NEW MISSION: MAKE DISCIPLES
Matthew 28:18-20 is what Christians call the Great Commission, the dominant marching orders for all who have faith in resurrection. It can sound a bit militant: Take God’s authority and make disciples.” But remember, these orders are from the one who has laid down his life to save his enemies. Ironically, our orders are to invite through imitation. Our mission is to make disciples through our words and actions. Or, as Jesus said, “teach and obey.” In fact, it is when we experience the riches of renewal through Christ that we become, as Eugene Peterson says, “God’s advertisement to the world.” We make disciples by living resurrected lives and telling people about the resurrected Christ.
“There’s not a hint of coercion here. It’s a life of love. Jesus wants us to spread the gospel throughout the world by spending our lives for the sake of others. The power of the resurrection doesn’t end with us; it travels through us. Our commission is invitation. We invite others to join God’s redemptive agenda to restore human flourishing and remake the world. We are sent into the world to share the good news that Jesus has defeated sin, death, and evil through his own death and resurrection. Jesus is making all things new, and he calls his followers to participate in his work of renewal.
Part of what makes this command such a “great” mission is its scope — all nations. When Jesus spoke these words, he was reorienting a primarily Jewish audience to a distinctly multi-ethnic mission. The Greek word used here is the same word that gives us the English word “ethnic.” It refers to the nations, not modernist geopolitical states, but non-Jewish people groups (Gentiles) with distinct cultures and languages. Our commission is not to Christianize nation-states, but to share the good news of what Jesus has done with all ethnic groups. Christ does not advocate what is commonly called Christendom, a top-down political Christianity. Instead, he calls his followers to transmit a bottom-up, indigenous Christianity, to all peoples in all cultures.
We should also note that this command is to make disciples of all nations, not from all nations. The goal of Christian missions is not to replace the rich diversity of human culture for a cheap consumer, Christian knock-off culture. Dr. Andrew Walls puts it well:
Conversion to Christ does not produce a bland universal citizenship: it produces distinctive discipleship, as diverse and variegated as human life itself. Christ in redeeming humanity brings, by the process of discipleship, all the richness of humanity’s infinitude of cultures and subcultures into the variegated splendor of the Full Grown Humanity to which the apostolic literature points (Eph 4.8 – 13).
What we should strive for is distinctive discipleship, discipleship that uniquely expresses personal faith in our cultural context. Disciples in urban Manhattan will look different than disciples in rural Maehongson. These differences allow for a flourishing of the gospel that contributes to the many-splendored new humanity of Christ. Simply put, the message of Jesus is for the flourishing of all humanity in all cultures.
Jesus informs our resurrected life. He gives us a new and gracious authority, a new identity, and a new mission. With that in view, what does it look like to participate in this task of renewing the world? Where do we begin? Jesus has painted for us a great picture of the new life. Let’s turn now to the daily implications of resurrection life.