Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
For much of my Christian life, I think I’ve missed the full scope of what Jesus is saying in this text. I grew up hearing sermons that told me that there is one command in this passage, “make disciples.” For some reason, that idea caused me to deemphasize the rest of the text as subservient to that one command. In reality, the two verbs that follow are arguably more helpful than the command itself. Why? Because they point us to the how of disciple-making. The two words I’m talking about are baptizing and teaching. They are participles that describe the actions required to fulfill Jesus’ command to make disciples. They are the answer to the question, “what does it mean to make a disciple?”
In essence, making a disciple involves helping people come to a place where they identify with God through baptism and then teaching them how to obey Jesus. This short commission is like a springboard into all that Jesus taught. Notice it is not a challenge to tell people to obey, it is a challenge to teach them to obey. Do you feel the difference? Telling people to obey is impersonal. Teaching people how to obey requires that we first know how to obey ourselves. We are tour guides on the journey of obeying Jesus, which brings me to a final observation in the passage.
We can’t overlook Jesus’ final statement, “I am with you always.” We don’t become or make disciples alone, we do it alongside Jesus. He is alive and he still communicates with us as we learn and teach others how to live.
So what teaching of Jesus have you learned how to obey recently? Have you taught anyone what you have learned? If you are not sure how to answer these questions, maybe start by reading Matthew 5-7 which is called, “the Sermon On the Mount.” Find something from one of Jesus’ most famous sermons and learn to obey it.
By Aaron Bjorklund