ON MISSION FOR GOD MATTHEW 28:16-20
This morning, we are going to continue our study on the Great Commission given by our Lord Jesus Christ at the end of Matthew’s gospel. So if you will take your Bibles and turn to Matthew 28, while I read again verses 16-20.
Isn’t it great to be able to open the pages of the Bible and know what is on the heart of God? If God did not give us His Word, then we would never be able to know the mind and heart of God. But in His grace, He was willing to reveal Himself to us. Paul talks about this in his first letter to the church at Corinth. He wrote, “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10-11).
In other words, the mystery of God which was predestined before the ages was hidden from kings and rulers for our glory. The crucifixion, who would have thought of that being the means to bring people to everlasting life, yet this, was God’s plan, decree, will, etc. God saw to it that this would happen, in order to redeem mankind from their sins. As I mentioned last week God in the beginning of the Bible and at the end of the Bible, as well as, all the way through the Bible has been inviting lost men and women to salvation.
So God sent His Son into the world to accomplish this mission, goal or purpose of winning the lost as John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Jesus set out to do what the Father has sent Him to do. If you will hold your place in Matthew 28 and turn over to John 17, which is known as the High Priestly prayer of Jesus, so that you can see the heart of Christ.
In verse 6, Jesus said, “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have come to know everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believe that You sent Me.” In other words, Jesus is saying that the twelve know who I am and why I have come to earth. They know the mission and intent of the heart of God. They got it.
Now Jesus prays for them beginning in verse 9, “I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; they are Yours.” Jesus asks three things of the Father for His disciples. First, he asks that the Father keep them in Your name. Second, Jesus asks that the Father keep them from the evil one. Third, He asks that the Father sanctify them in truth (keep them pure).
Then down in verse 18, Jesus said, “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” In other words, Jesus says to the Father just as you gave me a mission to glorify you by winning lost men and women, so now I send them on the same mission. And this is what we have in Matthew 28. So if you will let us go back to the text and see what it is that the Lord wants us to learn today?
Last week, I mentioned one of five principles that is found in the text. The first element to fulfilling the Great Commission is to be available. We don’t have to be the wisest, richest, noblest in order to be on mission on God. No, we just have to be available. We have to be ready to serve no matter the duty that God calls us in. This is what we saw in the disciples. The Lord said I will meet you in Galilee before and after the resurrection. Imagine, what would have been of us if the disciples didn’t show up that day. They were there because Christ told them to be there. They were commissioned because they were there. They obeyed because they received the marching orders. Make yourself available to the Lord with your talents, natural gifts, spiritual gifts, resources, etc.
The next attitude that will help us fulfill the Great Commission is worship. Look if you will at verse 17. We read “When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.” Here came the One who had been with them for three years. He had done many great things in their presence. For example, He gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, mobility to the lame, and cures to their diseases. He walked on water in their presence, allowed them to catch fish miraculously, fed four and five thousand at one time, and calmed the storm. He taught with authority unlike the scribes of that day and was able to say only things that God could do like forgive sins. But when He came that day into their presence it was different. He came in His glorified body. This was a glorified body that conquered the grave and broke the chains of death. It was a glorified body that walked through a wall into a room where the disciples were sitting in Jerusalem. So when they saw the glorious resurrected body of Christ, Matthew said that the disciples worshiped him.
The word here for worship is proskuneo, which means to do homage in order to express respect. The word literally means “to kiss towards.” The disciples bowed before Christ in adoring worship. In the gospel of Matthew, we find the Magi coming to worship Jesus at His birth as King of the Jews in Matthew 2. In Matthew 4, during the temptation of Jesus by Satan in the wilderness, who was seeking Jesus’ worship; but Jesus said, “For it is written, “YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY” (Matthew 4:10). After the resurrection, you find Mary Magdalene and Mary worshiping at the feet of Jesus.
The disciples had worshiped once earlier, it's referred to one other time that the disciples actually worshiped Him and that was in Matthew 14:33 when He had walked on the water and they knew He had to be the supernatural God Himself who controls the elements. But now their awe is even greater because He is risen from the dead. Not only is He a miracle worker but He is the one who has conquered death and they have seen Him and touched Him. So they know that they are in the presence of God. They are not worshiping some human dignitary or some earthly king. They are worshiping the Son of God.
But Matthew goes on to record for us that some were doubtful. Now what does that mean that some doubted. The word here in the Greek is used only one other time in the New Testament. It literally means “to stand in two ways, an uncertainty of which way to take. In this text carries the idea of hesitation to believe. Now this does not mean that they were denying the resurrection because the eleven and several others had seen Christ before in one of His other appearances.
