The Great Commission, or a sin of omission.
Matthew 28 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. 2 And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. 3 And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. 5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. 6 He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. 7 Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.”
8 And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.”
11 Now while they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’14 And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.” 15 And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.
The Great Commission
16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
In John 14:15;21;23-24 Jesus says: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments… He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him… If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.” James 4:17 says: To one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. In today’s text, in what is known as The Great Commission, Jesus says: “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.” If we do not heed the commission or commandment of Jesus to make disciples of all nations is it an indication that we do not truly love Him? If having heard what He said and knowing it is what we should do, that it is the right thing, if we do not do it, is it sin? Does our failure to heed the Great Commission actually become a sin of omission?
We sometimes try to justify ourselves saying we cannot be missionaries to other nations. There are all sorts of legitimate reasons we cannot go. There are two things though about making disciples of all nations and teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded which cause our reasons or our excuses to fail us. First, the word nations is translated from the Greek word ethnos, the word from which we derive the English word ethnic. So Jesus is not speaking about other countries with physical boundaries and political ideaologies. He is speaking about people of every ethnic background. In Revelation 7:9-12, the scene in heaven says: I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” The calling to be a foreign missionary or preacher who travels to other countries to preach the gospel is indeed a high and noble calling. Each one of us though has people all around us from a variety of ethnic backgrounds; people from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues. In Acts 1:8 Jesus says: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Being a witness for Christ begins in our own hometown. It begins in our own homes and neighborhoods. It begins in the places we work, where we shop and in every place that we interact with people of all nations. Even if we never leave our own town, we can and should be a witness for Jesus. We can and should make disciples of all nations.
The second thing we tend to do is to say that we are not gifted as preachers or evangelists. It is not our calling to preach or share the gospel. Jesus said we are to make disciples; that we are to teach them to observe all that He commanded. In Matthew 5:14-20 Jesus says: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” If we truly love Jesus, He says we will keep His commandments. We will live as light in the world. Even if we never preach a sermon, we live one every day. If we ourselves relax the commandments of Jesus, we teach others to do the same. If we are not keeping His commandments but rather are relaxing them, we are not making disciples for or of Christ.
Jesus says: “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.” Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit I do love You. Thank You for empowering me with the Holy Spirit that I might be a witness of Christ and the gospel. Help me to be light in the world, to keep Your commandments and teach others; of all nations to do the same. Thank You for Your promise that You will be with me always. Amen.