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.” -Matthew 28:16-20
If you’ve been a part of church for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with the Great Commission, but familiar as it is, how rarely do we stop and consider the shocking nature of this passage. And yet, that shock can help us interpret our current moment!
Look at what Matthew includes. First, he wants us to see the feebleness of the disciples. There’s only eleven gathering. Not only is that small numerically, it represents their collective weakness. It should’ve been twelve. Judas Iscariot was their friend, their supposed brother. And what a gut punch to stand here, having tasted his bitter betrayal and subsequent suicide. So, when Matthew records 11, he’s personally and painfully aware that number represents their tale of brokenness. But, even those who are there have a rough faith, to put it kindly. Even in the midst of physically seeing and worshipping Jesus, some are still struggling with doubts.
They’re folks who sound eerily familiar. Nothing about this rag-tag group was impressive. They don’t have resources and all the political and social winds are strongly blowing against them (see the crucifixion!). Humanly speaking, there’s zero chance this is going to work. But they have Jesus, and because of that, He calls them to go forward and make disciples.
This whole endeavor, all of it, has always rested squarely on whether Jesus actually has the authority He claimed to or not. If the Gospel was going to advance and churches were going to be planted, His presence and power with His disciples was going to be what made the difference. And history reveals that it did!
And two thousand years later, even with all our advances, our facilities, our connections and our organization, that’s still the case. Never in my limited experience have I felt as helpless as I do at this moment. There’s an increasingly hostile culture, an isolating pandemic, a recession, “Christian” leaders turning away and deep ideological divisions all happening simultaneously, and that’s on top of the usual stresses and strains of life. Who is sufficient for telling others about Jesus in a normal time, let alone now? This is about the time when human ingenuity is done, when all the canned answers are exhausted, when we see how truly unimpressive and even sinful we actually are. Not a lot about our calling feels doable right now. Everywhere we turn, we find new reasons to be discouraged in this area.
But in this day of our collective weakness, one thing is still true…we still have Jesus. Here, we can see what has been the case since day one, this WHOLE thing, all of it, hinges on the claim Christ made that day, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me”. It’s always been Him. And He’s always with us. So, with renewed faith in that transforming reality, let us be like those first disciples and heed the voice of our Master beckoning us out. Who is it that God’s calling you towards this week? Consider afresh just Who it is that’s promised to be with you, lean on Him, and go, therefore.