So why were they so hesitant to believe? D. A. Carson wrote, “… may be using this historical reminiscence to stress the fact that Jesus’ resurrection was not an anticipated episode that required only enthusiasm and gullibility to win adherents among Jesus’ followers. Far from it, they still were hesitant; and their failure to understand his repeated predictions of his resurrection, compounded with their despair after his crucifixion, worked to maintain their hesitancy for some time before they came to full faith. Jesus’ resurrection did not instantly transform men of little faith and faltering understanding into spiritual giants.”
I believe what God was trying to show us through the words of Matthew the perfection of Christ and the imperfection of those who follow Him. If someone wanted to give validity to something as miraculously as the resurrection don’t you think that they would have omitted the last statement of verse 17? But this is where the integrity of Scripture is helpful to us because it paints a real picture about the life of those who follow Christ. David in Psalm 103:13-14 proclaims, “Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame, He is mindful that we are but dust.”
As you read the Bible some of the great men of the Bible had doubts. Just look at the life of Abraham when he went down to Egypt and he instructed Sarah his wife to tell them that she was his sister, so that he could save his life. Also, Sarah doubted when she was 90 years old and an angel told her that she would give birth to a son. Moses, who is thought of highly by all Jews, doubted he could do the job that God called him to because he stuttered. Moses told God there is no way the Pharaoh is going to let the people go on account of me. John the Baptist, who proclaimed in the wilderness that Jesus was the Messiah; later questioned Jesus while in prison with some of his disciples as to whether He was the Expected One or should they wait on someone else.
After the resurrection of Jesus, there were many who had a hard time accepting the fact that He had been raised from the dead. The disciples refused to believe the report of Jesus resurrection when Mary Magdalene gave it to them. On Jesus first appearance to the eleven minus Thomas, the Bible says they were frightened and startled thinking they were seeing a spirit. In the midst of the joy and amazement of that event they still struggled with believing this fact. Thomas who was not with the other disciples on Jesus first appearance said he would do believe their testimony until he put his finger in the place of the nails and his fist into His side.
Acts 1:3 says, “To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. Just imagine being there like these were and seeing and hearing all that they heard, wouldn’t you have trouble believing what was happening.
Yet, I find this encouraging. I have great hope in light of this truth given by Matthew. Why? The reason is that I know myself and the doubts that pop up in my mind from time to time. You may have doubts, as well. Yet, I believe we ought to confess our doubts and strive to overcome them. Jesus gave this Great Commission to a group of people, which includes us to a people who are less than perfect.
I want you to notice that in verse 18, Jesus came up and spoke to them. It was at this moment that maybe some of those doubts began to disappear. Doubting the Son of God and worshiping the Son of God is mentioned in the same breath on one other incident that I mentioned earlier in Matthew 14 when Jesus walked on the water. It says when He finally came to the boat after walking on the water and bringing Peter along with Him, it says they worshiped Him. But He said to them, "O ye of little faith, why do you doubt?" It's the same thing. Seen at a distance, they doubted. When He came near, they believed and they worshiped. And those people who at this particular point initially doubted, no doubt had their doubt erased as Jesus drew near. Their doubt was turned to confident faith and erased. And they no doubt felt ashamed, as every doubter does, when the vapor of doubt has been driven away by the shining Son of the living God.
John MacArthur said, “Worship simply means to be intent on grasping Christ. The women fell down and held His feet. These people fell down prostrate before Him, and believe me, when they saw the risen Jesus Christ on that mountain that day, nothing else in their world made any difference to them. It ceased to matter to them where they lived and what they drove and how they looked and so forth and so on. What mattered to them was they had seen the living Christ and this group of people, along with the 120 more of them down in Jerusalem, literally turned the world upside down and out of that small group of witnesses of Christ's resurrection and Christ's Spirit coming, there is a worldwide faith in Jesus Christ to this day of which you and I are inheritors. And it didn't happen because of half-committed people, it happened because people worshiped Christ in the sense that they had undivided allegiance and devotion to Him in which everything else paled into insignificance.”
All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. As you read these words, the question that might come to mind is what does this have to do with submission. I will tell you what it has to do with submission. What Jesus is saying is that I am in control. Therefore if he is in control, then we better listen and respond to Him.
Now the word "authority," is the word exousia. It basically is a word that means "privilege or right or power or authority." Essentially you could define it as the freedom to do whatever you wish. It is freedom without limitation. Jesus Christ with all authority is free to do what He wants when He wants where He wants with what He wants to whomever He wants. It is absolute freedom of choice and action. That's the essence of sovereign authority.
In reading the Bible, we already know that He has exercised His authority. The Bible says after the Sermon on the Mount that “when Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matt. 7:28-29). He exercised His authority over blindness, deafness, lameness. He exercised His authority over the seas and winds, the feeding of the five thousand, and the raising those from the dead. He exercised His authority in that he could forgive people of the sins, over Satan, sin and death.
