The Essence of the Mission: Make Disciples
“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.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)
This is a verse where getting the grammar right is so key. Like English, the Greek uses tenses of words to communicate emphasis. In this verse there is one imperative and then participles that surround it to explain the character and nature of the imperative.
Take a look at the verse again. What do you think the imperative is? What are the participles?
Jesus’ Resurrection was the Inauguration of New Life in This Life
The resurrection brought the power of the coming age into the present age. Remember, in John 11, Martha replies to Jesus’ statement that her brother Lazarus would be born again—someday at the final resurrection. Jesus’ response reshapes her timeline, “I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25 ESV) Why those two together—resurrection and life? It signals what Lazarus really needed. He was dead. He clearly needed resurrection and Jesus could provide that.
But what did Lazarus really need beyond resurrection? Life. When Jesus’ talks about life he’s not talking about life as we know it in the kingdom of man. He is talking about life in the kingdom of God. Life eternal. Not just immortality. People in hell live on forever. Life is vibrancy and fullness. Remember Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25, emphasis added) More than simply being raised again, we need life. That’s what he’s saying here. I am not merely the one who brings you back from the dead. I am the one who grants you life. Jesus is talking about eternal life; unending life. And not merely an unending existence. It is human life to its maximum fullness. Maximum flourishing. Maximum joy. We’re not all on life support for eternity. He came that we may have an experience of fullness, and righteousness, and relationship with God, and physical vibrancy, and joy, and pleasure, and gladness, and beauty, like nothing we’ve ever known in this world.
“Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.” (Matthew 28:1-6 ESV)
A resurrection begs questions and answers. The most important question is, so what? Or what does this mean? It means many, many things, but this Easter I want us to see this through the prism of a time warp. So what is the future like?
We know what the present is like. And we know what the past is like. All the people of the past, their items are in the Smithsonian, their stories are in history books, and their bodies are in cemeteries. You likely drove by one recently. What did you think when you looked? We’ve trained ourselves to not think really anything, especially the reality every cemetery provides. Someday that’s me.
“And when they had crucified him.” (Matthew 27:35 ESV)
This verse is holy. Matthew doesn’t dwell on the physical sufferings. He is more interested in the theological meaning. Further, his audience would have known and probably seen crucifixions, so he didn’t have to go into detail. Since we haven’t witnessed one, let’s make sure we understand why these moments are so holy.
“They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’ And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.’” (Matthew 21:7-11 ESV)
The whole city was stirred. The Greek word for stirred is the root of our word seismic. The city was shaking. Rocking and rolling. This didn’t happen quietly or for just his followers. That Sunday exploded with emotion and fervor so much that the city was seismic. Clearly this was intentional and planned by Jesus. For what?
How is Loving My Neighbor an Oblitunity?
“And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:35-39 ESV)
When what I have to do is what I want to do, it’s an oblitunity. The goal is not to go out and dutifully be kind to people while seething with hatred toward them inside. Our hearts need to change toward people. Real people. We need to actually love the real flawed people around us, not theoretical ones.
I’ve seen on-the-street interviews with the protesters during this whole immigration debate. They are holding up signs welcoming people into our country. “Would you have a refugee in your home?” Astonishingly, many say no. It’s pure ideology with no application. That’s the challenge. It’s easy to hold to a theoretical ideal; it’s much harder to personally love people sacrificially. We always want other people to do that.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36–40 ESV)
How can you command love—especially in our culture where the word “love” is misapplied to describe everything from how you feel about your cat to your allegiance to your country? We love our dishware and we love our children. The same word is used. Love is often viewed as a feeling or an emotional wave that comes over us. So we describe love as something that can happen at first sight. Love is applied to sexual relations between a man and a woman. Then we come to a text like this and we could think it’s a command to feel about God like I feel about my cat or my wife. The argument goes that if love is a feeling then it can’t be commanded; it must flow mysteriously and organically from within us. How can God command a feeling?