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 of 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
These were Jesus’ final words on earth, and they should be the markers for each Christian’s life. The Great Commission meaning for us today is one that many ignore, but we need to lean in on.
I think if we give the Great Commission and the Matthew 28:19 20 meaning a closer look our faith will be challenged. This is a passage of Scripture we shouldn’t ignore.
The Context Of The Great Commission
For 3 years the disciples have been following Jesus. They’ve seen him do incredible things, including raising from the dead. And they’ve even got to participate in his ministry.
But things are about to change. Jesus has completed his work on earth and is about to ascend into heaven. The work that’s left is now up to the disciples. Jesus is about to hand over the keys to the business. But before he does He has a few final words for them.
These words are found at the end of the gospel of Matthew and have become known as the Great Commission.
These words are not a suggestion, they are a command. In essence these are the disciples’ marching orders. This is what they are to do.
But this command isn’t just for the 11 disciples standing there that day. The Great Commission is for anyone who calls themselves a follower of Jesus. This is what we are called to do.
Now, it’s important to remember the motivation of why we should carry this out. These commands aren’t to earn salvation from God. Rather we should carry out this command BECAUSE Jesus has provided us salvation.
This context will help us better understand the Great Commission meaning for us today.
Matthew 28:19-20 Meaning
Now that we know the context let’s break down the Matthew 28:19-20 meaning. We are going to look at each of the major sections of this passage.
Whenever you see a “therefore” in the Bible you need to ask what it’s there for.
In this case Jesus has concluded his ministry. He’s done the heavy lifting. He’s paid the price for our sins and made a way for us to enter into enteral life with Him. That’s what Jesus is saying in Matthew 28:18, I have all authority, therefore you should:
Again, this isn’t a suggestion. This is a command that applies to all followers of Jesus. We are to go.
We often translate this section of the verse simply as “go.” But a better understanding would be “everywhere you go.”
Often when we read this verse we think we have to go across the world. And maybe that’s where God is calling you. But for most, go might just mean across the street or to the cubicle next to yours.
Okay, so we are supposed to go. But what are we to do?
And Make Disciples Of All Nations….
We are to go and make disciples of all nations. In other words, wherever we go we are called to make disciples there.
The imperative verb in this command is “make disciples.” Go, baptize, and teach are how we do so. The emphasis on this command is on making disciples.
A disciple is one who listens, understands, and follows Jesus’ directions. In other words, we are to bring people far from Jesus into a relationship with Him. How do we do this? We love people as Jesus loves them. And we tell them about what Jesus has done for us.
For more on that check out: Following Jesus
Baptizing Them In The Name…
Next we are to baptize them.
Baptism is an outward sign of an inward change. It’s kinda like a wedding. The ceremony isn’t what makes you married. It’s the commitment that you make to your spouse. The ceremony is what celebrates and symbolizes that commitment.
The same is true with baptism. When we are baptized we are symbolically buried with Christ and risen again in a new life. Baptism doesn’t save us, Jesus does. Baptism symbolizes and celebrates what Jesus has done for us. It indicates that one is entering into a relationship with God and submitting to His kingship.
This is a pivotal step in one’s discipleship journey. But it’s not the finish line in our faith anymore than a wedding is the finish line in a marriage. It’s the start.
The content of this is interesting. Jesus doesn’t tell His disciples to teach them everything in the Old Testament law. Rather He instructs His disciples to teach them His commands.
Of course this doesn’t mean the Old Testament isn’t important, Jesus certainly validates it through His ministry. However the focus of the source of revelation shifts from the prophets to Jesus.
The point here isn’t to gain further knowledge. We are bloated with more knowledge than we know what to do with. We regularly ignore what we know to be true to pursue our own desires.
The emphasis Jesus places on teaching is not just on understanding what Jesus has commanded. But obeying what He said. Knowledge by itself is useless if we fail to act on it.
Surely I Am With You Always…
What I love about the Matthew 28:19-20 meaning is that it ends not with a command, but a promise. Jesus will be with His disciples as they carry out His will. Immanuel, God with us.
“To the end of the age” literally means “the whole of every day.” In other words, you do not walk alone. You do not face trails alone. Jesus didn’t throw you to the wolves. He’s with you each and every day.
This is the Great Commission meaning, God is with you.
The Great Commission Meaning For Us Today
These words were not just given to the original 11 disciples. Nor are they just for pastors and missionaries today. These are the marching orders for every follower of Jesus.
We are called to make disciples. That doesn’t mean we have to go across the sea. A good start might be just going across the street.
I believe God has placed you in a unique spot to make an impact on someone in a way that no one else can. He wants to use YOU. He can and He will. If you let Him.
Far too many Christians look at the Great Commission meaning and think… Nah, not for me. Someone is better at it. I’ll just screw them up. But this isn’t the great suggestion. This is what Jesus actually expects us to do.
So go. Make disciples. Teach them and baptize them. You won’t be going at it alone. Jesus will be with you. He will guide you and give you want you need to reach the people around you.