Yet, in the gospels His authority was exercised differently before the resurrection than after the resurrection. For example, He instructed several who were healed not to speak about what He had done and even the three apostles who when on the Mount of Transfiguration were not allowed to speak about what they had seen. He kept His authority. But now after the resurrection the ban or restriction is completely lifted. Here He proclaims power over heaven and earth. One day He will raise all men and judge them some for eternal life and others to hell.
The reason for this great claim is so that the disciples will know that moment by moment, day by day the followers of Christ (which includes us) will lean on Him. After all you would not take on a task, like the apostles did unless you knew that your Protector and Avenger was sitting in heaven. No one would venture in such a great feat for a mere man. Yet, I want to remind you, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33); “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13); and the vision that we have of Jesus in heaven found in Revelation should motivate us that we serve a risen Savior who cannot and will not fail in His mission to redeem humanity from their sins and give them eternal life. This is why those that received this command literally turned the world upside down for Christ. Wouldn’t it be great to have people like the Jews in Thessalonica who said that Paul and Silas have upset the world (Acts 17:6).
Notice, that all authority had been given to Christ. But where did He get it? The first glimpse of that comes in the Old Testament in Daniel's prophecy in chapter 7 in verse 13. And in the vision, Daniel says, "I saw in the night visions and behold, one like the Son of Man," that of course being Christ, "came with the clouds of heaven." He sees Christ in His Second Coming, almost a description exactly parallel to Matthew 24:30 where Christ describes His Second Coming as the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven. "And the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven and He came first to the Ancient of Days," that is an Old Testament title for God the Father. So the Son comes to God the Father and is brought near before Him and there He is given dominion and glory and the Kingdom that all people, nations and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away. And His kingdom, that which shall not be destroyed. There is the scene of the glorious Son in His Second Coming glory, going before God the Father who gives Him all dominion and all authority and all power and all privilege and all kingdoms.
"All authority has been given unto Me," we ask the question where did He get it? It came to Him from whom? From the Father. The Father has committed all judgment unto the Son, says John 5. The Father has given all authority unto the Son, says Daniel chapter 7. That is repeated in many different places. In Isaiah 9 it says the government is upon His shoulders. God has committed all judgment to Him, all power. God, it says in Acts 2:36, has made Him to be Lord and Christ, Messiah, King. God, it says in Philippians 2, has highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in earth and under the earth. And every tongue should confess Jesus as Lord to the glory of God the Father, Philippians 2 says that in verses 9 to 11. Christ is made Lord.
And there's coming a day when He comes with the fullness of that authority and He collects the kingdoms of the world and gathers them to Himself, purges out all that is evil and vile and godless and Christ rejecting and sends all those to hell who are going to hell, all those into glorious eternal heaven who belong there. And the kingdoms of the world come to an end as all is resolved in Christ. And in that day when He has collected the whole kingdom of the world and universe to Himself, purged out all that is impure, and redeemed all that are to be redeemed, it says in 1 Corinthians 15:27 that He having done all of that will take that and give it back to the Father in an act of adoring worship. So He is given all authority to take back the world and the universe from the usurping enemy Satan and give it back to the Father. He then has all authority. What that says is this. He is in charge. He is sovereign. And to Him we must submit.
J. C. Ryle said, “Let us embrace this truth reverently, and cling to it firmly. Christ is He who has the keys of death and hell. Christ is the anointed Priest, who alone can absolve sinners. Christ is the fountain of living waters, in whom alone we can be cleansed. Christ is the Prince and Savior, who alone can give repentance and remission of sins. In Him all fullness dwells. He is the way, the door, the light, the life, the Shepherd, the altar of refuge. He that has the Son has life--and he that has not the Son has not life. May we all strive to understand this. No doubt men may easily think too little of God the Father, and God the Spirit, but no man ever thought too much of Christ.”
So what this means for us is this that we are not to wait for some feeling to hit in order to submit? We are not to wait around until we get a bump on the head from heaven in order to obey or toss a coin to see if it lands on certain part of the world to obey. No, Jesus articulates the command clearly in verses 19-20; therefore we are to submit because He is in control and sovereign over everything. For some of us it might mean foreign missions or home missions, it may mean a short-term mission trip or even the support we can give through Lottie Moon or Annie Armstrong. Others of us it may mean going across the street or into the office or school or wherever life’s road takes us, but whatever place we may find ourselves in we must go as He will tell us next week in verses 19-20. Submission is not an option, but a supreme obligation. It is not negotiable or adjustable to our own inclination or plans, but should be whatever the Lord commands, I will do.
So you look at your own life and if you're not desirous of fulfilling the great commission, it isn't that you need a zap from God and it isn't that you need some direct place to go, it is that you need to look to the attitude of your heart and ask: are you available? Am I really available? Am I really worshiping? Do I have a single focus in my life? Am I submissive so that when I find a command of God, I eagerly obey it? Now those are three foundational attitudes.