The Great Comission
With missions conference ahead of us I wanted to call our attention to theme of this year's conference: “Bringing the Word of Life.”
It encompasses a command to us all – not just to the preachers and missionaries but also to you, the church. You are the ones to whom Christ speaks his great commission. Please stand with me and read these words again: .
Notice please that the audience was the disciples, more specifically the eleven of them since Judas had proven unfaithful.
We tend to think of these men as if they were somehow spiritual giants, way beyond us; as if they possessed their own spiritual righteousness and power. When we think of these guys like this is that we tend to think that Jesus' commands were given to men who were super-spiritual and we don't feel all that super-spiritual ourselves; so maybe this command isn't really for us after all.
But look at what it says here. In verses 16 and 17 it sounds like they were just like you and me. But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. ()
They did what Jesus told them to do, they came to Galilee, where earlier in the chapter, Jesus had told them to meet with him they obeyed. They got to the mountain, and they worshiped Him. I tell you, their love for Christ is sincere. Their faith is real. But like us, they struggle.
In the same breath they move from worshiping Jesus, which means they recognize Him as more than a mere man, they now recognize that he is worship worthy.
But it also says, “Some were doubtful”. The word itself is unusual in the Bible, but quite descriptive, it describes a person standing at a fork in the road and leaning first one way and then the other and not knowing which way to choose.
Since they were just worshiping Him, we know that their doubt is not about Jesus. So if their doubts weren't about Jesus, what were they about? As I see it there are only two other options – which come together as one. Either they doubted themselves or they doubted the calling that they were being given. Not in the sense that they questioned what it was, nor in the sense that they were uncertain if they were disciples, but I think combining the two ideas, they doubted their own ability to fulfill this great commission.
The only other time this word for “doubt” is used is when Peter, walking on the water with Jesus – takes his eyes off his Lord and begins to sink. You remember the story – he cries out “Lord Save me!” and immediately Jesus reached out and took him by the hand. When they get back to the boat, Jesus asks, “Why did you doubt?” () Why did you waver? That is, why did you question your capacity to keep on walking on the water, when obviously you were doing just fine until you took your eyes off of me?
But isn't that the point? Isn't that where you and I find ourselves sometimes? We come and we read and we hear God's word to us together and we say, “But God, I'm just a man and a flawed one at that, I'm not sure I really have what it takes to lead my wife and family to you – most of the time I can barely lead myself to you.” Or ladies, how many of you have thought, “I don't know Lord, I'm afraid and uncertain, I don't know if I can truly submit to my husband.” We can say the same thing about running our finances God's way, or about getting rid of sin, or cutting off bad relationships which threaten to corrupt us. In every area of obedience we can question and wonder; our hearts are filled with doubt concerning our own capacity to obey the Lord; we are double minded and wavering.
Or just come back to the text and consider the call to the great commission and realize that the wavering doubt of the disciples is the wavering doubt which most often threatens to consume us.
Most of us aren't struggling with the identity of Christ, or even with our own identity. Neither are we struggling with whether or not God wants us to share the good news of forgiveness and salvation with those around us. For many of us, we've been Christians so long that it's old hat. We don't have a problem with the knowing, we have a wavering flickering problem with the doing.
Here comes the opportunity and here comes the moment where we know in our heart that we ought to discuss matters more weighty than the weather and what happens? We try to open our mouths and speak, but everything in our minds is running cold and we don't know if we can possibly say anything at all, so what do we do? We stand there at the cross-roads of obedience, worshiping Christ and loving Him but wavering and doubting in our own ability to communicate anything worthwhile.
The Authority of Christ
The Authority of Christ
It's into this vacuum of uncertainty that Jesus speaks. Look at the next verse. “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore....”
The “Me” in this verse is in an emphatic position, “Given to Me all authority...”
Notice that Jesus is directly responding to their wavering doubts. It's not about your authority, it's not about your ability. It's not about you! It's about ME! It's about Jesus Christ. And all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus. The reason we stand there wavering in our doubts about our own ability to spread this gospel of salvation is driven by our belief that it's up to us.
We recognize the majesty of Christ and the magnitude of salvation and the high cost of disbelief. But somehow and in some way we believe that it's up to us to convince someone – to argue them into the kingdom. And suddenly we're seized with our own inability to do that and we stand there doubting.
But remember Jesus said, No-one comes to the father but through ME. And no one comes to ME unless the Father who sent me draws them. Jesus speaks into the darkness of our storm and says, why do you doubt?
All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Jesus. He will draw, he will convert – our task is simply to bear witness.
Our call to go comes not from our own ability to fulfill that call but from the authority of Christ Himself. Stop listening to your own authority. Stop listening to the voices around you. Don't listen to the screaming voice of your flesh telling you that obedience to Christ is impossible. Don't listen to the sultry voice of the devil pointing you away from Christ. Neither listen to nor entertain the presense of those external voices. For all of those voices are little more than the waves and wind threatening us against the power of the one who controls them.
Who will judge the world and condemn the unrighteous? Who commands the devil so that even the prince of wickedness must bow and obey? IWho commands the very cells of your flesh to multiply and grow? Who gives you life and knit you together in your mother's womb? Is it not Christ Jesus our Lord and master? Why then do you listen to the world the flesh or the devil? Silence them with this word from the Lord: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
The authority is Christs, the ability is Christs, the command is Christ's and he is your master and savior. What then can we do but obey.
I am not asking you to simply steel yourself like men and go out and make yourself obey. There is value in that command perhaps but in the end we need more than obedience to a command, and the stubborn will to see it through. We need the Spirit of God which Jesus has promised to us when we ask Him.
Yes we need to make ourselves obey when our flesh reacts with fear. Yes we need to prepare our hearts and our minds with a ready answer for when people ask about the hope that is within us. But above all, we need to register in our minds the authority of Christ.
Our message comes not out of our own selves, it comes out of the authority given to Christ. And here are our orders: “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.” ()
God's call goes out to all people through us. He could have broadcast a message to all of the planet with a mighty angel, but he chose us. He intentionally chose the weak so that in our weakness and inability the power of Christ might shine through and God rather than man would get the glory.
So to all of the nations we cry out: “Come!” We call to the nations through our missionaries whom we support and pray for. We call to all nations to become a disciple of Christ. But the nations are not just far away, it is the potential disciples here that we must reach. For we are the missionaries here.
So what do you say? Are you with me? Let us resolve ourselves before Christ not to stand wavering over the call and our own inabilities. Let us trust ourselves to Him who has ALL authority on heaven and on earth; so that we might join the mission – and we might make disciples right here.
This is our Calling, The Lord is our Christ and our strength resides in His authority.
Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary : New Testament, electronic ed. (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).
See usage Didiche 4:7 “hesitate”