Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
I wonder if the disciples even understood the weight of this command when Jesus told them during those last moments before He returned to heaven.
They had grieved their loss of Him when He died. Abandoned their dreams when He was entombed. But then Resurrection. Renewed hope, passion, and faith were restored in them.
It’s about forty days later and they stand on a hillside watching Jesus leave them. They must be consumed in that feeling of loss and so when they hear His last words, I would suppose it would take some time to process what Jesus was commissioning them to do. Perhaps hours later they sat together and began to hash out His last words, “To make disciples? Did He mean to do what He did with us?”
They must have felt self-doubt. “How can I make a disciple or even should I make a disciple when I left Him at His trial at a time when I should have been there for Him?” With that being only a little more than a month before and in the absence of the physical Jesus, their failures likely rushed back into the forefronts of their minds.
I think when we read that - we all feel that way, “make disciples?”
We think, “I’m barely hanging on to my own faith journey!” or “I don’t have anything I could teach anyone else.”
Or maybe we think, “I want to. But how could I make the time?”
Or we look around and think, “No one’s lining up to get my spiritual advice, God, so I think You’re giving me a free pass on this one.”
So many people around us, in and out of our church family, want to be poured into - to be encouraged. To be told that this following Jesus thing is hard but that they really can do it. That life is messy and yet there’s beauty to be found in how God loves us in the mess and pulls us from the mess. They want to learn how to use these tools like prayer and Bible-reading that they hear about but have never really seen in action. People want to be told that it’s not impossible to follow Jesus no matter what their background and that their lives have eternal purpose. And though they hear it on Sunday morning in a church gathering, and if they’re really trying they may even hook up with a Radius Home and hear it one night for an hour or two during the week. Still the lies of our Enemy are so pervasive. Lies telling them that they can’t, lies that question the presence of God, question His goodness, and lies that lash out at every spark of belief in them. At the end of the day, they are spiritually weary and sometimes at the end of even an hour they can feel that weariness.
Where are the disciples? Where are those who will walk through life with others encouraging them in those weary times?
This making disciples thing is serious business. I daresay that the eleven (and more) who watched Jesus return to the Father felt unprepared and maybe even they were unprepared for all that this directive would require of them.
That is why it is so powerful that in verse 18, Jesus began His commission with this statement,
I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.
And then He concludes in verse 20, saying,
I’m with you all the way to the end.
They may have felt or been unprepared but Jesus was going to be with them in the constant presence of the Holy Spirit that would soon arrive on the scene. The one with all authority and power was going to be with them. He was going to keep walking with them. He was going to keep teaching them, and leading them as they led others. Paul says it in 1 Corinthians 11 something like this, “You follow me and I’m following Jesus.”
The beauty of this directive to further God’s kingdom is it was for each believer not the collective as in church --- the church was not yet a unit --- He spoke this to individuals.
Jesus spent 3 years with 12 men. At our best, Blake as lead pastor and myself - how many could we actually reach?
But what if each of us who consider ourselves to be Radius --- if we each chose to pour into 1 or 2 individuals? If we each say to one or two others, “You can follow me while I’m trying to follow Jesus.” What will that look like in our Radius family? What kind of life will that add to us as a church?
And what would be the impact that encouragement will make in individual’s lives, and their families? How could we usher in “His Kingdom Come?"
It is our directive. It is a need. It is a challenge worth stepping up to.