18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
“Last words are lasting words.” As Jesus met with the disciples on the mountaintop, He knew that this was the final time they would be with Him before He ascended back to the Father. His Messianic mission had fulfilled God’s plan, and now He would send His followers out to announce to the world what He had done. The words He pronounced on this momentous occasion have rang down the corridors of history ever since. Do we still hear them today?
In the original language, there is one word that is repeated four times in this short passage. That word is “all”. As we look at this passage, through the use of this word Jesus wants to underscore the extent, scope, content, and duration of this “Great Commission” He has given to the Church. Let us look briefly at each use of the word “all” in this passage.
1. “All authority.” The extent of His power.
In their journey with the Lord Jesus, the disciples had seen up close and in person the power and authority of this One who is called the Son of God “who will save His people from their sins” (Mt. 1:21). From the opening of blind eyes to the healing of lame legs; from the provision of food for the multitudes to the calming of the seas; from the walking on the water to the casting out of evil spirits; from the death on a cross to the victory of the empty tomb, they had seen the miracles He had performed and marveled at the power of this one who had come from heaven.
Having shown them His power, and having taught them the truth, He now sends them to proclaim His message and to present the truth to everyone. And they do so in the Name of the One who has all authority. Authority over circumstances, over physical forces, over government rulers, over religious customs. Jesus has authority over everything, over everybody, over every situation. In that power and authority, He sends them – and us – out. If a country’s leader were to call one of his citizens to perform a task, he would likely be quick to perform it. Jesus is far greater than any earthly ruler. He is the One with all authority. We, as citizens of the Kingdom of God, are a people under authority – ultimate authority. Do we really believe that? Do our lives reflect that we believe that?
2. “All nations.” The scope of His mission.
In the parochial interests that occupy much of our time, we can forget that God’s plan and purpose extends far beyond our local scene. The word “nation” in the Scriptures does not refer to geographical or political borders. It refers to all ethnic groups of people, wherever they may be found. While the United Nations counts about 200 members, in biblical terms there are over 17,000 “nations,” or ethnic groups, in the world today. It is to each one of those groups that the Lord sends the Church to proclaim the Gospel and to make disciples.
According to the Joshua Project (https://joshuaproject.net), there are currently 7087 “nations” that are still unreached with the Gospel. In those nations over 3 billion people live, which is 41% of the current global population. Thus, if we are in Christ and have the gift of salvation, we are indeed blessed and privileged! We are also called and responsible to mobilize and get the Gospel out to those still living in spiritual darkness. Each of us has a role to play in this great task and play it we must. There is a need for “Equippers”, “Givers”, “Pray-ers”, and “Go-ers.” What steps can you take to help “get the job done”? While the task of reaching the remaining “nations” seems daunting, it is the One with “all authority” who sends us out. If He has commanded it, and if He has all authority, then we can be sure that it will happen. The question is whether we will be part of the solution, or among those who stand in the way of its completion.
3. “All things.” The content of the message.
Jesus taught many wonderful things about salvation, forgiveness, healing, love, answered prayer, marriage, children, and eternal life. Usually we have no problem teaching those things to others. After all, who doesn’t like to share with others that which is fun, rewarding, and enjoyable? But in the process of making disciples for Christ, Jesus calls us to teach men and woman all of the things that He taught, both the easy and the difficult, the enjoyable and the challenging. Thus, in the face of a hostile culture, we are called to teach that Jesus is the only way to salvation, that people are sinners and in need of grace and mercy before a holy God, that to follow Jesus means one has to give up everything and do it His way, that the world is something to be overcome, not something to be used to indulge our fleshly passions, that the meaning of life is all about Him and not about our own paths, possessions, and passions.
The way of the cross is hard, Jesus says. Yet, it is that very message, in addition to all other things that He has commanded, that we are to teach to those that He brings to us, who have answered His call and heard His voice. Not everyone who professes faith will be saved, He says, but rather those who truly possess faith in the living God as He is revealed in Christ.
4. “All the days.” The duration of the task.
While often translated as “always,” the original expression literally says, “all the days.” In the context, Jesus promises to be with the Church wherever she goes, from generation to generation, in the task of preaching the Gospel and proclaiming His message to the nations. In this short promise, we see the divine power of Christ. He is not only all-powerful, He is also present everywhere at all times. What an amazing promise that is!
What is true for the Church as a whole is true for the individual believer. In your life, Jesus promises to be with you each day that He has granted you. His presence is the power source that enables you to talk with others about Him everywhere you go. In light of eternity, only a few things are truly important – those things that proclaim or promote the Kingdom of God. The only time we have to invest in eternal things is in the few years that we have upon this earth.
The main focus of this “Great Commission” is the making of disciples who will love, honor, serve, and follow the Lord Jesus Christ. That “Commission” includes the 4 “alls”: All authority. All nations. All things. All the days. As we go through life, wherever the LORD leads us He is with us, in all of His authority, empowering us to teach to all whom we encounter, all that He has taught in His life and in His Word. This wonderful task is nicely summarized in a new hymn by Keith and Kristyn Getty: “Facing A Task Unfinished.”
“Facing a task unfinished,
That drives us to our knees;
A need that, undiminished,
Rebukes our slothful ease.
We, who rejoice to know Thee,
Renew before Thy throne,
The solemn pledge we owe Thee,
To go and make Thee known.
We go to all the world,
With kingdom hope unfurled;
No other name has power to save,
But Jesus Christ The Lord.”