the charge AND the promise. What do we do with it? How do we live out the great commission? What does it look like here at Grace Church? What does it look like in your life? Where do you see the Kingdom of God among us? How do you engage in the great commission, living out your baptism in Christ?
It looks and sounds like: Finding ways to get involved. Asking questions about classes, projects, and events hosted or sponsored here at church. Encouraging others to check out what’s happening with Grace. Participating in new classes, spiritual practices, supporting projects, and pursuing things that help you grow in your relationship with God. It means making the doors of our church open both ways - for all to come in and for all to go out in service to alll. It means talking, listening, praying.
Whatever it looks like. However it takes shape. One thing remains and I ask you, people of God, to hear it now:
New Year - new beginnings - same God.
New adventure - new challenges - same God.
New ideas - new ways - same God.
New opportunities - new experiences - same God.
New Year - Same God - same great church called to keep on keeping on.
May we trust God, trust one another, and trust the journey ahead.
Rev. Dr. Jenothy Irvine